Damon Hill, Yas Marina, 2016

Hill echoes Brawn’s call for fewer gimmicks

F1 Fanatic Round-up

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In the round-up: Damon Hill follows Ross Brawn in calling for F1 to steer away from “too many gimmicks”.

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Sebastien Bourdais, Coyne, Sebring, 2017
Sebastien Bourdais, Coyne, Sebring, 2017

Sebastien Bourdais has changed colours in IndyCar this year – more pictures from testing here.

Comment of the day

@Beneboy raises some interesting points in response to yesterday’s Comment of the Day:

While I agree with most of the Comment of the Day, a point worth noting is that UK viewing figures for Moto GP have collapsed since it moved to pay TV, and after a lifetime of following the sport, I haven’t seen a full race since they moved to BT Sport, and didn’t even bother with the highlights last season.

When it was on BBC and Eurosport they were getting more than 1.5 million viewers watching live, BT gets less than half a million viewers, with a few hundred thousand watching highlights on ITV.

Even given the pitiful state of F1’s TV ratings, I can only see them going down once it moves to an exclusive deal with SKY in the UK, and no matter how much the new owners improve it, I will never pay for Sky Sports just so I can watch F1 as it’s just not worth the cost.

So unless Liberty are going to renegotiate the TV deals, they’re going to be losing a significant number of viewers once the exclusive deal with Sky starts, which may be fine from a short term financial perspective as they make lots of money from the Sky deal, but where will it leave the sport in ten or more years?

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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 “Hill echoes Brawn’s call for fewer gimmicks”

    1. If F1 has taught me anything over the years is never trust that feeling you have when you start hearing very positive news and comments from influential people. I love what I’m hearing, but I’m not going to fall for it again.

      I better wait for a surprise, rather than jump on the boat and leave disappointed, as always

      1. The difference now is that we have people like Ross Brawn saying positive things. If Bernie was saying these things nobody would pay it any mind.

        Still, well thought out ideas, research and real changes will take time. Just glad that qualified, experienced hands will steer this in a better direction.

        1. @bullmello I’m not so sure now about Brawn because he is saying things like he didn’t understand all when watching races from TV, and he wants to see during the season what increased drag means for overtaking, something he really ought to know by now.

    2. Guybrush Threepwood
      26th January 2017, 0:33

      I love how people who have been deeply involved in F1 and have an understanding and passion for a side of it the vast majority of us have never seen seem to know what we want.

      Get rid of DRS to the detriment of the sport. People have short memories, or they only watch the silver cars with an extra 50 bhp cruise past everyone else while DRS enables everyone else to have great battles.

      1. The excitement comes from defending as well as overtaking, the not knowing who would win the battle, DRS kills all that. I want to see the skill of the driver not somebody sail by and if that means l have to watch some processions so be it.

      2. But that’s where Brawn says he wants to research how to do it differently, so that we don’t need to have it, rather than just get rid of DRS @guybrushthreepwood; he sees why it was introduced, but believes it was only a short term fixing of a symptom, rather than a good solution. I for one hope it leads to a better alternative.

        1. Get rid of DRS to the detriment of the sport.

          That’s not what he said. He said that DRS was a gimmick to fix a problem they didn’t want to confront.

          The problem being that the aero design of the cars restricts overtaking opportunities. They could fix that with aero redesign, regs changes, and a proper well thought through plan. Instead, they put the DRS sticking plaster on it so they could pretend the problem had gone away.

          Brawn is suggesting doing it the right way: Determining the best way to adjust aero regs to promote close racing, with research and a real plan. It will take time and effort, but it’s the right way to do it.

          1. @drmouse Exactly, but I don’t think it needs take much time. I read what Brawn is saying as to mean they know already it is about the ratio of mechanical grip to aero. The only time needed is that they can’t just have had these teams working on a new design for the last year and then take away wing rake, or whatever it’s going to ultimately take. The cars won’t be designed for that. But even if this season we still see too much negative dirty air influence and the tires still not providing enough mechanical grip to compensate, then for next year they can address that. They’ve certainly already stepped it up on the mechanical grip side. At least, I certainly hope they can tweek the cars as soon as 2018 if necessary, and many people are already assuming it will be.

    3. Is it just me or does it feel like the paint scheme on Bourdais car is just Caterhams old one but flip reversed?

      1. They look like F1Fanatic colours – Are you sponsoring a team Keith?

        In fact it has a resemblance to the F1Fanatic “failed webpage” car graphic.

