F1 Winter Break
Fans Forum a huge success
Fans Forum a huge success
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Jul 2010   |  4:28 pm GMT  |  72 comments

Today 150 Formula 1 fans had their questions answered on subjects ranging from the Overtaking question to the Fan Experience at races when they met face to face with leading figures from the sport at the FOTA Fans Forum, powered by Santander, in London.

The idea for the event, organised by Jamesallenonf1, came from the contents section on this website which has become a conduit for interactivity between the fans and the sport. The forum is an extension of that, putting the fans and the sport together in the same room to exchange ideas.

Led by Martin Whitmarsh, FOTA chairman and team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and featuring Tony Fernandes, team principal of Lotus Racing, Jock Clear, Senior Race Engineer, Mercedes GP Petronas F1 team, Luca Colajanni, Head of Motorsport Press Office, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and Paul di Resta test and reserve driver, Force India F1 team, the panel took part in a “Question Time” style 90 minute discussion with fans.

Topics on the agenda ranged from the introduction of the new teams and technological innovations to the cost of race day tickets for fans and social networking. And judging by the reaction of the audience, the responses were well received.

One of the biggest stories to come out of today was the future of adjustable wings. While Whitmarsh thought it was right to introduce an adjustable rear wing next season to increase overtaking, Clear argued that he’d rather see two drivers battle it out over 15 laps and not overtake each other so long as it was exciting.

Following yesterday’s announcement from FOTA which laid out plans to reduce Formula 1’s carbon emissions by over 12 per cent before 2012, the panel were in agreement that the sport could push the boundaries of technology while controlling the costs and considering the impact on the environment.

“If those people can use their brains to make the impact on the environment, I think they should,” said Fernandes. “We have a moral responsibility and everyone has to play their part.

“And if we can deliver on what FOTA announced yesterday, then I think it will and I think that’s very exciting.”

It was Colajanni, though, who got the biggest cheer of the day when he suggested that the sport re-introduces testing so that fans can get closer to the action.

Check back here soon for video content from the event. We’ll post them as video chapters and you can leave your comments.

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Great work James. This is all ready the 'must be' place for F1 fans and you just keep on upping your game. This website is second to none.

Mikko Ahlapski

Great work, James.

Sounds really fun. Shame I couldn't made it. Love to be there. There has to be a next time, James.

Alonso Huge Head

Yeah.. This is EXCELLENT. Really good stuff.

Well done.

Can't wait for the video content.


I'm slightly surprised by the cheering of testing. One of the things that's added to the unpredictability has been the lack of testing, so if one team's CFD data is slightly off, then we see them go backwards.

If the fans want to get close to the action without the (huge) ticket prices for grands prix, then there's always winter testing.

Am I missing something here - I feel I am.

Can't wait to see the video.


Bear in mind this was a UK-based audience! There's no winter testing at Silverstone, the teams go to the warmer climes of Spain or the middle east.

Back when we had in-season testing, the tests at Silverstone were only £10 to get in (or even free a few years ago), which made it a much more accessible way of seeing F1 cars than paying around £200 to attend the Grand Prix.


I think their should be limited testing over the course of the season. Follow MotoGP's model where testing is/was? done at a circuit immediately following the race.

That would allow teams opportunity to run young drivers and a chance to evaluate progress.

I love watching/reading about F1 and testing adds another interesting element to follow.


I was there today, it was more about giving young drivers and fans who can not aford ticket prices the chance to see f1 close up


I see. Perhaps they could restrict testing to tracks that don't have a race in the current season. Also, they could make it more of a fans' day too.

Wish I'd been able to come to the event.


thank you again for the opportunity, it's been great. wish i could be picked up for the 2 seater run! i'm back to work now, sigh!

colajanni is way nicer in this kind of friendly environment than on press conferences, had a chat with him afterwards: cool guy!

great to see legard and the bbc team, keep up the great job, as well as the rest of the british media.

see you at silverstone, got my tickets yesterday :p


Good stuff and an enjoyable way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

Thanks James


Thanks for coming. It was a great event


Thankyou James, to have fotas view on subjects like over taking makes be relise that f1 is in a good place and they should not play around with the rules to much.


I wonder if somebody should tell fan no.123 what they would have won had they turned up today? I'd be gutted if i were them!


LOL good point Banjo. There were only two people who didn't turn up, so if you are one of them and you're reading this - it's a 1 in 2 chance you missed out on of the prizes !!!!!! Doh !


