I read the above article with great joy. It sums up extremely well the experience of going to an F1 Grand Prix for the first time. Admittedly, the writer had rather privileged access, but the point is the same. It struck a chord because it reminded me of my first Grand Prix, 36 years ago. It took just one race, without any privileged access and with grief of Silverstone old school traffic and earth banks, to ensnare me. I was fortunate to be able to turn my passion into my profession and to this day I am still enthralled by F1. It is so much more than a sport and that simply adds to the fascination. I still believe that the key to F1’s success is to get people to the races. Mexico was a really energising experience in this respect. The energy of the fans is something that the drivers all talked about, but it was true for all of us. The Mexican GP was like a shot of adrenaline, a reminder that the sport is about people and passion, more than money, politics and greed.
I have always believed that the trick to a healthy sport is to get more “bums on seats”. If you get people to come through the gates and you give them a good experience, then they will return in the future. The Formula One group seems to do everything possible to drive away fans by overcharging promoters, so that they cannot afford to make the event a great experience, or to even promote the racing. This is why some races fail to get audiences. This is why F1 has to go to places like Mokpo, Greater Noida and Baku, rather than to New York City or Long Beach. Yes, the financiers make their money this way and why they think so highly of themselves, but they look at the world with cast iron blinkers. And they don’t care. They suck away as much money as they dare, but they do not invest in the future, they do no real promotion. The impression I get is that the industry and the fans are largely disgusted by the way CVC Capital Partners operates. They leech everything they can from the sport and give nothing back. They are notes wise as the folks in NASCAR, who recognise the challenges that sports face and are investing huge amounts to create better value for their fans.
We can only hope that some day soon the current owners of the Formula One group will go away and we will get a championship promoter with more vision, so that the sport will be allowed to grow, so that more people will be able to enjoy the experience and discover the passion that is Formula 1. No-one can really own a sport, it belongs to the fans, the people who keep it alive. The owners are nothing of the kind, they are simply custodians. And not very good ones, because the responsibility of a custodian is to pass the value on to the next generation, rather than concentrating on short-term financial gain.