Belgian GP sold out but running a loss

F1 Fanatic Round-up

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In the round-up: The Belgian Grand Prix is sold out for this year but the event organisers lost millions on it last year.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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80 comments on “Belgian GP sold out but running a loss”

  1. Verstappen effect?

    Not the.. Stoffel Vandoorne and Valtteri Bottas/Kimi effect?

    1. Since 50% of the grandstands are orange im gonna say no to that.

      1. @rethla but of course vandoorne’s car is orange!

    2. @dam00r if you look at the Netherland flags and the orange in the grandstand, they are mostly Verstappen fans. The article acknowledges that Vandoorne brings some fans too, but it sells out because of the Verstappen fans.

    3. To have a larger Vandoorne effect, I think Stoffel would have to have a better car, and do more magic with it @dam00r.

      1. @bascb Most of all he has to be at least be close to beating his teammate.

        1. To get fans excited and flocking to the track, he would have to beat Alonso at times in an impressive fashion @rethla

          1. Which is basicly what Verstappen is doing hence the fame.

          2. @bascb Also Belgians aren’t that sensitive to just being success supporters. Regardless of how good Max is, it’s something you see massively with the Dutch right now. Despite having the most beautiful track in the world Belgians are not interested in Formula One, even now when the media is making a bigger effort to get in the news and radio.

    4. Having been fortunate enough to attend several GP in the last few years, I can confirm that the Verstappen effect is in full swing. Only at the British GP last year did I see more support for an individual driver other than Max.

      Even in Monza, while there was obviously an army of Tifosi, Max was still the most supported driver.

      It really is crazy, I’ve certainly never seen someone come in and upset the status quo as much as he has.

      1. Tony Mansell
        21st July 2017, 11:21

        I have to say although I have a hammertime flag, Ive ordered a Max one also for Monza, hes just the man. hes what LH was 10 years ago. derring..!!.

        As a nod to the Tofosi I will also have a 70 years of Ferrari flaglette on top. Mainly to stop me getting beaten up to be fair

      2. I went to Monza last year and my experience is that the most supported drivers there were Kimi and Max. Probably in that order. There was some enthusiasm for Sebastian of course, as he drives for Ferrari, but after that not major support for any of the others.

    5. Dutch people tend to view Belgium as their poorer relatives but they are basically Dutch and Belgium is basically a home province.

      Besides, Verstappen mihg thave a dutch passport but he is from Belgium.

      1. they are basically Dutch – What ridiculous comment.
        Sorry to disappoint you but not a single Belgian feels Dutch.
        Furthermore you may have noticed half of the Belgians speak French.

        We’ve been under the Burgundians, the Spanish, the French, the Austrians.
        For only 15 years we’ve been under the Netherlands but shortly after we fighted and obtained our independance.

        I suggest you get some reading about the history of Belgium and the Netherlands

        1. Most Dutch are ignorant about our Southern neighbours. There was an time (1578) we united in an common cause the battle vs the spanish but during the battle we got split up on both sides and we became not friendly with each other untill 1815 were the Belgium was giving to the Dutch Prince and we became the kingdom of the Netherlands. Now i can give the reasons over the breakup but as you said fight for independance but we would be both right and wrong. As this is F1 i stop here.

          Still we (Dutch) view our Southern friends in an much friendly view than the Belgium views us but as you said The Vlamish does NOT feel Dutch and i think they never do. If I bring this up with my vlamish friend they change from very friendly into an kind of hostile mood.

          The smaller part who speak (only) French would like to join with Frankrijk and the German part would return to germany

          1. @macleod Be assured that Belgians see Dutch people as northern friends! Theres is no Dutch dislike/hatred whatsoever as far as I’m aware of. As for the french talking Belgians they absolutely don’t want to become French and it’s the same for the German talking part. Dutch speaking part is partially willing to become Flemish only while french and german speaking ones see themselves as Belgians and thats pretty it :)

          2. Of yes your right with that statement the Belgians see the Dutch as silly nothern friends. I noticed some of Mine flamish friend that the 1815 situation is tricky …

      2. Not poorer but simple! (not my view)

        But Max has dual nationality but uses his Dutch as it’s the more bigger country for support.

