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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Formula One Team Values Are Surging. How High? That’s Debatable

  • Each of the 10 teams is worth at least $1.3 billion, says McLaren’s CEO.
  • Solid financial performance and enforced scarcity are fueling valuation gains.
Austin American-Statesman

Already boasting one of the fastest-growing sets of franchise valuations in the industry, Formula One is reaching another milestone as every team is worth at least $1.3 billion, or £1 billion, according to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

Speaking at Bloomberg’s Power Players event in Jeddah ahead of Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Brown credited a surge in American popularity and overall revenues under the leadership of Liberty Media, which purchased the motor-sports circuit in 2017.

“Half the grid is profitable. They weren’t five years ago,” Brown said. 

Brown’s boasts differ somewhat from F1 valuations from last summer by Forbes, which placed the least valuable team, Williams Racing, at $725 million, and four of the 10 teams below that $1.3 billion mark. But even that list had an average team valuation of $1.88 billion, more than triple the comparable $500 million mark from 2019.

Sense Behind the Surge

Liberty’s recent earnings confirmed the underpinning behind the team valuation surge, as F1’s full-year attendance rose 5% in 2023 to 6 million, revenue grew 25% to $3.22 billion, and operating income surged 64% to $392 million. Helping drive those numbers were mushrooming fan interest in the U.S. and successful new events, such as the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which despite heavy upfront infrastructure costs, local unrest still unfolding, and some operational issues, still proved a solid hit both on-site and on television

Even amid a particularly dramatic offseason with several driver- and team-level issues, F1 officials pointed to continued upside surrounding the sport.

“We have a solid financial foundation and an attractive, growing fan base,” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said in an earnings call with analysts. “Our team is focused on deepening this fandom.”

But there also remains a sharply enforced scarcity to F1, which is no doubt further amplifying team valuations behind the core financial performance. League officials have consistently held off on team expansion and, most recently, rejected a bid from Andretti to become the 11th team in 2025 and ’26. 

“What Liberty is wanting to do is protect the value of the 10 teams that exist,” Brown said. “We’re now in a position where pre-Liberty, you had teams falling away. Now post-Liberty era there are teams lining up to get into the sport. So I think Liberty is just seeing how, when, and if they want teams to enter.”

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