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F1 ready to take the leap into new media
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Dec 2009   |  4:41 pm GMT  |  52 comments

Formula 1 is in robust shape but needs to attend to the demands of new media, that was the strong message from Monaco this week. And Mercedes team boss Nick Fry indicated that the sport was now ready to take that step.

Picture 45
The Motor Sport Forum has just wrapped up and delegates are leaving with plenty of new ideas and insights.

Over the two days we have heard a lot about the impact of the credit crunch on motorsport, how the Copenhagen climate change talks will impact the sport in future and heard a great deal about the next turn of the wheel with regard to new media and ways the sport can embrace it.

The World Rally Championship seems to be the most advanced on this front, with a dynamic presentation which revealed that they have a wide open approach to how fans use their content, encouraging them to post event content on You Tube and other social network sites and then in turn going out to those communities and drawing them back into WRC. They also have a game in development which will allow players to compete on a stage against Sebastien Loeb or Kimi Raikkonen in real time as the WRC event is going.

But they do not have $450 million a year of TV rights income to protect, unlike F1. This afternoon’s session saw media professionals like Ben Gallop, the head of F1 from the BBC and Jayme Brito, who heads Globo TV’s F1 offering in Brazil, robustly arguing that the broadcast model is not broken and that it has plenty of life in it yet. Gallop said that for all the success of its online services this year, TV is still the way most people consume Formula 1.

There were some interesting voices, such as Jacques Raynaud, vice chairman of Eurosport who warned motorsport in general and F1 competitors in particular to stop generating endless bad publicity about their own sport, arguing about rules like double diffusers or threatening to break away,

“In no other sport do the players systematically bad mouth the rules and threaten to quit, “he said, “My feeling after 17 years in sports broadcasting is that we have reached the tipping point for this. How can we build and invest if motorsport people bad mouth their sport.” F1 is only on Eurosport in France, but his point was not only aimed at F1.

Prior to the Forum I got a quote from LG’s head of sponsorship Andrew Barrett which gave me the in-point for launching this debate this week,

“The challenge for F1 is to evolve a very successful business in new channels, the ones that people are increasingly choosing to consume sport through, especially the internet,” he said. “F1 has been visionary, now it’s at risk of losing it with the evolving markets and media spectrum. The MTV generation watch TV in a different way, but the broadcast needs to evolve to capture that viewer, both on TV and online. That is a challenge. Also this is one of the few professional sports in the world that is not broadcast in High Definition.”

Mercedes F1 boss Nick Fry sat on a panel this morning with Michael Roche who runs the Singapore GP and Marissa Pace from Kangaroo, talking at how to improve the show. Fry, who said Brawn’s website budget for 2009 had been just £18,000, admitted that F1 had been hopelessly slow to embrace the internet, but that is about to change,

“We are guilty of being slow on this, ” he said. There has been a lot of discussion a lot of change, things are more open now. When I started in F1 9 years ago, meetings with the FIA and FOM were appalling. Now it is dramatically different. Business realities are taking over. We have to up our game because our competitors have upped their game.” Now, he said, Bernie Ecclestone was more open to listening to the teams and other stakeholders about what they need for their businesses.

“I think it is a bit of old fashioned thinking to think that by giving people more over the internet they will consume less somewhere else,” Fry said. “In fact, with younger consumers and fans are actually doing both – they are not reducing their consumption of one because you are giving them more in another area. They are doing both maybe at the same time.
CVC have definitely had a hand in this because they know that they cannot rely on earning $450 million per year from broadcasters for ever and need new sources of significant revenue to service their substantial debt on the F1 business.

Newcomers like Gerard Lopes, who is bidding to buy Renault and Tony Fernandes, who owns the Lotus F1 team are also helping to drive that change.

Lopes was seen in discussion with a senior Renault figure here yesterday, the pair were in casual clothes, “blending in”. I hear from colleagues in France that Renault are keen to know whether Lopes is interested in buying the team for himself or as a Trojan Horse for Flavio Briatore, to whom the company would not sell for obvious reasons.

Fry also revealed that most of the potential sponsors, looking at getting involved in F1 are from Asia and the Middle East, illustrating that the model of taking races into those markets does in turn bring new income to the teams through sponsorship. He said that the joint FOTA launch had been agreed by all teams, not what I heard from other team principals, and that it would take place in Valencia in late January. I know that many teams are afraid that Ferrari and Alonso would grab all the coverage and Tony Fernandes pointed out that he would not have a car ready by then!