    4. Check this out:

      1. One would think that Liberty would have been wise enough to somehow engineer a non-compete into any buyout deal involving Bernie. But, the legal arrangements and hierarchy of corporations involved with this buyout may actually not be able to preclude Bernie the individual from such a project. Would not ever put anything like this past Bernie, no matter how difficult a startup like that would be.

        1. I was quite astonished to read Joe Saward answer a commenter on his blog with I don’t know if there was even a contract. @bullmello

          Then again, what is the likelyhood that anyone serious would want to invest an incredible amount of money and effort in building up a new racing series when it is proposed by a man who is at over 80 years old and not willing to invest his own money into it.

          1. @bascb – Wow, that would be crazy, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility. The intricate web woven by Bernie would certainly always be woven in a way to suit his purposes.

          2. @bullmello, @bascb

            I may be living in a dream world, but I would imagine that any circuit or team owner who’s already had dealings with Bernie would welcome the change to Liberty, and run screaming from having anything to do with BE in the future!

            On the other hand, I wouldn’t put much past Bernie.

            1. yeah, there’s that too @jimg

      2. IIRC Ecclestone owns the “GP1” trademark, so I’m pretty sure we can expect a new series

        1. Nope, @albedo. Just like GP2 and GP3, those are actaully “owned by Bernie” only in the sense that BE stood for “FOM”. In other words, those rights have now been taken over by liberty, since their purchase of a controlling share “FOM”.

      3. Oooh, a… FEXIT?

    5. M.Gallaghers article was excellent but 1 point did not strike me as valid. I have always thought the F1 logo to be an exemplar of the species, clear, precise and compact. I do hope they don’t waste 100s of 1,000s of $s re-designing it into something more “clever” but undecipherable, as Govt. deps. are want to do.

    6. As @beneboy said, moving to pay-tv is bad for the sport, Liberty are talking about making money from sponsorship, but it’s bad enough that half the races are not shown on FTA TV (in the UK), but when it goes Sky exclusive, the no. of UK viewers will drop significantly. I won’t be paying for Sky, unless they offer an F1 only subscription for a sensible price, not bundle it with other cr@p I don’t want and charge the earth for it. I realise the UK only makes up a tiny part of the revenue that F1 generates, but if this is the model they are replicating across the world, they are only ever going to shrink the audience, never grow it… which means sponsorship is worth very very much less as there are less people seeing these logos etc.

      1. In Portugal the last couple of years the model for pay per view was quite good actually.

        You need to have a cable tv subscription for around 30€ (fellow Portuguese correct me if I am wrong, as I am not living there atm), but also includes internet and your mobile plan (it is pretty common to have a cable subscription in Portugal, there are only 5 open channels). If you wanted F1 you could pay around 5€ for Eurosport xtra which is dedicated to motorsport, and at least you are paying just for what you watch.

        Unfortunately, eurosport broke the contract this week, and 2 month from the start there is no place to watch F1 in Portugal.

        If liberty could jump the middle man and sell ppvs directly to the fans that would be something that I would be interested in, an one year F1 subscription, they can even make packages with the F1 app and that sort of thing.

        Where do I send my suggestions? Does Liberty have people reading this site?

        1. Glad I found this, thanks to João Leite’s frequent posting ;) It is a discussion I would like to chip in as well. Prices for the communications subscriptions in Portugal are more around 50 right now. The only channel I know of to watch F1 on the TV is SportTV. The subscription works more or less like Sky I guess (you pay a lot for 5 channels, mostly soccer). The experience is nowhere near (and I am being very polite) what you get with SkyF1.

          That said, I have been resorting to piracy in order to be able to watch the Sky F1 broadcast on the computer. I would not mind at all to pay for it, the technology is there for me to comfortably watch the races in hi-def, but I can’t because of the commercial rights stuff.

          Where do I send my suggestions? Does Liberty have people reading this site?

          Maybe @keithcollantine can help ;)

    7. Guys, free-to-air model is dying. Sky does not need to have the same number of viewers to make the same or more money out of F1 than BBC. Revenue streams come not only from adds time sold to companies (wowed by audience numbers indeed) but also from subscriptions (multiple pricings depending on level of access).

      Sky can also strike deals for exclusive access to teams/drivers at specific moments of race weekend that drive interest to their broadcast in all platforms, bringing more traffic to their website, Twitter, Facebook and other social network feeds.

