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What will the future of motorsport look like in a post-COVID-19 world?


#1

What will the future of motorsport look like in a post-COVID-19 world?

As I am writing this right now, all forms of major motorsport are under threat due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, with an increasing number of races across various series being cancelled or at least postponed, and a multitude of teams and manufacturers facing severe financial pressure. Obviously, if a whole season for a particular series is cancelled, the teams that compete in it won’t receive any income at all, and may be forced to withdraw altogether.

Take F1 for example. Several rounds (including Monaco) have already been abandoned altogether, with many more postponed indefinitely. Smaller teams such as Williams and Haas are on the verge of pulling out, and if they were to do so, the future of the sport would be in jeopardy:

However, the FIA seems to have realized this and introduced a budget cap of US$145 million for next year, which will decrease to US$140 million in 2022, and US$135 million from 2023-25, as part of their plan to implement rule changes to make F1 more financially sustainable for all involved:

https://www.speedcafe.com/2020/05/28/fia-approves-cost-cap-reduction-amid-f1-rule-changes/

Also, the IndyCar Series has had to cancel several rounds originally planned for this year (Toronto Barber Motorsports Park, Long Beach, Detroit, Richmond, Austin) and delay a few others (including the Indianapolis 500, which will take place in August for the first time ever), making this the first season of American open-wheel racing not to have any rounds outside the United States at all in decades - but it is expected that the cancelled races will all return to the calendar in 2021:

https://www.speedcafe.com/2020/05/22/indycar-sheds-one-race-in-new-calendar-shuffle/

The WEC and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship have also had to reshuffle their calendars as well, to the point that Corvette Racing won’t be able to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time in its history due to that race being delayed to September 19-20 this year - one week before the Mid-Ohio IMSA round, creating insurmountable logistical difficulties for the team:

However, a tie-up between the WEC and IMSA could yet save both series from further contraction or, worse yet, total collapse:

As bad as this is, it’s even worse in the DTM, where Audi’s decision to withdraw from the series, following Aston Martin’s undignified exit last year, leaves BMW as the last manufacturer standing - and the series on the brink of collapse unless something drastic is done:

The situation in the Australian Supercars Championship is little better; naming rights sponsor Virgin Australia has entered voluntary administration, Network Ten’s free-to-air broadcast deal is about to end, Holden is on its way out for good after decades of participation, with no replacement in sight, and the cancellation of the Gold Coast and Newcastle rounds has forced the series to extend the calendar all the way into 2021:

https://www.speedcafe.com/torquecafe/analysis-supercars-wont-attract-new-brands-with-gen3-and-thats-a-good-thing/

https://www.supercars.com/news/championship/full-revised-calendar-unveiled/

Looking at the big picture, it is quite likely that cost-saving measures will be necessary at all levels of motorsport - and mergers between series are not yet out of the question:

Meanwhile, many series worldwide have turned to e-sports to fill the void left behind by the pandemic-induced hiatus - but no matter how exciting it is, it will never completely replace the real thing:

So what do you think? How will motorsport look like once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended? Please share your thoughts on this matter - I am eagerly anticipating the resumption of racing around the world as much as you are.


#2

I don’t get why these guys can’t just wait til next year? No competition means no consumed vehicles, no paying for pit crews, no travel costs, no competition witnessed to have to redial against. Everything from this year can be sent out next year unchanged.


#3

Teams should earn money from their sponsors at every race, and without them, they will lose their main source of income, making it more difficult for them to stay afloat. In short: No racing = no sponsorship. No sponsorship = no teams. No teams = no series. No series = no racing. It’s a vicious circle that must be avoided at all costs.


#4

Sure, but when they’re not doing races or building cars they’re not spending income either. It’s very common for drivers to have a day job and you’d think a lot of people working on teams could do the same. When looking at things like D1, almost all of them run an actual business in the motorsport sector outside racing i.e. selling their parts or running a garage so you’d think the same would apply to circuit racing.

The sponsorship will come as long as there are races being run and people watching it, the moment venues open up then the source of income returns with it. Perhaps the only change that might happen is people might negotiate a default pay in case of cancelled races at the cost of peak returns.

If the consequence of this is that teams don’t feel safe playing irl Forza all day as their only source of income then thank fuck. Maybe motorsport can become more grassroots again and be about the garagistas, not Audi rolling big ol’ banners in to every motorsport on the planet.


#5

(Edit was to move a sentence that was out of order)

In an ideal would that would be great. But that’s not how the world works. Race teams still have bills to pay, regardless of whether they are racing or not.

What I’m getting from this statement is “if you’re not working you’re not spending.” If that was true F1 teams wouldn’t be on the edge of bankruptcy, like McLaren and Williams. Not only teams but racetracks have to survive too. Private trackdays (and similar events) aren’t going to enough for every track track.

