New Coke

Team Pack Up c/o James Moy Photography

Team Pack Up
c/o James Moy Photography

The arrival of August may mean an enforced break for most of the F1 world, but not it would seem for some of the sport’s key decision makers. It emerged over the weekend of the Hungarian Grand Prix that Bernie Ecclestone intends to hold a crisis summit over the sport’s popularity. Formula 1 team bosses were made aware of this on Saturday in Budapest, along with the shock news that alongside a hand-picked selection of team chiefs and Ecclestone himself, would be media representatives and disgraced former F1 team boss Flavio Briatore.

Although it has been claimed that the meeting should not be viewed as a negative, to many it can only be deemed thus. Coming at a time when the fans of this sport, along with a growing number of dissenting voices in the paddock, are having their say on double points, standing restarts and the concept of success ballast, the time has surely come to say enough is enough.

I have been in this game now for 13 years as a professional. I have been a fan all my life. And rarely can I recall a season I have enjoyed as much.

Where now are the dissenting voices over engine noise? Where now, those who decried the ugly look of the 2014 cars? Yes, these are areas that can be improved, but the doom-mongers of the early months of this year seem now to have been silenced by some sublime exhibitions of racing on track.

Budapest is a case in point. Yes, the weather played its part, but the tricky nature of the cars created by this season’s aero regulations, the power and torque of the new hybrid engines and the 2014 construction Pirelli tyres all combined to create the circumstances in which two safety cars were deployed and a thrilling race ensued. And it wasn’t the first brilliant race of the season.

We have had three, possibly four, maybe as many as five races that I would say rank as some of the finest of this generation. A few possibly of all time. It is very easy to look back at history and complain that things used to be so much better, but often those views are born of melodrama and passionate prejudice… a view through rose tinted glasses, if you will.

Alonso leads Hamilton and Ricciardo in Hungary c/o James Moy Photography

Alonso leads Hamilton and Ricciardo
c/o James Moy Photography

Let’s take a little look through history. At Budapest in 2014 we had a wet/dry race but still saw 16 finishers and seven different teams finish in the top ten. Yes, we had multiple safety cars, but the winning margin was just 5.225 seconds, with the top four split by just 6.361.

Let’s rewind a decade to 2004. 15 cars finished the race, with seven different teams finishing in the top ten. With the Ferrari chassis a class apart, the winning margin from Schumacher to Barrichello was 4.696 seconds, but the top four was split by over a minute.

In 1994 only 14 cars were classified but again, seven teams were classified in the top ten. Michael Schumacher’s winning margin was over 20 seconds and only three cars finished on the lead lap.

The very first Hungarian Grand Prix was held in 1986. Nelson Piquet won that race by 17.673 seconds. Only he and Ayrton Senna were on the lead lap. Ten cars finished the race.

It is easy to forget that there were days when F1 races would see five cars or fewer classified at the flag. It is easy to forget there was a time when the winning car lapped the field. It is easy to forget that ten years ago, Michael Schumacher had the championship sewn up two races before we even started the August break.

It is easy to overlook just how good we’ve got it right now.

Perhaps it is because we are being given exceptional contests almost every racing weekend that we lose sight of how good these races really are. It becomes easier to remember the great races of days past, when those races were rare highlights in otherwise predictable and often dull processions. When we have wonderful races as the norm, it becomes harder to determine the epic from the merely brilliant.

Hockenheim Grandstands c/o James Moy Photography

Hockenheim Grandstands
c/o James Moy Photography

The problem, however, is that grandstand seats sit empty. Television audiences in some territories are dropping. Paddock Club struggles to sell out and has had to change its outlook. Teams struggle to attract sponsors. It is perhaps unsurprising that some might ask whether people are falling out of love with the sport.

The problem, however, is that there seems to be a belief that it is the show itself that is to blame. Some seem to believe that the sport no longer grasps the imagination as it used to. They believe that the product has to change to adapt to a new generation.

They are wrong.

We exist at a time when Formula 1 teams are struggling for financial survival because of an unfair and unworkable payment structure, penned and conceived in and by a bygone and obsolete generation. Racing circuits are charged so much to host races, that those costs have to be passed onto a public crippled by a global recession and who would rather take their family on holiday than shell out the same figure on watching a motor race and camping in a muddy field. Free to air television networks are losing the rights to broadcast Formula 1 because the only networks who can afford the high figures being demanded are those who charge to view.

To anyone with even the scantest knowledge of this sport, it is abundantly clear that it is Formula 1’s business model which is broken, not the racing spectacle itself.

The sport has failed to keep pace with its audience by embracing new media, and yet is willing to impose contrived gimmicks into the purity of its product to try and make the show more appealing to a market it no longer understands. It remains blind to the fact that it will only lose dedicated followers by doing so, and gain no new interest from a generation who strive to find something real in a sea of commercial falsity.

New Coke

New Coke

Twenty Nine years ago, Coca Cola changed the recipe of its flagship brand, launching one of the greatest flops in modern commercial memory. “New Coke” replaced its original namesake in April 1985. By May, company directors were already pushing for a reversal to the original recipe after sales took a massive hit. It only took until July for Coca Cola executives to announce the return of the original Coke. The company’s President Donald Keough announced the return with words that Formula 1’s rulers would do well to dwell on over the coming weeks:

“The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.”

The lesson is simple. Don’t mess with a product into which people have invested themselves emotionally. The public are not stupid. Don’t treat them like they are.

Formula 1 is in arguably the rudest racing health of its entire existence. I, as so many of my colleagues, and all the fans at home, pray that when the decisions are made that will shape the future of this sport, the decision makers keep this at the forefront of their minds. Because the only thing from which Formula 1 needs saving, is itself.

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133 thoughts on “New Coke

  1. In a way, the changes F1 has been doing and talking about doing sounds similar to the foolish moves NASCAR made around the time the Chase came around. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    • i was thinking the same thing F1 is so much better than NASCAR but it truly is similar NASCAR races used to be hard to get tickets to this weekend at Indy it looked like a 50% capacity crowd.

      • To be fair, 50% capacity at Indy is enough people to be a sellout at a lot of other NASCAR tracks. There were big patches of empty seats on the front stretch because those are actually the worst seats in the house thanks to the infield seating blocking views across the track. Turn 1 and turn 4 seats are the best, and those looked okay.

      • I keep thinking how can people always keep watching cars turning left all the time…won’t they get bored? It’s a mystery for me how NASCAR has remained popular for so many years…Maybe I’m missing something

        • Like Indy Ovals, it’s the faster nature of the racing AND the prospect for more crashing that draws the crowds.

        • I keep thinking how can people always keep watching cars turning left all the time…won’t they get bored?
          >> I’m not a Nascar fan, but have followed F1 for twenty five plus years now, and having attended some F1, and Indycar races, the same logic applies for a fan sitting in the grandstands at a F1 race event. They can view a section of track and cars keep going in the same direction over and over till the chequered flag.

          It’s a mystery for me how NASCAR has remained popular for so many years…Maybe I’m missing something
          >> Again having attended some F1 races, and Indy races on general admission tickets, without much access to the luxuries offered in the paddock club, I still enjoyed the atmosphere, the camaraderie you develop with fellow racing fans. So its not just about racing when you attend a event, its about the environment.

    • The “Lunacy of Leadership” may be an appropriate title for a movie about the current generation of F1′s cast of characters. Ecclestone is long past his sell-by date.(We are all discussing him via the social medium, the very tool that he says is crumbling even though the collective voices get ever louder.) The team owners/leaders all know this but visibly support the doddering old fool because he provides them the riches on which they’ve become hooked like heroin. The solution to the sport’s cost ills would be to have a strong sanctioning body issue a set of rules that resets the cost table. But then, how could the teams justify asking for the multi-millions from sponsors, that,oh by the way, they no longer seem to be able to get anyway.

      Now, this group of geniuses proclaim the patient is sick and gimmicks are needed, so who is suggested as the gimmick expert? None other than Flav – the man who got the heave-ho for the ultimate gimmick, fixing a race.

      And the outside world sees all of this in plain view while the insiders think there’s some other ill that needs to be treated. Brill, as the Brits often proclaim!

  2. Excellent article Mr Buxton Hitting the nails on the head. I’ve been following this sport religiously for 23 years now and I completely agree with your argumentation..

  3. Thank you Will. I really hope the bunch getting together with Flav and Bernie to discuss a show take their show to their private quarters and leave F1 unchanged (well, maybe they could just reverse the stupid standing starts idea, as well as drop Abu Double, please.)

  4. Yep, completely agree with this one. The vultures will keep picking until there are only bones left. Perhaps then, when the sport is on its knees and there is no more money to be sucked from it, will it get a chance to rebuild itself. Sad but likely.

  5. While I agree with much you say, do you think viewers are also put off by a) a lack of personalities they can link to – apart from Daniel R of course- and b) knowing that the bottom 12/14 drivers are there because Daddy/state/big sponsors are paying. For example the “feeder series” isn’t feeding its top talent to f1 only those who can pay. Talent alone isn’t enough and before you say it was always thus, I can think of at least six of the current “older guard” who didn’t originally come with mega finding but an abundance of talent which then attracted the funding.

