Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

F1’s driver intros are right for US market but wouldn’t work at Silverstone – Horner

2023 Miami Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s much-maligned new driver introduction ceremony, which debuted at last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, has been defended by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

The pre-race presentation of the drivers to the fans, which Liberty Media previously experimented with at the 2017 United States Grand Prix, was revived for Sunday’s race at the Miami International Autodrome. F1’s owners intend to incorporate it into the pre-race build-up at around eight grands prix this year.

All 20 drivers are required to take part in the introduction ceremony. While some such as Lewis Hamilton praised the change, others including his team mate described it as an unwelcome distraction.

However Horner believes it was a worthwhile change. “If it’s good for the business it’s fine. For me it’s all about the two hours from when the lights go out.”

Such ceremonies are common in American sports. The Miami Grand Prix – which joined the F1 calendar last year on a temporary track that runs past the multi-purpose Hard Rock Stadium and uses it as its paddock – is one of three grands prix being held in the United States this season.

“We’re obviously in a different marketplace,” said Horner. “You can see the drivers perhaps looking a little awkward, some of them. But if it’s embracing a new audience, then that’s down to the promoter. I’m more interested about what happens as soon as the light goes out.”

In Miami, the organisers called on LL Cool J to introduce each driver while an orchestra conducted by Will.i.am played his F1-themed track “The Formula”.

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Horner’s drivers were among those who seemed unimpressed by the change. Sergio Perez said drivers’ own pre-race preparations needed to be taken into consideration given the proximity of the ceremony to when the race starts, and team mate Max Verstappen said he preferred not to be put under the spotlight during the build-up.

“I think there’s a lot of experimenting going on,” added Horner. “This is a new market. US sport is different. You’re not going to see drivers running on through dried ice at Silverstone.

“It’s different things for different markets. And of course, you can understand Liberty and the promoters exploring different things because they’re competing with other sports. But I think it’s finding that balance that’s right and appropriate.”

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    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...
    RJ O'Connell
    Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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    43 comments on “F1’s driver intros are right for US market but wouldn’t work at Silverstone – Horner”

    1. That was a disgrace.

      1. Yes, the lack of a race was a disgrace… but, that’s pretty much every F1 race. Watching paint dry comes to mind. The laddies in F1 need to understand the US will, again, lose interest in the uninteresting races F1 puts on. We gave our own racing series, so F1 is redundant and will be rejected yet again. F1 is currently in the fad stage here, and it won’t last. The viewership for Miami dropped by about 40% in one year… that’s telling. Liberty is raking in the bucks while the raking is good.

    2. America is not a new market for F1, it has been here for decades. F1 isn’t a US sport, it is an international sport. The NFL doesn’t change what it does when it plays in Europe or Mexico, why would F1 change when it races in America? If you are constantly changing for each market, you have lost your brand identity.

      1. Simply well put Leroy, you have made the most clear minded analysis of this situation. COTD for sure!

        I didn’t care for this event but I can’t help think it was slightly more entertaining than watching Martin Brundle awkwardly walk the grid for some untimely and cringe interviews. (No hate on Martin, his commentary is usually really good)

        So many people are passing ill judgement on this attempt at trying something new. It feels as if most of this negativity is because of the country this took play in. It did not push back the scheduled start of the race and did not take away anyone’s time in the build up. If I was to make a change to this format, if F1 wants to lean into it, do this type of introduction before the drivers’ parade lap.

      2. couldntstopmyself
        10th May 2023, 15:15

        If you are constantly changing for each market, you have lost your brand identity.

        Unless your ‘brand identity’ is being consistently inconsistent in the changing for the sake of change and see what sticks.

    3. Derek Edwards
      10th May 2023, 13:25

      Horner’s comments about the worthiness of it all seem all to be prefaced by rather large ‘if’s. I think it’s a push to say that he believes it was a worthwhile change.

    4. It was 100% pointless showbiz rubbish.

      The genuine F1 fans already know who the drivers are.
      The people who were there to party don’t care who the drivers are.

      It only catered to the weak-minded “Woo Woo” shouting types, and the drivers egos.

      1. “It only catered to the weak-minded “Woo Woo” shouting types”

        This is the crux of the issue. The driver introductions was not in front of the ‘woo woo’ types. It was set up for the TV audience. A race track isn’t a stadium. So the overwhelming majority of fans at the track wouldn’t have seen it. The whole thing was a for-TV gimmick, but these types of ‘introductions’ are for stadium fans, and they can work fine in those specific environments.

        But TV viewing dynamics are different. This is why it felt cringe and weird.

