Liberty to revamp F1 races into week-long festivals

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In the round-up: F1’s new owners has big plans for how the sport will change to make more out of each grand prix.

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Do our Rate the Race polls fall to capture the excitement of high-speed racing?

I’ve long been a fan of the actual spectacle of watching a formula 1 car, rather than whether the race is any good. As a result, the Monza result annoys me a little, nearly 20 cars have been driven around at an average of nearly 150 mph with corner speeds exceeding 180 mph. Whether there’s overtaking or not, that to me is impressive and a show of technological and mechanical sophistication. Take turn one at Silverstone, seemingly innocuous to most of the cars in the field, yet the head on shot of cars turning into that sequence was incredible, the camera shot caught every ounce of the strain and violence that comes as a by-product of trying to change direction at 180 mph.

What isn’t impressive though and what I totally agree with in these polls, is something like the Baku result. F1 cars aren’t as fast in a straight line as a lot of other motorsports but their main draw is corner speeds. Put them on a grand tour of a supposedly historic city with long straights and clumsy 3rd gear corners (not to mention the horrific crawl around the castle) and all of a sudden, without overtaking, you remove what’s left of the spectacle.

Surely the idea is to set a base level of excitement by watching one driver wrestle his beast around corners at mind bending speeds and then multiply that by 20 on race day, so even if there’s little overtaking or strategic variety, you can still experience the joy of watching a car change direction at 150 mph, or the ultra motion shots of the whole car vibrating as it goes over a kerb.

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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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60 comments on “Liberty to revamp F1 races into week-long festivals”

  1. I’ve been thinking for a long time that F1 should try to be more like a festival event. I paid over £300 to go to a good festival for a weekend, but in my opinion would F1 as it is now be worth that? No of course not, I would pay about £40, if that, by comparison. It sounds like Liberty have the right ideas in mind

    1. And it would be a good thing if the promoter could make a few extra bucks during the buildup.

      1. With a whole week of festivities, I would certainly hope that the locals get quite a bit more bang for their buck too @hohum!

        We desperately need to have the hosts get more from it, to make it more likely a track like Austin, Spa, Silverstone, Monza etc can turn a decent profit to be able to invest in the track from the revenue and make it a long term good investment.

        1. @bascb right on, it was the local promoter I was referring to, not the bloodsucking parasite that falseley claims to be the ” promoter “

    2. I’d rather pay 300 quid for a Grand Prix than 40 for a Festival.

      1. But would the average, non-F1 fan want to?

        Most sporting events, music events, just most events in general, attract casual people that are interested to go with mates to see what the event is like for a bit of fun. I’m no football (soccer) or rugby fan but I’ve been to a few matches over the years. Granted, the scales aren’t the same as there are hundreds of those every year, whereas there are only 20 Grands Prix, but if you’re trying to attract 100,000 people to a race you need to appeal to more people.

        I can’t see anybody who’s not an F1 fan forking out £300

      2. I’d rather pay 300 quid for a Grand Prix than 40 for a Festival.

        Me too. But I’m afraid most people I know would rather pay for a music festival. I like the idea because it can bring more people to see F1 and eventually turn them into real fans.

  2. @naz3012 , good comment, check out the ultra slo no videos on the motogp site for even more wondrous man/technology.

  3. I literally have zero interest in week long festivals or anything. I just want to turn up over the weekend & watch F1 drivers in F1 cars driving on F1 tracks. Besides most people are likely to be at work and/or school through the week so only attend the Saturday/Sunday anyway.

    I seem to recall that in its dying years champcar tried to make the weekend into a festival (festivals of speed they called them) which all sorts of off track events in/around the circuits & local cities/towns to help dwindling attendance & it completely failed as that isn’t what most race fans go to a track to see.

    for me whenever i’ve been to a race i turn up for Friday practice if I can get the time off work but mostly I turn up just for the serious track action on Saturday & Sunday & no amount of extra activities will change that as i’m just not interested & I suspect most others won’t be as well.

