Regional F1 championships
27th October 2012, 10:54 at 10:54 am #132285
With the little snippit of information that I heard from Martin Brundle and David Croft during the qualifying commentary regarding the further reduced number of F1 races to be held in Europe over the coming years (possibly even as low as 4), it got me wondering…
Is it time for the return of regional or even national Formula 1 series?
It was before my time, but I know that back in was it the 1970’s and early ’80s? There used to be a British F1 championship. I’m unsure without looking it up, but that makes me think that there may have been other countries with their own national F1 championships.
But also with so few spaces available to young and new drivers in F1 these days due to the ever increasing amounts of ‘feeder’ junior formulae, maybe some regional or national series are the answer.
Imagine a European F1 Championship. Seperate from the World Championship – so a headlining event, not a support race. Same machinery (so I’m not talking about GP2 here) – same main teams (gives Ferrari a chance to run another 2 cars), maybe some smaller, privateer teams, junior teams. Already your costs are down because you don’t have to get on a plane to go anywhere, your team just drives the truck for a few hours – a day at most. Older, forgotten tracks in countries with plenty of F1 fans can get to feel the burn of F1 exhausts again. Grandstands will be pretty full of fans, and younger (or even older) drivers will get the chance to show their skills, maybe graduating from regional to world championship, maybe not maybe they’re happy being European F1 Champion.
Every other form of motorsport has regional or national championships. Endurance prototypes, GT, touring cars, Formula BMW/Renault/Ford… Why not F1?
With what I, as a European, see as an alarming and worrying fall in the number of European races, the birth-place of the sport, and the region where arguable the majority of the fanbase is from, and the tracks that actually seem to sell out their grandstands (and I don’t mean Abu Dhabi being a sell-out… they only have, like 40,00 seats in the first place… I’m talking 100,000+), surely there are grounds for maybe a European Formula 1 Championship? Arguable there are similar grounds for an Americas Championship, with obviously a lot of fans in South America, Canada, and clearly ever-growing support in Mexico and the USA.27th October 2012, 12:22 at 12:22 pm #213841
@ajokay – An interesting concept you have here.
Not sure if it’s just me, but this proposition reminds me of the format used in football. Each region has its own Formula One championship (analogous to the various national football leagues like the English Premier League), with the World Championship (just like the UEFA Cup) as the so-called upper tier of competition. Both tiers are run to the same regulations. Racing teams (in the role of football players) can participate in either or both tiers, and can be promoted to the higher tier on merit. Just to clarify, was this the format you had in mind?
However, there are two issues I can see. Firstly, GP2 has tried running a separate regional series before, with the GP2 Asia series. Needless to say, it was not a success, and they reverted to the original unified GP2 championship. If regional series for F1 are to work, they’ll have to overcome the same obstacles.
The second risk is that running regional championships may “dilute”, in a sense, the value of the Formula One brand by having it applied to so many separate tiers. In this scenario, it would be key to preserve the prestige associated with the World Championship.
That being said, I can see where you are coming from on this, and you do provide some compelling arguments for it.27th October 2012, 13:26 at 1:26 pm #213842
I like the idea, but next to the money being made in different parts of the world for F1, European tracks usually have some other issues for modern F1 as well.
A lot of tracks lost their position on the calendar due to monetary problems. While the costs of a European championship would be lower, thus fees would be lower, etcetera, these tracks probably will still lack the money to upgrade their tracks, buildings and infrastructure. Some tracks would simply lack room for all the teams or FIA equipment. Another batch of tracks would probably have problems dealing with traffic or environmental/sound regulations.
I also think, with 20 races in the World Championship, and potentially up to 25 in the future, how would existing teams be able to fit this in their schedule? Teams already ponder doubling their staff in the future to be able to give them a day off in a while and reduce work pressure in general, European races would further implicate this, leading to higher costs.
Personally, I’d love to see something like a European F1 Championship, but I’m unsure what it’d end up looking like, and as Bob mentioned, the GP2 Asia series didn’t last, so I’d be afraid of F1 Euro not lasting as well.