        1. His accent is also fully Dutch (Southern) not Vlemisch and as he grew up just over the border with almost exclusively Dutch people in the karting world around him all the time (Pex family) and his farther being Dutch obviously he has said in Dutch media multiple times that he feels primarily Dutch.

          1. And obviously his mother is belgian. And obviously he’s not gonna say on television, especially the dutch one, he feels anything else. And “.. he grew up just over the border..”. Indeed over the border, so he grew up in Belgium. Like MacLeod already said, he uses the dutch pass for convenience. Just like Jos settled in Belgium for convenience purposes (taxes).

        2. @macleod Is that why Dutch come over to our universities because education in the Netherlands is among the worst in western Europe?

          1. Don’t let the Dutch talking Belgium folk fool you: they are French more than Dutch in terms of behavior etc.

          2. Probably more to do with being far cheaper @xtwl! And if I am not mistaken, you can even get a nice Erasmus stipend on top for going international !

          3. @maxv I see you don’t know any Belgians then,…

            @bascb I know money is a factor in it too, but as somebody who has done several comparison studies between the two educational systems in mathematics and physics during my own time at university. I know for a fact an average 18 year old leaves Belgian middle school much better educated than the average Dutch one. That simply lies in the methods the Dutch prefer, where Belgium is more strict and has year to year plans the Dutch tend to have more freedom in what they teach, and how they do so. Especially that last part is where the two differ the most.

          4. So, not only on F1 subjects are you wrong.


            It’s only Leuven which is indeed regarded better, but the rest in Belgium is well behind everything in the Netherlands.

            Really, kids go to Belgium Universities because it’s much much cheaper there and in the Netherlands often certain studies are full. Of course it’s a dumb idea because it’s much harder to get your education so far from the support of your parents. The results of Dutch student going to Belgium are very poor compared to those who do have the money or credentials to get a spot in a Dutch university.

            Or Education in general?:
   nl on p8 and be on p18

            OECD ranking puts Nethelands above Belgium too on PISA test scores. Only 509 vs 502 but still, no only is the educational system regarded better, it also provides better results.

          5. Sorry for the late reply but as your see the replies above i don’t think the Dutch are going the the Belgium Universities for the best education but for the money they have to pay AND/OR they missed placement when they were voted out at the Dutch Universities.

            I have been visiting at Leuven universi a lot as you now know where my Belgium friends come from.

          6. I know money is a factor in it too, but as somebody who has done several comparison studies between the two educational systems in mathematics and physics during my own time at university. I know for a fact an average 18 year old leaves Belgian middle school much better educated than the average Dutch one. That simply lies in the methods the Dutch prefer, where Belgium is more strict and has year to year plans the Dutch tend to have more freedom in what they teach, and how they do so. Especially that last part is where the two differ the most.

            Your right as the national dictee proves that but that is the average skill level.

  2. Provided the halo is here to stay, it may be used as an extension on the helmet art, for a better recognision of each driver. Each Halo could be painted with a different design, to match the driver helmet. I cn imagine a white one with the little germn flag for vettel and a red an black for kimi. It surely will help to introduce a driver as a brand, like they wanted to with a career number, just like in Nascar (they’re a show more than a motorsport, ok, but f1 can learn a thing or two from them about marketing). If life gives you lemons (an useful, but hideous looking lemon, may add)…

    1. It will be black to be as invisible as possible.

      1. May be, but it certainly shouldn’t

      2. It could be black on the inside and coloured on the outside. The driver will only ever see the inside of their Halo from the cockpit, and only on on-boards will spectators typically see anything other than the outside of the Halo.

        1. @alianora-la-canta
          It isnt black to hide it from the drivers its black to hide it from spectators.

          1. @rethla If that was the powers-that-be’s intention, they needed to paint it light grey (for the same reason that power lines and pylons are light grey in Britain), light greyish-blue (to take into account the average F1 race takes place in better weather than Britain typically has) or co-ordinated to the main colour of the car to which it is attached (to blend in). In no circumstance is a fully saturated colour of a shade not otherwised used for major bodywork in that area of the car going to work for hiding it from spectators.