    1. i also wouldn’t want to see any extra off track festival nonsense come at the expense of any of the existing track action.

      Having extra festivities but shorter races or less track time would be nothing but a turn off for me & would actually make me far less interested in attending races as i go there purely for the track action.

      1. What are you reading that’s indicating shorter races and more Rhianna? If they’re stretching race weekends by 4-5 days, it’d be safe to assume there’s gonna be more track time. Think race weekend PLUS rhianna .

        What’s crazy is now liberty wants 25+, week long racing Super Bowls?

    2. I live near the Assen Circuit and in the build up to race day there are several festivals starting at tuesday or wednesday. It is a great succes and a huge financial injection to the local economy. Most locals take a week of during that period.

    3. Yep. Are they actually working the week? Because I am to pay my bills.
      I can’t afford staying in the sofa, watching F1 all day everyday, even less asking my boss a week off to watch F1 action. I’d rather go skiiing.

      I knew F1 is a microcosmos, but come on: An Intl. Grand Prix week, are they serious. They need to shorten those race weekends, not making them even longer.

      1. People are ever happy about anything. Especially today’s F1 “fans”.

      2. yeah shorten race weekends, that will get sponsors interested, oh look you’re paying a ridiculous amount of money for less exposure, most of this extra stuff for extending the weekend doesn’t need to be anything for TV rather more for the fans who are going to the race and can go for the extra stuff, it increases fan interaction and we live in an age where fan interaction is vital and look at what people keep saying about F1 compared to other races, there isn’t as much fan interaction so increasing it by doing this can only be a good thing, if the drivers don’t like it, so what it’s not like they’re the ones paying to go

      3. It’s one of the most anticipated weeks of the year for a lot of people here.

    4. Well, for me, going to a Grand Prix means visiting another country. That type of vacation is usually reserved for the the whole family, but since they don’t actively follow F1, they need other activities during the trip. And since not all races a city-based, I have to travel to and from the track, which (together with additional logistics) takes away a lot from family-based vacation time. So yeah, I’ll take festival activities. No one is forcing anyone to attend the rest of the events, so why the hell not?

    5. I think that it would help a great deal if a city is visibly preparing for a race. Having some displays, maybe extra booths all over town (and the airport), maybe a demo run in town on tuesday to hype the event a bit up front (and try to get those last minute ticket sales up) etc. Put in a few concerts up front too to give a festive athmosphere to is, with the musical highlight the big act on Saturday (that is already on at several tracks) and it would help a lot IMO.

      It doesn’t have to be all day long off course (not all of it at least, if you get visitors, they will want to do something from about 10:00 am for the rest of the day), the argument that one has to work doesn’t mean that they cannot have something going on for every afternoon/evening and then have something there during the day too @jeff1s.

      It certainly does not have to be all televised, although I am sure that online services could make us follow as much of it as we would want throughout the week.

      As @zimkazimka mentions, it makes huge sense to be able to offer entertainment to both the part of the family that really does enjoy a race, but also cater to those that are not as much into racing, including partners, parents, friends and children.

  4. in response to cotd, I agree about the spectacle of watching cars change direction & all that but I also disagree with regards to circuits like baku as i feel the allure/spectacle for the slower/tighter street circuits is different.

    The tight, narrow street circuits are less about the spectacle of watching high speeds & fast change of directions through fast sweepers & more about watching some of the best drivers in the world show off there skill by been precise driving at such speeds so close to barriers with little room for error. On circuits such as that you have to have concentration & you can’t afford an error as the results are going to be harsher than on most other circuits (See Hamilton’s qualifying for example).

    Yes circuits like that tend to produce less overtaking & less wheel to wheel racing, But i’ve always admired the additional & different set of challenges that street circuits bring. That is why Monaco has & will always be one of my favorite circuits & one that I have/will always love watching cars drive round & why on the whole I enjoyed Baku, Especially through practice/qualifying when some of the best drivers in the world were making tons of mistakes & been challenged to drive more precise, Have higher levels of concentration & make zero errors.

