Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012

Formula One TV viewing figures continue to fall

F1 Fanatic Round-upPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012In the round-up: Formula One’s viewing figures continue to fall as the sport moves away from free-to-air television and the 2013 ends in an anti-climax.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Vettel’s F1 Domination A Switch-Off for Fans (The Wall Street Journal)

“In France… coverage switched last year from national broadcaster TF1 to subscription service Canal+. It led to viewing figures falling by 16 million to 10.2 million and it is part of F1’s strategy to increasingly move away from free-to-air television.”

F1 television audiences take hit (Sporting Life)

“FOM has not shied away from revealing a sharp 10 per cent drop in its audience, although “not an unexpected one” according to Ecclestone, the organisation’s chief executive.”

Circuit of the Americas receives $29 million in state funds for Formula One (Austin-American Statesman, subscription required)

“The state comptroller?s office this week paid Circuit of the Americas about $29 million [??17.78m] from the Major Events Trust Fund for November?s Formula One race.”

First steps towards Melbourne (Ferrari)

“The technical parameters of the F14 T, as well as the aerodynamic validation we saw on track, match our expectations and provide a solid starting point, which we must now exploit as much as possible.”

Mercedes plays down favourite tag (Autosport)

Toto Wolff: “Even at Jerez, with the ambient [temperature] being quite cold, we were experiencing a high level of temperatures and challenges on the cooling side. We have seen for some of our competitors it is even more.”

Mercedes W05 shakedown test (F1 Fanatic via YouTube)

The triumph of F1???s new power units (Mark Gallagher)

“The achievement of all three powertrain companies should be applauded. Once again, along with their teams, they have demonstrated one of the most appealing qualities of Formula One; its ability to innovate, rise to complex challenges, and meet its deadlines. Last week was no embarrassment, it was a triumph for F1?s engineering community.”

David Beckham and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton hang out in VIP box at star-studded event (Daily Mail)

“The stars were spotted chatting away as they watched the Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday afternoon with their manager Simon Fuller.”


Comment of the day

@GregKingston compared the sounds of some of the new engines at Jerez:

If anyone needs a visual and audible reminder of the difference between the Mercedes and Renault engines at Jerez, have a look at two of the videos I took on Day 2:


From the forum

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Mantas Degutis!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is by emailling me, using Twitter or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

1994 F1 seasonToday in 1994 Minardi confirmed its merger with Scuderia Italia.

Although the staff for the new team was largely drawn from the former – the latter having puled out of the previous season before it finish – the driver line-up of the new Minardi team compromised one of each of their drivers. Loyal Minardi pilot Pierluigi Martini remained and was joined by Michele Alboreto, giving the Italian squad a highly experienced line-up.

Image ?? Red Bull/Getty

111 comments on “Formula One TV viewing figures continue to fall”

  1. The difference between the engines at this point is incredible.

    1. I think the Renault will sound better once they get the bugs out.

      1. Renault engine cars did not probably run one second at full throttle in jerez. The sound difference is not the difference of the engine sounds but just the difference how hard the engines were being pushed. The renaults were barely able to get around the circuit while the merc engined cars were able to use full range of rpms without any nasty side effects for which the renault engines probably were forced to be tuned down and restricted.

        The video is deceiving.

        1. The Mercedes powered teams were also well within themselves, granted not as much as the Renaults, but still well within the 15,000 rpm limit. I’m not sure where but at different stages of the tests I heard Toto Wolff mentioning that they ran at a maximum of anywhere between 10,000 and 13,000 rpm.

        2. Yes, the Renault in the video clearly has trouble even taking the car around the track. On the other hand, the McLaren that first day was also fresh out of the garage and running far from smoothly yet.

          The video is not deceiving, but rather shows how early a stage of development the teams are in @socksolid

          1. @bascb
            Still, not the best comparison for what the engines will sound like come Australia (hopefully!)

        3. it doesn’t take a science to undertstand that, the video is not deceiving at all, since you were able to figure out what you said by watching it

        4. @keith – thank you for my first Quote of the Day!

          @socksolid – I don’t believe the video is deceiving. It was representative of the way that testing went on both days two and three whilst I was there.

          There’s no doubt that neither of the three engines were being run at full revs – I wrote up the following quick review on Overclockers immediately following the test. Note the comment on the Torro Rosso – at some points it simply not only lost power on the gear changes but seemed to engine brake too. It appears that they’re getting on top of things, judging by day four’s reports, but the experience I captured in the videos was accurate. It was a pity I didn’t film the Caterham – that was wheezing like a steam train!

          “Another good day at the circuit today. Much better weather – sun all day – but there were some longer gaps where there were no cars at all on the circuit.

          JB was super smooth again all morning, very stable driving with no dramas. Lewis was Lewis – more aggressive and more corrections mid corner. The McLaren seems better in the slower corners – JB was getting the power down a couple of car lengths earlier than everyone else.

          Magnusson drove very much like Lewis – more ragged than JB but he looked like he was quick.

          I’m not sure what caused Alonso to stop, but it looked like it could simply have been fuel as he got running again pretty quickly. He also did some nice, small power slides at the end of the day for the home fans. There were thousands in today to see him – the queues were up to 90 minutes by mid-morning.

          Torro Rosso, RBR and Caterham were really struggling. The turbo was highly irregular when off the throttle, and the power delivery on throttle was unpredictable. Torro Rosso in particular had big problems, and on some gear changes the engine would almost seize, locking the rear wheels.

          There were some glimpses of what might be the cars running on full power, just on some sections of the track but never for long. The most noticeable thing I picked up today was the sound. Often the cars are virtually silent when driving towards you, but sometimes you can hear them (yes, they ARE that quiet). But also sometimes the sound varies enormously when they’re driving away from you and the exhaust faces you, yet the speed is not too different. I can only put this down to the teams running different fuel flow maps, testing for the new fuel rate limits. With only a small difference in speed, a couple of times Lewis’ car was very quiet and then the next lap bellowed out far louder. I think this must be the fuelling.

          On one occasion in particular the engine really roared, on the penultimate corner. Still nowhere near the volume of a V8, but perhaps indicating that there’s still quite a bit more for these engines to give.