It was a great event - well organised and very professional, and most importantly good to hear the panel's answers to some pressing issues.

Thank you and well done to James and the team who put it all together


Thank you James for what was a refreshingly informal, hugely enjoyable and unforgettable experience for F1 fans and enthusiasts today. The guests were nowhere near as guarded or censored as some feared they would be, and as a result provided much humour and thoroughly insightful responses to the questions asked.

Most importantly, the respect, patience and access granted to the fans priveleged enough to attend this remarkable event by yourself, the guests, organisers and notables today was truly appreciated. I would imagine all fans left the event feeling that the guests enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

I for one am tremendously grateful for the opportunity this event provided to get so close to leading figures in F1, and it was a real pleasure meeting you and many other fans and guests in attendance. I hope these kinds of events have a huge future, and that they are all such an obvious success.

All the best



Nice work today Maz....was good to meet up and be your PR man today....

Good luck with getting in to F1 as a career.

Take it easy



Many thanks Matt, it was a real pleasure and a highlight meeting you guys and sharing the experience. You pinned James and Legard real good 🙂

All the best



Yes, James thanks very much for organising today's event. Is was a fantastic opportunity - I hope it can be run again for more fans to enjoy. And top marks to Tony who spent a long time after the event signing autographs and having his photo taken, a nice touch. (Did anyone see Mike G with him ? He looked like Tony's minder in that suit:) Both will be enjoying themselves this afternoon, I followed them down Piccadilly and heard them discussing the short trip to McLaren H.Q !!



Thank you for a wonderful day, and a sporting first.

I look forward to seeing you again soon.



Yes, it was definitely a huge success. Fascinating, informative, and very funny in places too... Fernandez' suggestion that McLaren would contravene fuel restriction rule with a secret underground pipe from Woking to the Whitmarsh's garden, for instance. 🙂

I thought the participants on the panel were very well chosen, and each were able to give very insightful answers in their own areas of expertise.

Thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt privileged to be in attendance. Thank you.


It's important to note that the sort of fan that goes to these sorts of events (and can therefore cheer at them) is the sort of fan that would actually attend a test event. For the remaining 99.9% who watch on TV re-introducing testing would tend to diminish the show as it would remove an element of the unknown.


I disagree with your view Andrew, the reason testing got a cheer was it linked getting F1 more accessible with the fans (ie low cost entry) with allowing up and coming young drivers the chance to prove themselves without doing it in the harsh spotlight of the grand prix. Many fans would relish the chance to watch the tests and your point about it diminishing the show as it removes an element of the unknown is wrong in my opinion too. The reason being you would not know fuel weights, strategies etc - the same as you dont know the true position in the free practice sessions until actual qualifying.


Would have loved and taken the opportunity to have gone but it sounded like a great success. Cheers James for bringing fans closer to the powermakers!


Thanks for picking my question James! That was a damn fine event, although I reckon my question got answered with a very straight bat, by both Jock and Martin, but I would agree that trying new things with a willingness to drop them if they don’t work is a good idea.

All the same totally unique event, your right I don't think Arsene Wenger has ever attended a fans forum, getting to talk to both Jock and Martin after the event was fantastic, though I think I asked Jock the wrong question, apparently the quali tyre rule is brilliant! Also swallowed my tongue a bit in front of Martin Whitmarsh, although he seemed to agree the rule kills strategy, meant to ask him about how you to get into the PR side of F1 but my nerve didn't quite hold. Ah well.

An thanks for putting on this fantastic event.


Have written up my experiances on the F1Fanatic Forum if anyones at all interested. Wouldn't be suprised if you wern't, it's a bit of a read.


Chris Partridge

Superb session -- really good. Thanks to James and everyone else involved in putting it all together. Good to hear how plugged in the teams are about improving the experience for audiences -- immersion is the key to F1's continued success. Hope this is the start of a yearly event.


Thanks for a great day James! It was great how open and friendly everyone was...hope there will be another forum next year 🙂


Thanks James for the great opotunity. I set off at 7am today and should get back home for 9.30pm but it was well worth it. I got to congratulate Tony and Mike on there current progress and to keep up the good work. I like how lotus go about racing and will enjoy seeing them steal a point hopefully before the season finishes. I think I'm quickly becoming a lotus fan 🙂


A great event today - well done everyone all round. There was great banter from the panellists and some really good questions. It was great that folks stayed on after it all finished too 🙂 I'm looking forward to the F1 Party on Monday... Cheers to Paul for choosing number 1 out of 183!


