Start, Suzuka, 2018

Peak F1: Is the pinnacle of motorsport facing irreversible decline?


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Last week in Japan, Formula 1’s 10 team bosses held an impromptu meeting, saliently without inviting Formula One Management or FIA representatives.

It is, of course, their right to meet wherever or whenever they choose. But, tellingly, the meeting marked their first since Liberty Media acquired FOM two years ago and, by many accounts, it was the first such meeting since the Formula One Teams Association disbanded back in 2014.

The convener, believed to be Mercedes (various sources told RaceFans that Mercedes Motorsport CEO Toto Wolff called it) attempted to keep the meeting secret, going as far as requesting that attendees enter via the ‘tradesmen’s entrance’ at the rear of the team’s hospitality unit. One team boss refused to comment on the basis that “I gave my word in the meeting not to talk to the media”.

According to one source willing to discuss the meeting, the subject was ‘How to improve (spice up) the show,’ while another said that the recent drop in income (derived from a combination of TV revenues/race hosting fees and ‘others’ – predominantly hospitality sales and ‘bridge and board’ advertising) and dwindling eyeballs had been a “wake-up call for us all”.

Indeed, despite (or because of) massively ramped-up marketing spend, a new logo, a snazzy app (which infuriated die-hard fans) and an internet streaming service claimed by Liberty to be the most sophisticated in world sport, the team are due to share around 4% less for the third quarter of 2018 – a continuing trend.

TV ratings are down too. Not only that, but the total hours of F1 broadcast has fallen by around a quarter year-on-year over the first 10 rounds, from 23,000 to 18,500, due to the losses of Sky Germany/Austria and F1 Latin America.

Start, Sochi Autodrom, 2018
Russian GP television audiences are believed to have slumped
A worrying (but as yet unconfirmed) year-on-year comparison for the Russian Grand Prix indicates a TV ratings slump of over 20 per cent versus last year. Liberty is said to put this down to a later slot in the year, yet going into Sochi the championship fight between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel was much closer than now, so that does not stack up.

The latest Nielsen Sports broadcast report, shared with RaceFans by vice-president for global motorsport Nigel Geach, shows a one per cent cumulative year-on-year decline in TV audiences over the first 10 rounds, despite audiences being up (on 2014) for events that clashed with the FIFA World Cup. True, one per cent is no great shakes – but Liberty is a media company first and foremost, and as such on a mission to grow the sport.

The faltering launch of F1 TV Pro remains a cause for concern as well. Speaking at a recent Vanity Fair summit, F1 CEO Chase Carey admitted that F1’s much-vaunted OTT streaming service had “more glitches than we hoped for,” adding, “For us, it’s early days…”

All this is cause for concern. Hence that meeting. Not to be outdone, Liberty called a follow-up on Sunday where the same topics were (allegedly) discussed.

But talk of the upcoming Brazilian Grand Prix brought more bad news: the teams will not be paid (albeit indirectly, given F1’s income is distributed from a “pot” after deductions made for Liberty’s expenses) for this year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Or next year’s round.

Or the 2020 race.

Apparently the race agreement consisted of two parts: a hosting contract with the promoter, known to be a long-standing associate of ex-F1 tsar Bernie Ecclestone, whose wife was once marketing director for the company; and a separate financial underwriting agreement with Sao Paulo city/state. Thus public coffers paid the hosting fee, with the gate covering promoter costs (and profits).

It seems that during Bernie’s last days in office he extended the promoter agreement, but failed – conveniently forgot? – to obtain the necessary fiscal agreement. The promoter maintains he has a valid deal and, if F1 failed to sort the funding, that’s not his problem, so the teams (and FOM) are travelling all the way to Brazil and staging the show for three straight years without earning a (coffee) bean for their efforts.

Asked to comment, an insider said, “That’s the short version, but you’re not far off the truth,” adding, “We were all surprised when we saw the contract, but Mr E was the boss at the time…” Somehow one can’t imagine Ecclestone taking his show 6000 miles across the Pacific Ocean without payment, yet Liberty seems willing to do so.

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Against this background, is it any wonder that the teams are getting increasingly jittery about F1 under Liberty? Already the word is that the likes of Wolff, Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul and Christian Horner (Red Bull) are pushing for fewer races – or increased revenues and less stringent budget caps for more than 20 races – all of which puts Liberty under even greater pressure to grow F1.

NASCAR, Daytona 500, 2018
It’s not just F1 whose TV ratings are down
Is it within Liberty’s power to achieve its stated objective or are outside influences conspiring against its ambitions? Expressed differently, has interest in global motorsport peaked: have we seen ‘Peak F1′?

Formula 1 is not alone in experiencing downturns in interest: NASCAR and IndyCar – both homegrown in the Land of the Automobile, remember – face dwindling attendances and TV ratings, with first-named suffering drops of between 20 and 30 per cent for some races, with FOX Sports’ viewership being 29 per cent down on 2016.

Worse, the average age of viewers has shot up nine years to 58 in just 12 years – the third-oldest bracket behind golf and tennis – indicating that the series is failing to attract young blood. Millennials are not acquiring their parents’ taste for motorsport. Sitting on bleacher stands at an oval is as uncool as drinking alcohol.

The same goes for watching TV, where Netflix also trumps NASCAR and the like. Thus sponsors are walking and, where replacements are found, their funding levels are well down. When sponsors such as supermarket group Target walk away from Chip Ganassi’s IndyCar team after 27 years or DIY chain Lowes exits Hendrick Motorsport and its seven-time champion after 17 seasons, something is surely worryingly amiss.

Just as folk talk about Peak Car – particularly in cities serviced by the likes of Uber – so talk is now of Peak Licence. US statistics indicate just how Future Kid is shying away from motor cars and, by extension, motorsport: In 1983, 46 per cent of American 16-year-olds held drivers licenses; thirty years on that figure had halved, and continues to fall. So does the average annual distance travelled.

True, not all license holders are petrol-heads, not vice-versa, but as a benchmark it is telling, for it points to falling interest in matters motoring, and, therefore motorsport. Equally, if there is no correlation, then motorsport is being hit by a set of unhappy but proportionate coincidences…

Alexander Sims, BMW, Formula E testing, Valencia, 2018
Formula E may be a better fit for younger fans
A paper published by in January found worrying similarities in the United Kingdom: Drivers’ licenses amongst 17-20-year-olds peaked at 48 per cent in 1992/4 and 75 per cent for 21-29-year-olds, dropping to 29 per cent and 63 per cent respectively two decades later. In 2010-14, only 37 per cent of 17-29-year-olds reported driving a car during a typical week, whilst the equivalent figure was 46 per cent in 1995-99.

Now consider how all this relates to F1. While the slide in TV ratings over the past six or so years can be (partly) explained by F1’s switch to pay-TV, the fact that folk refuse to pay for F1 broadcasts is a worrying trend. This points to convenience customers rather than die-hard fans of the type Liberty professes to target; equally, there is a correlation between the rise in pay-TV and drop-off in sponsor interest.

Internet shopping, budget airlines, virtual socialising, taxi apps and other connected activities all mean that the car is no longer the necessity it once was, and, as interest in the car wanes, so F1 gets affected. Add in that Millennials are more likely to think “electric green” than V8 or even hybrid, is it any wonder that motor manufacturers are flocking towards Formula E?

Where in the mid-noughties F1 boasted seven motor manufacturers each spending hundreds of millions (dollars) per annum, today the sport has but three-and-half (Honda being an engine supplier only), while Formula E has eight spending around a tenth that. Note the shift?

Motor manufacturers have traditionally funded motorsport activities via a combination of R&D spend and marketing budget – with the mix varying from company to company, That being so, on the sporting front they now face two diametrically opposite choices: fossil fuel and electric. It stands to reason that budgets of participating brands are split, reducing the amount available for F1 spend, or even blocking an F1 entry.

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With car companies devoting increasing time and effort to autonomous car development, so both budget centres will come under renewed pressures through being required to contribute, further decreasing the amount available for motorsport of whatever persuasion. Spot the spiral?

Where once F1’s calling cards bore the messages ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ and ‘Racing improves the breed’, so far removed are F1 cars – and the racing – from the real world that such slogans no longer ring true. If anything, Formula E’s technology, including treaded tyres and energy storage, holds greater road relevance than anything F1 currently offers – at a tenth of the price.

Chase Carey, Christian Horner, Paul Ricard, 2018
Some teams are believed to want a shorter calendar
Consider that the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance recently overtook VW Group for the number one motor manufacturer spot despite having only recently re-entered F1 (without much current success, it must be added), while Nissan faces its maiden FE season. Consider, then, that both are market leaders in their segments electric car segments, whilst Mitsubishi is a plug-in hybrid leader.

Apart from newly-resurrected Alpine they don’t have a true performance brand between them, with sub-brands such as Dacia, Lada and Datsun, with zero motorsport pretensions, providing volume. Yet, performance brands such as Audi, Porsche and BMW steer clear of F1 – but have signed up to FE…

Here’s another pointer: For the past three years F1’s pre-season testing in Barcelona has clashed with Mobile World Congress, held in the city’s Fira halls. Over eight days of testing the circuit considers itself fortunate if total attendance hits ten thousand – despite free entry to anyone holding a race weekend pass. Yet the simultaneous MWC regularly draws 100,000 geeks: guess where the future buying power lies?

Ditto the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which annually attracts as many visitors as does the Indianapolis 500, which brands itself as the world’s largest single-day sporting event. Tellingly, brands such as VW and Renault now spend more on their CES exhibits than they do at mainstream motor shows, which have gradually lost their lustre. Indeed, VW, Ferrari and Fiat etc., shunned the Paris Motor Show earlier this month.

All this points to rapidly shifting landscapes for motoring and motorsport in general, and F1 in particular. The pressures F1 faces are fundamentally external and not of its own making, yet they are very real pressures and the challenge is for the sport (and Liberty) to adapt faster than the landscape shifts. As always in F1, if you’re not moving on fast forward, you’re going backwards.

If F1 (and the likes of NASCAR and IndyCar) fails to adapt it will fade into irrelevance before dying a slow death. Liberty and the teams need to do more than simply “spice the show” – they need to reinvent the sport totally, from format through technology and governance to fan experience and broadcasting. All that takes massive commitment; above all, it requires not impromptu gatherings, but enormous will from all concerned.

The dinosaur lacked that crucial characteristic…

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines

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140 comments on “Peak F1: Is the pinnacle of motorsport facing irreversible decline?”

  1. I can see a whole swag of people thinking “lets make some money before this ship sinks”

    1. I think it wouldn’t be unfair to characterise Bernie Ecclestone as the pioneer in this respect.

    2. That’s what BE said… :)

    3. It’d be interesting to know the figures in illegal streaming. Young people fall into that category, they know how to search around for a good stream without paying. I’m willing to bet that the numbers in illegal streaming are quite close to the eyeballs missing in the official statistics.

      People are a lot less interested in motorsport, that’s true. Not even the daily newspapers talk about it. In Argentina, a big motorhead country, there were always a couple of pages in the newspapers about national series or international motorsport, but now you’re lucky if you see a paragraph with the results from the previous days. Not to mention there’s hardly any sort of opinion columns or whatever…

      But consumption changes too. In the era of Twich and PewDiePie, youngsters interested in motorsport surely find ways to watch that don’t show in the official statistics. I’ve done it for years now, except a short interval using F1 official stream while I was living in Argentina and the service was available.

      The problem is that new audiences are impossible to be generated if F1 stays behind a paywall, we’ve all said the same thing. If it was readily available, people could switch around channels and find a race and maybe watch for a bit… and maybe become interested in the process.

      You have to try a product to know that you like it and you’ll be willing to pay money for it. If you don’t get to try it, you’ll never know…

      1. finding illegal streams is as easy as googling “alzheimers” grandpa ;) but joking aside, yes when a product fails to connect with its customer, when it hides behind paywalls, when it allows the sporting aspect to degrade more and more from a pretty bad place, and when it fails to have any vision then…………………

        1. As a millennial myself, I’ve been using pirated streams for about 6 years now, since F1 basically decided to go behind s pay wall.

      2. I raised the streaming issue 5 years ago and it seems the F1 owners will never understand and give audiences what they want, and meanwhile more and more people watch illegal streams…

  2. Those stats about less young people holding licences surprised me.
    There seem to be more and more cars on the road every year and I’m now having to park a lot further away from town centres than I used to.