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52 Comments
  1. alex m says:

    Why would Renault sell to anybody else but Prodrive ?

    There is a funny smell around F1 from where I sit, Dave Richards has clearly upset someone, because they really do seem to be trying to keep him out. Thing is, I missed whatever it was he was suposed to have done to upset whoever it was.

    1. Red Andy says:

      You missed Prodrive’s complete and utter failure to make the F1 grid in 2008? Quite a big thing to miss.

      1. feynman says:

        You mean ProDrive’s complete and utter failure to anticipate the administration’s ability to bungle everything it touches.
        Dave Richards signed up for a very specific set of rules; vested-interests pulled the plug on those rules. There are plenty of people to blame for that customer-car mess, quite why you choose to blame the victims, ProDrive, is a real mystery.

        Anyhow, never mind that, here’s a thing: Has anyone ever actually seen both Gerard Lopez and Gerard Lopes together in the same room at the same time?
        Me neither, definitely something funny going on with those two guys.

      2. Stephen Kellett says:

        Thats misrepresenting it a bit isn’t it? They were signed up to enter using McLaren’s technology then the rules changed to effectively ban that sort of entry.

        Its not as if they pulled out, more they were prevented from entering.

      3. John F says:

        I agree, it was a big thing to miss, but I disagree that it was Prodrive’s failure.

        The FIA changed the rules between the time Richards signed up initially (customer cars allowed) and when he was asked to show up with his team (customer cars NOT allowed).

        That left him not much options rather than to withdraw from the grid.

  2. A combined car launch would indeed be good – live on the Internet maybe. Yes Ferrari may attract more attention but then again a Campos Racing launch on its own day may not even muster a photo in the English press. A group photo would guarantee some exposure.

    Perhaps they can stagger the launch over the days of the test – 1st day new teams. Then midfield teams next day. Finally, frontrunners.

    1. Dale says:

      This could be a good event to attend if the teams manage to make the whole trip worthwhile by providing a lot more than just the new car launch.
      May make the trip myself if it looks like it could be a good one ;)

  3. Aaron James says:

    Doesn’t sound much to me like they are ready to take the leap into new media. And rather instead are ready to take the leap into talking about taking the leap.

    For CVC and Ecclestone for as long as broadcasters keep stumping up for TV rights there’s limited options for pushing F1 online.

    What will happen, as it is already, is people will begin watching races online whether streamed or made available over torrents. In Australia you’re better off watching the BBC’s coverage via a proxy (it’s trivial to bypass the BBC’s region restrictions) than to deal with the abysmal domestic coverage.

    So when it reaches a critical mass of people doing this – as it has already with music and is getting close with movies – then it will be too late.

    But at the same time FOM wont move until it has to. So I think the next 3-4 years will be interesting.

    1. Tonksy says:

      Hey at least now in Australia with OneHD we get the races and qualifying live for once. It’s an improvement… but still could be better

  4. Andy says:

    I hate the idea of a big launch ceremony. I used to look forward to Reading about the various unveils.

    James, Any discussion about ideas to help overtaking? Why not have flat floors, wide tyres and lower aero reliance.

    I honestly think the tracks nowadays are partly to blame.

    Any insight on people in the industrys reaction to Kimi going rallying?

  5. JoeE says:

    F1 needs more better coverage and a step has been taken with the BBC showing everything online but its about 3-5secs behind the live timing supplied by FOM so its kinna useless using the 2 beside each other on a computer, so i don’t.

    We need HD coverage, its a joke that in this day and age where criket is in HD, and F1 is not. Berie, wake up you money grabbing fool.

    I liked the idea of the Sky channel with loads of extras but that fell like a lead balloon.

    If you look at the V8 Supercar race for the Sydney Telstra 500, this weekend past, the online app from there site allows viewing of live timing, car tracker, video feed and commentary all in one web based app.

    I for one would be willing to pay say £7 per weekend for Fri through Sunday. Over the course of the season (19 races) that’s an extra £133 from me to Bernie. Am not happy about it but am willing to pay it if the coverage is much improved.

