Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Miami International Autodrome, 2022

F1 must avoid “mistake of oversaturation” as popularity grows – Wolff

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In the round-up: Formula 1 needs to avoid ‘oversaturation’ and remain entertaining to continue its recent growth says Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

In brief

Wolff warns against ‘oversaturation’ of F1

A record 23 races feature on the 2023 F1 calendar, and a 24th was originally scheduled before the Chinese Grand Prix was dropped. The series will also hold six sprint races this year.

But although the sport’s popularity has climbed in recent years, Wolff warned it must not grow too quickly and risk becoming a turn-off for audiences.

“One should never believe that a trend will continue indefinitely,” he told Auto Motor und Sport. “That depends on how much entertainment we offer further down the track. Which personalities in Formula 1 grow up that trigger sympathies or polarise. Both are good.

F1 needs to keep delivering entertainment, says Wolff
“At the same time, we must not make the mistake of oversaturation. But these are all subjects we are considering.

“What remains for me as a skeptic: We should always remain cautious. Formula 1 is doing very well at the moment. It can always become better. But it can also happen that the audience’s interest subsides if we don’t entertain well enough.”

Wolff said the main causes of F1’s growth in popularity in recent years have been the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, promotion of the sport on social media and the success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series which have attracted new “hardcore fans” to the series.

IMSA champion Taylor to get Andretti IndyCar test

Andretti Autosport is planning to provide two-times IMSA champion Ricky Taylor with an IndyCar test this year, team principal Michael Andretti has revealed to Racer.

The opportunity has come about as Wayne Taylor Racing, the team run by Ricky’s father and for which he has driven for much of his IMSA career, has tied up with Andretti in IMSA’s top GTP class for prototype sports cars this year.

Taylor previously did an IndyCar test with Team Penske in 2017, as a reward from WTR and Penske’s mutual engine supplier Chevrolet, and it helped him then land an IMSA drive with the latter for the next three seasons.

Rosenqvist’s McLaren IndyCar livery revealed

Felix Rosenqvist 2023 McLaren IndyCar livery
Felix Rosenqvist 2023 McLaren IndyCar livery

McLaren left it a while before confirming Felix Rosenqvist would continue with them for a third year in IndyCar, after taking a pole and a podium in 2022, but they’ve left no delay in revealing his livery for the season ahead.

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Comment of the day

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has admitted that F1 took too much of his attention during his first year in charge, not allowing him to give as much time to other areas of motorsport that the FIA governs. Will he be able to rectify that in 2023, or will F1’s challenges repeatably bring him back to it when he could be working on something else? RaceFans readers thought it could go either way, and looked at the argument of if motorsport as a whole is more F1-centric than ever.

I would say it’s more F1-centric than its ever been. Almost all motorsport media entities now almost fully rely on F1 to drive their engagement. No one else stands a chance. I think those who have the hard data on actual fan engagement know this. View counts on YouTube show this.

Also, the cost of watching F1 is a direct result of its overwhelming popularity. It’s a symptom of its success. The less popular something is the greater amount of accessibility we tend to see. Just look at Channel 4 and Formula E. They throw it on their YouTube channel because they know it’s not worth putting it on TV. i.e. put more accessible platform because it’s not popular.

Karting is the most accessible motorsport viewing experience in the world. All the major championships are broadcast for free on YouTube. The FIA championships you get three days of coverage… and I mean all day coverage. You can watch a ton of national and club events too who stream live (properly done too).

F1 takes everything. Pareto distribution in full force.
Alan Dove

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On this day in motorsport

  • 65 years ago today Peter Collins and Phil Hill won the Buenos Aires 1,000km, a sports car race.

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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24 comments on “F1 must avoid “mistake of oversaturation” as popularity grows – Wolff”

  1. So neither Paul nor Johnny will be commentating for Sky at the Grands prix this year. I wonder who their replacements will be.

    1. People who are more diverse, no doubt.
      But still British. And less inclined to actually be honest about something that’s not right or good about F1.

      1. Doesn’t look like they’re adding anyone to the team. So the number of females and/or people of colour presenting the show will not be increasing you’ll be delighted to hear.

  2. The protesters themselves were more at risk, though.

  3. They’ve already reached “oversaturation”. They’re closing in on NASCAR in race numbers. I know I can always catch a race though between March and late November.

    1. @darryn Agreed, the calendar is at its limit at the moment. They should be holding at this level for a while to keep interest up.

  4. I’m very disappointed that Di Resta and Sky are no longer working together. I’ve never understood the vitriolic criticism he receives on Twitter; he wasn’t the most charismatic orator I’ve ever seen but his level of detail I think will be sorely missed. It’s a wider point than just Sky coverage, and it’s certainly more noticeable post DTS, but I think we’re losing the appreciation of the actual technical skill of driving a fast racing car.

