Voice Of The #F1 Fans: Has Bernie Lost His Lustre?

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Heidi S. Wolff

As Formula 1 is facing a crossroads trying to figure out where it’s headed in the coming years, many people are looking at the man in charge, 84-year-old Bernie Ecclestone as someone who has had a big hand in some of the problems that the sport currently faces.

Bernie has been around the sport for many years but, at 84 years old, does he really have an understanding of what needs to be done in order for Formula 1 to survive and thrive for years to come or has the sparkle of his disco ball faded and a chorus of “Last Dance” from Donna Summer started playing? There are so many ways that Bernie is out of touch with Formula 1 today and its fan base. I’ll touch on a few in this post.

For many years, Formula 1 has been thought of as “the pinnacle of motorsport” and the frontrunner of technology and innovation where young engineers, aerodynamicist, racing drivers, etc. could get the opportunity to hone their craft while fuelling their passion for motorsport. Formula 1 has also been known for its glitz and glamorous parties and events while also being known as a wealthy man’s sport that was fortunate enough to have car manufacturers like Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, and Lotus having works teams in the sport.

Works and other private teams have come and gone because Formula 1 has a cyclical nature just like the innovation and technology that is a huge part of it. Some of the changes that Bernie wants to implement would be a step backwards and technically mean that Formula 1 was no longer “the pinnacle of motorsport” but going back in time technologically would bring Formula 1 closer to the reality that Bernie and his generation are comfortable with.

Bernie has also presided over a calendar of grand prix locations that have seen some become beloved fixtures through the years, other locations disappear for different reasons, and new races happen in exotic locations. The problem with letting traditional grand prix locations in Europe drop off the calendar in favour of the exotic locales is that Europe is the lifeblood of Formula 1.

All of the factories except for Ferrari and Toro Rosso are in the United Kingdom and a big part of the sport’s fan base is there too. Bernie has been lucky that Singapore, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi have enjoyed success. Other locations have been on the calendar a couple of years and then disappeared for various reasons including the fees that are charged by Bernie being too high and the promoters not being able to sell enough tickets to make things work for them economically. Moving the Grand Prix races to new exotic locales in the Far East and the Middle East has been Bernie’s answer to the inability of the European promoters to pay his fees.

As Bernie chases the money necessary to line his pockets and coffers, is he scheduling grands prix that might only be around a short time, expensive and logistically difficult to travel to while also being potentially dangerous for people to attend given the unrest in different parts of the world? Would it be better and safer for Formula 1 to get back to its roots on the historic race circuits of Europe?

Bernie has made the sport inaccessible to the segment of its fan base that isn’t in the upper tax brackets. This is because ticket prices for a grand prix are very high as a result of Bernie’s fees and a family cannot afford to attend the race without incurring a good amount of debt. This factor excludes a constituency of people that include children who will possibly become the future engineers, mechanics, aerodynamicist, race drivers, and members of the fan base for years to come.

As other motorsports have embraced the digital world, Formula 1 has been slow to do so because an effective digital presence is not Bernie’s reality. For Formula 1 to survive and thrive in the coming years, the sport must effectively embrace the digital world and develop a digital strategy that brings the sport to every corner of the globe. In comparison to other motorsports, Formula 1 looks like it’s still in the stone ages.

Formula 1 needs to lose some of the aura of exclusivity that it currently has because it’s slowly alienating its fan base that, these days, has many options for its attention and money. Fan accessibility to the Grand Prix races, the drivers, and the teams is also an issue that is constantly being discussed.

The GPDA’s survey is a start but will it really make a difference in the long run or will Bernie just keep doing what he what’s even though his reality is a distance away from the wants of the fan base who are the consumers of the sport? That remains to be seen. I strongly encourage everyone to support the GPDA and complete the survey. We may all get a surprise if it’s taken seriously by Bernie and company.

I have adored the sport of Formula 1 since I was a young girl and dreamed of one day heading Daimler AG. My education is in Exercise & Sports Science-Sports Administration and Sports & Fitness Management. I grew up in the sports world and have family that is currently involved in the sport.