      The biggest hurdle for Sky and other players with similar deals is not the pay-per-view model but the quality of the product and it’s not their job to improve racing. If Floyd Mayweather fights McGregor pay-per-view records will be destroyed because its highly valued event by fans around the world unlike F1 that still attracts many motor heads but fails to expand its audience due to poor racing, so it’s clear that the problem with F1 broadcasting lies with the underlying product: racing.

      1. How do you get new viewers when nobody but your subscribers can see the goods? Who is going to put down £100s to gamble on watching something they may like every few weeks? How is somebody going to get a passion for racing when they cannot see it and cannot try it for themselves? Pay TV will only make SKY and co money because short-sighted ‘fans’ give in an pay them. F1 needs to be FTA or it will die. I don’t know anybody who watches boxing or knows who the champ or his opponent is.

        1. The British Grand Prix will be live and highlights of the all the races and qualifying sessions will be free to air in the UK after 2017 – presumably on a Sky channel.

          Maybe Sky intend to use this as a way of promoting subscriptions for their F1 channel, Now TV, etc? Sky originally launched the Pick channel (also free to air) with a view to encouraging people to subscribe to Sky by showing some Sky One shows. Last month Sky Sport News in Germany went FTA which might help promote their pay channels.

        2. The same way your trusted friends tell you to watch a Netflix series, that’s how I became a Netflix client, and others got the word via typical news outlets reporting the quality of the shows and service.

          I’m a big basketball fan and I play the game with my friends every single Friday, three years ago not many people was watching NBA games regularly but the explosion of Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry fun way of playing the game and incessant Instagram short videos and highlights posted on Facebook and YouTube brought back many old fans while drawing attention of scores of new fans who are now regular viewers.

          We can question the economic feasibility of subscription TV model but let’s not fool ourselves about the financial sustainability of the free-to-air model.

          1. That depends on the program itself being the televisual equivalent of a “killer app” on a computer. Is F1 a “killer app” these days?

            1. That’s my point @alianora-la-canta. What I’m trying to say is: the FTA is a no-issue, the real issue is making F1 racing great again, then they will have something to sell. If you put a bad show on FTA you will not get many fans.

              If you have Chinese basketball FTA and paid American professional basketball which one you think will grab your attention?

            2. The FTA is a big issue. The “killer app” thing affects how big an issue.

              Out of those two, Chinese basketball has a slightly better chance – the only time I have any interest in watching ball sports (other than when motorsports people are playing, and in that case I don’t pay either) is when that cornucopia of free-to-air sports, the Olympics, is on.

            3. (You can probably assume from that that I’m not a ball sports person, and it’s true. But the same thing applies to everything else, at least from my perspective – putting something on pay TV is a guaranteed way of losing my interest, unless it’s something I can watch at the gym. And then I’m paying the gym for a variety of services that happens to include it having stuff on the TV screens – if it chose to be FTA only, I’d have no trouble accepting this).

      2. @jcost this is totally flawed thinking. pay per view does not bring in big audiences, just big receipts. pacquiao-mayweather was bought by 4.6m and broke all sorts of records in terms of money. but mayweather’s next fight was bought by 400,000. in the context of the BBC regularly getting 4m plus viewers (when they had exclusive live coverage), those numbers are weak to say the least.

        you do not bring in the fans by making them pay through the nose for it up front. it’s not all about revenue streams from ad breaks (BBC and C4 did not have ads during the race) – the sport should be supported by sponsors.

        if you look at cricket, the sky model has been shown to have been a failure in terms of generating grass roots interest in the UK. the sport was riding the crest of a wave in 2005 after the classic ashes series which was shown on channel 4. audiences were measured in millions. now, audience figures are miniscule and schools participation has dwindled.

        the best way to create long term appeal is to have a regular slot, which is reachable by as many people as possible, i.e. free-to-air. i know several casual fans who used to watch every race on BBC because it was always on at 1pm, pretty regularly every other sunday. now they watch next to nothing.

        this way a narrative of the season is created and sustained. you can only keep people’s interest in the story if they don’t miss a whole load of chapters.

        1. @frood19 – Strikingly good comparisons and comment, in my opinion.

        2. @jcost this is totally flawed thinking. pay per view does not bring in big audiences, just big receipts.”

          That’s exactly what I said @frood19

          Where I live, there’s not any major sport league aired freely but I don’t see La Liga, EPL or UCL executives scraping their head because business is failing and interest is disappearing… maybe it’s because their games are still worth watching for most people, both big fans and occasional viewers. What I’m suggesting is: fix the racing and your TV business will do fine even if it’s a subscription service.

