Determining the future is not always easy. Neither is picking winners and losers and yet Formula 1, it’s teams, sponsors, regulatory and fan base all are in the system together working as one symbiotic system to do just that—what should the future of F1 be?
It’s no easy task and each player represents a portion of the equation but rarely the whole. Because of that, and because of self-interest and capital outlay, the system takes serious oversight, goodwill and management. It’s much the reason F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has said before that it takes a dictator to get things done in F1.
While Mercedes boss, Niki Lauda, has opined about what he’d like to see in the future of F1—namely 1,200 bhp cars with wide tires and less aero—it is the companion commentary from new Ferrari boss, Maurizio Arrivabene, that caught my attention.
“I’ve read what our friend Niki has to say: he’s top of the class, whereas I’m sitting about four desks further back,” says Arrivabene,. “I share Niki’s view that Formula 1 needs to be more spectacular and I believe that the risk he evokes of the sport losing fans is something that has unfortunately already happened,”.
“By 2017, I too would like to see cars that win over the fans, with cars that they can get closer to and that are aesthetically more appealing, maybe even producing a noise that gets your hair standing on end, like that produced by a heavy metal band. That was what it was like back in the day when Niki was racing and I was an enthusiastic fan, clutching my general admission ticket”.
In short, a visceral experience. That has always been the spectacle and some have suggested that “always” doesn’t mean “better” or the future. It depends on how you feel about quiet F1 cars I suspect.
“However, I don’t think a simple evolution is enough in this case. Instead, a real revolution is called for, with significant and radical changes. By that I mean more power, higher speeds, not necessarily involving the use of more fuel, but definitely applying a cost reduction to those components that are of little interest to the general public.” “Being closer to the people actually involves taking F1 to the people, possibly holding the Thursday driver press conferences and team presentations of a Grand Prix weekend, outside the circuit in a public area. That way, the cities that host the races could provide the arena for a presentation of the drivers and cars, in a properly managed event”.
“I have long felt that the real competition to F1 today, in the sense of it being a show, comes from a variety of forms of entertainment, not least from the internet, including racing video games. It is up to us to provide something better and to download a new format for Formula 1 as soon as possible. How likely are we to do it? I know it wouldn’t be the usual way of going about things, but a global survey on the internet and via the TV companies would give us a real idea of what people want. In fact, even in this area of sport as entertainment, we should follow the trend of demand driving what’s on offer.”
They are weighty suggestions—and I applaud Maurizio for sharing them—and we’ve written about the current trends from social media, Internet delivery, content licensing et. al. and I would add that simply following trends is sometimes the best method but leading or making trends isn’t bad either. Perhaps F1 could create a new model of content delivery that protects their ownership of that content while engaging fans in a more revealing and meaningful way?
It’s hard to know the future but suffice it to say, F1 and all of its players are aware of the waning numbers of viewers and interest in the sport—not by any fault of ours mind you—and they are seeking solutions. The question is, can they lure manufacturers, sponsors, teams and fans with one, broad blanket that covers all self-interests? Most likely not, that’s where the dictator himself will have to weigh in…or someone in a position of ownership who has the right ideas and the power to make them happen.
Hat Tip: Ferrari website