    1. Good points worth consideration. Baku was certainly not my favorite race of the year, but the aspects you mention are worth a lot too. It is a somewhat different skill set with challenges not present on other circuits. And that can be fascinating. Monaco does have the tradition legacy not present on other courses and that has always meant a lot to me. I’ll never forget walking the streets of Monaco years ago and the only thing I could think about was this is right where the F1 cars race! The demanding skills required I think are important for sure, especially when folks mention getting rid of the race because it’s not a “modern, proper track”. Which is precisely why it is such a spectacle. Though Baku does not have the same pedigree of tradition, it does provide some amazingly dramatic backdrops and scenery for racing and it is not at all an easy course.

      1. Agreed with both comments. Street circuits like Baku, Monaco, Russia and Singapore might not be the best demonstration of an F1 car but I like them because of the skill needed to drive there with no run off and tight corners, some circuits test cars and some push drivers and that’s how F1 should be.

        Baku in particular stands out as a new circuit that is individual with a number of unique features unlike most new circuits now and I think that’s something that should be encouraged.

  5. ColdFly F1 (@)
    30th December 2016, 0:36

    Liberty intends to turn each international Grand Prix into a week of events to engage spectators and attract new sponsors, according to a senior executive involved with Formula One.

    It sounds simpel and logical, and one would expect that this is happening already. But nowadays you hardly notice it when F1 is in town. There is some excitement in Melbourne CBD, but it has significantly reduced over the years (so many other events over summer). And in Sao Paulo and Barcelona I did not notice anything special when in the city around a GP weekend.
    This must be the result of BE just being interested in extracting the largest amount of money from the promotors, and not delivering anything else than the circus moving in/out of the circuit. And he is so precious about IP that nothing of interest can spill beyond the circuit. It seems that even driver interviews cannot be done anymore in front of the hotel (that’s how I met Vettel in person in 2008).
    If Liberty can make it a spectacle again centred around the fastest cars and bravest men, then they’ll have a winner on their hands.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      30th December 2016, 0:40

      And an F1 circus like that is big enough that it doesn’t need to visit every city/circuit every year. Like the ‘Tour de France’ starting in different places each year.

      1. @coldfly: Great point!! The series could have a select few annual races such as Monaco, Monza, Spa-Francorchamps and some more. All others should rotate. England could have Silverstone one year, a London street circuit one year, something other one year and then rotate. The Scandinavian region could host one in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland respectively on a similar 3-year rotational. The race calendar should be divided into regions rather than circuits, so that we know there’s for example a 2017 British GP, 2017 US West and US East Grands Prix, but they can be hosted in different places every year. Then a couple races (maybe 3-5 per year) could visit brand new places. That could include the Baku GP being a one-off event (so that we do not have to return!), or a race in perhaps Egypt, Argentina, Morocco, South Africa, Portugal, Greece.

        Just like nations bidding to host the World Cup in various sports, they would bit to host one of these Grands Prix and it would be a one-off spectacle.

        We’d maintain a calendar of 20ish races, where maybe 5 of them are hosted in annual tracks, 10 of them hosted in the same region but on a rotation schedule, and 5 of them going to various bidders every season.

    2. My understanding of a Race Weekend is it isn’t just F1 cars doing Practice sessions, Qualifying, and then a Race. There is the GP2 series holding their races as well, and then there is the Football match between the drivers and some retired Football professionals. I’m sure there are a whole lot of other things that happen but which those who don’t go to the actual track just never hear about. There is plenty of stuff that could be promoted, but it isn’t.
      One thought would be to show some of these lesser events during the “off week” (assuming a two week cycle between races). Another thought would be to make the races more accessible, maybe even on Free to Air TV or have good quality video of entire races available for online viewing for free or a nominal cost.

