Survey’s in…F1 fans are mental

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Formula 1 fans are confusing—well, at least 35,000 of you are. Sure, there are demographic issues to be considered when reading the results of a F1 survey and you have to also consider that these demographics will fall along age and location variables but still—F1 fans are confusing, stupefying, bemusing…mental.

AUTOSPORT released the result of their very nice survey of F1 and you can see the full results here. What caught my eye were a few disconnects but I am plainly willing to accept that it is a perception issue and mostly my issue to wrestle to the ground but still—you folks are confusing.

Let’s take a look shall we?

The question at hand is this:

[quote_box_center]Are you in favor of using artificial methods to tighten up the Formula 1 races?[/quote_box_center]

Now, you could interpret that question in different ways. Are they asking if we want the races tightened up or the actual car-versus-car action tightened up?

The response to this question was a resounding and overwhelming NO!


That’s fine, I have no issue with that as it is also how I would have voted given the question and its wording. But just a few questions away, we get this:


The response to this question is a mind-numbing YES by 50% to NO’s 40%. WHAT? You just said you didn’t think the series should use artificial methods to tighten up racing! Go home F1 fans, you’re drunk.

The confusion continues as you read this question:

[quote_box_center]Would you be happy to see F1 become a spec series using identical chassis and engine, like GP2, in a bit(sic) to reduce costs?[/quote_box_center]

Logically you said NO by a resounding 86% but then you went on to read this questions:

customer car

How did you respond to that one? An overwhelming 62% said YES. What? If three teams bought Ferrari chassis, engine and drivetrain, it’s a spec series and not a constructor’s series. This is what Sir Frank Williams is so vocal about.

On one hand F1 fans want F1 to be the pinnacle of technology innovation and yet they want refueling. They want the fastest cars possible and detest the concept of purposefully slowing them down to be more competitive with each other and yet, they’re undecided on the sound of the new power unit?

Now here’s where AUTOSPORT got political with their survey. They crafted the question of engine sound like this:

sound hybrid

Ok, they know full well that the majority of respondents, 44%, have not attended a F1 race. With that large—read majority—of respondents skewing your survey with a lack of presence at a race, why would you ask them about the sound of the power unit with the caveat or requirement that they must be at trackside to have an opinion?

What? People at home can’t hear the difference of the engine? We can’t hear the lack of sound on our TV’s? Bosh! And yes, I have heard them trackside by the way. I took a sound pressure meter with me and the Ferrari support race was louder than the F1 cars. These were Ferrari 458’s. F1 was approximately 92db while the Ferrari’s were 98db from the exact same distance away from the track—which was about 50 feet. For reference, the average SPL for a large office environment is approximately 60-65db.

It’s not lost on me that when queried again about the hybrid engines, it was a close run thing! With 42% saying YES and 46% saying NO, it left 11% clearly identified as comprehensively numb about the role of an engine to the entire F1 user experience.

hybrid engine

Perhaps the sadder narrative out of this question is the teams and employees who paid the price for hybrids and lost their business and jobs as a result. If there is only a 4% delta between the “love it” and “hate it” crowd and 11% comprehensively lost on the concept, we did all of this damage to the sport for what? We spent all of this money for what? Road car innovation? I think not. Planet-saving technology? I think not. Bravado and ideology? Perhaps. Silly humans and their piety.

Perhaps there is no surprise here:

[quote_box_center]What is the reason you watch Formula 1?[/quote_box_center]

The majority, 42%, said they watch for the “rivalry and competitiveness between drivers and teams”. Is it any wonder fans get bored with Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari domination in F1? Is it any wonder the viewer numbers are waning? If F1 fans want any team or driver to have the chance to win on any given Sunday, then F1 is not the sport for them. Perhaps NASCAR or GP2 or reruns of the IROC series would be a better fit?

In the end, it’s a nice survey that AUTOSPORT did and I have a lot of time for the folks over there as they do a great job of it but it does highlight one thing. You may feel very strongly that F1 needs to make changes quickly and you may feel its lost its way and isn’t a great series now but regardless, demanding changes is easy—determining what those changes should be is no small task and I don’t envy Messrs. Ecclestone and Todt with a task ripe with all the politics, hidden agendas and money involved.

You had your say and in some ways, you’re more confused than F1’s management about where to take F1 in the future and what changes should be made. What you’ve learned here is that F1 is a very, very complicated beast and things aren’t as easy as they appear to be.

As is the cultural meme these days, you’ll be obliged to be the immediate contrarian to any point being made here and that’s fine but the reality is, no matter how much the contrarian you fancy yourself to be, you’re still miles away from a simple solution to F1’s woes and you, unlike Ecclestone, Todt, teams, F1 press/media and people with skin in the game, enjoy the bravery of being out or range. And by “YOU”, I mean “Me”. The F1 fan who took the survey—although my pride would have me let you know that I didn’t vote in favor of DRS…I’m not quite that daft!


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Alianora La Canta

The engine noise thing could simply mean “the editing of the sound for TV doesn’t convey the sound well enough”. Or the general objection may be primarily based on something other than volume (e.g. intensity, acoustic combination, nostalgia for previous timbres…), with the volume thing simply being a convenient cipher for all that (note several of those terms are rarely used by non-musical types). It could explain why someone like me, who has no issue with the *volume* of current F1 engines, still thinks they sound awful (sorry, Formula E engines sound more like engines to me because they don’t… Read more »

Negative Camber

All great points. :) ultimately we both come to the similar conclusion that this isn’t a quick or easy fix and even fans, when weighing in for what it’s worth, get confused on what they really want. this is what Grace spoke at length about regarding surveys which are her specialty.