          2. @alianora-la-canta We are not talking about powerlines in the air nor saturated colors here. Just look at all the other parts on the car they wanna hide and what “shade” they have chosen for those parts and you will get the idea.

          3. @rethla The only parts I see uniformally painted black are the ones that are subject to unusual levels of heat (since any paint in such areas discolours to a dark/black colour anyway), and some of the anteater noses of 2014 (which as often exaggerated the nose as hid it).

          4. @alianora-la-canta
            You think the T-wing, suspension struts, diffuser etc. are all subject to “unusual heat”?
            I can tell you they are not and heat is not the reason they and the halo are painted black.

            They are black to hide them either because they are ugly or because they want their finer aero details hard to spot.

          5. @rethla The T-wings I’ve seen are colour co-ordinated with the car (Mercedes’, for example, are grey). Diffusers I’ve sometimes seen in other colours than black. Suspension struts aren’t designed with surfaces that are meant to be painted (so while they are black, they’re that way naturally because default carbon fibre colour is black – no need for paint), making their colour a matter of weight avoidance (admittedly something I forgot to mention in my list of exceptions).

    2. Great minds..!

      I actually suggest this to Sean Bull on Twitter. Hope he has a go!

  3. I suggest invisible paint on the Halo

    1. Yeh thats what they have already.

  4. Berger is right, Max never breaks his own front wings, he breaks everyone else’s.

    Not an engineer but I was asking for Honda to eat some humble pie ever since the cavalier Honda tried to one up Mercedes PU design, in other words since Honda returned. It’s 2017 they are actually starting to acknowledge their mistakes. I’m happy for them though. I think Sauber’s or Monisha’s Honda deal made sense, but on the other hand the new people at Sauber seem to be able to sustain the team and hopeful of better results in the short term, which means without Honda, with Honda Sauber’s results would come instantaneously.

    1. A motorsports fan
      26th July 2017, 7:42

      “Berger is right, Max never breaks his own front wings, he breaks everyone else’s.”

      maybe you should change your Nickname to FactFree.

  5. RE:COTD
    I don’t think it will be that easy for Hamilton to rack up the wins and titles.
    Last year’s loss to Rosberg dealt a major blow to his wins to championships ratio.
    Which also highlights his reason for leaving Mclaren. The team cost him at least 2 additional championships with their loss of focus.
    Mercedes wont always have a more reliable engine with very good performance. There are also very capable drivers, who, with an extra, .5s increase in car performance, will be very serious competition.
    Hamilton will be lucky to win a 4th, and a 5th will be almost impossible.
    Mansell is another driver who deserved an extra title or 2.

    1. “Hamilton will be lucky to win a 4th, and a 5th will be almost impossible”

      Seriously? He will win this year, unless Ferrari pull out a mid season update, which typically dont work out too well.

      Mercedes will be the team to beat until this Formula cycle ends. As the engine development plateaus, Renault and Honda will eventually catch up, perhaps by 2020, but up till then, the title will be shared between the preferred drivers in a Merc or Ferrari. Im expecting to Lewis to win at least 6 WDCs before he finishes in F1.

      “Mansell is another driver who deserved an extra title or 2”

      Thats the problem with statistics. Its black and white, doesnt take into account “coulda”, “woulda”, “shoulda”. Alain Prost could have been a 6 time WDC, Alonso should have won 5, Niki Lauda 4, so the list goes on.

      1. @jaymenon10 I think you’re on point here! I shall point out, that the current era with regulations regarding the PU, fuel and aerodynamics also had a huge impact in how Mercedes ultimately took over the throne from Red Bull. Mercedes just seems to have the upper hand for now, but I hope their domination ends before 2020.

        Furthermore, I expect Hamilton to become world champoin at least 4 times in total, but he will face more competetion in the forthcoming years. I predict Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, even Ricciardo as serious contenders for the WDC after the 2017 season. Even Vettel pose a serios threat to Hamilton this year, but Hamilton seems to prevail in the end because of his strong and upward performance curve.