Great event James thanks for setting it up. As well as the Q&A session it was good to chat to some of the people who were not headlined such as Mike Gascoyne and Jonathan Legard amongst others.

I found Tony Fernandes to be very open and genuinely seemed to enjoy the event, both the Q&A and mingling with the fans afterwards.

An idea I had that I didn't get to raise however, was that with the reintroduction of KERS next year, it would be good to have in indication on the car when it's being deployed, perhaps the red warning light on the back could glow green or something.

Great event, lets hope it's the first of many.



This really was an excellent event. Really hope it becomes a regular thing. One way of improving it would be for the audience to have had a chance to comment on what was said.

Thanks to James, the panel and everyone who attended. Nice one.

James van Bregt

Excellent event, James! I think I may have been #183 on the list, so was hoping MW would call that number, but alas. Hopefully there'll be a next time, but was great to see/hear such a great panel and nice surprise was the wit of Luca Colajanni - doesn't come across on tv.


Ok, I believe it was a great event, however I wonder whether there are any outcomes from discussion and how and when may it have an impact on FIA regulations? I reckon it as the first steps towards democracy in F1 and attempt to improve entertaiment... plenty of respect to you James!


James, thanks for running such a great event. It was very well organised, and the panel gave some very interesting answers. Jock Clear and Tony Fernandez in particular demonstrated just how very passionate about F1 they are, and it was great to have banter and inter-team rivalries on display!

It was also an excellent opportunity to chat to fellow F1 fans and exchange some ideas about who the best drivers are and what shape the sport's in.

One final note: I noticed that Martin Whitmarsh gave Paul di Resta a very warm handshake and pat on the back when he left -- I wonder if McLaren have their eye on him for the future?

Thanks once again.

Chris Partridge

Daniel, I noticed that too about MW. One of the things I noticed was how good Di Resta was on the panel...very clear and coherent and tons of maturity. He'll go far in his racing career.

Mark |Edwards

Hi James,

Can I add my thanks, It was a refreshing change for F1 (FOTA) to engage with its fans. I found it both interesting and full of insite not only from the panel but to hear the views of other fans. I hope more things like this are run from time to time so we can express our views and here from the panel. I especially liked Jock Clear he came across as very passionate and funny and brought the human side of F1 into perspective.

All the best.



Hi James, thank you for an absolutely fabulous day, it was thoroughly enjoyable and it certainly did what it was meant to do, let F1 fans have their say, i hope FOTA take on board some of the very good points today. Hopefully todays successful event means that its the first of many!!! What a great way to get in the mood for the British Gran Prix next week 🙂


Great work James! Without the internet F1 would seem like a million miles away.

As an F1 fan here in Los Angeles I have trouble finding another fan of the sport let alone having an event of this sort. It sure would be nice if F1 was better appreciated over here! Perhaps the new race in Texas will help over time. Maybe we need two races in the US or a US based team, who knows?


Thanks James,

It was a pleasure to meet you today and have a good chat about F1. Thanks for being so open and arranging this fantastic day. Far play to FOTO also for being so open and honest.

Look forward to more of these events in the future.



Now that was a fascinating day.

I was surprised by the panel’s willingness to talk immediately the questions were put as they hadn’t had sight of them before.

The relationship between the various members was revealing. Jock Clear answered everything put to him without side or any sign of being unwilling to discuss any matters. He was patently an engineer in everything he said. He spoke of Villeneuve with respect and admiration so at least there are two people who think he’s a brilliant driver. I’d like to hear him talk more of Hill as well. I got the feeling that he’d be a prize dinner party guest with a couple of pints inside him.

Paul Di Resta gave an insight to his role. Perhaps I’m being a bit patronising – but then I’m old enough to be his grandfather – but he was considerably more fluent and precise than I thought he would be. Interesting lad. I’ll follow his career with interest. He had to leave at 3.30 in order to fly to his next DTM venue – as you do – so not a convenient piece of timing for him yet he still made the effort. Thanks.

Martin Whitmarsh was not afraid to speak his mind nor to be controversial. He was fascinating. I hope and believe that he took a good deal away from the meeting. As a McLaren nerd I suppose I shouldn’t say any more. But a great catch for James.