    Anyway – interesting article and perhaps Liberty are right to turn race weekends into a carnival that has a race attached rather than just the race if it helps the sport to survive?

    1. perhaps Liberty are right to turn race weekends into a carnival that has a race attached rather than just the race

      @nullapax Champcar tried that idea a decade ago & it didn’t help them. it alienated there actual fanbase while at the same time not attracting new fans as while a lot of people turned up to there ‘festivals of speed’ the first year not many of them were there for the race & not many came back the following year.

      1. On the other hand, it’s working a treat for WEC. Possibly because they remembered to put the racing first and the carnival second (something F1, in its attempts to do this – and it’s made some already – has tended to forget).

    2. That’s because old people drive later. The shift is in how fast water comes in the sink, not how high the water is in the sink :)

    3. @nullapax I believe those stats are quite misleading. It is simply more expensive to drive these days and I believe people are forced to delay the process. Combine the expense with the ultra safety-conscious motif of schools and parents and the roadblocks to license-ship begin to add up. Anecdotally, a great number of my friends growing up had their learners permit for an extended period of time and didn’t get their licenses until age 17. I would like to see more extended data on the subject.

    4. @nullapax, as others have noted, the reason given for that is that older people are tending to drive more than younger individuals and are more likely to make short to medium length trips.

      The UK Department of Transport has useful statistics that show that, when you split the mileage by age, the older the age group, the smaller the reduction in average annual mileage and car usage – amongst the oldest age group (those over 70), the average mileage per person has actually been steadily rising over the past decade.

      That means that the total volume of traffic on the road in places such as the UK and US has not actually risen that much over the past couple of decades. In the UK, for example, personal car usage has increased by just 0.2% since the early 2000s, whilst the average distance that person will drive has actually fallen by about 11% over that period of time.

      That has been offset by the fact that there has also been a trend of increasing light commercial vehicle traffic – vans, taxis and so on – which has grown sharply since the start of the 2000s (nearly 40% higher).

      What you are probably experiencing is a combination of those factors – a rising number of older people who use their cars for frequent short trips into urban areas, combined with an increase in private light commercial vehicle traffic (particularly vans).

      1. so its just an offshoot of urbanization. btw i dont drive. i live in nyc. but i sure as heck catch every bit of content of f1. in the end what will tire me out sooner than later is the petty politics and the lack of focus on sporting value. i leave sports pretty quickly because in the end they all come down to politics and money instead of sporting value.

    5. Cheesy robot tree
      18th October 2018, 12:28

      My nephews (v early 20’s) don’t drive for two reasons: cost I.e even if the got a licence they can’t afford the insurance for a car and neither can their parents. Also university, 3 or 4 years when a car can easily be done without for most. This may or may not have influenced their relative interest in both cars in general, and motor racing in particular (ie almost no interest at all). Increased insurance costs and increased university attendance may be a factor in the quoted trend

    6. People who do have licences are tending to own more cars. There’s certainly been a rise in demand for multi-car insurance. That’s where the money is for insurers at the moment – note that there isn’t really an easy way for a car insurer to get money from someone with no interest in a car.

      I cannot drive on the roads, even though I can race an arrive-and-drive kart. Due to the nature of my disability, I’d have to pay £95 to pass the assessment I would need to get a provisional license, and it only gets more expensive from there. I live in town and am reasonably fit, so I can quite happily walk to everywhere I need to go on a day-to-day basis. If my parents didn’t want to take me to the two things I do regularly that aren’t in a trivially walkable distance (visit them and go to the swimming baths my friends use)… …I could walk to the former in about an hour, and get a bus for the latter. I could commute to university if I wanted to go again.

      If I had a car, I’d probably only use it half-a-dozen times a year, and it’s not worth the hassle of joining a car club for that, let alone own my own vehicle. Might as well use a taxi (and this is speaking as someone who refuses to use the “new-style” taxi types). Fortunately, I like motorsport for reasons that have nothing to do with the relevance of the vehicles in my own life. But for some people, relevance to some aspect of life is important. And at this point, personal transportation is relevant only to the rich and the rural.

      What F1 (and motorsport series in general) needs to do is figure out which part of people’s lives they can become relevant to and appeal to that.

  3. Really interesting article.

    I think the move away from free-to-air TV will continue to have a greater impact. The longer it remains unaccessible to younger, less well off families who can’t afford niche subscriptions, then the less likely it is for younger people to get involved.

    Highlights five/six hours after the race won’t cut it. The appeal of F1 is the live aspect.

    I also think the comments around Formula E vs F1 were on point, and will be interested to see how this rivalry develops.

    1. I agree, in the UK for the last few years the FtA broadcasts have been restricted to about half the season and 2019 it will only be Silverstone. The majority of racing formulas don’t get much coverage either, leaving just a BTCC, F4, Ginetta and a couple of other series covered.

      The cost of attending an F1 race is stupidly overpriced, especially when compared to something like WEC.

      The other element that has caused massive harm to F1 was the restriction placed on the Power Units in 2014-2016, leading to a largely uncompetitive and mismatched Championship.

    2. how can they go free if the ads wont sell as well? its pay because they dont have eyes. in the us its basically free with a cable package. they show it on espn. me thinks the us has grown this year, yes?

      1. Cable is far more common in the USA than the UK, and an American cable company can typically reach much further than a UK one because the USA’s population is about 5 times bigger in the first place. So a pay product viable in the USA isn’t necessarily viable in the UK.

    3. I think the move away from free-to-air TV will continue to have a greater impact. The longer it remains unaccessible to younger, less well off families who can’t afford niche subscriptions, then the less likely it is for younger people to get involved.

      I can’t be sure, but my suspicion is you are correct: Pay TV costs F1 in terms of viewers and sponsorship.

  4. I think there’s a truth to the fact that interest in motorsports in general is in decline. I feel like the mid to late nineties were the boom times and it’s been lean ever since. The late 00’s global financial crisis was a coffin nail.

    But I don’t think it’s the whole story. I feel there’s a shift from the very people who you’d characterise as die-hard motorsports fans. I’d count myself amongst that demographic (if you can use such a broad measure to identify a single group of people) – I’ve been a fan of motorsports for as long as I remember. I bought wholesale into Mansell mania. I had a row of model F1 cars on my shelf as a kid. I’d watch every televised F1 race as a kid, and since my early twenties there was a period of about ten years where I would watch every single session of every single race weekend. I’d have spreadsheets with results catalogued, which I’d compare year on year. I’d pore over every shred of F1 news. And not just F1 – Touring cars, WRC, sportscars. I love them all. I met my wife at Le Mans and this year we celebrated our tenth year together and our sixth visit to the great race during that time. At one point I could tell you the name of every driver in every team, including reserve and test drivers. I could tell you the defining characteristics and aerodynamic innovations unique t every car. I could name team principles past and present, chief engineers. Short of attending every race in person I can’t imagine anything which would make me more qualified to call myself a dyed-in-the-wool hardcore motorsports fan. I’ve even done a bit of track time, owned various sportscars, driven rally cars… Cut me open and I’ll bleed high octane petrol.

    So after all that, here’s the thing. This year I’ve watched two races live and one on catch up. This weekend I’m going to a Star Trek convention on Sunday (yes, in costume, I know…) rather than watching the USGP, despite thinking it’s a brilliant track. The thing about F1 is that over the past few years, in a way which has been very subtle, I’ve stopped feeling like it’s really for me. As best as I can explain it, when I was watching Nigel Mansell obliterate a multi-million pound Ford Mondeo in a drizzly ex-airfield in the English countryside, I felt like I was absolutely the target audience. This is something being done specifically for my entertainment. I don’t really feel like that any more. I can watch F1, and I can enjoy the spectacle of the cars, and even the quality of some of the racing, but I don’t feel like it’s being made for me any more. Perhaps it’s me that’s changed, having transitioned from greasy teenager to plump late-thirties Dad (the opportunities for putting up posters in my bedroom being significantly diminished), but I actually feel like if anything, F1 is aimed at an even older generation. I feel like it’s a sport that’s being made for men in their fifties and sixties. Partly it’s the dull brands – Mercedes is dull, nobody under 50 wants to buy a Rolex, and so on – partly it’s the incessant monetisation of every aspect of fandom. I no longer feel like I want to spend my hard-earned money on a sport that’s not for me. I don’t care about aspirational lifestyle brands for those on the cusp of early retirement. Taking a few hours out of my Sunday every couple of weeks means time I’m not spending playing with my daughter. And I surely can’t be alone in this. I’m an average man on an average salary, with an averagely priced house. If you’re talking target demographic, I should be the bullseye. But I don’t care about F1 any more, not enough to prioritise it above other things I could be doing or spending money on. I’ve gone from the most hardcore of hardcore fans, to a casual viewer who might put it on if I’m not doing anything else and it happens to be shown on C4. As of next year, I can’t see myself bothering to watch a single race. I certainly won’t follow the championship. I can’t name half the drivers any more, and of those I can name, half of those won’t be on the grid next year.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I still love motorsports, still love cars. I miss the days when I cared so passionately about F1 that I would spend hours scrutinising race images to try and work out if one team had a special bendy wing or trick suspension. But now I don’t care. I don’t care because there are no innovations any more and the most significant difference won’t be spotted by looking at the cars but by looking at the teams’ bank accounts. I don’t care because F1 now feels old fashioned and stuffy, aimed at a demographic of senior citizens with whom I don’t identify. I don’t care because no longer does it feel like the sport is grateful for my viewership, and I’m viewed as just another revenue stream for the rich and powerful, in a world which is moving backwards in terms of fairness and equality. Perhaps F1 just feels like a microcosm of all that I see as being wrong with the world now, and that’s a turnoff.

    Whatever the reason, what feels clear to me is that F1 isn’t just losing the casual viewer, it’s losing the hardcore fan upon which it could always previously depend. That should be a huge red alert for everyone involved with the sport.

    1. I feel in the same boat but late 20s instead of late 30s, since aged 6 I had watched basically every race and qualifying without fail (and only about 2 not live until about 18), then once at Uni and F1 being on the BBC and I could watch all the practice sessions I was watching almost every single one. Since half the races are not live and I don’t always have access to watch them until the highlights that has resulted in a steady reduction in my watching, now I just about manage to watch every race in highlights form (even if live) and try and watch qualifying but reduced by fast forwarding. With none shown live next year that will be the nail for my enthusiasm, I can afford Sky but unless you have the time to watch more sport going all out on a full subscription seems pointless. So that leaves Now TV or just barely watching…. I am still undecided but I feel like I get more enjoyment out of watching BTCC occasionally rather than F1 avidly these days.

    2. Great comments

    3. I’m more or less in the same demographic than you and my take on it is… we’ve aged (and mania becomes interest)

    4. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      17th October 2018, 13:18

      Before there were cars we raced horses. Many still watch horse racing but only because of the gambling hook.

      As ICE cars start to disappear off the roads in the next few decades, F1 need to find its own such hook. At present there isn’t one. I don’t think technological advance will work as a hook anymore. Technology outside F1 is leaping on and its WAY too expensive for a competitive series and F1 NEEDS to be a true, close fought competition for many competitors else it faces extinction.

      F1 must refocus away from the technology or die. I know that will lose some core die-hard fans, I’m sorry if you are one of those but that will be the price F1 must pay to combat the likes of Formula E.

      Imaging a grid of closely matched cars with 1500bhp, super wide tyres and almost no downforce. That would be epic.

    5. @dieterrencken – great but depressing article mate, wow.

      @mazdachris thanks for that amazing post mate, that took some honest work from you. I see many of your points, agree with some and not with some others.i have been watching F1 since 1985 when it come to Adelaide, I was a die hard Senna fan and met him many times as a kid. Like you I could tell you every driver, where they are from, what engine, team manager and tyres….. and more…… if I just put that effort to school 😁

      I still love F1, after Senna died I did disappear for a while, a long while, my hero died and I blamed F1 for it. Sounds silly but that’s what I did.

      When I re-found F1 my love come back fast, but better racing than it is now, for sure. But it also come costly. As Dieter says hospitality in F1 is absurd. My mate and I went Paddock Club in Melbourne 2012, it was $3900 AUD, but a one off occasion, so that’s ok.

      Since they I have been to 11 or 12 GPs, Melbourne and OS and except for Monaco and Singapore have spent at least one day, if not the weekend in the Paddock or Paddock Club. I look back now and while have such great life long experiences (Dan does recognize us when we see him) you look at how much I have spent in the years. Great fun but when you watch a live race and get frustrated or fall asleep you wonder why you do it. Current F1 is awesome and **** at the same time.

