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?

  1. beneboy said on 2nd May 2010, 13:16

    As someone who follows motoGP I’ve always wondered why F1 doesn’t do something similar to that series.
    In motoGP there is the motoGP championship, the moto2 championship and the 125cc motoGP championship and you get all three events at each GP weekend so you get three sets of practice sessions, three qualifying events and three races so there’s always loads to watch at each event.

    As well as giving the fans something extra to follow at events you also get to watch riders progress from 14-16 year old rookies on 125cc bikes all the way up to GP title contenders on prototype 800cc bikes.
    The use of wild card riders in the lower formulae also adds a bit of local interest in nations that don’t have any riders in the full GP series as well as giving the smaller teams a chance to get some short term local sponsorship.

    It would make sense if F1 could do something similar by having GP2 running at every F1 GP weekend with a second support series, even if they had to split it between two sets of circuits (Europe & Americas series and an Asia/Pacific series) in order to keep down costs for the teams and have all of the support series using low cost open-wheel cars that would act as a feeder system for young drivers.

    • KateDerby said on 2nd May 2010, 15:11

      beneboy, That does happen at most European races, as you can see from the line-up at this year’s Spanish GP;

      Friday 7th May

      Formula BMW Practice 08:50 – 09:15
      Formula One Practice 1 10:00 – 11:30
      GP2 Practice Session 11:55 – 12:25
      Formula BMW Qualifying 12:50 – 13:15
      Air Display 13:30 – 13:40
      Formula One Practice 2 14:00 – 15:30
      GP2 Qualifying Session 15:55 – 16:25
      Formula One Press Conference 16:00 – 17:00
      GP3 Practice Session 16:50 – 17:20
      Porsche Mobil1 Supercup Practice17:45 – 18:30

      Saturday 8th May
      Formula 1 Team Pit Stop Practice 08:00 -08:30
      GP3 Qualifying Session 08:45 – 09:15
      Formula BMW First Race 09:45 – 10:15
      Formula One Practice 3 11:00 – 12:00
      Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Quali 12:25 – 12:55
      Air Display Spanish Air 13:30 – 13:40
      Formula One Qualifying 14:00
      GP2 First Race 15:40 – 16:45
      GP3 First Race 17:20 – 17:55

      Sunday 9th May
      Formula BMW Second Race 08:30 – 09:00
      GP3 Second Race 09:25 – 10:00
      GP2 Second Race 10:35 – 11:25
      Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Race 11:45 – 12:20
      Formula 1 Drivers’ Track Parade 12:30
      Formula 1 Grid Presentation 12:45 – 13:15
      Air Display 13:30 – 13:40
      Formula One National Anthem 13:46
      Formula One Race 14:00

      The problem is making it economic to host the GP2 and GP3 feeder series outside Europe.

      However, how many music fans go to gigs to see the support acts?

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 2nd May 2010, 22:36

        See, I’ll watch pretty much all the races but the air shows and music concerts are of no interest to me. Unless it’s a group I really like, but not having particularly mainstream tastes that’s not very likely!

      • beneboy said on 3rd May 2010, 21:52

        Hi Kate,
        I appreciate that they do this at some races, the point I was trying to make was that in motoGP where you get the same support races at every event with concurrent championships it allows the fans to follow all three series at once and the lower formulae get a good bit of kudos by association.

        A lot of people I know think of motoGP as being the whole three series with the 800cc bikes just being the premier event, admittedly this is helped by the fact that in lots of countries the broadcaster shows all three series each weekend. While the BBC don’t do this Eurosport do and in effect their entire schedule is given over to motoGP for a good six or seven hours each day of a motoGP weekend.

        This means that when you go to a GP weekend you know all of the teams and riders in the lower formulae and you find that the stands are almost as full for the 125cc race as it is for the 800cc race and this gives you two extra events taking place over the weekend that have a really good atmosphere.

