The third FOTA Fans Forum took place today at McLaren’s Technology Centre in Woking, England, organised by JA on F1 and FOTA. The event, which was supported by Santander, was attended by 300 people, the majority of them F1 fans. The event had been five times oversubscribed.
They had the chance to put questions and points of view to three panels of team personnel, including Ross Brawn, Kamui Kobayashi and Lewis Hamilton.
The subjects under discussion included overtaking, TV coverage, F1 and new media and the 2014 engine regulations. There was lively discussion and some strong views. Roughly a third of the audience thought that the DRS was artificial and made overtaking “too easy” and surprisingly, almost nobody in the audience felt that it was important for F1 to portray a “green” side. Almost all of them have some new media open when they watch a race.
The first part of the discussion focussed on the team principals, Brawn, Martin Whitmarsh, Graeme Lowden from Virgin and Bob Fearnley from Force India. You can listen to it right now here
One interesting passage was when fans wanted to know about FOTA’s view on F1 staying on free to air TV, Whitmarsh said,
“All of the FOTA teams believe in free-to-air television. There will be parts of the market where there’s some differentiated service offered, but if you think about the business model of F1 teams, which is all about attracting brands and giving them brand exposure, they require us to have a large audience. Historically, that meant being on free-to-air. Our current contracts require that it remains on free-to-air and the teams, through FOTA, are clearly going to safeguard their business interests and the interests of the fans in this regard. But it isn’t as simple as ‘is it on BBC or ITV?’.
“Fans want a lot more information. We’re in a very data-rich sport: we have a lot of telemetry data and strategic information, and lots of modelling and simulation that every team is doing. We’re an ideal sport to feed the real fans additional information, as well as the traditional TV feed. We’ve got to try and unscramble that, and it isn’t as simple as “we must stay free-to-air”. The media is really multi-faceted and we’ve got to ensure that there’s a mass free entry in which to see grands prix. But there’s an awful lot of people who
want extra information that you won’t get through a free-to-air route.
“There’s speculation surrounding Newscorp’s interest in the sport and let’s be clear: the teams are working together and this sport isn’t going anywhere without the teams. If we stay together, we can control the direction of this sport and we’re not trying to do that for any
other reason than what’s in the best interests of the sport.”
The engineers talked about how the DRS came into being, via the FOTA technical working group. McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe explained that ideas come from there and the ones that are passed go on to the FIA technical working group and then on up the chain via the F1 commission until they are passed by the FIA World Motor Sport Council. This gave the fans a clear understanding of how their views, harvested from events such as this, can influence the direction of the sport.
The final session featured two of the most exciting drivers in the field, Kamui Kobayashi and Lewis Hamilton. Audio of that session can be found on a separate post.
You can download photos from the event by clicking here PHOTOLINK