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.