#F1 Features: The Generation Game – Challenges for the Future

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

Race Length

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.

Sparks

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.

Nigel Mansell ©WilliamsI 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.

netflix-logoI’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)

Corporate Robots

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…

Ricciardo and Kvyat together in Austin, 2013

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31 responses to “#F1 Features: The Generation Game – Challenges for the Future

  1. I really hope they don’t mess with the race distance. I know the sport needs a new fresh bunch of fans but I am tired of all the changes being made (and talked about) just for the hope of drawing more fans. What about the die-hards, who have been waking up before the sun is even up since they were 12 years old? What about the ones who follow F1 just as much on a Tuesday as they do on a Sunday? I have lost girlfriends over this damn sport because of me waking up so early and interrupting some blonde’s precious beauty sleep! Drawing new fans is great but don’t forget about the die-hards, they are the ones who ultimately keep this circus held together, and have for many years!

    • To clarify my position – I don’t want shorter races, and I’m not suggesting that is the way forward for F1. I’m just saying that race length is one of the main reasons why F1 has difficulty attracting young fans. I completely agree with you that the die hard fans are the ones keeping the sport together, but this series is focusing purely on attracting new young fans to F1.

      (I posted this at the top of the comments so hopefully other commenters will see it, rather than posting the same reply to everyone individually and clogging up the thread. Thanks 🙂 )

    • What about two one hour back to back races, to b introduced on a trial basis at a couple of the more processional racetracks ?

      Half points for each race, and an extra top 10 quali session in between….

      It would put a big premium on avoiding collisions, if nothing else (might that be a bad thing for the ‘spectacle’ though… ?)

      • That’s something I have been thinking about for a while too. Instead of one 2 hour race, have two one hour races. One on Saturday, one on Sunday. Add some junior formula racing to the schedule (GP2, GP3, etc) to keep the spectators occupied for the rest of day. Have one qualifying session, with each drivers second best time (in any session) deciding his position on the grid for the second race. I think purists may not like if this was done at a more traditional race track, but it could work some place with less history or tradition, like Abu Dhabi or India.

  2. I am sorry, but if you cater for people with the attention span of a goldfish, by shortening the races, it will be the end of Formula1. However, I totally agree to get rid of Tilke circuits. He seems to design, or re-design, circuits to make them as bland as possible.

  3. If the kids can’t handle 90-120 mins what do they do when they go to football? or the movies? If they need it shorter than that then record it and fast forward, this is a sport with history. And some of that, at least, needs to be preserved.

    Regarding Tilke, agree absolutely, get the tracks back to where they were 30 years ago and F1 will thrive again.

  4. For the last ten plus years I’ve found the intrigue and speculation more interesting than the races themselves. I suspect this is true of many fans of most of the big sports.

    • And just to answer my own point… Other sports survive and indeed thrive with this business model because there’s active, not just passive, marketing of said sports.

    • ” … I’ve found the intrigue and speculation more interesting than the races themselves”

      This is a great point that I should have mentioned, so it may be appearing in the next main feature… I completely agree, the ongoing political tug of war is far more interesting than, say, lap 50 around Monaco. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  5. f1 will be allowed to crash and burn before the brand is bought for a bargain price and revitalized. until then we have to endure the idiocy of it all. or just tune out and watch other racing instead.

  6. I more or less concur with the comments here about race distance. I don’t think the answer is shorter races. The current audience would be further alienated. And tilkedromes in fanless deserts and swamps across world has done enough of that, as well as the overtaking gimmicks and fact the cars are (relatively) slow with rookies getting in and drive them quickly very easily.

    However I do agree with the final part if the article. The sport needs open warfare and unashamed rivalry. That’s, in my opinion, the key to popular Motorsports. Strong rivalry between teams and drivers usually heralds periods of high fan interaction in F1. Memorable periods.

    When Alonso and Hamilton decided to be bff’s forever and snip and whisper at Vettel like medieval women, the sport went in the wrong direction. We have no warriors right now. Vettel tried and coped a rear ending for it.

  7. Formula 1’s audience has never been the youth of the generation. In fact, there are MORE than enough potential audience members but the problem is simply that a lot of poeople of love cars and motoring do not care for Formula 1. The tracks have to take the blame for this, as well as the car design which still look a bit too easy to drive compared to the cars of the mid 80’s.