          1. @jcost well, for the EPL they are losing viewing figures this season. i think english football will start to see similar problems to F1, with attendance costs going up and younger/less die hard fans drifting away.

            however, the effect will be different/smaller because there is such a huge fanbase already – i think it’s a flawed comparison either way. football doesn’t need free-to-air coverage in the same way that pretty much any other televised sport does.

          2. @jcost
            The Premier League has never been on FTA, it was established in conjunction with SKY, it’s also a poor comparison as its got 380 matches per season, and you’re able to watch several matches every week, so if it was the only sport you want to watch on SKY, you’re still getting more than 125 games for your money, compared to just 20-25 GP for F1. And once you’ve paid for the EPL, you effectively get other national league games, the Europa cup, Champions League and other games thrown in for free.
            Then there’s the fact that almost every child in the UK is given a football at some point, and football is played in almost every school in the country, while less than 0.1% have a kart, so there’s a huge difference in the way people are drawn to the sport, and due to the tribal nature of football you’ve got a steady stream of parents introducing their children to the game, and their passion for their team in a way you just don’t get with motorsport.

            I’m not a big football fan, but living in Liverpool it’s almost impossible to avoid, players are plastered all over advertising billboards, on the sides of buses and taxis, and all sorts of other advertising and sponsorship, you see TV adverts for it all the time, radio and TV constantly talk about it, and it’s a common topic of conversation with people of all ages and backgrounds – by comparison F1 is virtually anonymous and unknown, so I think it will have a much harder task trying to get people to pay to watch it in any significant numbers.

            1. Top British football used to be on TV. The problem was that they could only broadcast 2-3 matches per week on free-to-air as it simply didn’t have the bandwidth. Pay-per-view is able to screen enough matches that a lower per-match audience is simply outweighed by being able to screen more matches. The fact that it’s the one thing that British pubs know will get their pubs full is also a big factor, as football underpins pay TV’s ability to have its expensive licenses bought by pubs.

              Football is, at least in the UK, the only sport that gets better total viewing figures on pay TV than free-to-air.

            2. @beneboy why is it a poor comparison? The F1 FTA issue is mostly a British problem. Pretty much every country in the world does not have F1 on FTA (Brazil still gets it and I think it’s still the case in Germany).

              What I’m trying to express is: the FTA model is not going anywhere, it’s not making money and cannot compete with people willing to pay considerable amounts of money to take it pay-per-view and if they do that, I believe they’re going to make money somehow. Once can argue if it’s going to help expanding the fan base but I don’t believe FTA per se will save F1, they should focus on making racing better.

        3. @frood19, You are spot-on when you say people need to be able to keep up with the narrative to sustain interest. Many times in my life I have dropped F1 as it has been too difficult to follow due to factors like living far from big cities, shift work, travel etc. Without the internet I doubt I would now be following it since it has gone to half the races behind a paywall here in Oz.

    8. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      26th January 2017, 9:49

      Regarding the pay wall barrier, I will never not watch F1 live but the inability to get Sky’s F1 channel without all the other sports channels in which I have no interest means I will be paying £6.99 for a 24hour pass on NOWtv for the races which arent live on C4, and watching the rest on C4.

      I have Sky Q too so would love to see how the sport looks in 4K but unfortunately the draconian pricing needs to change, I actually think the coverage is fantastic on Sky.

      1. @offdutyrockstar I’ve been thinking about doing the same. But do you know if you have to watch the race live? Is there the ability to record the race and then watch it, presumably within the 24 hour period? Or maybe it even lets you keep the recording indefinitely? I’ve got a little ‘un so watching live is rarely possible.

        1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
          26th January 2017, 11:55

          @unicron2002 as far as I understand it mate it is simply a streaming service mirroring the live TV channels and not providing on access content. I’ve never used it before but signed up yesterday after seeing that the season opener won’t be shown on C4! If anyone knows the ins and outs of NOWtv please enlighten us! I plan to watch it on my XBOX or LGTV as both have the NOWtv app.

          1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
            26th January 2017, 11:58

            Also quite silly that the service is not integrated with your SKY box seeing as the new Q box supports apps and the service is owned by Sky, even going so far as to use my Sky login to sign in. Perhaps this will be rectified in the near future and you could add it to your planner or something that way…

            1. @offdutyrockstar cheers dude, I’ll have to do a bit of research too. I’ve actually got Sky but I resent having to pay for the service, especially as I much prefer the Channel 4 coverage. A little problem like ours just highlights where F1 is going wrong with broadcasting to its fan base, and it will get even more difficult once it’s off Channel 4 unless Liberty manage to sort it out.

