Formula 1 is implementing “contingency plans” to deal with the consequences of Brexit, including possibly basing more material on mainland Europe, its chief executive Chase Carey told reporters at the Geneva International Motor Show on Tuesday.
Several F1 teams have warned that Britain’s departure from the European Union, especially if it comes without a withdrawal agreement, will create logistical nightmares for an industry that relies on international staff and specialised goods moving in and out of Britain.
Mercedes team CEO Toto Wolff said Brexit could trigger “the mother of all messes” for his Northamptonshire-based team. Six of the 10 teams taking in the 2019 grand prix series are based in Britain.
Carey said that F1 was trying to make plans despite the uncertainty surrounding the timing and nature of Brexit, “We are making contingency plans for trying to make sure we are prepared to deal with the issues that possibly arise that would make getting people and things in and out of the UK more difficult.”
He added that he considered complications surrounding the movement of goods more problematic than possible visa issues for international staffers with British-based teams.
Currently, F1 supports teams by transferring goods predominately from Britain to various European sites, “We bring them in and out of the UK now. We obviously can bring them in and out of somewhere else.”
Some F1 teams have suggested that teams based on the continent would have an advantage if new rules complicated the import of products into Britain, especially since teams typically work on tight deadlines.
Carey declined to comment on “speculation” about competitive imbalance, “We don’t know what is going to happen anymore than anyone else.”
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29 but Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal has not yet been approved by parliament, raising the prospect of Brexit being delayed.
The alternative is Britain leaving on time without an agreement, a doomsday option both sides would like to avoid.
EU and UK officials were trying to negotiate a compromise in Brussels on Tuesday that could win parliamentary support.
After purchasing F1 in 2017, US-based Liberty Media has sought to reform the business, in part through investments to reach new audiences.
The weight of those expenditures have seen F1 post losses for two consecutive years, but Carey insisted the money spent had laid the building blocks for future profits.
Over the past two years “we were building a foundation for long-term growth,” he said, and added, “I think we felt it was a sport that historically had a short-term focus. We wanted to build a foundation we could grow.”
Some of moves spearheaded by Carey — a former top executive at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp — have been controversial, notably implementing a pay TV system for some races.
But Carey shrugged off concerns about revenue, saying new initiatives have “created some fresh momentum.”
And pointed out F1 has been “the fastest growing major sports on social media platforms” for two consecutive years, “We are certainly excited about what is ahead of us in 2019 and 20.”