I mean motorsport in general isn’t necessarily for profit for every team. There isn’t so much of win on Sunday sell on Monday anymore. Most of the racing that goes on is BOPed so, also, gone are they days of the best car winning. (F1 obviously an exception as they don’t have BOP) People aren’t necessarily buying cars based off of their recent winning are racing history. I’m not exactly waiting to see who wins the next IMSA or WEC GTLM championship for my next car. While car car with racing background is definitely a factor in my car buying it isn’t a requirement. Mercedes is spending a lot of money on F1 and if they thought they were going to use F1 as another source of income they would have quit after their first year.

While yes racing is a great way to show off a new car and grab potential buyers It’s still an expensive one. I’m not saying you can’t make a profit off of racing (whether a privateer or manufacture/works team) but it can be a very risky one, because of times like this and just racing in general. If you don’t finish well you wont get enough profit.

Okay, this is probably what most teams do. Dealerships, performance shops, car manufactures, and part manufactures are all great ways to keep funding your race team, while there isn’t any racing… Except the car industry as a whole is suffering.

I actually work in the car industry as a technician (between quick service and light line) at a car dealership in central Texas. As soon as the CDC, Trump and our local governments were ordering shit downs and social distancing, the cars that were coming in for service went down to about 25% of normal. Technicians were only working on about one car a day, and that could have been anything from changing oil to any normal big job if you were lucky. You can’t fund a racing team on 25% capacity. My dealership couldn’t even afford to keep us all employed. I was furloughed at the end of March and I still am waiting indefinitely for a call to go back.

So the car industry isn’t really making money. So now you still might have to face disbanding your race team to keep your business, even if your business isn’t around the car industry.

I could probably write another paragraph or two but I’ll leave here for this reply.


#6

Their problem is they spend too much to pay it off at the track. Teams taking a year off the race circus to do more R&D haven’t stopped working, teams that take the year off because there’s no races have. It doesn’t cost much to hold off projects, it costs to extend them.

Almost every industry is effected the same. Just as you and I were furloughed, the same can happen to the McLaren F1 team for a season and keep costs to a minimum. Fortunately for McLaren though, F1 cars don’t go off, they don’t just stop working properly when you store them for a season. They aren’t time-limited on when they can turn a profit on investment, they just have to sit on their hands for a while until the cogs of the machine start turning again.

I don’t believe there’s a valid reason why the motorsport industry can’t wait it out like literally everybody else has to, and once everything is working I see no reason they wouldn’t just get back on their bullshit like nothing ever happened.


#7

Where else do you wan’t them to spend their money? F1 teams aren’t going to be cheap, even if their dormant. McLaren has furloughed employees as well as Williams. Which still wasn’t enough for either of them. It doesn’t really help any F1 team that this happened literary right before the first race. If this happened earlier F1 teams would probably be in a better position. With McLaren officially withdrawing from the first race due to an employee COVID case I doubt they kept much R&D going. While McLaren’s F1 budget is pretty large I can’t say I fully disagree your statement because I do think Zak Brown may have taken steps a little to late. As lot of teams with smaller budgets haven’t declared troubles, or at least yet. Williams on the other hand as their budget is already tight I don’t think there is much they could have done, but they have been doing bad for the past few years so that a different topic entirely.

I don’t get why people think everything is going to be like “nothing ever happened” after this is over. That’s not going to happen in motorsport or everyday life. Without governments stopping evictions, power/water cuts, there would be quite a few people without these things. If people aren’t spending money how is it going to find it’s way into motorsport? Waiting it out isn’t working for everyone else, I don’t know why you think it’s somehow just going to work for motorsports. Renault might close their Alpine factory for good. (I thought I saw that Nissan was cutting 2 cars from their UK lineup but I can’t find the article to verify again) I could find many more examples especially small and family owned businesses where waiting it out made them close down for good. You can’t just pick up your lost revenue/income (as a person or a company) by saying wait it out and continue like nothing happened.

I’m apart of an Audi group around my area (as an owner of one myself) and I have seen quite a few newer (and more than lightly modified) Audi’s being sold because their owners need to sell them to keep their business or because they lost their job. Selling their Audi (or any moderately expensive or modded car) is like someone as a company owner getting rid of their race team, it isn’t a must for their survival.

Teams owners that also have companies (or are manufactures) still have to deal with the loss of income and getting rid of their motorsport division is going to be an easy way to reduce their costs and keep afloat. Unfortunately for Williams and McLaren that isn’t really an option, it’s pretty much either they survive or they don’t. And hopefully they decide to come back after a year or two.


#8

Nowhere, at all. I want them to do literally nothing. McLaren is pretty damn sizeable, they’re not renting their facilities, they can suspend operations like every other company.

When work resumes. So basically they’ll be back to full speed next season.

Major car manufacturers aren’t going to go under locking up their cars for the season. My track car doesn’t cost me money to sit there, I’ll take it on to the track when they open up just like they will. If they’re not willing to downsize when they’re not active then that’s on them.

They can easily get all their original people back on board as working in motorsport isn’t just any job, the employees want to be there. The employees aren’t going to be swept up by a competitor in the mean time, everybody is hit the same and those employees will hold down whatever they can until business resumes. They don’t lose anything by shutting down for the year, they just stop racing for a little while.

