Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Thursday Thoughts - F1 and government funding - Investigating how involved a country should be in motorsport

Published by Christine

This week, Dan Brunell has taken the lead for Thursday Thoughts, posing a rather tricky question over on his Racing Eagles blog. This week, we are tackling economics, and whilst I work with numbers, I still spent some time scratching my head on this one. The question, then:

Is government finance of Formula One events, teams, and personal a good thing for the common good of that area? What is the line between regional economic investment and the wholesale fleecing of the public?

Immediately, I think of Silverstone. Damon Hill is constantly bemoaning the lack of support the BRDC gets when it comes to running the Grand Prix for Britain. Even when Donington took over, they were allowed to fail spectacularly without even a blink from the government. The question over whether taxpayers should fund Formula One really falls back to a more general one of whether we should fund sport at all. If we're helping to pay for one, there's no reason not to pay for another, even if it is a rather expensive one. With the Olympics dominating headlines at the moment, this is really a timely question.

The thing about Silverstone is, it does help the local economy. I'd never even heard of the place until I became a fan of F1, let alone been anywhere near it. At the track itself, Porsche have invested in an incredible car and human performance facility, there is a science and technology park, with the Silverstone Innovation Centre. Plus nearby teams, such as Force India, are creating work for hundreds of people.

When Canada lost their race, their economy suffered enough for the government to turn to hotel owners to make up the difference. A tax levied on hotel occupancy, and presumably on restaurants and fans themselves.

So, you could certainly make an argument that F1 is beneficial to sport, and to the local economy. The problem arises, as it so often does, with one Mr Bernie Ecclestone. Damon Hill is miserable because Bernie is charging enormous amounts for the race and leaving little for development. If the government poured money into the circuit, it's conceivable that Bernie would increase his fees, and there would still be little room for development. I'm not in favour of the taxpayer money heading straight for Bernie's pockets any more than it has to.

Thus, I conclude, in my roundabout way, that Damon Hill is going to have to stay miserable for now. I want the government to support all kinds of sports, but Formula One doesn't have the right attitude to make that a feasible option right now.