  6. The only thing F1 needs to change is

    1. cheaper tickets for the average fan
    2. More access to the paddock/teams and drivers.
    3. More races on Free TV. Yes sky etc. do a good job but look at sky with maybe a few hundred this and watching the race to BBC coverage.
    4. Also makes the rules black and white so the average person can understand them.
    5. Let the drivers race. Unless and driver his hurt or a car is put out the race the FIA Should stay out of it.
    6. The FIA should follow the MSA track limit rules. If all 4 wheels go of the track. No matter what. Do it 3 times you get a time pen.

  7. Exactly right Will. The grandstand issue is unrelated to anything other than the cost of attending. Figure out how to let the tracks lower ticket prices (or at least lower it on some sections of the track), and people will come. The optics for TV will look better, and so on. Fix the ridiculous team compensation structure and you could have 5 or 6 teams battling for the championship every year, and sponsors willing to put their names on cars up and down the grid. Such a shame that in a great season like this the powers to be are shoegazing at the wrong issues.

  8. Spot on Will. If the show is good, (which it is) what is the problem? Has F1 priced itself out of the mainstream? Has Bernie been so concerned with making the rights holders the biggest profit imaginable? I think the answer to these questions are yes.
    What family of four is going to blow $1200 just for tickets, not to mention airfares, hotels and the like? So the bread and butter fans, (Europeans) are losing races every time Bernie wants to take the show to another oilopolis for the almighty dollar. Talking smack about Monza, what is he smoking? F1 needs to step back and look at what made F1 special, fast cars, tracks (traditional), personalities. Because what they are doing is not working. All of the gimmicks and regulations are ruining the sport.
    I also believe that fans are tired of watching one dominate team do all of the winning. Five years of this has definitely caused a lack of interest.

    • A general admin ticket to the Melbourne GP for Sunday only is $80. Screw that, I’ll just watch it on TV. Grandstand tickets are anything from $320 to $565, and they’re only available as four-day tickets – a bit useless if you can only make Sat and/or Sun.

  9. 5 things that need to chance.

    1. More access for the fans to teams/paddock and drivers.
    2. Cheaper race day tickets.
    3. Track limits. (Should follow the MSA example, 3 times all 4 wheels over the white lines. Including curbs and it’s a time pen)
    4. Stay out of battles. If drivers come together and no one is hurt or the car is put out of the race by another car the FIA should stay out of it. After all drivers know the risks.
    5. Listen to the fans and want. After all without us watching, paying the stupid prices for teamwear and tickets and also subscribing to Pay TV to watch the sport. It would be nothing.

  10. Sorry Will, I am here (for one).
    When you say “Where now are the dissenting voices over engine noise? Where now, those who decried the ugly look of the 2014 cars?”
    I AM STILL HERE and two people who used to watch every race with me are no longer interested. In this household that is a 66% decline in ratings.
    If you get the media (viewing) reports for Germany, France, UK, Italy, USA, Mexico… tell me where you see ANY good news?
    F1 has shot itself in the foot and Bernie is right to want to redress the problems. NBC coverage? Abysmal (wait, is it NBC, or NBCSN or CNBC??? – what idiots to change it around) Oh, and why was the German GP broadcast “live” 2 hours later on NBCSN? I listened to BBC Radio 5 Live and enjoyed the real, live coverage.
    Will, you are trying hard, some of your coverage is great, but the “boy enjoying access” is wearing thin. Time to stand up and see the mess for what it is – get back to journalism. Please!

    • Viewership is up in the US as one of the only territories globally that is increasing. That is all down to the commitment shown by the NBC family to ensure that every quali and race is shown live on either NBC NBCSN or CNBC. Schedules are well advertised long in advance as is evidenced by the figures.

      • Also I love that NBCSN has made everything available on the web. I’ve been able to watch every race live because of this.

        • Too bad they do not offer nbcsn in Canada, Will we never get to here you or Mathet and Hobbs. Only the BBC with no preshow or summary after the race

          • We can’t have the pre or post race show (that TSN likely pay for) that would interfere with the 6 hours of Sport Centre repetition.

      • Will, viewership in the usa is directly linked to a us grand prix… The actual viewership numbers are down anyway (Nielson and others, especially Dish).
        What is so stupid with nbc is tgat they assume everyone will reprogram their dvr every race weekend… Realy? Have they even had alook at their demographic? They should ask charlie ergen who told me they has floods of irate calls every race weeked about the dvr missing the practice/quali/race.
        And the comment below giving me a lengthy url link… Childish, not anyway accomodaing links are for the next generations… This is tv, act like it, or sop pretending that nbc actually gives adamn for their $ patry investment.. Compared to germantvrights? Want to try and win that argument?

        • I guess you are a fair weather fan Peter. In fact, it’s not a guess, you are.

          You will always need to “re-program” your DVR every weekend anyway, because F1 races in different countries, with different time zones. It really takes little to no effort to a) figure out what channel and time the race will be broadcast, and b) to set the DVR. I do it for literally, LITERALLY every race without fail.

          “And the comment below giving me a lengthy url link… Childish, not anyway accomodaing links are for the next generations”

          ^ This is childish. A person just provided you with a tool to fix your “problem” and you say it is for the “next generation”. No, it is for ANY generation that choses to learn instead of burying your head in the sand.

          The problem, Pete, is you. You are growing old and cranky. The world went and got itself a new groove, and you are desperately clinging to the old. Your old stubborn ways. “I caynt understand these newfangled dee vee arrs!”

          Well, tough shit, sport. Deal with it.

          The racing is great. NBC is great, and their coverage is far better than Speed was.

          • He could do like me and my mates and set the alarm every race and qualifying and watch it live, haven’t missed one in 6 years regardless of distractions and wanting to sleep. It’s a great excuse for an early nap ;) I got to much media being piped in to miss it live, otherwise i’d always know who won before I got to watch. (I can’t look away, I know me)

          • Sycophants never want to have a conversation, they prefer diatribes, insults and foul language. Bravo to you Dale D… goodbye.

    • It was broadcast live on CNBC. I for one, have enjoyed the telecasts. Will is an excitable boy who loves his job.
      Keep up the good work.

    • I’m from Cape Town and have been a huge F1 fan since 1994, never missing a race on tv since then. I have managed to see 4 races live between 2005 and 2011. I used to plan the race I wanted to see and made the trips specifically to see them, at great cost with flights and accommodation etc but I had no problem with that and was always very happy with my choices. This past week I was lucky enough to be in geneva on business, all paid for by a client with the German gp the previous weekend and Hungary the week after. I could have attended either race for a fraction of cost of past races I had been to and when I considered which one to go to, or both, ultimately I decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore. My reason, I hate the sound of the cars, it’s just no longer F1 for me. I still watch F1 on tv but now it’s out of nostalgia. The double point rule also sucks but that didn’t stop me from attending a race this year, the sound of the cars did. So I’m just one grand stand seat lost this year and matter what argument anyone makes for current f1 that the sound is not important etc, it is to me… It just is. It’s not a logical thing, it’s my emotional connection to the sport. So while your post is great Will, there is no argument that can convince me that F1 is still F1 because the sound is no longer there. Rational thought doesn’t apply. On the flight home I was watching the legends of F1 series and in the newer episodes in the opening screen with the logo you have that SOUND of a “real” F1 car screaming past…. And I wondered if in the next season of the show they would replace that with the weird vacuum cleaner sound of 2014 F1 cars… I know I’m just one race ticket but for me, like a vacuum cleaner, 2014 F1 pretty much sucks.

      • How odd though. You hate the new F1 sound and wont go and see it, yet you have never experienced it except over TV?

        Let me tell you not only did you miss those two great races, but the cars are not quiet at all. They don’t scream, but you certainly notice them when they go past you!

        Its a shame your prejudice towards it stopped you from experiencing it. And again, if sound is more important to you than quality racing then perhaps watching old documentaries is more for you…

        • I love the sound isn’t deafening any longer. Too me it sounds like modern power should. The cars are definitely more of a handful for the drivers and I don’t know any fan of racing that doesn’t want that.

    • Ditto. I haven’t watched a race in ages, after watching every race for the previous 2+ decades, and almost every one live. I know of three other people locally who watched F1, and not one of them has watched almost anything of it since the season started, either.

      F1 this year is an utter joke. I stop by and glance at the news headlines every now and then to confirm that the predictable is continuing to play out as predicted, and thus far it’s almost precisely what I predicted before the year even started. (About the only surprise so far has been that Ricciardo is outperforming Vettel pretty consistently.)

      F1 is no longer a sport, it’s entertainment whose main attraction is completely neutered by awful rules, homologation, and supremely bad management. The cars sound terrible, look even worse, and there’s almost no actual racing left — just senseless push-to-pass and total dominance by one engine manufacturer which has a vast, yawning, homologated advantage over all its rivals.

      There’s no real opportunity for rivals to catch up with engines homologated and vast performance differences between them. When homologation was first introduced, I said this would eventually happen, and it did. At least when it was introduced, the engines were brought to something somewhat approaching parity first, but this time around there’s been no attempt at parity — just “get it right first time, and if you don’t, you’re screwed until we next change the engine formula”. It’s asinine.

      Not only could you say which team would win before the season even started this year (and I did just that), you could have predicted which team would win next year too. And probably the year after that, as well.

