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Vols vs The World

Vols vs The World

How F1 is trying to attract these big markets

The sport of Formula 1 is no doubt the most international motorsport series there is, with races held in every continent at some point in history. The biggest F1 market is no doubt the United Kingdom, where the sport originated. F1 has been constantly looking to expand its reach, most notably the Middle East, with 4 races on the 2021 calendar in that area, in Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi). But there still are two huge markets F1 has yet to receive a large amount of support from, and it would be very beneficial for the financial side of Formula 1 to be able to tap into these markets.

One of these markets in the USA. F1 is constantly trying to attract fans from the states, with Liberty Media, an F1 stakeholder, an American company. F1’s latest attempt at trying to tap into the US market is scheduling a race around one of the most beautiful football stadiums, in one of America’s most glamorous cities. Yes, that race is none other than the Miami Grand Prix, a street circuit around Hard Rock Stadium set to debut in 2022. That brings up the number of US races to 2, alongside the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Obviously, Miami has a great attraction to tourists and celebrities, but the track itself may be underwhelming. If F1 had their choice of which city to race in, pretending local regulations didn’t exist, Los Angeles or New York would be the prime option, with tourist and celebrity attraction to those cities.

A stat that may be surprising to some, the country where F1 has held races at the most circuits is none other than the United States of America. Although some of the races were a failure, such as Las Vegas 1981-82, Dallas 1984, and Detroit 1982-88, but some tracks were good ones such as Austin 2012-19, Phoenix 1989-91, Long Beach 1976-83, Watkins Glen 1961-80, Riverside 1960, Sebring 1959, and Indianapolis 1950-60; 2000-2007.

Another way to get American engagement is to get an American driver on the grrd. The last American to compete in F1 was Alexander Rossi in 2015.  The only American F1 World Champions are Michael Andretti and Phil Hill, way back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The only Americans currently that looks to have potential to make it into F1 is Jak Crawford, currently competing in Formula 3 and is part of the Red Bull Junior Academy, and Kaylen Frederick, also competing in Formula 3. 

The other market that F1 needs to get into is China. It is surprising that there has been no Formula 1 drivers from China. In addition, there has only been 2 drivers to take part in a grand prix weekend that were from China. One of them is Ma Qinghua, who drove in practice sessions for HRT in 2012 and Caterham in 2013. The other is Guanyu Zhou, who drove in FP1 at the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix.

Unlike the US, China’s race track options are limited, with the Shanghai International Circuit the only track that can hold an F1 race. Technically, Shanghai is a Grade 2 circuit (Grade 1 is required to host a F1 race), but a renewal is pending and should go through to Grade 1. China does have a handful of Grade 2 circuits, such as Chengdu, Ningbo, Ordos, Tianjin, and Zhuhai. F1 last held a race at Shanghai in 2019, but the event was canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. The official capacity for the Shanghai International Circuit is 200,000 people, so if F1 had a big enough market in China the circuit could hold a very large amount of fans.

Unlike America, China has an F1 hope that could have a seat in 2022, with Guanyu Zhou currently leading the Formula 2 championship. Zhou appeared in FP1 this past weekend, within half a second of Esteban Ocon on mediums and within 0.2 seconds on the same compound. That is very impressive for a FP1 first-timer, but both Alpine seats are filled for 2022. In fact, it doesn’t look like any more than one rookie will join F1 next year, with only a spot at Alfa Romeo that could be given to a rookie. Zhou has options elsewhere though, while Alpine is nowhere short of money. Williams could potentially take Zhou if Alpine gives Williams financial compensation, or Alfa Romeo could be an outside option if Giovinazzi underperforms or no one from the Ferrari Academy performs well enough as Guanyu Zhou was a former member of the Ferrari Junior Team. Fernando Alonso, good friends with Zhou is turning 40 soon, and even though he is under contract, Alonso could call it quits a year early. Finally, Alpine could choose to buyout Ocon after his poor performances and sign Zhou. Zhou is not short of money with a ton of rich sponsors, so he could potentially buy his way into a seat somewhere if needed.

If Zhou were to get into F1, TV audiences from China would literally explode. We saw a huge increase in FP1 viewership from China this past weekend, as Zhou participated in that session. We would likely see a Chinese Grand Prix filled with Zhou fans, almost like how Austria was filled with Max fans this past weekend, and the F1 exposure to a very rich, populous country would be priceless. Even races in other Asian countries, such as Japan and Singapore would probably contain a lot of Zhou supporters, in addition to Yuki Tsunoda fans, the only other Asian driver in the sport at the moment. 

In short, getting into the big markets of the US and China would be very beneficial to F1 and should be a priority to Liberty Media and CEO Stefano Domenicali.