National Motorsport Academy

F1 Ticket Prices: Can they be justified?

Formula 1 ticket prices have never been the cheapest but British Grand Prix host and promoter Silverstone has come under fire this week, in part for introducing a ‘dynamic’ pricing system, designed to inflate pricing when demand grew high. When tickets were released, the system crashed, leaving fans in a virtual queue for hours. 

The disappointment caused by the crash aside, Silverstone has been accused of letting fans down once again by ‘fleecing’ every penny out of their core followers or making the sport exclusive. 

In a sport seeking to make itself more ‘inclusive’ this new ticket row does little to entice new fans who aren’t amongst the highest wage earners. But can the prices be justified? We asked two commercial professionals who have worked at the heart of motorsport for their opinion.

Emma Thomson actually worked with Silverstone for many years and James Bailey is a race organiser and promotor – who better to weigh in on the latest F1 ticket price row?

Picture of James Bailey

James Bailey

James Bailey is the owner of PitBox91, a motorsport PR and marketing agency. He is also Race Director for the Sports Prototype Cup.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of the sport. It’s comparable to a World Cup or Grand Slam final. Silverstone has a set capacity and has a business to run. If they can fill all the seats, then they are running a good business by delivering an experience at a price that the customer is willing to pay for.

Silverstone runs race events almost every weekend, and the Grand Prix helps to provide a world-class venue for club and amateur races to compete on throughout the year. Beyond F1, there are many superb events that fans can go to for a fraction of the price.

From a fan perspective, it would be good for F1 to consider other ways to make the sport accessible. Test sessions used to be a great opportunity to fans to get closer to the stars and cars, but these are restricted to a single pre-season test now. The FIA, when then next negotiate the F1 contract with Liberty, could make it compulsory for each F1 team to do a demonstration at one junior level motorsport event per year.

There’s a lot of great motorsport for fans to watch, at a price that’s very accessible.”

Picture of Emma Thomson

Emma Thomson

Emma comes from an economic development background and worked on the management team at Silverstone before joining the NMA.

“I agree with James’ assessment. They are running a business which was on a shaky nail for a number of years. Getting things back on a financially stable footing has been difficult and shows that hosting the showcase F1 event is not enough to keep the circuit afloat. In fact, they may be better of without it! It’s worth remember that the F1 event is not subsidised by public funds (unlike many other circuits). We don’t know what was agreed when they renegotiated the hosting deal a few year’s back but the hosting fee is likely to be one of the highest on the calendar. It’s also unclear if the circuit was able to reduce the annual accelerator fee of 5%.

Silverstone has always been one of the more expensive races on the calendar so that’s not a new thing. I think the main issue here is the chaos caused by the new ticketing system combined with an aggressive dynamic pricing model. The glitches in the system not being able to cope with demand exacerbated the pricing model leading to prices rising significantly while fans were ‘stuck in the ticketing queue.’ The MD has acknowledged this was a mess and has apologised (see article). He has also promised to do a full review of what happened and fix it for next year.

I completely understand fans feeling outraged by what looks like a blatant money grab on the surface. It’s important to look at the wider context of the ropey economic situation, energy prices, increased running costs etc. Attending an F1 event is a luxury – and many of us are having to rethink whether we can afford those things over the coming year. I agree there are many other forms of motorsport out there that offer a much cheaper alternative of enjoying live motorsport events.

Another angle though is what will happen over the next 2-3 years in terms of F1 promoter strategies. The F1 product is growing its audience and is a real success story. I do fear that the eye-watering costs for the new US showcase events in Las Vegas and Miami might seem like a justification to ‘trickle down’ higher prices to other venues and events. While this might not put off some of the newer (possibly more affluent) fans, it may not sit comfortably with the more established ones. Agree with James that F1 needs to offer a range of opportunities to engage with the sport ‘live’ – testing being a great one. I know many of my friends go to Barcelona for testing each year as a way of kicking off the season and seeing the cars up close.”

Image: Fun Cup Endurance Championship

The Boycott

There’s now talk of fans boycotting F1 in 2023 and that can only be good news for the other racing series. In next week’s blog we’ll be looking at grassroots motorsport and where you can watch or get involved in some great racing without having to fork out thousands for an F1 ticket.

Share Your Views on the F1 Ticket Prices for 2023

What do you think of the sudden rise in F1 ticket prices? Has the sport finally gone too far or can it really be justified? Use the comments section below or head over to our social media feed to join the discussion.

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