Earlier this month, I read an article by a veteran F1 journalist which essentially said that F1 tickets aren’t that expensive. Here, I’m going to both defend and argue against this thesis – because they are both pretty cheap and very expensive.
There’s a simple old saying that goes: “you pay for what you get”. Don’t moan if your £30 smartphone doesn’t do 3G – you should have bought the one for £100 that has 4G. As a university student, I’ve been moaning about how expensive it is to live in London for the past year – but it was my choice to go there. If you want a luxury product, then be prepared to get your wallet out.
As luxury products go, there are few more elite than Formula 1. It is where the big names and big egos mingle with the fastest sportsmen in the world; is there are more glamorous event to be seen at than the Monaco Grand Prix? For the average Joe though, even a GA ticket can be pretty pricey.
Earlier today, another F1 journalist tweeted: “I’m struck again by how many F1 fans have never seen a race”. Frankly, I’m surprised that so many have.
F1 is by no means a working man’s sport. For that, you need to look at football and rugby. For £3.50, I can walk down to see Hastings United play on a Saturday in the Ryman League Division One South fixture. Double that price if I want to get a pie and a cup of tea. If I really want to push the boat out, I can get the train to Brighton and spend about £50 on the whole day to see some Championship football. It’s very accessible, and very cheap.
Let’s say I wanted to go to Silverstone for the weekend, though. Even with a GA ticket, taking into account accommodation, petrol, food, drinks, merchandise, you’re looking at a figure close to £500. As a son of a single Mum on a basic wage, that’s not an amount you can pluck out of thin air. “Sorry son, we’ve got no electricity this week – but at least we’re off to Silverstone!” I think not.
I had never been able to afford to go to a grand prix as a fan. By the time I could, I was working in the sport.
So when I see fans going to three or four grands prix a year, I think that a) it is absolutely fantastic – people watching F1 is always great. But b) there must be some money there to do it. Be it long term savings or whatever, it’s good to see, but must it cost a bomb. I’m not even going to get started on Paddock Club.
The rush of being at an F1 race weekend must be unbeatable, so maybe the first journalist is right: maybe F1 tickets aren’t too expensive. However, it is everything around it that does bump the price up. Flights, trains, hotels – you name it, it can be pricey.
Again, it is the idea of “fan engagement” (F1’s favourite two buzzwords at the moment) that comes into play here. If F1 really was so concerned about putting bums on seats and more viewers on the telly, it would do two things. Firstly, ticket prices would be dropped by about half the price, with the sport making up for the organisers’ shortfall. Secondly, F1 would move away from subscription services such as Sky, and it would instead be purely shown on free-to-air.
Of course, neither of these are viable. Instead, F1 thinks it can curb falling figures with double points and standing restarts. I’m going to stop here before I go on another rant – you can read the first one here.
F1 tickets are both cheap and expensive. If you can afford to do it, great, you’ll have a wonderful weekend and get plenty of bang for your buck. In order to maintain its elitist image, the tickets can never be too cheap, much as a £50 iPad would give you serious concerns about its quality. (I’m sure that my A Level Economics teacher would be so proud of what I’m writing here).
For the working class fan though, following the sport is difficult. Without shelling out a minimum of £45 per month for Sky, you cannot see every race live on TV. To actually go to a race would be a wonderful yet very expensive experience.
The tickets need to be expensive, yes, but to call them “cheap” seems to blindly ignore the less affluent fans of the sport.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic and Richland F1.