We catch up with Richard Phillips, the man who has been Managing Director of Silverstone for over ten years. Now MD of TPF Associates Limited, Richard shares his thoughts with the Paddock magazine on what he would change in the today’s world of Formula 1.
Formula 1, like a number of popular sports, has become commercialized to the extent that it is in danger of losing its connection with the very fans that made it a success in the first place.
It is understandably desirable for emerging markets to wish to raise their national profile by staging a race but the knock on is that the fees circuits are expected to pay are becoming far too high, taking ticket prices out of reach of the average man in the street and this is also putting some of the most historical and famous circuits at risk of losing a round of the championship which will detract things further. And, unfortunately, this is no secret to anyone.
Whilst I appreciate that races can be viewed on television, this medium is by far not a substitute for experiencing the event live at a circuit. Long gone are the days when fans were able to get close to the drivers. And fans want to get close! Just look at Fans Thursday at Silverstone in 2014, when 30,000 people came to the event early and queued for a pit walk with many saying it was the highlight of their weekend. Issues of accessibility and the ticket pricing are resulting in the average age of fans attending events being in the mid thirties, making it increasingly difficult for manufacturers, teams and sponsors to engage with new and younger audiences. Failure to attract new and younger fans could have a severe impact on the sport. Again, this is not a secret.
Whilst I appreciate that races can be viewed on television, this medium is by far not a substitute for experiencing the event live at a circuit.
At least FIA rules now encourage the development of relevant technologies and the difference between Formula 1 and other perceived ‘greener’ formulae is getting smaller.
If I were in a position of influence at this point, I would continue on the path of relevant technologies and treat the teams on the grid more equally, encouraging competition, not just between the wealthier teams, but also between the teams in the middle and back of the grid. This is critical. How often do we see more than two teams competing at the front of the grid, mostly one team, in fact, one driver is usually dominant, which does not make for great TV viewing.
I would also seek to engage with the next generation of fans and enable them to attend races without bankrupting the circuits. Closer access is a must but practically circuits must be allowed more latitude to use communication devices and virtual technology as engagement tools and also the ability to work with teams and sponsors on a local level. All would benefit and it should never be forgotten that without viable circuits there is no championship.