Why does F1 shut fans out of the paddock?

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Zach Catanzareti asks a question about how Formula One treats its fans:

Why do you believe Formula One handles their garage areas the way they do?

Do you believe if they made them more open to fans like other motorsports (fan-friendly, less behind-the-scenes stuff) it would attract not only more fans but sponsors?

The level of access fans have at F1 races hit the headlines recently when Silverstone circuit chief Patrick Allen drew an unfavourable comparison between F1 and the World Endurance Championship in terms of how they treat their fans.

“The access that people have (in WEC), unlike Formula 1, is second to none,” said Allen, whose circuit hosts both championships.

“I think F1 can be a bit too precious sometimes and I think a bit more access for the fans who are paying good money to watch their heroes battle it out like gladiators on the track, (and) they want to get up close to these people.”

Buying a retail ticket for a grand prix today will get you trackside but it won’t get you into the paddock, the inner sanctum of the track where the teams’ trailers and motorhomes are set up. Fans’ opportunities to see the drivers and cars up-close are limited to autographs sessions and pit lane walkabouts which are brief and only held at some circuits. Even the corporate guests who pay thousands of pounds to attend Formula One’s Paddock Club do not – despite its name – get free access to the paddock.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. Access to the paddock was originally controlled by the operators of each circuits and tended to be enforced in a rather lax fashion. This was often to the frustration of the teams, who sometimes found essential suppliers such as tyre manufacturers were barred access to the paddock while all manner of hangers-on breezed their way in.

However during the seventies Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Constructors’ Association increasingly assumed control for the issuing of passes. This was soon followed by tighter enforcement of the boundaries of the paddock.

Silverstone 1983 was a turning point for fans in the paddock
For British fans the 1983 British Grand Prix was a milestone: Silverstone’s low, easily-scaled paddock fence was replaced with a much taller construction. The line between the competitors and the fans was now being drawn more sharply, and other tracks soon made similar arrangements.

There was more to this than bloody-mindedness on FOCA’s part: Thefts from garages had become a persistent problem. By 1983 the return of refuelling had increased the danger for those in and around the pits – not that its banning the following year led to the re-opening of the paddocks.

Over the following three decades the norm has been established that F1 fans don’t get to see the competitors up close. While its true that series such as WEC and IndyCar allow fans more paddock access, with the exception of their blue riband events (the Le Mans 24 Hours and Indianapolis 500) they do not attract the same peak audiences F1 races do.

Last year 140,000 fans were at Silverstone on Sunday, Mexico City had almost the same number and several others reported race day crowds in excess of 100,000. Paddock vary in sizes from track to track, but none of them have enough space to accommodate that many people.

Furthermore, consider there will be six occasions this year when the paddock has to be swiftly dismantled on Sunday in order for teams to dash off to a race the next weekend. The process often begins while the race is still going on and as soon as the chequered flag falls lorries and other heavy machinery have to move around the paddock – something which cannot happen in a crush of tens of thousands of fans.

It was in these circumstances that the Williams pit fire occurred four years ago. Imagine how much worse that could have been had the paddock been crowded with fans.

Having said all that, of course I would like to see fans allowed closer access to the teams and drivers. The joyous podium scenes at Monza, Mexico and other circuits shows how F1 is at its best when the fans can be brought closer to it.

But clearly the paddock cannot be open to all fans all time. The question then becomes how many can be accommodated and how best to do it.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Why does F1 shut fans out of the paddock?”

  1. A adequate number of paddock passes should be sold to the fans AT A REASONABLE PRICE. The issue of fuel is a non issue if there is the correct security is in place. V8 Supercars does it without issue.

    I would recommend to F1 officals to come to a V8SC event. It would be an eye opening experience of fan engagement and attendance. For example the paddock is open for a pass and the tickets are an affordable price. I would go every year if the tickets were cheaper, but I have to go alternate years, if I’m lucky.

    The lines for autograph sessions are so long too and you need to be there all day to get an autograph, which wrecks the rest of your day at the F1.