          All my decent photos are on my camera and I can’t process them until I get back at the weekend when I’ll post a few here. I’m not going to bother with returning to the circuit tomorrow, as the weather is a bit ropey, and going to Gibraltar instead. Hope it is another good day though”

    2. I was in jerez from day 2 till day 4.

      Renault was stuttering on day 2 and 3 , Only toro rosso seemed to have fixed the stutters on the end of the day.
      On day 4 Caterham wasn’t stuttering as much anymore, only in pitlane really.

      On the video it’s clear that Renault still had stutter problems.. I found the moments when the Renault engines did run without major stutters rather loud in comparison to the Ferrari engine.

  2. “In France… coverage switched last year from national broadcaster TF1 to subscription service Canal+. It led to viewing figures falling by 16 million to 10.2 million and it is part of F1′s strategy to increasingly move away from free-to-air television ruin viewing figures

    Really… what do they expect? “OH, PEOPLE ARE NOT WATCHING! wonder why that might be!”

    Because: 1) you’re ruining the sport and 2) you’re asking people to pay to watch the ruined sport.

    Hardcore fans are finding it difficult to follow… how do they expect to raise viewing figures if the die-hard fans are moving away?

    1. Meanwhile in the US, viewership is up quite a lot. I’m not sure what role the return of the USGP played (it surely helped,) but I think NBC actually bothering to advertise F1 has yielded obvious benefits. They ran commercials for Monaco on national TV, something I can’t remember FOX ever doing.

      1. There is way to bring people in, and send them away.

        Given that F1 is largely paid for by sponsorship, trying to bring more people in seems the only logical choice. But instead, they want the cash now solution on pay tv that will drive people away in the long term, and thus, damage the sport as a whole.

      2. Yeah, and in Mexico is growing a lot too, it’s actually the reverse of what’s happening in Europe/China, for two years now the races have been available free to air delayed and every session live online via telmex’s website.
        But I can’t help to think that all this is temporary, the day Pérez is left without a drive everything will be back to normal because F1 doesn’t seem to do much to keep people interested.

        Unlike Bernie I actually believe people who watch F1 are intelligent, and boring race tracks like Abu Dhabi or unfair rules like DRS and double points are more of a turn off than Vettel dominating.

      3. The US is a special case, because a lot of TV is all ready paid for via cable packages. There’s generally a lot less national adversity to paying for TV.

    2. Sincerly, F1 is the only sport I care about right now to watch, I am not going into details why. But if someday I will need to pay for watching it I don’t know if I will do it or not.

    3. I think the sport is clearly aiming to get more money from TV rights, and less money from advertising. If a subscription service decreases total numbers, but increases the value of the TV rights, then the people getting paid out of TV revenues will be happy. The unhappy people would be teams whose advertising space is worth less, so they must be accepting that trade-off for more of the TV revenue pot. This would explain some of the livery at this point at least. The NFL in the US has done the same thing to great success, although it doesn’t a brilliant job of increasing viewership at the same time as it becomes more expensive through huge marketing investments. So far, F1 isn’t doing the second half of this, at least in the US, but I imagine this will change when it finally lists publicly and has cheaper cash to invest.

      1. @chaddy,keep in mind that Bernie/CVC get to keep 36.5% (previously 50%) of all TV renenue but get 0% of team sponsorship, one more way Bernie gets to control the money and keep the teams dependent on FOMs largesse handouts.

        1. I doubt I would pay for F1 if it moved to pay-tv in Australia. Largely because our pay tv network is Murdoch owned and I refuse to pay one red cent to that odious creature, even for my beloved F1. Luckily, Australia currently has laws regarding sports coverage on the free to air channels, but if Murdoch gets his way with the government he has bought these might change. So beware Bernie, your obvious grab for cash might just backfire on you in the long run. Less viewers = less revenue.

    4. Where do they get these viewing figures? I have spent a lot of time in France and I find it hard to believe that 1 in 6 people are watching F1. 10 million watching F1?

    5. I would be interested to see some kind of a poll here, to see if people have F1 available on free television in their country, or only pay channels, how expensive or reasonable they are. Are they forced to watch F1 in other illegal ways.

      I have never seen any numbers or percentages on these questions, how many people are like me, forced to watch F1 by non-conventional means? I have been doing so since 2009. (I only started following F1 in 2008, last year F1 was on free TV in my country, had it not been so I probably would not be here) And its not like I’m being cheap, I have no other option, but to view it by, like I said, non-conventional means.

    6. What happened here in France is a farce. I watched F1 mainly on german RTL hrough the Orange german tv offer. Better comentators and overall image/sound than french TF1. That also allowed switching channels during publicity breaks as they were not scheduled at the same times. That was free. Then Canal+ bought the rights and TF1 dropped the sport. Canal+ costs 40€/month… As I already had internet for 40€/month, I subscribed to my providers german TV offer to watch F1 on RTL. internet + 9€/month = 49€/month. Canal+ was unhappy with that situation and made pressure on Orange to drop that channel from their offer and they replaced it with another channel without even notifying clients! Now, I have to pay internet + 40€/month (80€)for non HD F1 spectacles. Total rape.

      1. I forgot to mention, I had it all for free at the beginning thanks to satellite on astra and a cheap decoder.

  3. The Toro Rosso is choking on its own fuel!

    1. It sounded pretty sick!

  4. Its not fair to say that the figures have dropped just because of Red Bull and Vettel. I think its because:
    1. Lack of exposure
    2. Paying to watch the races
    3. Last year’s tyre saga
    4. Drivers not being able to drive 100%

    You want to get more viewers? Then make these guys drive their balls off so we can get some real racing. Get rid of these ridiculous passing assist and give us some actual racing circuits, not like Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

    1. @f1freek

      give us some actual racing circuits, not like Abu Dhabi and Shanghai

      If only it were that easy. We have seen plenty of occasions in the past where the circuits that are revered have produced some boring races. And we have seen circuits that are despised, like Valencia in 2012, produce some excellent racing.

