Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2014

Why Ferrari’s ‘fans poll’ findings can’t be trusted

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

According to Ferrari, 83% of fans are unhappy with the new Formula One rules.

Ferrari say fans “dismiss it mainly because of the drivers being forced to lift off to save fuel” and also because “the fans don’t like the noise from the new engines and are confused by rules that are too complicated”.

Ferrari have drawn these conclusions from a poll which they have run on their website for the past few weeks. However the data is untrustworthy, the procedure used to collect it is flawed, and the conclusions Ferrari have drawn from it are highly spurious.

The poll asked the question “Do you like this new Formula 1?” and presented respondents with the options “Yes” and “No”.

Nowhere in the poll did Ferrari ask about the impact of the fuel rules, the noise of the engines or the complexity of the new formula. The poll results give Ferrari no justification for asserting that fuel conservation, noise or complexity are why those who responded are criticising the sport.

The poll options also did not ask how strongly fans hold their views. Professional polling organisations use five- or seven-point scales to gauge how deeply people care about particular subjects.

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F1 Fanatic often adopts a similar approach. To take engine noise as an example, here’s the outcome if you invite F1 fans to indicate the strength of their views on this aspect of Formula One in 2014:

The mechanism of Ferrari’s poll is also suspect. It seems no steps were taken to guard against one person voting multiple times – a common problem with online polls, and the reason why F1 Fanatic requires user registration for participation in votes.

Ferrari themselves noted a large swing towards the ‘no’ vote after the Malaysian Grand Prix. They believe it was because fans were turned off by the race, but it might just as easily have been the work of one motivated person with the technical aptitude to clear the very low hurdle to manipulating the poll. Simply visiting the page using different browsers was enough to make your opinion count more than once.

We should also consider the make-up of the audience of Ferrari’s website. Is this a group of fans who predominantly watch Formula One out of their passion for the sport, or out of their devotion to Ferrari?

There’s nothing wrong with having a favourite team or driver. But a poll question as crude as “Do you like this new Formula One?” hardly invites respondents to make a distinction between liking a result and liking a race.

It would not be too much of a stretch to suggest the responses mainly came from Ferrari fans whose enjoyment of a race is largely determined by how well the two red cars performed. Had Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen won the first two races instead of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, we would have seen a very different result.

None of this is to say that there may not be legitimate concerns over the quality of the first two races of the season, nor that some fans haven’t expressed concerns over some of the same issues Ferrari have raised.

But Ferrari’s poll tells us next to nothing of use in this discussion. Responses to that question cannot distinguish between whether F1 fans are objecting to the noise, fuel saving, double points or Lewis Hamilton’s haircut.

It comes as no surprise Ferrari have published the results while Luca di Montezemolo is lobbying Bernie Ecclestone to make urgent changes to the sport four days after Ferrari finished behind their Mercedes and Renault-powered rivals in Malaysia. Seen in that context, this is a cynical attempt by Ferrari to hijack the debate over the state of Formula One and make a false claim to act as the voice of F1 fans in an attempt to bring in rules changes which will be favourable to them.

F1 Fanatic’s Rate the Race polls, which use a scale from one to ten, give a clearer indication of what fans thought of the last two races compared to those in the previous six seasons. Out of the last 114 races, the first two of this season ranked 58th and 85th.

Earlier today Alonso pointed out that not all sports produce thrilling events at every fixture. As argued earlier, after such wide-ranging changes those running F1 need to exercise patience to begin with and avoid making rash, knee-jerk changes to the sport.

We should pay attention to Ferrari’s two-times world champion driver, not its manipulative and unrepresentative ‘poll findings’.


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Image © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

205 comments on “Why Ferrari’s ‘fans poll’ findings can’t be trusted”

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  1. Just because you offer more response choices, doesn’t make a poll more valid than any other. Proper market research (eg. polling) and its interpretation is an art form in itself and not for the novice – although those with no experience in it often jump in at the deep end and fail.

    One major problem with the Ferrari poll – and any other online poll including ones on this site – is that they are self-selecting. True representative polls should take a random sample of views, not just anyone who is motivated enough to respond via one specific communication channel.

    How does this survey differ from the “Do You Like Double Points” poll on this website which the results are brandished around as evidence every second day that “F1 fans hate double points”? It doesn’t. Both are as worthless as a collection of anecdotal evidence. Same goes with “Rate the Race” polls used as evidence that a venue or season is a success/failure or “Driver of the Day” polls. They have no scientific value. They simply represent the views of a selection of people who are motivated enough to vote.

    Where is the demographic, geographic and psychographic analysis that a properly constructed survey requires for proper interpretation and dissection of the results? There is none. Ferrari’s poll should be seen as a tool for bargaining and negotiation. Nothing else.