    Another thing I would add is open up the dam team radios to EVERYONE. Again from the V8 series, all radios are open to everyone and it makes great viewing/listening with the ability for the comms guys to talk to the driver after the race on his slow down lap. Brilliant i say/

    FOM: wise up and look to the people who pay you. Give us what we want!!!

    James: hope your enjoying yourself :P

  6. Jameson says:

    Fomula One definitely needs to be broadcast in HD–the level of detail is just so engrossing! I also agree that FOM needs to give more slack to fans posting videos on sites like YouTube. Granted whole races shouldn’t be posted, but quick tidbits aren’t a big deal. That being said, how about selling DVDs with whole races?

  7. Adrian says:

    Yes, Alonso and Ferrari would get a lot of coverage, but what about Mercedes IF they managed to lure Schumacher…

    The biggest problem would be for the teams who may not have a car ready in time, but then if the first test is only a few days later, surely they should be trying to push their schedule a bit. I mean for a new team, testing must be especially important!!

  8. Tim Parry says:

    I hope F1 doesn’t jump with both feet into the whole “new media” craze. The MTV generation watches a race the same way the rest of us do. 1) They go to the track and 2) if they can’t do that they watch it on the tube. Watching on a computer monitor or iphone might be fun at first, but it gets old fast.

    The new media gurus have been screaming the old ways are dead for 20 years now. It turns out that people are watching more TV now than ever before.

    1. Stephen Kellett says:

      Such generalisations.

      Despite being a software/technology guy I was initially resistant to internet TV.

      I switched onto internet TV during the Olympics. I couldn’t get enough of it, especially the swimming and the cycling. Watch, watch it again, examine their technique etc. Watch the incredible opening ceremony light show again and again and again.

      I now consume probably 75% of my TV programs using the computer. Why? Because I don’t have to be there when the program is aired. And I can pause it when I want (phone call, loo, want a glass of wine, whatever).

      This year, thanks to the BBC, I opted to miss some races live so that I could spend time on the beach with my girlfriend. All I have to do is make sure I don’t turn the car radio on for the journey home and I can watch it later that day, in full, rather than watch the edited highlights. I don’t know the results (unless I’m hair brained enough to accidentally visit James’ site (which I did do once – doh!)), so its still full of suspense.

      And I’m not even MTV generation. I’m 45, not 25. I watch most of my TV between 10.30pm and 1AM, thanks to internet TV. Most of the things that I watch “in real time” are things I don’t really care about, just killing time until I have to do something else (like go and rescue that food from burning :-).

      If thats what I’m doing you can be sure people younger than me are doing it.

      As for protecting their TV rights, Bernie is not doing that by chasing YouTubers that post 5 minute snippets. His rights have value *at time of broadcast* and for a short duration afterwards. After that they diminish for the broadcasted races quite quickly.

      How many people want to re-watch a race they’ve already seen, OK got that answer, call it X. How many companies want to stump up money to broadcast to a fraction of that already small number X you’ve just calculated? Pretty small beer isn’t it?

      But use the fan generated content, be it original or snarfed from the broadcast stream in “oh my god, look at that!” items on blogs and YouTube and all of sudden your brand is getting extra exposure, greater value – greater value for whom? Your fans and your sponsors.

      Shame Bernie doesn’t get it.

      1. Ambient Sheep says:

        Excellent post, Stephen. As a fellow “software/technology guy” who’s just turned 45 himself, I couldn’t agree more.

      2. Hutch says:

        Hit the nail on the head there Stephen.

  9. Dale says:

    What are you suggesting :?: I hope it’s not that the FIA may not be playing fair, whatever next :?: :?

  10. TJ says:

    I find it very interesting that you say “they have a wide open approach to how fans use their content, encouraging them to post event content on You Tube and other social network sites and then in turn going out to those communities and drawing them back into WRC.”

    This is the kind of proactive approach which F1, and more importantly FOM, must embrace. I find it increadably dissappointing with the lack of multimedia content available through regular internet sources. It seems the BBC have marched forward in terms of coverage and content, which I applaud (although, being outside the UK the extensive online options are unavailable).

    My point is, how many times have you lined to an F1 related video on YouTube for example which has been taken down because of draconian measures by FOM. I respect that F1 coverage is of huge value to many compaines, but such a limted view will untimately devalue the brand.