      There is no one formula for circuit design that guaranteeshigh-quality racnig each and every single time. Ironically enough, trying to establish such a formula is arguably what Hermann Tilke has done wrong.

      1. Also, last year’s tyre dramas were exaggerated by the teams who were unhappy that they actually had to work to be competitive. They wanted to show up, go out on the circuit, and set fastest times straight away. The Pirelli tyres forced them to actually work for their results. The whole episode in Silverstone came about because they deliberately misused their tyres. Again, in a moment that smacks of irony, the teams agreed to these dramatic changes in tyre compoisition every year when Pirelli first put forward their proposal for the tyres in 2010.

        Similarly, “drivers not being able to drive 100%” is a perfect example of an idealised reality that can never come true. Take, for instance, fuel usage. Teams deliberately under-fuel their cars so that they do not have to drag as much weight around the circuit at the start of the race.

        And as for paying to watch the races, you can blame the BBC for trying to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted the rights to Formula 1, but they didn’t want to pay for it. So rather than doing the decent thing and letting someone else, like Channel 4, pick them up, they did a deal with Sky.

        1. I still don’t buy your argument about tires. As if the teams don’t know they are going to have to work hard to be competitive. As if they wouldn’t prefer ideally to just show up and be able to set fastest times right away yet have always known that is not the reality. The only reason the teams misused the tires at Silverstone was because they were garbage and the teams were desperate to find any way possible to eek out a bit more performance, like they do with all aspects of the car. The tires shouldn’t have needed those kind of desperate measures to make them work. And yes the teams signed off on the tires but it is a well known fact that testing is very limited and the teams did not sign off on tires that were delaminating and exploding because nobody knew they would do that until they were racing in anger at hotter venues particularly. And if the tires were better and allowed drivers to push more they would adjust their fuel levels accordingly. When the tires limit you from pushing you can take less fuel.

    2. What’s wrong with Shanghai? I’ve seen some really interesting races there the last couple of years..

      1. The track is still pretty bleak and uninspired in places. Thankfully it does at least produce good races for some reason anyway.

    3. Price is a good way to measure not only the ability but also the will to pay for a good or service. If you really care about F1 and you have the funds to pay your subscription, you will pay it but if you’re just a casual viewer you will pass it.

      I pay to watch F1 since 2002. It’s the same for Premier League, Champions League, GP2, GP3, F3, La Liga, NBA, NFL, Indy, Olympics (the bulk of it) or any other major sport event I like…

  5. Until F1 goes world wide full on demand online streaming, they will keep living in denial and loose fans.

    Funny thing even a $5 year long subscription fee for that type of model would trump what ever profit they currently have.

    Just shows that current owners are not interested in improving the business for long term rather than sell it for profit as soon as possible.

    1. Why do you presume, “Funny thing even a $5 year long subscription fee for that type of model would trump what ever profit they currently have”? If anyone deserves benefit of the doubt for what the most profitable business decision is, it’s the business making a lot of money. If what you said were accurate, it would be corrected in a day. I agree with you that they lose fans because of this, but only because the trade-off is more profitable. And even the dumbest 1st year intern at an investment bank can see through pumping up current profits at the expense of decreasing the value from a larger fan base, so there is absolutely no chance CVC is trying to game the system for some short-term illusion of stronger cash flows.

      1. My understanding is that they don’t forgo that potential revenue by choice necessarily, but that streaming rights reside with the broadcasters in each country who are all dinosaur television networks in denial at the demise of their industry and are clearly not interested in offering streaming services subscription or otherwise. Until current contracts expire and FOM retains the rights to offering streaming themselves I doubt that’s going to change, and once FOM does retain that right the TV broadcasters will undoubtedly try to negotiate themselves better deals on broadcasting arguing (rightfully so) that legal streaming packages will cut into their viewership figures. Perhaps if the worldwide trend of declining viewership continues things will move more rapidly in this direction, but I doubt it. That will probably just bring us double DRS, triple points, shortcuts, sprinklers, and medals. It’s a shame FOM doesn’t look to the successful US team sports as a model, most of which offer full season subscription packages through all access apps that provide live streaming of all games. The MLB and NHL apps even exist on the Apple TV, so you can watch right there on your TV without hokey cables and connections.

        1. @US_Peter Nailed it. The US major sports model is exactly what F1 should be aiming for. Just a shame that I can’t realistically see FOM heading in that direction.

        2. You are spot on there @us_peter!

    2. $5 simply does not bring the same revenue to FOM. In 2013 the highest rated F1 program (5.15m viewers) was the German Grand Prix highlights which followed directly after Wimbledon final on the BBC. The average viewing figures are around 4.1m (Sky and BBC combined). The current Sky deal brings in about $40.8m annually and the BBC deal another $11.4m. Given that figure of 4.1m viewers, you would need to charge $12.70 ($10.15 at the 5.15m figure) to bring in the revenue to replace the lost revenue from TV. This does not included new production costs for FOM as they would now need to have a pre/post race production team along with on-air talent, plus race commentators. I think something in the range of $18 to $20, would be needed to get FOM to a revenue neutral solution.

      1. That figure (I’m assuming you meant to write the values in dollars) isn’t unreasonable, especially when you consider that FOM is expecting people (in the UK), through Sky, to pay £500+ a year for hundreds of channels (most of which won’t be touched) *or* pay their ludicrous £10-a-day rate for Now TV Sport to watch their sport Live.

        1. I’ve just ordered Sky since the BBC coverage was so poor last year (not just the number of races but the commentary and punditry made me cringe). From what I’ve seen watching Sky online and when visiting family with the Sky F1 channel it should be worth it. total cost for 12 months £270 including a new Sky+ box which I didn’t even need. Plus the kids are happy as they also get all of the Sky Sports Channels.

          I consider this hugely better value than the £150 I have to pay the BBC by force regardless of whether or not I want any of their output.

          1. Wow, that’s very cheap for Sky with full Sky Sports… what offer did you get on it? Looks at least half price.

          2. Having signed up to SKY last March with a 12 month half price deal (purely for the F1) I cannot wait until Sunday when I can give my 30 days notice.

