Would more support races help boost crowds at F1′s new venues?

European F1 fans get GP2, Asian F1 fans get far fewer support races

European F1 fans get GP2, Asian F1 fans get far fewer support races

In the past decade F1 has added races in several countries with little prior history of motor racing. Unsurprisingly, these races have struggled to draw spectators in the same numbers that European races like the British and Italian Grands Prix.

What could be done to encourage more people to come to these new races? One solution might be to ensure there’s more action going on at the tracks when the F1 cars are in the garages.

The crowd at next week’s Spanish Grand Prix will be entertained by seven other races in addition to the Grand Prix. They get two rounds of the excellent GP2 series and the first two races of its new feeder championship, GP3.

Formula BMW Europe, another frequently entertaining championship, will supply another two races and there’s also the Porsche Supercup.

But fans at the Malaysian and Chinese races saw only one non-F1 series for the price of their tickets. The Sepang race was supported by Formula BMW Pacific and at China the Asian Porsche Carrera Cup was the sole event on the support bill.

Part of the problem is the contraction of the GP2 Asia championship last season. The series previously raced at Shanghai and Sepang, but only visited Abu Dhabi and Bahrain last season.

With the main GP2 series taking over the Abu Dhabi support bill this year, you have to wonder where the GP2 Asia championship will fit in in 2011 – and whether it will at all.

What if there simply aren’t any local racing series to join the support card? Perhaps the track time could be used in other ways involving the F1 teams.

Why not put on a pit stop competition for the mechanics on the start line, as other championships have done? Or could Shanghai’s huge back straight be used for a drag race between F1 cars with a cash prize for the fastest driver?

Do you think crowd sizes at these new events could be improved by putting on more support races? Have you been to Asian and European rounds of the championship and noticed a difference in the amount of action? Share your thoughts in the comments.

For details of the support races at all this year’s Grands Prix, see the race links at the bottom of the page.

Read more: Are F1 fans getting ripped off? Cheapest and dearest tickets prices revealed

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59 comments on Would more support races help boost crowds at F1′s new venues?

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  1. TommyC said on 2nd May 2010, 8:51

    yep, definately. i think the cost would be the main barrier though. if there were better quality support categories, the crowd numbers on fridays would increase methinks. i was in melbourne this year and it would be awesome to have a gp2 or equivalent category. the v8 supercars just don’t cut it.

    • Tristan said on 2nd May 2010, 18:33

      Wow, V8Supercars just don’t cut it? They are the most followed form of motor-sport in the country. I highly doubt this article is in reference to Melbourne as it always has a pretty massive crowd, numbers are never a concern, compared to the other races in the Asia-Pacific region.

    • Really TommyC? I love watching the V8 Supercars at the GP, and the fact that only a small contigent of the crowd ups and leaves after the F1 practice suggests I am not alone there. I follow the series anyway, but the fact that this is a non-championship round seems to unleash a bit of aggro from the drivers & they take risks they wouldn’t normally do in a points paying round. Some of the best V8 races I have ever seen have been at Albert Park.

      • Macca said on 3rd May 2010, 5:00

        Others could learn from Australia. I was at Melbourne this year and for the whole 4 days there was never more than a 15 minute period where there was nothing on the track. Something was always happening, it was great.

  2. DC said on 2nd May 2010, 9:30

    I have my doubts. How many people going to the Spanish GP would not have purchased tickets if it was only F1? My guess would be less than 100, which consists of family members of people participating in the junior races who didn’t get free passes.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love the support races. They give these young drivers up-close exposure to fans, sponsors and perhaps future employers in the F1 teams. But these support races don’t draw much attention independent of the main event. They are icing on the cake, but you can eat cake without icing.

    • theRoswellite said on 2nd May 2010, 15:57

      Can you eat cake without icing, would anyone? I think maybe icing without the cake….?