    6. Well said mate. You are not alone in your feelings. Years ago an F1 race was an event. The mates would come around to watch. The live timing would be running with the car tracker. Everyone was buzzin’. On occasion I’d be on this very site exchanging live comments with other like minded people. It was a community. I felt I belonged. Then the money men came in. Gone was live timing and other computer related bits. Gone was the nation viewing as one. Some would watch live while the rest wait a few hours watch on catch-up. No point in commenting any more as most of the people weren’t there any more. Now I avoid F1 news until I’ve seen the race. I record it and watch it when I feel like it, alone. The fun has gone. There are more enjoyable things to do. Next year I doubt I’ll bother. I Hope Sky and Liberty enjoy their profits.

    7. Really good post @mazdachris. We seem to be in about the same age bracket and I agree with some of what you said wholeheartedly. I won’t go so far as to say I don’t care about F1 anymore though. I still love F1, I still follow it passionately but time is such a precious commodity for me now that other things have to take priority over it. As a mid-30s husband, father and professional, more often than not I record races and watch them “as live” later on race day, simply because the main purpose of my weekends is now to spend time enjoying my wife and son’s company because my work commitments mean I spend hardly any time with them in the week. The other reason is because the F1 season is now so long, my wife’s patience at having me disappear into my own world in front of the TV for 2-3 hours every other weekend is wearing thin (quite rightly).

      That said, I think you are on to something when you said you no longer feel like F1’s target audience, but not for the reasons you mention. (and I say that as someone who does own a fairly expensive watch made by the company that pretends it makes F1 engines on the side). I think the simple truth is F1 has no idea who it’s audience is. It takes it for granted that petrol heads and life long fans will tune in (which I don’t think will be the case if we are neglected) while it relentlessly tries to attract people from this mythical “younger generation”. The truth is, FOM and the F1 teams have no clue about who these people are and what they like. I can confidently say that I have no clue what interests 18 year olds these days, and it wasn’t that long ago I was one. I don’t think a 35 year old would have said that in 2000. The result of not understanding their audience is a product which is flawed. It is dumbed down, too technical, too boring, super interesting, too showbiz and not showbiz enough all at the same time, as well as being wrapped up in a handy Rolex shaped ad.

      Not entirely sure where I’m going with this, but I’d urge you (and everyone else in our position) not to give up on F1 just yet…it is still amazing.

      1. Nail on head when you say ‘F1 has no idea who it’s audience is’. I’ll take that one step further – F1 doesn’t know who it is.

        It’s made the mistake of compromise and sitting on the fence. It isn’t a fully futuristic, cutting-edge sport – Formula E has adopted that philosopher of pushing futuristic (current?), road relevant technologies. It’s also had the enormous advantage of starting with a clean sheet of paper, something F1 will never have due its thousands of ties and agreements, as well as its volatile political landscape.

        It isn’t man and machine anymore, either – I don’t stand in the grandstand or watch an onboard and say “wow!” at the sound, the speed and the skill needed to tame the beast. Isn’t it amazing how a mid-90’s clip looks more impressive than a current one, despite the advances in technology and speed?

        F1 is 6 of one and half a dozen of the other, and that just doesn’t cut it.

        I’d love for F1 to go balls out, man and machine. Bring back the noise, simplify the aero, say goodbye (at least in the short term) to the manufacturers who do nothing but work as an anchor on the sport in terms of their relentless spending, political manoeuvres and subsequent stifling of competition.

        Once F1 rediscovers its unashamed identity, I can imagine a few manufacturers may want to once again be involved in the pinnacle of motorsport.

      2. It doesn’t help that F1 thinks “the younger generation” is either a mini-version of Bernie Ecclestone or a mini-version of a professional F1 CFD technician, and never anything else.

        The millenial generations (I say that in plural, because the beginning of Millenial +1 generation is growing up, and F1 in the olden days liked to hook people young) are the most diverse generation I know, in outlook, in interests, in the manner in which it pursues those outlooks and interests. Its ability to understand is as broad-ranging as any other generation, its financial resources almost as broad (though they do skew towards the less-wealthy end of the scale). The members of this generation do not like to be pigeon-holed, and has its own ideas how it wants the future to be (and look and sound). Research gives lots of contradictory information (though also some trends that could be used as a starting point). Speaking to plenty of actual members of the generation – particularly after earning their trust – would garner more useful information.

        Having said that, there is one thing I’ve seen as a very common theme… …they’re fed up of rhetoric that is never followed by action. They get plenty of it from the news, from their schools and workplaces. They don’t need it from their choices of entertainment. So whatever F1 decides to do, if it wishes to have masses of Millenials, it needs to make sure it gets actioned. No excuses, no pretense and especially no trickery. (This may be why Kimi Raikkonen’s “anti-charisma” is at least as successful among young race fans as their older counterparts; Kimi’s race mode is particularly blunt, and it’s hard to be fake or to trick someone by being blunt).

        Already in the previous generation to the Millenials, it was known that broad-brush marketing was getting weaker due to the development of niches. The Millenial generation largely consists of niches, so broad-brush marketing of all sorts is not functional. Yet everywhere (except politics and commerce, where it is used in a way that could be interpreted as cynical and/or not-entirely-honest, marketeers are sticking to that approach. This is causing alienation, not only in F1 or motorsport, but across life in general.

        F1 has to decide what it wants to be first, then target whichever niche it can occupy. I’d say “wishes”, but it’s a bit late for wishing; F1 has frittered away an entire decade, along with much of the Hamilton generation of fans (which is why Lewis is still having to do so much non-F1 stuff to become as well-known as his British world-champion predecesors were simply by being F1 champions). F1 has closed off many options for itself because in that decade, it’s made agreements and established principles that it will need in order to have the very authenticity it will need to convince the niche it targets (of any age group) that it finally means what it says.

        Oh, and it needs to start looking for channels with high audience figures and getting itself onto them again. Pay or free, funded however they may be… …if it changes, and doesn’t make it clear what it has changed to once the transformation is complete, it’s still going to lose the future generations, simply because it isn’t getting found. (Now, it can transform in relative privacy because its audiences are low and dropping. But there’s no point hiding its light under a bushel).

    8. @mazdachris

      I agree with everything you said, I’m 33 and feel too young for this sport, but all the years of passion are still there and i’m still on here everyday and Autosport, but watching a race has felt an ever increasing chore for quite sometime.

      As for the stats on Pay TV, i’ve been watching F1 on illegal streams for quite sometime. I know you can say if you don’t contribute to F1 financially then you forfeit your right to comment on it, but in reality I move around way too much to commit to a Sky plan and the costs that comes with it.

      Perhaps I’m too entitled and think I should have it for free, or F1 has just moved on from me.

      I still have plenty of happy memories, my dad waking me up at 4am in 94′ to sneak downstairs and watch the Adelaide showdown, trying not yell so much as to wake my mum, freezing cold as a 13yr old in the rain at Spa singing with Finnish fans as Fisi and Wurz pranged their Bennettons.

      If there was a proper version of the NBA streaming model I’d certainly buy it, just log in anywhere in the world and everything is there, either live or to catch up and for a few bucks a month, kids can afford it.

      Perhaps the clearest sign is that little or no advertising in F1 relates to me really. Perhaps I might be some BOSE headphones one day (though probably not), a Rolex/Merc are no longer aspirational things to me, if they ever were.

      1. @bernasaurus

        Well here’s the thing. I’m not a spendthrift. I’ve got subscriptions for Netflix, Spotify, NowTV, Amazon Prime, and plenty else besides. All of these services offer me a huge range of content from which to choose. I use most of these every single day, and when it comes to Netflix, I can appreciate the incredible quality of the content they’re creating for their customers. I clearly have disposable income sufficient to pay for things I like, but none of these services costs as much as I’d need to spend on the most basic form of access to F1 next year, and each deliver a hundred times the content. Content which seems tailor made for my own personal tastes. One weekend pass for unreliable, non-HD, live-only streaming of Sky Sports costs more than a whole month of 4K on-demand of Netflix.

        As an F1 fan, I feel like I’m constantly being rinsed for every penny. I quit my Autosport subscription for the same reason – sure it wasn’t expensive and there’s a lot of good content, but it felt like something I was enjoying – and through years of loyalty had perhaps earned a right to enjoy – was being taken away from me and put behind a paywall. Just so that someone could make an obscene amount of money. I have spare money but I’m in no way well off. I see the promotion of luxury lifestyle brands, things I could never afford even if I wanted them, and I see that really it’s all about rich folk getting richer. Sure, F1 teams are struggling to stay afloat. But that’s on budgets of often over 100 million a year. I resent being asked to foot the bill for such largesse.

        And F1 seems determined to give so little back. It’s the same reason I’m not going to spend hundreds of pounds to sit shivering on a piece of rickety scaffolding at Silverstone, while I can only look jealously at the millionaires coiffing champagne and ignoring the race in their state of the art climate controlled luxury lounge across the road. From F1 I get the message “ok, you can have a little glimpse of our incredible lifestyle, but it’s going to cost you, and you’ll never be allowed to be a part of it”.

    9. Perhaps F1 just feels like a microcosm of all that I see as being wrong with the world

      There was a scene in that Amazon Prime series “Grand Prix Driver” where McLaren management assembled the entire team in a common area to have an all-hands meeting about the situation with Honda. They rolled out a pair of LCD monitors with the words “Real Talk” smartly displayed in some fresh font, and proceeded to say absolutely nothing. The taint of PR was swirling around the room in abundance and I realized that F1 has been swallowed up by the whitewash corporate culture that crushes the souls of so many. We used to be entertained by Schumacher storming over to another teams garage post race to “have a word,” Williams firing off a cannon in the paddock. Now we get giddy if Alonso sits in a lawn chair, or if Kimi has an ice cream.


    10. I’ve read this comment and all the answers to it, and I recognise myself in these.
      It was only 10 years ago… no, even less than that, I was a die-hard fan like you were. I was watching all races live (it was inconceivable for me to miss a race and watch it later on a replay), and often commenting on racing forums at the same time. I also had the feeling of a community existing around the races. The races were as dull as today usually, if not not duller, but I was always enthusiastic, and couldn’t wait for the next race. I was even watching the races on British TV (I live in Belgium), because I believed it was the best experience for die-hard fans, and not just the casual viewer.

      This season, I’ve watched 2 races live, and I doubt I’ll watch another one. The rest I watch on a replay, and more often than not, I say to myself after watching one “why did I bother?”. The thing is, that since several years, F1 has constantly gone down on my list of priorities in life. And today, I feel I have much more interesting things to do than watch a race on a Sunday afternoon. The racing forum I was going to has almost no activity. And when I go here, it seems I only read articles and comments about why F1 is bad. Because, somehow it has become bad in my perception, and the perception of many people. Many people (fans and non-fans) seem to associate F1 with dull. And as you all have written here, F1 has become somewhat unattractive to me.

      I can’t point exactly to the reasons, but I believe it has to do something with the loss of a true F1 community. Before, one of the reasons why people would watch every race is that they could watch it together. Be it physically together, or via internet. Now, I really feel that we more and more watch the races alone. And doing things alone is not fun.

    11. I feel much the same way (I’m 32) but I still read up on every race on sites like this – my days of buying every other autosport are long gone. It’s a fascinating take on the brands and how they are actually very dull and aimed at an older audience. I look back longingly at the snakebite Jordan even though it was advertising fags, which I abhor. There was something “cooler” about the teams back then.

      But really the huge problem for me is the lack of free to air coverage. As soon as sky got involved it killed it for me as a TV sport.

      1. What a bunch of doofusi – trading massive advertising revenue for a guaranteed thinking market win pay TV.
        V8 supercars are following a similar formula and will turn that little golden goose into a soggy doona.

    12. Mike (@chickenmacaroon)
      17th October 2018, 18:33

      Your comment hit me hard. This is me also. I feel the change within me. F1 has lost its edge. Life will go on.