            Even at the £15-£16 per month I pay now SKY is wildly overpriced.

            The F1 channel is almost pointless, endless reapeats of things I’ve watched before and the rest of SKY’s ouput is dirge I really don’t want to watch.

            I’ve got myself a NOWTV box with with 5 half price Sky sports day passes off their website which will keep me tied over till mid season (I’ll watch the BBC live races on the BBC).

            Even if I have to buy 11 Sky passes a year (if the SKY exclusive races reach that level) I’m still saving on the £372 I would have to pay for my SKY subscription at full price.

          3. Includes cashback through Quidco

  6. I’m not too worried about F1 coverage in the US going to a subscription service. That would certainly be a money-losing decision for the foreseeable future, so we should be good. Hope they keep trying to build up the fan base for a long time!

    1. You needn’t worry as it happened long ago. NBCSN, and Speed before it and ESPN before that, are all pay channels. Sure, they aren’t dedicated F1 channels but they still only show up on your television if they are paid for. And often only as part of upgraded packages.

      I currently watch for free because I’m not paying some wacky monthly fee for one or two channels. If FOM/FIA started offering streaming HD for a reasonable price (ha! I know, I know), I would gladly give them my money for the privilege. As it stands, I currently suffer through low-grade (but appreciated) live streams or delayed HD ones. Neither of which profit F1 whatsoever. They are really shooting themselves in the foot here.

      1. I would also gladly pay for a streaming and on demand service were it offered. Currently we pay quite a lot for our satellite package. Literally the only thing we watch that we can’t stream elsewhere legally and easily is F1. So even paying a somewhat high subscription fee, chances are it would actually cost me less than it does currently to have NBCSN and its lackluster coverage beamed into my living room.

        1. x2. I’ve been saying for awhile now that I’d rather pay for a quality stream that shoddy pirated streams that may or may not be of good quality.

  7. It’s obvious to see why the numbers have dropped; the races are decided after a few minutes and then there’s the monotonous, predictable, rigid results. More so than ever before, the tools matter more than the people using them.

    It’s amazing how F1 has gone from yin to yang in three years. How is it that F1 went from having volative drivers and inert tyres in 2010 to having inert drivers and volatile tyres in 2013?

    Webber crashing into Hamilton in Oz; Alonso crashing in Monaco; Red Bulls crashing in Turkey; Hamilton crashing in Singapore and Monza; Vettel crashing in Spa; Webber crashing in Korea et cetera.

    Tyre delaminations in Bahrain; tyre delaminations in Spain; tyre delaminations in Britain et cetera.

    Which one would you prefer to see: the F1 where the drivers are pushed to breaking point or the F1 where the tyres are pushed to breaking point? The answer, for me, is clear.

    In 2010, Vettel was having all manner of questions asked of him by Messieurs Alonso, Webber, Hamilton and Button. He failed to respond to a few (like all drivers do when pushed to the limit), but ultimately succeeded and his success felt warranted. In 2013, especially the second half, it is Pirelli who asked the same question of him time and time again: “Can you look after your tyres?” The answer was a rather monotonous yes. So instead of seeing the young star push to his limits and display his artistry, we got to watch him colour as far inside the lines as he could get away with. This is simply not interesting.

    In this era, we have an increasing number of drivers who pay to have their seat in Formula One, circuits which pay to replace those which represent the heart and soul of F1 and viewers who have to pay to watch a sport which is becoming less and less interesting. So it’s hardly surprising when you complete the equation:

    More Pay drivers + More ‘Pay Circuits’ + More Paywalls = Less Success

    1. +1, Well put.

    2. Excellently put! Couldn’t agree more.

    3. Which one would you prefer to see: the F1 where the drivers are pushed to breaking point or the F1 where the tyres are pushed to breaking point?

      I’m thinking this year it will be the cars that will be pushed to the breaking point, better than tyres I guess :p

    4. Agree 100%, well said sir!

    5. This is definitely COTD material… agree 100%

    6. Yeah well said. The good news is that this year, with the cars being harder to drive, poor drivers will definately be shown up more. If you’re only in F1 because of sponsorship, you will struggle this year. The harder F1 gets, the less attractive pay drivers are. In 2013, because the cars were so easy to drive, if you were unlikely to score many points, the difference between a midfield driver and a pay driver was very small. This year, I think that won’t be the case.

    7. @kodongo I was about to say I love you, but that would’ve been weird. However, I do love this comment very much.

      It’s not about Vettel winning, it’s about the boring manner in which he had to do it. The tyre talk was too much over the past couple of seasons, and the big issue was having Pirelli try to replicate what happened at one race, for every race. I think it was Canada 2010 or 2011 they were trying to replicate (where people were doing 3-4 stops due to tyre wear) but that was exciting because it was out of the ordinary and that’s what the conditions called for.

      I’m hoping with the new regulations that Pirelli are able to construct a proper tyre. Then we’ll have the DRS issue to sort out, but that’s for another day =)

  8. The reasons that I see as being responsible for falling viewer numbers are (in no particular order): DRS, exploding/delaminating tyres, shifting to pat TV, interviews on the podium, only half the field are actually competitive.

    1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
      4th February 2014, 2:07

      How do interviews on the podium lead to a decrease in viewing figures?

      1. Because the new format is badly produced, inconsistent and generally terrible?

        It’s gotten better by borrowing the interviewers from the UK networks, but whenever they roll out a guest speaker, it degenerates into farce, especially when languages are two/three times removed.

        Oh, and swearing, which always sends the TV anchors into an apologetic panic.

        1. And that makes people less likely to watch the race? I don’t think so.

  9. Unlike some people, I don’t blame DRS and tyres. I believe both of those, as much as I dislike it, actually could increase viewing figures. The main problem is moving to pay tv and Vettel’s dominance. Both are somewhat solvable. First, move back to free to air. They can get money by limiting the free to air to only be able to broadcast live race. They can get money from the interviews, behind the scenes, on demand streaming, archive, etc. Second, just distribute the money proportionally, none of this history money. That way, more teams can compete better and hopefully closer racing. Sure, it doesn’t guarantee closer racing, but if half of the teams runs into money problem, until you have RRA that can be policed, just give the teams more money.

