Bernie Ecclestone has done a Q&A with the fans of Formula One, facilitated by F1 Racing. The questions were wide ranging, including ‘when are you going to retire?’ and ‘what did you think to your sign that was altered in Germany to ‘’Bernie says think before you bribe’?
Yet there is a stand out section where Ecclestone was asked by Kristian Soderberg of Finland, ‘What is the strategy to attract new fans to the sport?’
Here is his response:
“I don’t know. Maybe someone else should answer that. What is it that attracted fans to this sport 30 or 40 years ago, and what’s changed? That is the bottom line.
“Maybe other forms of entertainment, because of television, have taken away a big chunk of people, who would have watched F1 and are now watching something else.
“These other things are now accessible; before, they weren’t. Football is big, big, big. Thousands of games. We have 20 ‘games’ per year. Just think of the number of football games in each country that people can watch.
“And sponsors – they come to us if they want to position their product in F1. We can offer them 20 different variations of where they can go and how they can appear, but with football… think of how many games they play on a weekend, in every country. The world has changed”.
Of curse the quick observation is that the loss of F1 on free to air broadcasting has been the biggest culprit for the loss of the TV audience. However, Ecclestone’s response appears to be that of a man who genuinely has no answer to what is happening.
Bernie is stating the obvious, but there is no characteristic quick-witted response, or even a vaguely mad idea of how the problem can be solved.
Add this to the answer to the next question, and maybe there are signs Ecclestone recognises his time is coming to an end.
Ricardo Quinonez asked, “What advice would you offer to your eventual successor?”
“Well, I don’t think there will be one person. There will be a group of people all doing different things. Maybe that’s better. Maybe that is a better way”.
The world has indeed change over Bernie’s 40 years of Formula One management, and he must yearn for the days when his word was law.
Now Formula One has the strategy group.