Reading Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne’s comments this weekend and juxtaposing them with Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff’s, I find the operative word seems to be unpredictability heading into 2016. Sergio said:
“Bernie should pave the way to prepare the future of the F1 world,” said Marchionne.
“This age issue is there, so we should ask ourselves: are we appealing to young people?
“This sport has great potential which has not been expressed yet.
“We need to make it entertaining because if everything is predictable, it gets boring.
“We should try to deliver more unpredictability, so to speak, so that results are unpredictable.”
While the original story is about F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and a potential succession plan, the comment is toward the tail end of the article. I’m not trying to start a conspiracy but I find that F1 pundits start to dog whistle certain things they are wanting to get across to fans through relatively benign comments like these. Toto said:
“Now we need to align and find a compromise and ask what we can do to make it a little less predictable, give it a little more variability.
“From his perspective, from what I understand, there are other players who are much more opportunistic, who jump on that train for their own little cause.
“It is Bernie who is responsible for the show, and you need to listen.”
So two men have spoken to Ecclestone and the resounding word is predictability. Therefore, they would like to compromise and find some unpredictability in the sport to keep fans engaged. Is it that simple? Is that the secret to the future of F1?
If I’m honest, I’m not sure it is simply unpredictability that I look for in F1. Two years for McLaren, four years for Ferrari, two years for Renault, four years for Red Bull. Domination happens.
The fact is, has F1 changed or have the fans? Have attention spans shortened or has the racing grown stale? It’s easy to say that what fans want is unpredictability but very difficult to deliver such a product.
In hindsight, F1 hasn’t been that unpredictable or at least that hasn’t been one of its hallmarks over the years and I would argue that fans actually would like to see competitiveness throughout the field rather than unpredictable results. I’m parsing words here but I think you get my point. If the racing were closer between teams, the results would be unpredictable and perhaps that’s what Marchionne and Wolff are alluding to and in that, I would agree with them.
I believe that the generational change may have a impact on what fans would like from their sports and the way they consume them but I also believe one should be careful in wholesale changes to meet needs that could be fleeting or trendy versus sustainable and revolutionary. Prudence over pragmatism.
In the end, I would like a predictable F1 that places close, competitive racing as its core product offering. I would like to know that I can consume the sport in a predictable and consistent way. I would like to know that teams aren’t continually on the verge of collapse and that the regulations aren’t going to change to meet some political ideology putting global politics ahead of what was truly one of the most predictable elements of F1—competitive racing at the highest level.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT