Lewis Hamilton, James Gough, Vinod Kumar, Ross Brawn, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

Hamilton: Better fan engagement can increase F1’s reach

2018 F1 season

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Formula 1 can tap into a new generation of viewers by engaging better with its fans through technology, according to Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking at the awarding of the 2018 F1 Innovation Prize, Hamilton explained how fan-driven developments can help the sport take advantage of new technologies to grow its audience.

“Formula 1 is in a place where its viewership is still not where it’s desired to be,” said Hamilton.

“There’s always so many areas that can be improved and the more ideas the better. Particularly the fans who are the ones who make the sport what it is.

“I think it’s great that with Ross [Brawn], with Liberty coming in and with Tata’s efforts to really engage the fans to come up with these great ideas and it’s incredible what people come up with over the years.

“I’ve definitely watched grands prix growing up and wished that we’ve had this angle or be able to switch from this onboard to that onboard. It’s great that these ideas are also being implemented as Ross mentioned and used as a viewing platform.”

The Innovation Prize, run by F1, Tata Communications and Mercedes, is an initiative to crowdsource new ideas to improve how fans experience the sport. This year’s competition was won by James Gough who designed a customised viewing experience which incorporates human, mechanical and technical data.

Gough received £50,000 to develop his idea, a prototype of which will now be created at Formula 1’s media and technology centre in the UK.

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F1 motorsport managing director Ross Brawn said Formula 1 needs to tailor itself to the expectations of different groups of fans in order to grow its audience.

“The sport means different things to so many different people,” said Brawn. “This is an opportunity for everyone to tailor and shape the sport the way they want to see it.

“We have avid fans in all age groups and all different interests in the sport, different aspects of the sport. Being able to give that broad spectrum across all the fans is something that’s very important to us.

“And I think what I’ve seen in my time in Formula 1, and what I’ve now seen in the past two years, is that commitment to the fans. We have a new management in Formula 1 [for] who the fans come first.

“If you don’t have fans watching the sport then the sport’s hollow. So this is another great initiative. We’ve got a new generation of fans coming through, how do we appeal to them? I think Formula 1’s setting the trend in how we can engage those fans but still respect all the fans we already have.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Hamilton: Better fan engagement can increase F1’s reach”

  1. Number 1 for F1 fan engagement?
    When Sky did the dirty to UK’s F1 fans by scuppering free to air tv, viewer numbers plummeted.
    Hardly rocket or F1 science is it?

    1. Sky didn’t do the dirty – Bernie did. @wildbiker

      1. Wrong. The BBC did. They could have gone to a FTA channel like C4 or ITV but chose to shaft the TV Tax paying public. Because no matter what the BBC do, show F1 or not their money remains the same.
        I guess the BBC directors will get jobs/shares with $Ky as a thank you in the future.

      2. @ahxshades You are correct! But Sky were the paymaster!
        Bernie was just the Ringmaster.

    2. This isn’t Sky’s fault. Someone put all the races to tender and the highest bidder won. The contract could have said “Free to Air”, but it didn’t, so there’s no obligation upon the winner of the tender to put the races onto Free to Air TV.

  2. Gosh, Ham seems to have done an awful lot of talk lately

    1. Yea, it seems when you are on the cusp of your 5th WDC people want you to do press conferences, interviews, PR events, etc, and you have to speak.

      1. @riptide yeah how dares he to open his mouth to answer to people’s questions. What a monster! Could anyone please think of the children?!

        1. Hahaha… ;)

  3. F1 Things That I Would Never Attempt To Explain:
    a) Grid penalties … except for driving like a moron
    b) No (re)fueling
    c) “It’s all about the tires”
    d) Inconsistent penalties .. or ANY at all!

  4. What is fan engagement anyway? If the telly doesn’t show it, and the official stream isn’t available in the main markets, how is that gonna work? They can share whatever they want on Twitter but people still can’t easily reach the sport… Even the live timing is a paid app…

    Want to engage with the fans? Show the races, make them interesting to watch, level the playing field… Do your work, basically. Another app won’t promote new fans that don’t follow Motorsport in the first place.

    1. Agreed with you again… You’re working well today…

    2. Indeed. Hamilton is right. But unless they start actually “interacting” by making enough of that easily available there is no helping them.

  5. A “customised viewing experience”… sounds great to me and something I’d be genuinely interested in but I’m an existing fan.

    How do you sell that to someone who would need to take out a 12-month, ~£40 per month TV package to try it out to see if they like it?

