When you try to compare the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Formula 1, things get a little difficult because they are two different racing series with different purposes, technology, cars and goals. It is, however, hard not to look at the resurgence or new renaissance of the WEC and current sports car racing without exposing F1’s lost plot.

Alonso le mans wec 2014

F1 will always remain the pinnacle of motorsport but this year’s new regulations, good intentioned artifices or constructs and power units have left a large swath of fans either finished with the series or on the cusp of finding something else to do with their already strained time.

Whether the current social media, mobility options or methodology in content delivery remains strong or even grows stronger, the fact is that consuming information and content is now creating a series of issues for consumers. Timeline fatigue, information overload and the social and behavioral impact that has on the person are starting to surface and many sports, not just F1, are battling on a new playing field in order to gain the attention and eyeballs needed to justify themselves or in F1’s case, the $12 billion valuation the owners seem to think accurate of the series.

The Meeting

It may not be worth half of that if they don’t get their house in order and Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo has called for a meeting of the minds, stakeholders and players in F1 to gather the week prior to the Italian Grand Prix at the office in Maranello. AUTOSPORT has the call:

“It is natural for Ferrari to exercise a proactive approach and discussions are ongoing at the appropriate levels,” said Ferrari spokesman Renato Bisignani.

“There is a need to act collectively with the sport’s key stakeholders and to reflect on the bigger picture, with constructive critics in the interests of the sport, with an eye towards technology and another one towards the show.

“Formula 1 has been built over the years into a unique marketing and sporting platform and it must now consolidate its ability to attract global sponsors, engage with fans and make racing more exciting.”

Some may accuse F1 of dragging its feet on offering content for mobile devices, content free-of-charge on YouTube or any other content it currently owns. In a world where everything on the internet is deemed free, F1 has not built a marketing and sporting platform that is free for the masses born on the back of social justice and equality. It is, after all, a for-profit business making their current Social Responsibility message a little ill-placed.

It also wasn’t designed to be leading the social media charge and more often than not, it seems to avoid this new medium and could be accused of being content-delivery agnostic. I happen to agree with them in this position.

Who invited Google? Is Bernie a “Glasshole”?

That isn’t to say they shouldn’t look to new content delivery methodologies and strategies that could play into F1’s character…whatever that is these days. As the story reveals, Luca is keen to invite Google and Apple to the meeting too. Fair enough but I’m not convinced that is needed if I’m honest. More Google or Apple is not necessarily a positive thing unless you’re hitting them up for a sponsorship role in F1. Asking them to solve your content delivery issues or at least aid in the brand-building is not a compelling carrot for them unless you’re willing to pay millions of dollars for their blessings.

F1 knows what it needs to do. They need look no further to the balance across performance, technology and class derivations in the WEC to understand how to properly balance their inter-team competitiveness. Distributing more TV revenue back to the teams through a better distribution scale that would assist smaller teams in remaining in the series even when the big manufacturers come and go would be very helpful and engage the fans on a Human to Human level.

Oh how cute, they have a blog!

Their impact, not completely, could and does start at blogs such as this one and others like it. We’re one voice of many and there are other blogs out there that do a much better job of it than we do but what we, and much better sites, do is build communities of fans and engage the sport. F1, sponsors and other potential brands have missed it because they are still looking at CPM click-through metrics trying to discern monetization instead of human community and opinion sharing which creates empathy for each other and the sport. Hello? Is this thing on? Testing…1, 2, 3.

When I started F1B back in 2005, I didn’t set out to build a fan site for F1. I set out to build a racing community based on Decorum & Civility. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I have the hate mail to prove it but I find that most people appreciate the collegial tenor of the site and we’ve enjoyed creating it.

F1 is missing that concept. I get emails practically every day asking for us to run a story or promising bespoke content if we’ll cover their brand and story for free. Marketing companies have approached blogs in a ham-fisted manner that patronizes them and preys upon their niche nature by shedding a little corporate attention making bloggers feel special and getting traction for free in return. That is where the industry is now and it is a horrible narrative on what marketing has become in the “digital age”.

