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POLE POSITION?

Far from losing their appetite for Formula One after they lost out to Liberty, both parties are now firmly embedded in the sport. Qatar staged its first race in November 2021, and has signed up for nine more (with a break in 2022 while it hosts the Fifa World Cup).

Next season will also see the first Miami Grand Prix in May, which will be held at the Miami International Autodrome. The Floridian track weaves around the Hard Rock Stadium’s real estate, which just happens to be the home of the Miami Dolphins.

So could Qatar, Ross or Netflix be tempted to pounce? Certainly the numbers look enticing too.

Earlier this year Liberty’s shares were reported to be up 113 per cent since they acquired the sport, and revenue was up at US$180 million for the first quarter of 2021, from just US$39 million in 2020.

Confidence in the financial value of the sport is high with McLaren Racing’s CEO Zak Brown recently pointing out: “Liberty are sports investors in amongst investing in lots of businesses … they could really uncork the potential value of the sport.”

Back in 2020, Bernie Ecclestone, former chief executive of CVC’s Formula One Group, had cautioned that a business that gives the impression that it is doing well might be creating the right climate for a profitable sale. He said: “I would do the same if I wanted to sell.”

Whether they do intend to sell after one of Formula One’s most exciting seasons in recent years remains to be seen. Interest is up, viewing figures are up, and the start of the 2022 season is already an enticing prospect.

For Liberty, that will surely already be classed as a big win – for the business and the sport itself.

Bruce Grant-Braham is a Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University. This commentary first appeared on The Conversation.

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