  6. How about making F1 an actual sport with results that actually mean something, especially on the driver’s side. Enforce the rules (like a real sport), have a level playing field (like a real sport), remove open manipulation of results (like a real sport). Engagement will come if F1 reclaims its authenticity as a sporting event.

  7. It is a difficult question. It al depends how exciting a race is or can be. Compare it with the Soccer WCC. Little people watch Brazil playing Gibraltar. Everybody knows the outcome of that match. However if Brazil f.i. should play Argentina, England or another good adversary there will be multi millions of viewers.

  8. Formula 1 is in a place where its viewership is still not where it’s desired to be…There’s always so many areas that can be improved and the more ideas the better.

    I love innovation. I like the idea of taking something cheap, like a cable tie, and using to fix a problem, like closing the hole in fence the goat keeps climbing through. So… we have officially have a declining viewership problem. That’s just like viewers escaping the F1 paddock, they found a hole in the fence … or did someone leave the gate open? Hmmm … a cheap way to keep those millions of people we want watching F1 races … without having to spend millions of dollars to achieve it. How to fix the big hole in the fence and close the gate? We need a “cable tie” idea: a cheap way to quickly fix a big problem.
    I just looked at some Youtube statistics, it is the third highest on line attendance after Facebook and Google, with over 1B hours of video being watched every day! That is some seriously huge amount of video being watched. Wouldn’t it be great if a measurable percent of that 1B hours every day was related to F1. They say by 2025 half of Youtube viewers under 32 won’t subscribe to a Pay TV service. What! But F1 has put their money on the “PayTV” horse! F1 is racing towards 2025 and half the target audience will have gotten bored, cancelled their PayTV subscription, and decided to watch Youtube instead, and we’re guaranteed it won’t be F1 related! We’re the duck out of water! F1 needs to put their races where they can be seen. It seems 6/10 people prefer watching video online compared to via live TV. Arrgghh! F1 still believes everyone prefers watching races via Live TV behind a Paywall! The last F1 car to race with an engine in the front was in 1961, so imagine the strange looks if a car turned up on the grid in 1971 with an engine in the front. Yet here we are in 2018 with more than a decade of Youtube and we’re still ignoring it! 8/10 people between 18 and 49 will watch something on Youtube this month. Say! Doesn’t F1 have a big problem with lack of “participation” in the 18 – 49 age group? Wouldn’t it be great if at least one of those 8/10 were to watch something related to F1. Every minute 400 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube. That platform must have a huge capacity and must be continually being upgraded. I don’t like watching the highlights of a race, I want to watch the whole thing. I expect many fans are the same, highlights are fine, but you really want to watch the whole race. F1 could load entire races onto Youtube and it wouldn’t even put the Youtube system under pressure.
    Gosh … declining viewership …2025 … Youtube … 6/10 people … Youtube … 18-49 age group … 400 hours of video uploaded every minute to Youtube … I wonder if there’s some way to encourage people to watch F1 races instead of sneaking through that hole in the fence? (“Youtube.”)
    I know! Keep F1 races on TV instead of putting them onto Youtube! (“Youtube.”) Oh, sorry, that’s what F1 is doing right now. (“Youtube.”) Hey! Let’s hide F1 races behind a paywall, then by 2025 half of our target audience won’t watch it! (“Youtube.”) Oh … yes … “declining viewership”! (“Youtube!”) Why do you keep saying Youtube? Ummm, you’ve upset my train of thought … I know, let’s be innovative: don’t just hide the races behind a paywall, make it part of a “premium product” so people have to pay more to watch the races! (“Youtube.”) Hmmm … “plummeting viewership” might be a better phrase. “Youtube.” STOP SAYING YOUTUBE! DON’T YOU GET IT!!! FORMULA ONE DOESN’T NEED YOUTUBE!!!!

  9. Having it on free to air would be a good starting point! 1hr highlight show starting at 10:30 on a monday night in Aus is all we get!, simply not good enough!

    1. Yes, and in some countries there’s even less than that.

    2. As a thought, Live Timing is free. While that is definitely inferior to watching the race via the video feed, it is a reasonable legal last resort. On the plus side you can watch all the drivers at the same time and can get a sense of what’s happening. The big drawback with it is it only runs during the race, so if you wanted to watch an entire race later on via Live Timing then you’d need to find a way to record it.
      Recently my PayTV supplier decided I would prefer watching something like Qualifying at Bathurst, and some other stuff like golf, second division rugby, etc, instead of my usual F1 session, I think it was Qualifying, so … off to Live Timing, which includes a text commentary, and monitoring the comments on Racefans Live session. Definitely not as good as watching the F1, but better than nothing.

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