F1 and MotoGP double header? Update given after huge Liberty Media takeover

Thomas Maher
MotoGP racing and an F1 race start.

Might an F1 race and MotoGP race eventually be held on the same weekend at the same track?

A MotoGP race and a Formula 1 race could be held at the same event at some point in the future, following Liberty Media’s takeover of the commercial rights.

Liberty Media, the owner of Formula 1’s commercial rights, announcing on Monday that it has bought an 86 percent ownership stake in Dorna Sports and MotoGP, in a deal worth around $4.2 billion.

MotoGP and F1 double-header ‘can’t be ruled out’

With both F1 and MotoGP now under Liberty’s ownership, the obvious question is how the two leading series for car and motorbike racing can synergise.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Dorna’s sporting director Carlos Ezpeleta opened up on the new deal when he spoke with MotoGP podcast Por Orejas.

A joint event, featuring Formula 1 and MotoGP racing at the same track on the same weekend, is something that may become a reality in the future.

“Well, it’s something that at the moment, for obvious reasons, is not in the immediate plans and it’s not something that we are working on, but it’s not something that we are ruling out for the medium-term future either,” Ezpeleta said.

“But, having said that, the reality is that it makes limited sense because, at the end of the day, we have some events with our own fan base, which is a different fan base in most places to the Formula 1 fan base.

“They sell, they sell out in many circuits and so do we, so getting all of us together in the same event, on the same weekend, has difficulties and the return on investment is not very clear today.

“Then you also have problems with the different sponsors, the TV cameras, so it is a project, or it would be a rather complicated project, let’s say.

“Then again, there are a number of circuits that can run both [series], but there are not so many, so it is a project that is not discarded, but we are not working on it either.”

Obvious hurdles to clear would be ensuring both series are able to run their full programme of junior categories and support events, which would require the cooperation of F1’s governing body the FIA, and MotoGP’s governing body FIM.

Aligning two high-profile series in this way would cause obvious logistical headaches to be overcome, as well as driving up demand for weekend tickets given circuit capacities are finite.

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Liberty Media’s takeover of MotoGP is not yet 100 percent certain, and a previous effort to unite F1 and MotoGP under the one owner – CVC Capital having been blocked from owning both during a buy-out in 2006.

Due to EU anti-monopoly policies, CVC bought a majority shareholding in F1 while owning MotoGP promoter Dorna. Under scrutiny from the EU, CVC elected to sell its stake in Dorna in order to complete its F1 takeover.

While the precedent is there from 2006, Liberty Media’s chief legal officer Renee Wilm believes Liberty’s transaction will be cleared.

“The CVC decision, which is almost 20 years old, was never really followed up in terms of any kind of in-depth investigation or appeal process,” said Wilm on a Liberty Media investor’s call on Monday.

“They chose to just quickly close and move on. I think, when you factor in that we are going to engage very quickly with the regulators, noting a change in the media landscape over the last 20 years, we are pretty confident we can get this done quickly and get the transaction cleared.”

Wilm clarified Liberty will be filing with the relevant EU, UK, Brazil, and Australia bodies for antitrust clearance.

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei is confident there will be no stumbling blocks to their buyout of MotoGP.

“I remember speaking to the CVC management – they were under a tight timeframe to get a deal done on buying F1,” Maffei said on the same call.

“We are very confident we will get this through regulators because we believe there is a broad market for sports and entertainment properties, of which both Formula 1 and MotoGP are only a small subset, and the market has continued to change from the time when the market was previously reviewed in a major way. We are going to not treat these as a bundle or try to bring them together in the market.”

Maffei also stated that Liberty Media has “no plans to fundamentally change MotoGP”, which may soothe concerns that the company may seek to follow the F1 model in pursuing more events on street circuits – something which is far more dangerous for motorbike racers, than for car racers.

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