The dou­ble world cham­pion writes ex­clu­sively for F1 Rac­ing


As I sit down to write this, the F1 sum­mer break has come to an end and the Bel­gian Grand Prix is start­ing our con­ti­nen­thop­ping rush to the end of the sea­son – from Europe to Asia, then to Amer­ica via the Cau­ca­sus, and back over the At­lantic again to nish in the Mid­dle East. It’s tir­ing for the peo­ple who work in the sport but, I think, nec­es­sary – be­cause for a sport to have a truly global ap­peal it has to cre­ate a phys­i­cal con­nec­tion with fans all over the world. Watch­ing a race on tele­vi­sion is one thing but ac­tu­ally be­ing there is some­thing else.

So I was very glad to learn that the Mex­i­can GP is re­turn­ing to the cal­en­dar next year, and that F1 will be en­ter­ing new ter­ri­tory with a race in Azer­bai­jan in 2016. There’s so much pas­sion for F1 in Mex­ico. I only com­peted in one F1 race there – it was my fth grand prix start – and the grand­stands were com­pletely full. It will be like that again in 2015, for sure, be­cause there are two Mex­i­can driv­ers on the grid – Ser­gio Pérez and Este­ban Gu­tiér­rez. There have been a few Mex­i­can driv­ers in F1 over the years, but I think Ser­gio and Este­ban are among the most tal­ented, along with the coun­try’s orig­i­nal F1 pi­o­neers, Ricardo and Pe­dro Ro­dríguez, after whom Mex­ico City’s cir­cuit is named. The Autó­dromo Her­manos Ro­dríguez has al­ways been a chal­lenge to drive on be­cause of the bumps and the al­ti­tude, but it has a great down­town lo­ca­tion, so it’s very easy for spec­ta­tors to get to.

The only down­side of the ur­ban lo­ca­tion is that there’s now a road on the other side of the fence from the iconic Per­al­tada cor­ner, so we may have to let that one go. Still, chang­ing the cir­cuit opens up new op­por­tu­ni­ties – just look at In­ter­la­gos, which also had to un­dergo a big change, but which re­mains one of the great­est tracks to drive, with many dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. It’s also mov­ing with the times – a new pit com­plex is be­ing built as I write. Azer­bai­jan’s ar­rival has prompted the usual ques­tions about break­ing new ground. Some peo­ple worry new races squeeze out clas­sic tracks from the cal­en­dar and don’t at­tract enough spec­ta­tors. It’s a com­plex is­sue with no easy an­swers. I was in­ter­ested to hear Christian Horner’s an­swer to a ques­tion about the dis­ap­point­ing attendance at the Ger­man and Hun­gar­ian GPs; he said that if ex­ist­ing ter­ri­to­ries don’t show much in­ter­est, why not visit those cry­ing out for it?

That’s part of the right an­swer – but I don’t think half-full grand­stands are a sign that a coun­try isn’t in­ter­ested. Hock­en­heim tick­ets were very ex­pen­sive, and I read re­ports that it cost 10 for an ice cream! That’s an ex­pen­sive day out if you’re bring­ing the fam­ily – and I be­lieve that for the sport to grow, we need to en­cour­age peo­ple to bring their chil­dren to races.

A cou­ple of thoughts struck me as I was at Sil­ver­stone a cou­ple of months ago for the Bri­tish GP. Firstly, how much I’d en­joyed tak­ing part in the pa­rade of his­toric F1 cars, and how the spec­ta­tors had loved it, too. To pull ev­ery­thing to­gether had taken a lot of

“Pro­mot­ers need to have more hap­pen­ing at the cir­cuit to keep peo­ple en­ter­tained”

ef­fort from Tony Jar­dine and the BRDC, but it was worth it. Th­ese days you can’t ex­pect peo­ple to make a long jour­ney, then sit in the same seat all day wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen. Race pro­mot­ers need to have more hap­pen­ing on and around the cir­cuit to keep peo­ple en­ter­tained and en­gaged.

More races on the support card? Fun­fairs, sim­u­la­tors and live mu­sic to en­cour­age peo­ple to move round and change the pace of the day? Bet­ter in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity so they can share their ex­pe­ri­ence with friends and per­suade them to come next year? The most suc­cess­ful races are all do­ing this. At Sil­ver­stone I no­ticed tem­po­rary mo­bile phone masts had been put up around the cir­cuit to pro­vide a bet­ter sig­nal, and the F1 Rac­ing Fan Vil­lage at Whit­tle­bury Park had free Wi-Fi. At Sin­ga­pore they’ll have Jen­nifer Lopez, Rob­bie Wil­liams and the Pet Shop Boys per­form­ing live over the week­end. Abu Dhabi will have some­thing sim­i­lar.

Some­thing else that struck me at Sil­ver­stone… my boy put down his phone and watched the race. Gen­eral Mo­tors re­cently did a survey and found that while pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of teenagers viewed own­ing a car as the most im­por­tant thing in their lives, now what they all want is a smart­phone. We must deal with this gen­er­a­tional change. On the ev­i­dence of my own eyes, mod­ern F1 is ex­cit­ing enough to per­suade the kids to set their phones aside and en­gage with the spec­ta­cle in front of them. All we need to do is get them through the door!

The 2015 Mex­i­can GP is sure to draw a big crowd due to the pres­ence of home tal­ent Ser­gio Pérez and Este­ban Gu­tiér­rez

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.