Formula E vs Formula 1…can we stop pretending now?

44

I’ve been curious about Formula E. Firstly, because I felt that if the FIA were really intent on sustainability and social responsibility, then this is the series to show it. An all-electric racing series makes sense to me if that’s your thing and it provides a platform for innovation and sporting fun all under the guise of sustainable racing. Fair enough, I’ve no problem with that. Secondly, because I have seen one of the bigger social media campaigns in racing since NASCAR discovered Twitter with Formula E’s flooding of practically every timeline giving the impression nearly every able bodied human was watching the race. I found that hard to believe so I was intrigued.

According to a report at Forbes, my initial hunch was correct as Formula E grossed only 4% of Formula 1’s audience numbers in cumulative method research. For the season, Formula E had 61.5 million while Formula 1 had 1.5 billion. Again, this is a cumulative count by Repucom comparing both series. To boil that down, Repucom says Formula E netted 6.1 million viewers across each of its races while Formula 1 had 79.6 million. Let that sink in when considering F1’s value and leveraging tweets signifying its impending doom and waning status.

What I am less enthused about is the demand that Formula 1 also be some sort of electric racing series and showcase for the FIA’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainable racing. Then again, if the FIA are looking at the same numbers, Formula E isn’t the best vehicle to tell the world that you’re socially responsible is it? Formula 1 is to the tune of over 70 million more people per race weekend.

Formula E’s social media footprint is so prolific and over the top, you’d think the entire world were watching the race. If you compare the two series from a social media footprint on-event, you’d get the impression that they are gaining similar viewing numbers such is the efficacy of Formula E’s marketing efforts meaning the checks must have cleared because the marketing companies they hired to flood social media were working overtime.

That kind of social media presence and the most watched race in the Formula E series was the season finale in London with 9.8 million watching. By contrast, the most watched Formula 1 race was in Austin at the USGP and it had 96.1 million viewers.

I’m all for Formula E as an all-electric series and proving ground for the technology but I would prefer Formula 1 get out of that business and let Formula E do it full tilt while F1 focuses on new innovation within internal combustion engines design and other areas of improvement. I’m also all for branding, marketing and promotion but I don’t like a façade or blatant misrepresentation of the success or perceived success of your product.

My point here is that I follow social media fairly closely and I was getting timeline fatigue from the onslaught of Formula E tweets, posts and pics. I then got weary of F1 fans using this as an example of why F1 is failing to use social media appropriately as juxtaposed with Formula E. Let’s keep this in mind, giving everything away for free on social media makes sense when you are a racing series in serious need of an audience, folks. Not so much with F1.

The FIA have a lot of work to do if they are trying to build the Formula E brand. I’m all for it. I think this is where electric and alternative systems should live. Once again, however, I Find myself asking the sophomoric question—if electric car sales are still single digits and the world’s very first all-electric car racing series wouldn’t compete with Friday’s practice viewer numbers in F1 let alone seasonal totals, why are we all marching to the soylent green food trough and acting like this is absolutely what the world wants and the direction all racing should go in? At what point will the car manufacturers pull back on their all-in status of electric cars and realize that maybe hybrids or other fuel systems might be a better option because few are buying the or watching them race?

Formula E isn’t gaining the global, socially responsible audience totals it would like and Formula 1’s move to hybrid has cost the series a big chunk of viewers (rumored from 600 million down to 400-450 million). Last time I check, 2+2 did equal 4. So the electric car gambit has impacted both series and one of those programs was specifically developed to showcase electric car racing. It’s like much of the world’s politics, better to ignore the elephant in the room than to get some peanuts and lure it out of the room and house completely.

Look, I’m and understanding guy. If Formula E would simply say, “hey, we’re an all-electric series and we are very excited about what we’re doing. Sure, we’re small and trying to grow but we need your help in making this a terrific series of innovation. Please join us”, I would be more respectful to an honest approach rather than flooding social media to spam-like levels and giving the false impression that the entire world is on board and lapping up the electric car revolution.

I would be fine if Formula 1 said, “hey, we really believe that hybrid technologies are a supplemental part of road cars and racing cars and make the sport better but we may have over-shot the mark with the current spec and therefore, we’re going to dial it back a bit to an ICE and KERS format”, I would be perfectly forgiving in my approach to them. Just be honest, stop the heavy-handed propaganda and highlight your brand appeal and admit your shortcomings.