      • Just dropped in to complain? I’ve been watching and attending F1 many, many years longer then you and I would rate it one of the best seasons of F1.Yes Mercedes are dominating, but it hasn’t hurt the racing. Great racing, amazing machines. Fast is never ugly.

        Mercedes have an power unit advantage this year but everyone can make dramatic changes for next year, less the year after etc. for 5 years. Not everything is even frozen this year with regards to improving power from the unit and power delivery and regenerating systems.

        • I think you may be wasting your breath here, he’s on the other team. I’ve never really posted more than once in any of Wil’s comment sections but I have to when I see posts like the one above, I also have watched formula one for a while now and I have to say those last two races, well you’d have had to sit through 5 years of F1 races non stop to see a race as exciting as the last two races in this season alone. I really don’t get it, do they not even watch the highlights, even those get me going again after the race is over. So much happening with these cars and drivers. I’m suspecting troll.

        • Racing? With bs tricks? Drs? Safety car deployment which caused the first four cars leading to be relugated backwards?
          Oh, come on, what you mean by racing is action, entertainment, $$$ generating so-called excitement. But racing? Nope. Not for any purist.

          • Dude, the pursits are still here, watching great racing. You have your head lodged so far up your posterior that you wouldn’t be able to hear the difference between a V8 and boosted V6 anyway.

  11. I agree with everything said here. The Hungarian GP was right up there with some of the greatest. So was Bahrain, and Germany. I still believe the core of the sport still lies in Europe, that is where figures have dropped the most, and they haven’t been picked up in the countries where Bernie has taken the championship. Azerbaijan won’t work, it will fall by the wayside as quickly as India and Korea did. I have to be constantly reminded F1 used to race in Turkey for this reason. As much as Bernie did for the sport during the 80′s and 90′s, his current ethos no longer works for the Formula 1 of today, which is sad because he was a talismanic figure in bringing the sport to the masses. The tickets should definitely be cheaper. I’ve only ever been to one Grand Prix despite being a lifetime fan because of the ticket prices. Rid of the gimmicky systems and tracks, and focus what makes the sport so great.

    • The Turkish GP failed because those who went the first year felt ripped off, high prices and poor viewing, and the word spread.

      Azerbaijan, population Under 10 million. Half the population of Istanbul alone and far more difficult to get to, The “European” GP (positioned roughly a thousand miles east of Europe), will last only until those paying for it,lose power or change their minds.

      Agree with Will on every point.

      • Azerbaijan, like Turkey and Russia, is a transcontinental nation. Baku itself is pretty much on the border, has hosted the Eurovision in 2012 and will host the European Games in 2015. Certainly not “a thousand miles east of Europe”, though admittedly about as far east as you can get before it becomes the wrong continent.

  12. As always well stated –

    Manipulated competition – plastic noise and thrilling sparks and double points! What’s next? Its driving the core fan base away.

    This is not the passionate F1 racing of old – its evolved to a show to feed the greedy F1 bosses. Given that, it seems perfectly natural Bernie would bring along Flavio…even if the man’s behavior resulted a life time ban from the sport. He’ll bring such character to the table. I do not hold high hopes for their meeting. Bernie will hold the teams hostage to get what he wants. In the end, he is focused on his potential short term gains from floating F1. Nothing durable or correct will result – show Bernie the money…

    What is great to see is Bottas, Force India, and of course Ricciardo’s ear to ear smile. What’s sad to see is Lewis moping on the podium after probably having the drive of his life from pit lane. Some of the passion is there in corners of the F1 world but for the most part F1 is dead…from its own doing.

  13. So very well said by one with the proper perspective and knowledge of where the sport has been, at its highs, as well as its lows. Our wish is that while the rich who control the sport contemplate how to get richer, they will not forget F1′s humble beginnings.

  14. While I agree with most of what you said, the sound of the current cars is a huge problem. I will always be a an f1 fan but my kids may not. My kids (6 & 8) know that f1 cars are supposed to sound like the F1 2012 game they constantly play and ask why the cars on TV don’t sound like f1 cars. They will continue to be fans of the drivers in that game and when they have all been replaced they will no longer be fans of the sport. The hybrid cars have zero relevance to street cars and nor should they. Its Formula one, the fastest loudest scariest cars on the planet. If its not a specticle that must be seen in person, what’s the point

  15. Well written as always Will. I will disagree though that the look and sound of the 2014 cars are not a large factor in the drop-off of interest and attendance.

    That said you are spot on the rest. Bernard does not need this dog and pony show. He in fact created this mess. Stop selling races to the shaky and shady countries that take from the masses, yes you Vladimir, and go back to the roots and track owners who supported F1 all these years.

  16. Right on my man! Love your work and will miss you during the break. Any chance you’ll cover the summit?

    Sent from my 🍎 iPad2

    >

  17. Couldn’t agree more, Will. Making it more affordable to us fans, as opposed to bleeding us all dry, is what’s required. Bringing back that execrable scumbag Briatore is a classic Bernie maneouvre to distract from the real issue. Look at the emperor’s lovely new clothes!

  18. The lack of popularity can be summed up one one word : money.

    Grandstands are empty because tickets cost too much.
    Tickets cost too much because the circuits are forced to pay massive fees to Bernie.

    TV figures are down (in the UK) because half of the live races are on Sky, and if you don’t have a subscription (or a friend with one) you have to fork out £300 – a chunk of which goes to Bernie.
    And if you can’t afford that, 50% of the races are highlights only. The coverage is fine, but the knock-on effect is that you have to stay away from ALL social media for 7 hours until the BBC have shown their delayed highlights.
    And all because of the money that goes to Bernie.

    It’s nothing to do with ‘the show’, it’s everything to do with the cost

  19. Great article! Unfortunately, after the insane double points and standing restarts rule changes, it’s hard to have much confidence in the sport’s decision making process. Perhaps I would be more hopefule when we learn who the media representatives are.

  20. I only caught the last half of the race but I really enjoyed it. Fabulous battles on the track. Forgot about the engine sound (which I didn’t mind as a change from something screaming in my ear) and the funny looking cars. I was too engrossed in seeing real racing.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the current product. Nice to see someone other than Vettel winning and I have nothing against him.

    Don’t think adding gimmicks helps F1′s credibility. It reminds me of gimmicks that Brian France is foisting upon NASCAR fans.

  21. Hi Will, a well written article as always. The cost of attending a race is definitely a problem but not the biggest. my husband and I have been to a few over the years and were lucky enough to attend spa last year. an iconic circuit, covered grandstand at eau rouge, it should have been fantastic, instead it left us feeling completely let down, after spending a small fortune we experienced big screens so small that you couldn’t read the drivers names on, commentary that couldn’t be heard (eventually got it on phone radio but the quality compared to the tv was awful and had little idea of what was happening), the portaloos were covered in feaeces inside and rivers of urine ran under the grandstand to be walked through when entering/leaving, I’m partial to a bit of fast food but not for overpriced poor quality stuff for 3 days. The only glimpse we had of a driver was on the driver parade (so far away it was hard to recognise them) and on the screen in the press conference…totally disappointing we get better insight sitting on the sofa at home and watching the tv. In fact the best F1 weekends we have had have been having a city break, going to a sports bar and watching the race in the company of other fans.
    F1 doesn’t need to fix the racing but does need to address what sort of value the fans are getting when they spend their cash on going to a race…it needs to feel special, we want to feel like we are experiencing the gloss and glamour of F1

    • Karen, I just wanted to share with you this comment I saw on another site that I think dovetails nicely with yours. (but also wanted to ask if you’ve ever been to the Hungarian GP? I haven’t, but apparently it’s considered by some fans to be a relative “value” GP w/ fair prices for food and tickets.)

      Anyway, here is the comment:

      >> “The sport seems to have forgotten about the fan who goes to the grand prix. For the average man who saves all year to go to his home grand prix there is an abundance of food & merchandise stalls all selling the same thing, but I can remember going to a race in the early 2000s and seeing the cars up close on display and sitting in them and there being a driver autograph session actually at the teams stand after qualifying all in the f1 village section. Silverstone made a massive effort to make the weekend more of a festival this year and it was much better but more can still be done. Allowing the fans to actually interact with the sport, or allowing the drivers to let off some steam by doing donuts if they’ve won a race! Heaven forbid!!! I mean come on what’s with all the marketing on the f1 tv about f1 being the worlds fastest brand! Have they forgotten its actually a sport that a lot of us are passionate about and not just a brand!!! The atmosphere at Silverstone this year was amazing but to have it come up on the screens to not invade the track, i know there is health & safety but let people live and celebrate a fantastic race, i dread to think how many times I’ve seen the vt of mansell winning and there being a track invasion and thinking god i bet that was an amazing race to be at!!!!” <<

      Cheers

      • I have my ticket stub from the 1972 Grand Prix at Mosport. It was a Super Ticket and includes practice, qualifying, pit pass, paddock access, camping and a grand stand seat all for the sky high price of $15.00. Less than $100.00 in todays money.

        Montreal 2014, no paddock or pit access, Hotel and ticket (practice, qualifying, race) $1000.00 minimum.