Patrick Chapman

So I ask myself, am I confused or mental? I’m not sure. Being an F1 fan can sometimes be really difficult don’t you think? With the current rules surrounding the design of F1 cars, it makes it nigh on impossible to follow another car closely and have a good scrap so I am daft enough to vote for DRS as I think that it is currently the only way that we are going to get any overtaking done. If you wan’t DRS removed and you still want overtaking and good battles then the answer is obvious but then we weren’t… Read more »

Negative Camber

You bring up a good point, the reality is they may vote for DRS because in their minds, given the current state, it is one of a few ways to get passing to an increased level. Having no alternatives, perhaps it seemed appealing. Let’s face it Patrick, some are mental but not you mate. :) Not FBC readers. ;) FBC staff on the other hand? Well, I can live with that.


@Alianora La Canta “I’m not sure the human ear is generally sensitive enough to appreciate much difference between 92 dB …. and the 115-120 dB … on track. So the engines lost volume, but not the sort most fans would spot…” Sorry, I beg to differ. My on-track observation at Montreal last year – standing 25 feet from the track at various spots from turns 7 through 10 and the back straight to turn 1 – was that the Formula H(ybrid) aka F1 engine (sorry, “power unit”) sounded notably less impressive than any other car on the track, including CTCC… Read more »

Negative Camber

I’m in the business so I can hear small db changes but I’ve been doing that for over 25 years. Perhaps some folks don’t hear it but I clearly could at Austin.

Alianora La Canta

Thank you, and also thanks to Negative Camber, for correcting me. F1B is good for learning things about F1 :)


This shows that majority of the respondents are fans with less or no technical knowledge/interest in the sport. As a fan of the sport they want on track battles and the most aggressive driver to come out on top. Period. If F1 can put up such a show then it wouldn’t matter if Mercedes, Bulls or Ferrari keep winning, at least they want the driver to earn it on track. And trust me, everybody wants the top 3/4 teams and drivers to win..

Negative Camber

Agreed. As Grace and I have said, great racing cures a lot of ills. :)

Meine Postma

So I guess your statement “The majority, 42%, said they watch for the “rivalry and competitiveness between drivers and teams”. Is it any wonder fans get bored with Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari domination in F1?” must be taken with a little salt then?


I would just like to point out that the declining TV audiences are more down to the switch from Free to air (terrestrial) television to subscription based models in most of Europe. Not least down to the switch in China from one network to another which immediately wiped off 33million viewers! Interestingly in the last few races the European audiences have been increasing. They are still not as high as the peaks in the late 2000’s but there is not a sport, other than the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, that have not suffered from the diversity of viewing options… Read more »

Negative Camber

All good points Jason and I agree with you about the challenges facing the changes needed to keep the sport on top. Not easy at all. I also agree to the TV numbers having a big impact from free-to-air versus paid but I also would offer the the very simple notion that there are fewer bums in seats these days at races too. It’s not purely the loss of free-to-air but I understand that’s not what you are suggesting, merely pointing out that it does play a role in waning numbers and I appreciate that.

Paul KieferJr

Welcome to the Human Race, such as it is. There aren’t 7 billion Todd McCandless’s out ther. There are, however, 7 billion individuals, all with a unique perspective. Not one single person is the same as any other. For that reason, no one has a single solitary opinion that matches anyone else, and we’re all better off for it. Surveys are just simply a snapshot of a small, tiny window into the 7 billion people on this planet, with no reasonable chance of accuracy. It’s not surprising, then, that we can’t agree on the same opinion; we probably don’t even… Read more »

Negative Camber

In this case, it’s 35,000 respondents. :)


I really could care less about the sound of an F1 engine. Why? Because of the physics. Gasoline only has just so much energy. Some of that energy is released as force, which we call torque or horsepower. Some of that energy is released as heat, and some of it is sound. So the less energy released as sound, the more that’s making power and making the cars go faster! But then again, I’m one of those nuts who loves the new engines and wishes I could get an MGU-H for my car. I know personally I read “Are you… Read more »


Sorry for being a bit pompous, but I personally won’t miss the 22.6% that said they won’t watch F1 if Ferrari quit.

Andrew Duncan

I think this is more journalistic sensationalism posing as an ‘analysis’ of what I thought a ‘cannned answer’ survey. They never really asked “mental fans”, some of whom have been spectators from fifty and sixty years ago, our opinions of the current state of affairs. So I believe the author is more ‘negative’ than ‘ camber’ and who the hell is he to ‘judge’ us fans with his condescending opininion of those who cared or even dared to participate in ‘the survey’ which assumed we were mental to begin with!

Negative Camber

Uh…clearly in the last paragraph I am one of you…the F1 fans who took the survey. I know it’s easy to be offended these days but seriously, I did offer deprecating comments about myself and this article it is not a “judgement” piece. Lighten up my friend, it’s just an opinion based on results I find confusing. I’m glad 35,000 people took the survey and it reveals this isn’t an easy fix or issue. that’s my point.


I for one appreciate and love all the work you put into the website and more importantly the podcast, just discovered it this season and I love it, I thought I was the only Merican who like F1! :) Big thank you to you, Grace, Paul and the only fake Charlie :D


I started to take the Qs, and ran into one I could not answer (forget why) and it would not let me continue without answering, so I bailed. I liked the engine noise better last year because I could hear the announcer team; this year they must have increased it because it is again interfering with my hearing the announcing. I’ve never been to an F1 race, but I have seen races at the late lamented Riverside Raceway.

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