People in F1 are crazily competitive. It’s the way they are and what got them into the jobs they have. When a Formula 1 person says that they are busy, they don’t mean Real World busy, they mean F1 Busy. The pace is faster in every respect. If an F1 engineer says he wants something “now”, it doesn’t mean in three days… Patience is not a virtue one sees often in the sport.
At the same time, in the modern world, there has been an acceleration in the way that people digest information. From dawn until dusk they are inundated with stuff – news, chit-chat, tweets, advertising and so on. The problem is that proper “content” has been spread thinner and thinner. News dredgers promise x number of stories a day and, because there aren’t that many, they have to “spin” what they have. In essence they create stories where there are none. This means that every time there is a Grand Prix that some think is dull there is a lot of blah blah about F1 being finished etc etc etc. The recent days have seen a fair bit of agonising about whether the sport is interesting or not.
Last year we would have had the same trouble, but Nico Rosberg mounted a stronger challenge to Lewis Hamilton and so the fans had something to keep them amused and the news scalpers were kept busy, rather than needing to drum up stories about the sport being dull.
There are things wrong with F1 that need to be addressed, but not as much as people think. Yes, the drivers need to be heroes a little more. They need to feel that they can be themselves, rather than being plastic figures, spouting what the sponsors want them to say. The cars are fast and safe. Yes, they have been faster, but who can honestly tell the difference? Do we want more crashes and barriers closer in? Maybe, but then we leave the sport open to claims of negligence when people get hurt.
Tyres, brakes and fuel have always been limiting factors for F1 drivers, but that is not the real problem today. Aerodynamics have made overtaking hard, but DRS has effectively revived slip-streaming and so that is not really the problem.
The truth is that Mercedes is simply doing too good a job. That is not about money, because others are spending more than Mercedes and the political and financial problems in F1 are not really influencing the sport. Perhaps that is not a bad thing because with the politics in a state of gridlock it stops knee-jerk reactions. The rule-making should be left to the FIA which has some smart people who are passionate about the sport who are still involved. When you boil it all down the problem is not structural. Yes, things could be better if the Formula One group embraced social media in a sensible fashion, developed other sources of revenue and stopped screwing the promoters to the extent that it does. The promoters could moderate their prices and improve their facilities, which would attract more fans. Yes, perhaps it would be smarter to avoid pay-per-view TV or move more slowly in that direction, but when the business is owned by people who care only about money, what can you do? They should never have been allowed in and the sport needs to do whatever is necessary to get rid of them. But that is not easy…
And yet the fundamental truth at the moment is that we are in the early stages of a new formula and just as back in 1966 and 1967 F1 was dominated by Repco engines, we need to be patient and let the others catch up and get ahead. Repco was humbled by the mighty Cosworth and I am sure than as time goes by, Mercedes’s rivals will get the job done. When that happens we will have more competitive teams and thus better racing. So the answer to F1’s problems is to engage better with fans, educate them in a positive way. It would be wise to have accredited websites so that the chaff can be extracted from the wheat.
If the fans understand then they can be patient. The greatest eras in F1 history were when everyone had basically the same level of competitiveness, but with different equipment. The spread of knowledge is key to that and it will happen.
New formulae always tend to throw up a big winner, but they don’t stay on top forever…