5 July 2020 at 9:05 by Marc Limacher
Its name will not be foreign to you if you are a regular reader of Sportune. A specialist in Formula 1 and even more so in his business, founder and publisher of the TomorrowNewsF1 site, Marc Limacher has first and foremost been a valuable and loyal partner for us for a good few years.
He is the publisher behind Business Book GP, a reference work summarizing the figures and key information of a season in the pits: drivers’ salaries, detailed budgets and sponsors for all teams, predictions for the coming season… 2020 celebrates the tenth anniversary of the guide, on on the day of the return to Formula 1 in Austria, he explains his work to us and gives his analysis of a discipline that he believes is losing momentum. For F1, it is a contradiction.
Where and when did the Business Book GP project start?
Marc Limacher: I had already started in 2008 and 2009, but it was very embryonic. At that time there were two books: Black Book F1 and Formula Money. It was very English and at a time when in F1 if the information was not “made in England” it was not certified. I would give a French voice to the F1 economy. It was released on April 25, 2010.
The first issue went really well, we wanted to continue. Over time, the information began to become more and more refined and the format changed. In 2010, Ferrari made a press release on its website that said: “No, Fernando Alonso is not the highest paid driver on the web”, referring to the Business Book therein. It was “a promotional moment” for the book. Since then, the data has been continuously updated. Of the press, pilots to negotiate or even serve on legal occasions.
What is your work based on, what is the method?
Marc Limacher: It is based on three phases: a first with a lot of monitoring, starting in July. Generally, teams start working on the following season. You have to follow new trends. It is research. The second concerns the analysis of the salary figures and the evaluation of the sponsorship based on the information that we receive or given to us. The rest of the time it is evaluation that becomes more and more accurate.
What do Formula 1 players think?
Marc Limacher: For the teams, only the media universe counts. When Mercedes management announced in February that the media impact through an investment of 250 million euros was worth 4.8 billion euros, it was an argument defended to the board. Business Book GP is part of this. Talking about a sport where the economy is at the center of everything.
Formula 1 as it exists today was envisioned by Bernie Ecclestone, who was the agent of Jochen Rindt, the only posthumous world champion in history, in 1970. He always looked at the transparency of American sports in terms of pay. It’s not shocking. Some pilots openly mention the remuneration or even criticize the matter. Many understand that this is part of the business.
How many people work to edit Business Book GP?
Marc Limacher: A dozen in total have collaborated for ten years.
And how long does it take you to do it?
Marc Limacher: The version itself is a month’s work, otherwise it is almost like the design of an F1 single seater, that is about 9 months of development.
How many issues are sold each year?
Marc Limacher: Almost 300 copies in pdf version.
His data is regularly reported in the foreign press. Do you know how far its infamous reaches?
Marc Limacher: It has been picked up everywhere, in South Korea, Alaska and other unlikely countries. Lots of Spanish media, Germany and Russia too. Some in the US and Canada. In France of course, or in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. When Pastor Maldonado was there, the press was full, everything the guide suggested was taken up.
Assure us that this 2020 edition of the guide is not your last?
Marc Limacher: I actually thought about it. In my mind the 10 years should be the end. But I continue. I want to. However, probably in a different format. Already for this 2020 edition, I will publish a paper version limited to 25 copies in French and an equal number in English.
How is Formula 1 today?
Marc Limacher: It comes at the end of a cycle. The builders begin to reduce the airfoil. Daimler has said that by 2022 it will no longer fund its chassis team. The McLaren and Williams teams are in a model crisis. Haas has added to the pool this season, but his future is under consideration. I think we are nearing the end of the system. That the real question that arises now is: What impact will TV rights have on team budgets? There are ceiling budgets, of 145 million today by mutual agreement. Except that there is degressive. For a team like AlphaTauri, the budget will be €105 million. The future Aston Martin team will have 115 M€. Alfa Romeo said it will be €130m. This ceiling budget is a very good idea, but there are dozens of exceptions: pilot pay, engine budget, marketing…
Let’s take the example of Mercedes and its budget, therefore of 145 M€ for 2021. You add about 50 million to the remuneration of the two drivers, then the three highest salaries, including Toto Wolf’s (team director) who receives 12 M€ per year. Chief engineer James Allison and his engine counterpart earn 8. Marketing is 10 million. Also research and development. On average, each team spends 60 million euros in this area. Result, we are already at 300 million. So nothing changes, the teams will continue to have so many people and spend crazy sums. When you add all these exceptions, they have costs that are incompressible.
How has the discipline coped with the health crisis?
Marc Limacher: She pulls back. F1 has been in crisis since the departure of the tobacco companies in 2007. It has missed the mark of what football is capable of today, on mass sponsorship. She is no longer able to get a 50 million sponsor on her car. Football can do that for his shirt. F1 has for too long been associated with big money paying tobacco companies. Builders have compensated. But as soon as a producer pulls out, teams are in trouble. Today, the discipline no longer works essentially, except with television rights. F1 this year is 1.5 billion in revenue. Liberty considers each Grand Prix to be 100 million. There will (usually) be 15 Grands Prix this season and in this sum 1.2 billion its incompressible Concorde agreements (a kind of time-limited F1 general rules. The current deadline is coming to an end, negotiations for the next one are underway) .
Will the GP Business Book for Formula E ever exist?
Marc Limacher: I’ve been thinking about it for two years, but the data is hard to come by. Now it becomes clearer. I’m starting to get more interesting visibility. Yes it will exist. When? I do not know. But we are starting to have relevant information.