The World Championship for Formula One kicked off this weekend with a long, four-week season, part of an attempt to increase fan interest in the sport. Aside from the long, lonely road (Car napping days), the longer-run Formula One season can take a toll on its drivers, teams and sponsors.
The Series, for many fans, changes the most when compared to that of its peers. Teams prepare in anticipation of two distinct seasons instead of an eight-week stint where all of the teams race on equal footing. Certain sponsors quickly start canceling, and every major star, like Lewis Hamilton, ends up signing a multi-year deal with one of the leading Formula One sponsors or a new contract with a series new sponsor.
There are a number of reasons for this phenomena, but they all coincide with Formula One recognizing that a lot of their dollars don’t actually go toward the drivers or teams. The money most of the International Union of Automobile Associations (or FIA) makes from the series goes straight into the pockets of the administration that oversees the races, as well as this year’s new TV rights holder, Liberty Media.
Two key factors—technology and television—have led to this major shift. Technology has become very important to Formula One and its stakeholders. It was the manufacturer Audi that first invented the turbocharged V6 engine and its application to Formula One, and with it came a sharp decline in costs and availability of teams able to turn a profit.
View this post on Instagram 1.1.19, A post shared by Lewis Hamilton (@lewishamilton) on Mar 1, 2019 at 2:43am PST
Fans will now see not only more teams being entered in the middle of a season, but a broader range of them as well. Volvo’s entry, for example, actually won the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne. That is a switch from a number of years ago when, in the hopes of pulling in more viewers, there were only two teams entered into the championship.
The TV rights have led to Formula One competitors and sponsors rushing to sign deals with Liberty Media, the group that will power Formula One from 2021 onwards. Some of these deals are unlikely to bear fruit, but others do and they will create a much stronger selling point for Formula One down the road.
Another side effect is the loss of many sponsorship endorsements deals on social media platforms. If you check out one of the official motorsport pages on Twitter or Instagram, you can bet many of the posts have very little to do with Formula One itself and very little to do with any of the drivers participating.
In the F1 pit lane, you will see many of the companies that have recently either left Formula One or are considering exiting, as well as some of the newer, less well-known brands. For example, Valvoline, an oil brand, left its sponsorship deal last year due to a declining sales base.
While for some, the financial burden of signing a sponsorship deal is heavier than ever, a number of other drivers and teams believe the longer season is helping to fuel viewer interest, which should result in more racing and fans out there. In past years, a lot of passion has seeped away from Formula One. This season, however, fans can expect to see a lot more action.