Formula 1: Take a look at Formula 1 now

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Five years ago, the future of Formula 1 was in limbo.

The Liberty Media Corp. had acquired the motorsports series from Bernie Ecclestone, who had run it with a handful of noose for almost 40 years.

Observers said the sport needed to modernise, enter new markets, attract younger audiences and increase its social media presence.

Mission accomplished. The popularity of Formula 1 has now exploded to such an extent that there is more interest from new venues than available dates on the calendar.

“If we had the chance, it would be easy to fill the calendar with 30 Grands Prix,” Stefano Domenicali, Formula 1 chairman and managing director, said in an interview.

“It’s not that I want to do 30 Grands Prix, but it really shows the level of interest Formula 1 has around the world.”

A binding contract between Formula 1, the sport’s governing body FIA and the 10 teams, known as the Concorde Agreement, limits the number of races per year to 24.

This season there will be a record 23, with another race in Miami in May. Next season Formula 1 will return to Las Vegas after a 41-year absence, with the city’s Strip forming part of the circuit.

“The first meetings with the officials in Las Vegas were a little cautious,” Domenicali said. “But they embraced the project which will really show the potential of our business.

“It was very important to get this deal done because Vegas has a global footprint, and it’s another step in the right direction of the thinking approach that F1 needs to have going forward.”

With three Grands Prix in the United States, including one in Austin, Texas, the next major hurdle for Formula 1 is a return to Africa.

Kyalami, a circuit north of Johannesburg, hosted Formula 1 from 1967 to 1985, then again in 1992 and 1993. A new contract is about to be concluded.

“Johannesburg is definitely on our list,” Liberty general manager Greg Maffei said in an interview. “You would like to have one in Cape Town, but I’m not sure that’s feasible, so Johannesburg is most likely.”

Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time champion, said South Africa was a race “that I want to hear announced next”.

“At the end of the day, my ancestors are from there, which is why it’s important to me personally,” he said. “It’s important for the sport to go there. If they are on all the other continents, why not?

“At the end of the day, my ancestors are from there, which is why it’s important to me personally,” he said. “It’s important for the sport to go there. If they are on all the other continents, why not?

Since Liberty took over, racing has returned to France and the Netherlands, home of defending champion Max Verstappen, as well as newcomers Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States.

“There is a desire to do another Asian race potentially,” Maffei said. “We’ve had interest in places like Indonesia, going all the way back to Malaysia, and there’s been interest in other South American countries, Argentina and Colombia.

“Stefano’s point about doing 30 races is valid. There’s clearly a lot of demand, but it’s about maintaining that global audience, not saturating it.

The problem for Formula 1 is that if the calendar expands to 24 races, either next year or in 2024, a more traditional event in Europe could be scrapped.

It could be the French Grand Prix as his contract expires after his next race in July. There have been discussions with Formula 1 about an extension. It is also possible that the race will alternate in the future with another European venue.

Domenicali wants to preserve the heart of Formula 1 in Europe, but warned racing there must keep pace with the development of events in other countries.

“For those who say we are pushing too far and somehow disrespecting racing in Europe, that is wrong,” Domenicali said.

“What we’re doing is pushing the system towards a different approach, to force promoters to think big because the level of events we’re building are increasing.”

Domenicali said Formula 1 had “a duty to ensure that there is a higher level of professionalism, business, interest”.

Drivers and team principals believe it is important that Formula 1 strikes a balance between welcoming the new and preserving the old.

“I can certainly understand that we need more races in the United States to increase the popularity of F1, and we are happy to go there,” said Verstappen, the Red Bull driver.

“Of course, it’s also important to keep some historic circuits on the calendar, which are really fun to drive.”

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, praised Domenicali for “doing a brilliant job” in balancing the sports venues, but also, from a financial point of view, for winning over new audiences.

“To be in the United States with a second and third race is fantastic, especially in Miami and Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s not getting better.

“The truth is that I think most fans who watch Formula 1 on TV or on social media really don’t care where we race.

The Las Vegas race will take place at 10 p.m. Saturday to showcase the city at night. It will also allow the European public to follow the race on Sunday morning.

With soaring attendance – a record three-day crowd of 420,000 attended the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, for example – the addition of Miami and Las Vegas, and the virtual certainty that the Formula 1 will return to South Africa, there is a feeling that the sport has cracked the big time.

“I want to be humble, but I would say these are the signs that we are heading in this direction,” Domenicali said. “If you look around, and I’m not being disrespectful at all, of course, in terms of the international sports platform, but I don’t see any other sport with as much momentum as we have right now. ”

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