Op-Ed: British F1 fans are mean!

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There are a host of reasons for the fantastic attendance of the British Grand Prix last weekend. The home of F1, the location for much of the sports infrastructure, the history and loyalty of the British fans. There are thousands of more reasons but for my money, I love the Brit’s and their dedication to the sport.

The British Grand Prix played host to over 300,000 people over the grand prix weekend and that’s a staggering total by anyone’s measure. The American racing royalty of the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 have large numbers but are often calculated by what the venue seating capacity is not what actually walked through the door. Even so, they are on par with the British Grand Prix at around 300,000.

The American racing scene has some competition in NASCAR and Indycar and perhaps this is partially to blame for low attendance at a grand prix held in the US. There is also many other racing series such as ALMS, Trucks, dirt track (local) racing, motorcycles, Rolex series, drifting, NHRA, feeder series such as ARCA and many, many more both at large and grass roots levels. It would be incorrect to suggest that the British racing scene has no other racing competition, however, and still F1 holds a cherished place in the British fans heart.

In reality, the British just love F1. It’s a comforting sign to know that F1 is paramount in British racing focus and perhaps we can learn from the Brit’s–we steal all their best TV shows as it is–on how to support an F1 race. Then again, the American race fan can be particular and F1 has to earn their loyalty, not the other way around. Americans have many choices when it comes to sporting events and I still do subscribe to Peter Windsor’s words of taking America to F1 and not the other way around. American companies and enterprise are strewn throughout the sport of F1 and they help develop the technology that drives the series.

So what key elements do you think it will take to make an USGP successful this time around? A good track, American driver, cash, proper marketing, more fan access or all of the above? Keep in mind that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is motivated by one thing…money. He is fleecing the small countries for the honor to host a race and has found in Tavo Hellmund a promoter who was willing to pay what Ecclestone asked and has put big plans in motion with other peoples money. Why would we expect any different treatment than Ecclestone gave Mr. Gillett of Doningotn Park in the UK?

This could all end in tears as I see no effort from Ecclestone to make his product successful in the States. I see a man who has found a bank account and took the loot with the promise of bringing the “show” to Austin Texas but the success (or lack of) will be all up to the American fan and local promoter. That’s a tall order for a race that garnered approximately 150,000 in its inaugural year at Indy.

The British GP is successful for a host of reason least of which is the circuit; Silverstone. The BRDC run that old aerodrome and are a collective bargaining unit that called Eccelstone’s bluff. The Canadian Grand Prix harnessed similar attendance numbers as the British Grand Prix this year somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 and they didn’t have a BRDC working for them.

We can blame competition for fans time and interest in the States but I suspect one need look no further than the money machine for the answer–who is promoting, how it’s being promoted and the political machinations of the FOM, TV revenue, track advertising contracts, state and local tax issues as well as a stagnant a fanbase.

Oddly America could be a huge marketing and revenue source for many of the teams sponsors and products. Ecclestone knows this…but he doesn’t care and to be honest, he hasn’t had to care for many years. F1 has become the 4-7 billion dollar series it is by exploiting AsiaPac and other locations willing to pay. They are the most vibrant, emerging markets and Ecclestone is no idiot…shrewd? Yes, but no idiot.

Here is to the Brit’s! A healthy and hearty salute to the fans who continue to show the world that F1 is a great sport even if Stirling Moss didn’t win the title. In retrospect, you are all very mean spirited. Why? You make the American support of F1 look silly. You support the series through thick and thin and have the history to back you up. You show up in droves and set the 300K bar very high for any other country to come close to your fanaticism. Just for that, I think we should export NASCAR to the U.K. and let it fester like an open wound until it renders your F1 support back to normalcy and gives the rest of the world a chance to show our love of F1. WE can support F1 in America and we don’t need a funny accent to do it either…we just need you to be exposed to NASCAR long enough to create mobile marketing zombies out of you so we can steal your fanaticism for F1…just like we do your TV shows.

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