  10. Myself & the people I know tuning out of F1 has nothing to do with Vettel or the TV model, Its purely because we hate what F1 has become with DRS & high-deg tires.

    I’ve said before that myself & my family/friends didn’t attend Montreal last year for the 1st time since 1989 & were not going this year either & thats purely because we have no interest in going to watch the sort of DRS-fest which Montreal has become.
    Not to mention the fact that our usual grandstand position at the hairpin where we used to see a lot of good racing action & overtaking has now become a place where nobody wants to try & overtake because they know they will likely get DRS-ed down the next straght. Honestly sitting there & watching drivers back off intentionally to sit & wait for the DRS zone is ridiculous.

    I used to watch every race on TV, Live or highlights depending on what we got. Now I still watch but I’ve missed a bunch of live races the past 3 years & have missed a few race completely & several members of my family/friends who we used to watch F1 with are the same & its purely because of the DRS/High-Deg tyre effect, We hate it & are losing interest in F1 as a result of them.

    We have seen on polling done on this very website that a big majority are against the DRS now, I have seen poll’s on other sites which show the same result.
    Time to admit that the experiment failed to provide exciting races & exciting overtakes & ditch what has shown itself time & time again to be nothing but an ill thought out, completely artificial, Silly anti-racing gimmick.

    1. I agree with most of your points, PeterG. But the pay tv model and the upcoming double-points fiasco don’t help. As you note, if the racing were actually racing again it would be easier to swallow a runaway champion and super-tight regs, and huge fees to attend or watch a GP without huge benefits that other racing series have had for years.

      But they keep piling it on. Aside from Bernie’s artificial wet track scheme, it would be difficult to make this season less about racing than it already is.

    2. Myself & the people I know tuning out of F1 has nothing to do with Vettel or the TV model, Its purely because we hate what F1 has become with DRS & high-deg tires.

      I have actually stopped watching because Vettel winning the title became a foregone conclusion. It had nothing to do with tires, although changing tires had a lot to do with Vettel’s title being a foregone conclusion.

  11. I have winged about this for ages, heres what I think for what it’s worth. I would….
    No.1 Outlaw paid drivers, this dilutes the driver talent and real competition.
    No.2 Remove many of the mechanical and engineering restrictions so we can get back to new exciting technical innovation through racing.
    No.3 Limit the safety car much more, F1 is not Nascar.
    No.4 Where do these people think the money comes from, so much wrong with the direction the sport is being led.

    1. How do you propose doing No. 1? It’s not that the driver actually pays the team to drive, you know. It’s that a sponsor will advertise on a team with the condition that a certain driver does the driving. It’s not an unreasonable request. A company from Brazil, for example, would want to sponsor a driver that the people in their market would be looking at, not an unknown hungarian rookie that nobody in Brazil cares about. And even if you did want to forbid it, it would be practically impossible to police.

    2. Sorry I don’t agree with any of your points. The theory is correct but the implementation wouldn’t work

      1) This is just the face of modern sponsorship, no need to change it. A few years ago it was companies sponsoring teams partly to ensure that they could get best drivers for their needs now they just sponsor the driver they like to get the best seat.

      2) Impossible it would reach a pivotal point where they couldn’t get any faster because the driver would be the weak so it would also stop development.

      3) Just plain dangerous, there are alot of people involved and with the death of marshalls in recent memory plus other disciplines in the sport having fatalities, this should never be contemplated.

      I think the last one is a statement rather than a change you are floating but F1 still actually makes money, it’s just several teams who don’t. But like lots of people say, you don’t do motorsport just to make money.

    3. Imagine if Toleman, Lotus or McLaren hadn’t taken on Ayrton Senna if he didn’t have his Banco Nacional sponsorship…

      The problem with pay drivers comes when they develop an arrogance, believing they are the reason they are here and not their money. Pastor Maldonaldo springs to mind.

  12. Keith please put a like/unlike button under the posts with a number ie ‘100Like and 50unlikes’ I don’t always wan’t to reply but I may want to show my approval or disapproval, CCSS ; )
    Thanks for a great F1 site great work, good stuff!

    1. Agreed actually: usually the ‘no he didn’t yes he did’ discussions are one page 1 and the most interesting comments are on page 2.

    2. Agreed, would be nice to see.

    3. I don’t like the idea. I’m sure that KC wouldn’t tolerate ‘Thumbs up if you agree’, ‘Why have I got so many unlikes?’ and similar comments that I have seen on other websites but I still want to know why someone disagrees with me, not receive ‘-‘ just because I have said something not so good about Alonso and Alonso fans disapprove it.

  13. The thing I don’t understand is how did all those people know at the beginning of the season that Vettel was going to win in Singapore and therefore they weren’t going to watch F1 all year.
    Maybe if this years figure start badly they can lay some blame on Vettel domination but nobody knew at the beginning of last season how it was going to end, and they certainly don’t know how it is going to end this year, double points or not.
    Bernie has been slowly killing F1 for years, marketers rely on inertia to keep the punters paying the same for a downgraded product but inertia only continues for so long and the punters move to a new product en-masse, F1s inertia is running to a stop.

  14. The way to increase paid viewers—and, as a knock-on, sponsors chasing those viewers—is not to destroy your viewer base with gimmick after gimmick.

    Best case scenario is that they somehow attract a huge number of new viewers with all these schemes (something heretofore proven not to work) while simultaneously running off the base. More likely is a continued erosion of the base fans and a negligible influx.

    I hate to say it, Keith, but you may have to look into MotoGP Fanatic or Vegetable Garden Fanatic in the near future.

    1. Both of which I would be a regular reader of.

  15. Ferrari has wecomed the challenge because of the technology transfer across the whole company.

    Relevance is important!

  16. The Mercedes running at Silverstone looked a lot more like a test than anything I saw the Red Bulls do at Jerez.
    I guess the testing or non testing rules will ever be a mystery to me.

    1. It was a clever use of a filming day, they get the car running and gently tested plus early footage in the can for advertising and marketing of the new car.

      Double win!

