“Strong increase in fan engagement” behind F1’s desire to keep Saturday races

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 will persevere with its Saturday races despite yesterday’s poorly-received second sprint qualifying event.

The processional race prompted a dissatisfied reaction from fans and several drivers. Sergio Perez, one of few drivers who was able to overtake a rival in the 18-lap encounter, called it “boring”.

However F1 is keen to continue having some form of additional race on Saturdays as it has seen an increase in interest, on the two sprint qualifying weekends held so far. Replacing Friday afternoon practice with a qualifying session has increased the number of competitive sessions across an event.

“In a way we’ve given ourselves quite a big challenge because we can all see the potential of this event,” said Formula 1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn. “Now how do we marry that with a classic grand prix weekend and make sure that we don’t cannibalise the weekend?

“We’re getting much more engagement with fans on a Friday than we’ve had recently. The numbers I’ve seen that we were able to measure so far are stronger than they were at Silverstone. So everything’s positive, we don’t want to lose that, [but] we don’t want to go too far and turn people off.”

Brawn has proposed turning the sprint qualifying format in standalone races next year which award more points and start with drivers in the reverse of their championship order. He said F1 will also consider whether to increase the number of sprint events.

“I think that’s a big decision. Do we make this a ‘grand slam’ event over perhaps five or six races or do we do more of it?

“What we’re seeing is a strong increase in fan engagement. More people are watching a race weekend than we had before. Does that tail off if we do it all the time? Is it something we can maintain? So lots of decisions to balance, but it’s work to be done.”

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2021 Italian Grand Prix

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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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42 comments on ““Strong increase in fan engagement” behind F1’s desire to keep Saturday races”

  1. A short boring race and a long boring race…
    I am already engaged

  2. This cannot be happening…

  3. Reverse grids, BoP, success ballast, spec-cars here we come.

  4. I’m rapidly losing respect for Brawn over this

    1. He has turned in just another corporate tool.

  5. I think Brawn needs to learn that not all fan engagement is positive. If F1 Sprint was trending or whatever yesterday, I doubt it was for the right reasons…

  6. If we HAVE to have an ‘event’ on all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the so called ‘Grand Slam Weekends’ then I think the only thing I’d be comfortable with is traditional qualifying on Friday, a reverse sprint on Saturday based on championship order in order and then the Grand Prix on Sunday with starting positions based on qualifying as they always have been.

    Decoupling the sprint result from the Grand Prix is the best improvement they could make regardless of any other changes. I hate that Gasly is starting at the back after his qualifying performance on Friday.

  7. Imagine having to have your name on your shirt so that people know who are.
    I work with loads of people but I don’t have to remind them of my name every time we meet.

    Or is it so that he can find his shirts when they come back from the laundry?

    Perhaps he forgets who he is sometimes and it is there to remind him …. old age is such a curse.

    I could go on – but I will stop :)

  8. Of course if there is a race it draws attention more than let’s say a 1.5h FP. This still feels same (worst kept secret) as Russells move to Mercedes. Everybody knew it was going to happen. It just took a lot of time to confirme that.

    What we’re seeing is a strong increase in fan engagement. More people are watching a race weekend than we had before.

    That is the line that settles it. Sprints are here to stay. Even if you liked it or not.

    1. Exactly @qeki. And off course people turn in at least in part because they are curious how the EXPERIMENT turns out. With the “excitement” these “events” presented so far, I am not so sure people will be tuning in for the last one, let alone for more of them if (by now I fear rather it will be when and how many that is the question) they put them into the schedule next year.

  9. I would rather watch a race than qualifying.

    I would rather watch qualifying than free practice.

    That is why I like the sprint race format.

  10. As most, I am against the whole Sprint Qualifying as it feels gimmicky. If F1 really wants to try stand-alone races, why not try incentives other than points? NASCAR (not the sport F1 should be mirroring, mind you) has a few stand-alone races throughout the year that are shorter than the usual events. They don’t award points, but instead award one million dollars to the winner from the sponsor of the race. Formula 1 could consider awarding monetary prizes to the teams based on their finishing positions, or things like “one free engine without taking a penalty” and whatnot. I understand that this kind of goes against the idea of the budget cap, but points sprint races on Saturday are just not the way forward.

  11. Problem with looking at only engagement is that it doesn’t look at the views of those people.

    Much of the comments I have seen online this weekend have been highly negative. Sky for example have actually stopped looking at twitter & answering twitter questions over the weekends (And barely talk about the sprint in practice sessions) this year because many of the opinions they were getting with regards to the sprint have been highly negative & they (As well as other broadcasters) have been told to talk up the format as much as possible which is why nobody on Sky have said anything other than how it has been super exciting & action packed (Many of the same lines coming from F1 themselves).

    The only way to let them know if you are against it is to not watch them because they won’t read your comments (They will just see them as great engagement) & they will also ignore any polls that don’t go there way just like the fan voice one they removed after Silverstone when the results started going more in the ‘didn’t like’ direction.

    1. Agree. I did have the sprint race on TV but Ross wouldn’t have known that I had it on mute the whole time because I was listening to the 3 O’clock Kick Off games in the English Premier League on the radio whilst on my exercise bike (incidentally if those could be televised in the UK its no competition to what I’d have been watching). I literally just had it on as visual stimulation, ironic given the way the race went.

      I had the Sprint race “on” but my extremely negative feedback would probably fall on the deaf ears of Ross et al.