    Out of interest, James, has the general topic of YouTube content in relation to F1, past or present, been discussed at the forum?

  11. Most fans these days are Twittering along with @jamesallenonf1 while they watch, its often more entertaining than Jonathan Legard at any rate. Where else can someone like me say
    “Button pulls out pole” for Monaco?

    I seriously hope Vettel gets a real helmet instead of a RedBull generic plus something different on the top at each race.

  12. Jason C says:

    Hmmm, interesting. I like the idea of the joint launch, but I think they’re right to worry about all the attention going to Alonso (and Button for that matter). If you’re a media outlet and you’ve got a certain amount of space to fill with sport, then you’re only goin gto focus on the top story from each event. Only one (joint) launch means only one top story, and that is Alonso.

  13. Alan Zechter says:

    With so much money from TV revenues it is going to be extremely difficult to use new media channels.

    One thing that has bugged me for the last couple of seasons is the lack of HD coverage! Why does almost every sport broadcast in HD except F1, I would have thought that the sponsor pressure would have forced this move. Ironically enough, F1 has a technology partner, LG, who are among the pioneers of HDTV, yet their sport is broadcast in poor quality standard definiton.

    Also, regarding TV coverage, I remember in Brazil 2008 David Coulthard had a helmet camera that was brilliant, I don’t remember a single person not loving it. Again, why hasn’t F1 adopted these new technologies when they add so much to the TV experience.

    Anyway, great blog James, keep it up!

  14. Kalle says:

    The new generation of F1 fans does not watch TV, times may be fine now, but how will they reconnect to the young audience when the discover this disconnect between generations? Myself I would gladly pay for streaming coverage with good commentators, now I have to download BBC’s coverage via bittorrent because the Swedish Viasat coverage is severely lacking in knowledge and insight.

  15. Stephen Kellett says:

    as a Trojan Horse for Flavio Briatore, to whom the company would not sell for obvious reasons.

    Surely they could put a convenant on the deeds of sale that would prevent further resale directly or indirectly in to the hands of Briatore?

  16. Hairs says:

    Good comments from Ben Gallop and Mr Allen re: the reality of F1 coverage.

    “Fry … said that the joint FOTA launch had been agreed by all teams, not what I heard from other team principals, and that it would take place in Valencia in late January. I know that many teams are afraid that Ferrari and Alonso would grab all the coverage and Tony Fernandes pointed out that he would not have a car ready by then!”

    You’re not suggesting that Nick Fry, of all people, is mouthing off claiming that something is all finished and sorted out, when in fact, nothing at all is sorted out, are you? I won’t hear of it. The man’s track record is impeccable! Impeccably consistent on this sort of thing anyway!

    “Fry, who said Brawn’s website budget for 2009 had been just £18,000, admitted that F1 had been hopelessly slow to embrace the internet, but that is about to change,

    “We are guilty of being slow on this, ” he said. ”

    I Guarantee it doesn’t cost 18k a year to get one of your already-employed marketing drones to slap up the odd post on twitter daily, even if it’s just linking to stories on websites like this. Yet Brawn aren’t doing it. FOM as an organisation has a long way to go in terms of reaching out to embrace the obvious, like the BBC’s new coverage has done, but it also like James says, has a very big investment to protect, and has an excuse for moving slow and not jumping on every bandwagon that comes along. Hell, a small irish tech company does a very good job on twitter @komplettie just by having someone with a brain and some interest do it in their spare time. What Fry’s explanation is is anyone’s guess.

  17. Mercy says:

    Was that supposed to be a joke?!

    Yes all the back page of the papers will be full of Alonso rather than the all British line up at McLaren…..

    Oh dear!!

  18. Rich C says:

    Yeah, yeah, blah blah blah… endless hype about ‘new’ media blahblah ‘internet generation’ etc etc etc

    One problem they should fix first: the only business model ‘new media’ has is giving everything away for free.

    Sure, that’ll work.

    1. Stephen Kellett says:

      Your comment shows you are only thinking in terms of direct sales. This is a limited outlook.

      Try reading “Inbound marketing” by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. These guys are on the forefront of a new push in marketing (and have got a fair bit of funding as a result).

