With the Actros Group taking a stake in Aston Martin F1, the team has been valued at over $1 billion. This is not bad for a team that Lawrence Stroll purchased for $117 million in the late 2010s and 10 years before that we still saw instability in the F1 paddock.
Value can only mean something when it is actualized but what is clear is that F1 is no longer so undervalued as it was in the late 2010s. For a sport to have 10 teams, and none of those to be valued as the cheapest NFL team, F1 had a lot of unrealised value. Gone are the days of the Sauber – BMW – Sauber mess.
We aren’t even talking about the pro-am or the crazy days of the garaistes or those crazy-rich-guys that want to have a go, that lead to huge fields in the 80s. The turnaround from the 2000s and the early 2010s is quite astounding.
In the post-Covid era, sports are on a much different trajectory. Venture Capital companies want their piece – see Williams, Middle East companies are taking football clubs left, right and centre and celebrities are, for some reason, wanting their piece of the action – see Alpine.
When it comes to the sport, it becomes clear of why the teams and Liberty Media view the Andretti entry with great trepidation. It has nothing to do with the ‘show’ or a fear of being beaten. It is everything to do with the value of the team. It is that franchise system that is so popular in the United States, that makes American sport teams so rich. It is a step away from the European sports model that relies on clubs and promotion – relegation system.
That sports system and culture was put the to the test with the UEFA and their failed reformation bid, that would see a competition of just the richest clubs of Europe. Fans went nuts, and it was not welcome.
For F1, it is different. Once upon a time it was conceivable that a new specialist manufacturer could come in and build a car – like a Dallara or Reynard. Or perhaps an F3000 team could step up – like Forti, or team step down – like Osella.
The franchise model works here and should be protected. Or at least better formalised. With the news that GM will only enter with Andretti, Liberty Media are in a bind. To protect the teams they have, or to try to grow the show.
Undoubtedly, the team needs to display they can build on the sport. And with Andretti they will.
The rapid growth so far shows there is still a long way to go and Andretti should be a part of that. If not, does it show a fear on behalf of the owners that they can’t escape quickly. If this is the case, the case is lost and the sport is doomed.
The financial trajectory and stability of the sport is improving. There is a new era of sport and sport management coming for F1, one that takes on the world, not a UK centric view. Embracing this will probably make the sport even more valuable, despite the slice of the pie being split 11 ways.
By Sam Tickell
Sam is a Postdoctoral Researcher in sport sciences at the University Münster’s Social Sciences of Sport research and has worked in motorsport for almost 20 years. He is also the editor of www.racerviews.com