Formula 1 wants Monaco to shell out more to host opulent Grand Prix

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Liberty Media Corp., owner of the Formula 1 racing business, is seeking additional funds from the principality of Monaco as part of advanced talks for a new contract to extend the historic car race beyond 2025.

Monaco pays about $20 million a year to host the event, the lowest total on the 24-race calendar, and representatives of Liberty Media are seeking an increase, according to people familiar with the discussions. The parties agreed to the current three-year deal in September 2022. This year, the action begins on May 24.

Like all major tourist attractions, the Monaco Grand Prix delivers a big economic boost to the region, filling hotel rooms with spenders big and small. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, two other race hosts, fork over more than $50 million a year, according to some estimates. The fees provide Formula 1 with funds it uses to pay out prize money at the end of each season. 

A spokesperson for Formula 1 declined to comment on the current talks, but said the company is not considering pulling out of Monaco. The Automobile Club de Monaco, which organizes the race, didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Under Chief Executive Officer Greg Maffei, Liberty Media has grown annual Formula 1 revenue by more than 50% since 2019 to $3.22 billion last year. The company has been focused on expanding Formula 1 to countries beyond Europe, where the sport originated. The US now hosts three races — in Miami, Austin, and Las Vegas — and there have been persistent rumors of a race coming to another US city.

In 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams offered Randall’s Island as a potential venue, but Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali disagreed about the viability of that location, a small island of ballfields that would be difficult to access for the 300,000-plus fans anticipated at such an event.

The Prime Minister of Thailand recently met with F1 officials to discuss a race in Bangkok.

The glamorous Monaco Grand Prix, held in the sunshine-drenched streets of Monte Carlo, is considered a bucket-list event in motorsports. Monaco organizers have been unwilling to change their business model all that much because they are confident that the history and prestige of their nearly 100-year-old circuit trumps financial considerations, one person said. Many of the drivers live in Monaco.

But Formula 1 fans and prominent racers including Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have criticized the two-mile track as oppressively dull, since the size of the modern race cars prohibits them from the daring passes and three-abreast racing that more modern circuits allow. 

“Thank God that’s over, that was the most boring race I’ve ever participated in,” seven-time world champion Hamilton said after he finished third there in 2022.

The principality has been forced to change in the past. Two years ago, it gave up the right to produce its own television coverage of the race in exchange for a new contract.

“Monaco epitomizes what F1 is,” said Vincenzo Landino, an F1 analyst and consultant who publishes the Qualifier, a newsletter about the sport. “You get rid of that, now you have a brand crisis, in my opinion.”

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