  3. Alex said on 2nd May 2010, 9:32

    Wouldn’t this make tickets even more expensive than they already are? But what’s really a shame is that they show none of this excellent racing on TV (here in the Netherlands that is). At best we get a five minute replay of spectacular crashes.

  4. jose said on 2nd May 2010, 9:34

    they make too much noise durring the pre-race analaisis

  5. Hamish said on 2nd May 2010, 9:43

    Heres a solution – go to countries with an establised motorsport scene. Cynical yes, but in respect to the location of Grand Prix I wish for a change they put the sport before business. No French GP, no American GP – yet we have a Bahrain GP and a Korean GP.

    Don’t take the people to the racing (eg, China), take the racing to the people.

    • steph said on 2nd May 2010, 10:18

      I don’t think that would work sadly. F1 is a business but it is also a sport that’s famous for its wealth, travel and moving forwards. Some venues have been a mistake and too many are featureless dust bowls which may as well have a cartoon tumble weed blowing across but F1 has to try.

      If it becomes inverted we will be stuck in the same venues with progress becoming stagnant.

      F1 can’t afford that. Also you give the example of the US GP but generally they’re a nation whose love of motorsport stems from Indy and NASCAR. Plenty of fans when to the F1 event (I am in favour of seeing tracks with a passionate crowd) but the nation has proved hard to sell to. Seeing fans in the stand must be a priority but we can’t forget the people watching on TV.
      We can’t just go to historic tracks. We need a blend of old and new. Retaining the story and passion while looking to advance and improve. History can’t be everything; at one time no track had a history but they were given a chance and it is only fair that the new hosts get the same chance.

      I think the restrictions seriously need to be looked at ; they control everything and I mean everything. Tilke and his company can’t be used excessively. I think the restrictions are 75% responsible but if the same designer is used then it is the same vision and the same way of tackling the situation which is why in part, tracks feel the same and stale. It would also be nice if they could see beyond harbours and deserts and please no more street circuits. I’m all for a mix and I really like street layouts but there is the risk of too many.

      There has been some success with new tracks (trying to be slightly less negative); Singapore is a real challenge and needs more bumps -Hungary is dull but we keep it- and I think some more changes are planned plus it is meant to have a very enthusiastic crowd, Bahrain gets some overtaking, Abu Dhabi is too new for me to pick on, Malaysia has the heat and is pretty nice with a risk of rain and it had that great Hei vs Alo vs Cou battle and Turkey has the hardest corner on F1.

      We aren’t ever going to agree because it is down to personal preference and interpretation of what makes F1. Fans do need to work out what we need – history, overtaking, new tracks or driver challenge or maybe a nice mix but even then we need to prioritize it. If us fans can debate for so long and still not agree then I feel complete sympathy for those making the decisions.

      • Hamish said on 2nd May 2010, 11:21

        I think you’ve made some assumptions on my complete point of view from a very brief statement.

        I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, and I did make a post last week suggesting that in order to make it a “world championship” F1 does need to branch out a bit more outside of Europe in order to get a widespread recognition of the championships significance. But my point I was trying to make was go to countries with some form of motorsport background already, not just selling it to the highest bidder.

        I’m all for America, and I think going to Russia is a good idea also. I think India will be a success also. I know people will refer to China when talking up the chances of India but India is a full fledged democracy that doesn’t suppress its people, and I think as a result the people will show genuine interest. I just don’t see why we go to countries that have no form of motorsport background. To me thats like Nigeria wanting to host the cricket world cup. Start at the bottom, and move your way up.

        You mention we must not forget about the people watching it on TV but seeing a race at a track that is at 10% capacity doesn’t do the sport any favours.

        That said however I think we can all agree on the problems on the sport. The only issue is coming up with a solution the caters to all the problems.

        • steph said on 2nd May 2010, 11:29

          No, no, I just eamnt to expand on the debate. Half of it was just me rambling on how I felt.
          “I just don’t see why we go to countries that have no form of motorsport background.”
          This is something I really do agree with. Althopugh, I like that F1 gives it a chance the results we all want are far from sure.

