F1: Ferrari’s (NYSE:RACE) CEO: “F1 walking a tightrope in America”
F1 is walking a tightrope as new owners Liberty Media plan to grow the sport in America, Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne warns.
Mr. Marchionne, who is also CEO of Fiat Chrysler (NYSE:FCAU), recognized there was a big opportunity to win new audiences in the United States, but says the sport’s heritage must be respected.
“I think it’s fair to say that Chase Carey and I agree we need space in the United States,” Mr. Marchionne told reporters at a presentation on Saturday of Alfa Romeo’s new partnership with the Swiss Sauber F1 Team.
Mr. Carey also attended the event.
“I think there is an opportunity here, if we do the things right, to make this a relevant sport in the US environment. “And if we do that I think it will benefit the sport tremendously,” Mr. Marchionne added.
“But I put a big proviso on this.
“We need to be careful that this desire to make us attractive to the American public doesn’t end up sapping away the DNA of a sport that has some noble origins.”
Mr. Marchionne highlighted the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas that saw big fight boxing announcer Michael Buffer present drivers to the crowd individually before the race and then make his signature call of “Let’s get ready to rumble”.
Not to mention former US President Bill Clinton very public paid presence.
Mr. Marchionne, who has dual Italian and Canadian citizenship, said the dignity of the sport must be respected.
“I think we need to preserve it, we need to modernize it in a way which Americans find relevant,” said Mr. Marchionne. “And that’s the tricky part that I think Chase and I need to walk.
“We’re walking a tightrope on this because if we go too far to try and appeal…”
“The performance down in Austin and the way in which we arranged the show was not what I think a Formula One event ought to be. But it was part of a trial and error exercise, I do not think it worked incredibly well.
“I think a lot of the Europeans were somewhat taken aback by what happened. We need to find a halfway house that somehow appeases and actually enhances the interest of the public on both sides of the pond.”
Mr. Marchionne said a threat made last month to take Ferrari out of the sport after Y 2020, if F1 made changes that were not in the Italian team’s interests, was real but there was enough time to sort things out.
Ferrari, the sport’s oldest and most successful team, have taken issue with a proposed simpler and cheaper engine for Y 2021 while cost caps and revenue distribution are other thorny subjects.
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