    • A friend of mine went to Spa a couple of years ago and reported back a similar story – not that he cared! Unfortunately the massive fee paid to stage F1 puts huge pressure on the budget to actually run the event and the services available to the fan suffer as a result. How Bernie gets away with moaning at the lack of Silverstone upgrades whilst banking £100m amazes me. Non-state backed venues are always going to struggle to balance the books between bringing the event in the first place and providing a safe/clean/modern venue for the paying punter. Ultimately the commercial deal is to blame and until the cost pyramid is restructured it’ll be the same story for a lot of the traditional venues.

  22. Sadly the Hungarian GP was a fluke and not the norm. We watched a dominant Mercedes GP car thrash the field to the podium from dead last. We watched the field get turned upside down because of poorly timed pit stops and/or just bad luck due to catching the front runners out and sending them flying backwards on the grid from the safety car. I am sure Bottas and Vettel were not happy with the way the race played out Sunday after their heroic efforts on Saturday and for the beginning of the race.

    Yes, we are all delighted it was not a Mercedes 1-2 Sunday, instead a 2nd manufacturer won for the 2nd time at the 1/2 way mark of the season. Lets go back to last year, we had 5 different winners and 4 different manufacturers by the 1/2 way point. No one would expect the remainder of the season to be dominated to boldly as it was. Everyone cried it was boring, what does it make this season? We are all excited because Red Bull stole a win from Mercedes and there was actually 3 different manufacturers on the podium and Ferrari was there!! Are we going to pretend this was a valid result?

    Sorry, this is a mess, yes, we are all excited because there are fun races happening for 7th place. Meanwhile we all tune in to see who is going to come in 3rd and hope to find something to get excited about further down the grid. We all pray a Mercedes will have trouble (if you are not a fan or just tired of them always winning) or a mistake just so it will be more interesting.

    While the last half of 2013 was a snorefest too, at least the season did not start as one. Lets hope the other teams have developed enough to finally challenge these Silver Arrows because, I, for one, have been losing interest fast. I only watched Sunday (on Tivo) because it was a rainy afternoon and I had some good beer that needed drinking.

    • Expecting close races at the front with different winners etc.. is completely unrealistic.

      Throughout F1′s history the best racing has always been a bit further back & who really cares where the good racing is as long as there’s good racing?

      I don’t watch a race just to watch the leaders, I watch a race to watch to full field.
      If there is no battle at the front but a great & exciting battle for last place or whatever thats still an exciting race in my book.

      Hungary was fun but there have been plenty of races this year that have been just as exciting even if there is nothing going on for the lead. Hockenheim for instance was also a very good race despite Rosberg dominating it from start to finish.

    • F1 has often been like that. Years like 06,07,08,10,12 are not normal. We are spoiled. And even then only 2010 2012 (kinda McLaren despite their reliability woes) and 2007 saw more than two protagonists.

      McLaren dominated the 80′s
      Williams the early and mid/late 90′s
      Benetton the mid 90s
      McLaren late 90s
      Ferrari early to mid 00s
      Renault 2005

      The problem is instant feedback and a voice for everyone via the internet.

      This season has been riveting and I am a die hard Tifoso. The racing has been sublime. These cars are ao technologically advanced. Are they slower than they used to be? Sure. But they are still fast as heck. It is probably safer for the drivers as well. And think about the specially made qualifying tyre, low fuel on board, special qualifying engine of which they brought a new one every weekend those 2004 times were set on.

      Look at the lost downforce, harder smaller tires, smaller engines, 1600km longevity of these engines, sorry, power units, and that’s all the more incredible.

      F1 2014 despite some of its flaws is providing great racing and awesome technology. We as fans need to tell F1 what is so right about the sport we love and not what is wrong with it every day.

      • Peter and Nick

        My point is, everyone gets all gushy because we had one good race that was artificially created by a series of fluke events = instant feedback. Everyone is more than willing to forget the other 6 races where Mercedes handily dominated the entire field.

        Watching 2 cars that are 1 second a lap faster than the rest of the field fight it out was fun for a couple of races. Now it is getting tiresome. It is a throwback to the old days when, as Will pointed out 2 cars would finish on the lead lap. Except back then there were a lot less rules and regs.

        I guess we can be glad Lewis is providing fantastic entertainment, it is sort of like when you get bored playing a racing simulator on your gaming console, you start from the back and see how fast you can slice through the field. Lewis is playing with the rest of the grid.

        I, for one, hope this past Sunday is a sign that the other teams are catching up, or figuring out a way to use smart strategy to beat the Mercs since straight up racing them is not going to work.

        • As Will pointed out there have been proably 5 great races this year. Brahrain, Canada, Austria, GB, and Hungary. Not just one race as you say.

          Sure Mercedes have dominated, but they have also been racing each other quite often. There is an 11 point gap in the championship race at summer break. That is exciting.

          Atleast we have an intrateam battle, unlike Schumi killing Rubens. Or Mika wiping Coulthard. Or Alonso beating Fisi…

  23. In my opinion, the racing quality has skyrocketed since the stewards have kept their noses out of every little bump & bang between the drivers. Not sure what race it was this year, but it was getting ridiculous with all the race penalties & investigations being shoveled out during the race, and in turn the drivers were over cautious and not really racing in my opinion. The fact is that these are drivers, RACING drivers. As a spectator that is what makes a good show. Letting the drivers duke it out on the circuit the way the sport was intended. The last few races have shown that immensely and therefore have been astounding to watch. I found myself at times standing on foot, nearly screaming at my telly….. the races have been that close & that good.

    More than anything, I would love to watch a race in person. Sadly I do not have oodles of money, the ticket prices are absurd. Hey Bernie, give us fans a break, if you lower them, they will come.

  24. Fan of 42 years here and if I had to pay to watch F-1 on tv I simply would not. Sorry for you folks that have to do it to get the live feed. It’s simply not worth it.

  25. Good article, Want to add that people don’t watch Tv like they did ten years ago, we watch on out tablets, and streams, which make the tv time reduce.

  26. I think the fact that the bosses of F1 refer to it as the “show” rather than the sport pretty much sums up the dismal direction we are heading. I love the sport and yes we need more access but I think the main problem aside from the gimmicks is the constant bashing of the sport by the higher ups in teams that are currently losing and taking all the prize money.

    I think this just highlights the problems with the way the sport is run. Being scared and blackmailed by the old guard. Its a sport about evolution and racing, new ideas and excitement.

    Sometimes racing is boring but that is the way racing is the best guy normally wins, which can be dull.

  27. I for one think this year has been spectacular, I am still in awe how the engineers have managed to get cars as reliable as they are after winter testing. It shows the extreme talent working on these cars, unbelievable.

    The one thing that has hurt F1 (and sponsorship I believe) is the Pay TV thing. That for me is the one big negative along with high circuit prices as some venues.

    I am very positive about the show, quali is fantastic, the races, while sure Merc have sailed off, we have two top drivers battling it out. Lots of battles through out the field. Williams rising again is another huge highlight, so many commentators were asking is the day of the privateer team dead forever? No, it’s not.

    Controversy? Always been a part of F1. Tyres? I remember races from the early 90′s where tyres were mentioned more. Engine noise? Well, that’s been forever changing. I feel very positive about F1 and there’s so many good points, I’m even putting together a list which I think would be good to push. Great blog Will and between F1 and GP2 this year, we’re spoiled :)

  28. I admit, the cost of going to a race is just too much. I understand the ticket prices, but the hotels?
    We spent over 500 bucks a night to stay at a freaking super 8 in Austin. Talk about crazy!!!
    I would gladly do it again if the cars sounded better. It’s not just that they are quiet, it is simply that they do not sound insane. That is (and always will be) the most important thing when attending a race. You want to give me a 19K rpm 10 cylinder beast, and then attach all those green things that make it hybrid? I will be the first in line. Bring back re-fueling and drop fuel flow. You want to make F1 green? Go after all the support equipment, trucks, planes, schedule etc.

    • ” Bring back re-fueling”

      Who, So we can get all the passing & all the racing done in the pits again?

      All refueling ever did was kill the on-track racing. On-track overtaking plummeted from the very 1st race refueling was introduced & shot back up from the very 1st race it was banned.
      2010 the 1st year of the refueling ban featured the largest number of on-track overtaking than any year since 1989.

      Its also interesting to look back at how refueling was only introduced for 1994 because Bernie wanted to ‘spice up the show’ & how at the time most of the teams were against it, Most of the F1 media were against it & most importantly most of the fans were against it.
      They used to have fan letters in the MotorSport magazines at the time & through 1994 & into the next few years there were always a lot of fan letters complaining about refueling & the negative effect it was having on the racing.

      I myself stopped watching every race for a period from 1994-2000 purely because of what refueling did the to racing, It pretty much killed it by making fuel stops & fuel strategy more important than the on-track racing product & it moved overtaking off the track & into the pits.

      If refueling ever did come back I’d turn off for good.

      • So, let me get this straight…
        You missed 6 years of racing because of re-fueling?? That is sad for any F1 fan to hear. I think you missed out. I am sure there are streaming sites available for you if you wanted to go back and watch them. It is worth it just for the sound:)

        I like re-fueling simply because it adds more variability to strategies employed by the teams. I enjoyed seeing the teams involved more. I still feel there is nothing quite like a low fuel loaded, super soft tyred, bonzai run for a few laps.

        • I should have worded that better, I didn’t stop watching F1 altogether, I just no longer watched every race as I had done before.
          I have since seen the races I missed at the time & I don’t think I really missed much.

