F1 Winter Break
What can F1 learn from the Olympics?
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Aug 2012   |  9:44 am GMT  |  170 comments

With the closing of the 2012 Olympics in London the “Greatest Show on Earth” has ended. It has been an amazing two weeks of sport, particularly for those of us who live in the host nation and have seen another side to our country.

These were the “Happy Games”; in fact, to borrow a couple of adjectives from the British national anthem, “Happy and Glorious” would be the best way to sum up the London 2012 games.

So what can Formula 1 learn from the last two weeks? Is there anything that could be adopted to make F1 better, any methodologies which would suit our very own ‘world class’ sporting event?

These last two weeks were all about sport, we must never forget that and the way these games were organised and presented, ‘sport’ was at the heart of everything. Yes many of the competitors were professionals earning millions back home in their professional leagues and series, but in these Olympics the cynical and the mercenary were put to one side in pursuit of pure sporting excellence.

However there is a balance to be struck and London 2012 struck it perfectly; for all the spirit of “togetherness” and the heart warming enthusiasm of the competitors, fans and volunteers, winning was still very much at the heart of it.

The coveted gold medal at the end of four years of hard training is what all the serious athletes were in London to achieve. The public naturally looks to the medals table to see who is doing the best and where their country stands.

So winning is the main thing, but it’s not everything.

No-one is naive enough to think that the Olympic motto, “it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part” covers anything more than the few heart warming stories of fighting through adversity, overcoming racial or gender barriers to compete and simply to be there.

But the Olympics has shown that it is possible to compete at the highest level and engage the public in the process. London’s triumph was the way the fans were drawn in, right from the start with the wacky opening ceremony to the very end with the final medals to be handed out.

People love ‘people stories’; the triumphs and the tragedies, the comebacks, the failures, the elation and the despair. The Olympics gave fans a chance to engage, to feel part of it.

Sport was both the spectacle and the end in itself; human beings pushing themselves to do amazing things in the name of competition. But as they did so they dragged along thousands in the stadiums and millions around the world to share in their experience and that was the lesson F1 can learn from the games.

Our sport is the world’s largest year-round sporting event, it has huge and passionate global fan base; so on the one hand, it is hard to engender such enthusiasm week in and week out, compared to an event which happens only once every four years.

But on the other hand, the way the sport takes fans’ money without giving much back, the way F1 has gone racing in new countries without trying to build a lasting legacy, shows how much there is to do in engaging with fans and building F1’s following into new generations and new markets.

F1 takes its races into new territories, like Asia and Middle East, primarily because they pay the highest sanctioning fees. This is spelled out very clearly in F1’s flotation prospectus.

Yes the sport needs to embrace emerging markets for many reasons; to offer new opportunities for manufacturers and sponsors and to “inspire a generation” of youngsters in that country to race, so one day one of them may become their country’s first F1 champion.

But the way we go about starting up in a new country is often too cynical; Country X will pay the most so we’ll race there, end of. When they run out of money, move on to the next place with deep pockets.

F1 can learn from the London Olympics first by evaluating carefully what a new host country can bring to the sport besides money. Then in engaging the local people, thinking about the legacy it is building in a country, working closely with the organisers on long term projects, focussing on building a following, rather than simply pocketing the cash and moving on to the next showground.

In terms of other lessons, Bernie Ecclestone was impressed by a visit to the Beijing Games in 2008 and felt that the idea of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals was something F1 could take from the Olympics. He was unable to garner enough support from within the sport so it has not happened and I don’t think it’s any more likely today. Medals work brilliantly for the Olympics, but F1 has a perfectly good podium ceremony and big trophies and champagne spraying are the heart of that.

In terms of hosting the event, the 2012 Olympics has proved that Britain can put on a world class event with no problems – there was anxiety about whether the UK could pull it off after the bid was won and especially after organisers saw what Beijing laid on. Visitors to the events were treated to the best of British professionalism and enthusiasm. That mix is often hard to strike.

F1 is organised with great professionalism, especially when you see the inner workings of FOM, as some of us on the inside are lucky to see. But again, the enthusiasm of the volunteers and the security staff at London 2012 is in sharp contrast to what we experience at a lot of F1 venues, like Spa, where black-shirted heavies present a cold and menacing front, rather than enthusiastic and welcoming.

As for the idea of motorsport having any kind of place in the Olympics, I don’t think there’s any chance, nor is there any point. Mechanised sports have no place in the Olympic games. Powerboating was once an Olympic sport but was dropped and rightly so.

F1 has many things going for it, but the Olympics has shown it could do a lot of things better.

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This is just a test - my comments don't seem to be posting to any of the stories on JAonF1.

charlie robinson

Well written,spot on as always James.

Why you are not the main face on either Sky or

BBC is beyond me

Regards Charlie


maybe he doesn't want to be... (?)


I really enjoyed this article too. The first thing F1 could learn is to try and be a 'sport' again rather than a huge bloated, corporate entertainment machine replete with 'fat cats' and individuals and teams who are utterly unable to see past their own tiny sphere of self interest.

Yes I know that the Olympics costs billions and there are huge corporate sponsors, but when the 'lights go out' and the sports men and women go out to perform, the corporate BS is left behind and we watch pure sport. Fairness, parity, human spirit and endeavour and good will are ideals jealously guarded by the IOC – they are prized over and above gimmicks and politics.

Imagine if the IOC adopted the F1 approach?

Road cycling loosing viewers? Let’s introduce a rule whereby the peloton riders all get the use of jetpacks for the last 1K of the race! Yes, that ought to do it, that’s not artificial and completely contrary to the idea of sport at all! Let’s do lunch!

Hey, hang on….. We haven’t completely changed all the rules in rowing for a while have we? We better be careful, people will be starting to actually understand! Ummm, for the next race all the boats have to have square bows, hydrofoils and the coxless 4s should have a coxswain! Nice.

Hang on, my bathtub can hold a lot more £20 notes, it’s only half full! Let’s do away with the bidding process and the idea of legacy and instead we’ll let whatever crown prince of wherever can help me fill my tub just buy the next Olympics! It doesn’t really matter that the stands will be empty because my bathtub will be full! Genius.

But Mr Rogge, I realise that the rules state that my running shoes have to be made out of a synthetic material but we cloned the cow in a disused wind tunnel so technically my super grip leather is fine! After all, there is no such thing as the ‘spirit’ of the rules is there? Errr, did we use drugs in the cloning? Well yes but...... Someone call the lawyers! What this sport needs is more lawyers!

Ok, that Bolt guy is just too talented and we’re not having it. He must have exhaust blown track shoes and his laces look suspect as well. Also, he’s a bit too exciting. Are the Lawyers still here?

WOOOA! Did that young exciting runner from Belize just overtake that other guy without submitting an application in triplicate because I think he overtook on the left on Ash Wednesday when the rules clearly state that you can only overtake on the left on Ash Wednesday when it’s a leap-year and Saturn is in conjunction with Uranus! Let’s wait until after the race and ruin the result for everyone before we tell him, though.

So what we need to do is design the horse shoes to ensure that the horses can only canter round the race track at ¼ speed, 5 minutes in to the race the horse shoes will disintegrate and we’ll see which horse can limp back to the stable in time to stop the entire field overtaking him because we deliberately engineered useless equipment! That will be great fun! Who cares how good the rider is? It’s all about the spectacle!!!


Olympics is nothing without the close competition and sportsmanship. These F1 can learn from it.

F1 needs tracks that are wider as speed mounts year after year which can provide plenty of opportunities for overtaking (as well as tires that do not shed marbles to limit the use of the track) and stricter punishment to drivers for blocking and pushing other competitors off the track and any other unsporting behavior.


You mean politics like how the 4x100 teams were DQ'd after the race results were posted? Or how years later we find out that champion athletes like Marion Jones were doping for years, and have all of their results annulled? Or how we still have standing world records set by admittedly doped-up East German athletes? Oh, and let's not forget gold medals won by convicted doping cyclists too. French figure skating judges and Russian mafias?

