Queries from some of you suggest that the “less is more” catchphrase needs some explanation. Basically, it is the mantra that has governed F1’s public profile for at least the past 20 years. If you’d asked anyone near the top of the F1 economy any of the following questions –
“Why is there no F1 programming on TV over the winter months?” or “Why do the F1 drivers not make themselves available to the fans the way they do in NASCAR?” or “Why do we not see more of the ‘classic’ F1 drivers and cars at F1 events?” or “Why do we not see re-runs of classic races on prime time TV?” or “Why don’t we have the occasional, one-off, non-championship race for charity?” or “Why doesn’t F1 work the media in new-frontier countries prior to racing there?” or “Why isn’t F1 more widely available on the internet?” or “Why don’t we have all the F1 drivers doing charity karting events on a regular basis?” or “Why don’t F1 drivers compete in other forms of motor sport?” or “Why, when we have it, is testing not better publicised and televised?” or “Why do we not see more of the F1 teams’ telemetry and data?” or “Why doesn’t F1 have a media and PR department comparable with NASCAR’s?”
– the answer, in the recent, medium and distant past, would always have been “because we don’t want to over-expose F1. Less is more. The less we give the fans, the more they’ll be thirsty to watch the races….”
Personally, I’ve always had my doubts about that ethos, although the statistics – 600m cumulative TV viewers every year – may say that I was wrong to think that way. What we’ll never know, of course, is how many people would be watching F1 races on TV if it had adopted a NASCAR-like approach to the public and to the media. Maybe it would be 300m; maybe it would now be 1bn; we’ll never know.
What we do know is that luminaries like Martin Whitmarsh now believe that it’s time to scrap the “less is more” philosophy and to exploit the full richness of F1 in all its aspects: in recent years, too many other sports and entertainments have captured the imagination of the public; and massive amounts of information and clear access have become too readily available on the internet.
In my interview with Martin he makes it clear that this is his opinion and not that of the F1 industry as a whole; times are changing, however – and Martin’s views provide a good litmus test of perhaps where F1 may be heading.