If anything, I remain hopeful Bernie and pals realize there is still money to be made in Europe. Then again, FOM and the FIA also seem to ignore the possibilities to make money through the internet, so yeah..27th October 2012, 13:48 at 1:48 pm #213843
I have no interest in the concept. It sounds like it would dilute the world championship. There are enough other motorsport categories for less talented drivers and motorsport teams to compete in.27th October 2012, 14:06 at 2:06 pm #213844
No exactly like football. There would be no promotion and relegation, not unless there was room and the teams involved wished to. Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren etc could field teams in both the World and European championships if they wished to – they have the money and like the exposure it brings. Sauber and Force India could decide that no, they’d rather stick to the World Championship, Carlin and DAMS might think, “Hey, we’d like to be in F1, but don’t have enough money for competing in the World Championship, we’ll enter the European one.” HRT might think “Hey, we’d have better funds and more luck in the European Championship, we’ll mode across, is there room?.
Regarding GP2 Asia – I think the reason it failed was that it was simply in the wrong place. Political uncertainty, venues holding multiple rounds, no fan coverage or exposure, empty grandstands, and the fact that all the teams were based 2500 miles away in Europe. How was it ever really going to work? Also, it was an offshoot of a less-watched series. An offshoot of the absolute top tier would surely be more successful, no? How many people would go to watch GP2 if it was an event on its own? no-where near the amount of people that see it now because it is an F1 support race, I’m sure.
As for dilution, there are so many feeder series in single seater racing, that at the moment it seems as if it’s the lower rungs of the ladder that the one ones being diluted, with tiny fields leading to series simply disappearing, like the British Formula Renault 2.0 series did this year. If there was any rung of the ladder that needed more spaces, it’s the top one, and here is a solution. It wouldn’t dilute F1, it would expand it. The World Championship would still be the pinnacle, the big crown to go for, but a smaller, cheaper, shorter season within a region would be a viable and lucrative alternative.
Certainly several tracks have suffered in the recession, and from dodgy ownership (Nurburgring & Donington to name a couple), but what the tracks need is a decent cut of them money and race holding fees that aren’t though the roof. Hopefully a smaller, regional F1 Championship could provide this (Providing Bernie isn’t at the helm, and without sounding too mean, with any luck in the coming years he won’t be and the stranglehold will be released).
And tracks that have been deemed too long in the tooth for World Championship F1 could easily be visited. I don’t buy all this ‘not up to standard’ crap. I just don’t. The old Imola was hosting races up until the mid 2000’s. It probably still could today. Now it has a new paddock and reprofiling, it could eaily hold a European Championship event. Plus it gives it a space back on an F1 Calendar. Monza would still see the World visit. Imagine the British European round at Rockingham, or even the new Snetterton? A Czech round at Brno. We’d see France back again at Paul Ricard or Magny Cours. Navarra could join in, Estoril or Portimao could get Portugal back on the map, and the brilliant Zandvoort could once again rumble with the sound of F1 machinery.
A European Championship certainly wouldn’t be as long as the World one. 10-12 races maybe. Any teams racing in both would have 2 teams of personnel. It wouldn’t be a case of the same team having to visit all races in both championships. They’d field different sets of people. They’d be able to afford this because of the European Championship’s licencing fees, prize money and advertising revenue coupled with the fact that teams could afford to be smaller and wouldn’t have to travel as much.
The teams would be travelling in their own area. GP2 Asia surely would have succeeded if the teams had been based in the Middle East and China/Japan, and the venues were varied (actually visiting all of Asia, like India, China, Malaysia, Japan – rather than just bumbling round the Gulf), instead of having multiple rounds at the same track across a rather spread out calendar over the traditional off-season.27th October 2012, 15:09 at 3:09 pm #213845
@ajokay – Thanks for clearing that up, but I still have some reservations.
By adding spaces at the top rung to make it more accessible for teams and drivers, the intrinsic prestige coming from the Formula One’s exclusivity would be eroded. As it currently is, only drivers with the utmost talent (and, admittedly, sponsorship, but that is another debate entirely) can break into F1 and rise up within its ranks. That’s part of the allure of the top tier – because drivers try hard for all their lives to outrace their peers and earn those limited, coveted opportunities. Add more open slots, and ultimately, the value of the F1 race seat is reduced, as is the value of F1 itself.
Even if the status of the World Championship were guaranteed under the new system, the use of the Formula One brand in the regional races would be enough to result in brand dilution. It’s the reason why the usage of the term “Super Bowl”, for example, is so fiercely protected by the NFL – ubiquity dilutes the worth of a brand identity. Hypothetically, if too many games are branded and advertised as “Super Bowls”, the importance of the original Super Bowl is lost.
