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“F1 isn’t going anywhere without the teams,” says Whitmarsh
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Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Jun 2011   |  3:53 pm GMT  |  59 comments

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

FOTA Fans’ Forum, UK. Part 1: Team Principals by James Allen on F1

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

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59 Comments
  1. Rob Rees says:

    Was fortunate to get a place to attend this event, so a quick thank you to James Allen, the guys at the MTC and the panellists from a range of F1 teams. There seemed to be a genuine desire to engage with what fans thought, and a few suggestions came up which I would love to see happen. Over to you FOTA…

  2. Ahmad says:

    I have been saying that we need a helmet mounted camera for a while now. Something like this: http://youtu.be/OMhYhm-ZIYc

    1. StefMeister says:

      The Visor-Cam’s they use in America are better as they were placed at driver eye level inside the helmet:
      http://img27.echo.cx/img27/961/visorcam9bs.jpg
      http://youtu.be/D4tEcBj8EGk
      http://youtu.be/9owkZTpz6Tw
      http://youtu.be/Ta8WL7T4aro

      1. Robert S says:

        they would look good in f1 in HD

      2. Mattoz says:

        In the 2008 Brazilian GP, I can recall David Coulthard having a camera inside his helmet at eye level. Pity he crashed out at turn 2 on the first lap…

      3. GT-Racer says:

        the camera DC had on his helmet at Brazil in 2008 was not at eye level, was at the bottom of the visor opening:
        http://img685.imageshack.us/img685/3650/xsao1351031111024x768wd.jpg

        fom upgraded all there onboard cameras in i think mid-2009 and the new units are slightly larger than those old ones (and much higher quality) which would make using that angle again more difficult.

        also cant go back and use those old cameras because they woudnt work with the new equipment, its why we dont see the cameras placed in mirrors and stuff now, the new units are not small enough.

    2. Jo Torrent says:

      They have to add inside helmet cameras. If it requires bigger helmets, than so be it. Those who don’t have cameras inside the helmet would have to put a ballast to have the same weight penalty.

      I know drivers will moan & teams would prefer tinier helmet for aero but as long as penalties are the same, it has to be done.

  3. Paul says:

    On the subject of on-helmet cameras, Paul Tracy used to carry one in the champ car days and it was very cool, you can almost feel the vibrations of the car. There are no technical hurdles, so why not just go ahead with it?

    1. Robert S says:

      i remember that, the camera was in the foam by the eye, so you saw through the visor to. that correct?

      1. Paul says:

        that’s correct, there’s gotta be footage of it on YouTube, though I haven’t looked myself

      2. Robert S says:

        the post above has put up the youtube links, it was called visor cam

  4. Andy c says:

    Great day James. Just fantastic.

    Very funny to see Kamui turn up in jeans. Surprised Ron allowed that!

  5. Robert S says:

    regarding the onboard cameras, i watched a CART (indy series now) race a while back and they had cameras inside the helmet at eye level. david coutlhard tried one for his last race and i think it works quite well. you get all the vibration and read outs on the steering wheel as well as seeing the track from a drivers point of view. would like to this type of on board developed more!

    1. Richard D says:

      It would’ve been a good experiment to see Coulthard’s helmet cam throughout the race. Shame he got punted off by Nakajima at the first corner!

  6. The other Ian says:

    Taking up Lewis’s point about the view from the drivers perspective. A good idea, methinks. How about “Helmetcam”?

  7. San K says:

    I just got back from today’s fantastic FOTA forum at the McLaren Technology Centre and boy was amazing!! I think we were treated not only by getting into the FOTA forum but also because it was hosted by McLaren (phenomenal building) AND we had 2 of the most exciting drivers…Hamilton and Kobayashi – It was like 4 christmas’ rolled into one!

    As for James (Allen)….well what can I say – What a very lovely guy – Ive always liked James but meeting you today I have to say I was really impressed with how easy & warm you come across – lol I said hi to you when you were walking in and didnt expect you to turn back and shake my hand – which made me spill some of my water LOL (which I paniced about as after all we were in the immaculate McLaren head office – I guess I was a little shocked!!