    Online votes can be a bit of fun. But it should be seen as that, and not something concrete that represents an accurate, reportable and representative view.

    1. So glad I’m not the only one who understands polls, and their general application @kazinho. It’s hilarious how many people use these online polls of say, less than 1000 people to prove points about “F1 fans” as if 1000 fans is a drop in the ocean. Let alone the fact it’s from a very small section of said fans. Oh well, we can rest in the knowledge that we aren’t as naive as most of the world in blindly following polls :)

  2. Ferrari should stop conducting silly polls and get on with setting up their friggen wind tunnel properly, getting a half decent actually a decent for once car for their more than decent drivers to compete in

    1. Why shouldn’t Ferrari engage with its fans via online polls? Doing so doesn’t inhibit or otherwise prevent them from also calibrating and using their windtunnel, which is far more constrained by the rules…

      Windtunnel and CFD work are heavily restricted in the 2014 Formula 1 sporting regulations, which were published this week.

      The rules go even further than the limits brought in by the resource restriction agreement, with aerodynamic testing now reduced to nearly a third of what was allowed in the RRA before.

      Use of these two types of testing is now capped by a formula based on the number of hours the windtunnel is running and the amount of processing

      source: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/111847

  3. dismiss it mainly because of the drivers being forced to lift off to save fuel

    I might as well say that Ferrari bad form is mainly due to Luca. I wouldn’t have proof of that at all, but the same goes for the poll Ferrari website (which I don’t think is run by Luca) held.

  4. Though I must say that calling any poll on this site as what “F1 Fans” think is also somewhat dubious. This site is great but it does not represent average or all F1 fans. Especially since its mostly english language readers.

    1. That inconvenient fact wont stop KC from publishing clickbait articles trashing Ferrari for its efforts to engage with and give voice to Scuderia’s fans…

      And remind me, did Ferrari ever make any of the strawman claims that Keith is busy trying to knock down?

  5. First time poster – long time reader.

    Just felt I had to offer my thanks to @keithcollantine for all the work that goes into this site, particularly as he seems to be coming in for a lot of bashing for what is essentially an opinion piece.

    In my opinion he ‘s significantly less-biased about nationality or team than any of the other F1 sites/fora I read.

  6. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    4th April 2014, 10:53

    I don’t get why there’s all these people jumping on @KeithCollantine ?

    He’s completely justified in calling out these sketchy data collection methods that Ferrari have used in order to essentially ensure a result that reflects their unhappiness with the current regulations. Make no mistake, it’s absolutely a political and PR driven move to pressure the FIA and Bernie into changing some regulations to suit Ferrari better.

    Spot on Keith!

  7. Hi guys
    I posted here yesterday to give my honest -and own- view about the Ferrari poll and the voting process. I have been following F1 for more than 40 years and I am a great Ferrari fan. Like many other fans being a Ferrarista doesn’t make me blind about some of the things Ferrari did in the past and I can’t see any reason why I should be disqualified as an honest F1 fan.
    Now let me tell you something… I have felt under attack all the time since I posted here. Now you can explain me why I am wrong feeling like this, but that’s what I feel guys!
    So you know what? I am going to shut my mouth.
    I have been following this blog for more than 7 years and I will continue as I like what Keith writes indeed… but talking about Ferrari here? Never ever…

  8. Any long term F1 fan knows Ferrari only need hint at leaving and they’ll get the changes they want.

    1. Kinda just like Red Bull who threatened last week to quit F1, you mean?

  9. @F1fanatic, take the same poll with the same question – “Do you like this new Formula 1?”
    ….I for one don’t like formula 1 these days for several reasons:
    – With the exception of 6 or 7, the drivers are largely in F1 based on budgets rather than talent.
    – Cars are slower than they were years ago, F1 cars can’t really call themselves the pinnacle of motorsport
    – The new engines DO sound terrible. I heard (and felt) a V10 McLaren Mercedes at full chat several years ago, it blew me away!
    – The sporting and technical regulations are ridiculous in complexity and sheer amount. It’s led to farcical races and situations (Ricciardo, Australia) and hideous cars

  10. Joe, in his own words, “Goodness me, I sound angry.”


  11. Are we keeping tabs on these comments? For the record I’m not happy with the new Formula one and I’m a merc fan. The poll can’t be trusted as it asked Ferrari fans in particular but I would imagine the results are not far from the truth.

  12. Ah yes, Formula One… isn’t that the tire-and-fuel-management competition, with titanium sparks, that tours the world?
    A shame how it lost it’s mojo from earlier times when drivers had to drive and because of this were exhausted by the end of the race. Hope it improves.

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