F1’s future: the fans have spoken
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.