It’s clearly summer break in Formula 1 when Indycar driver Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM) starts lecturing Formula 1 on how to fix its issues. According to JPM, F1 needs to be more like American Indycar in order to cure its ills. AUTOSPORT has the call:
“[But to get fans engaged,] they ought to look at IndyCar. I think IndyCar does the best job of looking after its fans.
“It’s very different [for fans], just walking around seeing the cars. In the garage in NASCAR, the drivers are never there.
“The cars are there but the drivers are always in the motorhome. F1, [the paddock] is always closed. It’s so complicated. There is no right answer.
“But the people that best understand it … NASCAR is the best at understanding that at the end of the day it’s a show.
“Formula 1, being very European, they think it’s a sport. And it is a sport. But the way it’s played … the fans have to like it.”
I’m not sure I could disagree more, JPM. I would argue that F1’s attempt at becoming a “show” is the very thing that’s hurting it. It is a sport and should be treated as such. I would go as far as to suggest that growth for growth’s sake in F1 is not really something they should be looking at when the series generates over $1.1 billion in revenue with a massive take-away by the commercial rights holder for its investors.
F1 is also about TV revenue. With twenty races ran in far-flung corners of the earth, it’s biggest revenue and series impact isn’t really fan access to paddock areas, garages and more. Not that any of this is bad, mind you, but that isn’t the reason F1 is losing viewers. At best you could argue its contributory to some of the reason for waning viewers but not the biggest confluence of issues.
One thing JPM did say is that F1 needs to fix the sound of the cars and I do believe this is a bigger issue for many but not all. The new format just isn’t resonating and as we mentioned on our rantcast, whether this can contributed to a lack of thorough explanation on F1’s part or not is up to you to determine.
My hunch is that the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) program may be one of the few that truly set out to be a show and succeeded in it’s goal with large viewership—although that’s now waning as well. Other sports that have tried to leave the sporting aspect in the penumbra of “the show” have seen a decline. NASCAR amongst them.
To Indycar’s credit, they’ve avoided the artifices and show-spicing concepts that have damaged other sports—although they have their own issues that are hurting their sport. They do give fans more access to the series whether that be paddock access or online content.
JPM isn’t wrong in that there are things to be learned from Indycar but he isn’t right either. F1 is a different beast with dramatically bigger stakes and F1 should look across all motor sport to see what is and isn’t working. They should start, not with Indycar, but the WEC for clues.