F1’s explosion under Liberty Media puts pressure on promoters to handle crowds

F1 has grown so huge since Liberty Media acquired it, race promotors are struggling to handle the large crowds throughout the weekend.

Most F1 races today are sold out or will be sellouts by race time.

Contrary to other forms of motorsports that are aging out with old race fans, F1 has become especially popular with those between the age of 18-49 – considered to be the biggest spending years and the age group advertisers and sponsors are after.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, said recently on their decision to bring both Audi and Porsche into F1, “Formula 1 is growing worldwide – in motorsport only Formula 1 counts.” This explains why IndyCar tried but failed to land one of VWs brands as a third engine supplier.

At last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix organizers were caught off guard by the  unexpectedly large crowd on the Friday, the high temperatures, and a level of interest in buying race tickets not seen before. There were stories about traffic chaos, a lack of food and drink, and 3-hour waits for public transportation to and from the venue.

Access is a problem for a number of famous F1 tracks, although Monaco and Monza are both served by railways, which makes life easier from them. But when it comes to places like Silverstone, Spa and Paul Ricard, it is a problem.

The French and Belgian GPs are at the end of their current F1 contracts and the signs are that neither event will be renewed.

As British GP boss Stuart Pringle told Jonathan Noble of Autosport,  because of this new dynamic of mass interest for races – there is a need to nurture the new wave of fans to make sure they come back again in the future.

“The audience is different: it’s good news for everybody,” he said. “We’ve got to capitalize upon it. You’ve got to keep them interested, you’ve got to get them to come back again. It’s not just one of those sort of do it once and then forget about it.”

Miami’s F1 managing partner Tom Garfinkel said they would not compromise the experience for fans by simply opening the flood gates to boost ticket revenue.

“We deliberately kept the ticket count lower than the demand,” he said. “I think it was really about trying to make sure we could get everybody in and out of here easily: concessions, bathrooms. I want everyone to have a great experience. I don’t want them to be stuck in traffic for three hours, waiting in line at concessions for 20 minutes. I want them to come say it was a great event: ‘I got in and out easily. I didn’t have to wait in line at the bathroom. Everything was clean. I was happy.’ So we’re gonna start there and grow from there.”

The large Spanish GP crowd heads to the podium after the race


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