Here, I’ll lead by example. Hey, we’re an F1 website (mainly) and while we do serve a lot of downloads per month of our podcast, it’s not our day jobs and sometimes we can be a little light on the technical side of things and only occasionally insightful. I get it. I know we can get a little tedious with our complaining of DRS and maybe we aren’t constantly sourcing and interviewing drivers and teams for the scoop but this isn’t our day job and because of that, it makes it difficult to deliver the fully baked kind of program we’d like to create for you. We’re not a F1 newspaper, magazine or journalistic news outlet. We’re simply the voice of the F1 fan and nearly 46% of our traffic and use is by Americans so that has its own veneer on it too that may not appeal to our friends around the globe. We love what we do but that doesn’t mean the world does and we understand we’re not everyone’s cup of tea but we would be honored if you would give us a chance.

See? Just be truthful about your product and let the reader, listener, viewer decide. Anything else is pandering and patronizing.

Hat Tip: Forbes

44
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
Photo and Image Files
 
 
 
Audio and Video Files
 
 
 
Other File Types
 
 
 
13 Comment threads
31 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
Clayton BrownJoshZShane PhillipsRayTruantGaryK Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
eggoman
Guest
eggoman

“Sustainable racing.” There’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one. I’m intrigued by Formula E, but I want some races in proper tracks and have them go faster. The car swap pitstop swill eventually go away as the tech gets better. Don’t get me started on the fanboost. It’s not perfect. Neither is F1. It’s a good start to an all electric series.

92gsr
Guest
92gsr

I was overwhelmingly disappointed with “fanboost”.

92gsr
Guest
92gsr

The horse is dead. Hybrid F1 cars ARE exciting and we the viewers understand them. This is like lamenting the demise of the Cosworth DFV or the addition of DRS. These things are only problems to those resisting change. I was a kid when they scrapped turbo cars the first time. I really didn’t like it but as a kid I learned that things change but F1 racing was still the pinnacle despite the overwhelming popularity of Group C. I tried to watch Formula E a few times and found it boring. My personal opinion is they need to allow… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

I’ve said in the article that using electric as part of their equation is certainly understandable and I would have preferred a more measured approach with and ICE and KERS before moving full-tilt to ERS with MGU-H and CE’s. Nothing wrong with moving forward with technology but losing viewers and fans attention has to be weighed n that balance. People sending me emails telling me that Formula E is doing it all right and F1 isn’t, is not really a very sound argument for me. I think the wholesale move toward electric racing and innovation is perfectly at home there… Read more »

92gsr
Guest
92gsr

While I truly understand your sentiment, I also believe that forced induction and hybrid technology are the future for internal combustion engines. I agree that there is more that can be gained from the ICE alone but at what cost? The FIA introduced so many rules to keep the power down and to have parity among the manufacturers that the engines and components had nearly no practical applications beyond F1 and maybe supercar production. To move forward they needed technology that resonated with the non-motorsport loving bigwigs at the manufacturers. What the bosses want is to make more power with… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

LOL…monster trucks. love it.

Kat Schidt
Guest
Kat Schidt

Come on, that’s not even a good argument. It’s the turbo that reduces the sound output of the engine, because it absorbs most of the exhaust energy, it has nothing to do with ERS. ERS is essentially the same as KERS anyway, it just puts out even more horsepower.

Negative Camber
Guest

I understand the point, running at 40% efficiency is terrific and you can certainly nerd out on the tech but at the end of the day, I would like really good racing between teams, not just teammates. If that isn’t happening, you tend to look at the current formula and all the gear and say, this combination isn’t doing it. Not that it’s all bad tech, it just isn’t delivering great racing. So what do you change? A tough question.

Shane Phillips
Guest
Shane Phillips

It’s this kind of nonsense that makes it hard for me to pay any attention to casual fans. The nature of F1 is that regardless of what rules you implement, some teams will *always* come up with better answers than others. The racing is bad? I beg to differ. The level of overtakes has increased, the level of action has increased. Ok, Mercedes have an advantage over everyone else, but the racing across the field is much better. More overtaking, more action. I personally love where F1 is currently at. Did the dinosaur technology of the V8s stop one team… Read more »

Clayton Brown
Guest
Clayton Brown

Can we stop talking about overtaking as if overtaking equals good racing. Also, to me, ‘consistently winning’ doesn’t equal ‘dominating’. So if Red Bull was dominating the sport for 5 years we need to come up with a new term for what Merc is doing right now.

Negative Camber
Guest

Ferrari, Red Bull and now Merc are dominating the sport. That’s clear.

Shane Phillips
Guest
Shane Phillips

So what exactly is “good racing”? Do we live in a mystical world of make believe where extra engine noise or stone age engine technology magically makes the racing better?

