You can’t possibly turn down the invitation to make suggestions on how to run Formula 1 when asked. From everything we know to everything we see, Formula 1 is not an easy environment to work in. This goes not only for the political, operational and engineering side, but increasing for my side, the marketing and commercial one.
Nevertheless, when asked one feels obliged to cast aside the restrictions placed on those at the top of our sport and think about the “what ifs”. So rather than approach this opportunity from a “what’s wrong with Formula 1” or a purely commercial perspective, I’ve tried to cherry pick some themes. Some you may agree with, some you may not, all I can hope for is that this provides a moment of light relief from your daily challenges.
Firstly, I’d carve up the existing matrix that governs the way the TV money is distributed to the teams. This is often a hot topic on Twitter and the blogs around Formula 1, and there seems to be much misrepresentation of the facts and figures. In my sport, all teams would get the same amount of money, irrespective of their length of time in the sport, importance to the show and so on… I would have the teams and the drivers competing for prize money per event and I would also introduce points for the pole position and fastest lap and provide some financial incentive to these achievements.
One of the positives about football is that the rules have not changed fundamentally. The fundamentals are simple, as they are in Formula 1 if you really boil things down, but there is also room for the avid (armchair manager) fan to delve deeper into sport. This is the same for Formula 1. In recent times we have seen the benefits of change (RedBull’s reign – ended) and the benefits of stability on the rules. Mercedes have been challenged by more than one team and the midfield teams have tightened up, closing the gap to the top teams. I wonder what the world would think if Formula 1 had a Leicester City moment with a minnow winning the World Championship one time. Wait a minute, it did happen, Brawn GP did it and that was absolutely great! This leads me to my next change.
Formula 1 does not need to be THE story, just IN the story.
Promotion & relegation
The relegation and promotion model in football is one that should be encouraged in Formula 1. Yes, there is much investment needed to gain entry into Formula 1 that it can present a natural barrier to start racing. I would change that. Firstly, I’d look to simplify the Formulae: F1 – F2 – F3 – F4. With GP2 and GP3, this complicates things for the transient fan whilst the racing and the driver development are exactly what the sport needs. If the teams in the lower series were more prepared for a jump up and the rights holder able to support a move up or down financially, as they do in football, then it would greatly increase the show. Yes, some big teams would have come close to relegation recently, but how would that enhance the show for the fans?
I’d look at initiative to draw out more of the drivers’ personalities. This is what the fans buy into. There are some great personalities in Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Riccardo and others spring immediately to mind, whilst others are more reserved and invisible. This is not to say this is wrong, however, corporate shackles seem to restrict any openness in this respect, those who speak out are vilified by their teams and embraced by the fans. Kimi’s personality is testament to this. Loathed by many, loved by many more, the Iceman is seen as straight shooting and direct (often funny). Formula 1 needs to see these personalities and the fans demand to see more of these personalities. These guys are our gladiators, they all need to be different, but they also need to be accessible and available. It’s never been easier – diversity is our friend.
Investment in the sport
In my view the sport has not invested enough in promoting itself. This has allowed other forms of motorsport to gain in popularity in recent years. It’s not as if Formula 1 is a poor sport, but it cannot afford to be slow to adopt new technology nor to ignore the younger generation of fans and potential fans – this is a secret to no one. An active PR and communication department would go a long way to ensure this. Showcasing technology at major shows, putting on demo’s in city centres and other tactics would greatly enhance the interest of the sport beyond its traditional shores.
Formula 1 and Hollywood
This is an area that has been hugely under leveraged from a promotional standpoint. NFL, NBL, NASCAR and many other sports have benefited from some Hollywood gold dust. I would be looking to recruit someone to take Formula 1 to Hollywood and get the series written into some blockbusters. Formula 1 does not need to be THE story, just IN the story. Sylvester Stallone need not apply!
A special foundation
The promotion of Formula 1 is something that has been lacking for some time. The rights holder prefers to leave this to the teams, the sponsors and the race organisers. Whilst this may have worked in the past and the commercial rights holder may still see this as the best route, the investment in grassroots and social change is something that Formula 1 could have a huge impact on. The creation of a Formula One Foundation would be a step in the right direction for a sports series with a conscience.