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While you may really be enjoying the Formula 1 season and what has been reduced to a Mercedes road show, race promoters from 17 nations assaulted the Spanish Grand Prix circuit this week let F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone know what they think of the current format of the series.

According the The Times, the meeting was held in Barcelona this weekend and the topic was about attendance at the races. The promoters have been very unsettled by the new sound and look of F1 as well as Mercedes AMG Petronas’s clear and comprehensive domination of the sport so far which could equate to low attendance numbers for the remaining 14 races.

That’s a big issue because the promoters make little or nothing from any contractually obligated track-side advertising or broadcast rights from the event and this leaves them holding the bag for ticket sales and concessions only. They pay dearly for the right to host the race with a 10% escalator, in some cases, each year and this can be in the range of $25 million per year. Taking that kind of gamble bets on the appeal of the series only and if it isn’t appealing, then tickets sales and the entire weekend becomes a big loss.

I can’t say I blame them for being concerned and the new format has left many F1 fans cold unless you happen to be a Mercedes or Lewis Hamilton fan or like hybrid powered cars and the direction the sport has taken with regards to technology and sustainability. If neither of those are as appealing as what F1 has traditionally meant, then you may be in the camp of frustration.

The ticket sales for Silverstone may be up this year given Lewis Hamilton’s terrific run of success but will that translate to all the other venues? Regardless of what is being printed, said and shared on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, there is a groundswell of fan disapproval that the promoters are becoming very wary of. Broadcast rights and advertising has already been bought and paid for so they have little choice but to grin and bear it but race promoters are the triage and feel the first initial impact of a less than savory racing series. Broadcast advertisers will be next in recognizing little ROI for their huge check they cut to F1 teams, circuits and more.

Time will tell and perhaps things will actually prove to be just fine but if I were a race promoter, I would have been in Spain asking for Mr. E’s help in protecting my investment as he’s the man who could get something done while FIA president Jean Todt argues over firing employees at teams in order to make F1 more affordable for little teams who don’t employ that many people.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • I fear the continual lack of development – FREE development – means that, no matter which direction they take, the cars will all always be too similar, too dependent on a 1 second advantage because of some gimmick and, never least, become predictable.
    Think back to 1956 – cars had massive engines (BRM had a 16 cylinder, 200 mph car) and then, out of that free development came a small engine, rear engined, Colin Chapman’s Lotuses and Jimmy Clark as Motorsport put it way back then “a 75% radically different race car.”
    Today, with uniformity, we all struggle to see differences, applaud Newey for a 1.2 second a lap aero package, or Renault for a mass-damper, or Brawn for the diffuser… a single difference turns on the pundits but, really, what the hell is the difference between Ferrari and McLaren? In percentage terms, less than 1% probably, such are the stringent rules.
    1% does not a fan base make.

  • adam vella

    Since Melbourne im still left scratching my head as to what direction F1 is going to take in order to fix the problems. No offical announcement has been made. And as predicted by me F1 has now officially become the unofficial GP2 category in sound and speed. Personally I loved the GP2 race as it had so much more action.

  • Tom

    Todd, the issue with Bernie squeezing the promoters is an old hat and has nothing to do with the current formula. And while I get that you’re not a particularly big fan of the new formula, I find your statement that this isn’t what F1 traditionally meant a bit presumptuous. In fact, having a dominating team is probably as old as F1 itself, as is the pursuit of modern technology. If anything, F1 is still too restrictive as peterriva said. Or do you mean the days when the FIA reigned in on any team that was beating Ferrari in order to create a “level playing field”? Is that what F1 traditionally means? It would certainly prevent any dominance (save from Ferrari) which the promoters may like. But then how long will the spectators pay those ticket prices when all they get is a vintage series with ancient technology and fake drama?

  • Bill

    Let’s face it, F1 is Ferrari, and McClaren….Those two teams have really struggled these last few years. Until they right their ships, interest is going to wane. (Because they simply have a hell of a lot more fans.) With Red Bull, and now Mercedes dominating, my viewership is down to just the start of the race. Once the leader (Vettel, Hamilton) get’s up to a 10 second lead….I usually tune out. (The broadcast here in the U.S. doesn’t help matters) I used to watch the entire weekend. Practice, qualifying, entire race. Granted I’m a Ferrari fan, and I miss the Ferrari, McClaren battles from several years ago. You don’t have that today. It’s not even close. I don’t begrudge Red Bull, and now Mercedes for having the best vehicle’s. I’m more distressed over my beloved Scuderia sucking hind teat, and Alonso beating that dog all day for a fourth place finish. Oh, and these V6 turbo’s are just terrible sounding, bring back the V10’s.

  • @_canuck_

    Attendance was good in Spain considering 20 something percent unemployment the other races looked the same looked the same, i think the Track owners are looking to get on Bernie while he is down use the noise drama and claw back some of those very high fee’s he charges.
    I think they need to make the cars sound louder/better and loosen some of the engine restrictions but its polotics really.
    One team dominating is nothing new really.

  • xlr8r

    Add me to the group of people not willing to spend money on F1 this year if this is the show they want people to pay for. The thrill is gone, as the cars sound like crap and look slow. The results have become predictable, (Hamilton will win unless he has a problem, and Rosberg will be frustrated afterwards). And I am sick and tired of hearing engineers tell their drivers to fall back 2 seconds to preserve tires. (I will never ever buy Pirelli Tires)

    I have spent a lot of money the last two years going to Montreal twice. But I will not be going this year as it really looks like it would be less exciting to be there this year in comparison to the last two. F1 needs to step and become thrilling again if I am to ever pay hundreds of dollars again to see it live.

    I would say so far this year Indycar has been putting out some great racing. I once was an indycar hater, but this year it has been fantastic through the first 4 races. Maybe Indycar would deserves my money instead.

    Bring back the sound, bring back the thrill. I will stop watching if every race is a Mercedes 1-2.

    • I’m not going to try and talk you out of your opinion, suffice it to say that I see things completely different. However, I think you’re too harsh on Pirelli. They did exactly what the FIA wanted them to do when they brought those tires to F1. But even beyond that, conserving tires has always been part of F1, it’s just that you never heard about it because they didn’t transmit the radio conversations back in the day, plus during the re-fueling era, it was always coupled with the weight, so it wasn’t as obvious, because every time you got a new and quick set of tires, you’d simultaneously get a heavier car.

  • Jim

    So they didn’t mind when it was the Sebastian Vettel road show for the last few YEARS

    • I think there was always the potential for another driver to beat him. Granted, he was dominant – nine wins in a row is nuts – but it never started out that way. The series and team evolved throughout the season, leading to his dominance.

  • xlr8r

    I don’t blame Pirelli, but I don’t like that they still go along with it. I feel as though since entered 4 years ago as the tire supplier, we have rarely got the chance to see driver go all out ten tenths durring a race. In qualifying sometimes, but barely ever in the race.

    China a year or two ago had that great moment when I think it was Vettel, put new tires on with just a couple laps to go and was eating seconds off the competition each of those couple laps. It shows how terrible the tires have become if they only lasted 2 or three laps when pushed to the limit. Therefore we rarely now get to see drivers at the limit.

    Hearing engineers every race tell drivers to slow down really is starting to get to me. If they are on a completely different race strategy, then, ok I get it, it might make sense to wait. But a lot of the time they are saying this when both drivers are on roughly the same strategy at the beginning of the race. Why ask drivers to wait to pass. This is a race isn’t it? Or is everyone now content to finish in whatever position they are in after the first lap.