Vandoorne is McLaren’s future, says Alonso

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In the round-up: Fernando Alonso says he will help McLaren prepare Stoffel Vandoorne to be the team’s leading driver.

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Comment of the day

How should F1 go after the youth audience it has struggled to capture in recent years?

This quote from Jenson Button in the Telegraph article interested me:

“At the moment our audience is people that watched me start in Formula One and they are still watching Formula One. We don’t really have a young audience at the moment.”

Jenson’s first line is 100% correct I think, but the second line is very problematic. How do you define what a “young” audience is? I started watching F1 when I was eight and am now 32. I have grown up stuff to deal with in life like a wife, baby, a job and a mortgage, but I still adore F1 and I am pretty sure that I am still fairly “young”. In the future will F1 be targeting the eight-year-old me, 16-year-old me, 32-year-old me or even the 45-year-old me? The answer to that question is really quite important, because different things attracted me to the sport at different times. The eight-year-old me wanted crashes and fire, 32-year-old me not so much, he’s all about watching nuanced, pure racing between the best drivers in the fastest cars. If F1 is targeting 16-year-olds, does that mean that race reports on will be written exclusively in emojis and that Martin Brundle will now have to start saying things like “totes”?

The first things Liberty need to do are (a) work out who their audience is and (b) work out who they are targeting, because saying things like “young audience” is very misguided. Compared to Bernie Ecclestone, Chase Carey is young…

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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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39 comments on “Vandoorne is McLaren’s future, says Alonso”

  1. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
    10th September 2016, 0:29

    I absolutely love how Penske spelled “Neutral” incorrectly on their steering wheel.

    1. @braketurnaccelerate well spotted! I’d not noticed that!

      1. @fer-no65
        If you’re anything like me, you’d be too distracted by the 80085 to notice anything else.

        1. What’s the 800.85?

          1. Boobs – as written on a calculator. High school joke. :-)
            Just realized there’s a formal definition for this:

          2. And also here the swapped the vowels. @braketurnaccelerate, @beneboy

        2. I too am easily distracted by 800.85

  2. @Geemac
    I hate to break it to you mate, but you’re not young, or even “young”.
    Another few years and you’ll be out of the 18-35 group, and into the ever so unsettling 35-50 group. Before you know it you’ll be making noises as you get up from an armchair and wondering who keeps leaving the lights on.
    I know, I’m just a few years older than you.

    It shouldn’t matter though, F1 used to appeal to everyone from little kids to great-grandmothers, and it wouldn’t take much to make it appeal to them all again. Technical regulations that allow cars to race closely without gimmicks, and a period of stability in the rules, combined with a more reasonable distribution of revenue could result in closer competition with a reasonable amount of action.
    I don’t recall F1 being especially aimed at me back in the 80’s, but it was still interesting and exciting to watch, and got me hooked, so maybe rather than trying to aim for any particular age group or demographic, they should simply concentrate on trying to take F1 back to being a great racing series that doesn’t need silly tires and artificial overtaking aids, then let the teams and drivers fight it out on the track.
    If they can do that, it will sell itself given the right combination of TV and on-line distribution.

    1. @geemac @beneboy I think you’re both right. F1 appeals to all because it is the pinnacle of motorsport, and that concept is appealing to everyone. But to be at the pinnacle you really can’t be the “hip” thing and target the teenage market solely… However, there are different ways to tackle this problem. You can target to the younger audience on snapchat and use emoji’s and use their lingo, because lets face it, as a late 30’s aged guy, I can’t work out how to use snapchat, despite being technically competent. However, you can target 20-40’s age group with twitter/facebook and instagram, and still be engaging, remember how funny the old Lotus tweets were, that appealed to most ages. For the older generation, targeting car clubs, premier brands, and what not is how they tackle it at the moment.

      So when you think about it, F1 isn’t as broken as people believe as they do most of these things currently. That is not to say that more can be done, and done more consistently/better.

  3. I was thinking just earlier today, with regard to the old archive footage, they should, in my opinion, make most of that publicly available, and promote it. One of the things that got me particularly interested in Formula One, around 6/7 years ago, was the ability (on the BBC) to rewind and watch the best races and drama from the previous 10 or so years. Watching these incredible moments made me anticipate more to come in the future. It was watching previous footage that gave me such an understanding of the history behind Formula One (particularly more recent history, such as since the early 2000s), which has really helped me to understand where it is now, and why it is here. Things like crashgate, the US tyre failures, the growing prominence of Tilke tracks, are all things that I knew little about until looking back at them. And more than anything, it showed me how exciting the sport could be at times. And how did finding that happen? A simple google search was all it took.

