Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2019

Vettel suspects German fans have been put off by unfair decisions

2019 German Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel suspects there is a connection between Formula 1’s decline in popularity in Germany and fans’ views of whether the sport is fair.

The future of the German Grand Prix is under threat as it does not have a contract to appear on the 2020 F1 calendar. Vettel believes there are several reasons why the race has struggled to draw more spectators, beginning with Michael Schumacher’s exit from the sport.

“It’s normal that the biggest hype was when Michael started winning as he was the first German to win the championship,” said Vettel in today’s FIA press conference.

“Being the first there’s always more momentum and more interest. But I think the atmosphere last year proved there’s very much an appetite for racing.

“But I also feel that the German crowd is a very fair and direct and honest crowd. So maybe some things that have happened in our sport didn’t help the popularity.”

Vettel did not elaborate on what he was referring to. However the Ferrari driver strongly criticised the sport after he was given a five-second-penalty at the Canadian Grand Prix last month.

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The cost of competing in motor sport may also be putting off new fans, said Vettel. “I think Germans are quite straightforward with the way they spend their money and unfortunately junior racing, starting from karting into the series after that, are I think way too expensive.

Nico [Hulkenberg] and myself we enjoyed each other in go-karts and racing each other. I think the background is not that dissimilar. I think giving us the same chance today I think our career would stop fairly soon because we simply wouldn’t have the pocket money to do it.

“So I think overall to allow more kids, boys and girls, to start racing, the sport would need to be a lot cheaper. Currently I think it’s way too expensive and un-affordable for most.”

Hulkenberg believes the sport is still popular in Germany. “Based and judged on last year people were very interested,” he said. “I’ve never seen that much interest since I’m in Formula 1, since my career in Germany, and that was pretty amazing and nice to see.

“I think generally Germans we are a car country, we love our cars, and the interest is still there. I think naturally some years it’s a bit more, some years it’s a bit less, but I think we have a spoiled history in racing so that’s also one thing to consider. But I think in general the appetite and the interest of the population is very much alive.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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32 comments on “Vettel suspects German fans have been put off by unfair decisions”

  1. … Or maybe, just maybe, they have been put off by the German drivers missing racecraft?

    1. Errm. I meant top German driver.

  2. Well.. I suspect a flood of gif files of laughing people

    1. I suppose this one is fitting:

  3. But I also feel that the German crowd is a very fair and direct and honest crowd.

    Right. Has anyone some archive footage of all those track side protests by German fans against Schumacher’s antics?
    I’m sure they’re as partisan as any other bunch of fans. More likely is that they’ve not been exactly inspired by the strength of Vettel’s title challenge while at Ferrari, particularly the previous two seasons. And Mercedes don’t really care enough to stick a German driver in their team.

    1. Not to mention that crowds at the German GP have not started to dwindle at all after things like that, but rather they dropped as soon as Schumacher wasn’t there anymore.

      Vettel, nor Rosberg (or Hulk) ever managed to inspire fans to come.

  4. ““It’s normal that the biggest hype was when Michael started winning as he was the first German to win the championship,” said Vettel in today’s FIA press conference” – actually, the first German to win the F1 World Championship was the Mainz-born driver Karl Jochen Rindt. Following the wartime death of his parents, Rindt was raised was raised by his grandparents [German father, Austrian mother] in Graz, Austria. Rindt’s grandfather chose to retain Rindt’s German citizenship.

    1. Peppe (@turbopeppino)
      25th July 2019, 16:16

      Why did he race under the Austrian flag then?

      1. Because he had an Austrian driving licence.

        In Rindt’s own words: “In the end I got thrown out [of school] and went to England to learn English. I learned to drive while I was in England but I was too young to get a licence. When I went back home I broke my leg skiing but I decided I was more than capable of driving myself – even though I had one leg in plaster. I actually drove without a licence for 18 months and then got caught the day before I was eligible to collect it.”

