Lewis Hamilton May Help Save British Grand Prix, Deloitte Says
By Alex Duff
July 6 (Bloomberg) — Lewis Hamilton, the rookie English driver leading the Formula One championship, may help keep the British Grand Prix on the calendar after sparking a 34 percent surge in ticket sales, according to Deloitte & Touche LLP.
The British Grand Prix, the sport’s oldest race, is under threat unless organizers make upgrades to the circuit at Silverstone, England, required by Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone. Its contract expires after the 2009 race.
Bill Archer, the former chairman of U.K. home improvement chain Focus Do It All Group Ltd., said yesterday he’s leading a proposal to finance the improvements. Silverstone, which has staged the race each year since 1987, hosts the ninth round of the season in two days.
“Local heroes can have a huge impact on the financial health of a sport,” Alan Switzer, director of Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said in a statement today. “The increased ticketing revenue and secondary spend will form an important part of the funding mix for the redevelopment of Silverstone.”
Formula One’s older European races are under threat as Ecclestone, 76, seeks new venues to increase the profile of the most-watched motor sport, which estimates it gets an average 150 million television viewers per race. A street race by the Mediterranean is set for Valencia, Spain, from next year and events are planned in South Korea and India from 2010.
The 22-year-old Hamilton, among the top-three drivers in each of the first eight races this season, has helped make this year’s British Grand Prix a 255,000 sellout over three days, Switzer said.
Ticket sales are the main source of revenue for the race’s promoters, with Formula One management companies owned by CVC Capital Partners Ltd. and Ecclestone taking revenue from corporate hospitality and advertising on race days.
Archer and business partner Mike Rockall said yesterday they have pledged to provide “immediate” funds for improvements to Silverstone and proposed getting a new promoter for the Grand Prix. The current backer is the British Racing Drivers’ Club, the circuit owner that has 800 members.
Hamilton, seeking to become the first British champion since Damon Hill in 1996, is also driving income for U.K. bookmakers and lifting television audiences in his home country.
William Hill Plc expects betting revenue for this weekend’s race to rise 10-fold to 10 million pounds ($20.1 million) in what would be a record outlay on a Formula One Grand Prix, according to company’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.
“Lewis Hamilton has single-handedly revived the betting interest in a sport which had become almost moribund” during seven-time champion Michael Schumacher’s five-year domination through 2004, Sharpe said in a statement. Germany’s Schumacher retired after last season.
The audience on ITV Plc’s network for the June 17 U.S. Grand Prix — which Hamilton won to post his second straight Formula One victory — soared 43 percent compared with last year to 7.7 million, Switzer said. The broadcaster may now have to pay more for the rights to show races when its contract expires after 2010, he said.
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