Tony Fernandes was not what I expected. It’s hard to put my finger on why but I remember reading that he was going to hand over the running of Lotus at the end of the season. I hope the isn’t true, or he has changed his mind as he is a great ambassador for the sport. I think perhaps I expected someone not so committed. A cracker for the panel and whilst he gave lots of insights into running a backmarker team he was also a major contributor to all other aspects of the matters discussed.

Isn’t there a bet between him and Virgin boss Branson? Now I’ve met Tony I want him to win it even more.

The biggest surprise was Luca Colajanni. He was not the same person I’ve seen on the Ferrari videos where he was always serious. But today he was friendly to everyone, including Martin, and showed a sense of humour. After the meeting ended he stayed behind and made himself accessible. He came over as a likeable, open and very willing to talk. Remarkably so given how intense the last few days have been for him.

He was willing to chat about Ferrari and its drivers, past and present. Nice bloke! But when asked which Ferrari he had he told us that he’d never driven one. Ferrari! That is out of order. No wonder he comes over as so serious in the videos. So would I be.

The mutual respect and the enjoyment of the subtle and not so subtle digs the panel had at each other’s expense made it fun. I’m not sure I expected them to be so comfortable with one another.

There was a smattering of the famous in the audience as well, including the chap who redesigned Silverstone (and removed my beloved Bridge). Would Tilke have been so enthusiastic?

Nice to meet you, James, and have a chat as well.

As the others have said, and others still will say, it was a brilliant day. Thanks so much for organising it. Cracking idea. And thanks to the panel as well for giving up their time. I’m really grateful. I hope it was beneficial to those on the panel.


Well Done James!

You even got a special mention on the BBC F1 website.



Would like to add my thanks to all those above. A great and surprisingly enlightening event.

Particularly enjoyed floating my "Shumi is struggling because of the lack of TC" theory to Jock Clear, who clearly had to think a sec before answering. And hi to the guys who I met -was great to be amongst like minded individuals.

Lastly James, do call if you can, been thinking about it a bit more...



Ben, I chatted to you over lunch and you mentiond your lack-of-TC idea (unless it was someone else and you've stolen his idea!). I've been thinking about this. I'm sure that in the winter testing between 07 and 08 when TC was banned, Ferrari got Schumi back to test for them, as he had experience of driving when TC was banned (give or take secret options on his Benneton's steering wheel). I seem to recall (though can't find anything to back this up) that his times were very competitive, in fact he was often faster than everyone else. But this could have just been show-boating with low fuel and so on.

I hope you enjoy your first GP experience next weekend!


Will do. Thanks for supporting


Hey James, Quick question for you.

Have you been approached yet by Bernie to be named as his replacement when he retires?

Perhaps he and you should get to talking constructively!


I don't think so..


Thanks James, the day worked well and I think there was a surprisingly good exchange of information considering how little time there really was.

I think Tony F. was a star performer who has clearly fitted right in to the cosy F1 world; Jock also spoke entertainingly and was my runner up. I good naturedly cornered Luca who mentioned that his drivers were reminded that they had to remember that their radio conversations were public - read into that what you will and it was nice to be able to compliment Mike G personally for his excellent little tech pieces on the Beeb.


It was a great event. A massive thank you James, and also a massive thanks to the members of the panel who gave up there time to be there.

It was great to meet Tony Fernandes afterwards as well, a really nice bloke. Lotus have a new fan.

Thanks again James, and hopefully we'll see many more events like these in the future.


I've only just realised that shiny F1 car in the Santander goodie bag is actually a 4gb memory stick.

I'd given mine away to my osn before I noticed. Duh!

This has been a public service announcement - just on the offchance I'm not the only one who didn't immediately realise.


Thanks for that - was wondering what to do with it!


What Santander goodie bag?! I was there and I was only given a folder with the profiles of all the people on the panel! What else was in it?


Only a cap. Unless you want to count the bag itself; a gaudy Santander branded bag for life type thing.

They were given out from where the registration area had been, but after the event. Did you leave early? Don't know how you could have missed them.


No, I stayed until the bitter end, I think I was the last fan to leave. Maybe they had stopped handing them out or I just didn't notice them. No one said anything as I was leaving. Oh well, its not the end of the world, I would rather have had the chance to speak to the panelists post event, and it was free after all!

James Bernardo

Really enjoyed the forum, Luca was hilarious, and it was extremely informative.