I have ideas on how to rectify the issues mentioned above and many of the other issues that are currently faced by Formula 1 which I will present in future posts. I just hope that the sport that I adore can be saved from the problems/challenges it faces before it’s too late.

Disclaimer: TheJudge13 provides a platform for Formula 1 fans to publish their voice on matters relating to Formula 1. The views expressed in Voice of #F1 Fans are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.

21 responses to “Voice Of The #F1 Fans: Has Bernie Lost His Lustre?

  1. I would love to read more of your work, Heidi, starting with the potential solutions you mention in your closing. Nice job.

    On another note; it’s obvious you will support the Mercedes team, but are you a Nico or Lewis fan? Just curious…

    • And why is that? If the best German driver is driving a ferrari. And the second best is driving a force India. ..

      • Reason 1: “I have adored the sport of Formula 1 since I was a young girl and dreamed of one day heading Daimler AG.” – Heidi

        Reason 2: “I grew up in the sports world and have family that is currently involved (Obv. Toto, Mercedes Boss) in the sport.” – Heidi

        My assumption has nothing to do with her nationality. Had I dreamed of Mercedes as a kid, and had a cousin in running a top team, the very one that I dreamed of, I’d probably support that team too.

        The question is, am I wrong…. I don’t think so. 😉

        • @WTF_F1: You are correct in your assumptions. My cousin is Toto Wolff-the Mercedes boss. I will always support a Mercedes works F1 team. What is so fantastic is that the technology that is being developed in Formula 1 will benefit road cars.

          As a paraplegic and an Austrian, I also support Red Bull as they are technically an Austrian team because of Wings for Life and how significant their work has been for people with spinal cord injuries. Having an Austrian GP in important for the Styria region and Red Bull need to stay positive and work through their current struggles and not be viewed as whiners because it hurts the Austrian GP. People don’t like to support a F1 team that whines all of the time.

          I support Lewis and Nico equally. They are both fantastic drivers. I also support Sebastian Vettel. I have supported him since he started driving in Formula 1 and always will.

          Thank you everyone for the comments. I enjoy interacting with everyone who posts content and comments. I truly enjoyed writing the article. I look forward to writing more articles/posts and sharing more of my ideas regarding the sport that I adore. A big thank you to Fat Hippo, the Judge, and the other people involved in the site for giving me the opportunity to write.

          • Once again, I enjoyed your article. It was refreshing and I genuinely look forward to your follow-ups. In fact I like all the fan written articles; they’re refreshing, even if I don’t agree with all of their content.

            My wife also has a disability, so I definitely empathise wholeheartedly as to why you also support (in part) Red Bull re: the Wings for Life initiative. In addition to my wife, the fact I am not a paraplegic, or worse, is out of pure luck. I’ve broken parts of my vertebrae (numerous occasions) and been hospitalised for extended periods of recovery due to recklessness and/or negligence (mine and others). So I too can’t help but have soft spot for Red Bull’s work in that area.

            Lastly, the answer to my original question, re: Lewis / Nico… How unsatisfying, but I suspected that might your answer. A true Hamfosi/Rosbergian hybrid supporter. Don’t be too balanced, you might not fit in around here. 😀

            Thanks for answering and giving us insight into you and your motivations as a writer. It makes reading the peice a richer experience.

  2. Did I miss the news about Dauber closing, or did they move during the off week?

  3. Nice writing, although I don’t necessarily agree with all of your points.
    I personally, don’t believe all of the blame can be laid at Bernie’s doorstep.I don’t for a moment believe that he is doing anything CVC doesn’t support, therefore its mu opinion that simply calling for him to be replaced will not bring significant change.
    Also, was it not revealed here that the GPDS poll was a Bernie propaganda ploy And that one had to provide personal info in order to submit the answers?

    • @Bill: My article was written right as the survey/quiz came out before people figured out what it really was and that it’s probably connected to Bernie. I has hope that the survey/quiz would be positive thing; now I’m not really sure. Bernie is the CRH and he’s the one that has been front and center for years with all of the deeds and greed. He’s had a bigger hand in things than CVC.

  4. Sauber also isn’t based in the UK.

    And really not a fan of you brandishing images of (regardless of who they are), an elderly man who has been assaulted.