      This book is mainly about the web and the social media phenomenon that is part of the web, but the ideas work for non-web things like F1, that can use the web. This website is a good example of added value to the F1 brand by an external force (James). James could do more (video clips for example) but FOM are too blinkered to realise the value that adds to the F1 brand.

      After reading that book you should then understand how new media works and why “giving it away for free” works.

      Hint: A lot of money can be made by increasing the indirect flow of interest to your organisation/interest. Some of that interest converts to customers.

      1. James Allen says:

        Thanks for that. Very interesting

      2. Stephen Kellett says:

        You are welcome.

        Read the book. You almost certainly get the change that is happening, but the book will probably open your eyes even further (don’t delegate it to one of your staff – assuming you have staff, read the book yourself and if you staff need to read it, have them read it also).

        I’ve you want a taste of what he is writing about, read this:

        http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/10807/Startups-How-To-Build-A-Barrier-To-Entry-With-Inbound-Marketing.aspx

      3. Rich C says:

        Lots of impressive buzz-words.

        But show me the money.

      4. Stephen Kellett says:

        My post contains no buzzwords. I just re-read it to check.

        Your response is typical of people that don’t understand that change is afoot when it comes to marketing. Just because twitter isn’t making money, doesn’t mean you can’t leverage it to add value to your brand (as James is doing). Same for YouTube, Facebook, etc.

        I don’t care that these people have no direct revenue stream yet (*), the fact is these are very useful tools (if used correctly) that can directly add to your bottom line.

        (*) Twitter allegedly have plans to do real-time advertising based on the tweet content. Which is kind of like trying to do what Google do but with a constantly changing database + some historical & demographic information.

        Show you the money? I did – read the book.

        If you can’t be bothered to invest sometime learning and understanding, why comment?

  19. James says:

    Broadcasting in HD would be a huge step forward and is the logical next step IMO.

    I’d also like to hear more in car commentary rather than the time delayed heavily edited snippets some teams provide. How often did we hear driver to pit comments from Ferrari this season? The FIA could mandate a minimum time or comment items per race so the fans are more connected to the drivers.

    1. Stephen Kellett says:

      Please No! The most uninteresting things we hear are the pit/car radio.

      Mandating a minimum number of times or minimum amount of speech? What, so if the driver doesn’t have anything to say they start reciting shakespear/britney spears? Jeez.

      1. James Allen says:

        There is talk of making this completely open. Hope it happens this time

  20. MorrisOx says:

    Beware of the fragmentation new media can cause. Little bits everywhere add up to an insubstantial presence of variable quality and gravity – just look at some of the flimsy websites that claim to cover the sport.

    Prioritised TV deals still have an ability to maintain the sport’s Major Weekend Event status.

    As for WRC…a computer game will be worth biying when the sport is worth following. As it stands, it isn’t. Just look at the Rally GB – a shadow of what it was and part of what’s become almost a one-make [Citroen] series.

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll be interested to see whether you are still saying that three years from now..

      1. MorrisOx says:

        If it’s WRC you’re referring to, James, so will I. The starting point for the marketing and communication of any series has to be the show. WRC has a low profile, few manufacturers, few personalities, limited global recognition. Why would I follow it?

  21. Stuart C says:

    Just thought I’d pop by to say great job, James. Very good questions and unflapped by all those mobile phones going off…

    1. James Allen says:

      Cheers. I was a good Forum and it wasn’t my mobile…honest!

  22. Noelinho says:

    Embracing new media is great, but I’d say that more important than that, they need to embrace HD.

    1. James Allen says:

      LG have done some tests. One of the problems for FOM TV is the on board cameras aren’t HD.

      1. Jingjing says:

        Embrace the HD Broadcast, they need HD camera,HD transmission system and receiving system, not only an HD LG TV screen.

        Hi James,my first time to post on you blog.Thank you for all your great work.

      2. lucky ALMoND says:

        I’m pretty sure HD on-board cameras were used on the Ferrari, Renault and Mclaren F1 cars through 2009. Compare the Force India cars on-board with Mclaren and you will see a big difference.

  23. Tom - Australia says:

    James have you seen/heard anything on Codemasters 2010 F1 game?