Clayton Brown
Guest
Clayton Brown

Why are you talking about engines? I think more or less, “good racing” = cars being able to perform well close together. DRS overtakes have practically ruined the sport in my opinion, it is almost turned into “hot lapping”. I understand you don’t want to have cars be held up for too long, but I would have made the rule something like “you are within 1.5 second of the car in front of you for 3 consecutive laps”. Something to provide real encouragement for non-DRS overtakes. Lastly, I’m not of the opinion that F1 needs to be the most advanced… Read more »

Clayton Brown
Guest
Clayton Brown

“These things are only problems to those resisting change” seems like flawed logic. ‘Aliens enslaving mankind is only a problem to those resisting change.’

92gsr
Guest
92gsr

do you even context?

Negative Camber
Guest

Context? Sure, look at our political system…surely these are aliens are they not? ;)

Alianora La Canta
Guest
Alianora La Canta

Trying to watch Formula E is rather difficult in the UK, as ITV doesn’t seem to be able to make its mind up whether it should be ITV4 or ITV1. As such, even BTCC (which is reliably on ITV4) outscores it in views.

I would not be surprised to discover similiar questionable scheduling decisions are hampering Formula E’s progress. But the biggest hamperer is that the FIA seems to regard it as a gimmick, not even treating it as seriously as F3, GP3 or the ELMS. If the organiser doesn’t think Formula E is a big thing, why would the media?

Clayton Brown
Guest
Clayton Brown

Agreed. I watched 2 races – and they were awesome! Neck and neck the whole time. I don’t actively seek to watch more because the FIA and the DRIVERS don’t seem that excited about it.

Kat Schidt
Guest
Kat Schidt

“Formula 1’s move to hybrid has cost the series a big chunk of viewers (rumored from 600 million down to 400-450 million).” You don’t think the fact that they moved a lot of the races to pay TV only had any effect on that? I really don’t get why people keep blathering on about these hybrid engines with some obsession towards moving the sport back towards 30 year old technology. They have made very substantial improvements to the efficiency of the internal combustion engines, through lubricants and fuel, through incredible design innovations like the Mercedes split turbo, and through things… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

Well, I wouldn’t consider myself as “blathering” but to your point, moving F1 TV to pay channels certainly had a big impact and so did the reduction of free-to-air TV in China. Still, some of the waning interest is from hybrid engines, lack of sound etc. F1 and others can discount that all they would like but it plays a role in its impact on the sport. Hence my comment about ignoring the elephant int eh room. I know the FIA, FOM, teams and manufacturers would like to move forward with electric as they feel it’s the right way forward… Read more »

92gsr
Guest
92gsr

I don’t think many people left because of the sound or hybrids. The internet gives everyone a soapbox. The people who complained still watched the races to be able to complain about them. I can’t imagine a person being a fan of the sport but not watching because of the sound or technology. “I would like to see how the intra-team battle between Button and Alonso turns out but I just can’t stand the sound of the hybrid cars.” seems like an impossibility. Only the most casual fans would be turned off by the lack of noise but they, most… Read more »

Kat Schidt
Guest
Kat Schidt

I’ve never brought that argument either. The people moaning about the noise are a loud (plenty of irony there) minority. The quality of the racing hasn’t been diminished one bit by the lack of noise, and anyone obsessed with that is, frankly, watching the wrong sport. Formula 1 has always been a sport that’s meant to be at the cutting edge of technology, and the hybrid engines are. The elephant in the room is not the engine technology, it’s the backward facing stupidity of the sport’s governing bodies that is causing the sport to lose viewers. They aren’t embracing social… Read more »

#F1 'o^°o-
Guest
#F1 'o^°o-

It stopped me from going to a race in the first couple of years because it was slow and quiet but i still watch because i’m invested in the story.

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

Okay, I’ll be truthful as well: I’m no pundit of any sort. I’m just a guy working for Uncle Sam helping to fund that operation, doing the thankless, most hated thing known to mankind. Yes, lots of people would wish that we had never existed (and we’ve had our occasional death threats), but we keep going knowing how important that is. Do I know everything about the subject of sports, much less racing or even down to the nitty-gritty details of Formula 1? Probably not. I missed a lot in the years intervening between 1976 and 2012, but I caught… Read more »

Michael n
Guest
Michael n

Come on let’s get serious. Formula E is the future and F1 is trying to hold on to the past. Simple as that. 5 years down the track no one will be getting excited watching combustion engine racing when they know it’s so yesterday.

#F1 'o^°o-
Guest
#F1 'o^°o-

i disagree, if you would have said 25 years…

Michael n
Guest
Michael n

I guess time will tell. However, I think you’ll find the world will shift very swiftly to electrification once production and cost hit that soft spot. Which will happen in the next 5 to 10 years. 10 years being a very conservative number. Think of the smart phone. Once that technology hit the mainstream it was only a matter of a 3 to 4 years until most consumers had switched. In the near future there’s going to be a huge car bubble created were the value of the combustion engine will drop to the level were it becomes madness to… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

I wrote a long piece many moons ago about this but until it gets to a level where it is as good or better than current performance and distance, electric cars will always struggle in the sales category. F1 moved to hybrid and it was slower than before and it’s taken 3 years and millions to get back to the V8 pace and they’ve done that now with 40% efficiency so that’s a great sign that it’s moving in the right direction.