          I get that it added strategy elements but I felt refueling limited rather than enhanced strategy as strategies were usually decided after qualifying & most of the time everyone did pretty much the same thing with not much real input from drivers.
          Pre-refueling when teams/driver had complete freedom over tyre strategy with no mandatory stops or limitations on tyre compounds you had far more strategy options & drivers actually had a say in them.
          For instance Schumachers 2nd F1 win at Estoril in 1993 where he made the call to abandon a planned 2nd stop which led to a thrilling on-track scrap between he & Prost.
          Another great example is the 2 Leyton house cars at the 1990 French Gp, The front runners all made 1 or 2 tyre stops but both Leyton House cars opted to No-stop & ended up 1st/2nd which led to a brilliant & unpredictable end to the race with Ivan Capelli eventually losing out to Prost with 2-3 laps to go.

          All I felt refueling did was move the racing into the pit lane & all too often races were decided in the pits rather than on track to the detriment of the racing.
          The very 1st race of refueling’s introduction for example the 1994 Brazilian Gp, Great fight for the lead between the 2 best drivers (Senna/Schumacher), They pit for fuel, Schumacher comes out ahead & then runs off into the distance turning the rest of the race into a somewhat dull affair.
          Schumachers 4 stop fuel strategy at the 2004 French Gp is another example, A great on-track duel between he & Alonso over the 1st 10-15 laps then killed by refueling strategy as you had the 2 drivers fighting for the lead separated by 10-15 seconds with no on-track pass for the lead.

          There were many other similar examples of good races been ruined by refueling.

  29. To anyone with even the scantest knowledge of this sport, it is abundantly clear that it is Formula 1’s business model which is broken, not the racing spectacle itself.

    Well said, Will.

    I hope you’ll next focus on the cowardly, craven response of the very TPs whose livelihoods (and those of their staffs) are being put at risk by the unsustainable, wealth-extracting, asset stripping (soon enough!) business model [to your print colleague Dieter Rencken’s very sensible question at the TP PC, excerpted here: https://thejudge13.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/bfripresserdebt.jpg%5D.

    Cheers, Will.

  30. To anyone with even the scantest knowledge of this sport, it is abundantly clear that it is Formula 1’s business model which is broken, not the racing spectacle itself.

    Well said, Will.

    I hope you’ll next focus on the cowardly, craven responses (to your print colleague Dieter Rencken’s very sensible question) of the very TPs whose staffs’ livelihoods are being put at risk by the unsustainable, wealth-extracting, asset stripping (soon enough!) business model destroying F1.

    See here for the specific, shambolic quotes: https://thejudge13.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/bfripresserdebt.jpg

  31. I’m an American fan new to F1 – started watching last year (Nurburg was my first, and have watched every race since on NBCSN). I was amazed at the technical complexity of the sport, the drama of qualifying, the spectacle of the start, and the tactics of the actual race. I follow f1 news online and started a driver pool at work. I think the racing this year has been compelling and entertaining and I am always excited when thursday rolls around on an F1 weekend.
    I don’t pretend to understand all the politics behind the scenes, but I fervently hope that NBCSN continues its excellent coverage. I think F1 is smart to move to smaller engines and to technology that can filter down to the production cars. I would be excited to seen Honda and BMW in F1.
    Keep up the great work, Will!

  32. Agree on this Will, as the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

    I have to wait most weekends until the highlights are on the BBC iPlayer to get my fix and it’s unimaginably painful, not least because I have to keep an eye on my fingers itching to check my twitter feed as to not spoil the result later on. I can’t afford to get “the Sky treatment” to hear the Murray Walker of my generation, Martin Brundle because the BBC couldn’t afford to keep him, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg within this conundrum.

    Until the powers that be give it’s audience what it wants and not what they think we need, this problem will continue and in a sport that prides itself on its biggest winners, Formula One as an entity will be the biggest loser of all.

    And it’s already 1-0 down by naming the GP in Azerbaijan the European GP.

  33. Pingback: Mercedes to revise team orders policy | F1 Fanatic Round-up | Formula 1 News

  34. I don’t hear anybody complaining about the sound of the diesel prototypes in sports car racing. The sound of the diesel’s which are very quiet have not hurt Le Mans or Sports Car racing in general so why all the complaining about the sound of F1 cars? If quieter cars will allow some race tracks to stay open later or prevent them from closing down, I am all for that.

  35. Absolutely spot on in every regard and point, Will.

    “Some seem to believe that the sport no longer grasps the imagination as it used to.”.

    I want to actually see the innovation … not in results necessarily, but in appearance. Remember the days of Tyrrell P34 6 wheeler? There was a reason for the form, fit, and function. It was cool.

    I don’t want gimmicks like DRS, unless the driver has to remove their hand from the wheel to put it over a port that provides air over the rear wing to distrurb the flow. I want to see track records (lap time) broken if not shattered. I want to see perfect laps, and terrific side-by-side battles where the driver and car that come first in the pass attempt is the one that holds their breathe the longest.

    I also want to see a more evenly distributed air time of all teams – not who ever pays to play the most $$$. I was disappointed to hear Diffey and Matchett bitch about the race director for the world feed of the Raikkonen battle in P5-7 roughly at lap 60-65. That, too, was a hell of a scrap. NBCSN – ever hear of split-screen. Oh yea, you have because you do that with the damn commercials. I would be willing to bet (figure of speech to make a point) that the FIA would make more money if they charge $0.99 USD per race to stream red lights out to checkered flag 100% commercial free. You all know the Steve Jobs/Apple model with iTunes and music….

    None-the-less – F1 management is broken. I loved it and am about to throw it away just as I did when they f’ed up Champ car. There is only one good race in Indycar – the Indy 500.

    For the TV audience, I want the cars to at least sound as if they are hauling some serious butt just as they did revving to 18-20K RPM. Although I must say I was at the F1 inaugural Indy race and they sounded like they were moving 1,000 mph – but in reality relative to the Champ cars, the F1 rides were visually very slow.

    Anyway, I would rather F1 figure how to move past the 20K RPM with W12 design. Imagine.

    Will, you are right on.

  36. Great article Will. I’ll just mention one thing that I can’t get past and it is for many reasons – and it is the look of the cars. In no other industry that is currently succeeding do they go with a ‘You’ll get used to it’ or when you hear commentators say ‘You don’t even notice how ugly they are any more’. Something as fundamental as appearance in an increasingly aesthetic world should be at the front of mind. If you want to win the hearts of people you have to give them something visually appealing. There are probably hundreds of races happening anywhere in the world on a given weekend, many with racing that is as good as you get in F1 – or better. There are other series that are of world standard to follow as well. That is one of the fundamental flaws of F1 is that they don’t listen to the fans and there is an arrogance that what they have given is correct and you just have to love because it is there.

    That arrogance is what my main issue is with. That arrogance has turned F1 from beautiful cars with beautiful engine notes on beautiful tracks to something akin to the ugliest thing in the world with engine notes that people don’t enjoy on tracks that don’t endear themselves to the public.

    I would have to say you are 100% correct in that we have the best racing I have ever seen in my quarter century of following F1. We also have distinct personalities in the drivers and a range of very professional teams.

    I agree 100% with you that it is the F1 business model that is broken but I don’t think it would take a lot to get it back on track.

    Get costs under control, I think allow more technical freedom – like Le Mans, make the cars look better and you’re set.

    Currently it appears that the cars and the drivers win the hearts of the fans. Without that, does the racing even matter?

  37. The problem with F1 is that the fans have been ignored for years. We are merely an inconvenience to the money making machine.Theyre only concerned with attendance figures now because it was so obvious on tv. They never care about the empty grandstands at some of the newer flyaway races either, but they pay more to host (I assume).

  38. I completely agree with this article.

    I also just want to comment on the sounds of the engines.
    I’ve been to the track a few times this year, The Jerez test, Spanish Gp & The Silverstone test & honestly there is nothing wrong with the way these cars sound.

    Yeah ok there quieter than the V8s but the actual sound they produce is so much better & because there quieter & don’t require ear protection you can actually fully enjoy that sound.
    The old V8s were loud, but the actual sound was horrible, It was just a dull, flat, Agonizingly loud noise & every car sounded the same.

    And also regarding comments about how F1 no longer sounds like F1, Well what is the sound of F1?
    F1 has had so many engine formulas with many different sounds & not all of them have been screaming loud, In fact most of them haven’t been crazy loud.

    Those who seem to believe that engine formulas should be made taking only noise into consideration are been unrealistic. Engine formulas are & should be made based around the wants/needs of those who actually build the engines & based around the technology of the day. And the current V6 Turbo/Hybrid formula ticks both boxes, The engine manufacturer’s wanted it & its based around the current engine technology.
    If F1 had stuck with the V8s then there woudl be no interest from manufacturer’s as that formula is something they have no interest in.

    Plus these new V6 Turbo/Hybrids have made watching the cars so much more spectacular now that F1 actually has torque again thats making the cars move around under acceleration & challenging the drivers right foot a bit more.

    Ban DRS, Bring harder tyres (Take every compound to each race & let teams have total strategy freedom as they used to), No double points, Standing restarts, Success ballast or any other artificial gimmicks & lets get back to some real racing with some real, exciting & hard fought overtaking (Rather than these boringly unexciting, skill-less push of a button DRS highway passing).

