Formula 1

The Formula 1 show is hurting the future of motorsport

Formula 1's attempts at improving the show have had varied responses  (©GettyImages)
Formula 1's attempts at improving the show have had varied responses (©GettyImages).

Formula 1 has long been considered the holy grail for racing drivers all over the world.

The chance to drive the fastest cars around the world's greatest racetracks made it the ultimate goal for those who step behind the wheel but also made it a passion for millions who knew they could never manage that aim.

Every person has a reason for watching F1, whether it be the wheel-to-wheel action, the technology or just the simple thrill of watching the best drivers in their incredible machines.

Changing attitudes

As time has moved on, however, the appeal of the sport has changed and the ways fans want to interact with their favourite activity on several Sunday afternoons has altered as well.

The problem is the way F1 bosses have gone about trying to adapt to the modern world, whereas it used to be the thrill of V10 1000bhp+ monsters screaming at over 200mph, the need to meet current trends means the sport now has muted V6's that are way more complex than most average people could ever understand.

Then there has been the recent dominance of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, while some could appreciate watching the men at the top of their respective eras, the lack of thrills and spills drove the casual fan away.

Exclusive club

Also key to the sport's drop in interest has been the lack of adapting to modern media. While all the teams and all but three drivers have Twitter accounts, the opportunities for fans to get inside the exclusive world of F1 remain very few and far between.

At the same time those at FOM (Formula One Management) simply refuse to open up the sport to these new forms of media.

Most videos are taken down on YouTube and F1 is likely the biggest sport in the world not to have its own channel.

Broadcasts in HD remain something of a novelty at a time when most are switching to 3D and then on social media the official F1 Twitter page is merely a place to promote links to a website that thinks asking what each driver did when they were younger is revolutionary.

Lack of innovation on track

The failure to adapt isn't just on social media either as the sport struggles to promote its main product, the on track action.

Attempts have been made to increase action during Friday practice sessions while the current qualifying system offers a far more entertaining show than the old one, but there is always the feeling that somehow an external factor has to be involved to make a race great.

Just think, what have been the best races of 2014 and why have they been so? Canada was simply because the Mercedes broke down while Hungary was helped by a little bit of rain and Safety Cars.

The same was true for Bahrain, would we have had the great Mercedes battle if Pastor Maldonado hadn't flipped Esteban Gutierrez?

Gimmicks

Then there has been the rules and ideas brought in to improve the on track spectacle. During the early 2000's the strive for better aerodynamics had the effect of making overtaking nigh on impossible.

To solve this DRS was introduced which creates a situation where a driver behind can blast through the turbulent air coming from the car in front by opening his rear wing thus increasing his top speed.

The impact of the DRS has been largely positive in that now we have overtaking on nearly every track and races are not dictated by qualifying or pit-stops, yet there is always the feeling when watching a car simply breeze past a rival because he has a gap in his rear wing that the system has taken away the art of race craft.

Pirelli's degrading tyres has also become a major part of the current F1 show. This idea was born from the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix when the then Bridgestone tyres were unable to gain heat on the smooth surface, lacked the grip and wore out very quickly.

The race would then be one of the best of that year and so Bernie Ecclestone gave Pirelli instructions to create tyres with short life spans when they entered in 2011.

Again the idea has helped improve the strategical aspect but as engineers find ways of optimising performance the tyres had to keep changing and that led to the dangerous failures seen at the British Grand Prix and beyond last year.

It has also become such a factor in the sport that most of the races are dictated by drivers looking after their tyres rather than trying to attack the driver in front.

In a bid to salvage a tarnished reputation Pirelli shied away from the approach making more durable tyres for 2014.

Double points = double the anger

While the tyres and DRS remain to be divisive topics among F1 fans, the newest proposals to be introduced and/or discussed are simply angering the current those fans even more.

The negative reaction to the introduction of double points at the final race has highlighted the frustrations long-time fans have towards the FIA and F1 bosses and their apparent ignorance to what the people paying the high ticket prices actually want to see.

The idea only lost further appeal when it was announced Abu Dhabi would be the last race replacing Brazil, a track that fans love, for one that most do not.

Other ideas such as standing safety car restarts and the creation of sparks and vapour trails, both of which look great as by-products but have not been popular as gimmicky ideas, only exacerbate the feeling of a lack of connectivity between rulemakers and fans.

Overall impact on motor sport

While those thoughts above are known and have been felt for quite some time, this constant feeling of having to interfere with the racing to make it appeal is having an impact on motor sport as a whole.

Other series such as DTM and Formula Renault 3.5 have had to incorporate things like DRS and degrading tyres into their own series as they prepare potential future F1 drivers and the impact those ideas on F1 is having an effect on the perception of those series.

When watching Twitter (@BenIssatt for the shameless plug) I often find series like MotoGP and BTCC are gaining in popularity because there is a greater feeling of the action being pure.

The heroics of Marc Marquez, currently undefeated in MotoGP 2014, somehow feel greater than those of Lewis Hamilton because of the feeling of danger and the thrill of watching him ride the ultimate motorbike.

Then there is the way Marquez has dominated over the rest of the field this year beating a legend like Valentino Rossi and superstars like Jorge Lorenzo, his achievements feel more down to him rather to his machine and that is what F1 has lacked for quite some time.

Make the drivers the stars

The gimmicks and the restrictions put on F1 cars are reducing the star quality of the current batch of racing drivers. The number of and the standard of the current top drivers is perhaps the highest seen in recent times but likening them to a Michael Schumacher or an Ayrton Senna is never going to be taken seriously.

Emphasis needs to be bolstering the profile of those behind the wheel and their job behind the wheel, because, while the feeling of danger might be less, the capabilities and the task of driving a 2014 F1 car flat-out is as difficult as it has ever been.

And this can be done by improving social media coverage, opening up content on YouTube, making features on the website that focus on the job of being a modern F1 driver and cut back the amount of artificialness felt with all the stupid gimmicks.

The concept of young men driving very fast cars will always be attractive but the way you promote and try to improve that basic idea will always impact whether it can reach its maximum potential. 

Do it right and Formula 1 can be a global success, do it wrong and the current decline will only continue to get worse.

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Formula 1

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