    The F1 circuits and promoters should take an idea from the Australian Grand Prix Corporation with the idea of the Melbourne walk. The drivers and team personnel all enter the track via a path into the paddock with the fans lining up along side the barrier and the drivers and important people going along signing autographs and taking photos with the fans. I was really successful in getting numerous selfies with the drivers (apart from the fact I’m rubbish at selfies). It was a really great idea which many fans really enjoyed, including myself.

    Us fans are the ones forking out to buy team merchandise, Grand Prix tickets and ultimately in the modern world: a pay television subscription. I don’t mind doing this (I had Pay TV before F1 came to Foxtel in Australia last year) but I would like to get some great innovative fan engagement in return. F1 has got to get out the past and into the future, in more than one respect.

    1. The FIA and Bernie have made a lot of money out of making F1 exclusive, and because of that, he gets high society types. I am lucky enough to be invited to Paddock Club most years from vendors, and you can see that Channel 10 take entire suite, and people/hosts/hangers on who have no interest or affiliation with sport, let alone motorsport are seen in Paddock Club during the weekend.

      The move to cordon off the paddock areas was 2 fold, firstly to minimise the traffic in and around garages so that drivers and teams are free to move about unhindered by well meaning mobs of fans. Although, sometimes this is unavoidable, like in Melbourne, where drivers and teams share the same toilets as the paddock club. This is how I’ve met a few of the drivers, and have my favourite picture of Jules Bianchi, (which I took outside of the toilets, just to keep this all above board).

      Secondly the move also means that reduced numbers of people that can access the area, means that all of sudden you have basic economics at play (supply vs demand). Why make them $50 and sell out in less than a minute, when you can sell them off at $900 per seat, with a minimum of 2 seats (that’s the cheapest option for paddock club in Melbourne a couple of years ago when I was looking) and they still sell out every suite, every seat, maybe not in under a minute, but they make a mint off of it. As far as Bernie is concerned, he not only increases the dollars, but he gets what he thinks is a better class of “fan”.

      The problem with the Melbourne F1 race is that the socialites far out weigh the fans, I’ve had countless conversations about the basics of F1, like, “no they aren’t meant to be like a road going car that you can buy, they’re suppose to be the cutting edge of technology.” or “it is quite a challenge to race a car at speed, it isn’t as easy as you think.” I’ve been to the Phillip Island Moto GP several times and I absolutely love the atmsophere down there, because you have motorbike and motorsport enthusiasts that go, because its a 2 hour drive from Melbourne, so only the fans make the effort. The crowd is energetic and enthusiastic, like what we saw in Mexico (although not at the same fever pitch). That is what is exciting. This atmosphere is the same reason I really enjoy following Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga (not that I’ve been to a live match), because when you see the yellow wall jumping up and down in unisen and chanting, THAT is what you want to experience in the flesh. That is what makes going to an event different compared to watching it at home. This is what the FIA need to focus on, not necessarily the on track stuff, but also the off track decisions made.

    2. @ambroserpm sorry my post above originally started off by me commenting on the below quote you made, but I cut it as my post was getting far too long, it now looks like I’m trying to hijack your thread, soz, this wasn’t intentional.

      I would recommend to F1 officals to come to a V8SC event. It would be an eye opening experience of fan engagement and attendance.

      I was going to say that the FIA would freak out at the bogans that run around in the paddocks, and worse, the ones in the stands, while I’m not wanting to tar everyone with the same brush, when I went to the Sandown 500 (I think it was 5 years ago), My mate and I, who were wearing red jackets put our seats next to a bunch of Ford fans, and a couple of them came over and asked to leave because we were “#@!% holden commies !@#$!”, followed up by some bloke on the other side of us in a Holden jacket throwing up on my friends bag because well, 2 slabs of VB will do that to you at some point… I know this isn’t everyone and I know its a few, but damn, everytime I go to the V8’s, I feel like I’ve gone to some Mad Max throw back of a race where people have no common sense nor do they care about their fellow fans.

      1. I must admit I’ve never had that experiences to the V8’s. Usually all the fans have been respectful of one another, despite their allegiances.

  2. It would be great if the paddock would be open to general fans on Thursdays and Fridays. We still need for drivers to have privacy and a relaxed enviroment in the days that they need their focus.

    Compared to F1, the WEC drivers I’m sure don’t generate so much hype, so I could imagine they are not suffocate by fans, media etc.