Michael n
Guest
Michael n

I have to disagree with you on a number of points. Particularly, with the performance of EVs. There’s really no competition. Yes, range can be the main issue, however, I think families similar to mine will choose to update at least one of their cars to full electric and keep the other for long distance travel, up until they feel totally comfortable with the new tech and form a habit. It doesn’t take long getting use to EV. I took me all of 5 mins when I drove mine and I’ve never looked back.

Negative Camber
Guest

You may but many of my friends who live in rural America in the knuckle-dragging fly-over states won’t. Many of them drive farther than what any EV can handle right now not to mention freight, trucks, heavy equipment etc. Long way to go my friend but if it works for your family, that’s great.

Michael n
Guest
Michael n

It’s not the first time those in the country areas of the planet have no choice but to wait until they receive technology that suits their particular needs. It’s in the cities where EV will first rule. Once that is the case it won’t be long until the tech improves to the stage were range and charging times are at a reasonable level for heavy vehicles of most types. To get back to F1 vs FE, I do believe F1 teams will sooner than later see the writing on the wall and start buying FE teams and rebranding themselves to… Read more »

Gaetano Colosi
Guest
Gaetano Colosi

“Can we stop pretending now?” Who’s pretending? Mostly the racing this year has been great with a couple of exceptions. And this is coming from a Ferrari supporter. Not sure I recall a better season in terms of on-track battles. Talk of the high tech energy recovery systems spoiling the racing is just plain nonsense. And the sound …. hey remove the artificial limit on max. revs and see what you get.

Negative Camber
Guest

The “pretending” tag was not about F1’s current racing, it was about FE’s promotion and F1 fans telling me that it is on par with F1…it’s not.

Trumpty Dumpty
Guest
Trumpty Dumpty

This article has little to do with Formula E or anything racing. What you essentially said was that you’re too involved with social media and need a dose of reality. Stop following what you don’t like and your life will suddenly become fulfilling.

#F1 'o^°o-
Guest
#F1 'o^°o-

wut?

Negative Camber
Guest

I’m not sure that’s what I was “essentially” saying.

#F1 'o^°o-
Guest
#F1 'o^°o-

I like most racing series but i find F1E hard on the ears such winey sounds and the fan boost does nothing for me. The racing is good at times with quality drivers but the cars are slow and some of the tracks are lame i’m sure it will get better over time.

GaryK
Guest
GaryK

Well, I think Formula E is a great incubator for promotional ideas as well as race coverage innovation. Sure as hell, someone needs to do it, as F1 will not deign. Not everything works perfectly or even well; some of it may prove excessive; some of it is wonderful. So lessons will be learned in the crucible of public response. As a race fan, I like Formula E on TV, but imagine it is a bit tame for spectators–especially those who have been to F1 or CART in its heyday. Because their chosen venues of street courses almost foreclose passing,… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

I do too. That’s what my post says, FE is a great series for all-electric innovation. I like it for that and I think, in time, it may be quite and interesting series when they open the formula up.

RayTruant
Guest
RayTruant

Formula E has had better racing than F1. With the exception of fanboost (which has to go), its back to basic principles of drafting and outbraking to pass, without tyre management and without reliance on clean air for down force. They did what F1 management has ignored from the fans of the sport. FE needs better world TV. F1 needs to lose DRS, bring back ground effects and lose pitstops, lose all radios, back to the early 80s. If F1 wants to be green, just run the cars on ethanol, which is carbon capture and release technology. Not a single… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

To be fair, Pirelli recycles all of the tires they use in F1.

JoshZ
Guest
JoshZ

Hate to rain down on your parade about ethanol but every single drop of ethanol that is made from field corn is coming from a food crop. Whens the last time you had corn flakes or corn tortilla chips, or cornbread? Heck they even make cooking oil out of corn.

Negative Camber
Guest
Clayton Brown
Guest
Clayton Brown

I still don’t understand this “green thing”. Why is F1 committing to sustainability, or alternative fuels, etc. In other words, why are we all assuming F1 has some sort of obligation to abandon the gas guzzler cars of the past. Let entertainment drive sporting decisions and reason drive practicality. Yeah, if we all drove the old F1 cars things wouldn’t be sustainable, but guess what … we don’t all drive F1 cars. I’m okay if 22 of these cars want to do 20 or so races a year. There are starving people all over the world, yet mankind (for whatever… Read more »