  39. Thank you, thank you, thank you! The only “problem” is that FOM is working non-stop to alienate everyone. I’ve been an F1 fan since 1957 (Daily Express Trophy; BRM 1-2-3!). But now, can’t watch on TV. Can’t watch on youtube. Can’t afford to go to a race. And, heck. FOM actually *invested* in reducing the capabilities of “Live Timing” – just to piss us off I suppose (or get more money from mobile). Other than the great sportsmen out there, I’m ready to give up on F1 after almost sixty years!

  40. One more thing. Regs and Design. Far too prescriptive – provide parameters and then let’s have some innovation (can you say “Chapman”, “Murray”, etc). Fuel flow – OK; the rest is up to you. Wings and stuff – limited, but then you design the car not Charlie et al.

  41. Wonderful article Will. So true on both levels.

    We often forget that fuel and tyre saving was also happening back in the “glory” days of racing as well.

    I also think part of the financial crisis that hit the teams is in part due to tobacco companies no longer being able to sponsor. That was a huge source of funds for the teams.

  42. Without a doubt, you are passionate and committed to the sport of Formula 1. But before you lead the charge against the gates of the barbarians. You may want to tidy up your own house!

    In 2012, NBC network paid approximately 3 million dollars to broadcast F1 on NBC Sports. The majority of the races are broadcasted on the pay cable channel and not the free NBC channel (except Monaco, Brazil, US and Canada). There was to be a complimentary F1 driver feature; minimum of 4 per year. In 2013, there was the Vettel feature, which was on a continuous loop for the year. in 2014, there has not been one feature of an F1 driver. There is maybe 10 minutes to recap the race; can’t miss the curfew at 1030est.

    So now you get on a soapbox and protest the broadcast cost and connecting to new audiences! Why not demand that NBC broadcast all Sunday races which would make F1 more accessible to more US fans! Why does your network allocate more hours on NASCAR than F1;considering no NASCAR races are broadcast on the network yet? You broadcast on a weekly basis NASCAR across America; where is F1 weekly report. Where are the driver features? Where are the historic F1 races? For the approximately 400-500k US F1 viewers, what are your commitments to growing this figure? If you can only control the controlables, what’s your network vision for the sport in US?

    In your comparison of New Coke versus Coke Classic; which one is NBC Sports? What will you do to make the F1 coverage the best of the best? Start with your own house, then march on the gates of barbarians .

    • Formula 1′s move from SPEED to NBCSN saw the US stand as one of the only territories to see an audience share increase between 2012 and 13. Out figures have been up for almost every race this year, too. As such, the move to NBCSN, the model the network has implemented and the accessibility of the network can only be seen as immensely positive for the sport in the US. More people know about and are regularly watching F1 now than ever before in the US. Yes we can do more, and believe me we are working on bringing you more and more content.

      I host Paddock Pass each week, which brings news and interviews that previously went unbroadcast. We have Off the Grid. We have Road To. NBCSN is showing GP2.

      This is not SPEED. It is not a racing only network. But the level of coverage means that NBCSN truly is the home of open wheel racing in the US. Are we perfect? No. But we are working tirelessly and are proud of what we do.

      And we are thankful and humbled to see those viewing figures grow every week.

  43. Nice Blog Will, Big Fan.. and sticking with it. There certainly needs to be some mentality that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There are essentially two items in my mind that need fixing, the volume on the cars needs to be turned up. Granted, on TV its almost irrelevant but the Brand of F1 has a noise, and an identity. Bit like the Coke point, go back to the original. Right now it’s a bit like going to see your favorite rock group or DJ…..but the volumes been turned down…how does that effect sales or perceived image? There has been a lot of negative press about this, tarnished the sport no doubt and not helped by Vettel saying it sounds Sh*t. Very fixable. Secondly let the teams tweek the engines. If Renault and Ferrari could have made themselves more competitive then our season would have been even more exciting and varied, for me this has been a fantastic season, and there is so much to look forward to for 15 and beyond. Let them fix the biz model, charge less, whatever it takes. Clearly its certainly not working in some markets due to inaccessible pricing etc but on a more general view, let’s get Formula One tasting how it used too.

  44. Will, brilliant post. Commented to my son that Hungary ’14 is among top ten or top five F1 races I watched, and I’ve been a fan since the 70′s…
    NBC coverage is entertaining, just a suggestion I’d like more info and insights on strategy, etc as I need to follow with th f1 app for timing and scoring. More Will around the paddock showing the backstage… Sky coverage is a very good example, I’ve seen the UK as well as the Italian broadcast…
    Keep up the good work!
    JC
    Houston, TX

  45. Where now are the dissenting voices over engine noise? Where now, those who decried the ugly look of the 2014 cars?
    I’m right here Will.. Great blog as always Will.
    I have been a hard core F1 fan for over 2 decades. Been to both Indy and Austin. I haven’t missed a PRACTICE on TV for as long as I can remember. I took my son to his first race last year(Austin) and after all the traveling,overpriced hotels, food, tickets etc. When the cars came screaming past us for the first time we made eye contact with each other and It made it all worth it..Nothing on the planet sounds like that.. Every hair on our body’s were standing up, ears bleeding, feel it in your bones bonding moment! He will never forget that! That was F1!

    I now don’t watch practice anymore, and every time I watch I get sad because the sound like shit> We used to crank the surround sound and enjoy every minute. Not anymore!!.

    I would never think about going to a live race now. It would be like going to a fireworks show with no booms! Nitro Top fuel drag race without sound! Going to a concert without leaving with a ringing in you ears!

    I know I am only one fan but for me The dissenting voice over engine noise will forever change my viewing habits and keep my wallet shut!

  46. Thank you Will. You are an inspiration to us all. You are clearly passionate about the sport. I wish I could watch F1 on NBCSN in Canada but it isn’t available. The only other broadcaster for F1 in Canada is TSN and their coverage is limited. They also are not on the ‘basic’ cable anymore. FTA coverage is a huge issue in my opinion.

  47. Formula One is suffering a reduction in viewers, simply because of it’s unwillingness to accept what global audiences have asked for..
    Gone are the days when the viewership was so massive that Bernie and company could dismiss their needs.
    If F1 wants to recover, the first thing that needs to change is ticket prices.
    No longer are most people willing to come up with the exorbitant cost for a race weekend…including in most cases travel and hotel cost…among others.
    The Global economic slowdown means F1 must take less up front.
    There is however, a solution…
    Here is a small part of it….
    Bring back Thursday practice for all teams.
    “Wait a minute!” you may be saying, “that would add additional cost”
    Not so fast…
    Here’s how it would actually reduce cost to the organizers….
    Charge a small amount for the folk who show up to watch Thursday practice…(not enough to hurt, but enough to cover the operations for that day).
    A small cost will attract more people over a GP weekend and that cost would be made up by volume.
    . Essentially the day would pay for itself.
    It would also expose F1 to more people and sponsors.
    With more exposure in front of actual audiences and more track running, teams could then charge a bit less (obviously for smaller logos)… to attract some of the smaller companies who’d ordinarily not have the massive funding to put an add on a car.
    That extra day would also get more reserve drivers on track. (The last thing any sponsor wants is to be paying millions to sponsor a driver and put logos on a race suit, only to have those logos and that driver not be seen in the car).
    The next thing…
    Stop trying to make F1 appear ‘green’. It not and never will be green..
    Take the silly fuel restriction off and let the guys race the cars.
    Take the MGU-H and MGU-K off and make the cars less complex for faster repair.
    Those units are there only as a result of fuel savings and add too much complexity for crews to do fast repairs and get the cars back out on track in a timely fashion.
    Nobody wants to pay massive sums of money, sit in the sun waiting for hours until a team can get a broken car fixed.
    Those lucrative TV broadcast sales figures going forward will depend largely on how companies view the track attendance figures.
    Bernie may have the broadcast rights, but unless the track and TV viewership stays attractive to companies, they’ll turn off….quickly. That’ll in turn cause TV stations to opt out and F1 will implode..

  48. Ah Guillaume,

    Interesting historical wrinkle to use New Coke as an example.

    People forget that the raison d’etre for New Coke was simple, and basic: Coke’s market share was slipping (as F1′s is, it seems). People were buying an alternative (Pepsi) instead because they preferred the flavour. Simple.

    New Coke was very carefully formulated, and extensively consumer-researched via blind taste tests. In these tests people preferred it to both Pepsi and ‘Old’ Coke.

    When New Coke replaced Old Coke, of the many millions of screaming, outraged objectors, the vast majority hadn’t bought Old Coke in ages and hadn’t even tried New Coke yet.

    Lends your comparison an ironic nuance, no?

    SC

  49. Will, I absolutely agree with you on the racing being at the best it has been for a long time, but I think you provide the wrong answer to one of the questions you pose.

    When you say “Where now are the dissenting voices over engine noise? Where now, those who decried the ugly look of the 2014 cars?”, you imply the excellent racing has silenced those critics.

    The answer is more likely to be that many of those dissenting voices from within the fan community, are the fans who have left the sport. They aren’t there anymore, because they are watching something else.

    The conversation itself hasn’t gone away, it is just happening at a different level. Niki Lauda was even quoted recently as saying he has changed his view on the matter, showing that the dissent rolls on.

