What does the F1 fans survey really tell us?

The Grand Prix Driver’s Association conducted a survey recently, of which several of us here at FBC completed, and it was hosted at motorsport.com. I must say, firstly, that I appreciate the recent moves motorsport.com has taken in hiring Mr. Bradley, Mr. Noble and friends from AUTOSPORT.

What once was a click-attracting aggregation site for GMM stories has put real resources and traction behind what ultimately was just a really good domain name. I have a lot of time and respect for that site now that they have brought in true professionals and are generating compelling, insightful content. Good for them, I wish them every success in the endeavors. I’ve always enjoyed the hard work of Mr. Noble and I know they are in good hands with Mr. Bradley at the helm.

Now, to the survey—what the hell does it mean for us unwashed masses? What can the bottom-feeders of the sport truly surmise from such a survey given it was certainly pointed and weighted to a desired narrative? Yes, we noticed, as Grace is a professional survey engineer for the United States of America and all.

If Grace has any insight to the results, I’ll let her speak for herself but here is my take on the survey—which you can download here—and I will share my thoughts page by page of the PDF so you can follow along in linear fashion:

Page 6:
The participation level is good at 217,000 and it does cover 15 languages but I am not clear as to if this survey was written in those languages or if participation was merely achieved from countries where English isn’t their native language. It does list 194 countries, however. Re-tweets are listed as the survey revealed that Twitter is the preferred social media platform for sharing F1 information. Given that is the case, is 15K re-tweets a high number? I’ll let you be the judge.

Page 7:
The survey time is a bit of a concern for me and Grace was not complimentary regarding the length as that will inevitably skew the results but we do not know the amount of abandoned surveys as they are not listed and we also do not know if the information from abandoned surveys was included in the results.

Interestingly, the top 10 countries include France as #2 and they don’t even have a Grand Prix—which could be fuel for F1 in understanding the French involvement in F1 and potential for more revenue should they pursue a race there. No shock that the UK are top of the heap but USA coming third signals a very good sign for F1 in America or does it? Motorsport.com is an American-based site in Miami and I will go out on a limb here and say that a lot of their traffic is US-derived but I may be wrong on that. The host site may have played a role in the visibility of that survey but I can’t be sure about that.

Page 8:
The average age of the survey participant was 37. It also states what many F1 pundits probably concern themselves with. Which is the strongest competitor for F1? That woud be the WEC and not, as Sir Branson asserts, Formula E. I think most of us knew that already.

Page 9:
With 90% watching the sport on TV, don’t get confused as to how powerful streaming the sport would be because that’s not an option right now so the TV percentage would naturally be this high…that’s the only major outlet for the sport.

The amount of fan information gleaned from websites versus TV is understandable for me and the only reason TV is at 50% is most likely due to the terrific coverage of one network, Sky Sports F1.

The survey says that 50% don’t watch live races due to them moving to pay television. I am unclear on if that number was skewed by the US and other markets that show the live races at 5am which clearly has an impact for DVR’d races instead of live. I assume they took that into account but I do not recall the wording on that particular question.

Page 10:
This page is very interesting to me. Less than 10% follow one team and only 20% follow a particular driver. That’s odd because if that’s the case, then the total number of the 20% supporting a driver must be Lewis Hamilton fans which seem to rank in the millions these days. I would have expected that number to be larger simply given the amount of support for drivers on Twitter.

Favorite drivers are Kimi, Fernando and Jenson in that order. Is that right? No Lewis? That doesn’t seem right does it? Mr. E says Lewis is the best champ F1 has ever had due to his ability to work the press, socialize and hang out with celebrities. Kimi doesn’t do any of that and he’s the fan favorite? The three favorites are all men who are not very Lewis-like with their lifestyle and red-carpet fashion sense. Lewis is also very candid with the press, which is one of the things this survey says they want from drivers. Strange indeed…pick a lane people.

Page 11:
Top three drivers of all time? Fair enough but neither Jim Clark, Fangio, Stewart, Rindt nor Nuvolari being on that list is odd for a guy like me. As for best-looking cars? That tracks with the median age of the respondents as does the best drivers of all time—an age-impacted result.

