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.
Thanks to new writer David Simpson for his submission.
Where are the future fans going to come from?
I know its hard to believe these days but there once was a time when I wasn’t a fan of Formula 1. Back in these dark old days when I was a young boy, I had been fed a diet of what we now call V8 Supercars here in the land down under. I knew about Formula 1, the circus rolled through once a year, but as with the TV coverage of the IndyCars racing on the Gold Coast, I used to tune in to the Adelaide F1 coverage only to watch my beloved tin tops as part of the support show. Then toute suite, it was time for fishing when the open wheelers came out.
I lay the blame this state of affairs squarely on the shoulders of my father, who has since admitted his lack of interest in F1 was because he couldn’t be bothered staying up through the night to the races – despite the fact we’d be up to some unearthly hour for the delayed V8 race telecasts.
Then in 1994, I heard about the death of Ayrton Senna and whilst I understood from the media coverage this was a big deal, I wasn’t really aware of just how huge this sad event was. I’d read how great Senna had been in articles from father’s motorsport magazines and how now he was gone Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher were fighting out the championship. My interest was slowly building.
Flicking though TV channels on a wet Sunday afternoon, I came across the telecast of the Japanese GP. I only came in towards the end of the race, so wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but the enthusiasm of Murry Walker and seeing those gladiators take on the treacherous conditions that day, I was hooked.
After watching Damon blaze away at the front that day, I chose to follow him for the title showdown at the season finale, Australian GP. Instead of just watching the V8’s race and then going outside to play, I sat there all afternoon glued to the TV. Michael won the start, but Damon was closely following. Then there came the Schumacher.Hill incident that still burns in my memory to this day. I was shattered even though I’d only been watching this sport for a week!
Over the closed season that year, I got on my bike and rode to the local video store (yes they still existed then!) and hired as many season reviews as they had. I cleared the local newsagents out of stock of anything F1 related and was soon up to speed with matters concerning the coming season. I couldn’t wait for it to begin.
This is how I found Formula One, but my fear now is – where are the next generation of fans going to come from? I can argue all day about how great the Pay TV model is for a fan like myself, but does this mean my beloved sport is going to bypass whole generation. If the inevitable happens and I have kids one day, they will be brought up on a diet of F1 and V8 Supercars, but think of the millions of households where there is no chance of stumbling across a race on a dreary Sunday because it is stuck behind a pay wall.
My father refuses to pay for TV and there are many more people out there like him that are now choosing to find other things to do rather than continue to follow their lifelong favourite sport. Then we have Formula One’s CEO, Bernie, stating he doesn’t care about fans like me because I can’t afford a Rolex, but where does he think the future Rolex buyers are coming from?
As an aside, if I was to buy an insanely expensive timepiece, it would be a Tag Heuer not a Rolex every day.
Figures recently released suggest Formula One has lost one third of its TV fans over the past decade, and the numbers so far this year appear to be in decline again. The internet is hailed as the place where the kids of today find ‘new stuff’ to get involved in, but with TV contracts stitched up for years in advance it could be too late for FOM by the time they unravel.
Whichever way we consider F1’s future, the current model seems to have revenue peaked and the only way is down. The transition to an alternative model will take time and almost inevitably see revenues fall for a while. But can anyone bite this bullet? We can but wait and see.