    2. Yes, that is one of the reasons I seriously doubt I will be watching the third one this year. To show that I really am not interested in a “race” that dilutes the qualifying sessions, where the order really changes only in the first lap or so and where there really is not much at stake at all.

  12. Here’s a solution. After the Brazil sprint race, how about holding a poll on the official F1 website titled ‘has sprint qualifying been a success?’ If the majority of fans vote ‘yes,’ keep them for 2022. If the majority vote ‘no,’ get rid of them. Or there could even be different options like ‘it should be a standalone event’ or ‘more points should be awarded,’ but if more than 50% vote for ‘get rid of them entirely,’ they should be scrapped. It’s the only logical way to determine if this so-called trial has been a success.

    1. maybe after brazil is not a good moment. interlagos usually provides for goood racing. it may give the impression the the sprint race was good. I cant remember the last boring race in brazil.

  13. Outside of my dislike of the sprint weekend format & sprint race itself. The other big thing I dislike even more is how by doing these “Grand slam weekends” they will effectively be making some weekends more valuable than others by awarding more points which I think is wrong.

    It’s to me just as bad as the double points we had at Abu Dhabi in 2014.

  14. I am completely losing respect for this guy. He promised to be the right man in the right place, and I have my doubts about that.

    Big disappointment.

    Reply moderated
  15. What fan engagement? I don’t know if Monza are selling all the tickets for this weekend but all I saw were empty grandstands on Friday and Saturday. I also saw a comment poll on a WTF1 insta post, there were nearly 10,000 comments almost all of which were negative.

    Reply moderated
    1. Negative engagements are still engagements. Im not for Brawn who seems to be spinning this positively but he is technically correct about the engagement being higher.

      Whether he draws a reasonable conclusion from it (which so far he has not) however is another matter entirely.

    2. I don’t know if Monza are selling all the tickets for this weekend

      @hollidog They are operating at 50% capacity for this weekend.

      1. And they hiked their prices by some 30% I understand, which will have contributed to far less than half the normal numbers of fans turning up @stefmeister, @hollidog!

  16. If they do qualifying on Saturday early, then have a reverse grid race later in the day for half points, im all for it.

    Not quite qualifying on Friday, and a short qualifying race is rubbish.

  17. You moved Qualifying to Friday and people tuned in to watch/ “engage” ?
    And comparing those numbers to ones from the normal free practice friday are bigger ?

    Noo, really…are they

    /s

    To somehow claim that as a praise for the format is myopic to a Cyclopean scale

  18. Qualification is one of the unfortunately too few things in F1 that actually works. Moreover, usually it is more exciting than the race itself. I see how sprint and new formats are easily degrading qualification to be less exciting than the race, but that’s not the correct way of thinking from my point of view.

  19. Increasingly think Brawn is living in a parallel universe or augmented reality designed by Liberty’s American owners.

  20. You can’t just “engagement” on the back of one or two events.

    Of course people are going to watch it at this stage, it’s new so people are going to see what it’s like. They’ve seen it now, so expect “engagement” to decrease rapidly.

    Similarly with the Hundred in cricket, the ECB are claiming it to be a success because a lot of people have watched it. The people I know have watched it for the novelty factor, but didn’t think much of it and probably won’t bother with it next season.

  21. When I think that I was a big supporter of Brown as someone who was going to do things for the good of the sport regardless, I feel like such a fool. Ok back to Sail GP now.

  22. Racing my foot. FIA should stop tinkering and create artificial situations.

  23. We’re getting much more engagement with fans on a Friday than we’ve had recently.

    Ofc you have, you put qualifying there…! that doesn’t mean saturday’s sprint race is good.

  24. Not to mention engagement vs enjoyment are two different things. I watched the sprint race, as a lot of people have, even if I hate the idea, because I love F1 and I’ll always watch it…

  25. Hey Ross, when you look at “engagement”, you should also look at “sentiment”. Marketing 101.

  26. I was for the trialling of this format in the three race trial – and I still am but I have to say the two races hasn’t convinced me this should not be a normal thing.

  27. Ross Brawn is such an ostrich! Remove your head from the sand you fool! Sprint races for the bin; NOW

  28. You could see this coming from miles and miles and miles ahead.
    Maybe I’m more amazed at people being amazed all of a sudden, than I am about Brawn’s fake explanations.
    Must be a tough job, getting paid massively to lie massively.

  29. My local newspaper was bought by a national title a few years back (if you’re British, yours probably was too – ‘[City Name] Live’) and has degenerated into a clickbaity mess with a single objective – get as many reactions and comments as possible on every Facebook post.

    They don’t give a hoot that every comments section ends up with highly-liked messages insulting the ‘paper’, or that the poor ‘journalists’ take most of the flak. It’s ‘engagement’, so they keep doing it.

    I honestly never expected someone I respected (the ‘ed’ is close to becoming confirmed) as much as Ross Brawn to announce that F1 is using more or less the same approach.

    Reply moderated
  30. American way to screw it up. Let us see NASCAR and their stages.

  31. Ross has made such an ass of himself over this, I truly fear for the outcomes of next years cars.

    If he can’t interpret the reaction from this so called “engagement” in any way accurately then how can we trust that he’s actually correctly interpreted the design requirements for the 2022 cars.

    I never held him in high regard when he was at Ferrari, but this iteration of snake oil salesman is just beyond the pale.

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