The Ridiculous Price of F1 Tickets

Formula 1 tickets are too expensive. There is nothing new in this, it has been the case for a while. That said, I’d blithely assumed they’d remained fairly static in recent years. It seems I might be wrong.

I buy my WEC tickets via Silverstone’s website so I receive emails from them. This week’s email says they are ‘offering’ the chance of a 0% interest loan, payable in 9 monthly instalments, to cover the cost of two weekend grandstand tickets for the 2015 British Grand Prix. Details here.

That cost? £755. Or to put it another way, for anyone reading in the US, that’s $1215.

Utter lunacy.

You shouldn’t need a loan to buy tickets! They should be a tenth of the price.

The parking pass alone makes up £65 of this. I didn’t know they charged for parking. As far as I am aware they don’t at any other race meeting.

Don’t misunderstand my point here. This isn’t an attack on Silverstone or the BRDC. None of this is the fault of Silverstone, nor any of the other circuits charging extortionate prices. They themselves have been charged eye-watering amounts for the privilege of hosting a Formula 1 race and the only way they can recoup this cost is through ticket sales; their other avenues of revenue – trackside signage, paddock hospitality, TV rights – having long since been redirected towards the F1 empire rather than the host circuit.

Honestly if they had chosen not to renew the British GP I wouldn’t have blamed them, the business model is crazy. They believe, perhaps rightly, that it is unthinkable to not have a British GP at all. And the only option is Silverstone, no other viable option exists without a serious upgrade (ask Donington Park how that went). So the BRDC are stuck in a bind; either lose the prestige of hosting this big halo event promoting and supporting the vast motorsport industry in this country, or keep it and force people to pay ridiculous prices to go and watch.

Somehow, Silverstone still managed to host a full crowd this year. This is more than can be said for Hockenheim, the Hungaroring, and even Monza. Throughout the F1 calendar fan attendances are declining almost across the board.

For a lot of GPs it doesn’t matter, the crowd is an afterthought, just as long as the rich countries in the Middle East and elsewhere continue to stump up their even-larger race hosting fees it doesn’t matter that nobody goes to Abu Dhabi, or that white elephant tracks are springing up in places like Korea and India only to be abandoned when the locals realise they are getting screwed.

The people to blame are the people running F1, the investment group which owns the F1 group who are maximising profit by selling races at ever-increasing fees and selling TV rights to broadcasters that charge people a fortune to watch the races (that’s a post for another day).

Surely the aim must be to make a Grand Prix the place to be. To fill the place with people who look like they want to be there. Silverstone, Melbourne, Montreal and Austin do this well.. at the moment. Price the seats to the market, fill the place, make it look like somewhere sponsors want to be seen. Keep the costs high for either the tickets or the TV package and fans might change their minds, the stands may empty, the sponsors might wonder why they are being invoiced so much for so little an audience.

It is a terrible thing for the world’s biggest and most popular racing series to race in front of empty grandstands. It is even worse to deliberately keep willing people from attending because they can’t afford to go, or under some pretence of ‘exclusivity’.

Anyway, I’ve only ever been to two Grands Prix and neither were at Silverstone. If I’m paying £400 I might as well travel, see other countries, it is more easily justified that way rather than paying £400 to see an airfield outside Northampton.

And I say that as someone who quite likes Silverstone. I go there every year for the WEC and the odd other things and plan to do so for a long time to come.

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1 thought on “The Ridiculous Price of F1 Tickets”

  1. Tragically, it seems the whole point of motorsports is to drive the viewers to TV rather than trackside.

    Most track venues are pretty dreadful I imagine at major venues. Not sure though, the last major race I went to was a sports car event at Silverstone in the early 90’s. We didn’t do the grandstand, preferring to wander round with our sarnies and flasks to ‘vantage’ points. Silverstone is so flat that all you see is a hunderd metres or so of trach with cars going past so quickly you can barely identify the car never mind the driver.

