There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘E’ word in Formula 1 lately. And when I say ‘E’ word, I don’t mean ‘Engines’ for once, although there’s been a lot of that lately too!
No, I mean ‘Entertainment’ in this instance and whether Formula 1 is as entertaining as it can be…
To this degree the teams and the governing body have been looking at ways to change the look of the cars and maybe help make the racing more ‘exciting’ in the future, another ‘E’ word for you, this is getting like Sesame Street!
So in 2017 things are going to change. Whether it’ll be for the better or worse I’m not sure, although I’m not totally convinced the right decisions have been made. No point moaning about it though, we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.
But what about the raceday experience for the fans in the Grandstand? What about the build-up for those who flood through the turnstiles and for those watching around the world on TV. Does Formula 1 in general do enough to keep the fans entertained and make their racing experience so good that they can’t wait to come back next year?
With GP2 and GP3, plus the Porsche Supercup, we have a full support programme for all the European races and some of the flyaways. Whilst in Melbourne the addition of the Aussie V8s has been a welcome and brilliant idea over the last few years.
The Red Arrows display before 2014 #BritishGP
But is that enough? Take a typical race day for instance. After the drivers have appeared in the track parade, an hour and a half before the start of the race, what is there for the fans to watch, experience, and enjoy? If we’re lucky, at Silverstone for instance there will be air displays; I still say the appearance of the Red Arrows at the British Grand Prix is one of the highlights of the year. Don’t ever take them away Silverstone or else!!! At Austria, Red Bull put on a top show as well. China, Austin and Russia, we have marching bands or dancers on the grid.
But it’s hardly a massive build up to the race now and it seems to me to be down to the circuits themselves to provide some sort of build-up. Hardly an easy thing to do when some are struggling to make any money from staging a Grand Prix in the first place. Then the drivers take their cars from the garage to the track, talk to their engineers on the grid and after a quick comfort break, strap themselves in and set off on the formation lap.
Where are the big introductions for the 20 heroes about to go and battle it out? Where’s the showbiz? Why can’t we have them introduced to the crowd one by one, with fireworks going off, music pumping out and the crowd encouraged to cheer and greet their favourites as the drivers stride to their cars? All of which could be done, quite easily after the track parade, which is still important as not every fan is sitting on the pit straight. And it would look great for the TV audiences watching at home as well.
Imagine how it would feel for the drivers too to be cheered to the grid. How much better would they feel knowing that their supporters were willing them onto victory?
At the Race of Champions recently, thousands of fans were sat shivering in the stands but yet they still responded to every request to ‘make some noise’ and gave brilliant support to those on the track. The atmosphere was magnificent and I, for one, would love to see that replicated before every Grand Prix.
It’s just a thought, but as I look out from my commentary box an hour before a Grand Prix, I see work going on in the garages, with the lucky few enjoying a pit lane walkabout but the fans in the grandstands making their own amusement or relaxing away from the stands, thus reducing the atmosphere even further. Maybe in an entertainment business, that could be addressed.
It’s the same with the awarding of the World Champion’s Trophy. And this matter you may have heard me discussing on air with Ted, Ant and Martin once or twice.
The argument for me is this….
I wouldn’t go to Wimbledon and expect the Champion to walk off after the match and receive their trophy a few hours after the final, at a private invitation only gala ball.
Nor would I go to the Champions’ League final and feel happy that my team (and I’m still dreaming that this will apply to West Ham one day) gets presented with the Cup in front of the sponsors later that night.
Or after the Olympic 100 metres final, the medals are handed out behind closed doors and that the athletes don’t get their moment of glory in full view of the fans.
It doesn’t happen. The winner of the Open gets the Claret Jug on the 18th green, a short while after they’ve won. The Premier League Champions receive their trophy at the last game of the season so they can celebrate on the pitch and in NASCAR it’s the same too, big celebrations in front of a live TV audience and, crucially for me, the fans at the track.
But in F1, and other FIA series, the Champion isn’t actually the Champion until they get their trophy at the FIA Gala. He or she doesn’t even get the chance to go onto the podium and accept the applause and cheers of the fans. And I just don’t get it.
Yes, there’s always a chance of a protest, or a disqualification. As happened in 1997 of course with Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher. But that can be catered for and I’m sure everyone would understand that you couldn’t have a podium celebration for the champ, if they were under a stewards’ enquiry.
For me it’s only right and fitting that the final celebrations at the final race of the season should be for the driver that has excelled and won a hard fought year-long battle. The winning Constructors should be on that podium as well, after all this is a team sport and the team are equally entitled to celebrate. Have the 1-2-3 podium, have a break, invite as many fans onto the track as possible and welcome back the Champion, so that their moment of glory can be savoured and celebrated in front of as many people as possible.
No invite needed, no jacket required. Just a chance to share the success and provide one more moment of entertainment in what we should never forget is a sport that entertains and enthralls so many people across the globe. And fingers crossed, will carry on doing so for a long time to come.
Just a couple of thoughts to end the season on. Thank you for reading the blog in 2015, have a brilliant winter everyone and I’ll be back in 2016 from Melbourne right through to Abu Dhabi, hoping that the 21 races we have in store keep you thoroughly ‘entertained’.