    Rosberg and Button, who I was really impressed with in the second half of last year, are able to convey how a car is reacting (which most of us can see) and how to fix it, what discussions take place and cite examples of when it happened to them. In short, you need to be an experienced F1 driver who’s been working on Motorsport and in F1 teams recently to be effective.

    Brundle and Hill are strong communicators but haven’t raced an F1 car in a quarter of a century – which is why I think Herbert’s time is up. But Di Resta was close to being the last man standing in this regard. Most foreign drivers understandably work in their home country or first language.

    So who else can we turn to? Davidson and Chandhok are there already, Webber and Coulthard have contracts with C4. Will Stevens is hardly experienced or a household name, is Ricciardo going to be queuing up for it?

    The sport has done a great job of promoting the gossipy, political, personal tension side recently and no doubt that is key for F1. But let’s no forget why we’re here – to appreciate the skills and lives very few people are lucky enough to experience, and losing Di Resta is a step away from that.

  5. I understand Wolff’s point, but it is also worth pointing out that having a game every week does nothing to harm the popularity of NFL or other US-based sports, which seems to be the current target market for F1.

    Logistically, of course, they’re nothing alike, but from a fan interest perspective, the point of “oversaturation” is probably a long way off.

    1. I see your point, however F1 is like the entire NFL playing each other on Sunday, rather than 2 individual teams. There’s a longer narrative thread for each fan of a particular team. Whereas in F1 it’s slightly different. I would say this elevates the saturation risk a bit more.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        26th January 2023, 12:04

        Also the NFL only plays for a few months a year – 17 games.

  6. No more Paul DiResta? Who will RocketPoweredMohawk hate on now?

    In all seriousness: As hard as it sometimes was to try to make out what he was saying (as someone whos primary language isn’t English), I liked his additions most of the time. Really wondering who they’re going to bring in as their replacements. Obviously Brits because British TV. Maybe a bigger role for Naomi?

    1. Maybe a bigger role for Naomi?

      I hope not, but I fear (expect) that will be the case.

  7. MBS has spoken a lot about saving WRC. We need more manufacturers in there. end of 90s and early 00s was the best time of WRC

    1. Agree with that.
      The Mitsubishi/Subaru battles were great, and lead directly to the showroom floor and sales departments.
      I’m fortunate enough to own a product of that technical development war.

      Other manufacturers haven’t really had the same influence on the series since then IMO, and they certainly haven’t translated that into directly-related and derived product sales to anywhere near the same extent.

    2. 23 or 24 weekends are dominated by F1. Its a lot harder to be a generic ‘motorsport fan’ nowadays and a lot less profitable for manufacturers to invest in WRC especially when road vehicles are going the way they are.

      WRC faces similar issues a lot of other series face which is F1’s growing dominance of motorsport fan culture.

      1. It has absolutely nothing to do with F1 in any way, shape or form.
        The bulk of WRC (and rally in general) viewers don’t give two hoots that F1 even exists, never mind when it’s on.

        WRC’s manufacturer involvement is down because the sales of those cars are down. People just aren’t buying them anymore, either due to the desire for larger vehicles in some markets, no vehicles at all in others, the lack of relationship between the race car and the road car, the ridiculous decisions made by governments to force electric vehicles onto the population, or simply general market shift which is constantly evolving – faster than any sporting regulations can or do.
        Add the fact that broadcast accessibility is increasingly locked up behind paywalls (reducing exposure) and the competition not being as healthy (ie, desirable to the market) as it used to be either.

        There also used to be a strong second-hand market for these cars, but now most regional and national rally championships don’t allow them – instead capping themselves at Group N/Production (which is where you’ll still find loads of Evo’s and Impreza’s winning all the time).

        1. I can only speak for myself and those I know but as the F1 calender has expanded above 20 races, As the number of double/triple headers has increased & as there has become more clashes with other series I & everyone I know have found ourselves watching fewer categories than we used to & I have seen others online say the same.

          So I definitely do think that F1’s calender expansion has & will continue to hurt other series in that regard.

          1. Is their interest in those other series still the same as it was before, or has it waned?
            If they are less interested in those things, they are less likely to set aside time for them, aren’t they?

            We all change as time passes. Our priorities change, and schedules change, our interests evolve – as do our connections with the things we used to enjoy. It’s life.
            Nailing the sole cause down to how many F1 races there are seems a bit of a stretch. Especially given that F1 with a calendar of just 20 races hasn’t happened for, what, 6 years?
            A lot has happened in the world in that time, and we’ve all got older….

