“Less is more”
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.
It’s a tough one for F1! I think most F1 people will be offended by my comment but they’ve lost touch with the teal world. Funnily enough, it was Seb Vettel who mentioned it in India, his road trip.
Ticket prices need to be fixed; again F1 people won’t understand because they’ve no idea about medium salaries in the countries that the sport visits. I find it offensive that, for example, a trip to the nearest race, Valencia, will cost me 3 monthly wages: plane tickets, accommodation, food, race tickets (I’m talking about a proper visit: arrive on Wednesday, leave on Monday). Not acceptable, I can deal with the cost of travel but not entrance fees. And if I wanted to take someone with me? Do I have to live on bread and water for the rest of the year? So, Martin says nice things but nothing changes. Sorry if it hurts somebody’s feelings.
Johnny Rotten once mentioned we need to question things, ask the right questions. Fans’ questions remain unanswered by the sport’s personalities. I’ll be honest, I love F1 but I won’t blow thousands of my hard earned euros on race tickets. Thank you very much, you need to lower your prices.
Then you have terrible restrictions by FOM on what can be shown on TV or recorded as a podcast, etc., during testing or races. The amount of F1-related online content is meagre: there’s no official YouTube channel, no official podcasts. Thank God journos make up for that, otherwise people would get simply bored. Of course, F1 uses a different business model and so on, Mr. E sells his TV rights, teams get their share, no way we can escape this… Unless they start cutting costs for real, let’s go back to basics, let’s race for an idea and see if it can be sustainable and profitable instead mega-profitable and sucking money out of us, fans.
OK, the teams work hard and want some kind of recognition for their efforts, the sport they helped to create (clearly Bernie’s thinking) but it’s all a question of adjusting your priorities and doing things in a rational way.
Once again, sorry for the nasty remarks; it’s just the way I feel.
Actually, I think you’re correct in every way. Underlining all of your comments, though, is the undeniable truth that the power-brokers of F1 (by which I do not mean the teams0 still do not place any real value on the internet, or new media. That’s partly because of the “less is more” approach – nothing provides “more” than the internet! – and partly because the internet appears to be “non-commercial” (in the sense that much of it can be used free of charge). In other words, no-one in F1 has yet figured out how the internet can make them serious money. It will change, but not in the short-term. In the short-term, F1 will inevitably continue to “circle the waggons” against the majority of on-line attacks.