Why Formula 1 needs an updated ‘Asian tour’

Inside the MTC

Would you like to see more Formula 1 races in Asia? Speaking on LinkedIn, Zak Brown shares his thoughts on F1's opportunities in the region:

One of the global regions in which I think Formula 1 can really make significant further inroads is Asia.

We already have a successful, long-standing race in Japan, at Suzuka, which is a fantastic venue for Formula 1 – the drivers love it, and it’s a real asset to the sport. And of course Singapore is arguably the most important race on the racing calendar.

But if you look at a truly massive Asian economy, China, I think there’s definitely room within that marketplace for a second race. Of course, the grand prix in Shanghai is already well established, but we should explore the possibility of a race in another major city, such as Beijing, or a street race in a city like Wuxi, a place that’s growing ambitiously and enormously. It’s not the kind of city that western audiences are necessarily yet very familiar with, but it’s a massively growing commercial hub, with a progressive mindset that could well make its citizens and leaders want to pitch for a grand prix. Perhaps surprisingly, snooker is now huge in China, and, alongside Shanghai, Wuxi has led the way in bringing that about.

I also think the Shanghai Grand Prix, which is held at one of the most impressive and opulent bespoke racetracks in the world, characterises Formula 1 as being very exclusive and expensive, whereas I feel that a Chinese city race would underscore the new values that we want the sport to inhabit – that it’s for the people, that it has a real energy, that it represents a fantastic way for brands to present themselves, and that it delivers fantastic ROI for sponsor-partners.

So I don’t see why we can’t create an ‘Asian tour for Formula 1’ – as a part of the normal Formula 1 World Championship – taking in Singapore, Japan, two races in China, and even a couple of additional venues.

I’d personally love to see a race in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s such an incredible city, it would be a new venue for Formula 1, and I think you could create something truly unique and special, and that really plays to the passion and intensity of the country. Could you imagine a street race in Bangkok? I think that would be something really unbelievable.

And I don’t see why we can’t go back to India either. Not that long ago we had a racetrack that the drivers loved, that the fans really appreciated, but which didn’t really gain the momentum it needed. For sponsor-partners, the proximity to New Delhi was very important, so I’d love to see that race resurrected in the near future.

The good thing is that guys like Chase Carey and Sean Bratches really see these things – really understand the business of entertainment – and I think there’s a real determination to try and grow the sport in these areas.

In terms of energising and engaging the fans, we could look at a number of options – one of the criticisms I hear from fans in places like China and Japan is that the races are always shown in the middle of the night (if at all), so the sport tends only really to gather a hardcore and dedicated fan base, and as a result there’s little room for the casual consumer. Perhaps we need to look at some of the timings of some of the conventional races, and see where there are opportunities to perhaps tweak the schedules so as to create a window of opportunity for our fans in Asia. When I lived in the US, remember, I had to watch the grands prix early on a Sunday morning, so I know how it feels!