    1. @lucien_todutz I’m not so sure. I was at Silverstone for the WEC last year and both Mark Webber and Patrick Dempsey were constantly swarmed by people whenever I saw either of them. Other people such as Karun Chandhok (who was floating about in the WEC paddock) were easily approachable and some would even happily stop for a chat. However there are so many different drivers in the WEC and just 22 (for 2016) in F1.

  3. I have attended the Le Mans 24 hours on two occasions and I am going again this year. The experience is so much better. Full day on the Friday before the race to walk the pit lane, where they bring out the cars and display them while they work on them before the race, access to the paddock for the entire weekend, plus the parade in the town centre which is like a carnival atmosphere!

    However on a smaller scale the BTCC is perfect. You can walk pretty much anywhere other than the track! You have access to the back of the garages and regularly see drivers amongst the fans.

    F1 is simply over priced and lack any real access to anything, you might as well stay at home and watch it on TV! or become a race marshal like I did then you get better access.

  4. In this day and age perhaps your best bet is a “catch me if you can movie – leonardo dicaprio” type effort – sneaking in with the staff or caterers etc…

    1. Problem is that Bernie has locked out the paddock with electronic swipe cards. In melbourne the caterers/paddock club are again separated from the actual paddock by gates, with the only chance of bumping into your favourite drivers is in the shared toilet facilities between the paddocks and the paddock club. I swear drivers must hate going to the toilet during the course of a race weekend, because without fail, they always are stopped on their way out.

      1. Well, there you go…. we have our first objective… they must get printed, transported and then handed out… plenty opportunity ;-)

  5. Even the corporate guests who pay thousands of pounds to attend Formula One’s Paddock Club do not – despite its name – get free access to the paddock.

    Hang on, so who are those thousands of hangers-on you see wandering round the paddock? Surely Bernie doesn’t have that many friends?

    As @ambroserpm mentions, FOM should allow fans access to the paddock for a reasonable fee. Perhaps they could add a bit onto the cost of a grandstand ticket (usually the most expensive available) to get you access on the days the ticket is valid.

    1. Most of the people you see in the Paddock Club are tied in with sponsors of teams. When I was invited by Lotus in 2012 there were separate dining tables for guests of Lotus, guests of Total, Renault etc.

    2. Those “thousands of hangers-on” aren’t Bernie’s personal friends, but their wallets are professional friends of a Bernie company subsidiary: they’ve all bought Paddock Club tickets. Also, they only get to visit the paddock when the Paddock Club organisers tell them they can do so, and have to stick to whatever timetable and agenda (if any) the Paddock Club has. They can’t visit when they please, the way someone holding a paddock pass for a WTCC race or a standard WEC ticket can.

  6. I went to the 6 Hours of Silverstone for the first time in 2013, and having been to several Formula 1 races before, I was stunned by how open and friendly the paddock was. It’s one of the main reasons I haven’t bothered with an F1 race since, whereas the WEC is an annual thing for me (well, that and the £300 price difference).

    But on the other hand, a fully open paddock is just not feasible for F1. The WEC attracts a fraction of the fans that F1 gets, so there isn’t much concern of the paddock simply being overrun. But I don’t think that means F1 fans shouldn’t be allowed access, and I certainly am not in favour of selling paddock passes at a premium.

    Silverstone tries to limit the number of WEC fans attending the pre-race pitlane walkabout by simply giving passes to the first 2,000 people who purchase tickets for the race. No extra charge, just plain old first-come-first-served. Why couldn’t F1 do the same with paddock passes? Let the fans choose a preferred time to visit the paddock when they purchase the tickets, allow around 1,000 fans to enter the paddock per hour, and give them a chance to spend a little time in the paddock.

  7. I understand on the scale of F1 you can’t practically allow the amount of people who would want to come into the paddock on a Sunday access, not if you still want to hold a race and close up shop sometime before the following Sunday. But what about the diehards that buy 3 and 4 day passes and come on the Thursday and Friday with the brief hope of seeing anything to do with F1 even if wheels aren’t turned in anger? Perhaps something a bit more engaging for them than just the opportunity to queue up for a 10 second face to face to get an autograph. Increase the size of the paddock, get the drivers and team members actually out there mingling with their fans.

