In engineering terms, Formula 1 is the pioneer at the forefront of technical innovation in motorsport. The great irony is that in some areas the sport remains so far behind other forms of sport it borders on embarrassing. One such area that has grown in pertinence over the last decade in which the sport has failed to capitalise on huge potential is, of course, social media.
Long-term chieftain Bernie Ecclestone has been finally removed from his position atop the Formula 1 pyramid and following the sport’s takeover by American media monster Liberty Media we are on the verge of a long-overdue marriage between Formula 1 and the very platforms it has spent so long avoiding.
It seems ridiculous that as late as last season teams and drivers were met with resistance when attempting to give fans an insight into their inner workings. Representatives from FOM took a no-nonsense approach and chastised offenders for impeaching upon the exclusive rights of television broadcasters during weekend sessions. Reply to fans on social media? Go ahead. Post driver-recorded footage from the garage, paddock or pit lane? Forget about it.
Suddenly the fans are closer than ever and the exclusivity cherished by the previous regime was being eroded.
Had CVC and Ecclestone remained in charge into 2017, the vast surge in content-rich activity at testing in Barcelona from teams and drivers on various channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram would have been non-existent. Chase Carey of Liberty Media notified the teams of the relaxed rules that allowed them to actively engage the fan base – videos suddenly appeared on various news feeds that fans have been craving for years. Suddenly the fans are closer than ever and the exclusivity cherished by the previous regime was being eroded. Alongside better racing, heightened fan engagement will draw back those who have ditched the sport in favour of more accessible forms of motorsport.
They have fantastic opportunities right on their doorstep even if they found themselves lacking ideas. Lewis Hamilton has an incredible amount of followers over various forms of social media and to not use his box office appeal would be a grave error. Hamilton’s reach transcends the sport and has an incredible reach. Not only are fans able to witness their man at the track and in the garage, but also frequenting fashion shows, recording studios to name a couple.
Hamilton loudly bangs the drum of tying up social media and Formula 1 and has on occasion become frustrated with the sport’s lack of openness and adaptability. Clearly bored of repeating robotic quotes in press conferences, why not include something simple such as fan social media questions. Yes, answers will obviously satisfy sponsors but ideas like this bring fans closer to the drivers and closer to the action.
Formula 1 is finally arriving to the party and it is better late than never. We can’t afford to see fans abandoning the sport. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a more inclusive, more engaging Formula 1 centred around digital and social media.