What the fans expect from FOTA

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Reviving popular venues like Montreal must be a FOTA priority
Reviving popular venues like Montreal must be a FOTA priority

Max Mosley may have seized his first opportunity to resume hostilities with FOTA but it’s clear the teams’ association intends to play a major role in shaping the future of Formula 1.

FOTA embraced the support of the majority of F1 fans and broadened its campaign against Mosley to include many supports? grievances. But how is it going to act on those complaints?

At the beginning of March FOTA published the results of a survey of fans. The conclusions were something of a mixed bag, including some salient points but also a few strange ideas that seemed at odds with the central finding of the research that: ??F1 isn?t broken – so beware ??over-fixing? it.??

I examined the findings in details at the time. Of the points I (and many of you) were most dubious about – points for pit stops and reducing race length – we have heard little from FOTA since.

Hopefully it will stay that way – but these words from Luca di Montezemolo yesterday give me cause for concern:

Flavio [Briatore] will also be working with the commercial rights holder to improve the show and the interest in the sport.

Briatore has in the past advocated some fairly radical ideas for F1, including reducing race distances to GP2 lengths. Whatever his plans are for “improving the show”, he must acknowledge that dumbing down F1 in this manner is, by FOTA’s own admission, not what fans want.

Here’s what I think should be top of FOTA’s priorities:

Location of races

The loss of several historic venues which often boasted far superior audiences to new venues is a major source of frustration for fans.

In the last two years we have lost Indianapolis (United States), Montreal (Canada) and Magny-Cours (France). The British round, which boasted a crowd of 310,000 last weekend, has been in doubt for much of this year (although it seems Ecclestone is finally admitting the race may remain at Silverstone next year if Donington Park isn’t ready). And the high costs of holding a race has forced one of the two German venues – the Hockenheimring – to relinquish its race.

Bernie Ecclestone might like to compare F1 to top sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, but holding races in front of sparse stands at Istanbul and Shanghai hardly reinforces that point.

European governments are never going to pay the kind of exorbitant prices Ecclestone can get for his races in far-flung nations. But there needs to be recognition that historic rounds are a fundamental part of F1?s appeal, and the cost to them of holding a race should be reduced in line with their value to the sport.

Such a demand, of course, would risk bringing them into conflict with Bernie Ecclestone and F1 owners CVC.

Extent and quality of coverage

Here in Britain we are extremely fortunate to get BBC F1 coverage that is both free (licence fee notwithstanding) and ad-free. That is not the case for fans in many other countries.

Ad-free coverage is the exception, when it should be the rule. Having watched ITV?s coverage for 12 years with adverts I can how frustrating it is for fans who have to watch F1 knowing they will often miss significant moments of the action.

Worse, many fans have no access to F1 coverage at all, because there is no broadcaster in the area that offers it. In the age of the internet, this is preposterous. Offering an internet stream for those fans (at a modest cost) should be a no-brainer.

As has been discussed here several times before, F1 is badly lagging behind on broadcast technology. Here in Britain cricket, football, rugby, golf and even darts and NASCAR are all broadcast in high definition – and most have been for several years. F1 isn’t, as FOM are not supplying a high definition feed.

Again, the ball is in Ecclestone’s court on this one. If FOTA ever get finished with Mosley, perhaps he is the next of the F1 old guard FOTA will face down?

Consistent rules

Formula 1?s rules have never been entirely consistent, but since 2003 the rules have been tinkered with time and again, often with little reward.

The classic example of this is qualifying ?ǣ after eight different systems in six years one of the most popular variants among fans is the one that was being used in the first place.

The technical rules have been changed year-on-year and although there have been some notable improvements (banning traction control, bringing back slick tyres) these were often reversals of unpopular changes brought in by Mosley in earlier seasons.

Happily, FOTA have reiterated their commitment to making F1’s rules more stable.

What do you want from FOTA?

What do you think FOTA’s priorities should be? Have your say below…

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