He is a former Ferrari team boss and has been at the helm of Formula 1 since the start of 2021. Stefano Domenicali (57) is not shy about a topic in an intense conversation in Zandvoort and compares Max Verstappen to fun. With his old companion Michael Schumacher.
Is it true that you were at Zandvoort for the first time in 2000?
Domenicali: Yes, that was my first appearance here. I was here at the Masters with Michael Schumacher driving a demo in his Ferrari. We already felt the huge enthusiasm of the Dutch fans at that time. The circle was much smaller than now. So it wasn’t really possible to organize a Formula 1 race here. Max Verstappen managed to ignite the flames of racing in the Netherlands.”
You call Zandvoort the epitome of many Grand Prix races, right?
“Absolute. Zandvoort set a new standard last year when you look at the energy in the stands, the atmosphere, the whole program, the mobility. We’ve also said to other race promoters in other years that supply exceeds demand. The level of professionalism must be raised. My job is to get everyone to get the most out of it. And Zandvoort proves how this should be done.”
How do you view the entire Max effect?
“Max is still very young, but he is already a hero who has proven to attract a lot of people. I just said almost Michael, instead of Max, because Schumacher in his era also showed how important it was to be such a star. Someone who can create something unique anywhere in the world. The world. Max is now starting to do that too. Dutch fans follow Max everywhere. It’s great to see him. He’s now getting closer to Schumacher, if you look at the popularity. And of course Lewis Hamilton is very popular. We’re talking about drivers who are great champions for a lot of People. Max is very straight forward, we have a good relationship. He is very important to the entire Formula 1 community.”
How would you describe the current state of Formula 1?
“Very healthy. Almost all races are sold out, which is impressive. And the sport is much healthier now than when I was working at Ferrari, for example. 108 million people watched last season’s final race in Abu Dhabi. And the first Grand Prix in Miami this year was bigger than the Super Bowl.”
However, there is also a lot of criticism. Spa-Francorchamps is still on the calendar next year, but many fans went crazy when they heard that this race was in jeopardy.
“Then these people have short memories. Spa-Francorchamps has disappeared from the calendar several times in the past. I respect everyone, but in the end someone has to make the decision and take responsibility. This may be a common metric or not, but I also have to look at the commercial aspects I am convinced that I always make the best decisions that benefit Formula 1.”
But in the end it’s all about the money, right?
It’s not true. Nonsense. Again, that’s an easy thing to say. Of course money plays a role, that’s how it is for everyone who has to live, right? It’s always easy to criticize on social media. Sometimes I have to laugh a little bit because there’s Lots of lies being told. You know, there are many tracks that want to host a race. But at the same time they don’t know if they can foot the bill. Currently the value of Formula 1 is very high, so you should have a good business model as a Grand Prix Prix. I think we’re on a very good track now.”
However, it is clear that the Middle East Grand Prix is paying a much higher allowance than the organizers in Zandvoort.
It’s no secret either. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but it does make sense that money plays a role, does it? We all run a business here. But it’s not true to say that money is the only thing we think about. Of course it’s It’s always easy to speak up when you have no responsibility. But take a look here in Zandvoort at the situation and the limited space for garages and field, to name a few. If it was all about money, we wouldn’t be here.”
Looking at ticket prices for, say, Miami and Las Vegas, is Formula 1 still for the common man or woman?
“I think so, but it is true that it is not the same at every race. We have to rely on the local promoter, who knows the budget of the potential audience. Just as we don’t have the same thing here in Zandvoort. fairy Others may be asked to pay. We must always look for the right balance. It’s a world championship, with different types of fans and attitudes.”
There may be 24 races in the program next year, isn’t that the limit?
“For me, yes. In the Concorde agreement, it was agreed with the teams and the FIA that 25 Grand Prix is the limit, but if it was up to me it would still be at 24 for now. The teams also recognize that it is part of their business to maximize its value. It will be The value of Formula 1 is higher in the future. We are all in the same boat. Years ago, there were teams that required massive progress to survive. This is not the case now. There are also a lot of candidates who like to play the sport and who want to invest heavily. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not necessary at the moment and we don’t need more teams and cars on the grid to make it a better show. It also proves that for me it’s not just about the money.”