          “You mention we must not forget about the people watching it on TV but seeing a race at a track that is at 10% capacity doesn’t do the sport any favours.”

          I agree with that and as I’ve said I would prefer the seats to be filled but I think if a track is good like Turkey it shouldn’t be tossed aside, more should be done to get people in.

      • Icthyes said on 2nd May 2010, 14:09

        I’m not sure I totally agree.

        F1 should be a world championship, but look at the additions: Malaysia, China, Singapore, Korea, and soon India and Russia. That’s not the makings of a world championship. Malaysia, China, India, America, Mexico, is more like a world championship. What F1 has developed into is a Europe + Asia championship, with a few side distractions elsewhere.

        F1 hasn’t been going to places with money in order to survive; it was going quite nicely as it was. I remember when Malaysia and the USA were added on to the calendar, I was very excited. Now the prospect of ever more new races doesn’t really thrill me at all, because there’s no novelty (though having Indy back would be nice). F1 has been going to these places with money simply to line Bernie’s pockets, with barely any actually going into the improvement of the sport and its coverage.

        Yes, F1 can’t just stay at historic circuits, but there’s no need for more than one new circuit every five years. Random traditional circuits deciding not to have a race anymore would more than fill up the capacity for new blood and variety. If the old circuits were leaving the calendar because of the cost en masse, I would see the point in F1′s rapid expansion. But whilst I like the idea of 20 races, the pace and nature of the change, I think, has been completely skewed in favour of money for special interests, and not for the furthering of the sport.

    • Moolander said on 2nd May 2010, 10:37

      I agree. Of course, you would not require 100 years of racing tradition for a country to host a GP but, at least, they should have a few junior national championships (karting and such).

  6. F1 Novice said on 2nd May 2010, 9:48

    The easy answer to the question is YES as long as they are of the right quality.

    But…..

    What would help is more F1 on race day !

    Race day tickets in the UK cost an arm and a leg anyway & for 1 hour 30 mins of seeing the F1 cars in action ! – not good enough in my mind.

    Without putting my rose coloured spectacles on and hankering too much for the past – at least we used to get 30 mins of Sunday morning warm-up in years gone by.

    I’ve ranted about this in the past but it is even more relevant now.

    With no in-race re-fuelling and not needing to start on the fuel they qualified with I see absolutely no reason whatsoever why we can’t have warm-up back. I know about Parc Ferme “start the race on the tyres you qualified on” & it was stopped to stop the better funded teams from using quali spec engines & body bits e.t.c. “blah blah blah” (as Rubens would so eloquently say) :) but it’s not rocket science to allow the teams to stick on a bit of used rubber stick in some fuel and go for a blast early on – if for the spectators only – correct me if I’m wrong but this is who the teams are meant to be entertaining isn’t it ?

    To me it’s a no brainer and a “win win” situation for everyone.

    1) Eurosport used to televise it – the BBC could on the Red Button/Online so more exposure for sponsors. – which is why they are there :)

    2) Most importantly the spectators would get into the circuit earlier and see F1 cars for an extra 30 mins which would be much better value for money ! :)

    3) Because of 2 above the vendors at the circuit have a longer period to sell there goods to the public & let me tell you it isn’t cheap for them to be there – so any help they can get would be good ! :)

    4) The circuits could charge a little more to each vendor and take more in there own outlets on circuit from earlier on from an already enthused/energised spending public because they’ve just had there senses nicely awoken by the sound & sight of 24 F1 cars at full chat ! – which in Silverstone’s case at least means more money in the coffers to be pump back into circuit by the BRDC. With Bernie taking his slice :( they need every penny they can get.

    If the powers that be are so intent on enforcing the “start the race on the tyres you qualified on” rule – before the race on the starting grid they would have to put their qualifying tyres back on.

    All Parc Ferme conditions would still apply so no changes to the car – any team found cheating by flouting those conditions and and making changes to the cars would have to start at the back of the grid.

