May 7, 2020 / 6:13 PM / a month ago

F1 considering new venues as first quarter revenues slump

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One could race at circuits not on the current calendar as it seeks to rev up a 2020 season stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic and against a backdrop of plunging revenues.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia - March 13, 2020 Formula One group CEO Chase Carey during a press conference after it was announced the Australian Grand Prix would be cancelled after a McLaren team member tested positive for coronavirus REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy

The Liberty Media-owned sport reported first quarter revenues of $39 million on Thursday, compared to $246 million in the same period last year, with no races scheduled for Q2 either.

The sport recently received a net cash payment of $1.4 billion, however, in an asset switch with Liberty’s Sirius XM to boost liquidity.

Chief executive and chairman Chase Carey told analysts on a conference call that he was increasingly confident there would be a 2020 season, with plans to get going in Austria at the beginning of July.

The American recognised, however, the “remote possibility” of no races but said the sport had the resources to get through that eventuality.

The season has cancelled or postponed 10 races since March but is now looking into several European circuits hosting two races each without spectators, with the sport’s August holiday cancelled.

The latest planning is for a 15-18 race season — compared to an original schedule of 22 — to end in Abu Dhabi in mid-December but Carey said that could be extended into January.

“We’re in discussion with all of our promoters, along with some tracks that are not currently on our 2020 calendar to ensure we explore all options,” he added.

Hockenheim could be one such circuit, with Germany easing coronavirus restrictions and giving the green light for Bundesliga soccer clubs to resume playing in empty stadiums on May 16.

Imola in Italy and Portugal’s Algarve circuit in Portimao have also been mentioned in the media, as has the possibility of a return to Malaysia.

Motorcycling’s MotoGP series is planning to hold two races in July in southern Spain at the Jerez circuit that has previously been used for Formula One racing and testing.

Carey suggested 2021 would see the sport return to its previous growth curve. Formula One gets most of its revenues from race hosting fees, broadcast deals and sponsorship.

“I think the fans will come back, I think events like ours will continue to rise in strength,” he said.

He suggested there could even be some new races scheduled, with Miami already in the frame.

“Our goal is to have 2021 look like the 2021 we planned back in January,” he said.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia - March 15, 2019 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during practice REUTERS/Edgar Su

“Ultimately we have renewals to put in place, and we have some ongoing discussions with a couple of new races that we think would be a positive enhancement to the business for fans and shareholders.”

Carey said negotiations over a new ‘Concorde Agreement’ between the commercial rights holder, governing FIA and teams, with the current one expiring at the end of the year, had been put on the back burner due to the crisis.

A number of other unspecified initiatives have also been deferred.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris

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