With a raft of surveys from Formula 1 magazines to the Grand Prix Driver’s Association (GPDA), you might get the impression that F1 is trying very hard to find its way and seek fan involvement in the process.
There is a trend here to be honest. This is the third time I can recall F1 being in a bit of a quagmire and beginning to discuss major changes. When that has happened, F1 media has fashioned a survey for people to complete. Nothing wrong with that if you consider this an effort to help shape the direction of F1.
However, fan involvement isn’t something former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve (JV) feels is a good idea and he has a point, telling AUTOSPORT:
“It is dangerous to ask the fans what they want, because a lot of modern F1 is what the fans wanted,” Villeneuve said.
“Obviously it doesn’t work. It is knowing what is required which is very intricate.
“You can’t just come up with something in five seconds.
“We have a tonne more overtaking than we have ever had, but people are more bored than they ever were.
“What we are missing is a special Formula 1.
“Formula 1 should stop trying to get more fans and concentrate on the fans it already has.”
He does make a case that Martin Whitmarsh tried to make several times regarding the last fan survey. When criticism amplified from social media back then, the former McLaren team boss would merely suggest that this is what you wanted, you spoke and we listened. He said it so many times that I argued he was rubbing our nose in it to be honest.
Fans would grouse and Whitmarsh would simply tell them that they voted and asked for more passing and that’s what they got via DRS and HD tires.
In large part, he’s right. This is what F1 fans said they wanted in the last big survey. DRS, HD tires and hybrid engines all present to induce prolific passing as well as becoming socially and ecologically responsible while delivering high technology.
What fans wanted has seriously injured the series with costs and a lack of interest regardless of the prolific passing they demanded. I heard the same refrain this weekend from fans about Monaco being boring and no passing…blah, blah, blah. Maybe the reality is that these aren’t really F1 fans…they are NASCAR fans or Formula E fans or fans of Mario Kart on Play Station.
One of the bigger criticisms of the current F1 system is the lack of a benevolent dictator to make the decisions that are best for the sport. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has made that abundantly clear if not controversially so. The point is, F1 is not a democracy and asking fans input sets an expectation that their voices will be heard.
If fans voice their opinions but nothing is done on a particular area of concern, you have set yourself up for a disappointment for the fan who feels passionately about that particular issue.
Fan appeals can never fully be sated and that is one of the issues of asking people what they want in F1 instead of simply doing the job and making the changes that are best for the sport. Making F1 special again. What does a “special F1” look like? JV explains:
“What is special is a car that no-one can drive.
“It is a car that only 10 guys in the world can drive properly and 10 others can survive properly in it. Like it used to be.
“It is a car that is crazy fast. F1 should be the extremes of everything.”
Before you shrug that off, this is a guy who survived some incredible crashes at Eau Rogue just before it became possible to go flat out through that corner so he knows what crazy fast is.
The reality is that there are differing levels of “fans” and you have to decide which fans you want to hear from and why. The mobocracy of social media enjoys the bravery of being out of range. Flippant comments and re-tweets are not hard metrics for changing a complete racing series. The question is, are fans surveys any better metrics for changing F1?
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT