AUSTIN, Texas — With the skyrocketing increase in Formula 1 (F1) fans across the globe and the U.S., the cost of the sport itself has been put in the spotlight as ticket prices for each circuit increase each season.
F1 is famously known as one of the most expensive sports in the world, with the cars themselves costing tens of millions to just make one every single year. With such a high price tag on the vehicle, one has to wonder what the overall economic impact of the sport is across the now 23 tracks the cars race on.
In January, F1 was valued at $20 billion by a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund for a potential takeover. This valuation has caused a rift within the already tense relationship between the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and F1, with accusations from Liberty Media Corporation, F1’s main shareholder, stating that the FIA is inflating the price of the sport.
Outside of the tensions from this valuation, F1 has always been seen as an expensive sport since its initial race in 1946. When talking to racing legend Mario Andretti, KVUE’s Sam Searles was let into just a snippet of the grand scheme of how much it really costs to be in the sport full-time.
“The fact that to be able to enter, the fee is you know, pretty astronomical. It’s $200 million to be, you know, divided among all the other teams,” Andretti said.
Even without the astronomical cost it takes for teams to enter F1 to compete, you need a car to be on the track – and that’ll cost you a pretty penny. One car, with everything needed to make it functional, will set you back between $12 to $15 million.
Although Andretti isn’t directly part of the General Motors/Cadillac and Andretti Global’s entrance to F1, he is able to provide further context due to his rich history within the sport of F1 and motorsports at large. Andretti was the only American to win a U.S. Grand Prix, in addition to his deep history within the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR world for the last 50 years.
“It's clear that we have the biggest auto manufacturer in the United States ready to join … [Andretti Global has] already committed publicly,” Andretti said. “[With] the FIA and the Liberty Media, you bring in [a] manufacture[r] and it will be accepted. So that's where we are at the moment, but [we are] still waiting for an official green light.”
While the Andretti Global team waits for the green light from the FIA to join the tracks, the cost breakdown that each track brings to the cities they’re in is groundbreaking. In Austin, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track brought in a record number of people during the 10th year – a total of 450,000 people attended the three-day race weekend in 2022 – which only brings to benefit the capital of the Lone Star State.
“As far as the financial side … because of the interest that we have seen…grow[th] and the attendance that, you know, some of these venues are experiencing is unprecedented, it helped tremendously,” Andretti said. “Look at the attendance we've had at COTA there in Austin the last couple years, you know, just phenomenal.”
Although Austin is known as the live music capital of the world, F1 brings in the largest percentage of the local economy every single year. In 2021, F1 fans spent $400 million at the track alone and $200 million into the city for F1.
Furthermore, over the last 10 years that COTA has been hosting the F1 U.S. Grand Prix, it has brought in over $7 billion in economic benefit to both the City of Austin and the State of Texas, according to statistics from COTA. This economic benefit also includes providing Texans more than 64,000 jobs every year.
With such a huge economic impact locally and globally, the honor of hosting a race is highly sought after – especially with the addition of the Las Vegas track with tickets costing upwards of $5,000 in certain areas of the street-style racetrack. And as more popularity comes to the sport, the cost will only increase.
After all, “Formula One is the Olympics of motorsports,” according to Andretti.