        1. The Dolphins
          10th May 2023, 14:45

          As far as I know all tracks are set up now such that every seat has a view of the track and a screen so it’s possible everyone in attendance was able to watch the driver intros. I’m not disagreeing however that it was set up for the TV audience: if one was hooked on watching F1 thanks to Netflix and is watching the race from home, their spouse/family member might be watching casually and F1 wants them to convert to watching full time and to attending in person.

          1. All seats should have a view of the track by default, I am not sure what you mean by that. But it goes without saying that particular part of the circuit has very limited viewing vantages. The big screen is not a substitute.

            The point being that these kind of intros are for a very specific set of circumstances. It’s no different to live music. What works at a gig with a live audience won’t work if you’re performing at home in front of a camera. Telling the audience to get up and clap their hands works at a stadium but it doesn’t on a live stream. While the product is the ‘same’ the viewing experience is very different. This is what Liberty has failed to be into account. This whole thing was set up to entertain the ‘TV viewer’ and that’s why it came across so badly because the at-home viewer has entirely different expectations. I sat with people watching this who don’t watch F1 funnily enough. They said the same as everyone else. It felt like you as an audience were being treated like a buffoon. That’s not good for long term fan engagement.

            I honestly believe Liberty are bereft of good ideas. They got a bit lucky with DTS due to circumstances outside their control. Their increased social media presence post-buyout wasn’t really anything remarkable. Any old media company could’ve done what they did in that regard. It was really a product of Bernie’s tenure not bothering too much with it.and taking advantage of a big latent interest. Beyond that every decision they make feels dated and out of touch.

            Chess didn’t need fancy player introductions to suddenly catch a lot of young people recently did it?

      2. This spectical blured the line between sport and entertainment. Before you know it, you’ll have betting allied to fixing, or wins allied to the politics in their respective countries, before you know it the sport we love will fall into disrepute, as people wonder what happened to the audience for this ‘sport’. Post-Liberty Irony.

        Woke or not, all those ‘dolly birds’ on the sidelines, was so last century.

    5. I’m an American and I thought the driver intro was a stupid waste of time – I hope to never see it again. Of course, Vegas will be way worse…..

      Liberty is pandering to a lowest common denominator and it’s getting painful to watch; bring back Bernie.

      1. Steve Holmes
        10th May 2023, 14:42

        Me too and it wasn’t a mistake and is nothing but an example of the occasional mislead American idea.

        1. It didn’t feel like an ‘American idea’ to me. It felt like a parody of an American idea. I’ve watched enough American sport to see it’s often showy, but generally tightly packaged and refined. What we saw on Sunday was anything but.

      2. @stever let’s not forget that Bernie was constantly throwing out ideas for various gimmicks over the years – he’d happily do the same sort of thing if he was sure that it’d end in more money.

        1. How many of Bernie’s various gimmicks that were reported on in the media were actually implemented?

          There was a massive difference between the off-hand remark by Bernie in an interview to stir up a bit of controversy for his own entertainment, and what actually happened.

    6. The fundamental problem with what happened on Sunday was what were provided with was a ‘Stadium Sport’ concept aimed directly at the TV viewer. It’s hard to articulate but having an NFL team run out onto a pitch with 100,000 screaming fans literally all in the same area is very different to setting up something on the F1 grid where the only people who can see it are the TV viewers. That’s why the cringe factor was so high. The extended nature of it, rather that it being a quick run out onto a pitch like with the NFL et al didn’t help things either. It’s why Paris Bercy didn’t induce cringe when they bought out all the drivers in front of the crowds with bells and whistles back in the day. It wasn’t FOR the TV audience, it was for the stadium audience. But if you design these things so the ‘at home’ audience is the primary consumer of it (and one main straight grandstand with a side view of it) then they will look really dodgy.

      To me it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of viewer dynamics from Liberty Media.

    7. Classic Horner. The man stands for nothing

      1. And that classist excrement about all the “high quality of people in the Miami paddock” that squirted out of his mouth. Disgusting.

    8. Steve Holmes
      10th May 2023, 14:39

      It should be NEVER be allowed to happen again.

    9. If only the orchestra had played “The Chain” – I may have bothered to watch. As it is – I have probably said before, I am a fan of the race. These fripperies mean little or nothing in the grand scheme of things to be honest.

      1. Sadly, “The Chain” is gone for good everywhere in F1. The last holdout was the BBC Chequered Flag podcast but it just vanished from that a few weeks ago. For me, that bass line will forever be linked with the anticipation of the race drama to come….