Gimmicks like how they banned they full body swimsuits last year, but only after being used for about 10 years (and only by those top countries who could afford them)? Or clap-skates in long-distance speed skating (which weren't banned- I like the consistency)

You must mean equality as exemplified in Vancouver and London (and the perennial leaders: US and China), showing that it's all about how much money (e.g. corporate sponsorship) you can throw at your sports programs for a given 4 year period to win some golds.

Maybe you mean fairness as in horribly biased female soccer refs? Or boxing judges and refs who conspire to allow a competitor to win, despite being knocked down four times?

The Olympics are anything but pure, my friend. Rose tinted glasses or not.


It wouldn't surprise me one bit to find out that McLaren is making these for UK Sport Innovation. I can think of few to whome the UK Government would reach out for help on the project for the national team. Aero dynamics, working with carbon, light exotic metals - McLaren New Technolgy Centre - hmmm. It's worth investigating who was actually behind those UK Sport Innovation bikes. If F1 - that's one heck of a nice link-up story.



Hate to be a stickler for details, but I took a closer look at the TT photos and Wiggins is on a UK Sport Innovation bike at the Olympics. Sky rides Pinarello, but Team GB rode UK Sport Innovation bikes, and doesn't look like anyone can buy one. But maybe you're right, they are just paint-stripped naked carbon Pinarellos. Pinarello wouldn't pass up that world wide brand exposure by removing it's branding from the frames on purpose. So why are they naked? Can't be the 12 grammes saved in weight for the decals.



Road: (you can see UK Sport Innovation on top tube)



Fair enough. They have some whizz kids making hollow carbon cranks etc on the track bikes. I thought Wiggo and Froome etc were on Pinarellos for the TT as in the Tour


Like everything KGBVD, they say it's about the athletes, but it's about the marketing really. Tax payers build the structures and pay the bill, corporations get to sponsor and advertise, and everyone know exactly which brand of shoes Bolt wears for his gold medal runs. IOC gets the marketing billions which go somewhere useful I'd hope.

You bring up Wiggins. It was shocking to me that his bike was naked. No manufacturer decals on downtube at all. No branding on the wheels. Nothing. I'm sure it would have been allowed and well paid for. Who's bike was he riding anyway? No know knows I think.

Anyhow - if it was all about the athletes at the Olympics, every athlete would have access to the same equipment in rotation. Surely this can't be hard to organize, be it shoes, bikes or horses. As it stands, just like anywhere else there is no interest to do this because richer countries want to flex their advantage and buy their success. Elitist, I'd say. But ignore that, take the Fair Play pledge athletes.


Wiggins was riding a Pinarello. Lovely bike


Interesting. Yes, the BS-o-meters at the Olympics have smoke pouring out of them. If not from cheats themselves, then from poor losers who accuse everyone else of cheating.

On Andrew's point, yea, they made a HUGE deal about the Cnd 4x100m DQ, how it was up in lights then snatched away. But as ever in Canadian fashion, we were quick to point out that the Brits who were DQ'd the day before beat us by yards in the semi, so all things being equal we wouldn't have medaled anyway.

On another point, I saw an interview with Rogge where he said that motorsport is too tech dependent to be in the Olympics.

Then I saw Wiggins on his $10K+ carbon fibre piece of brilliance. I bet ALL the athletes (including those from dirt poor nations) had the same advantages. Same goes for the boats, same goes for the equestrian events (good horses cost an awful lot, don't they?)

If the ROC can do it, why can't the Olympics? Of course, the point on minimum standards for qualifying drivers would be deadly important. But surely it can't be done in an ROC/xGames kind of way (rallycross buggies maybe?)


On the size of teams apart from the host country who are allowed to enter no hopers to allow them to be represented in every sport (hence the size of team GB). You can only enter athletes who have met a minimum requirement so if the us has more athletes it's because they have more people who meet the games qualifying standards. having said that some sports such as Sailing and cycling have restrictions on the number of riders one country can enter oddly introduced after GB were too successful for them in Bejing. now that was very F1 lets change the rules and take away the smaller events that they dominated


"You mean politics like how the 4×100 teams were DQ’d after the race results were posted?"

As I was lucky enough to be in the stadium 🙂 the Canadians were DQ'd for breaking the rules. It was hardly "politics".

Also, it was made clear in the stadium (if not on the TV) that the results were provisional, they didn't post the official results in the stadium for some 10-15 minutes.


However, it could be worse. Like I always say, we could have FIFA runnig the show - The most chauvenist, corrupt, arrogant and duplicitous sporting organisation on the planet in my opinion.


Yes , yes there are examples as there are in any sport. Considering that the Olympics covers 400 events over 35 sports the sport to BS ratio is outstanding. There is actually more BS, politics and corporate greed in F1 than there is real sport thus the Sport to BS ratio actually leans the other way!

I make these points not because I come here to hate F1 and be controversial, I love the 'sport', I have watched for over 20 years and it is the only sport I (until NewsCorp got their greasy hands on it) plan my life around to watch. But loving something does not mean it has to be blindly defended. I do not like the direction F1 is headed. Plenty of people do. Each to their own.


Ooops, 530 athletes sent for US team, 541 for UK team. So they were not the biggest team. But clearly we can agree, more athletes you send, more chance of success you have.


What about size of teams?

My wife looked at the medal counts and said to me - well, of course US is #1 - they sent over 500 people to the games. How can a country be allowed to send that many? That's like an F1 team being allowed to have 12 cars on the grid. Of course their odds of performance is higher.

I have to say I like Wayne's angle and I like your response KGBVD. It's yet another one of those arguments with no real answer. It is what it is. They won't change it because of us.

...jetpack DRS for cyclits, full body swimsuits for the rich countries....how darn true!


As soon as I started reading this post I was thinking about the amazing 'games makers' of London 2012 in the context of what I have experienced at a few grands prix, noteably Spa Francorchamps. Then a few paragraphs later, you made exactly the same observation. You are so right, F1 gives NOTHING to the fans. It feels like we are an emcumbrance, apart from 'the few' who can afford the 'Paddock Club' experience.


I was one of the Gamesmakers, and can safely say that there was little comparison with marshals, other than the fact that both are volunteers.

In F1 (and other motorsport), marshals have a very important safety impact - but the impact is mostly on the drivers.

In London 2012, the gamesmakers were very much the "face" of the games. Not the media or PR face, but they were the people & personalities that Joe Public encountered when visiting the sport venues - from arriving on the tube platforms to wandering around the venue.

It was a fundamental aspect to our training - the desire to engage, lift & inspire every visitor - and it is this aspect that is being commented-on throughout the media. These people had individual jobs to do, yes, but the main aim was to make every visitor *feel* that their visit was special.

There were plenty of gamesmakers *also* behind the scenes, doing hidden technical jobs that are more akin to the marshals of F1. They too played an important part of making it work. But making it *feel* good to the visitors was a different job.

Having worked inside the olympics for 2 weeks, it does feel strange to have left the "olympic bubble" and returned to normal life. Bring on the paralympics...


There's a bit of a difference between volunteering at an event like the Olympics (handing out pamphlets, letting tourists know where to go, etc.) and being a GP marshal - where the job is not meant to be 'happy and glorious' but rather be rigidly safe in ensuring that no drivers or spectators get killed.

If I saw GP marshals handing out fuzzy one eyed aliens I'd be worried.


As someone who gives up a lot of my time volunteering with St John Ambulance I would say that there is no reason that a group of volunteers can't be both professional and welcoming at the same time.

I'm regularly out on one of our Cycle Response bikes and as we're a highly visible resource, our role is as much about PR as it is helping people (of course helping people comes first, but when we're not needed to treat someone we can help raise the image of the organisation)...


The comparrison works in that both sets of people give of their free time without pay to be part of something and to make things better for people other than just themselves.


My comment was nothing to do with Marshalls without whom motor racing would not be possible. They perform a completely different function and are nothing to do with James' article or my response.