        1. ” Even Ricciardo” !?? He’s got twice as much points Verstappen has and has beaten Max in both points and qualy last year as well (over the races they were together)

          1. @jeffreyj One would expect Verstappen to be a lot closer to Ricciardo with similar reliability to begin with, and last year Verstappen had to adapt to the new car which he did very rapidly indeed.

            Both have a lot of potential left in them, however age is Verstappen his advantage. He’s got 15 years in F1 to go, easily. Ricciardo his shots at top drivers are looking less and less likely with Vettel/Hamilton remaining the top dogs.

        2. but Hamilton seems to prevail in the end because of his strong and upward performance curve.

          but Hamilton seems to prevail in the end because of his cars strong and upward performance curve.

          Fixed it for you, Hamilton hasn’t done anything different since the end of 2016 really. If Mercedes did not ‘find’ any solution to the diva car this might have been a very good season, unfortunately Ferrari cannot follow Mercedes in the development/R&D department. Mercedes are well and truly ahead meaning, and Hamilton will feel little opposition and when it’s there it’s going to be from Bottas sadly.

          1. Oh come on. Vettel just had a poor weekend. His Q3 was sloppy and his start was poor. That and his ensuing failed battle with Verstappen pretty much killed his own race. Badly damaging his tyre in a lost cause fighting against Bottas completely did him in at the end.

            However Raikkonen did fine in the race and kept up pretty well until also his tyre blew. Perhaps he overdid it too somewhere, but the car isn’t off by miles.

            Of course since the oil burning thing was put under more attention during scrutineering, it seems to have cost Ferrari a couple of tenths, but it’s not like they are completely out of range all of a sudden.

    2. Hamilton is going to win his fourth this season, and I’d say he’s still the odds on favourite for winning next season as well unless Mercedes bring Alonso onboard.

      To say a fifth is almost impossible seems baseless. I can’t see Mercedes falling so far from form that Hamilton won’t achieve at least one more championship within the next 6 years.

      I don’t think he’s going to match the 7 of Schumacher, but I think him collecting at least 5 championships is pretty likely.

  6. It’s insane that the Belgian and British GP, probably the two most prestigious actual races on the calendar with huge attendance can’t make a profit. Their tickets aren’t even that affordable.

    Silverstone is putting its prices up for next year which is going to be interesting to see if that affects attendance or not, I suspect attendance will be down slightly but not enough to lower revenue unfortunately so the increased prices will be there to stay.

    1. @philipgb, mind you, it does point out in the article that at least half of that loss is due to currency fluctuations (the fees to FOM being paid in dollars and the dollar having strengthened against the euro over time).

    2. But the biggest difference between them is that the local government is prepared to pick up the difference for Spa, because they see the larger economical benefit, something Silverstone does not get @philipgb

      1. @bascb

        And hopefully never will. Formula 1 isn’t a charity, it’s a millionaire boys club where they literally shower each other in champagne. Our tax money shouldn’t be anywhere near that while public sector workers are getting slapped in the face with 1% pay raises and we’re having to close health services.

        Is Silverstone good for the local economy? No doubt, but it’s even better for the pockets of the drivers, teams, and rights holders. It could be a profitable venture without public funding, it would be sheer greed to bleed the public coffers as well.

        1. I tend to agree. The fact that governments are footing the bills for the circuits has just meant that F1 has been able to freely hold the circuits to ransom in the full knowledge that they will get paid or will simply move to another country that is willing to foot the bill. This has meant that F1 has not had to be run as a normal business as they just up their charges rather than looking at how they can be run better.

      2. @bascb Whether there is an actual benefit is still a very vivid ongoing debate here.
        It’s a case of prestige and renown. Spa is an ultra classic and it’s more about preserving a jewel and its history.
        Belgians are accustomed to a strong interventionist state and Spa is no exception.

