Formula One has grown so quickly in the United States in the last few years, Taylor Swift might even have a tough time getting a paddock pass these days.
I promise this all relates to football, but first, bear with me. As F1 heads back to the United States for its second of three stateside races this weekend, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said as much about Swift this week, juxtaposing the current state of the sport with where it was only seven years ago, when a Swift concert was needed to attract American visitors to Austin, Texas’ Circuit of the Americas.
These days, the circuit known as COTA has no problem with attracting fans. Judging by Tuesday’s news, F1 isn’t struggling to draw high-profile investors, either. Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are leading a new group of investors strategically pouring money into Alpine F1, one of 10 teams participating in the global pinnacle of motorsport.
Mahomes explained his decision to spend some cash on an investment that sure seems like a wise one, judging by F1’s recent explosion in popularity, which was largely driven by Netflix’s incredibly successful Drive to Survive docuseries — one that inspired Mahomes to participate in the debut season of Netflix’s similar NFL-focused docuseries, Quarterback.
“I think everybody can see the appeal,” Mahomes said Wednesday. “I’ve been able to get to a couple races now, seeing the environment, and then obviously watching the (Formula 1:) Drive to Survive on Netflix you see how competitive it is.
“Any time you get an opportunity to get in on that, I mean I’m as competitive as anyone can get, so hopefully it can open up to some great opportunities and we are able to go to some of those races and have a little stake in the game.”
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The group includes elite pro golfer Rory McIlroy, former heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua and star soccer player Trent Alexander-Arnold, who plays for Liverpool F.C. of the Premier League.
The investment group became involved through Otro Capital, a private firm that had previously collaborated with a couple of other firms to purchase a 24 percent stake in Alpine F1 in June. Actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney — who also famously purchased soccer club Wrexham A.F.C. — were part of this initial group of investors.
Now, they’ve added two of the NFL’s biggest stars, who also happen to be members of the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
Fans of F1 might understandably wonder why such elite football talents would invest in Alpine F1, a midfield team that hasn’t seriously contended for a constructors’ championship for quite some time. As Mahomes explained it, his decision wasn’t about title-winning potential so much as it was about getting involved in a sport that continues to attract new fans.
“No. I don’t know if I had options,” Mahomes said when asked if he was able to choose an F1 team. “They came to us with the opportunity, I jumped at it. I’m excited for it, and obviously having Trav, it will be cool to go to some of the events and hopefully get to some of the places other than Miami. Maybe get to some of the other places around the world would be really cool.”
Alpine F1 — which races under the name of automaker Renault’s sports subsidiary — began racing under the mark in 2021 after two decades spent under the Renault name. They’ve won one race since beginning their Alpine era, finished fourth in the constructors’ championship standings in 2022, and appear set to finish 2023 in sixth place.
Alpine is not the first professional sports organization in which Mahomes has invested. Mahomes and his wife, Brittany, also own stakes in the Kansas City Current of the National Women’s Soccer League. They’re part of an ownership group focused on growing soccer in Kansas City, including driving construction of the first purpose-built soccer stadium in the NWSL. He’s also a minority stakeholder in MLB’s Kansas City Royals and MLS’s Sporting Kansas City.
After receiving a raise via a revised contract that moved future money into sooner contract years (starting with 2023), Mahomes has some cash to spend. He’s not wasting time directing it toward prosperous ventures.
“Yeah, I’m always looking around,” Mahomes said of his interest in investing in pro sports clubs. “I mean obviously I can’t do it in the NFL while I’m playing, so I’m always looking around at other sports. It’s hard to get into all sports, NBA and all that different type of stuff, but I’m always keeping my ears open and if they give me an opportunity, I’m going to jump at it.”
The value of Mahomes’ and Kelce’s ownership stakes in Alpine are unknown, but at minimum, their financial commitments illustrate the growing importance of the sport on a global scale. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Kelce’s involvement with Swift, either, which has been a leading headline for weeks.
Now that Kelce is involved with Alpine, we can safely guarantee she’ll be able to secure a paddock pass whenever she’d like. Mahomes, however, might find it a little more difficult to get behind the wheel of an F1 car for a few fun laps — if he can even fit into the cockpit.
“I don’t know if that’s in my contract, we’ll see,” Mahomes said. “I know (Chiefs general manager Brett) Veach is a big F1 guy, so maybe he’ll let me cruise around the track at least once but I don’t know, the cars cost a little bit of money so I don’t know if they’ll let me do that.”
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