    2. Red Bull could have used a filming day, unfortunately I don’t think the footage of a car struggling to splutter round a single lap would have made for good advertising. To film a car running, first you need a car that runs.

  17. What is Alan Henry getting at? I haven’t seen a single comment from RBR that supports that.

    1. I’m guessing the public statements from Adrian Newey questioning the new nose rules (despite having had plenty of time to properly object to them via the correct channels) and Mateschitz & Horner both stating that cost caps won’t work, using the ‘works team hiding costs’ line (despite them being the Renault Works team – confirmed by Rob White in his recent interviews – and supplying technology to three separate teams via RBTech).

    2. the one thing worse than losing is how you handle it

      It doesn’t even make sense

  18. I agree that Vettel’s domination is leading to people switching off. I know I stopped watching last year because he was winning everything. And while my dislike of him is well-known, I did exactly the same thing when Michael Schumacher was dominating, and I was a big Schumacher fan back in the day.

    1. @prisoner-monkeys however, I’m sure you would agree double points is not the solution. All that serves to do is prolong the inevitable, or in the case of a close championship contribute nothing.

      1. @vettel1 @prisoner-monkeys Double Points is a red-herring/macguffin play by Bernie. Its keeping F1 in the news and the focus off things he’d rather not be reported.

        Notice how it’s now in print via Bernie’s usual journalistic channels that it was all to make sure Ferrari could finally have a chance to win. Apparently LdM agreed, so Ferrari didn’t veto the rule.

        If only people would stop giving his manipulative and despotic views once in a while…

        1. That article is only there to shed the blame from Bernie to others @optimaximal. If you read what Luca confirms there, is that they (Ferrari, but also the other teams) did not do well enough a job to take the battle to the end.

          But it is still Bernie who claims that doing so (making the championship last until the last race) is something that needs to be achieved by either the competitors on track, or if they fail to do so it needs to be hard coded into the rules – something the double points is a step towards. In the end it leads to things like play-offs or the Chase (newly even more skewed towards creating excitement).

          A real sport should be about creating a level playing field for all competitors. Not influencing the results to make it look more interesting than it really is.

      2. @vettel1 – I never said double-points was the solution.

        However, consider this: who has the most to gain from a double-points finale? The answer is the broadcasters. With a double-points finale, the championship is more likely to go down to the final round. It can still be won beforehand, of course, but this keeps alive the potential of a last-race title decider. It is hoped that it will stop people turning off their televisions. And I think it was James Allen who reported a while ago that the double-points finale came about because the broadcasters were putting pressure on the sport to make the title fight last longer.

        1. Sure broadcasters would benefit, as would F1. Revenues increase for everyone if viewership remains strong for every race. The problem is the phoniness of extending the season as long as possible through points strategy rather than through close racing. I think the big downside to double points is the lottery effect, and I think it highly likely that whoever wins the WDC in 2014 will have been perceived to have done so because he had the luxury of double points, just as whoever didn’t win the WDC that was in with a shout was robbed, not outperformed. There is some talk from the likes of Horner that double points for the last 3 races would be a little less lottery-like, but I think only just, and for me it comes down to the integrity of the Championship, and fiddling with the points rather than the actual product reeks of desperation and risks empty victories, imho.

          Perhaps a lot will depend on how it turns out this year. A lot of people are turned off from the getgo by the very notion of degrading all the other races in favour of the final one, and if it is as I suggest might happen, namely lunch bag letdown and empty, then the outlook for 2015 might be bleak unless they abolish the double points concept for good. If people are let down this year I don’t see how adding 2 more double pointers will help inspire viewership for the next season.

          So much is going to depend on what we are about to see in terms of the racing. Obviously processions, DRS-only passing, a big increase in unreliability, fuel-saving delta time running, and a lottery winner in the end, especially if it is SV, will mean all the money and effort to achieve a new look F1 will have been for naught. I just wonder if then the answer will be more gadgets and gimmicks, or finally a realization that these are all bandages and that getting back to basics might as well become the order of the day.

  19. Wow! It was fascinating to see at 00:30 into the video above when the cars crosses the finish line, the battery lights turns on indicating charged up batteries.

    1. It flickers at 00:26


  20. F1 figures have fallen but I wonder what the viewing figures have been like for the likes of IndyCar, WEC and MotoGP…

  21. For me, part of the problem with F1 is that people just don’t believe in it anymore from a sporting perspective. Yes, there are die hard fans who will never hear a bad word said and there are those of us who are fascinated by the technical aspects of the category. However, I feel that it is impossible for F1 to hope to maintain longterm credibility and gain respect as a sporting endeavour whilst the the results are to a certain degree fixed or pre-ordained.

    I know it’s the same in Football (and Bernie has long desired a similarly commercial product) where the Manchester Uniteds of the world thrash the pants off the poorer clubs but to all intents and purposes when the match starts it’s still 2 teams teams of guys running with the ball and the underdog still has a chance. Formula 1’s wealthiest teams have massaged the sport into a situation whereby they are doomed to win and in doing so have removed the most fundamental aspect of any sporting event, i.e. the competition.

    People aren’t fooled into thinking that each car/driver combination have an equal chance because the financial status of each of the teams is flaunted on the TV as presenters saunter past a Ferrari/Mclaren/Red Bull hospitality unit in the paddock which is bigger than most normal people’s houses and then they stroll past the Caterham Transit van parked in the corner.

    They rub our faces in it and as with most things like that it has started to wear thin, especially now that we all have to pay an enormous subscription for the privilege. They think we are lack the intelligence to be insulted by their false claims of equal competition and I think they might be heading towards a crisis on 2 fronts. These being, lack of fan interest/loss of veiwership and collapsing infrastructure due to people being stupid with stupid amounts of money.

    Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the category does offer up some stunning, edge of the seat races but they are few and far between and more by good luck than good management. This is plain to see in the post race celebrations as the racers that work in the teams are always openly more gratified and always pleasantly surprised after such events (as are the fans) compared with the majority of races where the cars come in 2 by 2 with the rich boys at the front and the less rich boys at the back.