    Anyway all the F1 personalities there were all very nice. James well done for the great job you have done putting this together. And it was lovely speaking to you. Best of luck with all thats going on with you.

    One tiny incy-wincy thing (if I had to mention it) was that I wanted to ask the drivers what they thought about the drivers not being able to defend a position much – but I can understand that getting questions off the floor was not possible due to the short time with the drivers. Hamilton and Kamui were brilliant – Hamilton was really nice and humble – I think its wrong for some to label him arrogant – he just has alot of self-belief which is totally justified given his talent.

    Anyway just wanted to say a big thanks to James…FOTA and all those who contributed – It really was a unique and fantastic experience.

    Before I was a supporter of James – NOW Im a massive supporter of James!

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for the comment and delighted that you had a good time today. It was an amazing occasion at McLaren and well done to them for offering to host it there.

  8. Ross says:

    Thanks James. Really enjoyed that. Hope there is more coming soon.

  9. Werewolf says:

    Congratulations on what seems to have been a successful and memorable day.

    I think it is more important than ever right now that F1 remains free-to-air. Disposable income is dropping at an alarming rate; this is not the time to price yourself out of the market.

    Helmet-mounted cameras are a great idea. They have been seen in other series and they give so much more accurate a feel for what is going on inside the car and, of course, a better idea of the driver’s view. Being lower, the impression of speed is even more sensational.

    A Helmut-mounted camera would be very different, of course, concentrating on a single driver with occasional views over the shoulder!

    1. richie599 says:

      Fantastic idea! ;-) I hope FOTA agrees and we get Helmut-cam available throughout the next grand prix weekend!

  10. Stephen Hill says:

    Having listened to part one, I get the impression that the FIA and FOM still have a lot of control over what the teams can and cannot do to engage with the public.

    Perhaps representatives from both the FIA and FOM should be present at the next Fans Forum…

  11. Chris says:

    Do I think in the grand scheme F1 being ‘green’ is important? No.

    Do I think the move to green technology presents F1 and motorsport as a whole an open goal for the global awareness and standing of the sport? Hell yes.

    Showing the world just how it’s innovative capacities can assist the world move to cleaner technologies motor sport can move from being a sport for a defined constituency into a global force.

    Motorsport WILL move to green technology. Even if it takes 60 years, once all road cars have moved over the entire sport will do too. It can do this dragging its heals and make itself look increasingly irrelevant to the coming world – or it can lead from the front and dictate the change and reap the rewards.

    One day we’ll look back as this time as a huge missed opportunity.

    I’m not madly in foavour of this – in my view the Tour de France must pollute more. The cars people use to travel to a weekends football matches must do. Its not so much about the fact the F1 cars burn the fuel. It just is the way the world is going, and the sport could stand on a high pedestal and say – look world, see the benefits from motorsport – its not just about petrolheads, we are the future.

    Rant over!

    1. Marc says:

      Very well put. Racing, specially at F1 level, should lead in the development of green/greener technology. Racing fans, even the hardest petrol head, will come to enjoy the sport just as much. Real or put on engine sound and all. Marc

    2. Michael says:

      Putting green technology in an F1 car to broaden its global influence is like marketing a new low-fat triple burger to vegetarians. Moreover, it has yet to be definitively proven that putting Prius technology in a Ferrari or McLaren (KERS) makes F1 better for the few of us who do care about the pinnacle of motorsport. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel a tingle every time Jensen pushes the boost button on his steering wheel. But, like Martin Whitmarsh, I do feel a tingle every time I hear one of those V8s shriek to life in the paddock!

      “Motorsport WILL move to green technology. Even if it takes 60 years… One day we’ll look back as this time as a huge missed opportunity.”

      I remember hearing these kinds of prophecies in the ‘70s when we were worried about running out of gas forever and causing an ice age at the same time. Turn the record over and it plays a song about global warming to the same tune.

      1. CH1UNDA says:

        The only reason motorsport is not moving to green technology faster is the engine noise or shriek as you call it – when in 100 years all cars are powered by hydrogen fuel cells, i guess the shriek will be a recording of a 21st century V12 just to dramatice the pure and proper gliders of the future.

