From a fans’ point of view the big story from yesterday’s FOTA press conference was the changes they’d like to make to shorten the races, change the points and boost the TV coverage.
Martin Whitmarsh spoke about the desire to change the points system to reward the winner and podium finishers and to shorten the races by fifty miles, which for the average race will take about 20 minutes off the race time. The points thing will exaggerate the difference between the top teams and the rest and is possibly a payback for the big guys agreeing so many cost cuts and giving cheap engines and gearboxes to the smaller teams for the next three years.
All of this is in response to a huge public survey FOTA conducted. Unlike the recent ING/F1 Racing survey, this one asked people who are mildly interested in F1, not the diehards and the proposals are a response to that. These are the right people to be having that dialogue with because they represent the potential for growth.
Flavio Briatore picked up this theme, talking about how the TV show needed improving. And here we get into some difficulties.
FOTA propose to spice up the show by revealing the weights of the cars after qualifying, opening all radio conversations, showing which cars are fuelled to the finish and showing predictions of where a car will slot in after a pit stop.
Removing all suspense in other words, which I have to say might be a mistake. Telling people right away how much fuel everyone had when they set their fast lap makes qualifying even more meaningless than it is already and takes all the suspense out of the opening phase of the race. The not-knowing sometimes is the best bit. There were quite a few times when I was a TV commentator that I knew more than I let on because it was clear to me that by revealing the information I would ruin the sporting suspense.
The problem here is that they want to make it more accessible to the casual fan, which is laudable and they have some very good ideas like constructors’ championship points for the fastest pit crew. There is some fantastic information the teams have which would be of massive interest to viewers, like a graphic which shows the different lines drivers take around a corner, the radio traffic of course and things which only they see at present.
But to reveal many of the things proposed today would make F1 races less a sporting spectacle and more like a scientific process, with a predictable outcome. I think they need to be more selective, not give all the goodies away too soon.