        1. Some good points there @spoutnik. Yes, it certainly helps the Spa track that the government stepping in is more of a regular thing in Belgium compared to the UK (or the US). And I think most F1 fans would agree that the presitge is considerable.
          On the other hand, I am sure that the same kind of discussions go on about how much economical benefit is actually gained as we saw in the case of Austin – from the way of counting the amount of actual visitors, to attributing/guessing/estimating their spending, to calculating in how many of did NOT come to avoid the race, those studies are always debatable.

          1. @bascb Actually the last debates were not even about profitability of the event but more about the environmentalist party not being happy with pollution right in the middle of the biggest natural reserve of Belgium.

            But the important thing to know about why it is still ongoing (and that may interest @keithcollantine too) is that while the F1 GP may be at loss the global balance is positive with a 2.370 m€ benefit for 2016. (official source from Wallonia:

            I don’t know how does Silverstone globally over a year but in Belgium Spa is largely profitable, things are looking good.

          2. And still fans ask for the cars to be LOUDER @spoutnik!

            And yes, the F1 weekend could well be a loss leader for many tracks but it helps keep up the prestige and feelings that then bring in people for other motorsport events, track days, tests etc.

          3. @spoutnik Excellent news that Wallonia is calculating a profit of 2.37 million Euros for Belgium from the Belgian GP. This means that we can increase hosting fees by 2.36 million Euros and you will still stay onboard. Kind regards, FOM.

    3. Indeed our tickets for Club Corner cost 50% more for 2018, as I said to my wife they need the money! However Silverstone has been working on ‘optimising’ its ticket pricing. The General Admission tickets with U16 for £87 for the weekend is good value. Cheapest grandstand tickets this year are £250 for the weekend.

      Agree UK public money should be no way near Silverstone, with the amount of tax required to service the national debt the Circuit needs to finance its own way.

    4. A motorsports fan
      26th July 2017, 7:47

      The tracks should unite and put pressure on Liberty media – like: no F1 races next year on any of our tracks. There’s plenty of money in F1, but the tracks aren’t seeing enough of it.

  7. I had somewhat expected to find motorsport: analysis of Mercedes gearbox dramas in the round up, found that an interesting article about the aggressive gearshift settings that likely caused those gearbox problems.

    1. Brilliant article, thanks :)

  8. Another good read to add to the roundup is Sawards “green notebook” discussing the Halo as well as Vasseur and the whole engine situation.

  9. Is the MP4-23 a classic? I certainly wouldn’t put it along side the MP4/4, MP4/6 or the FW14/B. The MP4-23 wasn’t always the best car in the 2008 season, with the less bad luck the F2008 would have won the title that year.

    1. @tonyyeb
      I’d say so. It’s the one I think of when I recall that period (’07-’08), from the last year of the extreme aero cars. The design is quite memorable with that bendy front wing and very square top-down view (great livery too). It’s less a classic for it’s performance so much as it represents that period of design and an important period for a great driver.

  10. McLaren did 117 laps of tyre tests?! How many engines were used?!

  11. So this is another show of State of F1, under previous rule. Awesome european circuit sells out all seats provides epic racing, everyone loves it yet they run a loss year on year.

    So, how many tracks are profitable? Liberty media should make a contract where they get a share of the tracks profits. Not many tracks in EU can run a loss for a long time.

    1. As far as I know the only track that could be profitable is Monaco as their fee is so small… However it also has a tiny spectator capacity so even it may well not be profitable…

      1. I don’t think Monaco can ever be profitable, or can even be seperated well, from the running of the principality Lee1.

        The cost of a street race is probably considerable. Remember, you need to seal the drain covers, often put on new tarmac every year and build up and take down all the grandstands, not cheap at all. And on top you have the disruption of the traffic in the whole city. On the other hand, apart from ticket sales and VIP tickets, there is considerable extra income from the sheer amount of boats wanting to be in the harbour for the race week, and then all the appartments that get rented out with view of the track too.

        I don’t think there is any racetrack/venue that is able to make a profit (or at least break even) from an F1 race, unless there is some kind of support involved (cheap land, waiving of taxes, the government paying for the infrastructure, direct and/or indirect subsidies).

