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

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2014According 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.

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

  1. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 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!

  2. 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…

  3. maxthecat said on 4th April 2014, 13:20

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

  4. swh1386 (@swh1386) said on 4th April 2014, 16:29

    @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

  5. W-K (@w-k) said on 5th April 2014, 10:38

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

    http://joesaward.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/top-of-the-flops/

  6. James said on 10th April 2014, 8:54

    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.

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