F1 CEO responds to 'strange' criticism from circuit bosses

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Formula One's CEO, Chase Carey, says criticism aimed at the sport by race promoters last week was "strange" and insists it will not change F1's plans for the future.

The Formula One Promoters' Association (FOPA), which represents 16 of the sport's grand prix venues, issued a statement last week flagging concerns about pay TV deals, a lack of clarity over new initiatives and the introduction of new venues at the expense of existing races.

The statement was sent out on the eve of F1's annual meeting with race promoters in London and comes at a time when the contracts of five races -- the British Grand Prix, Italian Grand Prix, Spanish Grand Prix, Mexican Grand Prix and German Grand Prix -- are due to expire at the end of this season.

FOPA's chairman Stuart Pringle is also the managing director of Silverstone, which hosts the British Grand Prix and has been at loggerheads over a new contract with F1 for over a year. Carey said it was no surprise to see some venues upset, but is confident the "vast majority" are still supportive of Formula One's vision for the future.

"I think, realistically, if you get 21 in a room you are bound to find a couple who have something to complain about," he told ESPN at the announcement of a new Azerbaijan Grand Prix contract on Tuesday.

"In all honestly, I thought the meeting [with race promoters] was incredibly positive. I thought there was tremendous support from the vast majority and they have a great appreciation for what we are doing.

"The fact that a few of them wanted to find something to complain about, that's life. It's not going to change what we are doing, and by a large majority the promoters have been supportive and are excited about what we are doing.

"They believe the sport, for them and in general, is in a much better place than it was a few years ago and is going in the right direction, and we have got a list of places we can't accommodate [on the calendar] that we would like to add to the sport.

"It's part of life, you are going to find a bunch of people who have something to complain about and are going to make noise. We will go forward and do what we are doing, which I think we feel good about."

He added: "I addressed all three [concerns at the promoters' conference], but realistically no-one brought any of them up -- they just put it out in a press release, which was a little strange."

FOPA's statement cited "a lack of clarity on new initiatives and a lack of engagement with promoters on their implementation" as one of the concerns with F1, but Carey countered that by saying a conference to update promoters on new initiatives was the very reason they were meeting in London.

"I thought that was the strangest [part] because they put it out the night before [we were due to meet with them], so we already had a day set up to talk about initiatives and they -- well, only a couple of guys -- put out a press release saying we need to talk about initiatives. That was the strangest part."

Carey also responded to the concern that pay-per-view TV deals were reducing the sport's reach, after Italy went to a subscription service last year and in 2019 just one grand prix will be on free-to-air TV in the UK.

"We certainly value reach and in many places we have expanded the coverage on broadcast television," he added. "There is no doubt that the sports world has been moving for a long time towards pay vehicles -- if you look at football in Europe it is almost uniquely pay-platform based, and clearly digital is becoming a big force.

"In reality reach has been redefined, and if you want to reach a millennial today, you are not reaching them through a TV screen on a wall, you are reaching them through a device they are holding in their hand.

"I think the whole world of TV and video is in a state of change and we want to figure out ways of dealing with the broadcast world, the pay world, the digital world and it's all part of what we are figuring out and reach is important."

Carey also said new venues, such as Vietnam, were not necessarily being introduced at the expense of existing venues -- pointing to the fact F1 has renewed six race contracts in the space of two years.

"Certainly we are not pursuing new venues at the expense of existing [races]. The reality is we've renewed [race contracts], since we took control about two years ago, and the only race we haven't renewed is Malaysia, which was a mutual decision, so that's the reality. That being said, we want long-term partnerships and I think it's important to provide a freshness and a new energy to it.

"Vietnam is a new race and is going to be a great race, so I think it's exciting for the fans and the reception we have had around the world is excitement for it. We want to be in some markets we are not in where there are some opportunities for it, and there are some that we are in but we are not there in the way we think we can be in. So in the U.S. we are clearly in Texas but we think there is an opportunity to be bigger there.

"I think we certainly value our existing partners and most of those relationships are long term and I expect most of them to continue. But I think it is important that where there is an opportunity to add something special, we can add a new race."

As for the five contracts set to expire after the 2019 season, Carey said he would not discuss the state of negotiations in public.

"As I've said in the past, we will talk about them when they are done," he added.

"This sport seems to like to talk -- talk first and act second. I think these are complicated deals and we are engaged in each of them and we will see where we go. There are issues we have got to wrestle around and we do have others that are being aggressive about wanting to be a part of the calendar and we don't have that many slots.

"But I'm not going to get into details, at this point those are private discussions between us and promoters, and Silverstone chose to make it public a couple of years ago, but we have continued to deal with it as a private discussion, with them and our other partners."