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New F1 boss aims to put fans first

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One intends to put fans first in a new era likely to see a big push into the United States while also protecting Europe's historic races, chief executive Chase Carey said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Reuters a day after he replaced long-time supremo Bernie Ecclestone at the helm following the takeover by U.S. company Liberty Media, Carey outlined his immediate priorities.

Formula One, he said, was neither efficient nor effective in its decision-making, cost too much to compete in, needed a more level playing field and had to abandon a divide-and-rule mentality.

"Really what we want to create is more of a shared vision," said the 62-year-old American, saying the sport needed a new organisation that enabled fans to engage live and on media platforms as never before.

The United States, which currently has just the one race in Austin, Texas, represented a growth area.

"We think there is a real opportunity to engage the American public in a new and exciting way, and probably one of the components is putting another race there and in a destination city," said Carey.

"We want these events to be big, broad. I’ve talked about 21 Super Bowls. We want them to have that type of feel which probably means a city like New York, LA, Miami or Las Vegas that people would come to for the week.

"The sport would be at the centre of it but there would be a lot of stuff going on for everybody throughout that time frame."

NEW GUY ON THE BLOCK

European tracks such as Britain's Silverstone, which hosted the first championship grand prix in 1950, Spa and Monza have struggled to pay ever-increasing hosting fees in the past while Germany has dropped off this year's calendar.

Silverstone has been mulling over exercising a break clause, which would terminate its contract in 2019, for financial reasons.

Carey said preserving such races was important but, rather than reducing the fees, the new owners aimed at creating more value.

"We’re the new guy on the block so everyone is coming in and saying we need a reduction. I don’t buy that," he said.

"I think what we need to do is make the races better and more valuable and figure out a way to grow... I think there’s a lot we can do. Western Europe, which is the foundation of the sport, is very important to us."

Carey indicated, however, that hosting fees were no longer the prime consideration.

"When I think about the events, I usually think about three things and in this order of priority: fans, growth and money," he said.

"Fans probably means making sure the races in Western Europe, which is the foundation, are great and successful.

"Growth is sort of U.S. and China and places like that where there is real upside to create a new audience for it and money helps us have the resources to continue to invest and grow the sport."

The chief executive felt there was broad agreement that the current levels of spending by some teams did not make sense and revenue allocation was "probably over-skewed" towards the biggest and wealthiest.

"I think there’s a recognition that for a sport to be healthy it needs to have a fair competitive balance. And everybody has to have the ability to compete and the underdog has to have the ability to win," he said.

"We’d like owning a team to be good business. We’d like running a race as a promoter to be a good business and we’d like Formula One to grow.

"So we’d like to figure out how to grow the whole in a healthy way that enables everybody to be successful and share in the rewards fairly."

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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