Can the Miami Dolphins Save Formula 1?
Motorsport’s crown jewel attracts mammalian marine life. Also, China.
According to Sky News, Chinese cash is coming for Formula 1, led by the guy who owns the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise. The conglomerate, captained by Chinese Media Capital and American real estate mogul (and Dolphins owner) Stephen Ross, is looking to enter negotiations with F1's current controlling shareholder CVC Capital Partners. There’s $1.5 billion on the table, with $2 billion more required to make a deal happen; the total value of the bid for the crown jewel of motorsport is pegged at $8.5 billion.
Formula 1 is currently a stagnant pond, surrounded by mire and clouds of blood-sucking insects. What was once the sport of kings pales in comparison to the creativity and engineering of modern endurance racing like the 24 hours of Le Mans. There's a certain excitement lacking: the crushing superiority of Mercedes and Ferrari, the peril of the smaller teams. Praise be that Kimi Raikkonen is still around to drop the odd laconic Finnish bon mot, or we'd all be bored to death.
F1 bossman Bernie Ecclestone thinks a return to screaming V8 power as a budget move for the smaller teams is a possible path back to excitement. It wouldn't be the first time Formula 1 ran two engine types, and the hope is to make the midfield more competitive.
Speaking to Sky's Martin Brundle at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom, Ecclestone said, “We need another Cosworth,” referencing the English maker of diabolically good racing engines. Neither the FIA nor Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG, who have invested millions in the current V6 turbo engines, are in favor of leveling the playing field.
Despite its problems, F1 has been a hugely successful investment for CVC Capital, and the potential is there for greater profit. The prospective new owners would likely seek to exploit the media and sponsorship side of F1 more extensively. Money flows in, money flows out.
All well and good, but what of the thrill, the spectacle, the glory? Fresh ownership for Formula 1 could be great, but what it needs isn't Dan Marino hawking Isotoners, but the relaxation of regulations to create opportunity for ingenuity and bravery.
If CMC and Ross take control, it's not clear if we'll get the fresh take F1 needs; analysts suspect that Bernie would stay at the helm, and the marketing team would begin squeezing the sport for every dollar it could extract.
Such an objective may require an overhaul of F1; a return to the sound and the fury. It could just accelerate the slow strangulation of a once great sport. It might not happen at all, but if it does, here's hoping for a laces-out field goal, not a profits-first punt.