        Rindt commented: “We Germans fear God and nothing else.”

        Ron Dennis says that when he went to fetch Rindt, just minutes before the race was due to start, the German told him: “They may do many things but they will not start the German Grand Prix without me.”

      2. @turbopeppino, basically, in motorsport the nationality of a driver is based on which country issues their racing licence, not what their actual licence is.

        In the case of Rindt, he raced under an Austrian licence, though he was technically a German national – though Rindt himself had a rather conflicted view about his nationality, as whilst he never technically became an Austrian national, he described himself as having rather mixed emotions about what nationality he was and considered himself more of a mixture of the two than really identifying either with being one or the other.

        There are actually multiple drivers on the grid right now who are an example of that phenomenon – Alexander Albon uses a Thai racing licence as he is a dual national (his father is British and his mother is Thai), but culturally he is more British than Thai given he has lived for most of his life in the UK.

        Similarly, whilst Grosjean is classified as a French driver, he was actually born in Geneva and initially grew up in Switzerland – he is a Swizz-French dual national, courtesy of his French mother and Swiss father, and given the restrictions on motorsport in Switzerland, he basically had no choice but to race under a French racing licence.

        Max Verstappen is a third example – he was born in Belgium and grew up in a Belgian town on the Dutch-Belgian border, and his mother is Belgian, but preferred to race under a Dutch licence because his father’s associations with the Dutch motorsport community meant he spent most of his time with Dutch nationals (Max being a Belgian-Dutch dual national).

        A fourth driver on the grid who could also race under a different nationality is Lance Stroll – he has chosen to race as a Canadian driver, but he is a Belgian-Canadian dual national who could race under a Belgian licence instead.

        Of course, you could also have had the case of Nico Rosberg – as a German-Finnish dual national, he originally raced under a Finnish racing licence (you can find photographs of him in Formula BMW with Finnish and German flags on his car), but then decided to switch to a German licence for sponsorship reasons after graduating from Formula BMW.

  5. No Seb, it’s uninspiring German drivers that lost the interest of the German fanbase. When Schumacher came onto the scene he was a young protege who ruffled the feathers of the status quo by going balls out with no absolutely no regard for the establishment (Prost, Mansell, Senna etc.) He captivated the imagination of fans.

    Guys like Frentzen, Glock, Heidfeld, Ralf, Rosberg, Sutil, Hulkenberg, Wehrlein and even you, Seb, never managed to do that. Your M.O. was always qualify first and steam off. It was never bold and hard racing or epic charges through the field. If Alonso, Hamilton or now Verstappen or Leclerc had been German, I’d bet the German fan would be estatic.

    1. Pretty sure hamilton has won more races from the front than sebastian…

      1. I’m pretty sure Hamilton has won more races from the front; and more races from the back, than almost any other driver in the history of the sport, bar one.

        1. @riptide – C’mon, has HAM ever wandered in the back, in the first place?
          Let’s be real: starting from 2nd row isn’t coming from the back. That leaves us with 3 highlightable victories:
          1- Silverstone–14, from 6th.
          2- Marina Bay–17, from 5th.
          3- Hockenheim–18, from 14th.

          At Silverstone, he had a car that ran circles around the grid and only won because of ROS misfortune (ok, I’m messing up only because everybody loves to bring up MAL–16 whenever ROS enters the scene). At Marina Bay, he plain hit the jackpot when all the cars in front of him crashed out, meaning no sweat broken at all. In the end, only one truthful victory from the back. So, he’s not far off VET by no means (who never had one, btw), let alone any other driver in history.

          1. So, maybe I missed your final point @niefer, but there doesn’t seem to be one – Schumacher won from the back in a fast car, and in a time when unreliability was quite a bit larger of a factor – still, Hamilton won more than all but him, and at least as many from the back as Vettel, sort of?