The Marshalls are all volunteers and are offer a great comparison with the Gamesmakers for their dedication and good will.

Coe was right on this occasion, Great Britain did it right. This was a stunning games with incredible crowds, selfless volunteers, breathtaking sport. Even some of the UK's harshest critics (both those who have genuine points to make and those who just spout pointless indoctrinated drivel) on chat walls like this have to give GB credit for this one. 2012 has been a great year for the UK and I am very proud of both my country and my countrymen and women for making it happen!

Congrats to everyone.


Something that has confused me for decades-----What do we call the place Poms come from? England, or Brittain, or Great Brittain, or United Kingdom, or Pongolia, or what? There seems to be quite a few different names used by different people, and you actually used two terms, (GB and UK) in one sentence.

Sure is confusing!

PK. (NZ)

Btw I'm not "stiring", just genuinly interested/confused, and my grandmother used to call it "The Old Country", and "Home", and "Mother Country", so I've been exposed to a variety of different terms!



That's very interesting, Rubino, tell me, does New Zealand fit into that catagory? ("far-flung islands")?


Rubinho's Keyfob

The simple answer (which covers most needs) is that "Great Britain" is the island of England, Scotland and Wales (and "satellite" islands just off of the mainland - Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, the Scottish Isles etc).

This is the island that you recognise on a map and foreign press often call "England" (much to the disgust of the Scots and the Welsh).

If you give the UK its full title, it's "The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland".

So, as others have pointed out, "Team GB" is incorrect as Northern Irish atheletes were competing under that name.

This is where my knowledge gets murky - there's a lot of complicated history here ;). I suspect that "Team UK" isn't correct either because of other territories (and far-flung islands) which are technically part of the UK but are not eligible to compete under that name for some historical reason.

But for general use, I believe that the above distinction is good enough to make you look educated 🙂


It's a can of worms as far as the Olympic team is concerned. "GB" is not accurate as Jasonc mentioned above. "Team GB and NI" would be closer but is a bit of a mouthful, and even that or "Team UK" would still not be accurate. The team includes people from crown dependencies that are not part of the UK - for example cyclist Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man, and Dressage gold medallist Carl Hester from the island of Sark (part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey). So "Team GB" is used as a simplification.


A map will tell all, just look at one.

You'll see three countries on the island of Great Britain: England, Wales and Scotland. The UK encompasses these and Northern Ireland, which is part of the island of Ireland.

'Team GB' is a misnomer, as it included athletes from Northern Ireland and other islands not regarded as 'Great Britain'.


One thing I think F1 needs to learn is how to properly engage the fans. One simple example in the UK - this year's TV coverage is only half free-to-air. They did that simply because Sky would pay more. A large part of the reason the British public got so engaged with the Olympics over that last two weeks was the BBC's amazing coverage of every single event - at times 24 simultaneous streams - free online. (Yes, not free-to-air, but only because of lack of bandwidth.)

I've lost some interest in F1 this year as a result of this money-grabbing manouever. I haven't watched the last two races at all, and right now don't feel any inclination to watch any more. The BBC did an awesome job of covering F1 and would again, giving everyone in the UK access. No sport is bigger than its fans - get your priorities right, Bernie.


I agree with this too. For the purposes of winning the road trip competition I ought to really be giving the impression I'm the most passionate fan alive, but the grim truth is I am less enthusiastic about Formula 1 than I once was. These days it feels just a little too much like big business maquerading as a sport than sport in its essence.

Legacy is the big word that has buzzed around the Olympics, and I'm not too sure that word's FOM's dictionary. F1 needs to cherish and celebrate its own legacy, yet there's forever talk of dropping circuits like Spa. Face it, Silverstone's only still on the calendar because Donington's ambitions where thwarted by the credit crunch.

Moving F1 into places like Qatar may be good for the value of CVC's holding, but is it giving fans what they really want? I for one don't think so.

Another area where the Olympics have F1 beat is in its representation of its competitors. Look at the lasting images of London 2012; Jess Ennis' infectious joy as she won the 800M , Mo Farah and Bolt swapping poses, Murray celebrating as he crushed Federer - It's all so heart-warming, genuine, human.

F1 drivers seem all too often to tow the corporate line, and despite living ridiculously privileged lives many seem to have no difficulty finding something to moan about. Webber and Kimi are arguably exceptions, but most of them act like they're scripted...

I've felt more emotion seeing many of London 2012's athletes triumph than I've had watching F1 for some time. Perhaps in the Olympics it's more about the competitor and less about the equipment? That could be why. I'm not too sure what FOM can do to change that, but I doubt they're too bothered. Just so long as there's an oligarch somewhere with a few $billion to fund a vanity project, that's the main thing...


I completely agree that the success of the games is, in large part, down to the TV coverage, which allowed a huge number of people to feel connected through shared viewing experiences.

I noticed a similar effect during last year's Canadian GP, when a dramatic race was won by a home favourite at prime time TV viewing time. Even non-GP fans were talking about the race the following day.

It would be great if more races were shown that that time, but I just don't know how you would do that. I'll let the grown-ups work that one out.

Also, I think you're being harsh on Bernie. It was the BBC that ended their contract early. I wonder what their priority was this year?


I completely agree about the shared experience. Just think about England winning the Ashes when it was on free-to-air TV. Everyone tuned in, talked about it, lived it together and felt part of it. England won the Ashes a few years later when it was on Sky and no-one noticed.

If F1 wants to learn from the Olympics, get it back on free-to-air TV as soon as possible. If a race can only be watched live by those with Sky there's no chance of emulating shared experiences like Mo Farah winning the 5000m, or Lewis Hamilton winning the championship on the last lap of Interlagos.

The sharing is the element that makes a sporting event great. You can't force it or manufacture it, but you have to ensure the widest access to enable it to happen. To try to force it reminds me of the corporate attitude to social media, where they attempt to commission something that will go viral. Pairing up the F1 brand with a mobile phone brand in order to hold a rock concert in Singapore or wherever does not make for a viral experience. This corporate attitude is reflected throughout F1.

I disagree with you on Bernie though. It's true the BBC played a bad role, but Bernie should have bent over backwards to ensure that F1 could still provide shared experiences instead of taking the short term revenue option.


sorry to disagree slightly, but the success was down to the product itself and the high integrity it still can claim, rather than the tv and the hype. I wasn't that impressed by the opening and [esp] the closing ceremonies I'm afraid to say...

It is still v exciting to watch track events like Mo's 5000 and 10000 where a human pits himself against his peers, unaided by any device. that's what people find fascinating: the truth of the moment - can he do it or not.


OK, I had forgotten that the BBC backed out early. Sorry Bernie.

But, if Bernie had really been interested in maintaining fan engagement he'd have found a way for the BBC to not have to choose. Just lower the fees for this year. It isn't like he actually needs the money. I still think it was a very short sighted move.


These rich guys never need the money. They don't know what NEED is! They only know GREED, and the ridiculous thing is they probably don't even think that they're being greedy.

Their thought process in its simplest form is this:

How can I expand by business and thus my fortune?

Answer: Make whatever business decisions that are necessary to increase profit.

They are never happy with good solid profit. They always want more and more and then some more. Capitalism in perpetuity.

Heaven forbid that these rich and prosperous folks should have to live in semi-luxury.


If we'd not had the Olympics F1 would still be on the BBC, of that I feel absolutely sure.

The BBC invested massive amounts in the London Olympics, and things that had to give included F1, MotoGP almost got chopped completely until a last minute reprieve. It's not cheap to run 26 simulataneous HD channels (BBC One HD & BBC HD + the 24 others). Then add on all the radio coverage and online stuff they had too, and the cost is massive.

The BBC, not Bernie, wanted to change the deal. Bernie has some blame at his door for F1 going to Sky, but the BBC also has at least 50% blame at it's door for not honouring it's 5 year deal.