    13. since we are all sharing our life stories here is mine. couldnt care less about f1 until i turned to espn last year and saw it. i have watched every race since, even catching one on a boat in the greek isles, thats how much i needed it. what is eroding away at my patience, and what happens with many sports i get into…..the politics and the money get in the way. its not about sporting value, but the opposite of that. everything is done to stifle that sporting value – and the principles/ethics that come along with that. The only thing that has kept be going is digging deep and learning about the history and the development war. im close to just moving on to another sport to be honest. f1 made me love motorsports, but a couple of years in and im already growing very very weary of the bs. and to be fair this is an ALL sports problem. they forget the product and just want to count the cash – whether that be via direct winnings or brand development.

    14. This is a great comment thread @mazdachris and others – I rarely comment on this website, but I really relate to what you are saying. I’ve been following this sport full time since 2013 when I was 9, and ever since 2014 (or 2015, I forget), I found F1fanatic and proceeded to read every article since. My interest peaked in 2016, where I started delving into history. I could name all the world champions and their years from memory, and became invested in the championship fights of decades ago – witnessing the raw, pure feel of the day, I couldn’t understand how it had gotten to its current state (sadly, I joined after in my opinion the last great season of f1). But I was not around in those times – in 2016, the championship was still exciting to me. I read up hundreds of technical articles and woke up at 4am to watch every race with my brother and father. But increasingly now, I find myself waking up alone – my father has abandoned the sport for its predictability, and my brother would rather sleep at times. Now, I find myself for the first time debating whether to wake up or not, and I am even part of the younger generation Liberty says they are attempting to attract! Seeing the failiures of McLaren Honda – largely a manifestation of restriction of development – have especially struck me hard. While in 2017 and 2018 they attempted to change this, in 2019 they are returning to the status quo – the technical innovation aspect of F1 has been lost. Like you said, there are no longer innovative solutions to problems and crafty exploitation of loopholes, and ability to innovate is being repressed in the attempt to force competition and create a better “spectacle”. Budget caps and forming tighter regulations only reduces competition, and this is what they are trying to do. I don’t think a few media gimmicks can change the state of modern F1 – there has to be a fundamental change in the FIA’s governing philosophy to prevent the alienation of their most loyal audience.

      1. sadly, I joined after in my opinion the last great season of f1

        @mazdachris Out of curiosity, are you prepared to divulge what you think was the last great season of F1? Or even a few of what you think were the great seasons of F1? If you don’t believe this is the right time to mention it then I’m happy with that too.

        1. I’m not @mazachris, but I think the last great season of F1 for me was 2010. (And even then, I felt the media was over-egging it in the last half of the season, as they were trying to make it sound more exciting than 2009, which for me it was not. I note that the media does not appear to have made that error since).

          Having said that, I think the seeds of this problem from a philosophical perspective were sown in 2003, when the FIA declared that it, rather than technicians, would run the rules, and the show/sport, rather than technological prowess, would be the governing principles. Somehow, we got more sport, and arguably more show, when technological prowess was the main arbiter than when the show/sport got the focus…

    15. @mazdachris

      That’s probably the best post I’ve read on this page in a long time.

      It’s all true, and sad at the same time. I know exactly how you feel. I still make an effort to watch races, and sometimes I wonder why.

    16. that’s a great read. thanks for sharing. i would like to add to the f1 not being for me anymore, that rather than an audience aging (which it is), it has as much to do with that the sport being overrun with specialized engineering – which by their very own definition naturally eliminates the variability and risk out of everything. of course, it’s amazing airplanes don’t fall out of the sky anymore and road cars are safer than ever but in f1 that’s just plain boring. going to a race is nearly like attending a funeral with all the serious and uptight faces everywhere. on top of how expensive it is and difficult to get to and from, who really can bother anymore?

    17. Spot on. I’ve been watching since the early ’80’s, and I find it really hard to rouse much enthusiasm these days. Part of that is undoubtedly growing older, but looking back, I think there are differences between F1 then and now which make it less attractive. Firstly the drivers. I think they were more charismatic. There was more of a sense that they were a bunch of chaps off for a couple of hours derring-do on a Sunday afternoon, before spending the interval between races partying. They didn’t come across as professional sportsmen (even compared to the rather more relaxed standards of eg. footballers in those days). Nowadays, drivers have (generally) converged on the corporate bland image of the highly-sponsored athlete, rather than the international playboy. Fewer instagram posts from the gym and more stories in the gossip columns might help.
      I think there’s a similar issue at work with the teams. The whole thing was just more amateurish, and there was always the chance (even if it rarely worked), that some bloke tinkering in his shed could come up with a killer innovation and win. Nowadays, whether because the rules are so tight, or because we know so much more about the ways the cars work, it seems that the only way to be able to compete is by deploying huge amounts of money. The garagistes supplied much of the romance of the sport, but it’s hard in the current environment to see them returning as the barriers to entry are just too high.
      In some ways, I think the sport is a victim of its own success. It is undoubtedly the pinnacle of motorsport, with the best drivers, but in getting there, it’s lost a bit of its soul. I’m not sure that a bunch of playboys driving around in cars which broke down every few races could really lay claim to that title these days, but they might grab the viewing public in a way in which the current series doesn’t.

    18. @mazdachris

      What an amazing post. Really heartfelt and although I suspect I’m about 10-20 years younger than you based on those dates, there was so much in there that I related with.

      I saw another comment about avoiding F1 news till I can watch the highlights. Usually alone at about 11pm before work the next day. I remember back in the day when a group of us watched Australia ’94 first thing in the morning. The ‘event’ aspect has gone.

      Thanks to those who replied and agreed with my earlier comments – first time poster :-)

  5. Actually, all numbers available suggest that IndyCar is growing it’s market, and adding younger viewers. Sure, they lost Target, but they’ve gained a host of other sponsors. According to the press release for NBC getting exclusive coverage, “According to figures presented by NBCSN, average viewership of IndyCar races has gone up 78 percent in the past four years.”

    Nielsen has a chart suggesting that 42% of the 2017 Indy 500 viewer are in the 18-34 bracket.

    1. 38% increase in TV viewership over the past four years, per Forbes.

      1. And you can see entire races on Youtube. No, not a news clip, not a very brief clip, not an edited highlights clip, a video of the entire race from the start to the finish on Youtube (subscription free).

      2. It seems to depend on whom you ask – IndyCar itself have claimed that the viewing figures have risen by 38% from 2013 to 2017, which is the figure Forbes seem to have used.

        On the other hand Nielsen, the source grat refers to, viewing figures for nine of the first twelve races in 2018 have actually fallen, with the Indy 500 having fallen by 10%. In terms of the number of viewers, the first twelve races of the 2018 IndyCar series supposedly drew about 950,000 viewers on average.
        However, that figure is very misleading given that it includes the Indy 500, which has disproportionately high viewing figures (about 4.9 million this year) – the actual average for a typical IndyCar race is therefore likely to be closer to around half of the figure they are claiming.

        In 2017, IndyCar itself reckoned that the average race that season probably saw about 507,000 people watch it, and the 2017 figures only grew by 3% over 2016. Although the percentage figure looks strong at first glance, it seems to disguise the fact that the growth rate in more recent years seems to have been markedly lower and, if the indication from the opening dozen races is right, the figures for 2018 might show a decline.

  6. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    17th October 2018, 12:51

    Despite being a petrol head all my life, I’m 57, I now own an EV. Times they are a-changin’.

    Hybrids are a inefficient, dead-end, mongrel technology. F1 should have stayed 100% ICE until it could go 100% electric (although I think that would be some way off, maybe 10 years).

    F1 only needs to be the pinnacle of motor sport speed-wise. Forget the technology. It just gets in the way of cost effective, sustainable, competitive racing.

    With more cars, closer racing and no pay wall, F1 has plenty of life left in it yet!

    1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk More cars on the grid isn’t really necessary, just closer racing.

    2. Hybrids are a inefficient, dead-end, mongrel technology

      Inefficient? You what?

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        17th October 2018, 21:07

        Inefficient in as much as they have all the complication of an ICE car plus all the EV gubbins. Its the extra weight and the extra power needed to carry that weight around. A pure electric only car is much more efficient.

        Also hybrids are much more expensive to make than either 100% ICE or Electric. So in terms of production they are less efficient.

        Once solid state batteries become mainstream ICE and Hybrid will be left behind.

    3. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk i think you are wrong, or maybe better said, stroke too broad a brush with that comment about EV being a great idea, efficient and hybrid being a mongrel.

      Yes, electric is already a fine solution for a huge part of the people who only drive relatively short distances most of the time. Especially when much of that is stop-start in traffic and in cities where the pollution really is a huge factor. There electric (in most western countries, taking in account current energy mixes) is a great alternative. But long term, the only sensible solution for that traffic really is not having cars at all, since the average car is a road block in a street for aobut 80% of the time anyway.
      Personally I would love if countries started making delivery vehicles (the ones deliverying us those internet bought things) mandatory EV only in a few years – it is a business decision so it would be viable, and those are amongst the things that are taking more and more place on our streets

      But until hydrogen comes to be a workable alternative, ICE engines will be what will drive long distance travel. I can go in my Diesel engined car for 1000 km (more if driven sensibly, up to aobut 1200 km) through a large part of Europe without having to bother about refuelling. And the engine heats up nicely so that the exhaust gasses cleaning stuff all works – until I enter the city and have to go slow, start stop to reach my final destination. That is where hybrid comes in – it makes it possible to drive long haul but then go electric for the parts where the electric works better. Yes, it is more expensive/complicated. But it allows for both types of travel with one vehicle. Also, hybrid can help making the ICE more efficient using technology F1 has been using (and really should have been showcasing) for 4 years already.

        24th December 2018, 22:48

        No, not correct.
        Within 5 years there will be EVs that will go over 600km on one charge and recharge in 10 minutes. Super and Ultra Capacitors with solid state batteries will be the death nell of ICE cars.

  7. After seeing the recent announcements of drivers going to Formula E I’m convinced that that will be the future. Why go into F1 to drive around the back in a Williams if you’re not connected with a major team’s junior academy? Only 20 seats on the grid, the top 6 drives are all closed out to drivers not in junior academies, even a podium is a distant dream for many now.

    1. @db01 Whilst I agree that the calibre of driver is improving in FormulaE, it isn’t that they are choosing FE over F1, there just aren’t the seats available in F1 so they are left with FE/WEC/Indycar.

      1. @asanator At the moment. At some point the penny will drop and people will start moving earlier… …especially as the F1 driver academies now select by F3 at the very latest. F2 is already facing the prospect of only containing F1 driver academy members, people who are clueless as to the realities of F1 selection methods, and people not good enough to get a FE/Indycar seat (WEC has a broader skill range, and parts of it will take an F2-standard driver – but if that is one’s goal, there are more logical ways to get there than directly via F2).

  8. From a broadcasting/marketing side they need to return to free-to-air but also move with the times. Put the races free to view on YouTube or Netflix and anyone that has an internet connection or Netflix account can then watch F1 and get involved with the sport. More eyes mean more chance of people getting into the sport.

    Then again Liberty experiment with their own apps, so why not make the races free to view via their app? You could lock different cameras, pre and after show programmes, interviews, tech analysis and predictions championships behind paywalls – as again if more eyes are watching the sport there’s more chance of people spending money on it.

    From a racing perspective, I think the quality of competetiveness has dropped. We now talk of ‘F1-A & F1-B’, such is the gap in performance and that needs to be closed up, along with letting the cars follow and race each other better and the performance difference between the engines needs to be narrowed. Also the amount of spending that the ‘big three’ can do relative to the rest of the grid should be curtailed – you shouldn’t be allowed to just spend your way to the top, it makes for poor viewing. Some teams being filthy rich and others being in danger of collapse needs to stop.

    Also think some races are terminally boring (looking at you, Russia) so why not split the calendar? Out of 20-odd races you have 10 ‘marathon’ style races reserved for usually good and historical races, while underperforming or usually boring races would be turned into two short ‘sprint’ style races where the cars just go full speed and reverse grid after race 1? The ratings will soon show if it improves. Adds variety. Predictability is the death of sport.

    F1 is a dinosaur, and it’s target audience is hugely muddled. Does it attract younger audiences? Does it attract older ones? Who is it actually for? At the moment I’d say it’s struggling to keep even it’s die-hard fans entertained, let alone attract new ones or any new teams. I think it’s got to start taking risks, start evolving, doing things a little differently or it runs the risk of becoming completely irrelevant.

