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Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali Envisions Business Booming (and Vrooming) in the US

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali discussed the sport’s growth in the US, F1’s more sustainable future, inflation, and the Las Vegas race.

The 2023 Formula 1 season gets underway Sunday in Bahrain, and as nine other teams and 19 other drivers chase Red Bull Racing and two-time champion Max Verstappen, one of the campaign’s biggest highlights will unquestionably be the first-ever race in Las Vegas.

In November, Boardroom trekked out to Vegas for the F1 weekend preview a year out from the Nov. 18 event and spoke with George Russell, Guenther Steiner, Alex Albon, and Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. At a suite inside Caesar’s Palace (no, Caesar didn’t live there), Domenicali discussed the sport’s growth in the United States, F1’s quest for a more sustainable future, inflation’s impact, and the Vegas race.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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SHLOMO SPRUNG: The growth of the US market has obviously been impressive. How did you guys make this happen?

STEFANO DOMENICALI: We are a worldwide championship, and our attention to this strategic market was always focused on seeing what this continent needs for us to develop it more. We always thought the US would’ve been the first, and the fact that we changed our way of connectivity and being inclusive in our relationship with the fans made the difference. That’s exactly why we think we have a new fan base coming into Formula 1 and new interest.

We need to make sure all the new fans that are coming are younger, more diverse. We have a lot of women following Formula 1; that has to be followed with the right content and the right tone of communication. It’s up to us to make sure that will happen.

SS: Over the next 12 to 18 months, aside from Las Vegas, how do you think F1 will shift or change the most? 

SD: We are already shifting the change to a younger generation and a more diversified approach. Women are becoming more interested, and that’s a fantastic opportunity for us not only in terms of awareness but in being active in our world. We have a lot of female engineers and technicians already part of our teams, and on top of that, we’re going to bring the culture of F1 around the world in terms of technology and sustainability. We have a great plan that will be an inspiration for a lot of new technology.

F1 has always been an enabler for technology to make sure things will happen faster, and this will also happen in the context of a transition where energy consumption and energy technology will be at the center of our project for the future.

SS: Are there any concerns that inflation or some kind of global economic downturn will impact F1? 

SD: The fact that we have a worldwide championship will make it a mitigating factor, for sure. We are diversifying our approach in this respect and we also have a long-term agreement with our promoters, which will mitigate the factors that inflation in certain areas of the world [is] higher than others.

SS: How important is this shift to electric technology in F1 vehicles going to be over the next few years? 

SD: We do believe that the shift to hybrid and sustainable fuel technology is the way to move forward into a future where we don’t deny that there’s a big push to be made on the full electrification side.

We do not forget that there are over 1.5 billion cars around the world, and the most effective thing is to make sure that these cars will be able to run and work with all the fuel suppliers on a sustainable fuel that will enable all the fleets around the world to be using the same network and to be net zero in the future. As you know, Formula 1 will be carbon neutral in 2030, and in 2026, we are going to use sustainable fuel to make sure that this roadmap will be applied hopefully even faster than that day.

SS: Is the current amount of races generally where you want it to be — EDITOR’S NOTE: After the interview, the normal 24-race schedule was reduced to 23 when the Chinese Grand Prix was canceled due to COVID concerns— or is there room for expansion beyond that? 

SD: I would say that is the dimension which we believe is right in terms of complexity, management, and value for what we are doing. This is something that I believe in the next couple of years we should stabilize around this number.

SS: How long was Las Vegas on the radar for F1 in terms of expansion? 

SD: Las Vegas was always a dream of F1 for many, many years, but effectively for many reasons, we didn’t have the chance to get into it. In the last year or so, we thought it was the right time to try and come into the community and try to create something that will be unique and magical. As you know, we’re an American-based company, and there were some limiting factors before starting negotiations and discussions with the community. Everything started effectively April 2021, and the first time I came to Las Vegas was that September, and now we’re preparing for the event.

SS: Saturday night in Las Vegas in November — what kind of scene do you think that’ll be?

SD: That will be the magic. The shot at the open of the Saturday night event with all the lighting, the intensity, the tension before the start, and the drivers on the grid will be phenomenal.

What will be crucial is that we’re going to live this event in a different way from the others. This is what we want as Formula 1. We’ll go to different places in the world, we’re going to be with different people with a unique tradition and a unique way of living the sport. We have this community with the casinos and the resources that will activate interest with fans who will come and stay here. We may have different fans come here from all around the world with their families. That will be an interesting factor for Las Vegas to make sure that F1 will bring new blood into the community. We’re really excited.

SS: Once the drivers actually hit the track next year and get the green light, what kind of race are you going to expect? 

SD: It’s always great racing. It will be a unique opportunity to have great racing. I’m sure that everyone will want to be the first one to win this new Vegas race.

SS: What’s your biggest goal for Formula 1 in the next year? 

SD: There is not only one. The biggest goal is to make sure that, first of all, the business is sustainable with a strong financial foundation for the teams, stakeholders, and people investing in us. Second is to have great growth in terms of awareness where we can really create a business around it. And third — not last but always at the center of our attention — is making sure the racing itself is great where we’re going to have a great sporting fight on the track between 20 drivers that are the best in the world.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.