The answer to F1’s problem doesn’t need Google, Apple or Microsoft. It isn’t an infrastructure issue or “younger” fan issue. It is a war that includes competitive sporting series, time and attention spans. When F1—and even NBC Sports to an extent—continues to skim the surface of F1 by creating “seeker sensitive” broadcasts and content, it does nothing to bring fans into the deep end and get them emotionally and empathetically hooked. It did for Baby Boomers and even Gen X but it isn’t for Gen Y’s and dare I even mention Gen Z’s. You don’t need Google to tell you that. If you thought F1 had enough tropes, baubles and constructs, imagine F1 Google or Apple style…good grief!

We need to “go viral”!

Simple question, what’s the ideal video length if you want to get your youTube video to go viral? Some say under 5 minutes. The answer? It doesn’t matter because when you create really good, compelling content, people will sit for 30 minutes if they are enjoying it. Life may seem to be parsed to a point that we live at 140 characters at a time but it doesn’t work that way. Mercedes domination didn’t just happen this year regardless of what tweets you read. It started in 2009 with Brawn GP and the Mercedes engine supply deal and the departure of that engine maker from McLaren’s ownership position.

Best to disruptive to good…er, reverse that

Real life has its immediacy but true life has its evolution and that is what F1 is missing. They’re missing the evolution of the series through well thought-out planning and most importantly a great product—which they have dearly lost. They lost their status of having the best product. They’re not a disruptive product and they are now at risk of losing the position of simply being a “good enough” product.

Juxtapose that with the WEC—you went form a “good enough” product that has now become a disruptive product and could be on the cusp of becoming the best product in racing. At this point, I might prefer if they would put all the F1 drivers in Karts next week in Austria and that would be awesome to see. A much better balance of man and machine for sure—and it would sound better.

It’s too bad Luca didn’t invite me to this meeting because I’m relatively confident I could help sort this issue out but then I’m sure Google and Apple will provide all the answers F1 is looking for right? F1 needs to go viral, it needs fans to become Google Glassholes and it needs to get a better app for their iPad. Spare me…it needs better racing and the rest will sort itself out. It needs better Human-to-Human engagement and community-building and it needs to gain empathy, not just attention. How is possible that marketing companies are missing this? Am I taking crazy pills over here…don’t answer that.

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • MIE

    All the F1 drivers in karts. I like the sound of that, memories of Bercy in the early 1990’s, with those that turned up all in equal equipment.

  • Nicholas Beahan

    When I first experienced F1 I found it boring and couldn’t watch more than 20 laps without wanting to leave the room. It took me around five years to love the sport the way I do today. The reason I became a fan was because my dad watched F1. Sure allowing free online access would help, but I’m from Australia and I ony have one friend my age who likes it. One way to improve F1 is to improve the complementary features e.g. documentaries and commentary. I’ve heard US commentary is ordinary and Australia’s is egregious as the former word champion Alan Jones is a terrible commentator. In summary, better supporting features like online access, documentaries and commentary will hep F1 grow.

  • Do you have a link to the better F1 blog sites?

    • Not off the top of my head…but according to our hate mail, just about every F1 site is better so you shouldn’t have trouble finding better sites. :)

  • Tom Firth

    Interesting that you mention F1 stars in karts, wasn’t it just last week that FKS was saying about an arrive and drive concept for Karting supported by FOM. Though the article has now vanished, maybe he’s thinking the same thing ;-)

  • Sam L.

    Anyone can complain about US coverage, but I’ve been watching since at least the late ’70s, and when I moved in ’80 I chose cable based on who had F1. I have enjoyed watching and listening to Bob Varsha (and now Leigh Diffey), David Hobbs (the Man Of Klag). Steve Matchett (I miss his SPEED chalk talks), and Will Buxton. I gave up on CART and IRL because their announce teams just didn’t match up to VH&M. And I like the new PUs because now I can hear them. The last couple years I found engine noise drowning them out (particularly Will in the pits).

