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Snippets: Williams finances, TV contracts, Kyalami and ignorant politicians

In the latest entry of a new Snippets column, RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken shares the F1 stories that are bubbling away in the background, along with enlightening snippets of info you might have missed...

RacingNews365.com picks up news snippets and 'premature facts' on a daily basis, many of which are too minor to warrant dedicated news reports yet collectively fill many gaps. Equally, there are other items that cannot (yet) be verified but these may well eventuate in the near future, simply get overtaken by events or ultimately disappear but are significant at the time. RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken reads between the lines.

Williams struggles

Quick perusal of the 2021 Williams accounts – the latest filed with Companies House and the first full set reported under Dorilton Capital ownership after the private equity fund acquired the team in August 2020 – illustrates the challenges faced by backmarkers in raising sponsorship despite Formula 1's popularity uptick. Williams posted total revenues of £96 million, recording a loss of £12m despite 2021 being their first year under the budget cap and first under F1's revamped (secret) prize fund, which pays an estimated 20 per cent more for tenth in the (2020) classification – upon which 2021 payments are based – than previously. Add in bonuses under the 10-year matrix outlined here and Williams pulled around $60m (£48m in 2021) in prize money.

Insiders suggest Williams earned $20m (£16m) from drivers, being split 50/50 between contributions for keeping George Russell 'warm' for Mercedes, and payments via Sofina and other Latifi family-linked brands for sticking Nicholas into the second cockpit. Sub-total £66m. The accounts show Williams sold its intellectual property rights to Dorilton subsidiary BCE IP for £48m, of which £14m is reflected as an exceptional payment after deduction of debts. That sub-totals £80m, with the balance generated by a handful of non-Latifi sponsors, namely Acronis, Versa and Ponos. None of these are big hitters and precious little else appeared on the FW43 save blue-white paint. Although Williams signed two brands – Duracell and B&O – for 2022, there is little reason to believe this once-great team will soon hit F1's budget cap of $135m (£105m) for racing operations excluding marketing, hospitality, and administration – which are, though, included in turnover and run to £25m – unless partner deals ramp up dramatically. The two incoming brands are unlikely to pay top dollar to the ailing team. Equally, much has been made of Gulf joining Williams – revealed here – but the brand was not known for generosity at McLaren, so why would they pay more to Williams? It's tough being at the back despite F1's boom times.

beOUT now beIN

Little reported this week was that F1 signed Qatar-based beIN SPORT to televise events into 10 Asian territories, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. TV contracts are announced regularly but beIN has history, having held the Middle East/North Africa rights. Then, during recent stand-offs between Qatar and neighbouring states, beIN was hacked – allegedly by Saudis, who dumped content throughout MENA. In 2018/9 beIN accused F1, at the time in talks with Aramco over race and 'bridge and board' deals, of not acting against the hack, then opted out of bidding for an extension. Saudi's MBC was the (convenient) beneficiary but much has changed since: in 2021 Stefano Domenicali joined F1 as CEO from Lamborghini, where he sat on the main VW board with the Qataris, who own 17 per cent of VW. Then Qatar inked a 10-year Grand Prix deal and VW's luxury Audi signed up for 2026. Now the word is MBC will not be granted the next MENA deal, which instead will revert to beIN. Coincidence?

Kyalami and Spa

South Africa failed to make the 2023 calendar after a wannabe promoter proved unable to issue guarantees to Kyalami and F1. Now the word is that another promoter has joined forces with a Miami entertainment company to stage a Grand Prix, and that they have held talks with F1. Well-placed sources told RacingNews365.com a 31 March deadline has been imposed, after which no leeway will be granted. That does not mean Spa-Francorchamps is an automatic shoo-in: its contract was extended last year for a year after South Africa dropped out but is unlikely to be lengthened unless the circuit undertakes a facility revamp.

House of Lords

Earlier this week British peer Lord Scriven attacked FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem over, inter alia, F1 races in the Middle East and a recent FIA decision to ban political statements during Grands Prix weekends. Clearly the Lord had not undertaken research or he would have realised a British-based company, Formula One Management – a subsidiary of US-listed Liberty Media – holds the rights to cut F1 race deals in terms of a commercial rights agreement struck between Britons (Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone) in 1998. By 2001 EU decree the FIA is powerless to intervene if circuits comply with FIA sporting and safety standards. In terms of articles inscribed in the governing body's statutes a decade before MBS took office at end-2021, the FIA may not "discriminate on account of race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, philosophical or political opinion, family situation or disability" and is at all times required to "create a more diverse and inclusive culture." Therefore, the FIA must remain totally neutral on political matters – which is precisely what the federation and its incumbent President have done over, for example, Brexit…

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