  50. “The sport has failed to keep pace with its audience…and yet is willing to impose contrived gimmicks into the purity of its product to try and make the show more appealing to a market it no longer understands.”

    That pretty much sums it up. Great insights Will!

  51. This same problem occurred in snooker during the last decade. Viewer numbers were declining and the sport introduced silly gimmicks in order to rectify the problem.

    As imagined, this didn’t help so such gimmicks such as a shot clock were removed and instead focus was turned to the management and structure of the sport itself.

    Once social media was adapted to the modern age, a less out-of-touch management was brought in and structure of the sport brought more inline with other sports, snooker started to climb out of the hole it had dug itself into.

    Since then, viewer numbers have started to rise again while the sport, just like F1 seems to be doing, is dipping its toes into new territories to bring the sport to new fans across the world.

  52. Will, as an F1 fan since the days of Hesketh and Hunt I couldn’t agree more with you. IMHO there is one cause for pretty much all that ails F1 at the moment and that is Bernie. If F1 wants to listen to the voice of the F1 fans then get rid of that scheming money grabbing old man. My hope is that his trial in Germany will take him out of the picture but for its own good F1 should ditch him now.

    Just look at all the failed races such as Turkey, that hated ideas such as the double point last race, the huge cost of attending races, the loss of classic race tracks and the reduction of free to air TV. Every single one of these can directly be attributed to Bernie and his greed. His daughter is selling her $150,000,000 mansion, the money that purchased it comes from F1, imaging how much even half of the money would be to those little teams that make the grid. Would Caterham be sacking employees is more of the money was going to them?

    Regarding the NBC coverage, having just watched the last two races (highlights only) on the BBC while in the UK , I still think their coverage is the best in the world, but NBC is doing a good job. For me there are just a few thing that need to change. For a start less advertizing breaks, the NBC Premier league coverage is awesome and can be done without interupting the game so it is possible. When you have uninterupted coverage by using the small screen at the side of the advert, go STRAIGHT back to the race. Not to a minute of some random picture and programming information or a reminder of what race is being run or where it is being held or Sam Possey waffling on. I know what and where the race is, I was watching it and I didn’t want it interupted so go back NOW. Until recently I always watched the races live, even when they were at 4am, but the interuptions are getting sooooo anoying I have taken to recording the coverage just so I can skp the adverts and Sam Poseys waffle.

    Rant over, keep up the good work.

    • Agree. Though it’d be nice to find a spot for Sam and his eloquence. Just not while we’re waiting to watch the action.

  53. Pingback: Report: Ecclestone says no to standing restarts in 2015 | MotorSportsTalk

  54. Totally agree. People simply can’t afford to watch F1 anymore. Not at the track, not even on TV. It’s pricing itself out of the sports market. MotoGP tickets are about a quater to a third the price of F1 ones. Bernie needs to stop screwing everyone – the teams, the tracks, the promoters, the broadcasters, the FANs – of every red cent they can muster. It’s destroying the sport which is the best it’s ever been in terms of on-track action.

  55. Brilliant article Will. You have covered all the points nicely. Bernie/FOM knows the answers to fix a) reducing trackside attendance and b) dropping TV numbers.

    But the decisions they have taken has resulted in this situation.

    Bernie/FOM keep spiking the race event fees for the race organizers, Bernie expects the local government to pay that money, and the race fans get to attend the races at affordable costs. Unfortunately that’s not how the things fly. The event organizers are passing the costs to the track side fans and thus denying opportunity for race enthusiasts to attend races, and bring in their friends and family and add some more potential fans to the sport.
    Additionally Bernie/FOM also control the track side advertizing, and race event sponsorship, thus the race organizers are denied that avenue to raise money and reduce ticket prices.

    On the reducing TV numbers, again unless the race is shown on Free TV, no new fans will be added to the sport. On pay channels only the existing and diehard fans will be watching the races.

    The rule changes that FOM/Bernie/FIA/Strategy group comes up with to spice up the show for the casual fans doesn’t make sense, since the casual/new fans are not attending races, or paying to watch races on TV for the reasons mentioned above.

    So all that Bernie/FOM and then Strategy Group/FIA does is drive away life long fans, by doctoring rules to cater to the casual fans who are not even aware of something called as F1.

    Self destructing spiral is what F1 has got into.

    Passing note – Only reason Flavio Briatore is known in the world outside F1 is for his celebrity affairs, and for him putting a driver whom he managed ( and ironically, whom he employed as well ) under duress to crash, and change the outcome of the race. For the F1 insiders to join forces with this element to improve “F1 popularity drive” is a horrible idea. Maybe he and Charlie Whiting can come up with more artificial safety car situations ( like in Nascar) to bunch up the field and have 3 lap dash to chequered flag.

  56. Great as always, Will. Your blog is one of the few items I really look forward to seeing in my inbox. I agree with almost all you said but I will add my little voice to those still unhappy with the sound of the current cars. I have heard all the arguments and I get it that some people actually prefer this new sound. Sound, for me, has ALWAYS been one (repeat, one) of the things that made F1 so great. And I have been following the sport since my first race in 1968 so have heard many different engine sounds over the years live and on TV. It was important enough that after years of not being able to afford an F1 weekend, my husband and I were determined, damn the cost, to see and hear the cars at least once more before they changed. We attended Montreal in 2011 and loved it so much we returned for two more goes. The sound was one of the reasons for us going to the expense of seeing the racing live. I admit it was disheartening to see how easily we were dismissed by you and other journalists whose opinions and insights we valued highly. Perhaps if we were able to attend every race for years on end, the sound would not matter as much. But for those of us who are only able to attend a race maybe once a year, if that, we loved it and now miss it. Maybe they do sound better live but we will probably never be able to afford to find out. Even as they are, we never miss a practice, qualifying or race on whatever channel NBC chooses to use. And, sound aside, we certainly have not been bored!

  57. Will – I am curious to learn the responses from discussions I assume you have with the team principals on the state of affairs of F1. Do they freely speak their mind with you under an implied “off-the-record” chat? It would seem to me they have a vested interest in the appearance and overall success of the sport.

    Secondly, the appearance is Bernie Ecclestone is an 83 dictator. Isn’t it time for the league members, team owners, and board to vote him out and replace him with, oh, let’s say Damon Hill? Or are the said members making too much $$$$ under Bernie’s watch?

  58. There has been some talk that, perhaps, Bernie needs to retire…mmm, just thinking. The
    Business Model you were saying; is that right, Will?

  59. Yes Will…spot on. The business model is broken.
    For a sport to regain its popularity it has to be accessible. It’s a cycle, it’s a pendulum. The trick to knowing how to extract the maximum amount of dollars is “who needs who”. And at the moment, the sport needs to attract viewers by making it more accessible. That is, Free to Air television and make it part of the rights deal to grow the viewership. The goal, at this point in the cycle, should be to increase market share, not to extract the dollars. The sponsors will then inject more dollars into the sport (although not DIRECTLY into Bernie’s pockets) because they will have more “reach”.
    Then, when the pendulum swings back, and there are more viewers, THEN Bernie can ask for more money.

  60. Here is what makes me mad about F1

    …………..Indycar…….. Nascar……F1
    Cheep
    Tickets 50 50 $600
    Team Full Full Very
    radio. Limited
    Fan
    driving Ride along Yes. No
    experience
    App Free. Free $50(2013)
    $10(2014)

    The FIA thinks the problem is boring races. The boring “parade”. Races are a thing of the past. F1 is much better then all other motor sports. What other sport do they have such powerful cars, exotic locations, and 2 sec pit stops. The event is not the problem. The problem lies it the snobbery of the FIA. They work tirelessly to pull the FOM data off of locations like you tube, when in fact places like you tube are often great publicity.

    A great example of the problem of f1. Is when i left for university ( back in the speed f1 days) my university didn’t have the speed network and i couldn’t find the races online so i didn’t get to watch f1 for 9 months out of the year.

    Lastly the way they hand out prize money is despicable. They ask these guys to build multi million dollar cars that are high maintenance and keep hundreds of employees on staff. But they only pay the top 10 of 11 teams. Giving the most to the top and only 10M to the bottom. Which ever Mrussura or Caterham finishes the highest once gets 10M (ie nothing) and the other actually gets nothing. While Ferrari gets an extra 10M on top of there winnings just for being Ferrari. And as far as i am aware there is no prize for wining a race. Just points. Its no wonder we lost HRT and Caterham was considering dropping out and teams like Sauber and lotus were in finical trouble. Its not fair! At the current rate Mrussura and Caterham will never be able to score points. And will probably leave. We want a big field but its nearly impossible to join the game any more.

    Quit changing the race and start changing the culture for the teams and the fans.

    • The FIA thinks the problem is boring races. The boring “parade”. Races are a thing of the past. F1 is much better then all other motor sports. What other sport do they have such powerful cars, exotic locations, and 2 sec pit stops. The event is not the problem. The problem lies it the snobbery of the FIA. They work tirelessly to pull the FOM data off of locations like you tube, when in fact places like you tube are often great publicity.

      >> FIA doesn’t determine the ticket prices, fan access, and fan experience. Nor does FIA control the content ( i.e race video clipping, either recorded by the track side fans, or by Formula One Management’s official recording, and broadcasting partners) ownership.
      All that is determined by Bernie who is the boss to Formula One management (FOM) and who works for CVC capital, the private equity group that has paid for the rights to run the F1 racing series.