If the objective of regional championships is to bring racing action back to European circuits, give drivers more opportunities to race at the highest level, and allow teams with limited resources to participate, look no further than GP2. I believe that GP2’s potential has not been fully exploited, and that it can fulfill the role required of the proposed F1 European Championship.
Instead of running it simply as an F1 support/feeder series, make GP2 a true racing series in its own right, as the Europa League is to F1’s UEFA Cup, to re-use my earlier analogy. Instead of tagging along with F1, give GP2 its own independent calendar, visiting the tracks that mainstream F1 couldn’t fit into the calendar, like Imola, Zandvoort and Brands Hatch, while only occasionally running in support of marquee events like Monaco so as to raise fan/viewer awareness. Market it as “F1 for the regional crowd”, and schedule races so that F1 and GP2 run on alternating weekends.
That way, F1’s distinctiveness and exclusivity is preserved, while drivers, teams and the European circuits all get their deserved chances.27th October 2012, 15:57 at 3:57 pm #213846
I think splitting F1 in different championships would decrease its importance: say there were five championships, each with 12 teams: that would mean 120 seats. Surely becoming an F1 driver would be much easier: unless your plan is to forbid drivers from taking part in more than one championship per year, but I’ll discuss that later on.
The idea itself is good and I’d much prefer this than seeing historic F1 venues lose its place in favour of Tilkedromes. But say, for example, we had an European, an Asian and a World Championships, where a driver can choose only one to take part in: the Asian one would mostly have Asian drivers, as the European would have more Europeans than others. There are currently 3 Asian drivers in F1 (including Petrov), and two of them are pay-drivers. This means there are not many Asians worthy of F1 right now, and this would bring more pay-drivers into the sport. Karthikeyan would be the first on the list for an Asian championship.
If there is no rule that forbids a driver from taking part in different events in different championships, and this was allowed, likely the same 24 would take part in each championship, but there would be no time for three championships none of which has a race occurring on the same date as another race of another championship, i.e. drivers would choose one championship. So, likely, some races would share the same date, causing the audience to choose one over the other and therefore sponsors will likely choose the first over the second. This would also increase the value of one championship over the other.
Otherwise there could be different championships with the World Championship including 20 rounds from different championships, i.e. Monza and Monaco from the European, Suzuka and Shanghai from the Asian, Interlagos and Montreal from the American, etc. This, however, would mean a driver competing for the World crown must cancel some of his appointments in one championship to move to the other to take part in the World Championship race, therefore this option is unavailable.
Say Ferrari decided to join the World and European Championships but not the Asian, which had Force India, Caterham and Marussia as lead teams with local entires filling up the grid. This would not be the same as what we have now, and the European Championship would be the one focussed on.
Having a tier-based championship would mean the World Championship is the more important than the others, which would mean a top category and a feeder series (we have that already: GP2, Formula Renault 3.5, etc.).
Two or at maximum three championships could fit, but the races should be less or they would clash and as I said before one would become more important than the other. I’ve just realised this isn’t true as Asian teams and drivers would want to stay in the Asian series regardless if the European audience for the European series is slightly bigger. Likely everyone would watch the championship which takes place where they live.
What would the World Championship do: include rounds of both the other championships or take place on its own (maybe on the same tracks but on other dates)?28th October 2012, 0:06 at 12:06 am #213847
Between 1963 and 1979 Argentina had it’s own F1-like championship, called “F1 Mecánica Argentina”.
The concept was simple: F1 cars, built and designed completely in Argentina, with 3 or 4 litre engines coming from Chevrolets, Fords or even the mighty Tornado engine from the Torino. I saw this thing in a museum and it’s quite cool ! http://sp4.fotolog.com/photo/4/9/62/mi400sacachispas/1255398991449_f.jpg
Obviously, it stopped because the cost was way too high. And, really, I cannot see a regional F1 championship working just because of that, the costs. Better to have a bigger regional formula series, at least here in South America. Something closer to GP2, and a lot more serious than the current form of F3 Sudamericana.28th October 2012, 6:57 at 6:57 am #213848
Is it time for the return of regional or even national Formula 1 series?
A restructuring of the feeder series would be a better idea.
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