    Now, however, I do not believe these are available on the BBC anymore (they display an error message when I go on them). Promoting historic footage for everybody, could be a potential way of helping to gain a more solid, larger fan base. That alone won’t be enough (just as it wasn’t enough for me), however if it helps a bit then it helps.

    1. A good point. Ironically, I guess the only way people can access this history is by downloading a torrent set up by someone on Reddit. It has all races going back to the late 70s.

    2. Not sure about putting it out there just like that. I did love that Heineken spot with Stewart. I think they could make great use of all the footage for things ranging from special viewing events to mocies and use in race promotion. And the start of a view on demand streaming channel

    3. @strontium The archive stuff was removed from the BBC website because they no longer hold the rights to show any F1 content.

      Archive content does tend to be included in the broadcast contracts, Sky for example have full access to the archive going back to 1981 (FOM don’t hold the rights to F1 content prior to 1981) have a Classic F1 race on each night at 9pm.

      The archive rights are actually quite messy for content prior to 1981 as the rights are held by individual broadcasters who aired the race (Or highlights) at the time and/or the local host broadcaster who produced the broadcast for each race. FOM have brought access and/or shared rights to chunks of pre ’81 content but it’s patchy at best with a lot still missing & some of it isn’t even available in full, Just short highlights.

      I know that FOM have been digitizing a lot of the archive for the past year or 2 & do have plans for it going forward (The 1st step of which was the bits of pieces they have been uploading online the past 2 years).

  4. @Geemac COTD is very valid. I worry when I hear young audiences should be targeted, same with the American market as I visualize endless safety car periods to reset the races, arbitrary penalties to reset the championship and what else people think it takes to interest the restless.

    I hope the new powers that be recognize that F1 has always attracted new fans even without doing anything special, and that one shouldn’t change a winning formula.

    1. I don’t think it’s the racing that needs to change in that way, it’s the way f1 is presented to them. I was taken to football matches as a kid, collected sticker albums, played football in my garden, played football games on my computer, watched videos of past world cups and so on.

      I went to 2 F1 races but still wasn’t that hooked until the company my dad worked for moved us to America and I went to see Indycar. I met half of the drivers, went ‘behind the scenes’ and totally fell in love with motor racing. That then translated to F1.

      If a kid wants to do the same with f1 these days, they can’t go and watch f1 unles their family want to because it is too expensive, any official merchandise costs too much, the app isn’t really for kids or easy to use, there is nothing online and they can’t easilly have a go at motor racing… It’s all set up to exclude those who aren’t rich enough…

      If on top of that, the racing, championships and tracks are boring, you’re just fighting a losing battle to create new fans….

      1. @petebaldwin I also fell in love with F1 when I was quite young but it had nothing to do with drivers, it was all about the cars. My guess would be that’s what most kids get into, identifying or hero-worshipping a driver/team comes when you’re older.

      2. @petebaldwin Would you agree that young men aren’t that attracted to cars (culture) anymore?

        1. Yeah maybe. Although where I live, they’re all going on about the new Audi they can drive like an idiot in…

          I know some disagree but the cars looking rubbish (halo, nob-noses etc) and sounding like lawnmowers doesn’t help with non-fans getting excited about about F1 cars!

  5. The best thing for F1 to reach the masses would be to follow WWE’s lead and create the F1 network, similar to that of WWE.

    Have all of the races in history on the network for people to watch on demand. Not only will current F1 fans love the idea of being able to re-watch old classics, but it will allow new fans to get more attached to the sport and its heritage.

    I’m sure many of us here would fork out a small monthly fee for such a large archive of footage. And like WWE, they could use it to create original content for us fans, aimed at different ages, whether it’s technical pieces, or something similar to McLaren’s Tooned.

    Then they’d also have the option of leaving the weekends with their current broadcasters, and just putting them on the network a month or so afterwards. Or, keeping it themselves and trying to gain more subscriptions that way.

    1. And like WWE, they have to charge an acceptable price. Not an “F1” price.

    2. @jamiefranklinf1 @petebaldwin

      Doing that sort of thing sounds simple , But there are a lot of clauses in broadcast contracts that would restrict what content could be made available on such a service & if it’s even available at all in specific regions.

      You mention WWE Network & something in your final paragraph regarding things going on a month later which is exactly what happens with WWE’s 2 weekly shows (Raw & Smackdown). They air every Monday & Tuesday live on the USA Network in the US & due to the broadcast contract in place those 2 shows are not able to be shown live on the WWE Network or added to the archive until 30 days after the initial air date.

      I go into more detail regarding the broadcast contracts in this post from a few days ago-

  6. Really interesting COLD @Geemac I’d never thought of it in that way. I’m 33 and have been hooked since I was 9, sticking through the good times and the bad times. So does F1 need to chase the 18-25 year old son or is it too late by then? I’d guess too late. I guess on the whole kids get into football, rugby, cricket etc at a young age and it stays with them through life. So how on earth do you target kids?! Sounds wrong but you know what I mean!