    10. Not even if Geri did it?

    11. It was better than the actual “racing”, which was a complete bore as usual.

    12. couldntstopmyself
      10th May 2023, 15:22

      I didn’t particularly fancy the driver introduction either (not in any sport), but I feel just as awkward to be part of the grumpy old men using their keyboards to complain about everything.

      1. Exactly.

    13. RandomMallard
      10th May 2023, 16:06

      orchestra conducted by Will.i.am

      I didn’t notice it at the time (not surprisingly since I didn’t watch the build up nonsense), but as someone noted to me earlier “conducting” is a rather nice way of putting it. Anyone who understands music, conducting and like, please watch it back and try and work out what kind of conducting pattern he was trying to use! Or how the orchestra even managed to keep in time with his conducting when so few of them were watching him!

      No disrespect to Will.I.Am, he’s a great artist, but I don’t think conducting is his area to be in. Leave that to John Will.I.Ams (sorry :-p )

      1. The “orchestra” were miming to a backing track

        @5:20 brass player, far left

        1. I don’t know how anyone could have missed that. It was very very obvious throughout the (theatrical) performance.

    14. Indeed only workable in US races, given doing introduction stuff is mainly a US-specific thing, so also in other sports & fields. Having similar introductions all around the world would be cringey.

    15. In my eyes most of today’s drivers are just ordinary drivers. This made them look more like a superheros than just normal humans driving cars. It was a bit clumsy. They eather should do it 1000% or not at all. I get it some drivers hate that kind of things.

    16. It was a load of foney fake american barf , that was what it was

    17. I thought it was a good idea, but it needs to be done well. It is all too easy to just watch the race and to forget an F1 race is actually very prestigious and lots of work and millions of dollars has gone into getting that place ready for F1 to turn up and race. We wouldn’t expect King Charles to have had his coronation using just a limousine or such like. No, he had to have his coronation using thousands of troops and hundreds of horses and such like.
      For the same reason when F1 comes to a city lots of things need to be done because it is a prestigious event: before the race starts someone has to sing a national anthem while everyone stands to attention, after the race the winning driver and team have their national anthems played, prestigious people hand out trophies, etc.
      Currently, before the race starts, broadcasters have someone with a camera crew hustle their way around the cars talking about each driver while trying to snatch a soundbite from someone important. We all accept this as normal, but it isn’t very dignified. This introduction ceremony was something we haven’t seen before, so it appears strange or unusual to us, but we wouldn’t dare to criticise a country for expecting all the drivers to line up and stand at attention while their national anthem is being sung, nor would we criticise the leaders of that country for wanting to hand out the trophies after the race. In the same way, introducing the drivers to the people of that country should be part of their welcoming F1 to that place.

      1. All too easy, maybe. I have missed maybe three or four races since 1971 but I switch on just in time for the warm-up lap and switch off right after the flag except maybe in Monza for the podium ceremony. Can’t say much about intro ceremonies, let those who can suffer’em watch’em.

    18. Every American I talked to who saw it said it was top tier cringe.
      LL Cool J should have been singing “I’m going back to Cali”. I’d rather watch a properly executed Long Beach street circuit than this corporate Miami nonsense or the impending Vegas circus. COTA is a great track but Texas is an absolutely crazy place right now. They are doing a poor job on this return to the US market.

    19. That “US market” somehow delivered over 100,000 knowledgeable fans to a large empty countryside in Western New York in the 1970s.

      No celebrities were evident at The Bog.

      1. I will admit that nobody would dream of thousands of dollars to get in. I also think it’s a dream to think these prices are sustainable. Once the novelty wears off.

    20. Scotty (@rockonscotty)
      10th May 2023, 22:49

      I’m also in the US. The thing that drew me to formula 1 was the difference from nascar and indy car. F1 has to be careful not to lose what made the series stand apart. The casual viewer they are chasing arnt going to stick with the brand and don’t care about the differences in car technology. While the short term gains will be there, long term, it won’t be sustainable.

    21. intros are right for US market but wouldn’t work at Silverstone – Horner”

      Frankly Daniels Pirelli tyre test RB19 at Silverstone holds my interest for me than well their whole show.

    22. A lot of complaining here, but this event was for TV audience. You can turn your TV off and do something nice until the race starts, right?

      1. People “turning the TV off” is not a good result for Liberty Media. At some point enough people will stop turning them back on.

        1. I think there is whole new market with new viewers. So I think Liberty Media will get loaded.

    23. I don’t want to be that guy, but America-lover Hamilton obviously acted like this was awesome because of the American audience. And not coincidentally, there was enough “diversity” to make him enthusiastic about this puppet show.

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