    1. I think I’d say also F1 operates largely in a bubble of ignorance. It doesn’t seem to look at advances and trends in the world – not technologically, socially or financially. It’s tech is simultaneously too advanced and too backward thinking, it locks itself behind enormous paywalls and rewards the rich while ignoring the ‘ordinary’ public that finance it and the cost of entry – to join as a team or even as a fan, is way too high. I think it’s this that is causing the ‘alienation’ that a lot of fans feel with F1 as it doesn’t feel ‘for them’ anymore. I’m not sure F1 even knows who it’s audience is anymore.

    2. Totally agree! I don’t even have a TV subscription. I don’t think this is an entirely F1/motorsport problem, I think this is a traditional television service problem. How can you expect viewership to grow if the total number of viewers is quickly dwindling. They must adopt platforms that viewers are using! Last season I was so fed-up with lack of acceptable options to watch races that I started streaming pirated broadcasts on the popular gaming site – before I knew it I had 10k viewers on my unknown, unadvertised stream. The people are willing, its time for F1 and other content owners to wake up and meet them.

  9. So, maybe I can be around long enough to outlive Formula 1. The real thing, I mean…it may continue on in the virtual world for a while longer, I guess. I am all for less races, 16-18 GP season is quite enough. Rotate the races within regions, so all circuits can stay on board, if not every year. More needed than simply “spice the show” is exactly right @dieterrencken…as usual.

  10. Why would i watch a game if i know who is going to win 9/10 times?
    a. there is a vested interest in those competing (nationality) or
    b. there is a genuine interest for the sport (relatively less in number).
    For eg., Football has both. Cricket has both. Tennis has both. All three CAN have both.
    It is impossible for you to get a pure emotional connect with a driver or a team unless you have grown up with it in some special way.
    another analogy: Speed is good. Racing is good. Usain Bolt is famous. We can all run. That is the connect.
    F1 has been so exclusive all these years which is why its all the more difficult to bring in new fans. I tried my best and brought in 9 fans to the sport in the last 7 years. At least 5 of them follow Formula E now !!
    Nobody likes a two horse race.

  11. A superb piece of writing Dieter, a lot of fresh ideas to think about.

  12. I have limited time to comment at the moment, and there’s a lot to digest here, including from the commentary of @mazdachris which is very interesting, but one of the positives for me is that the team principals are having a wake up call. I take that as a sign that they will be cooperative (at least moreso than before) in working toward cars that race closer in a series that is more affordable. For all the statistical doom and gloom stuff that seems to be overwhelming, I don’t see any other way forward than for them to continue doing what they have talked of doing, which is to improve the product on the track. Do that, and then we will truly know the size of the audience when there isn’t poor racing or one team dominating to blame. The viewership numbers may be dwindling but the audience is still vast, and there is so much potential for them to re-jig how they do things. Liberty has barely had a chance to get out of the starter blocks. It’s their move, but it sounds like the teams should be less greedy and more co-operative now.

    1. Much as it seems like common sense to ‘improve the show’ or ‘add spice’, it’s worth bearing in mind that F1 has, at points, been far less spicy than it is now, and was none the worse for it. Periods of one team, one driver, dominating? Please – that’s the norm, not the exception – it always has been. It was through the 90s and 00s when F1 was at its peak. F1 was serving up a tikka masala and people were filling their bellies. Sure some people asked for a madras or a rogan josh, but I don’t think it’d matter if you gave people a vindaloo. Maybe people can taste the artificial sweeteners now, maybe they’re watching their figures and are having a salad instead. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s right to hang your hat on the idea that F1 was ever popular because it was a glorious sporting spectacle with action up and down the field. That never happened. The year we got six different winners from the first six races (well, it should be noted, past the peak and into the decline) people simply moaned about it. When tyres were blowing up making races unpredictable, people moaned about it. For my money the problem isn’t that it’s not as exciting as it used to be, more that it doesn’t feel as authentic a sporting endeavour as it used to. The racing feels artificial, and neutered by endless tarmac runoff areas. Bogged down in argument after argument about how many moves you can make in a braking zone or what precise percent of the car can cross a line on a certain corner. Mired in misery by commentators who go on and on about how it’s not as good as it used to be, and glum drivers who hop out the car and struggle to force a smile as they repeat a line about how “the team did a great job today, we can take some lessons away..”, cardboard cutout facsimile personalities who seem genuinely not to want to be there. The whole thing feels devoid of any passion or excitement, merely going through the motions like a couple whose spark has disappeared and find themselves rutting joylessly in the bedroom wishing for days gone by.

      1. @mazdachris That’s fair comment and whose to argue against how a bloke feels. You make some great points on the glass half empty side, but I believe audience in the predictable Trulli train MS/Ferrari era did fall off even then due to the product on the track.

        You may be right in how many feel, or in predicting the demise of F1, but I still say Liberty’s only option is to make a better product on the track, and adapt in many other ways too, including making it more affordable for teams, and then let’s see where that goes. They’re not about to read your commentary and just fold everything up and go home. The opposite. Their only option to is try to make something out of this, and they still have hundreds of millions watching. The ball is in their court and I will be along for the ride.

        1. ‘…they still have hundreds of millions watching’

          Ask Sony who owned the portable music market with the Walkman brand. Rather than innovate and give people what they wanted they thy thought like you, that customers in the millions could be corralled and abused (DRM on mini disc) jumping through buggy software to place a song on a device. They poisoned the brand. Nokia ‘was’ mobile phones, too big to fail. Blackberry, the brand of presidents now nowhere. F1 will become a foot note in history. Forcing fans to PPV and buggy streaming because they think they are the only game in town. Looking for quick profits by exploiting a few gullible fans. Without exposure nobody is going to know you exist in a few years.

          1. Bottom line is I’m still interested in following F1, and have plenty of patience for Liberty to see some of their plans through before I will judge an F1 that is finally post-BE and might actually get with the times. There may come a day when I am no longer interested, but for sure that will only be once the dust settles with the new F1 post 2021. I think Liberty deserves that kind of time and patience.

      2. 2012 (the year that combined the “6 winners in 6 races” with the first of two consecutive years where tyres kept exploding), I found very predictable despite all that going on, as did my dad (my mum doesn’t tend to make comments regarding the predictability or lack of same of the races). That situation shouldn’t have happened – it shouldn’t have been possible to work out who was going to win before the race started, given that it was early in the season, the tyres were variable and that different people were winning each time. I think it was in the aftermath of Bahrain that year that I realised that 2010 was the end of an era, that it had fallen into significant trouble and that it would be a while before F1 found its feet again…

  13. ”Liberty is said to put this down to a later slot in the year”
    – Does it really matter when a specific GP takes place, though? If anything, a late-season slot should usually be more attractive to audience/viewers than an early-season slot as the Championship fight(s) are much closer to becoming decided than very early into a season.

    1. Only if it happens before the shape of the championship becomes apparent – which is usually a few races before it is decided, given the sheer length of the season.

      If casual viewers think they can see where the title is going by the summer break, they tend not to bother tuning in after the teams reconvene. 2014 is a good example of this – even though the title technically went down to the wire, the casual viewers apparently assumed Lewis being in provisional control by Hungary meant there was no point watching the rest of the season. The improvement of Nico in the second part of the season nearly proved them wrong, but they weren’t watching to find out – if I remember rightly, Channel 4 was 20%-30% down on its viewers between Hungary and Spa and Sky 50%-70% down, depending on the race.

      I expect 2018’s figures to not suffer the same way since, even though there was a definite tendency by the summer break for things to go Hamilton’s way, it was still close enough at that point for people to continue watching – at least for a few races after that. However, it will have suffered from the app’s failure to launch correctly, which caused some casual fans to try migrating to it, fail, and stop watching F1 rather than switch back – those viewers will most likely have been lost in the first 5-7 races of the season.

      A year which is truly neck-and-neck (such as 2010) can be expected to demonstrate the opposite effect – the longer the fight goes on, the more people hear about the “traded blows” and tune in. F1 doesn’t do that often these days, due to the sheer length of the season and the tendency of one team to steal a march on every other.

      1. * – I meant “Hungary and the end of the season” rather than “Hungary and Spa”…

  14. Good article! this is gonna get even worse, more manufacturers and sponsors are looking into F.E now and that combined with a 4 year boring mercedes supremacy and a category who still has petrol engines but they sound like a vacuum cleaner is deadly, im having a hard time watching F1 these days, im out of love for the sport

    1. You’ve got to tell me what tyre of vacuum cleaner you own. If it sounds like an F1 car I want one…

      1. Mine does – it’s called a Shark, but I don’t know the model. It’s an OK cleaner, but it whines so much I have to wear ear defenders to use it.

    2. It’s called a turbo.

    3. This is not the first time F1 had turbos,and Indy Cars have had turbos for years. Turbos are just fine. If you want a true vacuum cleaner sound watch FE. FE will never be properly successful while ICE open wheel wheel racing cars – F1, Indy Cars, F2 – are still around. They lack excitement because they’re too quiet and too slow. The too slow part will only be fixed when battery technology (much greater energy density) improves by orders of magnitude, and that’s literally decades away. When lightweight, energy dense batteries are available they’ll rapidly be deployed on passenger EVs – that’s where they’re most needed and where the money is. But, again, that’s years away.

      1. @greenflag, you say that, but it seems that when they were racing in the US last year, the Formula E race was almost matching IndyCar in terms of the number of viewers (412,000 for Formula E versus the 458,000 that watched the IndyCar race on at a similar time of the year). You might say that they “lack excitement” compared to IndyCar, but it seems that there were a lot of people who thought otherwise if the Formula E event was so close to IndyCar in terms of the viewing figures.

        1. That’s because FE is a novelty and novelties always draw crowds, basically first time audiences. But it’ll take excitement to sustain interest and bring them back again and again. I’m all for FE, but it was introduced when the technology wan’t good enough. Maybe the new cars will be better, but until they can outpace even F2 it will remain a so so series.

  15. Just did some research in my office by asking the younger people what they would change to make F1 more appealing, and was bombarded with suggestions. Some of the highlights:

    Make f1 less corporate, everyone could see Bottas was frustrated at not getting to win at Russia, but he couldnt actually act human and talk about it. It was just pre approved media lines like “its good for the team”. Bottas should have been shouting and throwing a tantrum as emotion is part of the show. By following the corporate lines constantly, F1 drivers look like they dont actually care about winning.

    F1 needs personalities, Hamilton is regarded as the big F1 personality but actually he is quite boring to young people. Trouble is, the media constantly ask drivers the same boring questions, do people really care about a drivers opinion on an engine manufacturer? Grosjean has been in f1 years and i dont know anything about him apart from what teams he drove for. Hulkenburg won Le mans, thats the only fact about him i know. Magnussen has a famous dad. Where is the personality? we need more media about who these people are and what they stand for. Make them relatable as humans, not corporate drones.

    1. That is exactly correct. For at least 25 years now the passion has gradually been replaced by institutionalized routines and corporate correctness. I am not necessarily worried about team orders…they were part of the game always, as was natural respect of certain drivers towards their more experienced teammates (think Stewart/Cevert or Scheckter/Villeneuve). But most everything else has gone wrong way, including to some extend media coverage. All we hear about is business and the show. We are told drivers need to be selfish and ruthless to succeed (maybe they do but why rub it in). Where did the sport disappear along the way?

    2. So why is it I know Grosjean likes to cook, and is actually quite good at it (he has cooked, I think, with some famous french chefs); also I think he has two kids and loves his wife, and she him – I have that from, I think Sky (and/or twitter?) – and I am not really an especially astute fan ;)

      I mean, yes, you have a good point there @emu55, but remember when Grosjean showed emotion, frustration last year and this year? “He’s a whiner” was the cry back. Yeah thanks, guess why he’d bottle up.

      Also see how much nonsense Hamilton gets whenever he says something, or even, let’s say Marco Andretti in todays round-up talking about how he was screwed by McLaren/Ron Dennis – I get where he’s coming from, though I think he’s lacking some self-awareness in putting it down to just that, but it really is an interesting story; reading on the round-up he was painted as a sore loser, more or less. Or see Lance Stroll … So on the one hand audience demands the drivers are Captain America type wholesome heroes who are without blemish, on the other we blame them for not showing genuine, relatable emotion.

      This is true in a lot of our current society – we will only get excited by honest (seeming) emotion, but then we are quick to trash those that show emotions we do not like too. Truthfully, this is one aspect where I think Sky has been worse than Channel 4, but I think it isn’t enough to put it at their feet. I think we need to be more open to others being just as human, and fallible, as we, if we want to get to know them better, that is. Otherwise, either we’ll only see (possibly interesting) fake media personas or bland PR-bots, I fear. Oh, and Kimi, who’s his own odd case :)
      *we here: society, not claiming you, your colleagues are necessarily.

