Can F1 shares continue to speed along? CNN Business spoke via email to F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali ahead of the Australian Grand Prix race this weekend in Melbourne.
“It is a great time for Formula 1 right now, and in the US we are seeing exciting growth,” Domenicali said.
“Netflix has played a very important part in reaching new fans and showing the emotion and drama behind the sport,” Domenicali said.
“Drama and controversy are part of our sport and to pretend it is not would be wrong,” Domenicali said. “Netflix has done a great job in bringing the personalities, the intense battles and the physiological elements of our sport more into the open.”
Liberty Media CEO Gregory Maffei is also a fan of the show, and what it has done for F1’s fan base.
“We are very confident that our product will be more desirable in the coming years in the US than it even is today,” Maffei said.
ESPN giving the sport a boost
“That contrasts dramatically with how many other sports have both aging fan bases and declining TV viewership,” Maffei said.
Domenicali — who took over as F1 CEO from former Fox and DirecTV executive Chase Carey in 2021 — told CNN Business that this success in the US might not have been possible without Liberty’s backing. Liberty bought F1 from a private equity firm in 2017 for more than $4 billion.
“Liberty acquired the sport because they believed in its future and potential. The changes that have happened since 2017 have helped grow the sport and make it more sustainable for everyone,” Domenicali said. “The teams are stronger than ever. The interest in the sport from the fans and sponsors is very exciting and we have tried new ways of engaging audiences that are working.”
Domenicali defended F1’s decision to keep racing there, saying that “I genuinely believe the race in Saudi Arabia has the potential to be a positive force for good and help accelerate change in the country. It won’t happen overnight, but we all have a greater chance of making an impact and highlighting issues by being there, with the spotlight and attention we bring.”
It’s also not lost on Domenicali that the lack of diversity is another signficant issue. Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time F1 champ and arguably the sport’s most well-known personality, is the sport’s only Black driver.
“Diversity and inclusion are hugely important to our sport. We have Lewis as a great ambassador for this and we are working to create an F1 that reflects the world in which we race,” he said.
Meanwhile, a race in Sochi scheduled for later this year was canceled. Plans to eventually move the Russian Grand Prix race to St. Petersburg were also shelved. Domenicali told CNN Business that “it was impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances and we have also terminated the contract.”
“I cannot see us going back there unless things changed significantly in the future as the recent events have been appalling,” Domenicali said.