Did you enjoy the return of the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend? I know I did.
It was great to be at a venue as steeped in history as the hills that surround it and to visit a track that, may only have nine corners, yet can offer a challenge few other circuits can match.
It was also a huge credit to the work of Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull who invested the money, upgraded the facilities and put on a weekend of action and excitement.
While the result maybe wasn’t what the Red Bull hierarchy wanted, in fact on the track the Red Bull and Toro Rosso team’s probably their worse weekend in years, the sight of 80,000 spectators cramming into what was to some a completely new venue is something they can be proud of and is rarely matched at other new races around the world.
Usually they always say the second year for a new race is the most important, places such as China and India enjoyed capacity crowds at their first races, but now the Shanghai circuit appears almost baron away from the main grandstands and while India continued to attract good crowds, the price of tickets had to be slashed to do so.
I suspect there will be no such problem with Austria, however, I have already seen numerous people put a future trip to the Red Bull Ring as high on their list of races to go to and while ever Red Bull is doing well, the Austrian fans will keep flocking too.
A lot of people were pretty sceptical when the race in Spielberg was put back on the calendar, most saw it as F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone merely keeping the Red Bull bosses happy by, as they argued, giving them their own Grand Prix.
Well in the history of F1, if I recall, the countries where successful teams and drivers come from usually make for attractive places to hold a race.
Germany held two races for several years thanks to the success of Michael Schumacher, when he left Spain took over as Valencia joined Barcelona, that can be accredited to Fernando Alonso and then there was the two races held in Italy each year. I suspect another influential and successful team had a say on that too.
Of course British fans will argue why, then, there wasn’t two races in the UK and the answer to that is fairly simple, though another race would attract crowds just as big as Silverstone, A there isn’t another circuit upto F1 standard, and B the success for British drivers came as Ecclestone brought the idea of two races in one country to an end.
Another reason for Austria’s successful return was because it is in Europe, the home of Formula 1. Exclude Japan and Singapore, another race that attracts a largely expat crowd, and Asia is yet to really take off on the idea of F1.
Daniel Ricciardo’s success may just reinvigorate Australia’s interest while the United States is also finally getting the idea, much as they are watching the World Cup. This is thanks to a great venue at the Circuit of the Americas and now the formation of Haas Formula, a team set to join the grid in 2016.
Formula 1′s quest, in the past 15 years, to visit new places and try to inspire new markets has largely misfired because the product was not attractive enough to any potential new fan.
You could argue that Austria’s success should spark calls for a return of the French Grand Prix, with two home drivers and a large fan base it almost seems silly to race at an empty track in Bahrain and not around a place like Magny-Cours with potentially packed grandstands.
Imola could also be mentioned but then there is the two races in one country argument which holds weight at a time when several countries are vying for a place on the calendar.
The key to it then, as Red Bull have proved, is to give the race a meaning, create a reason for fans to want to go and visit.
The idea of 22 cars saving fuel and tyres for 90 minutes wouldn’t excite an old people’s home let alone the young potential fans from these emerging markets but create circuits as spectacular as Spielberg, COTA and Yas Marina or as unique as Singapore and offer some great off track entertainment to boot.
Then watch as people come, create a great atmosphere and hope the sport delivers a great spectacle too because after you’ve been introduced to it once, you often never forget it and that is how you create a fan base in new markets and for generations to come.
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