Together with the roadmap for Formula 1 FOTA last week revealed also the findings of their global audience survey. Seventeen countries were surveyed, F1 devotees as well as marginal and/or low interest fans were polled. Here are the findings:
1. F1 isn’t broken, so beware ‘over-fixing’ it
The current race format is not viewed as fundamentally broken (across all levels of Formula One interest) and therefore doesn’t require radical alteration. There is a strong desire for Formula One to remain meritocratic, while consumer interest is driven most by appreciation of driver skill, overtaking and technology.
Implication: there is no evidence to suggest that grand prix formats need ‘tricking up’ via, for example, handicapping, sprint races, reversed grids or one-on-one pursuit races. Formula One audiences appreciate the traditional gladiatorial, high-tech nature of the sport and would not respond favourably to a perceived ‘dumbing down’ of the current format.
Well, can only agree, but then why is FOTA suggesting shortening the races or radical point scoring opportunities like a point for quickest pit stop ?
2. F1 needs to be more consumer-friendly
An individual’s view or understanding of Formula One is framed almost entirely by their local broadcaster. Unlike most global sports, the vast majority of ‘consumption’ of Formula One is via race-day TV coverage, supplemented in part by traditional, non-specialist newspaper coverage.
Formula One fans are also mature consumers of new media channels (eg, on-line, mobile) and other touch points (eg, gaming, merchandise). The global nature of Formula One, although an attractive characteristic in itself, impedes the uniformity of race schedules, and often results in consumption of a race being limited to locally broadcast TV highlights programmes. Only devotees (25% of the total potential viewing audience) are likely to watch a race live if it occurs outside peak viewing times.
Implication: significant opportunities exist to build audience via other channels such as internet and mobile.
Again, can only agree. Many blame Bernie Ecclestone for refusing to accept existence of internet, Ecclestone blames the TV rights holders for not doing enough. FOTA and Ecclestone should proabably sit down and come up with list of conditions that the TV companies must comply with before even bidding for F1 rights. You want the rights – you must offer HD broadcast (at least optional), you want the rights – you must show all the action including practice sessions (either on TV or over internet). You want the rights, you must offer interactive features. Talking will not do us fans any good … And perhaps somewhere along the way they can also find some new sources of revenue.
3. Major changes to qualifying format are not urgent
When asked to consider alternative qualifying formats, all fan types expressed a modest preference for a meritocratically determined starting grid. There was some degree of interest in allowing luck to play a part in shaping the starting order, but the general sentiment was that the fastest driver should always start from pole.
Implication: there may be justification for minor modifications to the current qualifying format, following further trials; however, a major change to the format will not result in a significant increase in audience.
I do not think that any further modifications to current format are needed. The current system is fine and if refueling is banned as planned from 2010 season than the perhaps only weakness left in the current format will be eliminated. If however there is inclination to bring back the old 12 flat out quali laps format (that many fans still believe was the best) then some tweaks would be necessary to make sure we do not have 45 minutes of empty track … But then we would be almost back to the current format but with much more crowded track in the final 10-15 minutes
4. Revisions to the points-scoring system
As with qualifying, all audiences want a meritocratic points-scoring system. This means that they want winning grands prix to count for more than it does currently. There is an indication that all audiences would like to see a greater points reward for winning grands prix.
Implication: a minor adjustment to the existing points system is justified
I quite like the proposal 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1. There are however voices calling for even bigger gap between 1st and 2nd. FOTA’s logic in increasing the gap but not too much is that too big of a gap may result in championships being decided way too early. They may have a case. But on the other hand, if someone wins first 8 or 9 races of the season he probably deserves the title .
5. Evolution of pit stops and refuelling
All audiences view pit stops as integral to their enjoyment of grand prix coverage; however, they rank the most important and compelling aspect of pit stops as tyre changing rather than refuelling. Race strategies were not highly ranked as a determinant of interest in Formula One.
Implication: audiences are unlikely to diminish if refuelling is discontinued. Tyre changing is an important driver of audience interest (in pit stops) and should not be further automated.
Here I agree fully. Refueling is costly, dangerous and not necessary. Pit stops however are fun so they should stay. Getting rid of refueling and letting the teams play around with tyres sounds like the right mix. But let them play around, do not force them to make the pitstop like in A1 and perhaps remove that compulsory two compounds per race rule …
What would say to FOTA if they asked you in the survey ?