Formula E not a threat to F1's future, insists Carey

Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey says that the sport is not under threat from the rising popularity of the all-electric Formula E championship, which embarked on its sixth season last month in Diriyah.

“Formula E is a very different vehicle today [to F1],” he told CNN this week. “[It’s] largely a social cause and, you know, it’s a street party.”

Compared to Formula E, Carey insisted that F1 operated on a completely different level.

“I think we compete with everything out there,” he said. “It’s important that we make our sport everything that makes it special. It’s a unique sport that combines technology and sport, it’s a sport that shocks your senses.

“It’s a sport that has incredible drivers, taking incredible risks, with incredible talent and it’s a sport that really is a spectacle.

“It’s not just a two-hour event,” he continued. “We’re here for three days, we’ve got a variety of things going on.

“There’s a depth and richness to it that really makes it unique and I think it’s important for us to highlight what makes us unique against everything else out there.”

However Carey admits that F1 needs to become more environmentally responsible, both in its race technology and how the the series itself is run.

F1 has been criticised for its estimated current annual output of 255,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In response, F1 management has unveiled a ten-year plan to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Some of that criticism has come from within the sport, with reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton among those to express concern about the global impact of F1 and also about diversity within the sport.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with Chase Carey (USA) Formula One Group Chairman.

While Hamilton’s comments have been condemned as being hypocritical given his jet-setting lifestyle, Carey is in full agreement with the Briton.

“I certainly agree,” says Chase. “We’ve said it’s one of our core objectives. Over the next few years, we’ve identified the environmental issues as one we’re going to tackle.”

“Lewis has really been in many cases, you know, an incredible leader in those initiatives,” he continued. “Obviously there are many causes he has been public about that he is interested in pursuing.”

And Carey said that it was the big personalities and superstars within the sport that were a big part in what distinguished F1 from the rest of the sporting landscape.

“How important are the drivers? They’re critical. Sports are based on heroes and our biggest heroes are the drivers

“[Lewis] is a six-time world champion, so you know, the importance of him speaks for itself. He’s not just one of the great drivers today. He’s one of the great drivers of all time.”

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Carey: Signing new sponsors 'harder' than expected

Formula One chief executive Chase Carey says that finding new corporate sponsors for the sport has proved to be “slower and harder” than expected.

But he insists that interest in the championship is growing as Liberty Media works hard to grow F1’s global profile with significant investment in promotion and digital media.

“This is a unique sport, with passionate fans,”, Carey said this week. “It is sport that differentiates itself from other sports, given its marriage to technology and the nature and global aspect of the sport.

“In a world increasingly commoditised and fragmented, events that rise above are increasingly valued,” he added.

While there are plenty of interested parties out there, actually getting them to sign on the dotted line is proving harder work than Carey had anticipated.

“Our sponsorship group have been flat out and will be right through the end of the year, and hopefully some of those turn into signatures,” he insisted. “[But] not all of them will.

“Sponsors want partnerships that are more tailored uniquely to them. In the past signs on a wall worked fine [but] that doesn’t work now,” he told this week.

“You need to tell that story, and you need to develop tools,” he explained. “Whether it’s digital initiatives, regional feeds, virtual ads, fan festivals – all those types of opportunities to create tailored targeted opportunities.”

Carey said that when Liberty Media took over ownership of F1 from CVC Capital Partners at the end of 2016, and Carey himself replaced Bernie Ecclestone as CEO, he quickly found that the previous management had been largely neglecting the sponsorship side of the business.

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) with Chase Carey (USA) Formula One Group Chairman.

“Our cupboard was pretty bare, because we didn’t really have a sponsor group,” he said. “We hadn’t created any tools … We hadn’t created capabilities to tell the story of F1, to create some excitement.”

But Carey is confident that this has all changed now, heading into 2020 and said he was currently busy working through a three-page list of potential parties.

“The traction with interested sponsors has been on a steady rise, we’ve never been busier,” he insisted. “Certainly, I’d say we feel we have gotten progressively better, as we’ve gone along.

“It’s been slower and harder than I would have planned it to be a couple of years ago,” he admitted. “I think that in many ways is the nature of where we started, and we started really from ground zero.”

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