There is an interesting story knocking around about a proposal from Pirelli’s Paul Hembery to divide the World Championship into three different regional competitions. Hembery has long been a member of the “sport as entertainment” school, rather than F1 needing to be about technology. I’m a fan of both schools because I do believe that the sport should remain linked to the industry (within reason). Without the link the sport is much more exposed to those who say that it is anti-environment. It’s an easy target.
Anyway, Hembery understands that F1 needs to be much bigger in the United States and that in order to achieve this, we have to accept some of their rules, rather than thinking that we are in a position to dictate terms. We’re not. All that happens now is that every so often someone with ambition comes along, agrees to an unsustainable deal, ends up in trouble and drops out. It is repeated over and over again. The smart promoters in the US understand that the numbers don’t make sense and so do not get involved. Thus, F1 fails in America.
With a little longer term thinking this would not happen and more money would ultimately be made by the spread of F1 culture in the world’s biggest consumer market. I am sure that the money-chasers get the concept, they just cannot be bothered to invest when there are still places like Azerbaijan, where someone will pay whatever is demanded to try to buy international exposure and acceptance. Still, the entire population of Azerbaijan is about the same size as the Chicago metropolitan area, although there are rather more goat herders in Azerbaijan, so one should not expect massive demand for Ferraris and Rolexes. The GDP of Azerbaijan is $17,800, which means that there is rather less disposable income than in the US, where the figure is $54,400.
Hembery’s idea is as follows: there should be three regional F1 Championships in a year, each tied to a time zone. As to who would or could compete in each of these, it is all a bit fluffy, but if each had different teams there would still be scope for teams such as Ferrari North America, Ferrari Maranello and Ferrari Hong Kong ( for example). We might even get Ganassis, Penskes and Andrettis involved, in alliances with European teams, but perhaps later in their own right.
There would then be some kind of run-off to determine the World Champion (that could be one race or more). In more detail, he feels that things should kick off in Australia with the first race of an Asia-Pacific series over a concentrated period. This would be followed by a break. The key point is that the races should be timed to fit the local timings and not forced to comply with European television timetables. This would mean the potential for bigger audiences in each region and, by inference, bigger numbers overall.
The second series would be run in Europe, Middle East and Africa and then there would be a second break before the third series in the Americas, with races in Canada, Brazil, Mexico and hopefully two or more in the US. This would create interest because fans would not need to get up at strange times of day to watch.
There would then be a World Championship at the end of the year in a suitable location to maximise TV viewers with the best teams taking part. This would also guarantee that there was a high drama showdown with three contenders battling to be World Champion. There is not much detail at the moment, but it is an interesting idea.
Now, of course, this might not go down well with the tweed cap chaps, who would argue that “it wasn’t like that in my day”, but we’re not living “in my day” any longer and we need to think about these things in a modern age where viewership is reducing and changing all the time.
It is an interesting concept and could include teams from different regions only competing in their regional championship, thus creating local interest and reducing budgets.
Overall, the thing that strikes me about the proposal is that this is one of Ecclestone’s biggest allies, coming up with new ideas to improve the show… which kind of suggests that things aren’t right with what we have now.
Anyway, what do you think?