    • Steve Matchett is a very dear friend and Bob as well as David and Leigh are terrific. I have no issues with them. My comments are not about the actual on-air talent. They do a great job of it although I’ll be honest and say that I do miss Bob a lot. Watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans was great to hear him in action again. I also really like Sam Posey a lot. They are not the controllers of the broadcast’s destiny and format. SPEED and NBC are/were. That’s where my issues are.

  • “When F1—and even NBC Sports to an extent—continues to skim the surface of F1 by creating “seeker sensitive” broadcasts and content, it does nothing to bring fans into the deep end and get them emotionally and empathetically hooked.”
    This is absolutely correct, well said.
    “Skim the surface” kind of likens to “nail down the specks so there is only one uniform surface of performance.”

  • It looks as if the argument being made is that by F1 fixing its competitive element, audiences will naturally flock to the more-compelling event. Ignoring my biases on whether current F1 is compelling, what changes would you suggest? Do the suggestions solve or address other issues you, I, and/or others have brought forth? Specifically, do the suggestions:

    1. make sense financially, meaning either revenue-generating or budget-conscious for the sport?
    2. Allows for development scope
    3. Promote competitiveness throughout the field (I’m ambivalent here, but it’s been contended)

    Not trying to pick on you, as mentioned before I’d much rather see suggestions from those opposed to current F1 than easy internet flogging; who knows, someone out there in the audience might have an ingenious solution that allows lots of volume/large development scope/great racing/budget sensitivity. If Ferrari invited you, what would you propose?

    As to expanded media coverage, I don’t think anyone (save some fans) are arguing for more free content; rather, those whom crave delving into the interpersonal drama, technical developments, firsthand insights want a clear path to finding said content. How nice would it be if F1 had a pay wall a la Autosport, or bespoke TV/streaming channel, where one could access what interests him/her, rather than scouring the internet, aggregating from multiple, oftentimes dubious, sources? It’s an access issue IMO, not unlike the Indycar/NASCAR vs. F1 paddock, where the latter organization, for secrecy’s sake, shrouds operations in mystery, alienating fans.

    Selling mystique via parsing might’ve worked in the past, as info came from commentators, monthly subscription, or for those lucky enough (Europe), perhaps nightly news coverage. With the internet, for better or worse, the audience has access to much more “muchness,” which naturally changes how we view the content. F1 ignoring this media growth sector discourages viewership IMO; fans can instead read via Bravo TV in depth biographies of “The Real Housewives of XXXX” or behind-the-scenes interviews of Game of Thrones actors via HBO Go.

    Aside: I can empathize with fans who’ve watched F1 prior to the internet media explosion, say pre 2003, and feel new-media superfluous. Information was parsed less frequently; in general we were blissfully ignorant how fundamentally a CVT might change the sport, and consequently less outraged it was banned. We had no avenues accessing prize money allocation, so were less incredulous about the inequity of the Ferrari arrangement. We didn’t see Twitter bombs of Ayrton Senna messaging Prost’s telemetry, so could view the drivers as heroes rather than people.

    In short, it was a simpler, more passive, and in some ways “purer” form of entertainment. Whilst I personally enjoy delving into certain content now available, I also enjoyed the sport as a teenager in the ’90’s without the bells and whistles. For the old hats unwilling/unable/disinterested in the information/innuendo overload, perhaps interactivity is a negative. To me, ignoring the interactive and niche aspect fails addressing the audience-as-whole of today; poor promotion means fewer eyeballs, no matter the product-value.

  • As for Google and Apple specifically, I doubt Montezemolo wants their involvement for sporting advice, but for their audience analysis and applied-service acumen. What’s wrong with a consult?

    The racing itself and its presentation are disparate things; the latter should never influence the former. Perhaps that is where the debate should continue.

  • What Google can do to save F1? Stop taking down F1 videos off of YouTube! If FOM placed ads on the videos and tracked who’s watching…..recovering costs and getting more people in social media interested…. Google could boost the fan numbers. My teen son and all his friends spend hours per day watching YouTube videos of ridiculous video gameplay… How much cooler would it be if it were F1 reality instead?!

