Mark Preston is the Team Principal of the Techeetah Formula E team and founder of StreetDrone, not to mention all the years he has worked in Formula 1 with McLaren and Arrows. Let’s ask him a few questions about the evolution of Formula E as well as Formula 1.
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Mark, how would you compare Formula E to Formula 1 today as opposed to in 2014, in its initial season?
When we started in Formula E four years ago, most people didn’t think we would even get to the first race, let alone entice a total of eleven solid manufacturers to the series. So, if you look at that alone, it’s quite a change.
Formula E appeared to be solving many problems that Formula 1 is still struggling with. Behind all the innovations, what is the real secret to this kind of progress?
Having experienced many years in Formula 1 developing areas that aren’t that easy for the general audience to understand, it’s was a refreshing position that Formula E took from the start. They wanted to focus on tangible Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) technology that would go from race to road into our future standard cars and I think that this is one of three success pillars.
Racing has historically always been used as a marketing platform and to fast-track car development. BEV technology is an important part of the future and all the major car manufacturers are flocking to Formula E to take advantage of both the R&D capabilities as well as the strong marketing platform, and that’s your second success pillar.
The third has to be fan engagement. As with any sporting entity, you’re only as strong as the number of fans that watch the sport and Formula E outlined a solid fan engagement platform from its inception. Bringing the fans closer to the action by opening up and being accessible, participating and interacting via social media and taking the action to the city centres has been another key in Formula E’s evolution. Formula E has brought racing into 2018 and beyond.
I think it’s too early to tell where Formula 1 goes in the future.
As a Team Principal, do you see both series moving in the same direction, or in different ones?
I think it’s too early to tell where Formula 1 goes in the future. We know that they are changing and there have been some announcements on the changes they are making, but we probably won’t see any major changes until the next engine rule change.
Looking at the growing viewing figures and the way that we consume sports today, Formula E is an interesting case study of how to do fan engagement right and Formula 1 is moving towards this direction too. Until we know where Formula 1 is heading, it’s probably too soon to say if we are moving in the same direction or not but I’m a firm believer that both sports can co-exist as there is room for internal combustion and battery technology: as well as potentially other energy carriers in the future like hydrogen.
What’s your take on how Liberty Media is doing in making Formula 1 more accessible and also more likeable in the US and other countries?
I think it’s great and it’s just what the sport needs. It looks like Liberty has taken some key learnings from Formula E and are applying them to Formula 1 as its first step. With the social climate, we have today, the fans consume sport differently and Formula 1, just like other sports, need to move with the development and continue to grow in the same direction instead of clinging on to the past.