That’s pre-existing issues, the Renault-Nissan Alliance has had trouble long before COVID-19.

Sure, small businesses paying heavy rent with unmovable stock are going to go under but that doesn’t really apply to motorsport that’s run by tossers with more money than sense. The costs can be tanked by businesses operating with sensible overheads, as you said governments are giving out assistance to keep people above water for the time being.

And what do people do when they sell assets to stay afloat? They buy it back when they get back up to speed. Race teams don’t need to be active this season when the tracks are closed and they can come back in 2021 when they’re functional. COVID-19 isn’t a new normal, people aren’t going to operate in constant fear of the next bioweapon from China every year. They’ll throw their ad money back in racing as viruses don’t make people stop being interested in F1 or stop buying things they shouldn’t.

The thing is they’re going because of a short-term loss, not a chronic concern. The business model hasn’t changed, it’s still just as effective after restrictions are lifted so there’s no reason to back out unless they already didn’t know what they were doing.


#9

I just found this Jalopnik article and according to them 2 of the 3 McLaren Group companies have been sitting Idle

The 10th GP was cancelled on April 27 which means McLaren has been sitting Idle for about a month. Looking into it a little further the UK went on lockdown on March 23. By March 23 there were 8 races that have been cancelled or postponed. Why McLaren didn’t do Idle then who knows? but as of right now McLaren is doing as little as possible with their money, like you said they should be doing (which I agree with) and it’s still not going to save them completely.

Are we talking teams or series or both?
For teams I’d say most will be back to normal, but definitely not all.

As for series?
I’d also say most.

DTM isn’t in a good position. Audi is leaving for good after this year. They even said it would be to expensive even for them even if they just supplied privateer cars. That leaves only BMW in DTM, which doesn’t look very good. For spectators or teams, as they will be pretty much racing themselves.

And speaking about racing themselves the other series (or category rather) I’m concerned with is WEC top class. Toyota have been the only LMP1h car when Porsche after 2017 for formula E. The Le Mans Hypercars was pretty much a fail from the start as I wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota is the only one. Le Mans Hypercars will be behind us soon enough anyway with LMDh, so I’ll be looking forward to that.

Your track car also doesn’t come with hundreds of employees, equipment, and facilities, which have monthly running costs, again even when sitting dormant they still cost money. And downsizing could literal mean axing their racing team.

So are you oblivious on what’s actually going on with professional race teams and series by saying everything will be normal or do you just not care if that’s what you think?

I don’t know the statistics but how are you going to know what teams own their facilities completely and which one lease them? This is something that is going to be a team by team thing to see how easy it is going to be for them to survive.

COVID definitely isn’t the new normal, and I’m sure most people will recover quite quickly, as well as most teams and series. But it isn’t going to return to the normal we had before. When this is all over I don’t think motorsport will change outside of what my concerns were above. The only real change right now is F1 pushing back their regulation change and lowering the cost cap. Which all were going to be in place anyway, so F1 is only temperately affected. I think the main change is companies realizing they can just have their employees work from home, which isn’t motorsport related.

But for right now we can only wait to see what happens.


#10

F1-wise, in my very honest opinion, the limited budget cup decided by FIA could be helpful for smaller F1 teams, and could save them from being bought by the bigger one or forced to use even more components coming from Mercedes or Ferrari for example, which already are the major power-unit providers for most of the teams.
Those limitation, however, could push to a more standardised competition, which could potentially make F1 less interesting, or offer the possibility to other car manufacturers to enter the competition and make it more exiting/interesting.
Honestly, it is predictable that some teams will leave F1 world, because of their difficulty in series production models. The automotive crisis, beginned way back covid outbreak (which has the merit of having intensified it) is forcing some of the major manufacturers to sell half-priced car because of thier full stocks and lack of people who are thinking about buying a new car, when their working future is uncertain, so - take it as an example - if Renault condition will worsen they’ll be forced to leave F1 in order to try restoring their problems, or unless limitate their spending.
Personally, I’m worried for the little manufacturers that can be fagocitated by the bigger ones… In a way or another, bigger brands can survive by forming bigger groups: they’ll certainly loose part of their identity but what they really care about, is to stay afloat and ready for the moment when market will recover


#11

It’s all from long-running overspending they’ve been doing though, not COVID-19. They’ve needed to rein in spending for a long time and now it’s coming to a head.

They should axe the race team for the year. the equipment isn’t going anywhere, the facilities they own not rent will acrue marginal costs (particularly without power usage). They can get back up to speed pretty quick once they know next year is up and running.

They’re just bitching and whining that they have to hunker down like the rest of us. It’s a sponsored hobby in the end, they just have more extraneous toys on the shelf.


#12

To me, one motorsport that is doing this pretty well is NASCAR. They’ve had big viewership on e sports, have actually started racing, and introduced a shorter qualifying and practice format that many drivers like.

Let’s not forget, the have a new gen 7 car coming, with features that better reflect production cars. A controversial choice is that they are looking at foreign manufacturers with big presence in the US such as Hyundai and Honda.