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.
#2 – Challenges for the Future
There have been some murmurs about shortening races which I know have been met with fierce opposition. However, the simple fact is that races ARE too long to hold the attention of most teenagers. I don’t want to see shorter races either, but something must be done if we really want to get more young people interested in F1. The start – great. The end – usually great. The hour in between is the problem. To the novice viewer, who has no appreciation of tactics, strategy, degradation or fuel consumption, there’s usually not enough going on to keep them watching for the whole 90 minutes.
Whilst discussing this article with a friend of mine, I was surprised to discover he had actually watched F1 in the past. “I used to find the build up more interesting than the actual race. I’d watch the guys having a bit of banter and I’d wait for the race start, but I turned off after the first few laps. Sometimes I’d catch the end.” This also links back to the quality of the coverage, which I discussed in the first episode of The Generation Game, and I do think the loss of Jake Humphrey was a big one.
But the dreaded processional race, no matter how many yachts are in the harbour, is F1’s 0-0 draw; nobody really wins. So what’s the solution? Sprint races, artificial rain, switching cars at pit stops??
Perhaps Tilke has to shoulder some of the blame for designing tracks that just don’t produce the same spectacle as the classics that have survived the test of time. Could a move away from newly created tracks, or even swapping Tilke for a new designer, bring a little more spice back to the show?
This is definitely one of the more challenging issues to overcome in order to captivate a new generation of fans, and I’m afraid I personally don’t have the answer, so please leave a comment with any thoughts you might have.
This is a bit of a minor point, but the moral of the story applies to the sport in general. In the modern age, a sparking car just looks – dare I say it – tacky.
I can pretty much guarantee my friends (if I were able to convince them to watch the race) would ask “why is it doing that? Is it broken?“. Trying to then explain about floors and skid plates would inevitably be met with a whole load of ‘Not Caring’. This recent obsession with “decoration” – some would say gimmicks – is bad for the sport. Sparks, restarts, even DRS… is it really necessary? Sometimes less is more.
TV Or Not TV?
We all know that Formula 1 has to be on free to air TV in order to gain new audiences. Unfortunately it seems increasingly likely that live races will only retreat further behind pay walls in future. But maybe salvation can be found elsewhere, in that favourite haunt of modern teenagers – the internet.
I’m not too sure about the idea of showing races live on YouTube, as I don’t think people have the attention span for it, especially when they’re used to ten minute “vlogs“. However, I think the rise of Netflix / Blinkbox etc could feasibly be utilised as an alternative to traditional TV broadcasting. Users already pay a subscription fee, so it’s not quite BBC, but it’s a damn sight cheaper than Sky.
Also, these sites are popular with the younger demographic (who mostly use someone else’s account so they don’t have to actually pay). With the right build up and advertising, a headline “live event” could attract a decent audience. This would bring more people to the site, more people would see the show, the sponsors get more exposure… everybody wins.
Okay, real life is far more complicated than that, but there could be some potential in the idea. Even people who are just after a Sunday afternoon movie could be tempted to join the action with a snazzy picture and the word LIVE!! screamed at them with enough enthusiasm.
I’m not so naive as to think that F1 races can be added to the Netflix repertoire at no extra cost, but once people have parted with a little cash, it’s easier to encourage them to give up a little bit more. Perhaps, in ten years time, Sky will no longer be the limit. (pun intended)
Sometimes, character and personality can bring a lot of interest to a sport. Here’s a poor analogy: do you watch the match featuring Luis Suarez, hoping he’ll bite Mario Ballotelli (who turns to the camera to ask “why always me?“), or do you watch a different match, safe in the knowledge that no vampirism will occur?
Take Hamilton and Rosberg. If only Nico had climbed on to the podium, hit Lewis, and proclaimed to the world “It should have been me!“. Now there’s a spicy story to grab some headlines.
On a more serious note, the drivers do seem to be heading towards anonymity, with only Kimi Raikkonen providing a breath of monosyllabic fresh air. A few more fiery characters grabbing headlines around the world could see a sudden burst of interest in the sport, and a reincarnation of the Senna / Prost battle could provide some much needed front page coverage.
The most iconic image of a modern rivalry for me is the raging bulls in Turkey 2010, although of course we also had multi 21 and “come on Seb, this is silly.” Unfortunately the Vettel / Webber relationship was a rather poor imitation of the fireworks of the late 80s, and Hamilton and Rosberg are still pretending to be BFFs. But surely at some point something has to give, and with double points in the mix Abu Dhabi could be a spicy encounter…