      1. I agree, the best way for Liberty to engage fans (new and old) is to tackle the viewing problem. More free-to-air (not less) and a dedicated pay per view/subscription F1 channel through the website. For Bernie’s love of dollars, I can’t for the life of me see why he missed the opportunities created online.

  6. Which layout is Monza using for 2017:
    Updated Curva Grande or 2016?

  7. Adelaide’s V8 supercars are held over 4 days, but the atmosphere leading up to and during the 4 days is very much a party/festival one. I can see how spectators, not necessarily devout V8 followers, would purchase tickets to attend.
    Comparing the Adelaide V8s to the Melbourne GP, the GP seems a much more sombre affair. Unless you were an F1 enthusiast, I doubt there would be much to entice people to attend a GP.
    Maybe a week of festivities is dragging it out a bit far, but certainly the 4 days of a GP meet are in need of livening up. Especially the Thursday when (apart from Monaco), there are only support practice and qualifying sessions.

  8. There is a serious buzz in Montreal during the Grand Prix weekend I could see a week long event do really well there and add a lot of things to do for the fans. The whole city really gets behind F1 when it’s in town. As a fan I would enjoy this as I take the week off for travelling anyways an extra day or two of fun events would be welcomed by me.

    1. Montreal is a week long party throughout the WHOLE city.

  9. Let’s see, Liberty wants to cut F1 budgets and expand each race into a week long festival. Hmmm…

    1. A weekend of events doesn’t exactly mean more on track action, to me I would take it as more fan interaction, for example they can make better use of codemasters F1 games

      1. @bezza695 – I love the idea of F1 becoming much more fan friendly. Should have happened a long time ago.

        My thought was that it is ironic Liberty wants to cut budgets and yet expand the time the teams spend at each venue. Time = Money even if there is no additional track time for the fans to view. Of course the sponsors could help pony up to reduce costs to the teams. It might be worthwhile for them if there is sufficient attendance. Not sure how much fans would be willing to pay over what tickets already cost.

        One thought to make more of a festival would be for teams to bring previous year/vintage F1 cars and maybe run them a bit as well as have them displayed. Obviously, that would be more expensive too…

        1. I think that with the local races being more of an event, the target would be to attract more visitors, making it more interesting for sponsors and for the hosting cities @bullmello. And better ways to present the sport might also help gather it attention for even more sponsors and fans.

          On the point of budgets, so far we have heard that they want to cap the budgets (instead of current open ended budgets), not nesiccarily cut them to a low level. I am sure that the idea is probably going towards something of the level where maybe a Williams is at now, bringing it down for the top 4 biggest spenders, but it could well end up helping the teams that can least afford to spend a week in a town!

  10. Hey Keith,
    Can compare lemans and f1 2016 car performances like you did in 2008 . It would be helpful to compare this year cars.

    1. @keithcollantine in case you don’t see the above, I too would be interested as I suspect it’s the closest they’ll be for the foreseeable future.

  11. Its not the first time Liberty has said something like this about a week long festival for the F1 weekend. Just after the sale was announced and the Chase Carey attended the Singapore race. Not sure how much influence that had but, its probably one of the races that is closest to that idea – taking over a large chunk of downtown Singapore – much to the chagrin of many locals.

    The race promotor pushes the entertainment programme almost as much as the race – this year Kylie Minogue on Friday, Queen and Adam Lambert on Saturday, and Imagine Dragons headlined on a huge stage located in inside the circuit, as well as lots of smaller acts on various different stages. There are plenty of people who just go for the concerts – I know 3 or 4 people who only attend for that reason, as if you buy a walkabout ticket better value than most big name concerts in Singapore. Its a formula that works quite well with the night race – but the idea of dragging it over a week strikes me as overly long.

    1. @wombat1m, I was just about to point out that Liberty Media seem to be basing their proposal on what the Singapore GP organisers already do, since they also organise a range of music concerts and other events alongside the race (as well as a mix of support races before the main event).

