SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) - Formula One needs two races in China and one should be on a street circuit to help make the sport more popular, McLaren executive director Zak Brown said on Thursday.
The American also suggested the calendar should feature an updated ‘Asian Tour’ grouping the key races in the region -- Japan, Singapore, China and other venues to be determined such as Thailand.
“The grand prix in Shanghai is already well established, but we should explore the possibility of a race in another major city, such as Beijing, or a street race in a city like Wuxi, a place that’s growing ambitiously and enormously,” Brown wrote on a Linkedin Pulse blog.
”I also think the Shanghai Grand Prix, which is held at one of the most impressive and opulent bespoke racetracks in the world, characterises Formula One as being very exclusive and expensive.
“Whereas I feel that a Chinese city race would underscore the new values that we want the sport to inhabit – that it’s for the people, that it has a real energy, that it represents a fantastic way for brands to present themselves...,” he continued.
Formula’s One new owners Liberty Media see China as a key growth area and this week announced a partnership with sports marketing agency Lagardere to secure strategic partners.
The current calendar features China, Japan and Singapore with Malaysia departing after this season. The Chinese and Singapore races are subject to the finalising of contracts, however.
Plans for Thailand to host a Formula One night race in 2015 foundered, after an agreement in principle, when a law was introduced banning racing in the historic area of Bangkok.
Brown also suggested the start times of some traditional races could be tweaked for an Asian audience, just as many of the long-haul races are scheduled for the European early afternoon.
“One of the criticisms I hear from fans in places like China and Japan is that the races are always shown in the middle of the night (if at all), so the sport tends only really to gather a hardcore and dedicated fan base,” he said.
“Perhaps we need to look at some of the timings of some of the conventional races, and see where there are opportunities to perhaps tweak the schedules so as to create a window of opportunity for our fans in Asia.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Lovell