How F1 intends to improve the spectator experience

Ross Gibson

Formula One Has to stay at the cutting edge of motor racing and to help it to do just that a dedicated research group has been appointed with the task. To achieve their aim, they will zero in on three areas that are to be prioritised in terms of future rule changes:

  • Aerodynamics
  • Engine
  • Suspension

Last year, Liberty Media, the new owners of Formula One, decided to appoint Ross Brawn (who formerly worked with Ferrari, Benetton and Mercedes) as Managing Director of Motorsport with the responsibility for introducing new initiatives and developing the F1 brand.

Promoting overtaking and competition

The new team’s task is to try and remedy the drop in the quantity of overtaking manoeuvres (which dropped by nearly 50% last season) and to try and address the alarming performance difference between the top three teams and others.

Brawn has made a commitment that future F1 cars will look spectacular. But as well as aesthetics, the team will also be working on ways of making the racing spectacle more dynamic.

F1’s new boss has indeed given himself a big task. He desperately needs to stop the drain in the quantity of spectators deserting the sport. Back in 2015, each race attracted audiences averaging 3.74 million per race. Two years later the figure has shrunk to 2.52 million per race. Brawn’s job is to reverse that trend.

The new team have done the easy part of the job by identifying the specific areas. Now comes the tough part, and according to Ross Brawn, it’s all about the technical regulations.

Changes based on audience research

Pat Symonds, who is the technical chief on Brawn’s team, said they would be using audience research to test the changes that they intend to implement. At the recent MIA Entertainment and Energy -Efficient Motorsport Conference Symonds expanded on the three sections they would be analysing.

With regards to aerodynamics, Symonds explained that this was an area that interested many F1 fans and that changes to it could make significant alterations to performance, making it a key aspect of the teams focus.

In terms of the engine, this is one of the most important areas as far as F1 car manufacturers are concerned, and rightly so. The power units are also of keen interest to followers of F1, so it made sense to make this one of the fields to concentrate on.

Lastly, there is suspension; or to put it more succinctly – the tyres. Here the attention needs to levelled at the way that the teams treat and use them.

Creating a level cost playing field

There was also one other topic that the team needs to take into consideration, and this is costs. The high level of costs makes it difficult for teams with fewer funds to compete. In other words, it is simply not a level playing field.

Predictability breeds boredom, and this is something that is turning fans away in droves. When someone like Mercedes can dominate, as they have done in recent years, it takes all of the fun away. Doing something to make costs affordable to all teams is the only way that this can be changed from the car point of view.

As far as the spectators are concerned, the two types, the live trackside audience and the TV audience, have separate expectations. Both sets must, of course, be satisfied.

Brawn’s team will also be considering the F1 experience across the week; not just on Saturdays and Sundays.