Driver ColumnsSam Tickell (Editor)

Commentary: F1 – does the racing even matter?

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Full disclosure – This article first appeared in a similar form in a response to this excellent article from Will Buxton – New Coke. I’ve followed F1 since 1990ish (when I was a young kid).  Aesthetic appeal in the world around me is important.  Especially in cars.

It is a great article by Will.  An article explaining that the sport of F1 isn’t broken.  It is the business model.  The racing is great, closer than it has ever been.  The cars aren’t easy to drive.

All of this is 100% truth.

The other issues with F1, outside its business model/governance is it extreme arrogance.

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.

What those in the F1 paddock won’t tell is that 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.  Heck the last Suzuki Swift race I saw at Queensland Raceway was more entertaining than the very entertaining Hungarian GP.  It is just that I don’t care about Swifts so I don’t care about the racing. You also have to know that there are other series that are of world standard to follow as well.

We cover a lot of them.  Just this month we have covered ELMS, British GT, WSBK, historic racing, TUDOR and FX SBK – all in month where I have been busy elsewhere.  Imagine the racing we could have covered otherwise. The thing is, when was the last time F1 paid attention to motorsport or what the motoring public actually wanted?

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.

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. Gone are the beautiful cars of the 1991 or 1995 Ferrari, the 1998 McLaren, even the 1994 Minardi.

Gone are the beautiful tracks – we are even at risk of losing Monza.  It is just unfathomable.  Instead we have Tilke-dromes with corporate hospitality that could probably be seen from space.  Al the fans get is to be 100m away from the action, separated into sanitised areas, paying high ticket prices.  At home the audience gets TV camera angles that may have been acceptable in 1990 and a digital strategy to match.

To top it off those in the F1 circles getting mad at the fans for daring to turn their backs.

I would have to say that it is 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 in motorsport, it appears that the cars and the drivers win the hearts of the fans. If they can’t connect with them you’re broken.  And without that, does the racing even matter?

(c) Sam Tickell,  July 2014

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