SEPTEMBER 30, 2008
Formula 1 and the world economy
Amid all the fun and games of Singapore, FIA consultant Tony Purnell was doing the rounds talking to the Formula 1 team bosses about the current economic problems in the world and whether or not they will have an effect on the funding of the sport. There is no doubt that money will be harder to find but whether this will cause teams to fail remains to be seen. It probably means that there will be fewer buyers on the market, but most of the current teams seem committed to the sport - or at least say they are - for the mid-term at least. There have been few big new sponsors in the last 18 months but it will be interesting to see whether or not Honda can attract business with the environmental image it has adopted. If this works others will follow. What was noticeable in Singapore was the number of teams that had an abornally high number of sponsorship acquisition staff on hand. And they were busy trying to convince their guests that F1 is a great place to invest.
"It would be foolish to think that the external environment doesn't affect our business," said Williams chief executive Adam Parr, "but I think what is important, as with any business, is to prepare and we are trying to do that, some perhaps harder than others. We need within FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) to get on and identify ways to reduce our costs."
But Parr reckoned that F1 is "in rude good health" although he warned that it may not remain that way if the sport is not prepared.
"I think it is time to get down and change a few things," he said.
Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug said that the success of the Singapore event sends out positive signals for F1.
"It is not just another normal race, it's a huge step and a really good chance for Formula 1, for the sponsor partners, for everybody involved, for the media, for worldwide television viewers."
Purnall argued that the teams would do well to adopt some form of budget-capping (as he has been arguing for some time) and warned that if they cannot agree on such measures they must be prepared to accept technical restrictions which the FIA will have to make to force them to cut ther budgets.
Whena ll is said and done, however, F1 regulates itself. If there is enough money the team's spend it, if there is not enough they cut back. The danger is that one or two outspend the others and destroy interest in the sport. But in such circumstances history has shown that people will still watch the racing if it provides them with a spectacle.
Singapore certainly did that.