            2. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
              26th January 2017, 12:14

              They need to offer the F1 channel as a standalone option! I detest Football and will never ever pay £80-£90 a month for all that cr*p. Standalone F1 channel, £12-£18 a month range and i’ll be fine with it. I find it quite the opposite tbh! Eddy Jordan, Suzie NoIdea and that commentator who gets everything wrong put me off the C4 coverage, as well as the lack of technical coverage and rushed post race coverage even for the live races..

        2. @unicron2002
          I got a free pass to NOWTV Sport for a month a while back, and it was just the live stream, with no catch up option available. I don’t know if they’ve changed it since, but it was effectively the F1 channel through the NOWTV service, so you could watch the replay, but only at the time it was being broadcast.

          1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
            26th January 2017, 12:15

            @beneboy how was the quality? My Netflix and Youtube apps handle 1080p HD nicely enough over my connection so im hoping for good things.

            1. @offdutyrockstar I’ve not used the NowTV sports pass but do use the Movie pass & the quality on there seems every bit as good as what I get on Netflix & Amazon.

              There are usually a lot of free trials for NowTV floating about online so i’d recommend looking around & giving it a go before paying. The other good side of that is that when the trial ends & you cancel you usually get discounted offers to stay. I’ve been paying £3.99 a month for the movie pass the past 4-5 months on such a deal.

            2. @offdutyrockstar
              It was 720p for live streaming sport, the service was good, but it does drop down to SD if the signal strength drops (which it did a few times) but it’s a seamless drop, so you don’t lose the image, just the quality.
              I’ve got a Sony TV, and it looked alright, but not as good as if you were watching through a SKY TV box. Although I’ve been told the new NOWTV boxes are better.
              I wouldn’t pay £34 a month for it though, and if you get a one day pass you only get to watch the race live, so miss all of the other live sessions from Friday and Saturday.

          2. Thanks @beneboy that service won’t be of any use to me then so I’ll have to suck it up and keep paying the exorbitant fees to Sky. My choice though, no one’s making me do it I guess.

            1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
              26th January 2017, 14:07

              @beneboy @PeterG thanks for the info. Unfortunately they do a lot of trials for movies and the rest but specifically not for sports, I guess that’s the source of a large amount of their revenue. I’ll be activating the pass for the qualifying rerun on Sky on Saturday evening so I can get all the race and post race coverage in, but if you want all the sessions I believe it’s £10.99 for a weekend pass which might be worth it for a special race or title decider etc. I tend to watch qually late anyway, its the live race which is most important to me.

            2. @offdutyrockstar
              If you’re in the UK and like pizza, Pizza Hut are doing a deal with a free day sport pass at the moment, if you’d like to try it for “free”.


            3. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
              26th January 2017, 17:49

              Pizza and F1? SOLD! Thanks!

            4. Yay, that seems to be a pretty solid Promotion @beneboy! Who doesn’t like Pizza to go with their motorsports!

    9. Well then we could use DRS in a (better) different way.
      Maybe when the driver following is far backso it gives him the chance to close up and then let them fight. No gimmicks involved.
      I d love to see that

    10. Yesterday there were a few comments with concerns of Liberty trying to make F1 more of a show and less of a sport.

      I think we can take confort from Brawn’s recent statements, he is advocating for less gimmicks and that has to be good for the sport. Liberty can turn the GPs into a show, and I think they should, but the on track action seem to be in good hands.

    11. I also haven’t watched MotoGP since BT Sport acquired the rights, not even through online streaming. I don’t feel I will be watching F1 once the whole calendar is behind a pay-wall, I’ve already missed two years of the sport whilst living in China, it didn’t kill me. As much as I enjoy F1, it’s not worth paying for a service that offers you a boatload of channels that you’ll never watch just to see it.

    12. An interesting choice of words from Hill in that Sky article, Damon Hill warns running F1 by consensus could be like ‘herding cats’. Hill says,

      “…the appeal of the sport is that it is the very best of automotive competition and the best drivers in the world competing in the most ferocious races across the world”.

      Look ferocious up in the Oxford English Dictionary:

      ADJECTIVE: Savagely fierce, cruel, or violent

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