            Personally, I watch a lot of (recorded) events later in the week and at other times when it is convenient to me, because I want to see them…. A scheduling conflict is no excuse to miss something that you really want to watch anymore.
            If something is important, we make time for it.

    3. I followed WRC from around 97-98 all the way up to a couple of years ago. I went to see it in person in my country 10+ years in a row, and once abroad. My interest in motorport definitely comes from rallying first, also spectating local and national events every year.
      But now I have almost completely lost interest in the WRC. Why? Too few competitors is certainly part of it. Local rallies offer far more action, usually with one car per minute for 2-ish hours or so and, most of them are giving it everything. Compared to WRC where the top cars are gone after 30 minutes, even with 2-3 minutes between cars, and the rest of the field are at least 50% rich people in expensive cars that doesn’t really know how to drive them. WRC TV coverage used to be quite good on free national channels, but are now pretty much exclusively behind pay-walls. But worst for me is, they don’t cover what actually goes on during events. That become blatantly obvious after attending a few times in person. Many times, and I mean MANY times, the official coverage is just showing some random pictures of cars going around some corner while talking about something that happened on a completely different stage. They might as well show stock footage. And they only focus on the top 3, even if there are interesting battles going on further down the field. And there is virtually no coverage about the technology in the cars, apart from the usual once a year “look what is changed between asphalt and gravel!” stuff. It just became boring for me. I always felt like they never told or showed me anything I didn’t already know.
      If WRC want to continue existing, and grow interest from fans and manufacturers, they need to open up big time. Let us in on the secrets. And above all, actually convey what’s going on during the events.

  8. Looking at the Photo of Toto I just can’t help to reflect on what poor leadership he has shown in recent years, especially in 2021. This man took over a (perfectly running) team and then delivered an exceptional achievement in keeping the team winning. 8 constructors titles in a row. 8. That is a gigantic achievement. By far one of the most outstanding personalities around. Then come 2021 you would expect a man with this reputation and stature to embrace a title fight. He & his team were pleased with their domination of course, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that for the sport in general the Mercedes unparalleled dominance streak hasn’t been a high. It was the perfect opportunity to show just how big he and the team had become in F1 and how they would keep the moral high ground in the transition between the old and the new star (give something back to the sport if you like). A transition we have seen countless times in F1 history, so shouldn’t be a surprise whatsoever to anyone. We all have seen the path he did chose. And up until today, I just don’t understand it. It doesn’t makes sense at all and I can therefore only lead it back to poor intrinsic personal values and poor leadership skills. As a business man I would have expected him to massively capitalise on the WCC (massively, as that is the single reason Mercedes is out there, make no mistake) and show some grace towards the WDC fight. You sometimes hear the expression he fell from a pedestal. That is an understatement when it comes to Toto I am afraid. Fully exposed.

    1. 1,000,000% this!!!!

      I couldn’t agree more. 2014-2020 were certainly not a high point for the sport (personally 2005-2012 were when it comes to races and championships) so you would have thought with the utter domination he had with his team in those years he would have been more gracious in 2021 when he finally had a challenge, but then when he bought his way into the sport, and then stood on the shoulders of giants (Ross B & Michael S) and lapped up the success as if it was all down to his own leadership, is it really any surprise he acted the way he did.

    2. Wolff and others at his team already showed what they’re like under pressure in 2018.

      They way Mercedes acted in 2021 and 2022 was hardly a surprise.

  9. Toto makes a good point, and for me F1 jumped the shark in 21 and find I have little interest in it these days after nearly 35 years of following it, Iam not even sure what the date of the first race is.
    I’am looking forward to other series like WEC, BTCC, Moto GP etc though and have been watching a lot of Sim racing on Youtube, the 24hr of Daytona was so good Ive pulled the trigger and await delivery of an entry level Sim set up of G920, gear shifter and steering wheel stand, a friend works in a garage so will set up with a real car seat.
    As it was back in 99/2000 when I raced in the Grand Prix Legends League I have a lot of practice to put in before i dare join a League :-)

  10. Firstly, I’m so pleased that Ted Kravitz is still with Sky F1. They were trying to drop him two years ago, and with the Red Bull robbery last season I had my doubts. But for me Ted is one of the very best commentators Sky have. I’ve been watching F1 since the 1960s and I like the detail and knowledge he brings. Also popular with the drivers and he asks the questions us fans want to ask.
    For me personally we cannot get over saturation of F1 with 23 races, that still leaves 29 weekends to get things done. If your a football fanatic you get two matches a week and just an eight week break in the summer which is quite short after taking two weeks holiday in Spain. So 23 races a year is not so much for the fan. Indy Racing does something like 36 races, although they never leave North America shores. I have some sympathy for the F1 teams of course spending time away from home. They should employ a few more staff and break the travel requirements .

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