ANY PUBLICITY IS GOOD FOR F1: Non-executive Formula 1 board member Martin Sorrell believes ongoing negativity about the sport has created more interest. Image: AFP / Slaven Vlasic
LONDON, England - Friction and ongoing negativity in Formula 1 have created instability that affects companies that pump money into the sport, according to a director of the motorsport series.
Martin Sorrell, also chief executive of advertising giant WPP, said public disputes over the state of F1 could in fact help to make the sport more commercially attractive.
INSTABILITY AND UNCERTAINTY
Although Sunday's (July 5) 2015 British GP was seen as a thrilling acceleration of the processions in some of the first eight races of the season, Mercedes still secured its ninth consecutive double podium.
One or other of Mercedes' drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have won eight of the nine races and teams have held talks about how to make the sport more exciting and competitive across the grid. Even F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has questioned the quality of the 2015 season so far.
Sorrell, a non-executive member of the F1 board, said: "Obviously there will be changes that will help the sport but I am looking at it from a marketing point of view. One or two of our (WPP) clients are very interested in the sport but are disturbed by some things they read and hear. That creates a feeling of instability, uncertainty, which is not good.
"Out of that come big opportunities."
Despite the gloomy prognosis for F1's future of F1 - the Sauber's team's leadership, for instance, concerned that the connection with fans is being lost - Sorrell pointed to ongoing interest from broadcasters and the 140 000-crowd that was at Silverstone as evidence of the sport's vitality.
Sorrell said: "What's interesting is, when sports are under pressure, it's a reverse psychology, people start to get more interested. The more friction there is in the sport, in a perverse way, makes it more, rather than less, interesting."
F1 is currently a takeover target of French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain's Qatari investors, who have linked up with the NFL's Miami Dolphins' owners to consider a bid.
Sorrel added: "F1 offers huge potential. Sport is becoming more and more important and with live events, the rights prices are increasing. So, if you think about F1 in that context, there should be more growth opportunity, not less."
'LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT OF F1'
F1's largest and controlling shareholder is CVC Capital Partners, the investment fund which owns a 35.5% stake after initially gaining control of the sport in 2006 for the equivalent of about R24-billion. As Sorrell explained: "When you are a private equity investor you have difficulties because your funds have finite terms. Private equity investors tend to be five, six, seven years max, which limits what you can do.
"At WPP we have very much more long-term investors but private equity by its nature, places restrictions on what it can do."
Sorrell declined to talk about the possibility of F1 being sold but did want an owner with big vision for the glamour series. "The critical issue is not who it is but their objectives. If they are long-term development of the sport, it works. One of the big issues facing business generally is short-term versus long-term."
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