    I did the full 4 day ticket at Melbourne, I was there on Thursday just wandering around Albert Park while nothing was happening getting the lay of the land. I didn’t see a single recognisable team member at all other than at the autograph stage where they were actually doing press interviews rather than talking to the fan who had just queued for two hours to meet their hero! They couldn’t even take the time to say hello to those people as they were herded through like cattle, no the drivers time is so valuable they had to combine the inconvenience of giving a fan a little bit of face time with answering press questions.

    The whole event is so sub par. On the whole really enjoyed it because I made some great friends, had great weather and the 8 year old in me had goosebumps finally seeing F1 cars in person for the first time. But the organisation did nothing to make me feel like it was anything special. I wouldn’t take someone who wasn’t a fan along as I would spend the entire time feeling like I had let them down.

  8. The issue is not that F1 doesn’t allow the same kind of open access that Indycar, WEC offer, it’s that F1 doesn’t even TRY. I might understand that it’s harder to offer the same kind of access at all the races, but surely opening up at least on non-race days and/or offering ticketed access for a non-obscene price would be a place to start?

    I like F1, and I like Indycar, and when F1 is much more expensive and offers a lesser track-side experience, F1 is pushing me spend my money on Indycar and just watch F1 races from home.

  9. “Why does F1 shut fans out of the paddock?”
    Probably for the same reason it desperately removes video clips from You Tube. F1 tries to keep the scarcity value of itself in the mistaken belief that this scarcity somehow enhances its value. It doesn’t. It just means that the vast majority of the population ignores F1 and F1 irritates the tiny percentage who become fans of the sport. Even though these two aspects of F1 are administered by different organisations (FOM and the FIA or possibly the tracks themselves), they both display backward thinking and very poor marketing. As @ambroserpm said above “F1 has got to get out the past and into the future, in more than one respect.”
    Fans having access to the Paddock- I’m not sure it could work at all the races (Monaco, Singapore and others). And I bet that Bernie would hate the idea, the possibility of getting close to the great unwashed etc. But it *is* one of the problems that the sport has to address about itself.

    1. FOM contracts out paddock pass arrangements to its subsidiary, Allsport Management. Which is why access at the moment is restricted to people required to be there for their jobs, and strictly supervised tours for Paddock Club ticket-holders.

      1. Aha, thank you @alianora-la-canta. So it’s FOM and a FOM subsidiary is it? Like Bernie, the policy seems to be stuck in the seventies.

        1. Exactly – and I agree with you.

  10. Maybe the circuit experience needs to be drastically improved through better architecture. Something that would allow portability or spectator movement to different parts (tunnels perhaps?) during the entire weekend depending upon the ticket price. And further loyalty points can be awarded for regular attendants that they could use at any f1 venue of their choice. This might also end up as a bonus for tourism.

  11. A little over 40000 people had paddock access (as distinct from WEC autograph session access) to the WEC field at Silverstone and it was sometimes a tad crowded at peak times. F1 sometimes attracts up to three times the number of people as a non-Le Mans WEC race does, so (at least for some rounds) there’d have to be some sort of restriction on tickets. Paddocks are of widely varying sizes, so the maximum capacity would likely vary a lot depending on the race (Monaco would be able to have the least fans visit the paddock as theirs is tiny, while a place like China could handle a lot more because it’s huge; in the latter case, the limitation would be on the availability and potential annoyance fans could accidentally cause to people doing their jobs).

    Personally, I’d prefer it if there was some sort of random-ish allocation of paddock passes to advance purchasers, restricted to the number the paddock could handle (this may differ depending on exact paddock arrangements). It would have to be advance purchasers only because the electronic barriers at each end of the paddock require certain information – winners would probably have to send a photo of themselves before a certain deadline, because I’m not sure if the electronic gates could be modified to screen selected raceday tickets reliably without them being in a similar format to the paddock passes currently in use. I also say random-ish because of two “nice-to-haves” I can think of (and others will likely think of more):

    a) I’d prefer a system where children whose tickets were bought in the same “group” as someone who won a paddock pass automatically got passes too (and if a child won a paddock pass, that at least one of the adults in their “group” would automatically receive such a pass). It’s a good way to give youngsters the “wow” factor that can cement a lifelong passion, and it avoids the problem of adults having to turn down paddock passes due to child supervision responsibilities.

    b) Particularly for races which tend to be subject to last-minute changes of mind, I’d like there to be a reward for committing early to attending the race (i.e. have at least some of the passes be reward for being among the first X tickets sold).

