I have gone on in this blog for a while now about how F1 needs the drivers to be heroes; larger than life individuals who provide inspiration to the fans; people to whom one can look up to and who can be role models for our children.
People relate to people, but sometimes the F1 drivers are muted to such an extent that one does not get a real picture of what they are like. They are pressured into being non-controversial by the teams and sponsors, yet in reality both want the opposite to what they are currently achieving. F1 drivers should be ambassadors for teams, brands, F1, sport in general and even the motorsport industry.
When you stop and think about it, these days the drivers have a much easier life than their predecessors, who would be testing a great deal between races, in addition to all the sponsor work that had to be done. I don’t begrudge the current generation the money that they earn, because someone will pay what they believe someone else is worth and if Fernando Alonso is worth $40 million a year, then so be it. However I do think that the drivers should do more for the sport as a whole. In fact I think that the FIA should mandate x number of promotional days for the sport as a requirement in the terms of all superlicences – and it should be stipulated that the sport should be promoted not road safety or any other pet project that the FIA President might fancy. That is only fair given what the drivers are getting back from Formula 1. It is part of the job of being a racing driver. This, of course, would require some central promotion for F1, such as making TV adverts that could be broadcast in the different markets to promote the local races, or to sell the sport as a whole through filming, events or competition prizes (win a drive with Fernando etc). Wouldn’t it be great to have a TV documentary that explained the genius of the modern F1 engine, that could be broadcast all over the world? Or an insight into the levels of fitness required today? Or perhaps even a series of educational programmes for junior school kids to teach them about geography, different cultures, science and so on. Even to help them understand why languages are important.
F1 should create its own content rather than relying on its broadcasters. Perhaps it could even go one better and create its own version of Top Gear. That has made tens of millions for the BBC, why could the Formula One group not do the same?
Drivers are happy to wear silly hats and do odd things for their sponsors so why not for the sport that made them famous?
In reality the experience would probably do more for the drivers than they realize as making them more human would also make them more attractive to sponsors. It would also teach them skills that might be useful when they retire from racing…