      1. Verstappen

        General high talent – but incompetent at wheel-2-wheel racing.

        Shutting the door on challengers and having accident after accident, maybe more than once per race shows inexperience and/or merely incompetent racecraft.

        Stronger penalties required for Verstappen – he should copy Ricciardo.

  16. We need heroes, not grumpy old men driving in circles. As said earlier taking any risk is punished one or another way by officials. So F1 is becoming a sad story and it is on its last legs. F1 has nothing to do with racing anymore. I only watch because of Max, but they put chains on him too. This will happen to every young man in the field wanting to race another man. Entering the track in dangerous way will be the next phrase.

    1. To be honest @pietkoster, and sorry for the rant; I have to ask: do you watch in on Dutch (ie Ziggo, I guess?) tv?

      Because I feel that ‘chaining Max’ is something that he feels, and they echo – I am Dutch, but live in Berlin, and so I have F1tv pro, meaning I can follow races w. Sky UK, or RTL DE (or french, spanish, but don’t), and I follow several of the Dutch commenters/motorsport journalists on twitter – they all have their own biases, but at least it seems to give me a more open view of Verstappen.

      Like in the round-up today, Max is wrong about the penalties, and he should just accept that there are other ways to make some moves, without it making racing impossible (compare Hamilton 2011 to 2018 version for example), it starts with being honest to yourself: did I really do everything to avoid contact (no, he took a chance on Kimi, and in the end he got third place, so yes penalty, but hey, a podium too, not bad really) – and if I was fighting for the WDC, would I be wise to do it that way (ie. go Vettel?). I am sure he’ll do that, bc. he is a great driver, and I hope he has a Honda Red Bull next year where we’ll see him go head to head for the WDC (probably with Hamilton then).

      In the time the cars exploded into flame when they crashed, drivers had to be much more careful about hitting one another; before asphalt run-offs, getting off the track very often beached a car, so no one did it if they could avoid it. Times change, and so tracks change, and what a driver can do without DNF changes too – and so rules adapt (and tracks too, see that sausage kerb to stop a max-on-kimi like move this year). None of it has to mean drivers can’t fight on track. Though the current cars do mean that is often very hard. Let’s hope that will start to change next year, so all drivers can be ‘unchained’ and overtake on the track instead of afterwards bickering who went over the white lines this time, why and whether that was wrong.

  17. As an avid F1 fan for some 60 years and having signed up for liberty’s expensive, useless stream I am now completely disillusioned with F1. I have to say that I was excited by what Liberty were offering with their package. One factor that I have to applaud Liberty for is the refunds that they have given for poor service and now they’ve given me a refund on the rest of my annual sub. I wonder how many more dillusioned fans have taken the same steps as me? Perhaps it would have been better to have given me courtesy viewing rights till the end of my time so that I might be persuaded to pay again next year?
    Personally I think Liberty have paid far, far too much for their product.

    1. Really @tenerifeman? I don’t have the same experience, personally.

      Admittedly, I was a bit late to get the service (ie. only in May), which meant the dropping out/failure to log in issues were largerly gone, and am very happy to have it, now also on my phone so I can watch FPs using my fitness-centre’s wifi while I am exercising, and I can choose the SkyUK, or German RTL commentary (or french,spanish, if I’d want).

      It isn’t perfect, but a lot better than add-riddled, DVR-recordable-but-non-fast-forwardable RTL Germany on my TV (or illegal streams for Sky/Channel 4), and I paid a bit over EUR 50 for a year, which seems really decent (given said internet+DVR+digital tv sub costs >EUR70 a month). And I got the live-timing app with it too (found it adding too little for the price and hassle of subscribing before, possibly wrongly).

  18. Johan Tolemans
    17th October 2018, 14:48

    When it comes down to it F1 has been a snoozefest for decades. I remember being genuinely excited with Frentzen in Japan, Hill at Spa but after that…

    So why is this more of an issue since Bernie left. Better media control?

    1. I think two factors that made Formula 1 exciting were engines blowing up all across the field and rain races. Due to the 3-power-trains-per-season restriction we have racers(!) saving engines and manufacturers building almost indestructible engines. Remember Hakkinen losing to Schumacher in Spain when his engine blew up? Remember Raikkonen losing a world championship due to an unreliable engine? You never knew for sure who was going to win the race back then!

      Senna, Schumacher, Hamilton in the rain. Massa vs Kubica in Japan 2008, this is a huge part of the memories and the entire DNA of F1, at least to me! Nowadays we start races behind the safety car when the track is too wet… Do those guys even watch the races themselves?

      Do what you want, but don’t be ruptured l surprised if people don’t want to pay 300€ for watching the fastest cars in the world behind a safety car or for knowing who will win the race once the dust of the first 5 laps is settled!

  19. The cognitive dissonance one must endure in order to enjoy F1 will only increase each year. As much as old fans hate it, the only thing that will save F1 is embracing the reality. Make the sport a full on race toward efficiency and hybrid electrification that has direct relevance to manufacturers. Otherwise, good luck with your dinosaur show.

    1. Tim, that’s a fantasy! Nobody will watch. Snowflakes go on about efficiency blah blah blah, but it’s not sexy!!!! Not even millennials will pay to watch eco boxes efficiently and socially-responsibly go around a track not offending feminists. Now, if you are right and I am wrong, then F1 needs to stop physical racing and just do it on PlayStation. That would be super efficient wouldn’t it?

      1. you say nobody will watch yet look at formula e, it is growing in terms of fansbase with data showing that formula e is been engaged more by millennials on social media & trackside attendance.

        when i was at the london e-prix a few years ago most of those i saw at the track in the stands & in the paddock were millennials.

        efficiency, environmental etc… may not be ‘sexy’ to the long time diehard f1 fan but there is a ton of evidence out there to show that this is the sort of thing younger generations care about a lot.

        f1 is going to have to change, the older fans are probably not going to like the direction but if it doesn’t then it isn’t going to survive long term because it’s clear that f1 as it’s been until now isn’t engaging a younger audience which it’s going to need.

        1. @linda-green I’ve never watched an FE race (no coverage here) but if as you say it is becoming increasingly popular, then I think it surely illustrates a point I have been trying to hammer home for years, that point is that ultimate lap times are far less important than close racing with cars on ( and beyond ) the limit of control. FFS Liberty/FIA limit the downforce factor !

        2. If FE was hidden behind a paywall it wouldn’t have survived a full season.

          I’m afraid F1 will wither and die without FTA viewing.

  20. I believe F1 will eventually turn into a “vintage” race series….and that’s great because vintage open wheel is brilliant!!! Honestly, think how wonderful it will be when F1 is out of the spotlight and stops trying to be “relevant”. No more spicing up the show, no more stupid environmentalism, no more car companies running everything, no more safety Nazi-ism, just racing. Formula Ford is no longer relevant in professional Motorsport and I can tell you they are having some of the best racing you can watch today! If this is the future, I will take it,

  21. Great article and timely as well. Motorsport and the motor car are facing an extesentential threat, which incidentally also includes automotive OEMs. However that doesn’t mean that Formula One can’t sustain and even grow. But for that to happen firstly F1 must make itself available to future audiences by appealing to young fans, while simultaneously retaining the current core fan base which is mostly older. This is not an easy challenge but neither is it impossible. The world is full of long established, sustaining and profitable corporations and brands who’ve continually reinvented themselves, their strategy, customer offering and place in society. However whether or not Liberty Media is the right entity to acheive that for F1 is a separate discussion.

    As a first step F1 must, without question produce a better product and make this product available free to air. By introducing a paywall at the same time as an exponential growth in smart phones and widespread access to the internet. F1 precipitated a spiral of decline, exasperated by a global economic crash and almost a decade of austerity since then. It’s really so simple, F1 is no longer appealing. The races are not interesting, Mercedes also has had a big hand in the sports decline since 2014. They’ve done a great job as a constructor and team but what’s good for Mercedes isn’t necessarily good for F1. Mercedes isn’t an exciting brand, so when Mercedes wins it’s like “whatever” when Ferrari on the other hand win its more attractive because Ferrari is an emotional, evocative brand. While Red Bull winning creates a link to a vibrant , exciting and accessible brand. F1 needs greater unpredictability, more unreliability (something which is obviously at odds with a prestige, reliable OEM such as Mercedes) closer racing and less manufactured excitement, such as the hollow driver rivalry conjured up through F1 social media and the rather pointless large digital messaging boards trackside.

    Formula One grew up in a different era but the essential ingredients of success then as now remain unchanged. Fast, loud, dramatic racing cars, driven by the bravest on the most challenging courses. Whereas F1 today is about, quietly from an engine noise perspective, conserving fuel, tyres and reputations while in parallel burning outrageous sums of money to bore an ever dwindling audience to tears.

    The future of Grand Prix racing, as in the past is about going for the gap. After all, in racing as in life, if we don’t go for the gap then we’re not racers anymore.

  22. Making F1 free to stream would be a huge boon – online streaming is where the younger audiences are. Stagnant wages, wariness from the last recession, and a lack of live sporting events available at any price less than $8 a month in the US mean that there is a market to be had and owned if the short term greed gets out of the way.

    1. I pay, I think, what amounts to about $5,5 a month for my 1 year F1tv pro subscription @jcougs – so in principle Liberty Media seem to be on the right path there, right?

  23. I think F1 is beyond repair and is dying a slow death partly due to lack of interest from both the young and old.

    Let’s face it, it isn’t exciting. Other than those who root for Merc, Ferrari and to a less extent RBR, what fun is there in watching a sporting event where 2 or 3 drivers have a shot at winning?

    A series where the engine suppliers are always a step or two ahead of the teams they supply to meaning they have absolutely no chance of winning a race let alone a WCC.

    F1 is losing one of it’s greatest drivers due to the fact he has been little more than a back marker for 4 years. Though his decision to change teams was his own doing, it says a lot about F1. McLaren and Williams were once great teams but have been beaten down by the rich teams to the point they refused to supply engines to them for fear of competition.

    Driver’s such as OCON (and many more) who deserve a seat can’t get one because they don’t bring in money. Not even to mention the ridiculous rules and inconsistent penalties. It’s a back stabbing, bureaucratic business that can’t get out of its own way.

    I have been following F1 since 1990 – I don’t watch races anymore but record them just in case something interesting happens. This year has been another dud. Quite frankly, I don’t feel F1 is a good fit for me anymore – it’s more for the Rolex crowd.

  24. F1 probabaly isn’t going to die anytime soon, but it’s best days are behind it. Adapting to some changes (like way less spending by teams) will likely help keep it survival for as long as possible.

    Just because it’s smaller doesn’t mean it still can’t be good though. A more niche and specialized product can stilll be good, even if it’s at a smaller level.

  25. Wow – what an incredible thread. Thanks to all you guys who have taken the time to contribute these long comments…

  26. It should be noted that your statement: “Ditto the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which annually attracts as many visitors as does the Indianapolis 500, which brands itself as the world’s largest single-day sporting event.” is factually incorrect.
    CES attendance #’s from 2018 put the figure at 182,198 total attendance (which includes 69,265 exhibitor personnel). Recorded sales (as reported by Hulman & Co.) put the paid attendance figure for the 2015-2018 Indy 500’s at a range between 225,000 and 300,000.

    I understand the point you are trying to make about global technological relevance but there is no need to get your facts wrong in making your argument.

  27. If old fans depart, where are they getting new ones from? Before, it would be either from random ‘stumble upons’, or recommendations, but neither of those options are properly available now.

    In the UK, it’s about to come almost impossible to randomly stumble upon an F1 broadcast. The only people who have even the remotest chance of unintentionally finding it, watching it and becoming hooked are those who already pay for Sky, plus the Sport package. And I used to ‘convert’ friends to liking F1… now I can’t, because hardly any of them have Sky, let alone Sky + expensive Sports package.

    If you have a vat of water with a leak, at some point you have to remove the lid to let more water in. But F1 just keeps hammering more nails into the lid…

    1. @neilosjames Even if F1 was to stay on FTA TV the chance of younger fans randomly stumbling across it on TV like I did back in 1989 would be less likely than it was back then because younger people don’t watch TV in the same way as we did back then.

      Your much more likely to pick up younger audiences who randomly stumble across it by using social media, Youtube etc… Because that’s what they spent most of there time watching now.

