Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Jacktheblob
Editor’s note: Jack is a young student, and an avid F1 fan. In the ‘The Generation Game’ series Jack will share with us why F1 has such a problem attracting the next generation of fans.
Over the past few months I’ve read a lot of articles on F1 blogs and websites that all reference the “next generation” of F1 fans. As a part of this generation myself, I felt it was time to set the record straight on a few matters. I am a student, heading off to university in October. These are my thoughts, as a genuine young person, on the current state of the sport and the challenge of captivating the next generation of fans.
#1 – An Image Problem
To start this feature I conducted some highly scientific research – I asked 5 of my friends to describe Formula 1 in one word. The results were disappointing but not unexpected. “Boring”, of course, was the critics’ choice, followed by “repetitive”. Conclusive proof, you’ll agree, that the sport does indeed have an image problem among today’s youth. And when you consider the state of F1 in 2014, this is perhaps unsurprising.
At the top level, Formula 1 is a sport run by old men, many of whom have a great legacy. And whilst of course I respect what these people have done for the sport, it does make it harder to present F1 as a modern, cutting edge venture. The Commonwealth Games highlighted the extraordinary nature of modern sport, where gymnast Claudia Fragapane won 4 gold medals before leaving high school.
Contrast this with Bernie and Co. and F1 starts to look a little dusty, in need of a good sprucing up. Especially with the recent TV coverage of an increasingly senile old man on trial, once outwitted by a revolving door…
The little man in charge has generated a lot of debate over whether he is good or bad for the sport. Regardless of his past achievements, I’m afraid the perspective from the younger end of the fanbase is that he is way past his best. The age of dodgy dealings has passed, and Formula 1 needs to embrace the modern world.
In my opinion, the sooner the claws of the diminutive octogenarian are extracted from F1 the better. And that doesn’t just mean Bernie himself, but Charlie Whiting and all the rest of his accomplices. Charlie in particular seems to be losing sight of reality… “why not have two starts“…
To a generation where appearances are more important than ever, this is a problem. Formula 1 needs to update its image to one that is vibrant, shiny, and new to attract young people to the sport. And this season was a great chance to do just that, with the introduction of revolutionary hybrid power units and the trial of Mr. E… A golden opportunity to embrace the future and let go of the past.
But here we are in the summer break, and that opportunity has slipped away. Far from being kicked out of F1, Bernie is now looking to claw back total control of the sport. We can only hope that the grim reaper is immune to bribery.
As for the new era of efficiency and hybrid technology – wow! To paraphrase former PM Herbert Asquith in the 1920s, “never have I seen a [sport] so wantonly and unnecessarily commit suicide“. The teams complained. The drivers complained. Bernie complained. Even the BBC couldn’t make it through their coverage without the periodic snide comment about engine noise. The sport seemed to collectively tell the world “this is sh*t, don’t bother watching“.
Which led us to the recent emergency meeting. Here’s an idea – don’t ridicule the sport you’re meant to be promoting, and maybe then you’d see that there is nothing wrong with the show. This season has seen a wealth of wheel to wheel action, epic drives from the back of the grid, a maiden victory for Danny Ric and spectacular crashes (always popular with the teenage audience).
Clearly there is nothing wrong with the new formula. The problem lies in the promotion, the marketing and the frankly bizarre choices of race venues.
Because, as we all know, Formula 1 isn’t boring. Even in races where there isn’t wheel to wheel racing on every lap, there are still stories to follow. But in these situations you have to appreciate the finer details of what is happening in terms of pit stop strategy, tyre wear etc. This is where the quality of the commentary is really vital, to ensure that the race isn’t too confusing to follow. Like most people in the UK, I don’t have Sky TV, so I can’t comment on their coverage.
That means the BBC have the responsibility of bringing the sport to the casual Sunday afternoon channel hopper. And I think they do an admirable job, especially in their pre race features. However, since Suzi Perry took over as presenter the show feels a little less entertaining. With Jake Humphrey alongside DC and EJ there was almost a “lads on tour” feel to the show that made for great viewing.
Now, with Eddie Jordan only appearing sporadically, the whole thing is heavily reliant on David Coulthard to hold it all together. I’ll be honest, I don’t like Ben Edwards. He seems to always take a stab in the dark when identifying drivers, frequently having to be quietly corrected by DC. And with Suzi Perry there’s always a feeling that she doesn’t properly know what she’s talking about.
(Don’t get me started on Jennie Gow on 5 Live: “he comes into the pits! he stops! he sets off again!” Thanks Jennie.) The coverage needs to be better in order to gain new fans.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be hard to fix. James Allen always seems a solid commentator on 5 Live and I’d be happy to see him make the move to the main TV coverage, replacing Ben Edwards. Allen McNish also has some insightful comments that make the race easier to follow. No doubt you’ll have your own opinions on the quality of the coverage, so please leave a comment below.
And finally, one of the biggest issues is when one person / team dominates the sport. For my age group this was “Der Finger” in his winged chariot. Even when he didn’t win I knew a lot of people who just assumed he had done anyway.
Whether it be Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes, domination is bad for the sport and is a big turn off for those who are discovering F1 for the first time, and need to be hooked in.
I’m not saying I want to see F1 become that which Adrian Newey dreads, but the field has to become closer together. Until then most people my age won’t bother watching, because if the result is a forgone conclusion, there’s no point.
Formula 1 doesn’t have to be the “sport of old men“. The potential is there to captivate a new audience and revitalise the sport. But it will require the right marketing and a new image, and Bernie and Co. will have to go in order to achieve this. And when they are gone for good, hopefully the next person to take charge of the sport will be able to see beyond the short term profitability and appreciate the long term health of Formula 1.