Promoters for the Mexican and Russian Grands Prix have expressed their support for Formula One owners Liberty Media after some other race organisers publicly criticised the way the sport is being run.
The Formula One Promoters’ Association (FOPA) issued a statement ahead of an annual meeting hosted in London by commercial rights holders Liberty on Tuesday. In it, they expressed concern about a reduction in free-to-air broadcasting, a ‘lack of clarity on new initiatives’ and the risk of new races being introduced “to the detriment of existing events”.
FOPA represents 16 of F1’s 21 race promoters, including Mexico but excluding Russia, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Monaco and Japan. However, within 24 hours of the statement being issued, the organisers of the Mexican Grand Prix, who are currently negotiating a new contract with F1 beyond 2019, issued a statement distancing themselves from it.
“Following the statement made by the Formula One Promoters’ Association (FOPA), the Formula One Gran Premio de Mexico promoters want to express their sympathy with the promoters from other countries, understanding that each country and race is different. In addition, the Mexican Grand Prix’s promoters welcome the ongoing collaboration and good relationships with the rest of the promoters.
“However, Formula One Gran Premio de Mexico did not participate in said meeting and appreciate the work that the new owners of Formula One are doing to understand the promoters’ requirements and concerns, as well as those from the fans.
“The Mexican Grand Prix’s promoters recognise that the new administration of Formula One has listened and been sensitive to their concerns, with both parties working very closely together. As a result, they do not agree with what was released by the Formula One Promoters’ Association on their behalf.
“The Mexican promoters and Formula One continue the negotiations regarding the renewal of the Formula 1 Gran Premio de Mexico contract in private.”
Russian Grand Prix promoter Sergey Vorobyev, attending Tuesday’s meeting at the RAC Club, told Reuters on Twitter that he also did not share FOPA’s point of view and approach. The Russian told motorsport.com separately that he felt FOPA’s criticisms were “fairly toothless” and he did not share the position of the association’s British chairman Stuart Pringle.
“All the issues indicated there, in this statement, they are being resolved one way or another in the current format of communication with Liberty,” he said.
“I don’t believe this (FOPA) approach to be constructive,” added Vorobyev, who expected some other promoters to distance themselves from FOPA in future.
Formula One management, represented at the meeting by chairman Chase Carey and motorsport managing director Ross Brawn, declined to comment on the FOPA statement.
The meeting set out the sport’s short and long-term plans, including digital and television production, sponsorship and marketing.
Formula One’s commercial agreement with the 10 teams expires at the end of 2020 and talks are ongoing about a potential transformation of the sport, with plans for budget caps and a more equal distribution of the revenues.
Race hosting fees make up a major part of Formula One’s revenues and the newer races, in locations such as the Middle East or Asia, are more lucrative than those in the European heartland.
“Like all the participants in the process, we do not have a clear understanding of what Formula One will look like from 2021,” said Vorobyev. “But personally, I really believe in Ross Brawn and his managerial and engineering skills.”
Pringle is managing director of Silverstone, which is out of contract after this year along with Germany’s Hockenheim, Italy’s Monza, Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya and Mexico City.
Silverstone invoked a break clause in 2017 to push for a better deal, arguing that the original contract agreed with former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was not financially viable. A new deal has yet to be agreed.
The television contract with broadcaster Sky, which means viewers do not have free-to-air coverage in Britain this season apart from their home race, is also a legacy of the Ecclestone era.
Five races have had their contracts renewed by Liberty since the U.S.-based company took over, while a new grand prix in Vietnam will be added to the calendar next year.