F1’s fu­ture: the fans have spo­ken

F1 Racing - - NEWS -

Writ­ing in the heat-haze after­burn of a scorch­ing Bri­tish Grand Prix, it seems al­most churl­ish to draw your at­ten­tion im­me­di­ately to our land­mark ‘state of the na­tion’ F1 fan sur­vey in this month’s is­sue. For what could pos­si­bly be wrong with a sport that man­ages to draw a crowd of 140,000 to Sil­ver­stone? Or one that can pitch two teams and four driv­ers into con­tention for vic­tory at a high­speed cir­cuit that in­ter­weaves history and moder­nity like no other? Or one that has also pro­duced a su­per­star-celeb in Lewis Hamil­ton, who is pretty much the most mar­ketable sports­man on the planet?

Alas, this happy sum­mer snap­shot can’t be taken as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the cur­rent ‘global’ con­di­tion of F1: too many tribu­la­tions lie just be­neath the sur­face sheen of world-class sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion to be over­looked. And it was with the aim of get­ting to the root of these ills (if, in­deed, they are such) that we un­der­took our re­search.

Hav­ing ab­sorbed the re­sults (yours to pore over from pages 54-61), it would seem that the cu­ri­ous cul­tural malaise af­flict­ing sec­tions of the F1 pad­dock stems largely from the vary­ing de­grees of fi­nan­cial strife be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced out­side the big four teams – Mercedes, Fer­rari, Red Bull and McLaren. Be­cause as far as you, the fans, are con­cerned, you’re still in love with the sport, thrilled by the essence of com­pe­ti­tion that im­bues F1, and rou­tinely wowed by the he­roes who torch the world’s race­tracks ev­ery cou­ple of weeks. In fact, there isn’t too much wrong with F1, you tell us, that a few tweaks to the rules and reg­u­la­tions wouldn’t fix in a jiffy.

Yet to those regularly ex­posed to the brief­ings and counter-brief­ings of­fered by se­nior pad­dock fig­ures, it can some­times seem that For­mula 1 is on the very brink of obliv­ion, so apoc­a­lyp­tic is their world-view.

This is a mind­set that ig­nores, for ex­am­ple, the fab­u­lous tech­ni­cal achieve­ment of hy­brid power units; it’s one that seems con­tent to harp back to the ‘power’ era of, say, 2004 – a sea­son, which, if mem­ory serves, was among the dullest on record, with 13 out of 18 wins for Michael Schu­macher; and fails to ac­knowl­edge some of the bar-rais­ing ad­di­tions to the F1 cal­en­dar, such as Sin­ga­pore, Abu Dhabi and the Cir­cuit of The Amer­i­cas.

They’ll over­look, too, the ar­rival of Honda, another lead­ing global man­u­fac­turer mak­ing a huge fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to F1. There is, in fact, much to celebrate in 2015-spec F1, as our sur­vey shows. It has a driver lineup as strong as any in its history; a global au­di­ence in the multi-mil­lions; and, in em­brac­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy, it has un­der­pinned its own fu­ture rel­e­vance.

Hap­pily, all these points are un­der­stood by the 30,000-plus of you who took part in our poll and, em­bold­ened by our in­de­pen­dent find­ings, our mes­sage to F1’s lead­ers is this: lis­ten to the fans; stop talk­ing the sport down; celebrate its bril­liance; set­tle your pri­vate dif­fer­ences pri­vately. Oh, and sim­plify the rules.

Then maybe we’ll all regularly feel as good about For­mula 1 as the 140,000 fans who headed home from Sil­ver­stone hav­ing had the day of their lives.


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