Formula One has partnered with satellite radio broadcaster Sirius XM to open an office in New York as part of a drive to expand its presence in the United States. Currently, only one of F1’s 21 races is held in the country — the U.S. Grand Prix which takes place in October in Austin, Texas. However, the Miami City Commission will vote Thursday on whether to give the green light to a Grand Prix on the streets of the coastal city which could be held as soon as 2019.
F1’s new office could help get the race to the finish line and boost the exposure of the sport in the U.S. It was rumored last year that F1 would open a satellite office in the U.S. and this has now been revealed in documents from Sirius XM which is 70 percent owned by Liberty. They state that “in January 2018, we entered into an agreement with Liberty Media to license approximately 800 square feet of space and provide office services in one of our New York offices for use by Formula One, a subsidiary of Liberty Media. Liberty Media pays us an annual fee of $25,000 for the use of this space.”
In January 2017 Liberty Media, which is listed on the Nasdaq and headquartered in Colorado, completed its $8 billion takeover of F1. Soon after it got the keys to the sport it began shaking it up by ejecting its chief executive Bernie Ecclestone after 40 years in the driving seat.
Bernie Eccletone was replaced with former News Corp executive Chase Carey, who has said that he is targeting F1 races in “destination cities” such as Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Ecclestone tried for years to get more races off the grid in the U.S., most famously in New Jersey which hoped to host a Grand Prix on 3.2-miles of public roads against the spectacular backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. It stalled in 2013 when the investment bank UBS failed to raise the $100 million required to turn the streets into a track.
Since then, there have also been talk of a Grand Prix on the streets of Las Vegas, which would have seen F1 cars hurtling down the world-renowned Strip. That plan also skidded off track despite having $140 million of backing from a Chinese conglomerate. Just last year, a proposed race near to Silicon Valley in Northern California was also beset by complaints from local residents while the mayor of the nearest city described the project as “unworkable.” The biggest roadblock has been the annual hosting fee which came to an average of $30.4 million last year. It has been fuelled by an arms race between countries vying for one of the spots on F1’s calendar. This effect was magnified by Ecclestone pitching F1 to the governments of emerging markets which are prepared to pay top Dollar for a race as it drives tourism by promoting the host country to the sport’s TV audience of 352.3 million viewers.
It has led to F1 racing in exotic nations like Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi but Liberty has vowed to bring it back to the masses. Last year Liberty’s chief executive Greg Maffei hinted at a reduction in race fees when he said “it’s our job to do far more to help the promoters be successful.” Ironically, Miami may not need it. The plan to bring F1 there is being backed by billionaire Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross so a Grand Prix on the streets of the city seems almost a racing certainty.