  • I agfree the FOM and Google/ytube keep taking videos down threatening to close accounts and it just puts people off , i stopped making new videos because they kept taking them channel
    They need to embrace social media and stream live tests practices and races old and new for free. It will attract people to the races.
    Maybe having them at the meeting will change the minds of FOM buracrats to be more fan friendly.

  • FIA tweet yoday….
    How to attract young people?” session will be open to your questions! Be ready! More details soon… #FIASportTalk #FIASCW

  • charlie w

    Instead of Google and Apple, Luca should invite Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer. Larry just spent the equivalent of several F1 team budgets on his Team Oracle America’s Cup sailing team to win the Cup. Oracle once sponsored the Benetton F1 team. Steve just dropped a cool $2billion on the L.A. Clippers and Microsoft is a minor sponsor of the Lotus F1 team. Convince them to pony up enough funds to become title sponsors.

    • Sorry, but Ellison would find a way to ruin F1 (further ruin, for those unhappy w/ its current iteration). The rampant cheating during 2013 America’s Cup, the broken promises to San Francisco, his horrifying behavior to fellow neighbors in Pac Heights… No thanks. Ellison’s only concern is Ellison No opinion on Mr. Balmer.

      E. Schmidt from Google would be IMO a much more productive consult; he assesses issues and attacks them in a pragmatic fashion. It doesn’t hurt he’s a “nice” guy that relates to others’ plights; if contracted/consulted, I’m sure something good would come of it.

  • There was an interesting comment made about the increased US interest and viewship for the World Cup. One of the ESPN analyst or talking heads was relating this increase to gaming specifically. He discussed about how his teenage sons were doing more soccer gaming and watching the World Cup. They would make comments about the various shots, which they could duplicate on their games. So this past Sunday, I had my two grand nephew over the house. They immediately went upstairs to play on my PS3! Since I only have Call of Duty, Fight, and F1 2010, they teased me about improving my gaming collection. They went immediately to Call of Duty for about 30 minutes. Then I started to F1 sounds coming from upstairs! They played the game for over an hour. At dinner, I survey them on their experience, which they loved the sounds, driving, speeds, crashing,and winning. I told them about going to Canada and the old US races, where I took them to office to show pictures and videos. I showed them of picture of Lewis Hamilton and explained his CV. Plus I told them about Jann Mardenborough, who went from gaming to moving up the lower formula series. About this point I had lost them and they went to play basketball!

    So maybe having EA sports, Sony, Microsoft, and Codemasters who can provide the device, marketing, and gaming knowledge around a table. Could they make F1 experience more accessible to a younger audience? Maybe they would move from the consoles to actually watching a race.

    • There certainly is/was a strong attempt at tying simulator games into the real thing. In fact, that’s the impetus of the Simraceway where Paul works. I tend to think the US interest in Soccer/football has a lot to do with the last two decades of little ones playing youth soccer growing up. We had 16 million watch the US game and it has taken time through youth programs to raise up two generations that love the game. I believe, and have advocated, a better youth karting program that doesn’t focus on NASCAR feeder series (I understand that’s where the money is) but has emphasis in USC, WEC and Formula open-wheel road racing. I have some fun ideas on how to do this for any millionaires out there looking for a place to invest. :)

      Once we get an interest and accessibility to the sport, I think the fan base will grow. Soccer/football did it right. F1 needs to think long term for its US audience.

  • Tony Geinzer

    I hate to be bad cop, or worse, regulator, but “catering” to certain types of folks is a grand mistake. Also, I am aware that the world’s diversifying like the United States is, but,I am not wanting to scream “Ole,Ole,Ole, Free Food” like FIFA, which had to be coocoo. I have a grander idea, why not black out Memorial Day Weekends in North America and LeMans so that we could have Monaco,LeMans, and Magny Cours Tic Tac Toe 3 In A Row rather than Montreal towing the dang car after snowballing NASCAR 2 Years Ago, and its not Money, its treating folks right the 1st,2nd, 3rd,4th,5th, 10th, 20th,25th,50th,100th Time Around rather than looking slick to hide what is ill.