Page 12:
The two results are really logic unto themselves. The key here is the “technological” element. When the technology was correct, the series was competitive and exciting. One begat two and three. Now the technology is wrong and it begets one and three.

Page 13:
The result here that rings out to me is the 77% suggesting that F1’s business interests are now too important. Which business interests? Formula One Managements? Manufacturers? CVC Capital?

I also get a bit shaky when fans say the series needs to be more competitive but I understand what they mean. For me personally, I don’t mind dominations such as Williams, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull or Mercedes. That happens…as my list just proves. What I think folks want is a better balance with the regulations so all teams have a competitive reality of mixing it up toward the front such as Williams is doing now. Even WEC has it’s domination from Audi, Porsche and the like but they are all very competitive with each other. This is what Red Bull’s Christian Horner has been asking for, a balancing of the performance gap.

Page 14:
Sound, power and size of the engines matter and while most would like more open regulations, they also—in the same breath—want a low-cost series. Low cost and open regulations may not always go hand-in-hand. Should we continue saying sound doesn’t matter? AND, you know me and words, I appreciate they used the word sound and not “noise”.

Page 15:
Ok, fans want real tires and more tire makers…period. Regarding the refueling, I have a theory about why this number is so high. It’s not Delphic Oracle stuff but the issue of refueling came out at about the time this survey was announced and it was on the minds of many fans as a possible solution to making the cars faster with more fuel-flow. I think that is one reason it is so high.

Team budget caps ranked 54% and that is most likely because fans know this would be very, very difficult to police. Most fans I speak with feel that the regulations can be written to reduce costs instead of imposing them on teams.

For all you DRS lovers, you’re in a 40% minority on the issue. Ban it!

Page 16:
86% of fans say they want drivers to be more open and honest and yet their favorite driver is the monosyllabic Kimi Raikkonen who rarely says much to the press. Regarding 83% for driving safety, I think this is a case of the sport’s history pigeonholing the driver as some sort of champion for safety. Not that this isn’t a good cause but because Sir Jackie was the main voice behind it. To be honest, this is the FIA’s job and while driver input is critical, it’s not the driver’s main focus.

Conclusion:
The survey is a snapshot of a particular group at a particular time. The results are predictable in some ways and surprising in others. The bigger question now is…what will the GPDA do with the results and does it matter to the FIA or FOM at all? At the very least, F1 leaders can look at this as a small sample of fan desires and feelings on their sport.

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peter riva

I posted a long comment… gone into the ether.

Negative Camber

I checked the ether, it isn’t there either. But then the ether has been known to lie…from time to time. ;)

BasCB

As for the page 6 part, yes, they did translate the survey into quite a solid amount of languages to make it more accessible. And I understand that they used only a selection (133k) of the 270k to make it a bit better balanced (to reflect the viewership, not quite sure?), so I guess a plus for effort here.

Negative Camber

Thanks for filling me on on that. Wasn’t sure if they had it in many languages. That’s good news. They did weigh the survey, as you mentioned, so hopefully that gives a better result.

Re

Speaking for myself, the translation in my mother tongue was not that good. It was a bit better than google translation, so I used the English version to understand it more clearly.
As for “Twitter is the preferred social media platform for sharing F1 information”, possibly because motorsport.com is an internet media and the survey itself was mainly promoted via Twitter by journalists and drivers?

lacdv

just few words about the page 7, I am french and we don’t have a GP, but we have a long history in motor sports, with french drivers, french constructors or even with the others motors sport (rallye, endurance). That’s probably why french are still interessed by F1. We still want a french GP, and we probably already have some good tracks to organize it :)

Negative Camber

Agreed. I think it is a real shame there is no French GP given the country’s history in motorsport. It was there at the very beginning of racing.

