Motorsport’s expansion outside Europe

Motorsport’s powerful legacy lies mostly within Europe. But times are changing and now the rest of world plays host to some thrilling and exciting Grands Prix
Monday, September 23, 2013

September 23rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Katie Grimmett) - Europe is considered the birth place of Formula 1 and understandably so.  Its history is hard to ignore and its legacy as prominent now as it was decades ago. No matter what your racing category, be it amateur or professional, motorsport is fundamentally expensive and does not suit the dramatic decline in economic influence currently visible in many parts of Europe.

The continent offers two opportunities for expansion: Austria and Russia. Austria is the birth place of the mighty Red Bull, and the recent 2014 Grand Prix hosting deal could prove lucrative but the nation lacks one important credential - a future Formula 1 contender. Russia’s future is tenuous and relies on an unconventional deal with Sauber working in their favour.

Instead, the sport’s influence has been spreading to areas with burgeoning economies and a will to enter top international business dealings. Honda’s announced return in 2015 with McLaren and the globe trekking racing calendar prove just how fruitful these sponsorship and partnership opportunities can be.

Motorsport needs to look further afield, to parts of Asia and the Americas to find a way to secure its future. Dan Wells is one such driver opting to take this lengthy, and potentially risky, option for racing success.

Dan Wells, affectionately referred to as ‘the first Twitter powered racing driver’, has relocated from his hometown in England to a bustling and hectic Hong Kong. Enticed by its growing business opportunities and bustling city centres, his new location is the driving force behind much of his career. British exports in the Far East are rare, giving Dan an opportunity to prove himself in a location that is becoming more and more motorsport literate.

“Hong Kong never sleeps”, he confessed during our chat earlier this year.

Neighbouring countries to Hong Kong, China and Japan, both host Grands Prix. The Japanese fan base is more prominent now than during the glory days of McLaren-Honda, their beloved engine manufacturers, in the 1980s.

This is not a coincidence.

Dan is just one of a number of drivers who have to stay one step ahead of this expensive and fast-moving race for funding. He is a driver I know well. Clever, articulate and talented, Dan has every opportunity to build on his career by submersing himself in a profitable environment. Money talks, that much is clear. 

Lotus F1 are following this code perfectly. The Oxfordshire outfit are investing in the future and the economic promise of the Philippines, and the driver they have to offer. Sitting north-east of Grand Prix hosting country, Malaysia, the Philippines, has the potential to allow Formula 1 to expand even further east in the coming years.

Marlon Stockinger could be their next big star. Already the first Filipino to win a formula race in Europe, he is putting motorsport in his country on a European-crowded map. Three years ago, at the helm of a Lotus, Stockinger introduced his country to the incomparable roar of a Formula 1 engine as he pounded the streets of the capital city, Manila.

More impressive than that noise, one that sends shivers down the spine of any Formula 1 fan, were the cheers from the crowd who came to watch the spectacle.

Businesses must thrive off public demand to ensure their survival, Motorsport is the same. If this demand continues to rise and Lotus becomes the new, if somewhat accidental, face of Asian motor racing, the financial rewards could be lucrative for team and driver.  Lotus F1 Team Prinicpal, Eric Boullier believes he has the “racing package”, jargon for money and talent combined but could Marlon Stockinger make it into Formula 1?

His chances appear admittedly slim but such international hurdles take time. Formula 1 needs a driver representative from Asia who can promote the sport to the level required to counteract any of the problems Europe may be facing. If Stockinger does not become the first Formula 1 driver from his country, it is possible that someone inspired by his own success in racing, could be.

Success breeds success.

The influence in Europe is partially declining and relies on its legendary history to survive in the corporate and cut-throat world of motorsport elitism. Many have suffered from financial woes and have played victim to its cruel funding policy. Asia and the Americas dominate motorsport and its future economic structure.

The promise of two American Grands Prix, a further expansion of television coverage in the United States and the emergence of Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly prove this to be true.

North and South America provide Formula 1, and the series surrounding it, with a growing solution to the above mentioned problem. Canada produces a thrilling Grand Prix year on year cultivating an almighty fan base in the process. Furthermore, televised coverage of Formula 1 in the United States is at an all time high reaching audiences that areas of Europe could only ever dream of. This gifts the sport with a platform to reach a population of 315 million people.

You cannot argue with those numbers. 

South America too offers hugely lucrative opportunities. I do not need to remind you of the importance of Pastor Maldonado’s Venezuelan money for a cash-strapped Williams. Brazil too is a surprisingly wealthy country with a Formula 1 partnership as historical as some of Europe’s finest. They will want a representative if Felipe Massa fails to find a seat beyond Ferrari.  

Felipe Nasr could become that man. With backing from Bernie Ecclestone himself, Nasr is enjoying a positive spell of racing which could keep Brazil’s motor racing legacy strong.

Either side of Europe are continents ready to participate in wealthy business deals worth more than my mind can compute.  Europe is where Formula 1’s heart beats most prominently but the rest of the world is fighting for its own place too.  

After all, every driver wants to be world champion, not European champion. 

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