    Surely you can find a picture of Bernie that doesn’t really on such poor methods.

    Stop with the trash journalism guys – if I wanted that I’d go on f1times etc…

  5. Some very hard hitting and truthful remarks, nicely done Heidi. Just to add to the point about being averse to digital context, I have always held a thought that its down to distribution. Once a feed is out on the Web, MrE and co just lose control, they can’t charge and realistically its a free for all access. Once that little hickup is sorted I am sure they will be on the band wagon. I for one would love to here more of your thoughts,keep stirring the pot:)

  6. Of course the problems with F1 are all down to Bernie. He’s never been afraid to claim the praise for all the good things. Bernie bought in CVC and has given them half of the profits – maybe more, we don’t know, we don’t get to see the Delta Topco balance sheet to know different.
    There’s not one aspect of F1 that Bernie hasn’t stuck his stubby little fingers into. From circuits to press passes to getting team staff hired & fired. Nothing happens in F1 without him knowing and interferring. He’s the virus that infects F1 and he needs cleaning out. He might know where the bodies were buried – it’s time he joined them.

  7. I keep on bangin’ this old drum: free engine rules and lure high tech companies like audi, Apple and Google to F1.
    Maybe banning windtunnels might lead to fasttrack developments in CFD.

  8. Well written piece! Hope there is more to follow. Don’t be shy 😂
    As for races in exotic places, that wouldn’t be bad if a) the tracks where good. And b) the locals would show some efforts to actually go to the track when there is a race. But can you really blame bernie if there are governments stupid enough to pay those amounts of money even if the race it self isn’t Successful. I know we all hate bernie and so on. But I think 95% of us would do the same if being in his position. I go to work so that I can earn money, if there would be a way to earn even more money doing the same job, I’d do it… in a heartbeat…

    • I agree bruznic but one major problem is admission price for the event. Many times these new tracks are heavily promoted by the hosting government then the subsidy dries up after the first race,this then leaves the locals having to pay full admission price and frankly,in a developing country £300 for a weekend is probably a months wage. I can remember at more than one of these new venues we had cardboard figures filling the stands and the local government issuing free tickets to the student body and nearby towns. If F1 wants these new markets then it needs to cut the cost of hosting and entry,it should be balanced against the local economy rather than the European model then maybe these races will survive.

  9. I do wonder about F1 post B.E. Since the F1 commercial rights are still going to be owned by a for-profit organization that will also struggle to justify its always inflated share price, the management will always try to pursue short term gain instead at the expense of long-term damage to F1. Nothing is going to change, except that Bernie was specially good at that game.

    • My thoughts exactly. Grandpa Bernie certainly makes things (significantly) worse, but it’s CVC who’ve put and kept him in his position all this time. CVC are bringing skewed incentives in the governance structure of F1, and with or without Bernie their profit-seeking manners at all costs are unlikely to change…

  10. CVC and Bernie need to depart the sport, OR the manufacturers need to revolt and say ‘screw the Formula 1 name’ and start their own series. It has really become that desperate. CVC and BE keep jacking up the race fees and maintain virtually no digital presence. Access to the cars, drivers, and personnel is for the wealthy only. Maybe BE ought look at one of the most popular motorsports, NASCAR. NASCAR does autograph sessions at their haulers. I read about a lot of guys and girls and kids getting their favorite driver’s autograph. Good luck with that in F1! NASCAR has a $10 garage pass. The drivers aren’t nearly the diva’s that Ham et al. are (although maybe Montoya is close…). NASCAR doesn’t allow private radio transmissions so you can pick up all the teams’ radio transmissions with a cheap handheld scanner.

    The funny thing is, NASCAR isn’t that far behind in revenues. Individual NASCAR racing teams are worth an average of $143 million and generate annual revenues exceeding $100 million. And that’s with a LOT of teams!

    Now I don’t want to watch 3500lb spec machines with 1980’s technology race turn left 200 times, but I can’t help but think F1 could learn a thing or two by paying attention to NASCAR and the NFL revenue models and rules.

  11. nice write up Heidi, sentiments aired that are felt by a lot of people. Constructive criticism is the only one that should be responded to forget the other. Well done girl.

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