    1. I know it sounds stupid but I wonder how much of it was down to Murray Walker? The commentry was so good and appealed to everyone. Listening to him is always a huge memory of watching F1 as a kid and he could make a 4/10 race seem like a 7/10…

      1. @petebaldwin
        I hate to say this, but whenever I see classic races replayed, I just wish he’d shut up after ten minutes. I love the guy, and was a big fan back in the day, but watching it back now it’s obvious that he really didn’t know what he was talking about most of the time, missed loads of the action, and made lots of mistakes.

        1. Remember, back when it was still the Murray and James show, all the commentators had to go on was the same TV feed that the viewer got.

          No car trackers, no telemetry, no additional angles.

        2. I actually kind of agree… I think he made it much more exciting though for casual fans. The guys these days are so incredibly dull. Crofty still thinks he’s on radio and isn’t allowed to leave “dead air.” It’s OK to be quiet if you have nothing to say on TV!!!

          Murrat could even make snooker exciting!

      2. Very much agree with you @petebaldwin good point about Murray ‘trousers on fire’ Walker. Sure he made mistakes all the time and missed vital bits of action entirely but who cares when he had that voice and enthusiasm. On a personal note, my love for F1 began when Grandstand showed a repeat of the final laps of the Monaco ’92 race. Totally gripping.

  7. I think getting young people involved is a good thing. I started watching F1, cause my dad watched it and that time there was no internet and mobiles. So the tv in the livingroom had a lot of influence.

    Young people now are more and more moving away from tv and watch content online. F1 is already behind this. Usually people just don’t start watching a new sport without reason, so getting new people is a combination of factors, like exosure, availability, friends who watch, a driver from the same country, the possibility to attent a race and more.

    Because bernie never really cared about young people, i have the idea that F1 is totally out of touch with that age group. Just for the record i consider roughly 22 and younger to be in that group. I think it is really easy to keep the racing the same, but also get with the times and have a more modern presentation online and keep the tv feed. Young people keep the sport fresh, like max ;)

  8. Valid question by @Geemac of which audience to target.
    I also thought you had to choose. But I changed my view when visiting an AC/DC concert in Melbourne 3 years ago. The stadium was full of men, women, oldies, teenagers, rockers, nostalgics, etc, etc. I learned that when the product is good (let’s not start that discussion) and you’ve been around some time you can appeal to many people from different age groups, backgrounds, walks of life, etc.

  9. The NFL is also a master of keeping fans engaged between events with millions of minutes of content and Brown believe that F1 is missing a massive opportunity by only presenting itself 21 times a year at race weekends.

    Will work for F1 as well; I hear there are websites where F1 fans discus the sport 365 days a year.

    1. @coldfly
      Weirdos the lot of them, it’s best to keep your distance from that type.

  10. So now that Jenson’s taking a ‘sabbatical’ he has now become all philosophical and concerned about the state of F1 and what demographic the sport should be targeting?

    Jenson’s auditioning for a career in tv right before our eyes. Anyone who believes this nonsense about taking time out to finally do the things he has always wanted to do, is pure nonsense.

  11. I started watching f1 when I was young because my dad watched it. It was great background tele on a Sunday afternoon when relatives came round. Going behind expensive and complicated paywalls is what’s killing the young audience.

    1. When i first started watching F1 it was behind a paywall, which covered everything and had multiple angles and it was also on normal tv with commercials. They both died around the same time and there was no live F1 for a couple of years, untill the payed service decided to pick it up again a couple of years ago. It’s just to simple only to blame the paywall. Especially when a lot of young viewers are very savy at finding ways to stream it for free. You have to look at the bigger picture.

  12. “(Next year) I will try to do my own job but Jenson and myself will be helping Stoffel as much as we can because for the future he will be the man.”

    Tee hee, get them excuse in early sunshine.

  13. About Vandoorne though, seems he’s not only McLaren’s future, but F1’s as well. It seems written that he and Verstappen are going to be the main names for years to come. I’m quite excited about the prospect.

  14. If Vandoorne is even 10% as good as the hype surrounding him then we’re looking at a future 10 time WDC, savior of F1, Instigator of world peace, first man to invent time travel, find a practical solution the worlds economic problems and maybe, just maybe, save the universe.

    Realistically though, he will be driving a maclaren honda and will therefore be fighting for the occasional point here and there until a good team offers him a drive, which if he is as good as they say, he will take.

    So i doubt he will be Maclarens future anymore than KMAG or even Hamilton was.

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