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SBD Global/March 14, 2014/Events and Attractions

Cities Line Up To Host Formula One Grand Prix Despite Fragile Economy

McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen signs autographs on Thursday in Melbourne.
Despite the "fragile global economy, there is no shortage of hosts willing to stump up hundreds of millions to persuade the F1 caravan to bring a race weekend to their city," according to Roger Baird of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The reason "is clear." If you "get it right," the way newer circuits such as Singapore and Austin, Texas, have done, the "event nets tens of millions in local spending." Force India Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley said, “Singapore and Austin are shining examples of how a Grand Prix can help showcase a region. In Singapore, people now come into the country days before the race, or stay on and spend money.” The Singapore Tourist Office said last year that "there was a 12 per cent surge in flights into the country over its September race weekend," which brought in an extra £71M to the island state over the period. To get it right, F1 race weekend organizers "need to get the national, or at the very least, regional government to back the project." Just Marketing Int'l CEO Zak Brown said, “This is not just so it can help with funding. The state of Texas provided around £18 million of funding for the Austin track. But importantly, the state will help pass bills to greenlight planning, redirect traffic and close down parts of the city to host street parties.” But perhaps, most importantly, "an organiser needs deep pockets and patience." Bringing an F1 race to a city "is not cheap." Indian Grand Prix organizers Jaypee Group spent about £250M to build the Buddh Int'l Circuit in Uttar Pradesh and host three races there from '11 (FT, 3/13). In London, Roger Blitz reported the idea of Ron Dennis “coming back” to McLaren "bemuses him." Dennis: “I haven’t been anywhere.” However, Dennis "is back in the driving seat, taking charge of the business of winning races." The atmosphere at McLaren "has lifted, say insiders." Dennis "is on the front foot, barking orders, making decisions" (FT, 3/13).

A NEW ERA: Also in London, Simon Gray reported the three drivers who will start a Grand Prix for the first time in Melbourne this weekend "will be acutely aware that Formula One is an environment with little mercy for rookies who fail to prove their worth rapidly." McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson "will be under pressure to deliver results." The shortlived F1 experience of Giedo van der Garde and another '13 rookie, Marussia’s Max Chilton, "is a cautionary tale for the three newcomers." They can "take heart" from Esteban Gutierrez, who after an unpromising start at Sauber "kept his seat with a series of excellent late-season performances," and Valtteri Bottas, who has "shown his ability in preseason testing of the much improved 2014 Williams" (FT, 3/13). In Sydney, Chip Le Grand wrote "gone are the V8s, banished to the scrapyard like so many Australian-made sedans." In their place "is the turbocharged six, with all manner of electronic wizardry providing extra power from other parts of the car." No "more need for ear plugs." Gone "is the piercing F1 whine, replaced by a lower, throaty grumble." All the talk "is of torque, bucketloads of it, a surplus in any gear." Former world champion Jenson Button: “There is so much power at your disposal the whole time, there is so much torque. I have never driven a racing car with torque before in my whole career. So this is new to most of us" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/14).
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