      Some other venues have also begun to do similar things, such as COTA organising a concert at the circuit too, and the general consensus is that those events have had an overall positive impact on the races. I’d agree that making it a week long is perhaps a bit exaggerated but, as Bustertje noted with regards to the MotoGP race at Assen, the basic premise does sound workable and could potentially be quite successful.

      1. The Baku race had a main concert for each day of the racing weekend – Chris Brown on Friday, Enrique Iglesias on Saturday and Pharrell on Sunday.

    2. I wonder if the week-long festival that aggravates locals plays any part in the Singaporean government’s refusal to run F1 beyond its current contract? (I assume the overriding reason is finances, but I can’t imagine annoyed locals helps). The “festival” idea works better in closed-circuit settings, where you usually have some land that is just sitting there being pretty inside the track boundary (and, in many cases, some land outside track boundaries also). It also works better in tracks that are in urban areas, where the earlier part of the festival can be held in the town/city during weekday evenings (enabling working locals to get involved). Music and F1 seem to go well together, and perhaps that idea can be expanded without impairing any of the racing.

      1. Living in Singapore the only person who I’ve seen reported as saying they didn’t want the race was Bernie (by that I mean officialdom and not annoyed local drivers, office workers etc), presumably because he doesn’t like the Singapore negotiating position very much – as in F1 also needs us. Local media here faithfully reported what he said to which news outlet it was, and got nada out of the local organisers and then speculated quite a bit. Especially with new owners whose first race officially was Singapore, expect them to play this down to the wire as they pretty much did with the first five year extension. Don’t think the govt is too worried what people think of the race in its current form, but sure as heck know if they wanted to extend it to a week it they know that would be too much.

  12. Turning F1 events into longer festivals might be a good idea but it is no substitute for F1 failing to provide the basics. What F1 requires is more exciting, competitive racing at a more competitive price. If this can be brought about then the fan numbers will return. This and free to air tv coverage. Simple.

    1. Is the racing not exciting for you. Is it the tyres or not enough overtakes or Mercedes domination? Should there be 2 DRS buttons?

  13. Ah, yes, give us some more of that capitalism. That always fixes everything it broke itself in the first place.
    This nonsense about week long festival reminds me of the thieving cable packages, where you can’t just buy one thing that you need, but you need to fork out 10x as much money, because you get 90% of the stuff you don’t need.
    The biggest problem with attendances is the price of the ticket, and instead of just reducing that (by reducing hosting fees), they wanna sell you even more stuff that you never needed in the first place.

    It’s like going to grocer buy 2 bananas, but they cost like 15 bananas, because you get bunch of other food that you have no use for.

    It’s standard practice in this rotting capitalist world that they try to basically sell more stuff, but overpricing the thing you really need/want, hence, essentially, selling you what you need for the normal price + plus selling you bunch of other stuff you never needed as well.

    Want to improve the race weekend? Cheaper tickets is the answer.

    1. Well said. Locking F1 behind paywalls is just quickening it’s death. Who is going to pay to go to a mystery festival that only the rich know about? All those youngsters will prefer to go to a real concert featuring people/acts they know about and can see on tv/radio/net. F1 hiding away only accessible to the rich is just prolonging it’s own funeral. When Liberty lose money maybe common sense will re-awaken and they’ll realize that people tend to spend money on things they know and care about, not on some results they hear about in a news round up they hear a few days later. Who is the world heavyweight boxing champion? Nobody here knows because boxing is not shown on TV any more.

    2. OR…. liberty could keep hosting fees as high as they are, continue to profit handsomely AND reduce race day ticket prices at the same time.

      How you ask?

      By extending the activities and festival nature for 1 week thus allowing track promoters to recover cost by selling concert tickets, etc.

      You assumed that you would need to buy the entire week package. Nobody is dictating this.

  14. Well, not sure how instrumental… But it does show Mercedes will stop at nothing to get the best people. Went and got Brawn and Schumacher… In F1 duos noone comes close.

