A Formula 1 for the fans: An open letter to the FIA, Liberty Media (FOM) and the teams

For the attention of the FIA, Liberty Media (FOM) and all Formula One teams.

I am writing on behalf of all Formula One fans to plead that you, the key stakeholders who are tasked with moulding the sport in the future, use the brilliant opportunity you have to change the sport for the better. Make it a sport for the fans.

As you are no doubt aware, our great sport has recently started a new chapter in its rich history and there is an opportunity like never before to create the Formula One fans have long dreamed of.

I, like many fans all over the globe, love Formula One. I live and breathe the sport, in fact. We are drawn in by the incredible cars and we revel as our brave gladiators risk it all in their bid to become champion. The noises, the smells and the anticipation of a Grand Prix weekend are like a drug to us and our dedication knows no equal. It is nigh-on impossible to put into words the love affair between F1 and its fans but if you are reading this then you’ll no doubt ‘get it’.

Contemporary Formula One has faced criticism from fans and media the world over as the so-called pinnacle of motorsport has become inextricably interwoven with politics and agenda, unable to free itself and serve the very people that love it the most.

In recent times its purpose has diverged from meeting the fans’ desires, focusing solely on the demands of sponsors and previous commercial rights onwers CVC. Those in power have sought to exploit the sport for their own ends and have spared little thought for the average fan and what it means to truly engage them. Let’s cut the bullshit here because the urgency of the situation should not be understated. Formula One should first and foremost meet the needs of the fans. Without them it would cease to exist.

Much has been written in regards to the legacy of Mr Ecclestone but now is the time to move on. I want to express my thanks to Bernie for creating what we have today, but also to Liberty Media who have been passed the baton and have taken to their charge with enthusiasm.

So here we are. Dawn has broken on a new era and the problems faced by yourselves are clear. We are not expecting a miraculous overnight fix and I wanted to be crystal clear on that. All we ask is that you do your utmost to keep to your word. Formula One fans are tired of repeating the same things over and over again, asking for change and only being answered with gimmicks and P.R-friendly rubbish.

We understand that Liberty Media can’t just come in, wave a magic wand and satisfy our wishes. The responsibility lies at the feet of Liberty Media (FOM), the FIA, the teams, the drivers and last but by no means least: the fans. Your duty as guardians of the sport is to grow it, improve its health and strengthen the brand.

The Motorsport network have this week circulated the “Global Fan Survey” which promises to give the fans a voice that will be heard by those perched in the upper rungs of management. I am unapologetic for being somewhat sceptical as yes, we’ve heard it all before. We take the time to put our views across but up to this point, it has frustratingly yielded little change.

We are more than happy to do our part. We’ll fill in the form, make our suggestions and pray for change. Please, don’t just review the data and follow it up with some PR-friendly drawl about how giving us a voice has given you the opportunity to bring about change.

Use what we are saying. Take your knowledge, skills and expertise to come to a mutually beneficial outcome. Improving the racing attracts fans which in turn makes the sport beneficial for sponsors. With increased sponsor income, each team can enjoy a larger slice of a bigger pie.

It’s not rocket science.

F1 fans spend a large amount of well-earned cash to attend Grands Prix so make the investment worth their while. They want to be entertained so be good to your word and make each event a Super Bowl.

Another point highlighted before is how the drivers and teams have become increasingly detached from the fanbase as Bernie’s “Michelin Star Restaurant” only welcomed the social elite. They do need an aura, perhaps even God-like status but that doesn’t mean they have to be out of reach.

Social Media is not only a communication tool but something that allows us to engage with various forms of information and media. You don’t need telling that fan reaction after your relaxation of filming rules in pre-season testing was immensely positive and even for those unable to attend race weekends, doing more of the same in future won’t alienate them and will make them feel welcome and part of the action.

You’ll benefit too. You now have a marketing/media genius at the helm with a plethora of opportunities in front of him. I am no social media expert but what about the idea of having press conferences held by fans too? They could be physically present or even appear via the magic of technology, you choose. Multi-national corporations clamour around the brands that engage with potential customers. I don’t want to constntly repeat myself and you get the point.

We are not fools. We know that you need to benefit from purchasing the commercial rights of a global juggernaut. At the end of the day, if you satisfy the fans the rest falls into place.

It’s difficult because previously, management saw profit and the fans as two separate entities. That’s why we had non-starters in South Korea and India and why we left places like Magny-Cours and the Nürburgring behind. The brand’s long-term health was not considered and those in charge negotiated large, unsustainable hosting fees.

Profitability and the fanbase go hand in hand and this needs to be realised. If you are to bring back those who have become so disengaged that they have sadly walked away, do all you can. Leave no stone unturned.

Scrap the heavily skewed and unsustainable payment structure. Ferrari receives a massive lump sum just for pitching up yet their 2017 challenger looks to be their first bona fide contender since 2008. Meanwhile at the back of the grid, hundreds lose their jobs and their livelihoods are put at risk. I am no financial expert but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Ferrari’s bonus is considerably larger than the amount required to save Manor.

Then we get to the tracks. Azerbaijan? Seriously? Credit to them – they’re stumping up an awful lot to have the privilege of hosting a Grand Prix and that’s their perogative but no true fan relishes the absurdity of a season with a race in Azerbaijan but not Germany. Don’t get me wrong, some far-flung tracks in countries with previously little motorsport history have become mainstays but we need to reassess the priorities.

For a while now, the sport has had an inability to provide wheel-to-wheel racing due to the technical regulations. Due to the obsessive focus on achieving maximum downforce we are presented with a procession of twenty blisteringly quick machines unable to go toe to toe with one another.

Yes, we are only one race into the new season and Melbourne has not been known to produce large amounts of overtaking in the past but just listen to the drivers who are saying that the problem has only been worsened this year.

The most frustrating aspect of this whole scenario is that none of these problems are “new”. Not only have the fans been saying the same things for years but former drivers and pundits too. Bravery is required from all stakeholders and we need to be genuinely dedicated to bringing about change.

I mentioned before how many fans fell in love with the sport because of the noise. Sadly I don’t think this would be the case in the current Formula with our current 1.6 litre V6 hybrid engines. I don’t need to tell you that in terms of stacking up against their predecessors, many believe that they don’t stand a chance. Why does F1 have to be road relevant? The sport should be about the best drivers in the best cars – that means screaming Power Units that require the use of earplugs.

The Concorde agreement will wind down over the next few years so now is the time to act. There is no better way to go down in history than as key players who delivered change to the fans. Chase Carey, Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn have a chance to create an F1 for the people and there could be no greater defining characteristic to their reign than that.

I don’t speak for all fans and I am sure that others have a different vision of the future F1 but we all have a common goal: we want the best for our sport. This letter is not exhaustive and there are infinite routes in which to take. To Liberty Media in particular, you’ve talked the talk.

Actions speak louder than words.

 

If you are an F1 fan, please take the time to fill in the Motorsport network’s F1 fan survey by clicking the link below.

Motorsport Global F1 Fan Survey 2017

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