Liberty Media: Turn Promoter, Host Private F1 Race In Place Of China?

Could Chinese Grand Prix and coronavirus force Liberty Media to turn F1 race promoter in 2020?

Could Liberty Media turn F1 promoter and host a private Grand Prix in place of the 2020 Chinese Grand Prix? 

The 2020 Chinese Grand Prix has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. After all the buzz around 2020 being the longest Formula 1 season with 22 races, the season could well be reduced to a 21 race calendar again. The postponement means that in the month of April, there’s just one race – the 2020 Vietnamese Grand Prix. In fact, the gap between the Vietnamese and Dutch Grands Prix is almost a month. I can’t remember when last was the gap so big inside of a season. 

However, could F1 be exploring a radical solution to plug this gap? There could be two options – host two races at an existing venue or hire a venue that has hosted a race before and is already a Grade One (certified by the FIA to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix) circuit. Either way, I doubt that an existing promoter (apart from Zandvoort?) would have the financial might to host two Grands Prix in one season. In which case, would Liberty Media consider this as an opportunity to turn promoter and host a ‘private’ Grand Prix – one that’s not affiliated to any country? 

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There are circuits in Asia (closer to Vietnam) & Europe (closer to Netherlands) that have hosted races before – Malaysia, Korea, India, Germany, etc., and would be easier to plan logistics around. These circuits could be ‘hired’ for the duration of a Grands Prix (7 to 10 days) just like one would do so for a private event like a wedding or music performance. For those wondering if I have lost the plot, this is sort of similar with what Liberty Media was/is planning with the Miami Grand Prix – function as a race promoter, too. 

It’s probably never been done before, at least not in modern Formula 1, but there’s more money to be made by hosting a 22nd race than reducing 2020 to 21 races. Let’s remember that all 2020 contracts (broadcast, sponsorship, etc.) are structured around 22 races. I assume that the incremental cost for Liberty Media towards hosting a private Grand Prix would be towards ‘circuit management’ – the costs associated with running large infrastructure facilities. But such a step could also bring revenue from sources Liberty Media hasn’t earned directly from in the past – ticket sales, race sponsorship, etc. In fact, Liberty Media could give themselves a BIG discount by reducing their ‘race hosting fees’ to zero and the economics could make much more sense. 

If not Liberty Media, are the Strolls planning to host a ‘Stroll Grand Prix’? After all, Formula 1 is family business for the Strolls!

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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