A motorsport ‘Social Revolution’ unique in F1 history.

Editors Note: I understand that more than half of the readers of thejudge13 are not UK-based, but this is worth considering wherever you are in the world.

Formula 1 attracts an audience of around 8% of the world’s population, if we are to believe FOM’s figures. Some 515m people watched F1 last year and its place amongst the privileged few place on the global stage of sporting events is now secure.

My love affair with F1 began over 30 years ago but my experience of watching the sport has been predominantly one of loneliness.  There are only 20 race events a year and most people are lucky if they can afford to attend one, unlike football fans who may attend 20 or more matches a season.

It has taken 3 wives for me to find one who is nearly as F1 passionate as I am, though I think her love of attending Jerez testing during the first week of February has much to do with the mid 20 degree temperatures, glorious sunshine, red wine and tapas.

Even so, I am a lonely figure trudging downstairs at ridiculous o’clock in the middle of the night to watch the eastern time zone races.

Being an early adopter of social media, I know that F1 has an incredible social media presence, disproportionate by miles when compared for example to English Premier League Football. TV airs hundreds of football games a year while we F1 fans get 20 races. This starvation of the totality of events and the lack of opportunity to share F1 with other like-minded individuals has driven us in droves to the social media. There we debate for hours current issues, argue differences in historical perspective and analyse in the most infinitesimal detail the race action we last saw.

In F1, we the F1 fans are often the real experts and the TV pundits and commentators can struggle to keep up. I have regularly traded tweets and comments with well known media individuals helping them out with information they are missing or are not aware of.

Of course on the interweb we can talk to people anywhere in the world and many see this as a huge social opportunity our forefathers in their wildest dreams could not have conceived. Yet the ‘twittershpere’ and the ‘land of blog’ and forums are different somehow. They are not the same as a good old face to face hearty debate and I believe the reason for this is that the pattern of discourse is predominantly not immediate in response.

You can be having a healthy debate with ‘madmax’ from Australia and suddenly   he/she/it   does not respond.  It’s like being cut dead by the landlord when in the middle of giving a drinks order. Of course ‘madmax’   mother/wife/boss   has told   he/she/it   to go to bed/come to bed/get to work   and that is that for the time being.

I digress. So my loneliness as an F1 follower has just become part of my F1 identity and it’s just the way it is. However this week I am truly excited that all this may change. Just as the Samaritans were conceived to be a friend to those who have none, I have discovered the Samaritans of F1. A real life, living breathing group of people, all of whom love F1 and meet up regularly to share their passion.

F1 in Pubs…F1 in Pubs, what a brilliant, fantastic, remarkable, truly excellent, ingenious and thoroughly fabulous idea. Ok, Kris Brown may now be feeling a little overwhelmed with praise, but his idea back in 2008 has developed into an organisation where thousands participate.

His first idea was to use a Facebook page to organise a meet up for F1 fans in London at a sports bar. Resulting attendances were not stellar – in fact I believe they were on a par with the size of crowd attending the Korean GP – but 10 or so previously isolated F1 strangers began to meet regularly and real friendships were forged.

Rumour has it when a new member joined the group it was a customary ice breaker for them to introduce themselves as follows, “Hi. My name is Steve…and I’m a lonely F1 fan”. The group one by one would then respond in kind. Anyway, such is the nature of folklore.

After a while, just as Kris’s Facebook group was really taking off he and his work were relocated from London to Merseyside and the meetings were abandoned.

During the last race of 2011, Kris had travelled to London on business and was reliving old times watching the race with a friend he’d made back in the sports bar days. They reminisced and a few drinks later it was decided to launch F1 in Pubs.

This time the vision was much larger and Kris had the encouragement and appetite to see whether this could become a national organisation. There was a marketing campaign across twitter and Facebook and a website too was created. The response Kris received was truly remarkable.

There are cynical minds who may believe this was an insurgent reaction to the BBC losing full live coverage of F1. Yet I have personally encountered the anti-sky F1 brigade and mostly they refuse at all costs to watch F1 on SKY – believing it to be produced by the ‘devil incarnate’.  F1 in Pubs have received great encouragement from SKY F1 with David Croft, lead race commentator, one of their biggest supporters.

The Birmingham chapter of F1 in Pubs has inspired two of their members, Manish Patel and Paul Hadsley, to produce a regular downloadable F1 in Pubscast. These include live comment and tweets from the F1 in Pubs community members as they watch races together. Also on the podcast are interviews with well know F1 personnel, reaction and analysis as the season progresses.