It's also worth noting that Sky have taken a more Olympic style approach with their coverage; dedicated HD channel, multiple shows, all sessions shown live, app to watch it online, twitter commentary etc - basically all the stuff the Beeb utilised for the 2012 games. Yes you pay for it, but F1 is already leagues ahead of something like Football when it comes to fan interaction. I can't ever imagine having a FOTA Forum style setup with Football players/Managers.

F1 is always likes to present a drama situation, but really F1 has grown hugely in the last 10 years. It's just a shame the ticket prices are so so high for the popular events like Spa.


The BBC did an utterly outstanding job with it's coverage (apart from Jake Humphrey). I have never seen any event so well covered before, ever. Well done BBC. It is a shame that you had to choose between this level of amazing coverage for 2012 and a full Live F1 season but we all have to prioritise and I think you made the right decision despite how much I detest the fact that F1 has become another victim of the great NewsCorp immoral orgy.


Jake Humphrey's a great presenter!


Yes, he (Jake) has his good points, but I would go some way to agreeing with Wayne in that he tends to 'flash around' his limited knowledge on a particular subject (F1,Olympic cycling) when he is a universal presenter & should not attempt to show how knowledgeable he 'thinks' he is.

One good point of having Jake working at the Olympics, is that the last 2 GPs (albeit only highlights) have been very well presented by Lee McKenzie with DC, meaning no Jake or EJ - a welcome break from poor attempts at humour!

Best value of the lot, though is surely Gary Anderson, a real expert who my wife says she can understand.

That MUST be some kind of result!


Jake is absolutley brilliant. No one comes close to his skill in presenting F1, as James says, he makes it happen and is not doing a pundit's job. He sure knows how to put E Jordan in his place.

Of all the presentors we've had over the years Jake is easily in pole position, followed home by Rosenthal who did that job first at ITV when James and Brundle were comms. Ah, those were the days


Sure, if they had to choose, the olympics was absolutely the right choice. If Bernie had been thinking of more than money, though, he'd have figured out a way for the BBC to continue its full F1 coverage this year on the basis that FTA coverage is better long term.

And what was wrong with Jake? I thought he did a great job!


James, regarding yoru comment "The TV presenter/commentator who appeals to everyone has yet to be discovered…"

Murray Walker? 😉


With all due respect James, if he is not trying to be an expert why did he, on countless occasions during the olympics say in reference to the cycling 'working with F1 I know all about Aerodynamics'? This was irritating to listen to over and over again. He used plenty of referneces to different sports and sporting techniques incorrectly and called Hanson bloody Shearer at one point. If he is not tryign to be an expert he really should stay away from the technicalities of the sports he is covering. Lineker, for me, is a much more believable and less plastic front man.

If you guys say he is good at his job, then he undoubtedly is. Won't argue with you there.


The TV presenter/commentator who appeals to everyone has yet to be discovered...


Sorry, I just cant stand the guy. He's not like a Lineker or a Hanson or a Coulthard or Brundle - people who actually know about the sport first hand. To me he is just a plastic personality playing at being an expert - he is there to provide great hair and a cheesy smile and nothing else.


I disagree - he's not trying to be an F1 expert, that's the whole point.

He's there to set it up, bring in the personalities and follow the stories.

He's done that job well and is popular within F1.

Having done 20+ years of TV I can tell you that he's one of the very best at fronting a show and making it look easy and natural.


FYI, the 24 streams were FTA on satellite (Freesat or Sky), unfortunately not many people knew that though.


24 streams, only 4 or 5 were showing anything at one time, often the commentating was amateurish, sometimes there was none. But still, you could watch one whole event from start to finish.

They could have had more viewer choice, but just like with f1 much is promised little that's new is actually delivered in terms of the viewing experience.


Almost entirely? They showed all the events in full, from start to finish. Admittedly, some events lacked commentary but I cannot see what more could be done?

I totally enjoyed the BBC olyimpic viewing experience.


More viewer choice than showing every single event almost in its entirety? What did you want, another channel focusing just on Wenlock?


I *did* know that, but only have Freeview so couldn't get them! But even on Freeview there were three full-time dedicated HD olympic channels and a part-time SD channel. Amazing, really.


You're correct, the BBC are currently 27.7% down on last years viewing figures, and even if you include Sky, and many of these viewers will not be the crucial 'unique' viewers, F1 is still 12% down on last years viewing figures.

The Sky deal is the biggest way to not engage with the viewers.



Completely agree with you. I too have lost some interest in F1 this year simply because I can’t access the sport as I was able to last season.

If the Olympics weren’t free to air, how much enthusiasm would have been lost?

However, Formula 1 will not roll back the pay TV deal; these are 2 different arenas, the Olympics are about showcasing great sport and sportsmen and women, but to also allow the host nation 2 weeks of full on pride. F1 isn’t about pride, it’s about egos.

How long I wonder, until we hear twaddle from FOTA or the FIA about learning lessons...


Pricing is something f1 can take from the Olympics, too many f1 circuits don't sell out, things like pay your age for kids, a certain amount of tickets at low prices, many people would go to f1 races but can't afford to, yet tens of thousands of empty seats are at many grand prix


You missed out veiwing figures . The Olympics was and will still be free to air and as result not only got good figures, but the coverage its self was a critical success.Bernie's split coverage in the UK has been a PR disaster.With the loss of causal veiwers hitting the figures.People dipped in and out of coverage of the games , so even sports with no home based interest got exposure.F1 figures for this year show a steep decline and one that advertisers will soon latch on to.


F1 is a global brand let alone a global sport. F1 and bernie do not care about British audience figures. F1 does not rely on British audience figures, without us Brits f1 would still be one of the largest sports in the world ad therefore it will always be attractive to sponsors, manufacturers and advertising.


I might be wrong but I think I saw some stats that showed that viewing figures for F1 in the UK had actually gone up this season, not down. Prime time highlights of early morning GPs are actually a big draw for casual fans.

Kind of makes a mokery of all the doom sayers saying the Sky deal would be the death of F1.

Actually it looks like another piece of canny bit of business by Bernie.

To link it back to the Olympics this was also something the BBC got right with the 24 steams affording them the luxury of showing highlights on primetime for the main channels. Also look at NBC in the USA who showed hardly any live footage but saw an increase in viewers vs 4 years ago; however this got them a panning from the hardcore fans.

What F1 can learn from this is that what people want is choice, ironically this is what the Sky/BBC deal provides!


Viewing figures have not gone up.

Even when you combine the BBC and Sky figures, many viewers of which would watch both broadcaster's efforts, and therefore would not be the crucial 'unique' viewing statistic, you still get a drop of 11.96% on last year (up to and including Hungary).

Sky are averaging 694k per race.

BBC averaging 3.06 million per race.

By his point in the season last year, the BBC had an average of 4.65 million per race.

BBC race with the most viewers = 3.92 million (Valencia).

Sky race with the most viewers = 989k Germany (Free Sky weekend).


I don't know where you got your information regarding veiwing figures from,but to suggest they have risen is very wrong.Only one GP this year achived figures that matched last year on the BBC (the European GP ).In GPs that the BBC and Sky both show live , the BBC have a 5-1 ratio with Sky losing 60% of its veiwers that watch its exclusive races.In every case the repeat showing on the BBC has achived more veiwers than the live race on Sky.Sky bought F1 rights to try to stop the decline in subs. during the (no-football)summer.However before this season world wide F1 had gone down 10% and with Sky buying up rights in a number of countries this decline could increase.Rupert Murdoch is a firm believer in Pay Per Veiw and in countries where Sky has exclusive coverage this will come in ,so be warned.


Great comment. I have never watched Judo and Taekwondo but I did watched it very intensly because of very good and easy to access coverage.

The online feeds BBC had for the Olympics were fantastic.

You could watch whatever sport you wanted, live or "catch-up". Thumbs up for BBC for the Olympics coverage?


Exactly, a few 'initiatives' at circuit level may help the re-engagement with a few 1000 fans, but the lack of comprehensive TV coverage in the UK, has so far seen a loss of 12,940,000 viewers (non-unique).


