May 11, 2021

Sports Legend

In the age of Covid-19, Formula 1’s ‘Paddock Club’ hospitality has gone virtual and it’s here to stay


Formula 1’s “ Paddock Club ” hospitality has gone from vroom to Zoom in the COVID-19 era and it looks like the virtual version is here to stay with the sport excited by the revenue potential.

The regular Paddock Club is an exclusive and expensive world of champagne, fine dining and corporate networking with featured speakers and some of the best seats in the house for on-track action. The next two races, Portugal this weekend and then Spain, will have none of this.

Tours are closed to spectators, sponsors and guests due to restrictions on mass gatherings and lobster lunches have been replaced with a laptop.

Formula 1 Global Hospitality Director Kate Beavan said the “ Virtual Paddock Club, ” presented via Zoom, could be more intimate, relaxed and immediate and was going well. “We fully intend to pursue it once Covid is finished and the reason is that it is starting to bridge the gap between the digital world and the world of live events,” she said. “I can see him develop a lot. What business customers want is single access but also networking. Digital is in a way much easier to deliver. ”

A recent virtual event ahead of the April 18 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola featured hosts online at the circuit while guests at home asked questions in a chat room.

Former driver Jean Alesi appeared from his Avignon home gym, the Frenchman’s 1992 Ferrari parked behind him.

Retired driver David Coulthard, winner of 13 grand prix, chatted from the paddock about everything from overtaking to underpants. The artist who designed the trophies was interviewed, Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi showed off his latest helmet design and the “virtual statistic man” gave the truth about the big numbers.

Matteo Lunelli, of which Ferrari Trento is the new Formula 1 fizz podium supplier, presented the magnums to use after the race. “Formula 1 is a day of sport and competition, but also a day of good wine and good food,” he said, apologizing for the absence of both.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

This may not be the case for long.

Beavan has seen the Virtual Paddock Club combine, once restrictions have been eased, with traditional hospitality to provide new opportunities. The Argentinian operation of tire supplier Pirelli, for example, could invite VIP guests to come from a restaurant in Buenos Aires.

“Imagine a promoter who has one race a year on his circuit doing a track day every Formula 1 weekend for his stakeholders, then in the afternoon, sit down to lunch and join the virtual paddock club “said Beavan.

“It’s a very profitable way for sponsors to take an asset that they’ve bought, which is an association with Formula One, and be able to distribute it in any market they are in.” I think there is a real opportunity that we ‘I saw. ”

Beavan said Formula 1, which has a commercial sponsorship deal with Zoom, is already talking to an agency seeking the rights to distribute the Virtual Paddock Club exclusively to customers in China who may never participate in a real race.

The country’s grand prize in Shanghai is not on the current schedule due to Covid-19. Beavan saw other revenue streams from bespoke events for teams, as well as client networking, and access could potentially be sold through the formula1.com website.

Prices will certainly be lower than the physical version, with a three-day pass to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July, when crowds are expected, at € 4,408 (Rs 3.92,587).

“We have ambitious owners and in the post-Covid world everything on the digital side is accelerating,” said Beavan, who felt F1 had been faster than other sports.