        With all due respect to the Porsche’s and BMW’s, they’re just random support events and have nothing to do with F1. You may get the odd retired F1 driver taking part for a laugh but they’re not feeder series.
        This means that most people have no idea about their championships, teams or drivers. They still produce some good racing but they don’t have the same sort of atmosphere or excitement that you get when everyone knows more about it and has a preferred driver or team.

        GP2 has been a good addition but could do with being matched up with the whole, or most, of the the F1 calendar instead of just being on at some European GP’s.
        For me the ideal situation would be for a series like Formula Renault or Formula Ford to join up with them too and have a standardised format at each GP weekend with the two feeder feeder series followed by the main event of the F1 GP.

        The biggest obstacle to this is the funding, the lower series wouldn’t generate enough money to be able to afford to run at each of the F1 GP’s so this would mean F1 agreeing to a joint deal where the money generated by F1 is used to cover some of the costs of the lower formulae.
        This is obviously a lot easier to agree too in motoGP as several of the teams have bikes running in all three series but I’m sure there are enough clever people involved in F1 to come up with a solution to this that would benefit everyone.

        • KateDerby said on 3rd May 2010, 22:38

          Thanks for replying. I don’t think we can really compare F1 and MotoGP but F1 could probably learn something from the bikes boys.
          Costs and the restrictions imposed would make it hard, if not impossible to have 3 combined series at all 19 races. Certainly the addition of GP3 is a step in that direction but it’s yet to be seen if this and GP2 have any effect on spectator numbers.

  2. David said on 2nd May 2010, 13:33

    The main reason why I don’t go to Monza every year is the price of the tickets.
    Lower series are interesting while you wait for the GP, but they are not the key.

  3. Patrickl said on 2nd May 2010, 14:18

    I have never seen that many people watch the support races though. Most viewers just show up for qualifying and the race.

    For the people in the standing area’s (who cannot leave their spot all day) it’s probably a nice diversion, but still. I doubt anyone really goes to an F1 event to watch the side show.

  4. Diablorini said on 2nd May 2010, 14:36

    I think people come to the track to see see stars – the drivers – do what they do best, namely drive racing cars.

    With that in mind I think one or two single make races with F1 drivers behind the wheel would make perfect sense.

    The spirit of these races should of course be crowd pleasing, short’ish sprint type races in good looking cars, some hard tires and lots of sideways action.

    Maybe I am wrong, but I personally would love to see the F1 drivers loosen up a little in a support class where the over all aim is to please the crowd.

  5. Geo said on 2nd May 2010, 14:59

    More support races to increase interest? NO!

    It would take away the focus from the Grand Prix!

    The problem is Formula 1 is being taken to countries who are not interested in it and it is too expensive for the locals to afford to go and watch it.

    It would be like bringing the World Table-Tennis Championships to Britain, no-one would give a damn and no-one would pay their hard earned cash to go and see it!

    • Robert McKay said on 2nd May 2010, 15:13

      “It would take away the focus from the Grand Prix!”


      Why is it silly to provide a full day’s entertainment for people paying hard-earned money? Precisely how are support races, of which there are many at the European rounds taking away the focus from the Grand Prix?

      • theRoswellite said on 2nd May 2010, 16:33

        Exactly Mr. McKay…

        Possible elements…

        -feature younger future stars of racing, and work to promote them. Back in my home town, we are more interested in people than in objects or even ideas, as simple folk we would need to connect faces to the drivers names.

        -Also, we all have short attention spans so you might consider having match races of one or two laps, in which the winning driver moves on. No championship needed, you could work toward a year end race with the guys with the most points competing for some BIG money. No need for expensive machinery or large crews.

        Just some straight forward racing, easy to stage, easy to schedule, no great expense…and fun to watch,…..and again, easy to understand for those folks back in my home town.