        So, well, yes, motor sport will have to become greener, love it or hate it but … it doesn’t have to loose the shrieking of the engines – there are mp3 files to take care of that – how rediculous :(

    3. Daniel Hoyes says:

      It was amazing how few people seemed bothered about green issues at the event, and how many people sniggered when very few hands went up.

      Wrote a blog post about it: http://www.roadlesstravelledf1.co.uk

      Arguments here are very similar really. Such an opportunity to innovate rather than have to get defensive. Though I do think it will be a problem eventually if F1 doesn’t…

  12. Oliver says:

    On a different note,

    Ricciardo is, according to the bbc f1 gossip collumn, going to possibly drive for HRT for the British grand prix and forthcoming events,

    Anything to it, James?

    1. James Allen says:

      My Aussie TV colleagues are saying that yes. I’m not sure it’s a good move for him. A talent such as he is reputed to be in a car at the very back like that? I suppose Alonso started at Minardi, so there’s a comparison there. He always says it was a good way to start.. Anyway, it shows what I was saying about the difficulty of moving one of the Toro Rosso drivers on and I suspect that Alguersuari’s stellar drive in Valencia has saved his seat.

      1. Oliver says:

        I guess you could question why he would even want to go to a back of the pack team, but surely its better to experience the full weekend than just doing friday practices? It will help him develop as a driver, as will driving a car that could be a bit of a handful.

        Aswell, aslong as he is on par with Liuzzi, and beating him later in the season, then that proves to Red Bull hes worth it. I would agree it wouldnt be a good move if he was “alone”, but because he has Red Bull backing its okay because he always has the test driver position at STR to fall back on.

        And finnally, Alguersuari. He does seem under intense pressure, and im glad hes put in a couple of great drives to save himself for a while. We forget how young he is, and how he was really thrown in at the deepend, I think within a few years he could be a consistent, respectable mid pack runner.

        P.s thanks for the detailed response James

      2. Werewolf says:

        When I read this elsewhere, my first reaction was that it’s probably not a good idea because the HRT is so horribly incompetitive and also, just how good is Liuzzi these days? I’m not sure.

        The same article also suggested Colin Kolles might be heading in the direction of Williams, possibly even as team principal. Any thoughts on this please, James?

        Mine are based more on personality than ability, so I’ll leave them unposted.

      3. I think it’s more an experience boost… just a way to get some experience without testing before throwing him into an STR. This would be much more beneficial in terms of constructor points for STR, rather than throwing him in cold like they did with Alguersuari.

  13. F1_Dave says:

    drs has started to lose support from the fans which is what i expected to happen after a couple races.

    you only have to read comments on here and other similar blogs and message boards to see the drop in support for drs.

    so the question is that if drs continues to lose the support of fans, will they drop the system for 2012? i certainly hope so!

    1. Goob says:

      DRS is the WRONG solution to the excess aero on modern F1 cars… bring back wide cars for stability, and favour mechanical over aero grip for geniune overtaking that is breath taking, and not depressing like DRS.

      DRS has stopped me watching F1 races all together… I only hop on these boards to see if anyone has woken up to the mess the FIA and FOTA have made of F1.

      1. CH1UNDA says:

        And by next year nobody will be watching if racing will mean the big teams and best drivers haggling for 2nd place

  14. Kenny Ramsey says:

    Perhaps I missed it but please tell me someone raised the issue of the price of F1 to the public, mainly ticket prices?

    All in all though, a good session. Reinforcement of the need to improve information to fans and to include us, not just the corporates. Although I don’t see the teams taking much from it. Maybe I’m too cynical.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes it was mentioned a couple of times.

      1. Kenny Ramsey says:

        Excellent, thanks. Is there a link to the audio where it was discussed?