    I’m anxious to know how it’s coming along. Codies have been surprisingly secretive on this one.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes I’ve got it and will do a review shortly. It’s fantastic is all I will say at the moment. I’m going to test it properly against my two sons…wish me luck

  24. Mark says:

    Thanks for the book James, really well done ;)

    All this talk of new media is great, but if the racing doesn’t improve no one will watch Yas Marina on YouTube, Internet TV orany other new medium more than once. Don’t neglect the product boys – from manufacturers and board rooms running teams to self made millionaires on the pit wall ;) watch out VJ

  25. paul says:

    F1 needs to realise there are fans outside of the UK. Here in Australia I have only started getting all races live in the middle of 2009, we rarely get qualifying live, and get no coverage of free practice. Meanwhile those internet sites showing live streaming out practice are continually squashed. What is the message I get? “If your local broadcaster doesn’t show it, you cant see our racing, now get lost”.

    Thanks Bernie, the IRL, and the Aussi V8s already do a better job. Get with the program. Give us streaming video of everything (including testing), give us GPS feeds of all the cars (Renault can do it!). We are fans, we want to see the action, no read someone elses tweets while we watch live timing.

  26. Nadeem Zreikat says:

    I love watching F1 on my TV in Australia big picture sound etc. We finally have live races. Yes it should be all HD I just wish we had the option of what Bernie promised years ago with digital coverage with multi view info etc. F1 should take a leaf out of Nascar with their race viewer this should be free on the web and live coverage with live timing no 10 second delay as I have now when i watch races and online timing. Anyone used the official F1 live timing app?

    P.S love the book so far just go it

  27. MrQuick says:

    I honestly believe that the F1 simply neglects the internet too much.

    For example, If you put up videos on youtube, they are instantly taken down. Can’t find anything on there except outdated videos.

    Any of the content on the F1 website is ridiculously overprotected, I understand that copyright must be adhered to, but F1 just goes too far.

    There is a lot of opportunity in using fans to use content on the web, a lot like the WRC is going to do.

    Getting people into F1 because of their friends and a general community, and using Word of mouth is remarkably powerful tool.

    I’m guessing you would know James, This website wasn’t advertised anywhere was it?

  28. Buck says:

    As much as I love F1, the way it has been managed the past ten years or so it reminds me of the music industry and particularly the major music labels: an industry that once had few people disputing that it was “the best”, but now seems to have many people questioning the claim as the top of the heap because of its reluctance to embrace new ways to present itself to a public with far more entertainment options. People either pirate their F1 coverage online or go elsewhere for their entertainment.

    The other day an amazing event took place: a surf contest on the North Shore of Hawaii that only happens when the waves get 30 feet tall or more. It was broadcast live on the internet after only a few hours notice. It was amazing to watch men do what F1 drivers do: risk their lives in the name of sport. And it was all the more amazing to watch since a few years ago the logistics of bringing such an event to a worldwide audience on a moment’s notice made it impossible.

    While I watched online for free, I was instantly transformed into a surfing fan who would, given the chance, pay to watch similar events online or on tv, or even travel afar to see one in person. All because the sponsors had the foresight to see that showing their event online for free could only have good repercussions.

  29. lucky ALMoND says:

    Formula 1 is quite stale. It’s far too conservative and restrictive and doesn’t take advantage of what is available to them to sell their product properly. It is like a company from the mid nineties that hasn’t kept itself up to date with the new times or a company that, when you sit down and have a look at the dates on the magazines in the waiting room, they are all 7 years old. That almost makes you lose confidence in what you’re ultimately getting from the business.

    Formula 1 keeps its cards very close to its chest. Thinking they have a great hand which will outlast everyone. What has happened is that, when they lower their cards, they realize they are by themselves because everyone moved on to the other side of the room and started a new game with updated features.

    Formula 1 reminds me of a turtle compared to other sports. I used to think cricket was slow. How wrong can I be?

    I remember a novel about a spaceship in the seventies that is sent out into space to discover other planets. The crew are in hibernation for a very long time. Many years into the trip they finally come across a planet that has settlements on it. They then fly down and find out that when they were in hibernation, teleportation was discovered and people used that to get to the other planets.

    What I am saying is that times change and you need to change with them to ultimately survive. Let’s hope things get better for 2010 and beyond, because right now I think Formula 1 needs to wake itself from hibernation because other people are flying past.

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