The regular Paddock Club is an exclusive and expensive world of champagne, fine dining, and corporate networks along with stellar speakers and some of the best seating in the house for track movement. The next two races, Portugal this weekend and then Spain, will have none of that.
Circuits have been closed to spectators, patrons, and guests due to restrictions on mass gatherings and lobster lunches have been replaced by laptop logins.
Kate Bevan, Global Hospitality Manager for Formula One, said the “Virtual Paddock Club”, introduced via Zoom, could be more intimate, relaxed and immediate and was in great shape. “We fully intend to continue working after Covid is over and the reason is that it has begun to create a bridge between the digital world and the world of live events,” she said. “I can see it growing tremendously. What corporate customers want is unique access and networking as well. Digital is a much easier way to provide that.”
A final virtual event before April 18 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola featured online hosts in the ring while home guests posted questions in the chatroom.
Ex-driver Jean Alessi emerged from the gym at his home in Avignon, with a 1992 French Ferrari standing behind him.
Retired contestant David Coulthard, a 13-year-old Grand Prix winner, has spoken from the ring about anything from transgression to lingerie. The artist who designed the awards was interviewed, Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi showed off the latest helmet design, and the “virtual base man” provided information on the large numbers.
Matteo Lunelli, whose company Ferrari Trento was the new supplier for the Formula One fizz, introduced the platform, the magnum to be used after the race. “Formula 1 is a day for sport and competition, but it is also a day of great wine and great food,” he said, apologizing for the absence of the Monday.
This may not be the case for long.
Bevan saw the Virtual Paddock Club, once relaxed, with traditional hospitality to provide new opportunities. For example, the Argentine operation of tire supplier Pirelli might invite VIP guests to come from a restaurant in Buenos Aires.
“Imagine a promoter who has one race a year on the race track performing a track day every weekend in Formula One for stakeholders, then in the afternoon he sits down to lunch and joins the virtual circuit club,” Beavan said.
“It is a very cost effective method whereby sponsors can acquire an asset that they have purchased, which is an affiliation with Formula One, and are able to distribute that to whatever market they are in.“ I think there’s a real opportunity we’ve seen. ”
Bevan said Formula One, which has a sponsorship deal with Zoom, was already talking to an agency seeking the rights to distribute the Virtual Paddock Club exclusively for clients in China who might never go to a real race.
The country’s Grand Prix is not showing up in Shanghai in the current calendar due to Covid-19. Beavan saw more revenue streams from dedicated team events, as well as client networks, and access could ultimately be sold through the form1.com website.
Prices are sure to be lower than the actual version, with a three-day entry pass for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July, when fans are expected to return, at 4,408 euros (3,92,587 rupees).
“We have ambitious owners and in the post-Covid world, everything on the digital side is accelerating,” said Bevan, who felt Formula One was faster than other sports.