    1. @alianora-la-canta and @jackysteeg have the right idea, I think – I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. And what you describe also encourages people to pre-order (good for tracks), plus, when you get notified you have to supply information for your paddock-access card, you can prepare that all the while mentioning your luck and enthousiasm via diverse social media = more happy news and attention on F1, especially with kids having extra chance – win win for everybody.

      I can only hope that the F1 world realises the same.

  12. Way back in the early 70’s, I attended a few F1 races at Watkins Glen. I forget what a 3 day general admission cost ($15-$20 maybe?), and an additional $10 would get you a 3 day, unlimited entry pass for the Kendall Tech Center. This place was (still is?) a long garage with individual work bays with garage doors running down both sides, and an aisle for visitors going length-wise down the middle. The only separation was a chain link fence, maybe chest high. I have fond memories of seeing all the greats of those times standing by their cars (in various states of assembly), chatting with their mechanics, team managers, and occasionally even with some of the rabble like me! You can scroll down to a good shot of the Ferrari stall inside the garage here … http://www.velocetoday.com/formula-one-at-watkins-glenbook-review/
    I also managed to bluff my way into the pits a couple of times during F1 practice. Simpler times.

    1. RIck DeNatale
      26th January 2016, 22:55

      Ah yes, I went to the Glen for the USGP from 1974 till the end. I’ve got lots of cool slides of cars, mechanics, drivers and managers I shot in the Kendall Center.

      I got to meet Mario and Michael Andretti one year when Mario was driving a Lotus in the big race, and Michael a kart in a supporting race.

  13. Apex Assassin
    22nd January 2016, 16:04

    Why do the fans feel so entitled? Why do they expect paddock access?

    I say this is the LEAST of F1’s problems.

    1. Perhaps it depends if you think F1 needs fans, or if they’re doing us all a favour?

  14. Paddock access isn’t practical is it, for F1 fan numbers, but I reckon they could put some webcams in.

    But the access we really need is to data.

    1. If F1 is a show for the fans then they could make paddock access happen. Even a sort of ‘Sea World’ F1 pits in a tank would be cool.
      It would be cool for the ceiling of the pits to be transparent. You could walk around and look down on last minute adjustments and you would be out of the way and safe.

      Yes you are right, webcams are cheap and proven and all that stands in the way is the FOM data hogs.

      1. Glass ceilings @motor, brilliant.

  15. In 1982, aged 16, I bought a “paddock pass” for the Swiss GP in Dijon. I had access to everything but the pit lane during the whole week-end. After that, I was able to sell some pictures to Swiss magazines, including a nice one of Rosberg overtaking Prost that appeared in many papers and mags. I did the same during a couple of years, buying paddock passes and trying my best to work on my pictures, and in 1987 I began to cover F1 for a Swiss newspaper then in 93 for the IndyCar magazine ICR. I had photos in annuals like the Automobile Year, and while, as you can see, my English writing is still pathetic, my photos gave me a lot of pleasure in F1 until the passion faded, a couple of years after Senna’s death. All that was made possible with these expensive but very useful passes. And believe me, in 1982 drivers and team personnel (including Colin Chapman, who signed me half a dozen books in that Dijon race) were not mad about having non-pros in the inner sanctum.