      FIA role is more of governance, and advisory. While in days of Max Mosley, FIA overstepped its authority, and practically dabbled in every aspect of F1 operations, in the years since Jean Todt has become FIA boss, FIA is trying to stick to its governance, and advisory role not just to F1, but all the race series authorized by FIA.

      Unfortunately the stakeholders involved in F1 i.e. Bernie, FOM, CVC, Race promoters, team owners, myriad groups created to spice up F1 (e.g. overtaking group, strategy groups and what nots) are all so dysfunctional, that now I feel Jean Todt needs to be more assertive, take a firm control and get these unruly kids to fall in line. If FIA doesn’t do that F1 will lose its place as jewel in the crown among all the racing series sanctioned by FIA.

  61. “Some seem to believe that the sport no longer grasps the imagination as it used to. They believe that the product has to change to adapt to a new generation.”

    But this has been the modus operandi for the past ~10 years, though??? Front wing flaps, DRS, KERS, grated cheese tires, single lap qualy, limited tire sets etc. etc….all various attempts to either spice up the show, or placate the auto industry marketing men…

    You article is basically saying, 50% artificial/contrived F1 is just fine (don’t dare complain) but 55% is too much, F1 should be pure etc…

    Contrary to your suggestion, I think in 5 years time, none of these 2014 races will stand out particularly strongly (they will just a blur of DRS-ing, and new-tire, old-tire overtakes.) Hungary was entertaining no doubt (and there was legitimately great driving – Lew, Dan, Fred etc. superb) but imo lacking the legitimacy and gravitas of those supposedly ‘boring’ races from the past…

    • The new generation access media through the tv in a limited fashion, they use IP based platforms like mobile and laptops and expect to be able to access media when they want to. They can try and mess with the show as much as they like, if its only being broadcast on tv and online in real time, they simply wont see it.

      Watch kids habits today and they are usually doing 3 things at once. Watching vids or music, chatting with friends and playing online games. Youtube and Facebook feature heavily here, so how are you going to engage this audience?

      You funnel the audience through social platforms to a web/app portal where they can view F1 in way that interests them and allow them to interact with other users. In case Bernie is wondering, this how you monetise social.

  62. The racing on track is fine, few tweaks maybe, but on the whole the new regs are working.

    Problem for me is how we access F1, its rooted in legacy platforms and long term contracts with unreactive media, ie linear, omni-directional broadcasting. Ive long become frustrated in the limited scope the directors cut, this ok for casual but knowledgeable fans want to get more out of the experience and follow story’s that interest us. This wasnt possible before, but it is now with the advent of 2 way digital platforms and multicasting.

    I know they are working on a digital platform, but waiting till 2018 when many contracts are up for renewal seems like commercial suicide, they need to activate the clause that allows FOM to pull back the online rights and get a web portal up an running, and make all the feeds and audio available for fans, at a price of course.

    The facility’s are there, the technology exists and it has been successfully trialled in Japan. Time to make it happen before a generation loses interest and another passes F1 in favour of other sports that do offer non linear engagement.

    In summary, show is great, just want to be able to access the 80% we dont get to see and hear on existing platforms.

    • “they need to activate the clause that allows FOM to pull back the online rights and get a web portal up an running,”
      I hope they don’t because I’m not paying extra to get the extra content online when I currently get it all at no additional cost as part of my Sky sports subscription not just online but also on my TV red button & mobile devices.

      I don’t mind FOM running there own online service, But I don’t want those rights taken away from the individual broadcasters which would mean having to pay twice to get access to all the F1 content I currently get under 1 package.

  63. Great article Will. Unfortunately it seems that F1, like many countries, is run by greed. Unfortunately, until Bernie Ecclestone steps away, F1 will continue falling in this abyss of bad decisions.

  64. Another good article Will. Call me old school or whatever but I think F1 is still missing the point of the ‘show’. It’s entertainment. Close racing is cool and all, but for someone actually attending the race do you really see how close the racing is? Sure if you pick the right grandstand you’ll see a few passes. But you’re there (in person) to see the show as a whole.

    The show kind of sucks right now. Mpgs/new technology/ whatever. I want to go see the fastest cars in the world and hair stand up on the back of my neck. Especially if I’m going to pay 100s of dollars a day to see it. Everyone is saying ‘you’ll get overt it’ in regards to the ‘noise’. I don’t think people will.

    I for one will be gladly sitting on my couch this year instead of travelling down to Austin, because I can see close racing much better on my TV and can forgo seeing the show in person.

  65. Just wanted to include a comment about the TV numbers.

    The worst affected region with regards to falling TV numbers has been Germany & interestingly nothing has changed in the TV landscape over there since the Mid-90s as far as FreeTV/PayTV goes.

    Every qualifying session & every Race is shown live on Free channel RTL with practice shown on another FreeTV station Sport1 (Formerly D:SF).
    And alongside the FreeTV offering is an enhanced/Ad-Free/Interactive PayTV offering from Sky Germany (Formerly Premiere Sport which has carried F1 since 1996 when they had the F1 Digital+ service).

    Equally interesting is that there TV figures have been in severe decline since 2011 & I read a few days ago that fan polling/surveys done by both RTL & Sky suggests that DRS & the Pirelli tyres are the root cause as it seems most German F1 fans are firmly against these gimmicks.

  66. Pingback: Will Buxton gets it | Grand Prix Fans Association

  67. I’ve watched F1 since the early 60′s when it really was the pinnacle of motorsport. Back then as now it was a team sport. However back then even a lay person could see the different approaches and engineering creativity the teams used in producing their cars. I watched to see what amazing solutions the engineers had come up with to produce the fastest, best cornering, best stopping, and reliable (enough to get to the end of the race) cars.

    In my opinion, the emphasis on aerodynamic efficiency and the strangling of electronic and mechanical development has really hurt the series. This year is somewhat of an aberration, with all of the engine and hybrid power changes, yet the teams are still not allowed to use technologies readily available in road cars and other series (anti lock braking, active suspension, lighter/stronger/stiffer materials, innovative engine management systems, etc.). Also, forcing the teams to invest in super computers to run all the CFD simulations is hugely expensive. I get it – the teams with such systems wanted to hamper teams like Ferrari (that had their own test tracks) during a time when they were supreme, just as the 2014 formula changes has hurt Red Bull and Lotus.

    Additionally, if they truly desire to cut costs, they should specify a maximum budget each team may use, and use independent auditors to certify it. It is abundantly clear every team is spends all the money they can get, if not on mechanicals and electronics, then on aero. How and where they spend their money should be up to the individual teams. Also, if they really want the teams to be more energy efficient, they should specify the maximum energy (ergs) a team can use per race and audit that. This would allow the teams to choose what source of energy to use, the rate of its consumption, and method of delivery each uses in their cars. This would allow the elimination of rev and fuel flow limits, standardized electronics, and even forced reliability standards. Of course, safety regulations would still need to be imposed lest we return to the years where drivers were being killed on a regular basis.

    I agree with Will in that ticket prices have escalated without respect to the global economy and this has an impact on butts in the seats. Even so, because I’m a fan, I spent the, time and money to see at least one race a season, just so I could appreciate the skill, noise, and beauty of the sport. I agree also, that the problem is largely brought on by F1 itself, but I’m going to stop going to races and even following Formula 1 if it continues to move towards a combination of a spec series like Indy and forced equality and antiquated technology like Nascar and I believe a great number of people are with me.

  68. While all this may seem logical and well thought out I’m not so sure.
    When it comes to F1 I’m not so sure about anything anymore.
    There was a time when I would wake up in the middle of the night to watch a live race from the other side of the globe.
    Nowadays I find myself playing online games with the voices of the F1 commentators in the background to keep me company rather than care to watch the race itself.
    And if the livestream takes a toll on my frame rate I will shut it completely.
    Whatever the ticket prices may have done to the rest of the world have never done to me because I have never been to an F1 race.
    And I could always watch it on TV for free.
    Could it be that I’ve grown old and tired and found new interests?
    Could it be that the lack of technical challenge in modern F1 has crash landed the spirits not of just the aerodynamicists and engine gurus but my own as well?
    Could it be that I do not get excited by 34 lead changes in the last Moto GP race but a simple overtaking move by Mansell on Berger on the outside of that last corner in Mexico for second place stuck with me for the rest of my life?
    An artificially chaotic field doesn’t appeal to me any more than a dull race leading to a 1min gap for the victor.
    Do I feel that the drivers in the cockpits are really making a difference?
    And if they are, are their efforts recognizable?
    Maybe all I mentioned is just rather trivial and can’t even begin to compare in influence to the greed of the organizers slowly killing the sport if that’s the case.
    Like I said I don’t know anything anymore, I just do not enjoy it anywhere near as much as I used to.

  69. I agree completely. With the increasing hosting fees and pay for tv, the other thing I see is the likelihood that Bernie and friends are no longer interested in the fans at all but instead just milking the cash cow. Especially with the current stories that Bernie and CVC are loading F1 with billions of dollars in debt in order to line their own pockets quicker. I would not be surprised at all that this scheme ends up leading to F1 running into insolvency later on, especially if TV revenues and hosting fees begin to fall.

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