    But worse than that are the run off areas. I watched MotoGP at Le Mans in 2005 or so and it was terrible. Having been there in the early 90’s at the 24 hour race, I was appalled to find that the vantage points for viewing had been moved back 50 – 100 metres anywhere near a corner. Spectating bacame something akin to a remote video game. Nevertheless, the place was still a dust bowl/Mud bath depending on the weather and little had been done to improve spectator comfort despite the expense of entry and even eating, never mind stupidly priced souvineers (now described as merchandising) that were frankly appalling.

    And whilst trackside conditions will always remain bad, the problems on track that alienate spectators are simple to solve.

    Aerodynamics is the curse of motorsport, not an benefit.

    Cars invariably crash on corners unless there is a blow out or a mechanical fault on a straight. The faster a car is travelling through a corner determines its eventual stopping place. Therefore, if artificially induced aerodynamic downforce (which is an entirely incorrect term anyway, but I’ll come to that) is eliminated altogether, the cars would be unable to travel as quickly round the corners and the run off areas would be smaller. Add that equation the effect of an F1 car, with enormous downforce leaving the track. As it loses it’s ‘downforce’ and the associated additional friction on the tyres, it will be inclined to accelerate as soon as it loses control or leaves the track. It may be momentary, but it is significant. Instead of immediately slowing down the car catapults itself into the crash.

    Modern run off areas have to deal with cars not only travelling faster round a corner, but throwing themselves at the scenery faster than when they were on the track. Therefore they have to be idiotically large to accommodate cornering speeds that are not only alien to everyday car drivers, but are environmentally daft as the engine energy required to overcome them is considerable.

    The conundrum of overtaking is also in question here. F1 has a silly DRS system, which is frankly unnecessary on the Mercedes, nor is it effective on some slower straightline cars when they are lapping quicker than the car in front.

    If artifically induced downforce was eliminated it would allow cars to follow each other through the corners and set up a genuine slipstreaming opportunity for the next corner. Simple, clean and interesting for spectators.

    The cost of F1 in particular would drop as no wind tunnels etc. are needed, or are at least dramatically reduced. Exposed bodywork would be thing of the past, tyre shredding front wings eliminated etc. etc. Mechanical grip and engine performance would once again be valuable commodities. When we see an F1 car twitch in a corner now we gasp, how about lurid power slides, big braking that doesn’t flat spot tyres?

    You want fast? No downforce equals lower drag and higher top speeds, with greater braking distances.

    Fuel consumption (laughable as the concept is) would drop and the greens would be happy. Cars would be able to deal with hill crests and dips. Tilke like tracks would be a thing of the past, it’s done with bikes daily, why is F1 so different. Even on screen Tilke tracks are little better than Scalextric tracks. There is no reality when cars are glued to the road.

    I said I would also deal with the term ‘downforce’. Which is not actually downforce at all, it is a vacuum (or partial vacuum as was pointed out to me one day) created by underbody, and wing design. When you think about it, ambient pressure is what it is, 1 Bar at sea level. How can that produce downforce when it is identical all round the track? Which is why I refer to it as artificially induced downforce.

    Spectating is no longer a profitable business for motorsports, TV is what your average, mildly interested sports fan, with about as much knowledge of the sport as he/she has of the bag of crisps they are munching on whilst on their settee. Furthermore, it has now just turned into another betting opportunity with persistent adverts for betting sites displayed during the breaks.

    F1 was a manufacturers competition but is now a primadonna competition with ‘celebrity’ drivers the centre of attraction instead of the technology. The only thing keeping the sport going right now are the close racing between Hamilton and Rosberg (which has come to an end now the friendship is fractured) and the amazing Ricciardo.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if an enterprising character were to read this post and think, hey! let’s start a new F1 style series with no downforce and unlimited engine configurations. Might even be cheap to watch trackside with lots of spectators.

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