    If a car crashes in warm-up – tough the team would be able to repair it but again have to start at the back of the grid.

    If some teams get all worried & opt to stay in the garages and not go out to entertain the spectators – tough start at the back of the grid – now that’s pressure :) but these are supposed to be the best drivers in the world.

  7. Marc Connell said on 2nd May 2010, 10:08

    My dream would be F1 at silverstone to show, V8 super cars that weekend, F3, F2, BTCC. But i dont think that could be fitted in.
    I think F1 races/ qualifying are to long for support races. Maybe 1 or 2 (GP2 and F3).

  8. Prisoner Monkeys said on 2nd May 2010, 10:10

    Part of the problem is the contraction of the GP2 Asia championship last season. The series previously raced at Shanghai and Sepang, but only visited Abu Dhabi and Bahrain last season.

    I think a bigger part of the problem is the lack of national racing series. The Formula 1 races might be supported by GP2/GP2 Asia, but they also get events like the Porsche Supercup. The difficulty is that there’s a lack of these racing series in Asia and the Middle East.

    • Icthyes said on 2nd May 2010, 13:57

      This is pretty much the problem.

      Not only are there less support races, so you get less bang for your buck, but there’s a lack of motorsports history in the country anyway.

      It’s not just that F1 needs more support races in Asia, but Asia actually needs more series regardless of whether they’re supporting F1 or not.

    • BasCB said on 2nd May 2010, 20:05

      You are right here. A lack of local series makes it hard to put together a high quality support program.
      I suppose that is part of the reason why Singapore went for concerts etc. to give the weekend more value for money. This might be an option for the Arabian and Malaysian GP as well (with China maybe politics would make it harder to do with world class acts)

      I would like GP2 Asia series to be part of the firs fly away races, it would make the series better as well and a real bounty for drivers getting into F1.

  9. Himmat said on 2nd May 2010, 10:16

    The notion of having drag racing at Shanghai(and maybe other venues with ultra-long straights) is very exciting indeed. It will add more falvour to the Grand Prix weekend. :)

  10. BMW Boy said on 2nd May 2010, 10:20

    I’ve always wondered how this works out. Does the GP organizer (and ultimately, the ticket buyers) pay for the support races? Or do the support race organizers sign up for the GP and help pay for the expenses?

    As for the main question, I think more support races won’t bring in more viewers.

    3 years ago, at Sepang they had Speedcar, GP2, Formula BMW, and the Porsche Supercup supporting the main race. This year I think they had only Formula BMW.

    In Singapore, hardly anyone was watching the Aston Martin races, the Porsche Supercup, and the Formula BMW.

    I find it quite sad that most GP viewers ignore the support races. Some people, especially F1 fans, consider the support races too boring and the cars too slow to watch. I could spend a whole day at the track watching F1 and the support races. Too bad not everyone would do the same.

    That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any support races. The support races adds much to the atmosphere on race weekend. More importantly, F1 brings much needed exposure and possible new fans to these support races. I hope more fans will give their “support” to these support races.

    • Nathan Bradley said on 2nd May 2010, 10:48

      @BMW Boy I could spend a whole day at the track watching F1 and the support races. Too bad not everyone would do the same.

      Agreed, I was at Barcelona last year, and I have to say it was quite nice having your ears woken up at 9am by the sound of the Formula BMW’s racing past!

      Support races are a good thing in my opinion. It makes the tickets much better value for money and, more importantly, gives fans a chance to see potential future F1 drivers’ (See last year’s GP2 series with Chandhok, Grosjean, DiGrassi, Petrov etc.)

      Support races would be much better attended if they had better TV coverage, because as has already been discussed, with the exception of GP2, they hardly get any. For example, I wonder how many people with an average interest in F1 could name a Formula BMW or Porsche Supercup driver? Despite the fact they are support races at most European F1 events.