"F1 can learn from the London Olympics first by evaluating carefully what a new host country can bring to the sport besides money."

Totally agree. It's such a shame that such unpopular circuits like Abu Dhabi, Korea and Bahrain retain their places on the Formula One calender while the Melbourne and Spa Grand Prix struggle to make ends meet.


Couldn't agree more!


Could not agree more. Here bloody here!


Nice piece James. Fortunate you chose title "What *can* F1 learn" as opposed to "What *will* F1 learn" otherwise I fear it would have been a lot shorter 🙂


I think the difference between Motorsport and Olympic sport is too stark to compare as directly as is done here.

F1 is has so much less to do with the individual sportsman and a lot to do with Engineering, Innovation and Business.

I've been to several GPs and although they offer no real value to the fans, which I think could be easily addressed, I'm not sure exactly how well the Olympics does in this regard.

I would love to hear from people who can give examples of the involvement of fans at the Olympics, otherwise I'm sure the merchandise and food is the same rip-off as F1..?


I agree. A closer look will reveal that F1 is much more involved. It's more than just cars buzzing around the circuit. Unfortunately for F1, economics play a significant role and the level playing field is to some extent impressive to look at. There are a few things, I believe, that can be done in F1 to make it even more appealing to a general man on the street. Satisfying the current fan base will be a start and yet remain economical. In my opinion, F1 needs to re-visit it's mission and objectives.

Otherwise the olympics were fantastic!!!



Totally agree with James and all of the reader comments thus far. Wouldn't it be nice if Bernie read this too?


"F1 takes its races into new territories, like Asia and Middle East, primarily because they pay the highest sanctioning fees. This is spelled out very clearly in F1′s flotation prospectus."

Indeed. When I feel jaundiced about F1 it can be summed up as "the sport coems second to the business". Would the premier league assign more money to Manchester United because of their Heritage like F1 does to Ferrari ? Would Skiing or Cycling re-structure their rules to prevent manufacturers pulling out? Would rugby become the 7 nations if Turkey would just stump up the cash ? Sports don't do those kinds of things.

My most treasured F1 photo is of Mansell giving Senna a lift back to the pits after the 1992 British GP. It seems like a the sportsmanship of a by-gone age.

Moments I'll take from this Olympics are Michael Phelps showing Chad LeClos what to do when you win a gold medal, too much the sportsman to worry he'd only got a silver himself; Bradley Wiggins working for Mark Cavendish because sport means working for other people and them working for you, and from the one event I managed to go to the crowd cheering huge encouragement for the open water swimmer from Guam who was 15 minutes behind but fought his way to a finish. The crowd were sporting too.

F1 does have its people stories - great stories - the Senna movie proves that, think Williams winning championships with Frank in his wheelchair or Brawn winning the championship from the ashes of the Honda team, or Kubica's horrific crash in Canada and winning there next year. Or Lewis Hamilton as the little boy who had Ron Dennis's phone number...

But we're so far removed from those people: at the open water swimming, the marathon and the road cycling we could get within a few feet of the athletes. Look at how Bolt posed for photos with the crowd... and then look how remote F1 stars are even by comparison with other kinds of motorsport.


I congratulate London for hosting a fantastic and memorable Games for despite a few teething issues to begin with, such as the empty seats in the arenas, it turned out to be a successful showing for what Brits can do when they come together.

Yes the Olympics have displayed to the World the unique multi-cultural society in Britain and how despite some of our difference in politics & ideology, everybody got behind the Games and #TeamGB.

Now what I think the most expensive sport in the World could learn (though unrealistic) from the Olympics is to;

a) Make the sport set a quota of having at least one driver from each sub continent, this not only would increase viewship in every corner of the planet but would also lead to wild patriotic celebrations. And so by no means should one country have more than one driver at any given time.

b) Also what F1 can learn from the Olympics is by designing such rules that would make the top competition relatively equal in performance for nobody wants to see utter domination

c) Another thing F1 can learn from the glorious London Olympics is to keep politics out of sport (e.g. The Bahrain situation) for this only acts as a distraction to the whole point of sport and that's to let the athletes settle it amongst themselves on track or on the field.

d) In addition, F1 should take the valuable lesson from the Olympics of making sure the penalties are handed out before the athletes get on the podium to avoid confusion and frustration from the fans.

e) Last but not least what F1 can learn from the Olympics is to have cheap tickets (maybe even free admittance on a Friday for those countries with empty grand stands) for most fans would what to attend but just can't afford to go.

Having said that, I do not expect to see any changes in F1 for anywhere were there's lots of money involved, love, happiness and good will are in short supply so no, I don't expect to see smiling marshals at Spa anytime soon let alone friendly drivers.



My ultimate best moment of the Games was the Queen -- James Bond skit and the icing on the cake was seeing the Queen appear in the Royal box with no so much as a smile ~ Hahaha brilliant!!!!!!!!!


hello James,

I think F1 needs a closing ceremony at the final race. I'd like to see the top three Championship drivers on a podium. The closing ceremony could thus look like this:

1. Alonso = Gold medal

2. Webber = Silver medal

3. Vettel = Bronze medal

Yes, medals. But only to celebrate the top three drivers at the end of the Championship. The same happens at the Tour de France.

Bring Back Murray

And the wooden spoon would go to....


I liked the color coded trophies at Hungaroring too. Was a nice touch.


Yes, I agree with that


It should be what can the Olympics learn from F1, or more to the point, motorsport in general. If sports like BMX can be in the Olympics, then kart racing absolutely deserves to be as well.

It would bring even more viewers to the Olympics and boost interest in motorsport. Using a single generic kart model; identical machinary would ensure it is totally down to driver talent and mechanical understanding.

I am quite certain it would be one of the most popular events! 😀


There is a series like this already - its called easykart, one chassis and engine, limited setup changes its all about the driver. In the uk less than a second usually covers the whole field in the senior classes and last year at the world championships Team Uk won 2 out of 4 titles on offer!


"Medals work brilliantly for the Olympics, but F1 has a perfectly good podium ceremony and big trophies and champagne spraying are the heart of that."

I would reverse the order, giving the trophy to the winner driver the last.


Great article from James. As Jacques Rogge said Britain is a sports loving nation. Let's not forget that the British GP on race day had 125000 spectators.

I was lucky enough to visit the Games four times and seeing GB win gold and silver in the canoe slalom ranks alongside Mansell Silverstone '87 and Hamilton Silverstone '08.

What makes the Olympics great is that it involves the whole world in a way that not even the World Cup matches.

One final point. People often complain that attending GPs is expensive and it is but on a positive note I would say that it is better value than visiting an Olympic session.


Excellent, excellent article. Hard to compare a once every 4 years mega event to a perpetual bi-weekly series, but you've nailed it.

Week-in week out the veneer on F1 is dissolving - a colourful but insubstantial 'love-in' where wealthy men turn screws and continue to kid themselves that the reality outside of their little world does not impact them. ...the short story is that if you don't offer value for money in a global downturn then whatever or whoever you are, it's over.

It takes an Olympics to show-up F1 for the expensive, superficial nonsense it has unfortunately now become.

If F1 is going to cost a small fortune, I've got better things to spend a small fortune on - make the price right and I'll gladly return.


By bringing out the people involved and rewarding individual excellence, with less preoccupation with providing a visual effect-based stage show.

Need a return to a higher intensity racing involving more out-and-out speed rather than handicapping the drivers' speed resources and less a preoccupation with creating "unpredictability" which doesn't owe to the competitors input.


Great article, but I think it's much simpler than that. The olympics, like Motorsport used to be, is all about countries, making it easier for people to get behind. In the old days of British Racing Green, Blue for France etc - you were cheering on your country. Nowadays you have an Australian Driving a car built in Britain, with a French engine, for an English team, and an Austrian National Anthem. Harder therefore the casual fan to get excited.


Olympic tickets weren't cheap, but they were affordable - and F1 could learn lessons from this.