Tom Firth

Still sad we don’t have a French GP anymore.

lacdv

Maybe one day… but sadly, i’m not very optimistic
¯_(ツ)_/¯
Wait and see !

darkalman

Shame F1 is moving away from the European market to BS races like Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. You watch those races and they’re sterile. The stands are empty, the tracks are boring. But having the Crown Prince sign you a gigantic cheque is more important than having fans attend I guess…

lacdv

I totally agree with that ! maybe with less money, F1 could be more interesting … hope it will change… or doesn’t become more boring in the future… :(

Schmorbraten

The pdf-link doesn’t work, it points to “file:///Users/GreyArcher/Downloads/2015%20%20GPDA%20Survey%20EXEC%20SUMMARY.pdf”

Tom Firth

The survey says that 50% don’t watch live races due to them moving to pay television. I am unclear on if that number was skewed by the US and other markets that show the live races at 5am which clearly has an impact for DVR’d races instead of live. I assume they took that into account but I do not recall the wording on that particular question. I can’t recall either, however given the level of response from the UK to this survey, and the low level of viewers who watch Sky’s broadcast compared to the BBC (Which doesn’t carry… Read more »

darkalman

In Canada we don’t get all of the races even in syndication. One race will be covered by the BBC and air at 3am, the next will be on a different channel with different announcers at 2 in the afternoon. With the time shift it’s just easier to download it and watch it whenever we want.

Alianora La Canta

I think the question was “How has the move to pay TV affected you?” and people from nations that had had pay TV since the year dot probably put “It hasn’t affected me” – unless they switched to streaming online due to increased availability of illegal streams.

PM

I think the top 3 favorite current drivers is also due to the average age of the fans. Button, Alonso and Kimi are all from the early 2000s and just like cars, probably represent the “good old days” of f1 to most fans eyes. Plus, its probably no coincidence that they are the three oldest drivers and have had the most time in f1 to acquire fans.

Tom Firth

Do you think a part of it is Kimi is “different” too? he doesn’t tow the usual PR persona to the cameras, sort of like a modern day Hunt in that respect so people gravitate to him.

I am surprised Hamilton is not the favourite though, later 2000’s agreed, but easily the most marketable driver in the series.

PM

Ya I think Kimi’s unique personality is definitely a big reason why he appeals to fans. Who doesn’t love his hilarious quotes. As for Hamilton, I feel like his “Hip-Hop” lifestyle probably doesn’t go down to well with the age group taking the survey. If we ask High School students, perhaps the response would be different. Actually, it would be quite interesting if the survey broke down the results based on age group. It would be interesting to see how, if at all, opinions differ between the older and younger generations.

FerrariF1fan

Well one thing is for sure, it sure as hell ain’t Kimi’s driving that is garnering so many fans lately!

As for Louise, he gets a lot of press and discussion but keep in mind that much of that is negative regarding his lifestyle and/or persona. So while he is “popular” when evaluating “favorite” negative popularity works against you.

Henk

I think they didn’t ask fans to make tough choices. Like you said about technological freedom and low-cost. Let the fans choose and you will get a real result. Do you want overtaking or no DRS? Do you want lots of sound or efficient engines? Do you want pay drivers or less teams? Do you reverse grids or predictable races?

Alianora La Canta

Apart from “lots of sound or efficient engines”, all are false dichotomies. In fact, if the definition of overtaking doesn’t include “letting drivers through because attempting defence is contrary to the driver’s interests”, then overtaking requires no DRS as a pre-requisite.

Schmorbraten

I think the result the GPDA least expected has to be “~80% of you don’t follow a particular driver”. I’m still laughing.

Alianora La Canta

Anyone supporting more than 3 drivers was either obliged to pick that option or only mark the 3 preferred ones. Among the teenage set, it’s not rare for someone to say they follow 5-6 drivers “in particular”, Even so, 80% either being in that situation or literally not having a favourite driver says a lot. Especially in conjunction with 90% not having a favourite team (with the same cautionary note). That means at least 70% of the F1 fanbase considers itself relatively neutral as regards the entities of F1.

FerrariF1fan

So Fernando is #2 and Jenson #3, hmm, me thinks Ron’s price for title sponsor just went up $20mil, yep, the McLaren marketing staff should expect the phones to start ringing any second now!

Til then the cars do look better in their “stalking mongoose graphite” or whatever color name they derived for it.

tara

I think the most important question was left off the summary – should F1 introduce sprinklers. Id love to know what the percentage went for yes.