  6. Calum said on 2nd May 2010, 15:29

    Really depends on the quality of support series, in America though why not make F1 the support race to a NASCAR event at Indianapolis, there wod ba a capacity crowd (200000) guarenteed because of the strong attraction NASCAR has in the USA, and if the f1 was sandwiched between 2 sprints, the crowd would have to stay and watch.

  7. Mark Shen said on 2nd May 2010, 16:08

    The answer is “no”.
    If you use GP2, GP4, Porsche, or even GT1, BTCC to support F1 races in Shanghai, you will still find that grandstand is almost empty before the Sunday F1 race. The best way is to hold these races as a whole event on another date. Like Shanghai will hold DTM later this year

  8. sato113 said on 2nd May 2010, 16:23

    simple answer- no. the casual person is only just interested in F1, so i doubt they’d be at all interest in gp2 etc.

  9. Ledzep4pm said on 2nd May 2010, 17:56

    To have support races you need a national or regional motor sport interest. The races that don’t have the support races are the ones that have little interest in motor sport. Its a catch 22. we need to accept that some places may have the money but not the interest. We all know Bernie wants the money ( Far East, Asia ) while we wan’t the good fans and support races (Europe).

  10. Gary said on 2nd May 2010, 18:50


    More support races along lines of GP2, Porsche, V8’s, and maybe celebrity race in small sedan cars.

    Add in a concert of some sort also.

    F1 management need to get some good entertainment industry/promotional people involved to present a more entertaining all round package…but this needs to happen to all race event locations, not just some.


  11. Rob Knight said on 2nd May 2010, 18:51

    The BTCC has almost constant on track action, with the BTCC itself, Porsches, Ginetta Junior, Ginetta G50, Formula Renault and the Renault Clio Cup amongst any others I might of missed! Although not everyone will enjoy watching every race, at least there is almost always on-track action!

  12. Chaz said on 2nd May 2010, 19:21

    These are good ideas provided the organisers place many big screen tv’s around the circuit for all the fans to enjoy this. Acrobatic airline and fighter displays, as well as stunt drivers and riders, are sometimes seen at other series. Perhaps a prize draw could be held beforehand and members of the public could compete on a shortened or kart circuit or even a obstacle course of sorts…

  13. kowalsky said on 2nd May 2010, 19:35

    we want the f1 stars to make a two heat race with let’s say, porsche gt3, and get some incentive so they commit to racing. May be even giving a point for the winner. I am just getting a little over the top here i know, but those guys at nascar race several times during the week end. Are these prima donnas to good to do the same?

  14. kowalsky said on 2nd May 2010, 19:40

    my first love was f1, but after almost 30 years of following it, i find in moto gp, what got me hooked to f1 in the first place, but i am sorry to say, it gets more difficult for me to find it in f1 anymore.
    They hurt the sport so badly in the last ten years, that i just can’t enjoy it like i did in the past. Moto gp gives me the buzz, that i got from f1 in the senna years. Am i the only one out there?

    • wasiF1 said on 3rd May 2010, 8:17

      I think Moto GP & F1 are two different types of racing, but it’s true many people do find Moto Gp more entertaining than F1 may be due to the fact that it doesn’t have too much politics & have lots of overtaking on track .

      • Ogur said on 4th May 2010, 18:12

        I just watched my first MotoGP (Jerez) and I really enjoyed it. The on track battles were amazing as well as the fight for the win that ended on the last corners. The length of the race was great as well. I sat down and watched a 50min or so race and went on with my day.

        My new like for MotoGP doesn’t mean that I would like F1 to be that way as well. I enjoy my F1 weekends and watching the long races and qualifying. I’m just glad that MotoGP was easy to watch because aside from Rossi I didn’t know the drivers and just wanted some quick excitement. I would be disappointed if F1 was done this way.

  15. wasiF1 said on 3rd May 2010, 2:06

    I don’t like the idea of too much supporting races? Ok Gp2 is great with F1 as it is the feeder series still can’t understand the idea behind GP3? May be money & Bernie. Sometimes many people who dying F1 really don’t care about other racing series.

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