The Olympic crowds in general, and particularly the marathon yesterday, demonstrated the kind of enthusiasm that might be forthcoming should London ever stage an F1 race.


"Happy and Glorious" Olympics, surely we've all heard that said somewhere before?!

By the way, whilst F1 of course has a sizeable global following, by what which of the many possible indicators is it actually "the world’s largest year-round sporting event" ?


The Olympics are special because they are rare. If there was an annual Olympic games it would lose much of its appeal.

F1 should be careful about moving above 20 races. If there is a race every Sunday there is no time for a build up or review and one race blurs into the next.

16 or 17 races maybe with some circuits hosting races every second year would be better.




As others have commented the issue is support from the public, and as the only thing that seems to push F1 forward is money, money and money in a certain persons pocket, then i am afraid that until we get away from subscription TV and lower the prices at the gate (Silverstone is tantamount to robbery) then F1 is going to decline in popularity.

6 Wheeled Tyrrell

Completely agree James, sounds stupidly obvious when said out loud, but the promoter should actually promote the sport rather than act like they are doing us a favor for allowing us to pay them for the privilege of spectating. There are many organized sports that manage to understand this concept even though they are fist and foremost a business (like F1), the NBA here in the us comes to mind.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the London games last week and had a great time, the event engaged the entire host city in a way that no F1 race does, with the possible exception of Monaco, but then again the people one sees at the Monaco GP arent the average F1 fans are they? I would argue that for the most part, they are not F1 fans they are just there to see and be seen while visiting nearby Cannes to promote their latest project.


F1 is too much of a turn-off for trackside spectators. So it doesn't generate the sort of atmosphere we had at the games.

I was lucky enough to go to the men's 100m final. I've also been to British GP. At the former, fans were greeted by smiles, and you could wander pretty much everywhere you wanted. Usain Bolt was 10 metres in front of me.

At the latter, it was barriers and pass gates everywhere, massive segregation between rich and poor, and for most people there was no hope of getting near the cars or the drivers.

My Olympic ticket was cheaper too. Until F1 starts to respect its fans, it'll always be a TV sport - and thus, without putting down roots in the country in which it takes place, transient.


The problem is the revenue structure of the sport as a whole, F1 has no real motivation to do anything more long term because it makes all its money from race fees. Change the business model and there's a chance the attitude might change.

The little dig at Joe probably wasn't necessary, although I do agree. 😉


Anyone who tried to buy tickets or has suffered the dreadful traffic paranoia, the Zil lanes which have made life an utter misery, or been held to ransom by the outrageous demands of the bus and Tube drivers, will know that the Olumpics could have learned much more from F1 than F1 will ever, contsructively, learn from the Olympics.

Please God, if there ever is a London GP do not, under any circumstances, put Coe in charge.


Which city were you in during the Games?

London was largely empty, and the Zil lanes worked fine. It was like driving on Christmas Day every day.

Vangelis Atkinson

I agree with most of the article. There is much to learn from the Olympics, indeed, because I would not call today´s F1 race a sporting event at all.

Robert Harting won men´s discus with a result of 68 plus meters. Much? Little? Who knows, but we can be sure that he fought his head off for the medal.

F1 cars can go 300kph through Eau Rouge. Now let´s take away some downforce. If you could take it only in 4 gear, but fighting the car so hard that you wet your pants, would it make F1 a lesser series?

There was no "hole in the air" problem in the sixties, with wingless cars. It seems that again, F1 wants to be "the pinnacle" for the sake of it. We know what was the answer for the turbulence problem, introduced in 2011...

When Usain Bolt has enough power to ease off at the end of the distance, should we make his task harder somehow? Hand out a 1 second(cough*) handicap to make it more attractive for the spectators? Who would dare to say "No, it is not against the spirit of sport"?

Baltic states(which is a very small market) are usually doing great at cross-country skiing. Should we throw in some elements of basketball to make it popular in the US too?

Car racing should be for racing fans, who want to follow and understand that kind of sport. Today´s F1 focuses unnaturally hard on creating a show and forcing it down the throat for as many people as possible.

In 2010(Vancouver) a Georgian luger was killed during a training run. Officials concluded that it was an athlete error rather than a track deficiency.

In F1, why is it always that the track must change, engine power cut down etc? If a driver or spectator thinks the danger is too much, he can leave. Why set the bar lower for everybody.

Final thought.

If you step over the white line in long jump, it wont count, regardless of what day it is.

In F1, there is a rule that says a car should stay between the white lines. But the penalties seem to depend on stewards flipping a coin...which again, is not a sport really.



In F1, why is it always that the track must change, engine power cut down etc? If a driver or spectator thinks the danger is too much, he can leave. Why set the bar lower for everybody.


Try watching a recent documentary made by the BBC named "Grand Prix: The Killer Years".

Then try saying again that F1 is not dangerous enough.


Nobody wants to witness a tragedy, sure. And

I don´t think modern F1 is safe, it is still open cockpit, open wheel form of racing.

I try to explain my view a little. For example, slowing down the Lesmos can "ruin" a popular circuit, but in the end, you can still get hit by a spring like Massa. He was happy to come back, yet fully knowing that such thing can easily happen again.

I would simply like to see more decision making on the driver´s side. It applies to red flag situations in the wet too. The ones coping with the conditions, should benefit.

In general, I would like to see more consistency in F1, less over reactions in regulations.


To a point I do agree indeed.

How long races are stopped in rain are a prime example. Thinking of Canada last year here.


Great article James. I think another area that F1 could develop is the end of year prize giving ceremony. I could be wrong but it always appears to me to be this secret ceremony that allows only the special few to attend. Why not have a big event for the presentation of the championship trophies and other prizes. Make it an event that the public can pay to attend too. There's so much potential there.


Or even better present the trophy to the champion on the podium at the final race


Great article James,

Glad someone has said the above in regards to the new races in a manner that makes the point without causing offence.

How many tracks on the current schedule could honestly put up their hands and say this will be a lasting legacy?

I'm not British but I live in England and I think London 2012 was a stunner!!!


I am from Spain and I am very proud of the UK... You did it pretty well, congratulations...

What a wonderful organization, places, people and everything.



The best torch lighting I've ever seen was when the paraplegic archer shot a a flaming arrow into the arena in Barcelona. So your country did a pretty good job as well.


I think F1 could learn more from the NHRA than the

Olympics - the drag racers give amazing access to the "garages" and if you've never seen them tear down an engine go sometime even if you think drag racing is pointless. Also the drivers are around and engage with the fans - watch John Force in this situation and see a man who knows who really pays his wages.

One thing F1 should do the opposit of the Olympics is eliminate the national anthems on the podiums. The drivers/ teams do not represent any country - if they feel the need for music most sponsors have TV jingles


In F1 it's not the spectators that pay the driver's wages. The real money comes from TV and sponsorship. The specators just help the hosting circuit mitigate some of it's expenses. You can't engage whole armies of specators and expect 200,000 people to travel all over the world every two weeks. The bulk of spectators watch on TV. It's hard for F1 to get local interest to an event that only comes around once a year. The Olympics is a bit different. It only takes place every four years so people attend and then lose all interest. F1 has to keep the fans coming every other weekend. Different challenges. Having said that, the drivers and crews need to be more accessible. Imagine Lewis doing a walk around "Oooh don't touch me man.."


The sponsors hope to attract more business from fans - not just those folks physically at each event - so my premis is correct

The example I gave is a guy who works his butt off to promote Castrol and other sponsors and part of this is to interact with people at the track and be seen on TV and in the magazines as someone who appreciates the fans - even when they give him a hard time to his face. He can work a crowd and everyone talks about him

Fans engaged - sponsors happy - recipe for success


Well Berine has a working model of a fan friendly racing series he could copy and make his own. It's NASCAR, of course Bernie will never do it as it would cost him and the teams, don't forget the teams in this, money, which is the whole point.