It was hard not to go upto Jonathan Legard during the buffet and have some words about his commentating but i restrained myself!!


Just wanted to say thank you James for a fantastic afternoon, very much enjoyed it and was very insightful. Congratulations on getting it all together so well.


Personally I'd love it if there were a couple of test sessions a year at a British track - perhaps then I could afford to go.

Armed with a 400mm lens and my D300!

James Bernardo

Just read that USB comment and realised myself, very cool!


Oh dear. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the Santander bag, it was actually a pretty cool gift. I was expecting a load of Santander leaflets!


Sounds like a fantasic event - I went to an Edinburgh Lecture series a few years back where Jock Clear spoke about F1 technology and I thught back then there needs to be more events like that to show off the technology aspects of F1 that can be often overlooked.


I was really gutted I couldn't make it to this in the end and had to relinquish my place (coming all the way from Edinburgh) - but it sounded like an amazing, or rather a landmark event!

Out of interest - were all of the questions that were asked during the forum in the YouTube videos? In that case not everyone got to ask their question? Understandable given there were only 90 minutes...


here here for reintroduction of testing, it doesn't have to be like before, even if there were group tests on the Monday following some races would be great. Or have a couple of group tests in between a some of the European races, placed strategically through the season, ie at the 1/3 mark and 2/3 mark. plan the season with them in mind. perhaps only allowing drivers with a certain amount of experience to do the driving at those tests could be good as well, get some hours in the car and see the future stars of the sport.


Excellent afternoon James. Listening to the fans is very important, but also making the fans feel a part of the sport is even more important. F1 is notorious to get into sometimes, but today opened a lot of doors and talking to the big guns after and them not rushing off was brilliant.


Many thanks James for organising a superb event at a superb venue in the Bafta Theatre at Piccadilly 195.

It was a great opportunity to listen to the views of leading F1 people and I think you had a great mix of attendees with a broad range of discussion topics.

The forum really presented some interesting views on important questions and it was a priveledge to be involved.

I liked the way that some of the F1 'insiders' made themselves available at the welcome buffett and I ended up talking with you James, Luca Colijani, Frank Dernie, Andrew Benson of BBC and the F1 author/journalist Alan Henry.

A wonderful event for F1 fans and many thanks to Santander for the nice F1 cap and 4Gb memory stick shaped as an F1 car..

Thanks again James for a great event and well done for the detail and content on your website. You really are leading the way...

Peter Freeman

James, with regard to testing:

How about they select a certain number of the 'closer to home' tracks on the calendar, for example Spain, Great Britain or Germany and Italy and designate a testing day at each track prior to the GP 'weekend'.

This way there is a minimal cost increase that brings a 'cheap' entry for fans and young drivers into the F1 experience, as well as giving the teams 3 strategic days during the season to do some on track testing.


Sounds like it was a great event James. Leading the way as always.

Interesting to see coverage of it in autosport, bbc etc.

You have them all beaten hands down. Keep up the good work.

Who won the two seater ride by the way? I might have missed that in the text.


Thank you James for a great event, an unforgettable experience, if you decide to repeat this a) Can I come? b) Any chance of getting a representative from FOM? and finally c) Could you fix it that I win the two seater ride with Martin Brundel...

Simon Chadwick

Congratulations James, anything that gives fans a direct conduit to the people running the sport has to be a good thing.

But one thing concerns me; FOTA have several times alluded to their wish to shorten Grands Prix. Their online survey asked for our views on this (with a loaded question, it must be said) but the outcome was not included in the published survey results. Why not? And why were no questions taken on that subject in the forum? That would heve been my first question if I had been there!

Please FOTA, do not try and make the races shorter.



Race length is good as-is.


I wish I could have been there!!! Too bad I'm in the states.

James, what you have done is incredible. Fans have been asking for something similar to this for years. F1 has always seemed to be very separated from its fanbase. I am thrilled to see this happen and I hope it becomes a yearly thing.

Any chance of a full, unedited video being put up? Or even audio-only? I appreciate the edited videos but to be blunt, I care more about the content of what was said than edited videos. Not a complaint, just trying to hear all the questions and their respective answers 🙂

Thanks again James!


How much of a head start do you want Rosberg to have!! Its crazy.


They want 1000 bhp engines to make racing more difficult it won't happen with the various engine maps. To make racing harder they should ban engine maps. Also increase breaking distances sum how to offer more chance to over take.

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