  15. Max glover says:

    Just would like to say thanks to everyone there today… It was my first f1 experience I have watched it for many years on tv but never attended anything like that before… I got the pleasure to speak to James Allen for a while (James I was sat with the girl that said she won a competition) I was pleased with how there wasn’t any elitism with all the guys there today, it was a nice change from the feeling you get when you meet other sports personalities who think they are better than you…

    Cheers to all at te MTC

    Max

    1. CH1UNDA says:

      That is refreshing … considering exclusivity was a major part of the discussions … and girls

  16. GT-Racer says:

    on the subject of helmet cameras.

    the biggest problem with them is that drivers dont like to run them and when you get a driver to agree to run one the team usually blocks it. reason been that externally mounted cameras create additional drag over the helmet & can also cause the helmet to move around more because of the turbulant airflow over the camera.
    internally mounted cameras in the helmet are difficult because of the required padding & size of the units now.

    internally mounted helmet cams were used in champcar, indycar, nascar & alms but are no longer used because there is no high-def camera small enough and newer helmet designs make it difficult to fit the camera & all the wiring.

    speaking of the wiring i remember michael waltrip complaining at daytona back in 2004 because the extra wiring for the helmet camera he was wearing made it extra difficult to get out the car after he had been involved in an accident, he refused to have one installed on his helmet afterwards and soon after nascar stopped allowing broadcasters to fit them for safety reasons.

    helmet cameras have been used in testing by teams but thats usually only for a few slow laps.

    helmet cameras are a great idea in theory but there are a lot of problems which make them difficult to actually run, its actually really surprising how difficult they are to make work now and this is why you rarely one used in anything.

    1. kbe58 says:

      Have you seen Bruno Senna filming himself on a smartphone at Spa?. Image and sound quality was good and the camera lens and image chip is tiny in these phones. Stripped down to just the video components the electronics would easily fit inside a helmet, in fact as Lewis says have one each side and then we’d get 3d images. Existing radio connector lead could easily be adapted for the extra 4 (or 8) USB signal wires.

      1. GT-Racer says:

        sadly its not that easy, if it was then all broadcasters would do it & there are a lot of motorsport broadcasters that would love to run helmet cameras.

        this isn’t meant as a dig at anyone or anything but i think that the less technical people who dont work in broadcasting tend to underestimate how difficult things like this actually are.
        its nowhere near as simple as just getting a camera such as those used in smart phones etc… and then sticking it in/on a helmet.

        all the cameras used for live transmission in motorsport are custom made for that specific job.
        they have to be able to withstand the forces, have to be able to link up to the transmitter & other equipment which are put in the car to send the signal to the trackside recievers, they have to be light enough & aerodynamic enough to not harm the cars performance.

        there are reasons that helmet cameras are not that common in motorsports and there is also a reason why the ones which were used in america (in champcar, nascar etc…) are not used anymore.

        onboard cameras ain’t as easy to make, install & work as many of the people who dont work in motorsports brodcasting seem to think they are.

      2. Craig says:

        You sound like you know enough about it. I dont, but I would have thought that only the lens needs to be mounted inside the helmet with wiring to an external unit to handle the processing and uplink. The lenses are tiny these days, the wiring should be nothing, and the external unit can be bulky if it’s not in the airflow.

  17. eric weinraub says:

    While I agree that the vast majority of coverage needs to be free… there is a market for the following which I for one would gladly pay for!!!!!

    1. COMMERCIAL free broadcast
    2. Access to more telemetry off the cars
    3. Access to the car cameras of my choice

    1. GT-Racer says:

      “3. Access to the car cameras of my choice”

      won’t happen anytime soon as not even fom have access to all the onboard cameras. they can only have onboards from 9 cars active at a time.

      that limitation is not just f1, every broadcaster running live transmission onboard cameras have a similar limitation.

  18. scott rashleigh says:

    I wanted to thank james, santander,fota, mclaren and everyone else involved in the fota fans forum for a great day today, and thanks to paddy lowe for sticking around to have a chat with a few of us.

  19. Steve Rogers says:

    I’d definitely vote for the eye-view cameras and against green racing. There are only 24 cars, what the hell difference to the environment is that going to make, and at the cost of ruining the sport?

  20. mark says:

    I feel certain that engineers who can make an engine rev without creating drive and the other amazing things they concieve of AND build, could make a helmet camera that is viable for F1…..