  16. Unfortunately there are people with malicious intent in their heart, and they would take great delight in seeing something go wrong for a team that was caused by their own deed. As much as I can sympathise with fans who would learn so much and appreciate the kindness of teams in allowing them to get closer to “the action”, the damage caused by those few does mean teams have to put up barriers.
    I had a friend who told me about how the teams all design and build their own trolleys and such like equipment, which was something I’d never noticed before on TV, and it does appear to be true. Obviously that was something he’d noticed from walking around the pits. So other people can learn from the experience of those walking around the pits as well.
    As Keith said, people were stealing from the garages, and all that does is create anger and resentment from the mechanics who have to supply their own tools.
    When you consider the other ways F1 creates barriers between the teams and barriers, like the plan to re-introduce the insanely loud exhaust sounds, which has no benefit to performance, then I think keeping fans away from the garages, while unfortunate, is probably better.
    In the lead up to a race they have the “Johnnie’s show and tell” session on the feed I have access to, where the TV commentators have a closer look at some aspect of what is happening or some point of interest (like the damper on the accelerator that was an issue on Rosberg’s car last year). On the few occasions I’d seen it, found it quite interesting. Maybe they could put that a bit closer to the actual race, so that more people have a chance to see it. While this wouldn’t be as good as having a walk around the pits, it would allow fans who will never go to a race to see some aspect of the “behind the scenes” to a race.

  17. Back in the 80’s in Long Beach, CA, when F1 ran there, the paddock was the floor of the Long Beach Arena. The pits were fenced areas in a circle around the perimeter of the floor. Pit passes were allowed in the vacant area in the middle of the floor and in the seating area surrounding the floor area. You could look down at the work from the seating area and I watched as Ferrari mechanics changed engine/trans/rear suspension units on the 312 T5. Close up access to all the team’s pits is an experience I’ll never forget. Current F1 teams have sequestered themselves in garage caves. Because the paddocks have been designed this way, the only way for fans to view is through the front garage opening which teams routinely block. High ticket prices and no access. Current F1 is the most fan unfriendly motorsport on the planet.

    1. I had a similar experience at a ALMS event. It was when the Audi team would replace the rear end during the event because of possible wear or failure, so they had the work very well choreographed.
      The team was doing the same work back by the trailers and passers-by were only 8feet away from the action, the floor and exhaust pipes were right at our feet.
      And yes, they did the job in under 10minutes, it was a huge treat I will never forget.

  18. One other reason is that weekends tend to be filled with a lot more track action now with the GP2, GP3 & Porsche Supercup races having sessions/races on all 3 days of the weekend. During there track running their teams operate out of the F1 pit lane & before/After they are moving there cars/equipment back to the support paddock so there is a period where the pitlane is quite busy with all that which is taking away time for potential fan pit walks.

    By the time track activity is done for the day on Friday/Saturday the mechanics are busy checking over the cars or repairing any damage & the drivers are off in the team debrief going over the day’s data & planning what to do over the remainder of the weekend.

    There isn’t the large chunks of down time during an F1 weekend that you get during a lot of other categories (Including WEC) which doesn’t have the support categories taking up a longer amount of track running that you get over an F1 weekend.

    I know that the 1st few years at Singapore they did let fans into the pit lane in-between the Friday practice sessions because they had zero support categories the 1st few years, But when GP2 & I believe a regional GT series joined the support ticket the fan pit walks ended.

  19. Football fans don’t get access to the changerooms. The paddock is the preperation area for F1. Fans shouldn’t have access simply because teams need their place to do their work. They need their space to get ready for competition.

  20. I think one effort is already pretty cool, Pit Walk on Thursday afternoon for the holders of a Weekend Tickets, have been a couple of times to that at Spa-Francorchamps and while it’s certainly crowded, I always was able to get nice views and foots of the teams working on the cars, making pit stop practices, the drivers, plus I always managed to get some signatures of my preferred drivers. I think it would even be cooler of the entire paddock would be opened that day, would release some pressure with too much of a crowd in the pitman (I would guess there usually a crown of may be 4,000 people in the pitman, and not really a chance to grab signatures from 2 or 3 drivers from different teams, you simply have to choose one team where you stand and catch autographs of the drivers of THAT team. If the entire paddock were open, may be some more people come, say 5 of 6k, but then they spread over a wider area and not just the pit lane. I think the other cool thing F1 could do, is that each team on each day needs to host a group of may be 10 people, for a VIP experience, pit tour, Team hospitality, meet and greet with the drivers. 30-45 mins in total. That would give over 4 days a total of 440 fans such a VIP experience, for teams and drivers it would be a total of 2-3 hours off a 4 days schedule. Fans to be selected with random selection of the numbers of pre-purchased tickets, planned and communicated something like 3-4 weeks ahead of the race weekend.

