Formula One still following the money
By Alan Baldwin
BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan makes its Formula One debut this weekend but there is nothing new about the commercial logic that brings the sport to Baku.
'Follow the Money' has long been Formula One's mantra and the oil-rich country ticks a fair few boxes even if the sharp decline in worldwide oil prices has hit the economy and currency of late.
The latest models of Rolls-Royce are displayed in brightly lit showrooms, Ferrari and Lamborghini dealers are not hard to find and nor are shops selling luxury brands.
For those willing to part with significant amounts of cash, grand prix racing with its roots and soul in the European temples of motorsport such as Monaco and Monza, Spa and Silverstone, has cachet.
The sport, which had estimated turnover of $1.9 billion in 2015 according to Autosport magazine, wants to grow its revenues and, increasingly, that means leaving mainstream Europe far behind.
"The challenges some European economies have are such that it makes it very difficult for them. You have to go where the growth is," Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising giant WPP and a Formula One board member, told the official www.formula1.com website in an interview this month.
"If you run a country and want to put it on the global map you don’t have so many choices," he added when asked about the rationale for countries like Azerbaijan who lack any motorsport tradition.
"You can get the Olympics, the World Cup or a Formula One race. And the first two are only every four years -- and you have them only once." Continued...