Hey, I was in Montreal this year and even though there were student protests going on, the local police did a fantastic job of welcoming and controlling the crowds. It didn't hurt that a music festival was happening in town as well to help with the party atmosphere in the evenings. By and large, the F1 crowd is pretty well behaved, there was alcohol everywhere but no problems. Local laws must play a part so maybe there's a good place to start with new venues.


I remember reading that the paddock was unusually closed off in Montreal this year.


That's correct, in Montreal the paddock was closed to the public on the Wednesday before the race.


Great post. I agree completely with the comments on the selection process for a new event. It's a little cynical to suggest all are chosen for financial reasons, but the continued presence of Bahrain displays the might of the dollar.

One idea could be an annual spot open to a circuit wanting to get into F1. It could be difficult logistically, but would be an interesting method for bringing fresh venues each year, and give venues a chance to showcase.


It was interesting how the volunteer enthusiasm even managed to spread to the G4S paid security people. They're the same company that does Silverstone, but completely different in attitude on the security. The Armed Forces were better, but at least you felt the staff were making an effort.

The digital efforts were astounding. I was often at a venue and surrounded by people looking at phones, keeping track on everything else that was going on. BBC was one such source, but the official Results app was brilliant as well. @TeamGB on Twitter was an essential source. These were often the only way to get information about what was happening when you were watching live; especially if you were following a team other than GB, as the live TV and the announcers tended to focus on GB athletes.


Yes, the Sky deal has split F1 in the UK however the Sky coverage is far superior. The in depth coverage and of course Martin Brundle is worth every extra penny spent


Except, of course, if F1 had stayed with the BBC so would have MB!

I was sort of hoping the Sky coverage would be awful so that Bernie would beg the BBC to take it back:-) But that's not really fair on the people paying for it, so I am really (maybe begrudgingly) glad they're doing a good job!


While the medals idea is no dafter now than it was then, there is still the question of why F1 always crowns it's champions practically in private. It makes no more sense now than it ever did.

Also, as others have said, some circuits always have plenty of empty seats, yet still ask prices that are out of the reach of many.

Too much of F1 makes no sense.


A fine point indeed- the best we get to see is some stiff photos of a handshake with the FIA and trophy in black tie garb- hardly sets the pulse racing does it?

F1 is so guarded in so many ways, all the time it is this way it's difficult to care for drivers and teams in the same way you could for the athletes of the last couple of weeks.

I know an F1 drivers overall fame perhaps exceeds that of most of the Olympians, but take Usain Bolt for example- global megastar and manages to retain bags of character, enthusiasm, and is all round thoroughly watchable. Fast forward to a post race press conference in F1 and you're lucky to get more than a smile let alone any real enthusiasm! (I'd be bouncing from the walls had I just won and bagged the bonus they surely get...)


Well put!

F1 exists as an insular motorsports paddock that just happens to have its work put on international television. Someone in control needs to step outside that and have an honest look, as the fans see things. We're not allowed in, and we're not all that happy about that.

Also: Could F1 be less politically indifferent? Bahrain, anyone?


Bernie must know who you are legendary-F1journo-JamesAllen. Tell him we want MORE!!!


Hi James,

Very nice observations. Its just too expensive to go watch a race. I remember spending a lot of money and going to a race just to stand under the blazing sun the whole day. Then when the race was over and they let us walk on the track and get near the pit lane every team had packed up and left for the next venue. race organizers should arrange some post race events which should be accessible for even the fans who are in the standing sections of the track. The grandstands are packed with corporate ticket holders who are not serious followers of the sport.

On a side note thanks for keeping this site going in the holidays while most others are down. I can't wait for the season to resume and we have a big title battle coming up.


Not Sure I agree with you FerrariFan.

I went to Hockenheim this year. Paid 339EUR for weekend tickets at the Mercedes Grandstand. If you take the number of on track sessions and divide it by the ticket price I paid less than 20EUR a session. Which may be expensive to watch Porsches, but compared to many sports, football and the Olympics included, is pretty cheap.

Beyond the on track action Mercedes provided interviews with all the drivers, live music (admittedly not my cup of tea)and driving experiences available in the new A class all over the weekend.

For me, whilst ticket prices for F1 are high, they are increasingly offering good value for money. The Mercedes experience is one I would definitely recommend to any fan, and one I hope other teams or sponsors consider replicating.


Quite agree, FerrariFan.

GPs are really poor value for the spectator and at almost every circuit bar Monaco you are so far from the action because of the run off areas that the cars look tiny. In 2010 I was a corporate guest at Silverstone on qualifying day but I wouldn't spend my own money going back.

Contrast any Grand Prix with LeMans where we pay no more than £50 for a ticket for the whole event including access to scrutineering, all practice sessions, qualifying, a pit lane walk - not to mention 24 hours of racing with access to all public areas !

Camping at Maison Blanche right by the track costs under £100 and that's per vehicle, not per person and we only need to walk a few yards to safely stand just a few feet away from the cars coming off the Porsche Curves.

Is it small wonder up to 70,000 Brits make an annual pilgrimage to La Sarthe every year ?


In the old days we used to camp in the car park at Silverstone on Friday afternoon, then you could walk anywhere in the evening/all night. We often used to go around the pits at one in the morning and watch/chat to the crews at work, all very friendly, then have fish and chips from the stall on the cross runway where the Trimoco BTCC cars were parked. Of course back then all the cars were re-built every night, quali engines, suspension and tyres used. The pit crews hardly got any sleep from Thursday to Monday. We had a wonderful time until MR TWR joined in put up barbed wire fences and locked the gates (we got locked in one year and had to climb out at 4 am) and the prices rocketed. We carried on going every year until the prices got stupid, but the nwe had proper telly coverage.

Now like many I listen to James commentary on R5Live and watch the timing on the formula1.com site. By the time we get the hashed together highlights it's almost not worth watching.


Heavies at races are needed for a number of reasons. First, beer consumption is significant. Second, there is a matter of security and safety. Order and liabilitly above friendly customer service smiles in my book.

Running over these third world countries for cash without building a legacy - well, I can't really blame Bernie. He says build me a billion Euro track and give me 50 million to come here each yera and they do it, no one would say no to that.

I find it hard to believe that any legacy can be built in countires where giant social problems are present. There are more people living in poverty in China with need for food than F1 fans in Europe. How can they be expected to consume or care about this luxury product of rich playboys with none of their own to cheer for?

But I do like your point about limited return to fans. I think the ticket prices are very high. It's supply/demand, sure. Only people not attending will make organizers drop prices or give tickets away. And just like we can call those new markets foolish for paying the crazy prices to host an event, we could call all those "westerners" foolish as well - paying 800 euro for a weekend grandstand seat.

Personally, I always felt the ticket prices are a way of screening out income brackets to ensure the target marketing audience is persent for the luxury brands featured. F1 itself being one such luxury brand, and demanding a luxury premium for allowing the fans the pleasure.


It's silly to compare F1 to the Olympics. In fact, it's silly to compare motorsport to more traditional sports.

F1 is seem as quite elitist by some and efforts to break that barrier down would be a good start. But you have to remember what the Olympics represents. From a sporting context, it brings together people who have no real interest in sport to engage in it for a couple of weeks only to forget the rules when it's all finished.

While other sportings events brings enthusiasts together, the Olympics is aimed at bringing the masses together, the casual viewers you might say. F1 is almost the opposite spectrum of Olympics. Although that's not to say it can't learn from it.


"No-one is naive enough to think that the Olympic motto, “it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part” covers anything more than the few heart warming stories of fighting through adversity, overcoming racial or gender barriers to compete and simply to be there."

Really? I disagree.

Lets run some numbers:

85 of the 204 nations won a medal.

There are 10,960 competitors.

There are 35 sports and 400 events.

At three medals an event that is 1200 medals.

(I did try getting proper numbers from london2012.com but it's not up to date with the results from Sunday 12th and no easy way to count number of winning competitors without spending 30 minutes doing it).

So assuming all athletes are equal (not true) and enter one event each (not true) you have an 10.948% chance of winning a medal and 3.649% chance of winning a gold medal. But as we've seen from Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps this doesn't happen. Some atheletes are much more talented than others and some hoover up medals like no tomorrow.