    Something else that is a concern is that if the encumbant audience start switching off, who will replace them? Of my group of friends I am the only one who has a strong interest in Formula 1. There are a couple of others who have a passing interest and of the ones who aren’t interested I have tried to get them to develop an interest in it and it always comes down to one thing. “Why can’t that guy at the back catch that guy at the front?” to which I reply “because his car only cost 1 10th of the cost of the one in front to make so its not as good”.

    You see, to someone who has no knowledge of the category who is considering watching, the fundamentals need to be in place to attract them in the first place and they aren’t. People want to feel like they’re going to watch 24 racers fight tooth and nail on a reasonably level playing field but F1 can’t offer that so people don’t bother. It’s different for me, I’m died in the wool. I’ve been watching so long that I’ve grown up with it and its as much an addictive soap opera as a fascinating technical endeavour to me and for that reason I am more able to tolerate dull racing. F1 sells itself as a racing category first and foremost so people are just confused when there is no racing and give up. 2 hours is a long time to sit starting at a foregone conclusion and a maintaining season long interest/viewers is not going to happen unless people are given what they want.

    The world has changed. With the internet etc. people are able to get exactly what they want more readily rather than be told what to want by the super rich. Customers have more power and have grown very accustomed to that and if they aren’t satisfied they will look elsewhere. This is something that F1 has failed to notice.

    1. I agree, we need a new March 6 wheeler, or a Porsche flat 6 engine, or anything that differentiates the technical aspect of the cars and their success or lack thereof, a trick exhaust, hole in the floor or flexible wing just doesn’t do it for me, or for casual viewers who are totally ignorant of any difference in the cars.

  22. I don’t buy the move to pay TV being the sole factor in the decline in TV number. Yes it is a big factor, but it is one of many. People in Britain and parts of Europe have been unusually lucky in being able to get such amazing F1 coverage free for all these years (granted it is the heartland of the sport so you should get some privileges!). I grew up in SA and for all bar one or two years of the early 90’s we had to pay for the privilege of watching F1, and the quality of the shows around the sport where (and still are) nowhere near what you get in Britain on the Beeb and Sky. In the UAE where I live now I have to pay to get the F1, and then I only get it with Arabic commentary. I still tune in when I can with either Sky or BBC commentary streaming on my laptop (races fall on working days here so I have to watch races on text feeds and timing pages mostly). It is a major annoyance, but I love the sport so I do what I can to get the most out of my viewing.

    1. The problem with the UK rights deal wasn’t that ‘we’ve been lucky’, it’s that the FTA model was systematically dismantled by a bunch of rich despots.

  23. Obviously F1 audiences are dropping and will continue to do so until FIA and Bernie realize that the average viewer does not have a sub-seventy IQ.

    Start fixing all the obvious blunders in order to revive F1 as a sport and forget trying to compete with Vegas shows and Paradise Hotel!

  24. That article by Bernies pet Journo is really funny. It completely fails to mention, that while number did drop off after the mid season, as they did the year before, the BBC was able to recover a bit from 2012, while SKY fell off in the whole year (as previously reported in the broadcasting blog Keith linked to a week or 2 ago).

    It also fails to highlight how every big drop is more to do with a failure to properly market and arrange the way people view F1 than with either the quality of the racing or the quality of such coverage. See example in the US where a new broadcaster did more to promote it and had some success. Counter that with a change in networks in China making it more confusing (and likely combined with even less clear marketing) showing the result in a drop of almost 30%.

    All this shows is, that FOM are doing a poor job of promoting the sport. Targeted marketing of the races does help (US), while confusing TV deals and movement to PayTV give a drop in viewers and potential. Off course having races where the local interest is moderate at best and not working towards promoting an event locally does nothing to build up new audiences either.

  25. Lovely article – or ode to the marvel of F1 – from Gallagher.

    He is right. Instead of pointing out to failure, we should be proud to see a sport that can turn incredibly complicated things around and bring them on track in such an incredible pace. Its exactly why a cooperation between Caterham composites and Airbus is interesting for both. And why McLaren applied technology can be a real boost to any company they work with. And why Ferrari is so exciting. And why Williams Hydro Power can be a leading company in its field. In a world where bringing things to marked is a valued, maybe even critical, skill, that is where F1 does indeed give a real world return on investment.

  26. I think the problem is that there is inconsistency in what FOM is trying to achieve – they want to have their cake and eat it.

    (1) They want to move to Pay TV, in reality this means they forgo casual viewers as the main market for this product is the die-hard motorsport Fanatic who is willing to pay for the product. Casual viewers might tune in if they happen to have the full sports package but otherwise they are outside the universe of potential viewers

    (2) They want to attract more casual viewers by manipulating the formula, using gimicks such as DRS, double points and oddly designed tyres to spice up the show and holding events at venues which are more about the trackside-sparkle than the on-track action and freezing/restricting innovation to keep the cars as close as possible. This does not appeal to the die hard motorsport fanatic who wants to see a group of different solutions from groups of engineers up against each other on the track with the best drivers racing wheel to wheel. If one driver/chassis/engine package is the best then they may well win lots of races and that’s ok because over the winter the teams will go back to the drawing board and try to come up with their own even better solution.

    I just don’t think F1 can have mass market appeal on pay TV. It’s not football and it never will be.

    1. @jerseyf1 Exactly, the entire way of thinking within the FOM needs to change in my opinion. Formula 1 in itself is a fantastic product and needs very little change to appeal to a lot of people.

    2. I think you’re probably right, and there are other reasons for me to think so.
      Casual viewers tend to expect to see cars racing against each other in the moment, rather than individually pursuing a tyre ‘strategy’ that plays out only at the very end. They certainly don’t have the attention span to sustain them through the difference between a “three-stopper versus a two stopper, hard-hard-medium tyre strategy” type of race.
      The more gimmicks that Bernie tries to add into a race, the less the casual viewer understands.
      Last summer a friend came to stay over a Grand Prix weekend, and so of course I watched the practice. He’s a knowledgeable sort of chap and a cricket fan, so he is used to complex rules and games that go on for days. But I tried to explain the rules of qualifying to him as we watched, only to observe his eyes glaze over as I spoke.
      The rules of F1 are too complex for the casual viewer to follow, and the casual viewer is certainly not going to pay money in advance to watch a sport/entertainment spectacle they do not understand.
      Make it simple – same cars – no mandatory tyre grade changes – single phase qualifying – no fuel limits – and it might be understandable to the masses, but then it wouldn’t be F1, would it?