            Anyway, since the ‘fair decisions’ Vettel mentions (or is he referring to the 2008 Spa? ;-) seem rather recent, that hardly explains a decades decline; so it is indeed likely that the sympathy and wonder of Schumacher storming the field, (mostly) in a Ferrari, captured the imagination, and none since than have.

            RTL Germany have been quite enthusiastic about the Seb/RBR combo (being too partial, often), and started off similarly about him at Ferrari, but, since the combo has had many mistakes and misses, they are now a bit more even on him, they have to be. Red Bull still has a soft spot with them, even if tend to relatively critical of Verstappen.

            And Mercedes, despite being officially a German team, have had Hamilton, who they (now) see as a good driver, but most of the time as Vettel’s opponent (yeah, and Rosberg, another not-quite German hearts warming driver), so it hasn’t been seen as their team, so their winning streak isn’t felt by most of the German media as a German success story (as much as Red Bull was, who are even less German!).

            So in a way, maybe the Schumacher era inflated F1 interest to a unsustainable level (in Germany), and now it is dwindles by no success story as big and heart-felt left to being slightly underperforming.

          2. @bosyber my point is front runners does not have that many wins from the back on their names for an obvious reason: they simply and chiefly rolls at the front. Hence, stating false facts like HAM has more of them than anyone else combined (bar one) is just beyond unreasonable.

            I mean, one does not even need to have vast lore at F1, just take coeval RIC alone, for instance: here’s one you can easily account more wins from the back than HAM, and I don’t even consider Danny Ric any close to Lewis as a driver.

            As for the matter regarding support, I don’t share VET’s view on the matter. Frankly, I tend to believe it has more to do with high prices but I can’t be adamant on it, since I’d never attended a German GP.

            About MERC and MSC, nice input you brought up! As I was wandering about reunification and excellence at engineering (and racing, ofc), and taking you as a local, I’d like to know if the crowd there shares the same heart as the media?

    2. How can you possibly blame Wehrlein for Toto Wolff being gutless and going for the number two driver in Bottas instead of a future world champion in Pascal?

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        25th July 2019, 21:13

        Ericsson looked pretty much matched to Wehrlein. I doubt that he would as good as Bottas.

  6. jamie (@92andallthat)
    25th July 2019, 16:10

    Or maybe it’s because the ticket prices are soooo expensive. I looked at some tickets and while I appreciate that Silverstone costs a bit, there was nothing under £250 per person. Surely if they want more numbers, reduce the costs. People will part with their cash once they are there but if you have a family of 1 adult and two kids, it’s a lot of money upfront!

    1. That’s part of what Symonds was talking about (dieter’s piece from Wednesday) – they had to renegotiate some deals – basically because they were unsustainable for the venues @92andallthat

      The fees that need to be paid to F1 to hold a race are (near?) crippling to Hockenheim, and Silverstone, and Spa, since the local government can (politics, and sentiment) only afford to put in relatively small amounts, and sponsorship at the track is more and more FOM instead of the track’s revenue (Bernie’s been good at that in his last decade),

      That makes it so that basically there is a lot of money they have to get out of spectators going there, and maybe some from them spending time and money there (I assume they get a small cut from the catering? Though German GP food-prices were really reasonable when I was there last in 2016) – oh, the merchandise also doesn’t make them money, unless it is their own, quite reasonably priced shirts, caps, bags, etc. but they aren’t given a prominent place by FOM …).

      But, in the end: have you seen recent ticket prices for concerts and the like, or multiple days music festivals? I recently went for a smallish music festival weekend – about EUR 200 for the weekend, and the food was more expensive than at the German GP; camping 25 for a tent, 100 extra for a car, ie. quite similar to what it was at the GP.

      If you see it as a full weekend entertainment (but then, only races from Saturday onwards!?), I think the Hockenheim prices are quite reasonable, starting from EUR 139/pp (general admission, when ordered very early), going to 239+ for later purchases; the EUR 500+ is for covered seats at the best spot, which is like with football matches, expensive, but in Germany there are still plenty of cheaper options available if you go now (part of the problem for them).