        Then again, when you look at how much governments and muncipalities spend to subsidise football clubs (just look at how much goes into super rich Real Madrid), (ice)hockey, not to mention the cost of staging Diamond League, tennis tournaments, World Championships and Olympic games, it suddenly doesn’t seem to be that strange to see the same for F1/motorracing. But that is only sustainable if the sport itself also invests money back into the sport, something CVC never did, but Liberty will need to do to build a solid future.

        1. Those other sports (especially the olympics) are a little different as in theory (I understand that it isn’t always the case) there is a legacy left after the event. Football clubs are pretty much permanent additions to the local economy and are active for the majority of the year. Even then, very few football clubs are subsidised as it is generally against the rules (although Real Madrid appears to get away with it somehow).

          F1 on the other hand is in town for a few days per year, then leaves. The only thing left behind is a track that adheres to F1 standards and can be used by a handful of people… I don’t think many in the UK would be happy at millions of tax payers money went into supporting an event that provided a boost the local economy of small part of rural Northamptonshire for a few days a year in the name of boosting the coffers of liberty media…

          People would prefer F1 to be run more like a legitimate business and live within its means while making sure all involved benefit from its success including the circuits.

          1. Sorry Lee, but this just is not true

            even then, very few football clubs are subsidised as it is generally against the rules (although Real Madrid appears to get away with it somehow)

            From what I have seen over where I live (Czech Republic), the Netherlands (where I am from) and GErmany (where I lived for a while too) and from news in at least Spain and France I know that that might be the impression but reality is different.

            There are so many stadiums that are build with substantial subsidies, have been in a “buy and lease back” by muncipalities with very friendly terms, taxes that are waived on property, support that is payed directly to their budget for “supporting youth sports” even when there is little substance to that support, loans to rescue clubs etc are commonplace all over Europe.
            If you look closer at some of the terms clubs in the UK have, I am pretty sure that you will also find such structures and payments, be it not as obvious as the Real Madrid case.

            Rest assured that if they would not be, clubs in the countries who would be at a disadvantage by it would have already protested and started legal procedures with the EU – especially with the huge amounts of money involved in the Champions League.

    2. Duncan Snowden
      21st July 2017, 14:52

      Stop the presses! Someone is talking sense about F1 finances!

      I don’t know if fixed hosting fees are common in sport, but in any other entertainment business the fee would be a percentage, usually of gross ticket sales rather than net profit. Royalties on stage productions, for example, are usually somewhere between 10% and 15% of gross. Which can still make it hard to turn a profit, but when takings can be uncertain it’s more sensible than a fixed fee. It looks to me, on the published figures, that Silverstone must be paying closer to a third of their gross, if not more, depending on how many tickets they sell.

      The question about taxpayer subsidy should be this: is F1 inherently too expensive to host without it, or has Bernie chasing subsidies around the world artificially inflated the hosting fee to the point where it’s become unaffordable without it? I don’t know, but having followed the development of the sport over more than three decades, I strongly suspect it’s the latter.

  12. seems to me that F1 ought to be paying the track owners to race there, not the other way around.

    If there were no tracks, then F1 would be finished.

    The track owners do have the power to turn this situation around if they get together and do so.

    1. MOD please delete that, that’s rubbish

    2. But that’s the thing… several countries are dying to pay the most rediculous fee’s.

      Silverstone started with a $20m hosting fee a few years back with a 10% annual escalater. That means that must be well over $30m annually now. With roughly $15m annual event and maintenance cost and the yearly write offs from the track alteration’s and new pitbuildings etc (probably upwards of $10m a year) your looking at an annual cost of roughly $60m!!

      With no big sponsor’s alowed (F1 has exclusive sponsors) no irrational Sheik and no government help, all you have is ticketsales and trackside reveneu (not merchandising, that’s FOM’s). That would be over $400 per person on average just to break even…. (no ‘ kids for free’ )

  13. Michael Brown (@)
    21st July 2017, 13:40

    A track selling out but still losing money? Nothing unusual here.

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