Turnout can vary from location to location, and of course it takes time for any new venue to establish a core community, but attendances in some venues have already exceeded 200 people. Such was the number of F1 fans in the London venue that a screening of a Euro 2012 football match had to be cancelled to accommodate them all. I can think of a headline that would make Bernie most proud.

This seriously is a community on the march. They have held events in London, Brighton, Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester, Chester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Silverstone, Wellingborough, Devon, Bedfordshire, Bristol, Ipswich, Norwich, Edinburgh, Newcastle and many others. Yet Kris wants to remain true to his vision and says “The thing about F1 in Pubs is that we could advertise hundreds of pubs who can show F1 across the country, but the purpose of F1 in Pubs is to be a social network and it’s important to have one location in eaqch town or city. For now we want to bring all the F1 fans together en masse.”

As with all living breathing social groups there are tales of romances formed, business ideas engaged, prizes and competitions run and community action instigated by the members. Unsurprisingly the inaugural community event was a charity pub crawl at the British GP and there is an end of season party is planned and open to all on December 8th in the Bloomsbury area of London.

I expect to attend my first event for the Indian GP – incognito of course – and I have to say I can’t wait. Okay thejudge13 blog will have to be delayed that day, and I won’t have my usual race analysis toys like live timing, full pit lane radio feed, driver tracker and other all the gizmos I use when writing. But to be able to share the excitement of the race in the company of other passionate fans sends a tingle down my spine just thinking about it.

I think the final word should go to Kris Brown who outlines the ongoing F1 in Pubs mission, “We are revolutionising the F1 fan experience. Motorsport has too often been predominantly the domain of the rich and can be highly exclusive and beyond most people’s reach. We believe that we’re bringing the experience a lot closer to ordinary people and as a result F1 is bringing those people together.

Full details can be found on www.f1inpubs.co.uk

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20 responses to “A motorsport ‘Social Revolution’ unique in F1 history.

    • Glad we can help. If you on twitter – retweet my tweet from just after midnight today – which advertises the link to the article today – to help it float up the #f1 and more people will then see it.

  1. There is another venue where F1 fans can watch the races live:

    http://bit.ly/KPM7dj
    “To the delight of all our Formula 1™ fans, Mercedes-Benz World is hosting this year’s season from the heart of the historic Brooklands motor racing circuit.
    Situated in the impressive Brooklands Hall and
    Mercedes-Benz World theatre, every race that happens during our normal opening hours will be screened live, while the races that fall outside of hours will be scheduled as re-runs.
    Entrance is free and seats will be given on a first come, first served basis. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.”

  2. First, I’m a USA F1 fan. Would love to see something similar over here.

    Second, massive kudos to your blog. Great writing, content, wit, and insight that’s just a touch ‘more’ .

    I am delighted to find this, you, and consider me signed on!

    • Glad you like it. May you should contact F1inPubs and be the first international chapter.
      You can also help us popularise the blog by retweeting my tweets that advertise new articles (it floats us up the #f1 the more we get – and post links to your favourite articles on media sites with comment sections or other blogs and formums.
      hope you’re looking forward to Austin – track looks like it could be epic.

      • hi docjkm, any chance you’re in NYC? Cause I am and I bet a fair amount of US F1 fans are too. At any rate, I would seriously have to consider abandoning my family to attend at least on race hosted by a proper pub in the city. And yes, now that I know I should, I will also RT your articles. I am new to the whole Soc. Media thing so the etiquette sometimes escapes me. Appreciate all the hard work.

        • This is an old post. The person you are speaking to may not have a notification still set to receive responses.

          Would you like me to send him your email?

          Kim regards

          TJ13

  3. haha, madmax knows how much time can be lost posting on f1 chats! Post above interesting. I’d say Merc done that because of all the letters they got from angry fans about the bbc/sky deal.

  4. Having checked the F1 in pubs site, I’m 130 miles from the current nearest one. As much as I love F1, I would find a 260 mile round trip to see a race, with fellow minded fans, just a bit too much. I do, however, know of a local hotel manager, who is a big F1 fan, and this pub idea has got me thinking. I may well approach him on the subject. Regarding like minded family and friends, I’m rowing a solo kayak on serious interest in F1. A nephew and two friends will frequently watch races, but are not really interested in discussion beyond one sentence comments on the race winner or a first lap pile up. Over the years I’ve had the, no doubt common comment, of “How can you sit for two hours watching cars go round and round the same piece of track”. I have figured out, an explanation tends to end up a total waste of energy. Anyway, for the moment, I’ll continue to be “Johnny no-mates” on a Sunday, till the end of November. lol.

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