      My friends 15 year old doesn’t even have the TV in her room hooked into the roof ariel for the built-in freeview… Everything she watches on it is via streaming app’s on PS4 or cromecast.

      I’m 35 now & over the past 2-3 years even i’ve found myself not watching as much TV as I used to, Heck over the past week outside of news channels i’ve not watched anything on TV at all, Been all the various streaming stuff I subscribe to.

  28. Now consider how all this relates to F1. While the slide in TV ratings over the past six or so years can be (partly) explained by F1’s switch to pay-TV, the fact that folk refuse to pay for F1 broadcasts is a worrying trend.

    I think there are two ways to write that. Either the folk are refusing to pay or the companies that used to provide the content for free now want money for it and people don’t want to pay for something that used to be free. I don’t think there has been any massive change in how people spend money. It is just that internet is very competitive place and f1 and its monthly fees for its own service need to compete with netflixes, hbo gos, amazon whatever it is called and all other streaming sites and their monthly fees. People are not just going to buy all of them. And when people pick what they want chances are f1 is not on top. Compared to other streaming sites f1 is also relatively expensive for the amount of content it provides.

    If f1 wanted to grow its userbase it should try to get as many of these online streaming sites to stream f1 races. If you had netflix, hbo, hulu AND amazon offering f1 as part of their normal packages f1 would cover a much bigger audience. Then in addition to that f1 should offer its own paid service for the hardcore fans. What f1 needs the most is people who don’t know they might like it. These people are not going to buy f1’s monthly package or order cable or buy some special f1 package just to see what f1 is. But they most likely have one of those other services. Use those as free to watch and sell the more hardcore version to those who want more.

    I think the age of people in charge is showing here. They see netflix and they see netflix is popular. So they think let’s do what netflix does and we will be succesful as well. Problem is now they are competing directly against netflix who is big and more popular. Netflix is a solution to distribution problem. It allows wide audience to see movies and tv shows they could not otherwise see legally. But if you make too many netflixes people will turn back to piracy because nobody can afford to pay for 3 or 4 different netflixes in monthly fees to watch whatever they want:

    F1 won’t solve its problem by making itself become a netflix. Instead of building their own service f1 should do as much as it can so those other streaming sites show f1 races. Because when it comes to buying the monthly services f1 has to go against disney, netflix, hbo, ufc, hulu and amazon and be at least second best because people won’t buy more than one or two of those.

    Streaming f1 service might have been the right move 10 or at least 5 years a go. Now that market is changing and f1 with its outdated approach won’t survive in today’s market with a 10 years oudated idea for streaming service.

    1. Netflix has a platform advantage in any case. F1 might be able to attract non-F1 content onto it, but it’s never going to get the huge variety of content that Netflix or any other general streaming service does. This means it can’t get the “big data” it needs to recommend the right content to the right people – it must rely upon those people self-selecting and seeking it out for a separate sign-in. It has the same obscurity issue as pay TV.

  29. These millenials, how old are they?

    1. It depends who you ask, but generally millennials are from about 1981 to about 1995, so now they would be aged anything from 23 to 37.

      Anything younger than that is Generation Z. I notice no hand-wringing about those.

      1. That makes me a millenial, what am I doing here?

        1. @johnmilk: Trying to get a good deal on a used Rolex?

          1. do you have any, doesn’t need to be working @jimmi-cynic

          2. @johnmilk: No. I’m not a fashion statement time measurement fan. Happy to use the old Sundial I got cheap from the travelling Mayan used-calendar salesman

      2. I think Formula 1’s given up on Generation Z. Or is among the minority who thinks of Millenials as meaning “anyone below the age of 37”.

  30. coincidentally, Mercedes F1 just shared a video on social media of Lewis Hamilton talking to Nasdaq, an organisation no one under 20 could possibly care about.

  31. I agree with many of the points raised – and especially so with @MazdaChris and his excellent comment.

    I know that modern F1 with 6 cars massively ahead of the others, is no different, really, to earlier eras. I read about the ’50s and dominant Maseratis and such like. I read about the 30s with the Mercedes and Auto Unions at Donington, miles ahead of anyone. I doggedly sat through the early 2000s when others gave up because I was convinced it would end one day and I wanted to see it happen, which is why 2005 was so fantastic and why Alonso has so many fans. It may happen again. Actually, I see Mercedes bailing on F1 once their FE program fully comes on stream. That’ll leave Ferrari vs Red Bull vs …? That’s the real worry, as Dieter says.

    Dominance is not fun to watch. But after a lot of thought, it isn’t my real objection. There are some very good observations in these comments about the contrived parts of F1 – the fake passes of DRS, the stupid tyres that don’t let people race. What is the point of making awesome faster cars if you put on tyres that you have to nurse? There is so much fake racing around. Stage racing in NASCAR. Balance of Performance in GTs, where they even have minimum pit stop times now. In LMP1, everyone knows the WEC Toyotas are massively faster so if and when the independents get close, it’ll be because of BoP. Quite the opposite, IndyCar did an amazing thing this year by putting it in the hands of the drivers again. I’m not sure how F1 learns from that but I’m sure there’s something there.

    And because everything feels so fake, I just don’t care like I used to.

    The other part of it, again correctly identified earlier, is the vast sums of money. Being asked to pay over £300 to visit a weekend of F1, or £140 for race day, to watch teams receiving hundreds of millions of pounds/dollars/euro of prize money, yet who nearly all are going bankrupt, field 2 cars for a 90 minute race. If I want to watch it on live TV, I think F1 Broadcasting blog said it was well north of £700 per year for the very ‘cheapest’ option and most packages are considerably more. Screw that.
    If I want to buy team gear, a t-shirt costs over £30, a jumper over £60, a Mercedes or Ferrari or Red Bull jacket in the Silverstone shop at the WEC meeting was £150. For the ‘privilege’ of displaying the logos of team partners wherever I go, shouldn’t THEY be paying ME?

    They talk of cost cutting and going green. They they send hundreds of trucks around Europe, and it sounds like an exaggeration but it really is hundreds, to construct gigantic hospitality structures in the paddock. If there’s talk of going to an older venue, they complain the paddock is too small. You couldn’t make it up.

    Conceptually, I’d like to open it up and tell the teams you can run any power train you like. V6 hybrid, V4 hybrid (like the Porsche 919), hydrogen, electric, V12, whatever you want. We’re not going to balance you other than THIS amount of energy. Here are some tyres that last half the race and degrade linearly with no ‘cliff’. Good luck!
    But then you really would get dominance. Would people watch that? I’m not sure they would.

    The other option is to do as IndyCar, cut the tech, make it about the drivers. Drastically cut the costs. Drastically cut the downforce. Here are tyres that last, with no ‘cliff’. Push to pass button instead of flappy wing.

    Formula 1 is fundamentally broken. It has been for a long time. What’s worse, is there is nothing new about any of this. It isn’t like this has crept on them all of a sudden.

  32. BTW the ocean that BE was crossing is the Atlantic not the pacific.

  33. keep messing around gents. if f1 goes the way of the dodo we will forget it rather quickly. always something to complain about but not sacrifice to make the whole healthier. youll all be fighting over the last crumbs.

  34. There are so many comments on here I agree with and many that F1 fans have been repeating for several years. The last few years of the BE regime were really bad for the competitiveness of and access to the sport. Liberty have a tough job on their hands to reverse things. I have been watching F1 for over thirty years and I still watch most races. I feel our expectations have been lowered though and what’s considered a great race now would have been considered average 20 years ago. So these are the things that need to be considered:

    – F1 needs to be more competitive – more than 3 teams MUST be capable of winning a race
    – F1 needs to be less dominated by the 3 main engine manufacturers and every effort should be made to encourage more manufacturers to enter
    – All costs need to be cut to encourage more teams to enter the sport including those relating to aerodynamics. The sport needs to be more simple.
    – F1 needs at least two more teams
    – F1 needs to be widely available on free to air tv all over the world
    – the cost of attending events needs to be significantly reduced
    – the number of races needs to be reviewed to see if this makes things cheaper for teams to enter
    – there needs to be a fairer distribution of income between teams
    – maybe a tyre war would be a good idea? Maybe more than one supplier involved making durable tyres
    – the drivers should never have to drive to preserve their tyres
    – F1 needs to be less corporate and more accessible to the public
    and maybe even….
    – the race format needs to be looked at. Maybe two races over a weekend at less circuits would have more appeal to the younger audience?

    This is a long list of I think, of fairly sensible objectives and not everything will be achieved. If most of them are not though the sport will continue to decline and be overtaken by more modern racing series.

    1. In my last point I should have said two SHORTER races over a race weekend!

    2. Let’s leave the complex hybrid engines to the consumer market. Bring back simpler engines to help cut down costs. We want to see racing not necessarily engineering competitions however fascinating they are.

  35. Stirling Moss could fix F1, even for millennials or whatever they are. Like some sort of alien creature…

    Nobody will watch a tight rope walker who is 10cm off the ground. Or something like that.

    F1 has been lowering the height of the tight rope for years.

  36. The pineapple of motorsports.

  37. It’s only gonna get worst before it gets better. That’s what they all say. There’s a lot of good thing happening in F1 right now, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have to be patient, Bernie did a lot of damage to the sport in his lasts years (Russia GP, Pay TV, no marketing, and now Brazil), It gonna take a while to fix those problems.

    PS “Russian GP television audiences are believed to have slumped”. Gee I wonder why?

  38. Bjornar Simonsen
    17th October 2018, 21:49


    This is actually good news. I’m an F1 fan, but my true allegiance will always be with the Earth and the well being and sustainability of humanity. I’ve allowed myself F1 as the one decadent indulgence, but let’s face it, it is a decadent indulgence and the decline of (physical) motorsport along with all the other stuff is a sign of an increasingly aware population. It’s sad for those of us still clinging on, but the world will be better for it.

    We’ll still be able to enjoy it for a while longer though, but maybe we should not force and just let the old horse die with grace.

  39. I am not aware of any young people who are interested in racing of any kind except for the Canadian Grand Prix. Of all the people my age I hang around with and know, I’m the only one who watches F1. Some can discuss it because they read about it somewhere. Maybe they are simply more intelligent than I am and spend their limited time on this planet doing more productive things. ;) Too bad Formula E is so boring – I like the new car. How interesting is it that you can tell how slow FE is but you can’t tell how fast F1 is?

  40. Matthew Villari
    18th October 2018, 2:31

    Just wow looking at all the negativity surrounding F1, like this year has been some sort of certified disaster, and that it has been for some time. What a shame that people are so fussy nowadays, haven’t enjoyed this year, and are too short sighted because one day they will look back on this year and realise that we were watching an absolute genius at work, breaking records, and winning the world championship in a car that over the season perhaps wasn’t the best. All this in an era when people say the driver can’t make the difference as well. The same way people look back at 2002 and 2004 when at the time these sorts of articles were being written as well like the sport was in a crisis back then too.

    Sure, F1 has some things that could be better. Getting the field closer together via cost caps and getting the cars to be able to follow a bit more closely should be the priorities. And with time, that will happen. Please listen to Ross Brawn on this and about looking at 3-5 year plans to be successful (not only in F1 but in life – Read his book as well why you’re at it…or are books out of fashion too now? Too many pages for millenials…). F1 would be stupid to change the fundamentals of the sport, for example “lets do sprint races because the millenials can’t follow a race longer than 45 mins?”… The things that made it popular in the 80s and 90s are what will make it popular in ten years time as well.

    F1 should go electric because electric cars are cool? Electric cars aren’t the answer to the world’s problems. And they will be gone as quick as they came, because they’re nowhere near as green or as efficient as everyone thinks they are, it’s one of the biggest misconception in the world, and it will be a shock when the world wakes up and realises that i can tell you. Same with autonomous vehicles. The road networks are many many billions of dollars away in investment from being able to house autonomous vehicles, and a hybrid autnomous vehicle/human controlled vehicle network is extremely difficult at best from a road design perspective. People in the UK better learn how to drive or go buy an apartment near a train or metro network.