  21. I’ve been to the US Grand Prix twice, once as a fan with a general admission ticket, which was good and then again
    last October when I finally broke through and got in with media credentials. Despite the awful weather it was amazing. It was all at once like many other series and yet completely different; the paddock was the most shocking.

    Scanning in and out with a badge just to get access, it can be a lonely place unless a session is beginning or ending, then it’s madness. It does make it much easier for the teams and media to do their work, but I think fan access is needed to liven things up and give the public more chances to interact with the teams and drivers.

    It was so surreal to finally see and meet people I’d only watched on television or YouTube and the severely restricted access just made it even more so. Within 5 minutes of getting inside I noticed Bernie Ecclestone walking by.

    With a couple years of media experience under my belt at WEC, IMSA, IndyCar and NASCAR events I didn’t think I’d get starstruck; but bumping into the likes of Will Buxton, Martin Brundle, Sir Frank and Jackie Stewart was overwhelming. It was so other worldly that seeing Juan Pablo Montoya hanging around didn’t faze me.

    I say this because F1 has created a potential minefield when/if they do allow fan access to the paddock, it may well be overwhelming for the fans, the drivers and the teams. BUT IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN, the absurd prices F1 charges for tickets alone justify more access for the fans, not less. You shouldn’t be able to spend $50 bucks for an IndyCar ticket and get access to the entire garage area post race and then pay $500 or more to go to F1 and get locked out, and separated from the action like cattle on a farm.

  22. Its because they are precious. I am a huge fan of the races on TV. Have been since 1988, But I have NO interest in going to see a race because of the paddock policies. Its so bad they have to be carted around the track before the races so that the fans can see the Drivers at least once before the race starts. Just plain Weird.

  23. There’s a couple of legit reasons why F1 would need to limit paddock access. Unfortunately, I think Bernie’s most important reasons probably aren’t among them. I mean, why give people access to your product? It’s F1.
    I loved it when Sky started letting Ted Kravitz lose with the microphone and a camera because you got to see that kind of candid “behind the scenes” view of the paddock and the geography of the pit lane. The kind of thing that people who can’t go to races wouldn’t get to experience and would like to. Again, that’s a case of the media doing Bernie’s job for him. Once the media drop F1 because of the poor viewing figures, F1’s going to be in a right hole. But Bernie won’t care because he’ll be rich and/or dead and those are his only perogatives. But I digress…

    So; there’s the sheer numbers of fans who would visit the paddock at any point over the weekend, not just the race. Numbers would simply have to be limited somehow. And while one would hope that they’d do it fairly by having a lottery for ticketed fans, the fact is that they’d just charge money for it. Which they do. Which doesn’t count as fan access.
    And because F1 is the public-face of motorsport it attracts a lot fans who don’t actually like motorsport. And like Premier League football, that means there’ll be a significant proportion of those morons who would take the opportunity to act out on the fact that they’re morons, be that malliciously or otherwise. You simply couldn’t allow the base-rate F1 ticket-buyers that kind of proximity to the teams and drivers because some people will quickly prove themselves to be a massive security problem.

    Ultimately these issue are of Popularity. At the moment I’m filling my boots with the WEC access. It’s great to stand at the back of a garage during a race. Watching mechanics whipping tyres out of a cabinets, running them through the garage and watching them getting fitted onto the car. Drivers knocking about the place. Damaged cars being returned and being seperated from them only by length of barrier tape. Great stuff to get close to.
    But once there’s a critical mass of people then that won’t be possible. I’d like to think that the WEC would still give access to some people on a lottery system, but the fact is that that’s not going to happen in F1. Because 1) it’s a way to make money and 2) they already have lots of money so why bother? I mean, it’s F1. People will come anyway, right?

  24. I undrstand that this year it is even more difficult to get into the paddock, there now being three requirements to satisfy before on qualifies to enter: An FIA issued pass, being a friend of Bernie and able to afford a Rolex. The Sporting Regs which say it is only the FIA issued pass which is needed have long been superseded.

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