Asking fans what they want from F1 is ‘dangerous’

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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:

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“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.”

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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:

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“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.”

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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

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Daniel Johnson

He touches on the soul of F1, which is crazy fast and extreme in every way, right now we just have extreme expensive go karts, all that’s missing is arming Manor with blue shells.

xorpheous

Sounds like JV has the movie “Grand Prix” memorized, “There are fewer than thirty men in the world qualified to drive Formula One; a mere half-dozen, perhaps, to win. At this moment, I am inclined to think you are not one of them.” The reality of it is, though, if customers are not buying your product, don’t blame the customers. That won’t get you anywhere except bankruptcy. Instead, you do need to tailor your product to your customers. A large part of doing that, though, is identifying just whom your customers are. As you mentioned, Formula 1 needs to decide… Read more »

MIE

Now there’s a brilliant idea, bring back the riding mechanic, and remove all the telemetry to the pit lane. The driver and mechanic would then have to decide their strategy alone, with the team responding as and when they pitted.
The only problem is who would ride alongside Maldonado?

MIE

Villeneuve has a point. The response to the last survey indicated fans wanted more overtaking, and now we have more overtaking. The issue I have is not with asking fans, it is what you ask them. If the last survey had said would you want DRS or HD tyres, then the answer may well have been different. The FIA regulations for single seater racing need to be examined as a coherent whole, and changes made accordingly. So when corner speeds in F1 need to be controlled (so that we can continue to use traditional circuits without adding acres of additional… Read more »

Glenn

The issue with asking fans what they want is that it is far easier for most fans to say what they don’t want or don’t like about the current format. Beyond the basic excitement level alluded to by JV in being difficult to drive and crazy fast, it takes some technical expertise and racing insight on what new innovations might be the solution to all this (as opposed to re-inventing the old tried and tested solutions which seems to be the common theme right now). Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask drivers and maybe ex-drivers and talented rookie/reserve drivers… Read more »

dude

Since when did Jacques Villeneuve have fans? And now he’s blaming the fans for the state of the sport? Wow. Real fans doesn’t want DRS, tyres saving or muted electric engines. All of these are commercial interests, not fans interests.

Mike

I recently sat down with a friend to try and come up with changed that would improve the sport, each of us playing devil’s advocate to the other’s suggestions. We found that it’s nearly impossible to “have it all.” We agree that we would like to see the cars get faster, and my friend remarked that speed isn’t necessarily unsafe, like you said about Spa, the track layout was the issue, and track safety has been vastly improved, just as Max about his shunt last weekend. But what will make the cars faster? New engines? More high cost. Refueling? More… Read more »

eram

Oh yeah that Sony Playstation classic Mario Kart. It’s only dangerous for the sport when the fans ask for machine gun attachments and rocket launchers on f1 cars……..

I did the survey and asked for machine gun attachments and rocket launchers on f1 cars.

Negative Camber

Isn’t there a turtle shell you can shoot? :)

Paul KieferJr

I’m dangerous? Just exactly what did you think I was going to ask for?

Alianora La Canta

If modern F1 was what the fans wanted, Jacques would have had a point. As it stands, “what fans wanted” still hasn’t been seriously attempted, and that’s unlikely to change with this pair of surveys. As it stands, the FIA surveys were deliberately vague and wishy-washy so that it was easy to make the survey answers look like they fit FIA policy. This was essential since the FIA angle of the 2008 regulations were decided in 2003 and confirmed before the first F1 fan survey data collection process completed, meaning it couldn’t use the data it was collecting for the… Read more »

JackFlash

The argument that Fan’s request for F1 to change is to blame for DRS and other Tyre show shennanigans, is “total bull$hit” to borrow from an Austrian Older Gentlemen’s immortal catchphrase. Fans asked for more passing… REAL passing. They DID NOT ask for a DRS contrivance in complete avoidance of the fundamental problem of Aero Dependency and Sensitivity in F1, and avoiding the core inability to draft in close proximity at speed any more. The ground effect and lowered aero solutions (real solutions) were just totally ignored cos they involved soem real intelligence and effort on behalf of a Regultory… Read more »

Wayne Kreps

I took the GPDA survey yesterday and yes, there were questions which asked what I’d like to see in F1. The majority of the survey gave me the feeling that it’s purpose was to give the FIA the opportunity to get to know their consumer. It was no slouch of a survey either. Took me about a half hour to complete as I actually gave some thought to my answers. Being new to F1 (started paying attention in Nov ’14) I relished the chance to share my opinion. Do I think my voice will be heard? No, but it will… Read more »

MIE

Welcome to FBC. It’s nice to hear from new fans of the sport, perhaps untainted by the history. Can you say what attracted you to F1?
In general F1 has an aging population of fans, and it appears to struggle to find new followers, so it is interesting to know what drew your attention to the sport.

Wayne Kreps

Probably not gonna believe it but video gaming brought me here. I race on the xbox360 in a league with the F1 2014 game. I used to race NASCAR but the current game is unsatisfactory and beings I started racing F1, decided I need to learn about it. F1B is the best (by far) as far as resources to learn about what is happening in the sport.

My Friendly Atheist disqus acc

My beef with the “This is what F1 fans said they wanted” argument and those that use it, is it’s total bullshit. The “this is what you asked for” defense is almost always nothing but spin used to deflect criticism of ones failings on the other party for asking they improve. Look, if I’m sitting around with my significant other one weekend and ask “Honey, what would you like me to do today?” and she says “I’d love for you to do something about the tall grass in the front yard” and I say O.k. walk out to the garage… Read more »

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