    Ask a lover of cars if he’ll be watching the Abu Dhabi GP and I’m pretty sure all you’ll get is a laugh. Fans want to watch the best drivers, driving incredible cars around the best racing tracks in the world. End of. All these mickey mouse track designs which tend to have a scribbly, fast section, a hairpin->Straight->hairpin section and a track as wide of a football pitch makes the sport very boring to watch,

    • That’s why le mans have those massive amount of spectators. And they keep comming with more. Every year.

  8. I disagree that F1 race distance needs to be shortened. Not only this will alienate the experts among the TV audience, but it will also short change people who physically attend the race. Personally, I am not getting off my butt, driving a hundred miles to COTA, and paying hundreds of dollars to see a one hour race.

    In my opinion, the F1, like many other sports, needs to start experimenting with pay per download/view model of translation. The current TV model is just broken. I pay premium for cable subscription just to be able to see F1 racing, and yet they still interrupt each race with a half hour of commercials.

    • As a recent voyeur of Netflix, together with direct experience of ‘the youth of today’ and their YouTube habits…

      A modern version of the old 1950’s cinema glamour bulletin – 5-10 mins long – might not be a bad idea on either platform…

      As the year progresses, the basics of strategy and tech issues could be introduced…. like an F1 for dummies…

      I know it’s a polemic of mine, and many disagree, but I agree with Jack that no one likes processional races and Monaco as is…. HAS TO GO!

      • Cmon judge. If there is a place where there is danger, no limitless asphalt, every error is a retirement than its monaco. Maybe there isn’t that much overtaking, but it’s no dull race. ..

        • And to be honest it is one of the only races my non f1 watching friends like to watch.

      • I totally agree. I find it one of the most uninteresting races of the season. Basically it is decided in qualifying who will be in with a shout to win. ( and some drivers can manipulate that to their advantage) The track is not suited to modern race cars.

      • Monaco GP is a great tradition and should stay in the calendar. I do get mad when I hear the press and TV crews describing Monaco GP as the most important race in all of motorsports or at least in F1 calendar. For one, all the other truly old European race tracks are a lot better and have just as much historic significance: Spa, Monza, Silverstone.

  9. One simple fix to improve the excitment at races would be to replace qualifying with a random start grid. It might upset the purists, but for me Saturday qualifying is no longer exciting – everyone is just managing tyres, gearboxes etc. while putting in a reasonable lap. And if you line up all the cars fastest to slowest, then having no overtaking in the race shouldn’t surprise you.

    It would then make each race a real test of a driver’s RACING abilities, rather than just them cruising around at the front in a dominant car.

    • So basically make F1 into a casino. This completely unfair to the teams and drivers IMO. Moreover, the qualifying has gotten a lot better recently. The Q3 is longer (12 minutes instead of 10) and everyone gets an extra set of tires. F1 qualifying always was and still remains a the one that’s really worth watching (compared to IndyCar, NASCAR, etc)

      • PS: a lot of people are saying that the qualifying determines too much of the outcome of the race, and I agree. However, this simply means that qualifying is very much part of the race, maybe as important as the actual race. So q-sessions should be treated seriously and always watched.

  10. this thing is simple. people just want to see cool viscerally appealing cars going fast at the limit all the time driven by warriors. what we have now are ugly nosed, quiet, dainty machines driven by (mostly) little boys that follow daddy’s orders.

  11. If they can’t focus for one and a half hour, the world faces bigger problems then the decline of F1.
    Football can be watched as complete match or in highlights. I think teenagers do both. While chatting and flicking through you tube.

    My plan (have mentioned some points earlier)
    – limit only amount of joules used per race. Complete engine freedom.
    – no wings
    – rock hard tyres
    = way more power then grip + hot brands such as Google, Tesla and Apple in F1 (iFormula?)
    – a cartoon movie about F1
    – spin of mercandise
    – free acces for 2 kids (under 16) per paying adult
    = kids grow up with the sport
    – girl racer(s)
    – F1 ‘class’ food and sanitary facilities at venues
    – no clapping eye candy girls – or add boys as well
    = girl interest
    – actual heart rate and breathing with sounds at onboard shots
    – mobiles at the venue can log in and broadcast their shots live to the director, who can mix these very raw images with the regular ones
    = sense of achievement and raw action into your livingroom
    – podium ceremony without childish champaign and
    – ridiculous music during ‘champaign’
    – every driver chooses his song per season
    – Sharp confrontational interviews
    – real flags
    = feeling of watching a ‘current’ event

    2020?

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