The Fans’ Forum idea came from the interaction that this website enjoys with the fans.

It started out in 2009 with fans asking questions. If I didn’t know the answers, I’d ask someone working inside one of the teams or the governing body. Soon I started forwarding some suggestions from fans to the FIA and the teams. One of those made its way onto the agenda for a FOTA meeting in March 2010.

The next logical step was to give the fans a chance to meet key figures from the sport face to face. We bashed around some ideas and came up with the Fans Forum. Santander UK was looking for a way to connect with fans and when we approached them they said that this was perfect.

On February 24th 2010 we met with FOTA’s general secretary Simone Perillo with the idea to see if we could put fans in the same room as some of their heros from the sport. He was immediately supportive and has always been the idea’s greatest champion within FOTA. The concept was simple; the event would be sponsored so we could put it into a nice venue (courtesy of BAFTA) and the fans could attend for free. As with all these things, we had to put it together in a hurry, but we had no trouble filling the 220 seats in the BAFTA auditorium with avid fans and could easily have filled it 3 times over.

We were incredibly grateful to FOTA for helping us make it happen and they were delighted with the start. Martin Whitmarsh himself attended and played an active role in supporting the event along with Tony Fernandes, Jock Clear, Paul Di Resta and Ferrari’s Luca Colajanni, who has also been very supportive.

Another objective of the event was to create a load of films and audio for fans who weren’t able to attend to enjoy from the comfort of their home (or work!). The videos are below. We didn’t quite pull off the audio, (but we got it right second time in Montreal !) The feedback was fantastic and we were grateful for all of the kind remarks that we were sent after the event. Of course none of this would have been possible without the support and backing of Nav Sidhu and Santander UK – who had the guts to get behind the idea and pay for it! – from the very start.

Fast forward to 2011 and we did three more events with FOTA in Montreal, UK and Italy.

Thanks to a number of vocal US/Canadian fans, we found ourselves organising the second Fan’s Forum, in Montreal on the Thursday before the Grand Prix. This one we put together with our friends at US travel company Grand Prix Tours. It was attended by 240 fans. Rather than running the Forum as one long session, we decided to break the format down into three sections: The Big Picture, The Racing, The Fan experience and social media. This allowed the questions to be more focussed as fans could target either the technical, political, legal and commercial, according to who was on stage. This worked much better.

Martin Whitmarsh and Eric Boullier spoke in part one, Nico Hulkenberg, Heikki Kovalainen and Mike Gascoyne spoke in part two and the final part featured Williams boss Adam Parr along with McLaren’s John Allert and there was a repeat performance from Colajanni.

The other major difference with the Montreal Fans Forum was the reaction from the sport. I think it made FOTA and the F1 media really take notice and realise what a great fan outreach platform this is. We were overwhelmed by the reaction from both the fans and the sport in Montreal.

The UK Fans Forum, was hosted at the McLaren HQ in Woking. The event was the biggest yet – 300 in the audience – and provided a unique opportunity for fans to not only interact directly with the sport, but also meet some of their racing heros, like Lewis Hamilton and Kamui Kobayashi. The final one that year was at Pirelli HQ in Milan.

In 2012 several teams including Ferrari and Red Bull withdrew from FOTA and with the incoming secretary general Oliver Weingerten keen to manage the Forums, we stepped back from direct organisation and simply help to spread the word.

It was a great project to be involved with; something the sport should have done itself really, but it took JA on F1 to initiate it and we’d like to thank all the fans for their support in making it happen and creating something ground-breaking.

Chapter 1: F1 and the fan experience

Chapter 2: F1 Overtaking

Chapter 3: Rule Changes

Chapter 4: F1 and the Environment

Chapter 5: F1 and the Environment

Chapter 6: F1 and driver demands

Montreal: Part 1 – The big picture

Montreal: Part 2- The Racing

Montreal: Part 3 – New media, fan outreach

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Darren Heath
Sport Right Now