      Nathan

  11. It’s a yes for me. More support events make the tickets better value for money. No need to increase the prices either as more support events equals more ticket sales, meaning more revenue for the promoter.

    It also seems that a lot of the newer tracks have second fully serviced paddocks and pits, so that opens the possibility of for double headline events, kind of like how V8 Supercars and IndyCars / CART / Champcars / whatever they were called, did at the Gold Coast Indy in Australia for a couple of years. Both series had full length championship races, and it was quite successful.

  12. Lady Snowcat said on 2nd May 2010, 11:25

    This is an excellent topic as it touches on the ever problematic question of getting more bums on seats in the new venues for F1….

    I am one of the lucky people who have been to a lot of the current GP tracks and the comment about varying levels of support racing is very true…. and for the locals there is often nothing in the various support features to draw in the public…

    Perhaps the promoters are missing a number of tricks here… and should look outside motor sport for ideas…

    Horse racing has very successful “Ladies Days” at the top venues and whilst this may not work in some of the Middle East venues it certainly would work elsewhere… and you could have special Ladies races too… again it happens in racing… interestingly the gate for Ladies Days is often better than for the main feature…

    BMW Boy mentioned Sepang in 2007 but it was also true in 2008.. seeing Jean Alesi (towel round his head like a turban to keep cool before his Sportcar race) and Mr Herbert etc was really fun…

    The cost of putting on Ladies races and also “Veterans” stuff must be minimal in comparison to the cost of the race payments to Bernie…

    How about special lotteries where race tickets bought on the day give you the opportunity for a lottery win ride round the track with a top driver… they could show the faces of the lucky guys/girls on the big screen as they sit in the car for their lap which would probably be very funny… also there could be similar lucky tickets for pitwalks and corporate hospitality…

    There must be loads of ways to get the fans in that no-one has tried and not all have to be soley for motorsports…

    One of the disappointing things is how few of the tracks put on alternative stuff during the race day… don’t have Beyonce after the race in concert… have her during the day…

    Goodness there is sooo much stuff to do why are they sooo backward in sorting it out…

    Finally if this stuff really does break the bank do a deal with Bernie as I can’t believe he doesn’t want things to be a success.. except, of course, that maybe that at his age he won’t see it come to fruition… mind you if you mentioned that to him that could just spur him to prove you were mistaken….

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 2nd May 2010, 22:35

      How about special lotteries where race tickets bought on the day give you the opportunity for a lottery win ride round the track with a top driver… they could show the faces of the lucky guys/girls on the big screen as they sit in the car for their lap which would probably be very funny… also there could be similar lucky tickets for pitwalks and corporate hospitality…

      Silverstone are doing this for the first time this year – if I remember correctly a group of people will win paddock passes, and a pair from that group will also win pitwall passes. Can’t get much closer than that!

      It’s a good idea, I don’t know if any other F1 races do the same.

  13. Some local interest would help. Perhaps the FIA should work with the ASNs towards building the profile of local series, so that they are at a suitable level to support the GP when it comes around. Motorsport in general has to be made more prominent in these countries, and something has to be done about the prohibitive cost of tickets.

    It would be terrible if F1 just abandoned all these new markets though. It is a global sport and expanding, it would be a real shame if it suddenly had to contract again.

  14. Dan said on 2nd May 2010, 11:50

    I think if the price was lower that would help, i’m going to my first race this year, going to spa and was really expensive for race tickets

  15. Robert McKay said on 2nd May 2010, 12:51

    When I pay/paid for a Formula 1 ticket to Silverstone I do so expecting to be entertained for the whole day and, ultimately, weekend. Especially for the price it is.

    If it was that price and just F1 I wouldn’t bother…I’m a hardcore F1 fan but I still expect decent value for money and for racing all through the day. Not to turn up on sunday for a 90 minute race and head off..I want a day of it if I’m traipsing across the country to do so.

    I think it’s actually pretty shoddy that there was only one support race at some of the flyaway rounds, and this should be addressed.

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