June 23, 2015

F1 Panic mode: Horner says he has a contract, Austrian attendance and F1 Legends revisited

Can you imagine a scene,  rival team personnel calling out to Christian Horner:

 "Sorry mate, maybe we can find a spot for you here at Manor"

OK, it probably didn't go down quite that way but that Horner's spot as Red Bull is under threat is all over the UK media today.
Horner himself has denied it saying, ironically for anyone with even a peripheral understanding of how things happen in F1:  "I have a contract"

Those who have been around a while will see the delicious irony in Horner's calls for helping Honda, changing regulations, throwing F1 up in the air and starting over.  
Almost everyone agrees the current formula is a mess but Christian has a couple of immediate problems.  

Google is not Horner's friend when it comes to his attacking other teams for trying to change rules in order to be competitive with the then cheating dominant Red Bull.

His biggest problem though is Ferrari. In the paddock everyone has seen how Ferrari, in a hole way shallower than Red Bull is in now,  decapitated itself to grow a new, arguably much improved head.

Although Ferrari has a long way to go before it can do more than threaten Mercedes by running low fuel on Fridays, that substantial progress can be made under the current regulations is now a proven fact.  Renault instead has chosen to write off 2015 to work towards next season or perhaps a future engine spec and regulations that are yet to be defined.

A new set of regulations which more and voices are calling for being implemented not in 2017 but already next year, if the teams can come to an agreement.

Horner, being notoriously close to Ecclestone, has called for Bernie to just decide, or Ross "I'm still fishing" Brawn.   I'm sure that will go down well.

Complain complain.

The sport as a whole seems to have finally realized how many are tuning out and is in a bit of a panic.   Part is  due to the incessant drumbeat of "F1 is just terrible", an agenda pursued a bit too vigorously by those with  an interest against the current Mercedes domination.

That drumbeat is remixed and amplified on Social media, which is inundated with  "in the old days in F1..." type posts.  Ironically some of F1's most revered moments are the Senna-Prost years of single team domination.
Fans have always complained about F1, it's just that many today were not around or choose to forget.  Turbos were always breaking, Bridgestones were not fair, Ferrari was using the FIA, Mclaren cheated, Prost had Bellestre, Brawn had the double diffuser.... the list is endless.

Red Bull organized a classic 80's or so F1 parade, with Lauda, Berger, Prost, Piquet, Patrese and Martini driving.   It true "golden era" 80s fashion, one turbo car blew up on the first lap and another just never worked,.  My, how things have changed right?

Well, one thing has changed and should be corrected.  

Back in that era,  F1 was very much about technology development,   a race between manufacturers to see who could come up with the cleverest  engineering solution within a specific set of rules.    The current engine freeze scheme flies in the face of something that always was part of F1's' DNA.

But, cost savings,  you say?   F1 as a business last year had its most profitable year ever, yet the impression is that it's always crying poverty.  
Where does that profit go?  Outside the sport to its commercial rights holders which don't seem especially interested in reinvesting in long term health of the sport.  How much of it goes into other expensive trappings that have nothing to do with anyone outside the small closed circle that is the "Circus"?
If you continuously find ways to shut fans out, to price them out, to only give access to VIPs (preferably tall women in skimpy outfits), and generally look inward,  how are you surprised when those fans finally tune out?

"The paying audience at the Austrian GP was half of what it was last year".

Last year, the inaugural race at the revamped Red Bull Ring  had to request  special maximum capacity dispensation from the local government in order to fit the quarter of a million spectators on hand over the week end for races, free concerts and assorted Red Bull organized and subsidized activities.  

This year,  attendance was indeed just about half that but,  how is anyone shocked less people would make the pilgrimage to a  track in the Austrian alps, 100 miles from the closest airport and where there are nothing like the number of hotel rooms needed in town?

Get more fans to the track.

You can see more of an F1 race on television but fans are made when they first see the car in person, when they smell it,  when they are a little frightened by it.  

The new buzzy sounds of F1 don't help but that doesn't seem to deter endurance racing's newfound popularity.  The difficulty of attending a race is becoming a very real issue, it's just so expensive between travel, price gouging hotels and venue ticket.
Monza, a track that makes logistical sense being in a large metropolitan area, is being squeezed to bring it up to par with what the FOM charges attention seeking despots and oligarchs to stage a race.    Monza will inevitably have to raise prices further reducing audience in a key region for the sport.

Fix ticket prices and rethink the engine freeze and many of F1's current problems will work themselves out.  

But I guarantee complaining won't stop.


  1. Very astute. It's why I as a paying customer will always pick the September sports car event at COTA over the F1 race. You can sit anywhere on a $75 ticket, you can wander just about anywhere (I think the only thing my media credential gets me that a GA ticket doesn't is entry to the (windowless) media center). Austin isn't in gouge-the-visitor mode. Traffic to and from the track is easy. And there's 10 hours of racing (just counting TUSC and WEC).

  2. While I am a HAM fan, i am getting very little enjoyment watching him and Nico race (follow).... No different than I hated Ferrari's dominance or Red Bulls....

    I looked forward to these new tech changes as a chance to mix things up, but unfortunately this formula really is proving too tough for some formidable brands to handle....

    While Horner can stuff himself, for being the self serving fellow he is.... I am about ready to go back a bit to perhaps a simple turbo 6 .... And maybe Kinetic brake recovery only ....

    Brands like Honda and Renault can't be seen like this....my suggestion has been back marker teams should be given additional practice time, commensurate with how far back they are...

    And yes perhaps we need 1 or 2 neutral people outside the teams to decide these things.... As there is no way unanimity will ever be reached on major topics .... I guess I thought that was rhe FIA's job though??

    Yup , nice to see Red Bull and even Ron get smacked a bit (clearly Whitmarsh not the issue), but I will also enjoy watching their resurgence like we have seen with Williams and Ferrari.... I just like some mystery and some battles when I tune in on Sundays at 5am.....

  3. Still I think the event was great, also looking at the place is the first time I see the camping places full of people.

    Maybe not as much as last year, what is strange is knowing there was not going to be a German GP they did not flood the place.


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