Lewis Hamilton’s phenomenal rookie year in Formula One is expected to have a major impact on the financial health of British motor sport.
A leading sports finance expert believes Hamilton could spark a boom period after a recent lull due to the lack of a successful local hero in Formula One in recent years.
Although Hamilton failed to win yesterday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the 22-year-old still finished third for his ninth successive podium of the season, wowing the crowds in the process.
A record 42,000 fans attended on Friday, followed by a Saturday best of 80,000, with race day an 85,000 sell-out.
ITV viewing figures are also significantly up this year, with 7.7 million watching last month’s United States Grand Prix, compared to 5.4 million in 2006.
Alan Switzer, director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said: “Local heroes can have a huge impact on the financial health of a sport.
“Lewis Hamilton’s success has helped lift the British Grand Prix to become the third highest attended event in the UK’s sporting calendar after Wimbledon and Royal Ascot.
“Should Lewis consolidate his success, and even win the F1 title, motor racing can expect a significant revenue boost, particularly once existing broadcasting and sponsorship contracts expire.
“Broadcasters and corporates will compete to be associated with such a potentially attractive global sporting icon.
“ITV’s current F1 television rights contract is reportedly worth around £25million a year.
“But the success of Lewis means that could increase substantially when it expires at the end of the 2010 season.”
Switzer believes Silverstone will also benefit as circuit owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, look to secure a new contract once the present deal expires in 2009.
“At a more local level, the increased ticketing revenue and secondary spend will form an important part of the funding mix for the redevelopment of Silverstone,” added Switzer.
“This is almost certainly necessary for Silverstone to retain its grand prix in 2010 and beyond.
“Indeed, if extra capacity could be added to Silverstone, Lewis’ success suggests it would be matched by demand.
“Fernando Alonso’s success has been the main factor for the Spanish Grand Prix now attracting more than 340,000 spectators over the extended weekend, the highest of the F1 races.”