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. Peter said on 3rd May 2010, 6:15

    I haven’t been to a GP since the last one in my home town here in Adelaide in 1995 but I do question whether having more support races will bring in bigger crowds at places like Malaysia and China. Fair enough for places like Australia, Japan, Europe where there are any number of support categories which can run and people do follow them. But in places where motor racing isn’t a big sport, I’m doubtful.

    When I went to the 95 AGP, the support categories were Group A (5.0 litre touring cars), Formula Holden, Formula Ford, Appendix J (historic touring cars), Super Touring cars and Sports Sedans which all saw great racing and crowd support. But would having a similarly full program increase ticket sales for China or Malaysia or Korea or India? Time would tell I guess but I do have my doubts.

  2. At Indianapolis in 2007 we had the Porsche GT3 cup, with a 48 car field!! That was an exiting race to watch. We also had Indy lights and the Formula BMW Americas series. Good support races but I definitely would have liked to see Star Mazda and Formula Atlantic there too.

    • BasCB said on 3rd May 2010, 12:54

      The last race i went to see was in Hockenheim. I liked the Porsches racing, but the GP2 was a real highlight for me (starring some black kid Lewis H. in a fight wit Nelsinho). They did a dragrace there as well, but something did not work.

      But i would like to have more of it and more things to do in the paddock. The best thing there was doing a simulator with Toyota and displays of veteran cars.

    • kowalsky said on 3rd May 2010, 15:14

      imagine if alonso, hamilton, schumacher, etc were driving those gt3’s. Wouldn’t it be something? Let’s put these prima donas to work.

  3. Norman said on 4th May 2010, 11:19

    I agree with the karts idea, why not run go karts on shortened track layout. also, bicycle rentals! on the track.. so people may actually look at the whole track. i know there is danger of liter on the track.

    better yet, why not run a short bicycle race or a marathon.

  4. PJA said on 4th May 2010, 16:53

    I agree that one of the main reasons for low attendances at the new circuits is the fact that the countries in question do not have much of a history of motor racing.

    I think the other main factor is the price of the tickets, if they are relatively as high as they are for the British Grand Prix it will deter people who are F1 fans already let alone people who don’t know much about motorsport but might have given it a go. That comes down to how much Ecclestone charges the circuits to host a Grand Prix.

    I haven’t been to a Grand Prix but I would expect plenty of support races and as has already been mentioned it would be nice if there were official feeder series at every race like MotoGP.

    During the BBC TV coverage of the Glastonbury music festival, the presenters have commentated a few times that there is so much else going on that you could have a full weekend without actually seeing a band perform.

    I believe when BMW had a F1 team they ran an event for the fans at races, I can’t remember the name or the exact details but it did entail a test driver doing donuts in a showcar.

    One thing I wouldn’t mind seeing is the teams to take a third car to races and for the test drivers to have their own practice session and sprint race sometime over the Grand Prix weekend.

  5. Pawel said on 4th May 2010, 18:07

    I’m going to the Canadian GP this year, and I don’t think the support races have an influence on ticket purchases.

    My view of the weekend is like this:

    Friday Practice and checking out the track and everything it offers

    Saturday Qualifying

    Sunday Race

    To top it all of there is Montreal and everything it has to offer during the day and night. I’m more interested in taking it all in rather then spending my entire day at the track. I may be wrong since I have never been to a GP, but for now I think F1 will be enough for me as I want to see the city as well.

    Location is what matters. I’m in the US so I can drive to Canada with my friends for a relatively cheap cost. I go to Europe often, but I couldn’t afford a trip there just for an F1 race. So how many people can afford to fly themselves to Bahrain for a GP? For the Europeans the Euro races are easily accessible. People have friends and family they can stay at and the overall cost is much much less than flying across the globe for a GP.

    If we had two races in North America I would probably go to both.

  6. cjpdk (@cjpdk) said on 10th January 2012, 21:33

    Has anyone considered the possibility of F1 weekends having multiple races? A1 GP used a sprint race and a long race, Superleague had two 45 min. races… using a setup like this might help.

    But if they want to generate crowd interest, the should build good tracks. Surely that’s the most obvious solution?

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