Singapore in the driving seat as it negotiates new F1 deal

Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:19pm EST
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By Marius Zaharia

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - After negotiating Singapore's current Formula One deal, Bernie Ecclestone said in 2012 the hardest thing was explaining to the authorities that "we don't race for free".

Four years on, the F1 boss appears to be frustrated again as he tries to keep one of the most glamorous races on the calendar after the contract expires in 2017, at a time when the city-state is weighing whether the event makes economic sense anymore.

With its tourism industry increasingly diversified, a stronger country brand than when it first hosted the event in 2008 and other major sporting events in the bag, Singapore seems to have the upper hand in the talks with F1.

Moreover, Ecclestone and F1's new owners, U.S. cable TV mogul John Malone's Liberty Media, face a new risk: with Malaysia pulling out of a new deal, they could altogether lose their presence in Southeast Asia, one of the world's fastest-growing regions.

F1's 86-year-old commercial supremo first told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport that Singapore does not want to host F1 anymore, then clarified he did not want to lose Singapore. His comments suggest talks getting tougher.

"I think Singapore has come in and negotiated hard and has realized they are in a position of strength to do so," said James Walton, head of the Sports Business service line at Deloitte Singapore and Southeast Asia.

"This is one of the top ranked grand prix ... and one of the markets that the key sponsors of F1 are most interested in."

Singapore's government funds 60 percent of the S$150 million ($105.13 million) it costs to host the race each year. Analysts say the city-state is weighing the costs, and benefits, of staging the event in the future.   Continued...

Part of the illuminated circuit is seen during the third practice session of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit September 25, 2010. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo