Is it time for a fan boost?

 


I can't afford to buy a Rolex. It must be time for me to stop watching F1.

The puns are done. It's time to get serious. How is it that Formula 1 - a sport at the forefront of engineering, technology and speed - appears to be so hilariously out of touch with the modern world? Not that there's anything hilarious about it. It's a sad and sorry state of affairs when those at the very top are seemingly doing their upmost to alienate and anger those who care so passionately about it. Bemusing. Baffling. Bonkers. Boo.

It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from or what you do; we're all linked by one thing - our love of motorsport. Notice how I didn't say Formula 1? Motorsport comes in many different shapes and styles, just like ourselves. Formula 1 is not the be-all and end-all of motorsport, and the sooner it realises that, the better.

Have you ever watched an F1 race and thought, "heck, there must be something more entertaining on at the moment?". I know I have. Yet I still come back, week after week, to watch 20 or so of the world's best drivers pound around the best and worst circuits we have to offer. Why is that? What motivates me to wake up at 3/4/5am, stumble down the stairs and crash out on the sofa Maldonado style? Because I care. Care about the drivers, the teams and, funnily enough, the sport itself.

If I totted up the hours spent watching F1 since 1996, I'd probably cry a little. But then smile, because I've spent that time partaking in something that I love. So I haven't bought a fancy watch, switched phone networks or bought a particular brand of energy drink - does that mean I shouldn't be watching?

Formula 1 has a great product. The racing is great and the level of talent at the top is arguably as high as it's been for years. Despite it's obvious flaws, people still flock to watch at trackside or from the comfort of their own home. So why oh why do we appear to be stuck in first gear when it comes to those who matter the most - the fans?

We've recently seen the @F1 Twitter account become active in a way that makes you believe a real life human being is running it. Hooray! It's a start, albeit a slow one, but it's progress. Social media has a huge role to play, particularly where the fans are concerned. We all crave the latest views and news, and with the technology at our disposal today, thousands upon millions can be kept up to date with the here and now in 140 characters or less. The teams and drivers have already completed half-race distance. Those at the top are still waiting for the five red lights to go out.

The reduction in free-to-air coverage is sad, but not completely unexpected. But to counter that, wouldn't it be lovely if those with the power would allow extended highlights to be published, shared and enjoyed online? We want to watch, we want to share and we want to talk. Why not allow us to do so?

Engagement is arguably more important today than it ever has been. Formula 1, and motorsport as a whole, is very lucky when it comes to its fan base. There's a huge captive and reactive audience out there, talking all day and all night about every possible thing their chosen series throws up. We're here to listen to and discuss any and every aspect of the sport. Discussions, quizzes, competitions, videos, insights. Nothing out of this world, nothing over the top. You'd think...

And for those at the circuits themselves? A reduction in ticket prices? Merchandise prices? An increase in fan access and interaction? Take the BTCC for example. For £30 you can watch racing all day, meet and greet the drivers personally, sit wherever you like and generally have a jolly great time - all without breaking the bank.

I love this sport. I love talking about it, promoting it and at times defending it. There is something amazing there, no doubt. It's not perfect, but nothing ever really is. There's plenty to fix, both on and off the track.

If you lose the fans, you lose the sport.

The time for talk is over. Lights, camera, action!


Paul Godley 19/11/2014

Image source (and all image rights): Valtteri Bottas - WilliamsF1/f1fanatic

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