  15. How will this work on back-to-back weekends? There will be 5 next year (China -> Bahrain, Austria -> UK, Spa -> Monza, Malaysia -> Japan and USA -> Mexico) and quite how all the kit can be transported and erected in a day is a bit of a puzzle. Especially if there is to be a great ballyhoo going on at the same time. The TV companies will find it tricky too and, as a ‘media company’, you would think Liberty would have considered this.
    Now, increase the number of races to 25 and then see how much more difficult it gets.
    The main problem though is, who will attend these week long ‘festivals’? Not a lot of the general public as they have this thing called ‘work’ which most have to undertake. Not the celebs, as there will be little TV coverage to satisfy their egos. And that leaves no one of interest except those capable of affording the prices and not needing to work.

    Is that the target audience now?

    1. I think many misunderstand the idea Mrfill. It is not about extending the on track activities to a whole week but about building up the event, see comments above from @wombat1m about how it works in Singapore and what Bustertje mentions about Assen and @zimkazimka about Baku.

      The idea is to be more visible, have the race more clearly present and offering more activities, and earlier than “just” staging a race in a place when around it nobody really notices. The idea being to give more reason to visit for people who are not as much into Motorsport, to make it more visible (getting more interest from local government AND helping sponsors), and to get a wider audience to the event that way.

      The TV team doesn’t have to arrive a minute earlier than they do. The teams themselves don’t have to either, although they often travel directly already, especially with back to back races, and do sponsor events in the days ahead of the race alredy too.

  16. Cheaper tickets would assist improving the weekend experience but,
    how about actual racing instead of tire and fuel management displays?
    How about consistent enforcement of track limits? How about DRS use anywhere on the track instead of “zones” ?

    No amount of off tack events can substitute for hard racing.

    1. The removal was of DRS would be a bonus, it does nothing more than make overtakes artificial…

      I do agree with lower priced tickets, I would love to see a race at Silverstone, but, the prices are completely ridiculous…

    2. In the competitive business world you cannot rest on your laurels.

      If you think liberty doesn’t know the on track racing is terrible I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

      They need to fix EVERYTHING, that’s what highly organized, vertically orientated, super profitable businesses do.

      Welcome to the world.

  17. Look at what they do with Le Mans and how the build up to that invlolves the drivers and teams, etc …

    The Indy 500 essentially takes up a whole month of build up if you include rookie trials, qualifying, ‘bump day’, etc …

    As long as the format of a GP weekend remains broadly the same, I don’t see any issue with this.

  18. To answer Naz, I too felt f1 cars were worth it only for the spectacle of them in motion. Unfortunately these cars are not like the late 90’s till 2004/5 cars. FOM used to shot the cars differently, the drivers look like they were on the edge, they sounded as if they were on the edge, the engine was noisy, ugly sound but visceral, the transmission made all sorts of noises and I even miss the sound of gravel. Now the cars are gigantic, the drivers are steady and look planted on the ground and the only visceral noise is the tyre screech, the Pu’s sound nice but that is if you can hear them over Crofty. F1 is pedantic.

    1. It is pedantic yes, but I think you meant pedestrian…

  19. Regarding the COTD, I agree the spectacle of a F1 at close quarters is amazing, but this is sometimes lost on tv because of the camera work. When the camera zooms an pans the cars look slow. A love the static camera on the exit of the banked corners of the Indy 500. The colossal speed is so evident.

    However in F1 with the camera work as it is and little genuine overtaking (DRS is just artificial and fake) there must be closer racing and more overtaking else F1 becomes much less of a draw. Closer racing and more overtaking must be F1 PRIME OBJECTIVE. Get that right and we can have exiting races anywhere, Monza, Baku, Caesars Palace car park or anywhere!

  20. I simply don’t understand what content they’d have to entertain for a whole week.

    In cricket the week long test match has been dying a slow, protracted death, Button was saying even an hour is too long. How on Earth do Liberty think they can entertain a city for a week with F1?

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