  7. Neil (@neilosjames)
    25th July 2019, 16:31

    That’s a painfully weak attempt at an excuse.

    I suspect the real reason for the reduction in interest is down to a number of things. Obviously, the lack of a driver/team the fans want to support has some impact – Vettel, as well as Rosberg and Hulkenberg, for various reasons never gained the adulation of their home fanbase in anything like the way Schumacher did. And Mercedes don’t even come close to pulling in the same love Ferrari receive in Italy. Then there’s the stuff that doesn’t respect national borders and has an impact everywhere… competition from other sports, other entertainment options.

    “My favourite driver got a five-second penalty and I disagreed with it” is the reason a 13-year-old child on the F1 Facebook comments section ‘stops watching F1’. Can’t see it influencing a real fan’s long-term decision-making on whether or not they attend a grand prix.

  8. Last German gp’s have been busier because of Max fans. The cheer that went round as Vettel crashed in the stadium section was not a German one..

    1. I noticed that also but was thinking those loudy english were the source of that.

  9. georgeboole (@)
    25th July 2019, 18:27

    Well Seb, do some magic and people will be cursing themselves for not attending. We ‘ll see what happens next!

  10. So he’s actually lost it now, hasn’t he?

    But I also feel that the German crowd is a very fair and direct and honest crowd.

    Sure, the German crowd that celebrated when Damon Hill had his massive crash after the main straight, a crash from a technical fault that could’ve easily injured the driver.

    Sorry Seb, but the typical German GP visitor is there to wave German flags and shoot pyros and in general doesn’t really care about F1 as a sport. Most of them don’t care about F1 if there isn’t a German driver winning.

    Nothing out of the ordinary though as we see with the rise of the dutch fans or when Alonso started winning. But those “casual” fans don’t care about penalties that Seb might consider unfair.

  11. F1oSaurus (@)
    25th July 2019, 20:18

    Delusions of grandeur

  12. He is such a baby at the moment.

  13. ’92 i was first time in hock..18 the last…seb put it in the wall at sachs..just thinking about himself… sorry to the fans…no sorry afterwards..michael wouldnt have thrown it in the wall in his prime..and if he did he recognized there were fans he stays on his are the fans

  14. I may be going out on a limb here but I don’t know if, since WWII, Germans concerns themselves at effectively supporting a fellow compatriot for the sake of it. I mean, I think it’s safe to say that proud German of his people is no more, so I guess maybe Schumacher’s hype was rooted in the wake of reunification, which is nothing new anymore.
    Now, something they do seem to care about are their goods, so I reckon Mercedes being where they are the way they are brings much interest, much more than what VET or any other countryman could bring.

  15. geoffgroom44 (@)
    26th July 2019, 0:00

    There really seems to be a developing narrative in these past months from Seb which is all a ‘disillusionment diatribe’ leading up to the ‘I resign’ scenario. And who could blame him? It must be really tough to have to continuously battle Lewis with little to show for it except temper tantrums…and then to have a young whippersnapper genius,Charles, repeatedly flinging dust on your visor. Such is the fascinating sport of F1,huh?

  16. It is not so difficult to understand why people lose interest in F1. Even if you win the crowd has to wait 3 hrs for a discision. Punisment is always a frustration to the fans. At the moment they don’t have that problem in the Netherlands. 1 million people wanted a ticket for the race at Zandfoort, of course the tickets are limited. (1 million euro offered for a ticket on the black market they say) This is the Ves effect. So i guess people need their hero, want to see action, dramatic racing and hate all sorts of punishments changing the outcome of a race. The stewards have a difficult and delicate job, suppose a disqualification or sending a driver (especially Ves) away from the podium after the race at Zandfoort will have a immediate and a long term effect.

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