Ariane Frank-Meulenbelt – Race Promoter
“Talk to anyone you can, find out what they’re doing, find out what they’ve done…every conversation you have will get you that little bit further to success.”
This is the third instalment of SMG INSIGHTS. Click below to explore parts 1 and 2 from our sports industry Q&As with motorsport photographer Glenn Dunbar and journalist Chris Medland.
As one of the longest serving race promoters in Formula 1, CEO of a global ticketing company & mother of 2 young boys, Ariane Frank-Meulenbelt, continues to fly the flag high for Women in Motorsport.
When it comes to promoting the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix – the second-longest consecutive running race on the F1 calendar – the buck stops with her. And certainly, her track record is one to be proud of with the famous Hungaroring recently staging its 37th successive F1 race in front of a record crowd!
In addition, she also owns gpticketshop.com, a global ticketing business which ensures that millions of F1 fans can purchase tickets to all F1 races at fair prices. Moreover, she also offers her ticketing experience and software to other promoters including the Red Bull Ring – host of the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix – allowing them to benefit from her unrivalled experience in the field.
Here, she takes some time out from her packed schedule to tell SMG INSIGHTS her story about working and thriving in the tumultuous world of Formula 1.
Where it all began…
It all started with my dad, who was the Hungarian Grand Prix promoter back in 1993, when I was around 13. In my school holidays, I would travel around the world with him, helping him translate his very important meetings with influential and important people from F1 into English. His English wasn’t great but they had sent me to an English school so I found it quite easy.
It was very cool with the getaways across Europe whether it was Spa in Belgium or Monaco, but the meetings were always a little bit overwhelming. When it came to contract and complex business things like that between my dad and Bernie (Ecclestone – Ex-CEO of Formula 1) I had no idea what was going on!
My role in 10 words or less…
Wearer of many hats, ticketing manager and promoter of races.
Why what I do is important…
I think I’m one of those lucky people that has many years of experience under my belt which is often underrated. I’ve been involved with F1 pretty much my whole life and I think it’s given me an overview of the sport and the business that few people have today.
It is a really complex sport that is often undervalued as just ‘cars going around in circles’. Once you get involved in things like TV rights, advertising rights, marketing things, it all fits together and you have to see the big picture. I believe I am able to do this, having witnessed the sport go through so many different eras.
From a general point of view, I think that being a promoter and ticketing manager, [the most important thing I do] is to essentially help make the event as enjoyable and smooth as possible for fans.
My first race…
I have thought long and hard about this but If I’m honest, I just don’t know! For some reason I believe it was at Imola, Italy in either 1992 or 1993…
My most challenging moment…
When my dad passed away. It happened just 8 weeks before the Hungarian Grand Prix and it was very sudden. He was still heading up the team at the time so to lose him was both challenging for me personally and professionally as we had to take over from him.
On a more uplifting note, another challenging moment was when Zsolt Baumgartner was set to become the first Hungarian Formula 1 driver to race at the Hungarian Grand Prix. His previous teammate had injured himself and he didn’t have enough super license points [needed to take part in an F1 race] at the time. Trying to get that organised and get all the paperwork through with the FIA within 24 hours was definitely a challenge. Getting a local hero to race for the first time at his home race was quite a unique challenge but so special.
”The grid is the moment that brings the whole year of working hard together.Ariane Frank-MeulenbeltOn 'the' moment that race promoters dream of every year!
My proudest moment…
The grid before the race. It’s really a moment I can just look around and enjoy – hearing the national anthem and look at the full (hopefully completely sold out!) crowds and just knowing we’ve done everything we can and all that’s left now is just the race. The grid is the moment that brings the whole year of working hard together.
An F1 memory I’ll never forget…
When Sebastian Vettel won his first World Championship in a Red Bull car. We work very closely with Red Bull and I have a long connection with them having worked for Red Bull UK in the past.
I know how much work was involved in bringing in their own driver and buying a team so it was a real ‘Moment’ where I thought ‘If you put your head to something you really can go all the way’. That was special.
How I’ve worked with SMG
We’ve worked with SMG to help promote the Hungarian Grand Prix to International markets, particularly within the UK.
We continue to keep working together as we’ve really developed a friendship with the team. We really enjoy working together beyond our contractual commitments and we always help each other out as a result. A nice example is this year we helped SMG with some promo filming at our Grand Prix for another promoter in exchange for their help with some translating for our own promotional materials.
The secret to being a good race promoter
It’s not as easy as it looks! I think one of the great assets of this job is the opportunity to learn from each other. Talk to anyone you can, find out what they’re doing, find out what they’ve done, find out what they’ve found worked and what didn’t. There’s so many great ideas out there so find out what the others are up to. Talk to them. Every conversation you have will get you that little bit further to success.