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Is Formula 1 too inaccessible as a sport?

Written by Sport, Sport Features

As a huge fan of Formula 1, I love seeing the billion-dollar industry filled with fast cars and a jet-setting lifestyle, one I hope to engage with myself one day. However, I can’t help but notice the inaccessibility of Formula 1, ostensibly through the sheer money needed behind you to become a driver, but upon further inspection, throughout the entirety of the sport.

Sky Sports

First of all, let’s explore how the viewer gets to experience Formula 1 from their home: Sky Sports. 

Apart from Silverstone, Channel 4 just shows highlights of each race, qualifying, and practice. The highlights alone may not be enough to satisfy the F1 craving of a true fan.

Now I love Sky Sports, their broadcasting quality is so high, and I love their entire coverage. However, Formula 1 is the only sport I watch, the only Sky program I watch actually, meaning I have this package just for every other weekend or so. 

A Sky Sports package costs around £40 a month, not really an amount that is attainable for everyone. 

As I said, I am a huge fan of Sky Sports, but the sport would be more accessible if they were not the only broadcaster of F1. Monopolies are inherently pricier than companies operating in a free trade environment. 

I personally would continue to watch Sky Sports even if there were alternatives, as I am a huge fan of their presenters and commentators, but it would be great to see more than the highlights on the free channels available here in the UK.

Tickets to watch the race in person

In 2019, the average price for a 3-day general admission ticket at a GP was $163. 

This figure may seem quite low, but it is so low because the places that are harder to get to from the UK are the cheapest. China is the cheapest race to attend, but from the UK will most likely be one of the most expensive to actually get to. 

While you may be lucky enough to live near the racetrack, most of us would need flights and a hotel, meaning a race weekend can easily cost over £500. Unlike other sports which may have a venue in many areas of each country, even in your country’s home race, you may have to catch a flight. 

This jet-setting lifestyle does indeed go hand in hand with Formula 1 and consequently contributes to its inaccessible nature. 

Monaco

This luxury lifestyle is particularly visible at Monaco. You only need to look at the crowds to see the faces that you don’t usually attend race weekends.

Bella Hadid and Kris Jenner are examples of the celebrity guests to have attended Monaco in 2019, often attending the extravagant parties hosted by the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Taghuer. These celebrities have not however been spotted at other races, even the one hosted in their home country.

The affluence and wealth that is exuded that the Monaco Grand Prix represents the luxury lifestyle that is associated with Formula 1.

Barriers to becoming a F1 driver

Some estimate the cost of becoming a Formula 1 driver could amount to £500,000 with the idea of it costing around $50,000 a year, from the age of 7 for at least 10 years before you hopefully get picked up by a sponsor. 

Some estimate the cost of becoming a Formula 1 driver could amount to £500,000 with the idea of it costing around $50,000 a year, from the age of 7 for at least 10 years before you hopefully get picked up by a sponsor. 

This is obviously not attainable for the average family. 

Lawrence Stroll reportedly paid $80 million to Williams for his son to be a driver. Obviously he doesn’t drive for them anymore, seeing as his dad bought another team which he now drives for.

Lewis Hamilton, while speaking on the Graham Norton Show, says his dad spent around £20,000 and remortgaged the house a couple of times for him to be a Formula 1 driver before he got signed at 13. He raised concerns about the fact that it is far more expensive than that now, and the ability for richer children to overtake the less financially secure children, as teams can always benefit from extra money. 

A potential way to fix this could be through a spending cap. If teams could not benefit from drivers or drivers’ families extra money, they could choose drivers based on talent and skill as opposed to half skill and half money. 

State-owned implications

Renault is a partially state-owned company, with 15.1% owned by the French state. So when the French taxpayer is paying for Daniel Ricciardo’s $20 million salary, it is problematic that just attending or watching the F1 is inaccessible to them.

Overall, Formula 1 will always be an expensive sport, the nature of the parts and travel will always keep the cost of the sport high. But through cost caps, alternate broadcasters, or cheaper weekend tickets, the sport can become less unattainable for the average person. 

Featured Image: Twitter @F1

Last modified: 29th September 2020

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