    Sure, manufacturers are going to Formula E. Why do you think that is? Because it’s (comparatively) cheap marketing. Mercedes pulled out of DTM and went to Formula E, because DTM offers nothing for their money, and Formula E does. Note no one has left Formula 1 (yet) to go to Formula E. It’s like supercar manufacturers building SUV’s. They’re doing it for the brand image and to make money, rather than a belief that SUV’s bring something to the motoring world, and Formula E is the same. In saying that, no new manufacturers have joined Formula 1, and why would you? Why would you pay over 200 million to have your ass handed to you for 5 years by 4 manufacturers while you get on top of the technology? Get people like Ferrari and Mercedes to sell their old IP to give people a leg up into the technology, and people will join.

    People complaining that they’ve gotten old and don’t follow practice like they did when they were a kid, or don’t know the exact names of the cars anymore. Ever think that had more to do with you changing as a person and being old, rather than the sport itself? That your life’s priorities change? Like you have kids now, or you work longer hours. You need to recognise change in yourself before blaming the sport. Practice sessions now are the same as they were in 1989 or 2003. The average age of people watching F1 has risen… isn’t the average age of the world’s population going up as well? And if so, doesn’t that mean we need to cater for older people, as well as younger people? This is an opinion piece, i get it, and all of this is my opinion, which no one needs to subscribe to.

    I think a little more positive publicity about the good things in Formula 1 (that gets zero attention, like what an amazing set of drivers we have at the moment, and how good it will be one day to watch the 3 french guys who grew up together fight against Verstappen, Sainz, Ricciardo and Norris for the championship) rather than the bad things in Formula 1 (which gets all the attention, these sorts of comment threads, and probably 1000s more clicks).

  41. Wow. So much to digest here, great article that really makes you think about where the sport is heading. One thing I will add, nothing gets people interested in something like a good rivalry. Right now, HAM vs VET is just not a great rivalry. Everyone is just too corporate and nice. We need some bad blood, something to get excited about. Not like MMA or WWE wrestling, but just something thats not like” Well I totally respect him and his team and I’ll try my best”. What we need is a Villain, or at least a dick that everyone loves to hate.

    We passed the era when the object was to go as fast as possible, we can make the cars go crazy fast, thats not as much fun anymore. I propose that every 5 years, we “spin the wheel of rules”. Theres a wheel for drivetrains, a wheel for rules, and a wheel for tires. Example:

    “Oh sweet! Wheel 1 landed on normally aspirated V12s not more than 5 lires, with semi automatic gearboxes without traction control”, “ugh, wheel 2 landed on 2 pitstop per race with reverse quali grids”, “YAY! Wheel 3 landed on 20″ wheels with slick tires not more than 200mm wide and only 3 compounds availble per season”

    Of course, the wheel ceremony would be at my house, because I thought of it! BYOB ;)

    1. @careypatrick you know, the HAM vs VET on track battle, when it happens, is pretty good I think; potentially there’s a great rivalry there
      On the one hand this extravert, out in the open, bling-liking black UK guy who likes to make music and is interested in fashion, very-late-breaking, fast and intuitive in the car, but prone to break when the race starts wrongly for him, but a master in the wet;

      On the other hand the German Anglophile white guy who’s mumm about his private life, who was the youngest WDC and relentlessly got four in a row by being unbeatable on a Saturday and zooming off, obliterating his team mate. A hard worker, who carries his team and who doesn’t give up while the race is still going on, but also tends to get erratic when the stress is on and the burden builds.

      And then their teams: the reserved guy is in passionate, legendary Ferrari who haven’t had a championship in 10 years and are desperate to change that, and emotions seem to run high, while the social media guy is in a meticulous clean and corporate team that has had the title go their way for four years and aren’t willing to give up now.

      Could be great, but somehow, we don’t get that story. Not quite sure why.

  42. Hi Matthew – I can subscribe to this…

  43. I’ll start by saying that I’m 62 and have been following F1 since my mid 20’s, so I definitely fit into the dinosaur category.

    Given that Liberty is a media company, I’m still trying to get my head around what motivated them to get involved in F1 given that the facts about dwindling viewership and even shrinking attendances at races have been available for quite some time (certainly well before their purchase)

    I can’t help but feel that we’ve not been made privy to their agenda, and that their agenda really doesn’t have a great deal to do with F1 races as we know them now. If anything, my guess is that they don’t care about the races and attendance/tv rights as that income has to be shared with the teams.

    My guess is that they’re looking at moving F1 from “real” racing to things that are more in their wheelhouse like:-
    * Online racing/e-racing on a huge scale to go up against the likes of Fortnite etc. (think of the huge numbers involved in online gaming and the advertising revenue being generated)
    * Free social media feeds for “limited” content (again huge revenues being generated in the social media arena)
    * Subscription Apps that limit advertising (direct revenue) – these will operate premium content and we know they’re already working on that

    Putting F1 back on Free to Air TV is not an answer – nobody I know actually watches FTA TV any more and that whole industry is on its knees because Advertising revenues are shrinking.

    The big money spinner for all advertising and marketing people these days is social media – that will be what Liberty aim for and they’ll be looking for ways to do that and exclude teams from the revenue. They’ll expect teams to bring their own sponsors to their social media channels and get their own revenue separately.

    Once e-racing takes hold there won’t be any reason to actually spend money on tracks, cars etc and the F1 we have all grown with will be no more.

    I hate the idea, and really hope that at least some form of “classic racing” remains but I really can’t see a bright future for F1 (and to a large degree motor racing in general) – there’s just not the interest any more.

    Now – why has it become less interesting?

    My thoughts ….. when I first started watching F1 and for many years after there was always a heck of a lot of unpredictability, even when there were dominant teams and dominant drivers.
    I can’t even quantify the number of times that a runaway leader’s car broke down, or slid off the track and beached itself while these hero drivers muscled their brutes around tracks. There was always the expectation that “something could happen” right throughout a race.

    Then came the huge push for efficiency and safety. Engines stopped being tuned within an inch of their life, tracks popped up with huge runoffs, gravel was replaced with tarmac and fuel and tyre management became king.
    Nowadays, a breakdown at the front is a rarity, as is any penalty for overdriving and flying off the track

    The drivers are no longer the hero’s driving with incredible precision and pace, they might as well be driving a virtual car from a comfortable chair somewhere.

    I still watch every practice and every race, and would love to see testing telecast live too but I have to admit that even now I’m not finding it as exhilarating as it used to be. Pretty much for the last 5 seasons, the season has been close to over after testing such is the dominance of the top 2 teams. I keep hoping other teams will make inroads during a season, but that’s just a false hope.

    Great article @dieterrencken ( and superb comments from everyone) – I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that sees F1 in decline.

  44. It’s about the young audience isn’t it? When I was young it was drinking and driving that was, quite rightly, the big no-no. Now the target for the risk averse nanny state is the driving itself.

    It’s a long time since I went near a classroom, but I’m given to understand that there is now fairly heavy emphasis placed during lessons on environmental concerns, one of which is the effects of carbon dioxide. Declaration here, as a scientist I don’t buy that stuff, it’s a second order effect at best, but if you have had your teachers telling you throughout your formative years that CO2 is going to kill us all, are you going to rush out and buy a car? Some might, but the majority will think twice and spend their money elsewhere, especially with the cost of ICE motoring, and even worse entry costs for electric.

    As a young person with no car you can either rely on the mum/dad taxi arrangement, especially if you do the same for them when they’re out on the town, or there’s the mobile phone to call a taxi. Provided you’re not sold on driving, it makes life just as convenient as owning a car.

    The marketplace for alternative activities is much larger than in the ‘old days’, the competition is stronger, it’s inevitable that the more expensive pastimes like F1 will suffer, especially if you believe them to be planet killers.

  45. It’s the pinnacle of tyre management. At least they have that going for them.

    1. False! The tyres on my car lasts about 3 seasons worth of F1 racing lol

  46. We all know it’s gone completely wrong to the core.

    They took away the sound.
    They regulated the engineering into dark recesses of an engineer’s mind we’ll never see.
    They do nothing real to alter the quality of the racing – more frictional grip, less downforce.
    They penalize the driver to the back of the grid for no fault of his own.
    They come up with DRS – that can only be used in “zones” after the 2nd lap.
    They restricted the base math – made fuel flow restrictions and fuel limits.
    They forced the halo – a roll cage – an ugly, inelegant solution to a problem nobody was complaining about.
    They made a phony game out of artificially requiring the use of 2 tire compounds.
    They made the engines so complicated Alonso is “retiring” in light of having no competitive choice.
    They made it cost an unreal amount to see a race live.
    They make zero effort to make the fan’s experience better – unless they think they can profit.
    They continue to come up with “solutions” to problems that don’t exist: the logo. The post-race interview. And now after getting qualifying right, they want to “solve” that problem as well.
    They finally get the proportions of the cars looking right, but they’re going to tinker with it again because Pirelli says so.

    F1 is a carnival for the 1%’s delusions. They are so far removed from reality they believe their own propaganda, while being so close they don’t realize how absurd it is that their jaded attitude to losing the sound, non-addressing the cost of attending, the rubbishing of a driver’s performance by grid penalties. Their respective companies operate as entities apart from human reality; the weekend is a Nice Office for their Jobs.

    It’s also a charade. There is no real desire to have any real competition, or any other manufacturers involved aside from Ferrari and their perfect foil, Mercedes. So the engines regs are impossible for any manufacturer to get a leg up, thereby ensuring Ferrari/Merc do not have any fear of a threat by a Cosworth, Pure, or Hyundai.

    Alonso quits because he knows the engine regs make it impossible for much of anything to change in the status quo for years and years.

    The race this weekend: $200 to be treated like literal human cattle with General Admission, while other tiers allow the More Gentrified Classes to have their Nice Experience. $150 to park? How much is food inside? No camera tripods, I can only take 1 water bottle inside? You don’t even get a proper ticket to save as memorabilia: you must wear a literal little rinky-dink wristband? Oh, right, but I’m saving on ear plugs these days.

    Nope. I had a WRISTBAND and sold it at a massive loss. Too much for too little, with lots of 1%’er effrontery and anti-peasant elitism. Completely ignore what I want as a fan AND expect me to pay $$$$$$ for it AND be treated like a 3rd class person. No.

    It’s rotten.

  47. Bernie’s lasting contribution to F1 was to show how being extremely greedy meant that many people made vast amounts of money. However, that meant making the product attractive to the wealthy and to grab any big deal that comes up (hence Sochi, Abu Dhabi etc) to feed Mammon. After the big bank crash of 2008, it took about 3-4 years for reality to hit F1 and Honda, Toyota and BMW left the series but the powers that be decided not to reduce cost but to ramp it up considerably and that handed control to the top teams, as they were essential for the show and didn’t want any competition.
    F1 has to realise that it is simply spending far too much because it can. The cash cow is nearly out of milk.

    Motogp had similar problems ten years ago and addressed the problem. Now it is a thriving series having gone through a few years of dismal stuff sorting out its problems. Lessons to be learnt there…

    Bernie made nearly 5bn from F1 while the going was good and he could get away with it. Liberty didn’t seem to realise that the levels of spend were unsustainable but the demand for money was increasing while the income was disappearing. They still seem to have their heads in the 1990s.

  48. The main reasons we are where we are…

    1. DRS
    2. Drag Reduction System (well, there’s usually a 2nd zone)
    3. DRS (if a zone #3)
    4. Bloated teams
    5. Bloated calendar
    6. The sport has lost its rawness
    7. Paywall
    8. Bloated coverage with seemingly 8 hour build-ups

    I’m done for now… I wrote a more eloquent post but I think I swore. No longer used to this swear word business, a concept which doesn’t really exist where I live. Apologies to the moderators for breaking the rules :-)

  49. Well, motorsport and F1 in particular have been drifting further away from their roots in the last decade and a half. Speed is being constantly monitored and restricted, as is technology. Danger, unpredictability and sheer thrill (either from the track or the TV set), have been replaced by marketing, procesional racing and boredom. I still get chills when i remember my first on track F1 taste, with the soul ripping-bone shattering V10 noises of 22 cars flashing by my eyes. Compare this to a kid getting his first glimpse of the sport at year 2014… So, it comes at no surprise that the average age of viewers/followers is going up rapidly. Nostalgia has them connected to F1, but for how long? The big heads are following a way that creates no new audiences and further alienates the sport from its core fans. Personally i can see no turning back, unless major changes happen, changes that the big manufacturers, the FIA and the marketers might not like at first sight… By no means we don’t have to go back to the “killing, macho men days” but some kind of thrill and unpredictability has to be inserted into F1.

  50. Eye-opening article, @dieterrencken. I can imagine Wolff et al. sharing amongst themselves the link to this one.

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