      1. It’s very difficult for F1 since there’s that history behind the Constructors’ championship and the unique approach that teams of engineers have to building cars. I love that, otherwise we wouldn’t have had crazy ideas like ground effects, fan cars, six wheelers, etc.

        With regulations so rigid and talks of “impossible to enforce” cost caps, I think F1 needs to be closer to a spec series. Many F1 fans absolutely hate this idea, but I think that’s what modern F1 needs (but just one perspective). I like the idea of closely matched cars and drivers differentiating themselves, pushing each other to their limits since every driver is already extracting the most out of their cars. This is what I think NASCAR does very well, and I would be tremendously excited if F1 took this approach. I’ve always paid much more attention to the drivers’ championship than I have the constructors’ championship.

        On the other hand, I would not be opposed to F1 doing the complete opposite of what I mentioned, where the series takes more of a WEC approach. I love modern endurance racing because of how free the “formula” is, and that there can be radically different approaches to engines, etc. I think the big issue with F1 is that it’s stuck somewhere between a spec series and an open-engineering formula.

        I know that it comes down to cost issues, ‘purity’ of the sport, etc. but I think F1 needs to pick a route and not look back; in my opinion, it’s this half-hearted approach that hurts the series.

        1. Probably right. Is F1 going to be a ‘purist’ sport or an entertainment spectacular?

          1. Well said, @jerseyf1 @timothykatz and @steevkay Personally I don’t think F1 needs to go spec to create close racing…just reduce their aero by 50%. Close racing without gimmicks should satisfy both us diehard fans and the fringe fans and newcomers. Lack of close racing has caused the knee-jerk reactions toward gimmicks. And we’ve already had DRS long enough to see that it has not added to the product, based on dropping viewership. Depending on what the product will be like this year, which is unfortunately now muddied with double points, more changes for 2015 might be vital, and hopefully they will have more to do with driver vs driver which is really what built F1 and all series to begin with.

  27. Perhaps F1 shouldn’t try to attract as much audience as possible. I believe that the casual fans are much less likely to go to races, pay for Sky Sports package or buy sponsors’ products than the die-hard fans. What is the point of attracting a few million television viewers, who watch slightly “more than 15 non-consecutive minutes of the sport during the season” and thus make the figures look better? Better stop blaming Vettel and focus on the F1 fanatics, who will keep spending thousands of euros on the sport as long as it doesn’t get fully destroyed by DRS, double points and similar gimmicks.

  28. Haha, oh Bernie. Vettel’s dominance accounted for the two races I neglected to watch last season, but to blame falling TV figures on that is a bit much!

    I view it as a ‘sum of its parts’ situation. Vettel’s dominance, the move to paid-subscription TV in key markets (namely the UK), the general racing and overtakes (lack of), not to mention the infamous Pirelli tyres.

    Let’s be real, last season was good but boy was it stale. None of the problems I listed above are large enough to make a whole season stale, but together they do, and I’d assume to layman who doesn’t visit specialist F1 websites, would agree and simply stop watching.
    That’s how I see it anyway and I may be wrong, but to blame declining TV viewers on Vettel’s dominance is a little far-out. Maybe the pressure from the court case is bearing it’s toll??

    1. @timi as I have said on twitter, it’s not Vettel’s fault but Ferrari’s, McLaren’s, Mercedes’, Lotus’…for not building a good enough car to match the RB9 and the other drivers for just simply not being as good.

      New Zealand aren’t blamed for dominating rugby so why should Vettel/Red Bull be blamed for dominating F1? Surely it falls on those who have failed to take the challenge to them?

      1. @vettel1 You are exactly right. And as I said above, there are way more problems with F1 that would have put fans off..

  29. Having been a f1 fan for 16 years, I can honestly say for the first time the btcc looks more exciting prospect, a competitive series, capacity grid with 32 cars, all day free coverage, cheap tickets at the local event £30 for race weekend at donington! Plus 7 ex champions on the grid

  30. I want to make 1 point very clear. Vettel is not the only reason why F1 audience declined. Artificial DRS is also a factor and the limited usage of KERS is also a contributing factor.

    1. I have heard large number of people complained about the DRS, making it too easy to pass the car in front on the straight, we want to see some fighting. If baseball bat was allowed for boxing when one side is losing…. it doesnt really make sense right? who would like to watch that? I support the idea of DRS, but not the way we use them now. It’s good to use DRS to get the car bunched up, like allowing DRS for cars that behind that are 2+ seconds behind, allowing them to catch up… I am sure many video games have such idea of allowing the losing player to catch up and get them back into the picture…….

    2. For Kers…. FIA should give teams flexibility of how they wish to use their Kers system. Some might choose to bring a massive battery and use the Kers for more than 60 seconds a lap, some would like to increase their power of the Kers, thats up to them… we need to see some innovation. Having forcing team to limit the usage and power of the KERS will not encourage innovation, not better the race….

    3. Vettel … yes….. yes, I must agree I found it extremely boring to see him winning again and again… and he is 50% of the cause of the audience drop easily..

    1. Comes down to predictability doesn’t it. DRS makes passing inevitable, predictable, and nothing special. Nobody dwells on ‘that great DRS pass’. And SV winning has become predictable too. And that can always happen, domination I mean, but I think everyone has much less issue with a success story when it is perceived that it is not a cakewalk for them.

      Close racing through much reduced aero to me is the golden ticket to getting back to basics, simplifying, and putting the story back in the hands of the athletes on the track. Let’s see what today’s new, albeit only further gimmick laden product brings this season. Methinks the introduction of double points on the cusp of this new formula that should have on it’s own stood to shake things up, has already set them back highly unnecessarily and has already worked against a higher level of excitement that F1 should be enjoying right now.

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