    1. j says:

      It’s totally possible. Lots of my friends who mountain bike film their rides with 1080p HD helmet cams that cost under $500.

      If the drivers can be connected to 2-way radio and their water supply then they can easily plug in one extra lead or you could build the video data into the same cable as the audio for the radio system.

  21. Tim B says:

    I assume there are similar forums happening in other countries/regions – do you know, James, whether the feedback from the fans is similar across the regions, or whether there are differences in what the fans in different countries want?

  22. Jos says:

    I’d like to echo the thanks absolutely – it was a real treat

    Having said that and I accept its partly as a result of available time it all felt rather limited and one-way : each question was followed by a couple of comments from the panel – and that was it with no real space for discussion to develop themes

    As an aside to my best recollection effectively there was no significant mention of one of the main factors in current strategy : Pirelli’s tyres – which surprised me greatly

    Going forward with the new engines for 2014 one concern that has been raised elsewhere is their sound since the Le Mans cars are too quiet – surely for a fan forum seeking suggestions to improve the show that would have been worth a small mention

    Nonetheless a fantastic experience and it was noticeable that many of those involved hung around for subsequent informal discussions

  23. DriverN1 says:

    I really don’t understand those people that say “f1 are artificially with drs and overtakings are too easy”. Are they silly? Or maybe is it just joke? Formula1 with drs is greatest! It’s the best of all what I’ve seen before! I love DRS, it’s cool system. I’m sure formula without drs was artificially, because overtakings were too much difficult and that’s why races were so bored. But now we have fantastic races. It’s good that drs makes overtaking easier, because I don’t like bored races when fast cars can’t overtake slow ones and during whole race I’d like to sleep because of boring

    1. Goob says:

      I guess if you support one of the drivers that has no overtaking talent – its a boon.

  24. Steve O'Brien says:

    Thank you for bringing so many of us so much closer to F1.

  25. kbe58 says:

    Thanks James for starting these Forums. Long may they continue. It was a very interesting day at the MTC yesterday. Shame we couldn’t take pictures of those lovely cars!.

    A tad disappointed with driver section, too short plus Kamui was hard to understand from the back as his mike was too quiet. However Lewis was on good relaxed form.

    Do FOM show any interest in these sessions?. It was obvious from the fans there that just showing F1 on TV is no longer enough and more information over multi-media platforms is the way forward. Interestingly the teams said they would even be happy to share telemetry info in real-time.

    Now the teams freely hand over the radio to the FOM why can’t we select team/driver transmissions from the FOM website?

    Try to get a FOM spokesperson on the next one. They need to embrace the Internet.

    Thanks for a brill day, parting gift was a classy move by McLaren.

    1. CH1UNDA says:

      James

      I have just now managed to listen to the session and it was quite interesting. Can i request that you put it to FOTA to take back the pit radio communications and post this on the FOTA website. They do not need to blame FOM if they can easily post the same thing on their own website – it will also help them with publicity for FOTA.

  26. Spinodontosaurus says:

    DRS only serves to turn F1 into an entertainment, rather than an actual sport.
    It is artificial; anyone fluent in English should not even need me to explain this to them.
    It does not provide great racing. It provides a cheap get out of jail free card to those drivers in a faster car who are not where they ‘should’ be, and its effects are often laughable.
    Quality > Quantity in my view. Unfortunatly the majority of viewers are more casual and seem to think blitzing past someone on the straight is brilliant, skillful and exciting racing.
    The self destructing tires are not great either, but I would raher keep them than DRS…

  27. Chris Jones says:

    Hi James,
    Just a quick one to commend you on your approach to the FOTA Fan Forum at McLaren HQ yesterday. I found your attention to the fans absolutely fantastic, you gave everyone time, listened to their questions and gave (what seemed to me to be) very honest answers – even to those slightly over eager types ;-)
    BTW I’m that ‘Northern bloke’ that drove 4 1/2 hours to get to the event, it was time (and money as I drive an ST haha) well spent, I hope to be fortunate enough to visit the next Fan Forum in the UK.
    All the very best with your work, wishing you every success.

    Regards,

    Chris Jones.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for the feedback and for making the effort to be there

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