Even if you ignore the superstars that compete an win in more than one event you still have more 89% with no hope of winning an event. Still sure it's not the taking part?

Now back to F1 - Why on earth are Torro Rosso, Caterham, Force India competing? They can't win. Using the logic I quote above they shouldn't bother taking part.

Back to the Olympics - Yes people want to win. But even the worse competitor in any of those sporting events represents the best competitor from a particular country's population. Any and all of these athletes have pushed themselves to places you and I will never achieve or probably even aspire to. Just to take part. You can't have winners without losers. Take for example the fourth place swimmer in the Ladies 10,000m swim. She missed a bronze medal by 0.4 seconds and missed the gold medal by 2 seconds. After 1 hour 57 minutes of competition. The average speed for 1km of these race was just under 12 minutes. That is seriously fast just for 1km. Let alone an average speed over 10km. She would wipe the floor with just about any other swimmer male or female, worldwide.

These athletes should be applauded for their efforts, even the ones that come last. It's a pity the mainstream media don't seem to realise that (unless of course it's one of our atheletes that qualified to participate but we all knew they were not talented enough to challenge for a medal - when it is suddenly obvious to them).

Finally - ever competed in a sport yourself? Did you win? No? Had no hope of winning? Sure, I understand. So why did you take part? To see what you could achieve. Plenty of folks at the Olympics not winning but still putting in personal bests or nation's best for their country.

Back to F1.

What can F1 learn from the Olympics?


The goals of F1 (it's business objectives) are in the wrong place. F1 cares about money. Nothing else. F1 cares nothing for its fanbase.

Until these aspects are realigned nothing they take from the Olympics will work.

Medals for F1 races is an idiotic idea - no points for fourth place or worse? That's gonna work a treat isn't it?

+1 for realising Motorsport has no place in the Olympics.

+1 Steve Rumsby's comments re: BBC Olympics coverage

I now watch most races time shifted from the real event. There is less compulsion to watch live because I can't watch them all live, so I've got into the habit of not bothering at all. Thanks SKY. Who's to blame? Bernie.


Not to mention that the actual motto of the Olympics is Citius, Altius, Fortius or Faster, Higher, Stronger.


James, I'm not too comfortable with the notion of 'volunteers' because why should some people give their time and service for nothing, while others are paid top dollar...

If you want marshals and security who are professional and amiable, then you have to get exactly that: professionals...


One thing we don't need to learn is staging opening and closing ceremonies.... Especially the sort which are high-jacked by the Union of Defunct Musical Acts!!

Sorry to be a lone dissenting voice

Beatles, OK, Fine. But Britain's musical heritage should not be an excuse for wheeling out every arthiritic geriatric who was once a passing success......or stuff like the spice girls and Take that.....


They could award medals for the fastest pit stops and make that an end of year podium ceremony?

Those guys deserve some attention too, IMO.

It would be a second tier of competition to observe. And wager on 🙂


Speaking as one who studiously avoids hearing, watching, or learning anything about the Olympics, here is my answer, based on what leaked through my cone of silence:

1) There should be more top flight British drivers. Dame Helen Mirren reportedly said Brits were best at 'seated' events (such as rowing and equestrian.) Dame Edna's remarks were not reported anywhere I saw.

2) Babes in bikinis will *always attract attention! An actual *driver in a bikini (Danica, anyone?) would drive the press insane. Especially in the Middle East! Helen Mirren... well Dames should not be seen in bikinis.

3) To attract more female fans all drivers should appear in Speedos. Except Danica.

4) It is ok to deliberately crash in order to gain an advantage from the stoppage.

5) It is ok to throw a match in order to gain a future advantage.

6) One receives much more press coverage for losing a medal due to doping than by just winning it in the first place.


Not particularly meaningful points if you didn't watch it and get involved. Spoil sport!


Perfectly valid points. It makes no difference whether or not I watched anything.

I have nothing but contempt for the Olympics but these are the stories I was not able to avoid as they leaked into the real world.

The "scandal" over beach volleyball girls in bikinis, the deliberate losing in badminton, the deliberate cycle crashing - a Brit, I believe, the Japanese soccer team deliberately not winning, the doping, the endless, fawning inane bable from sports "reporters"...

Oh yeah, F1 can learn a *lot from this crap.

{infinite sarcasm here, just to be clear}



At the risk of sounding sycophantic that was a beautifully written article. I concur with everyone who says you should be back alongside Martin.



Silverstone can learn from the Olympics. Every year, getting in, around and away is a joke and gets worse every year for the Grand Prix. I am not going next year due to the pathetic traffic management, parking facilities and staff who just don’t care. I was lucky to attend a number of the Olympic sites and the organisation was fantastic. Every issue had been thought of and plans in place which made for a brilliant experience.

I do not accept Silverstone's excuses of the lack of road access, the number of fans and cars. The Olympic park were moving way more fans every day with two or three sessions at the stadium per day with fans arriving and leaving with security checks. Silverstone have fewer variables to deal with yet every year, a single accident on the A43 or rain in the lead up results in chaos. Why do they not try a more radical plan? Why not ban cars at the track for all three days, have four or five park and ride sites away from Silverstone and only allow motorbikes and campers to travel direct?


Forget about accessibility - f1 is elitist and it's part of its attraction when we see super yachts at Monaco. What the Olympics has shown us is that our athletes were so very modest / human whilst pursuing excellence. Both aspects have been missing from F1 for too long....


One thing the Olympics could have taken from F1 is the equal coverage of winners, this was uncharacteristically, distinctly lacking in the BBC programs. If a GB person came second or third he/she was interviewed, the winner was not, in fact in many cases the name and nationality of the winner was not even mentioned.

F1 is much more even handed in it's selection of interviewees.

Whilst we heard of heavy handed sponsorship policing of the Olympics, it failed in as much as the only branding I noticed was on Andy Murray's shirt which was Addidas whilst the official sponsor was Nike I think.

Any one go? What was the branding like on the ground?

There is a move afoot in F1 to use sponsorship of food, drink and clothing to increase revenue for FOM and co. Let's hope that it is not utilised in the heavy handed way it was for the Olympics. (Cameron had to get a law changed to allow the this to happen, a very dangerous precedent!)


Well you should be glad you didn't have to watch NBC's coverage in America when I visited, which is even more one-sided and they'd only show what their team was up to (e.g. not showing all much of other team's performance in say gymnastics). Also few big events were live, but that's another issue.

But why is that such a problem? Of course a nation is going to focus on their team, especially when they're hosting.

And to be honest, I found the BBC to be good at covering other nations and the winners. There was so much choice anyway, that it was impossible not to watch others that interested you.


Lovely article James,

As has been commented on here, I also believe that engagement between the paddock and punter is where F1 falls apart.

Could I suggest James that you try and persuade a couple of big-players in F1 to experience what paying customers get a a GP? Take away their paddock passes and make them drive and queue to get into the circuit like the rest of us. They can then watch not-a-lot happening from behind three layers of fencing with a tannoy system that doesn't work (yes Silverstone I'm looking at you!)


Lovely article James,

As has been commented on here, I also believe that engagement between the paddock and punter is where F1 falls apart.

Could I suggest James that you try and persuade a couple of big-players in F1 to experience what paying customers get a a GP? Make them pay for tickets, take away their paddock passes and make them drive and queue to get into the circuit like the rest of us. They can then watch not-a-lot happening from behind three layers of fencing with a tannoy system that doesn’t work properly (yes Silverstone I’m looking at you!) and screens that are so far away they're probably showing something else anyway.

Don't even get me started on the food and drink...

It seems, at Silverstone at least, that they have to sell so many tickets to make the GP worth doing, that you could argue that the place is too busy. It's like a cattle market in there and it is a deeply unpleasant and frustrating way to spend money.

F1 doesn't need to wait to learn from the Olympics, just pop down to Donington or Oulton Park to the BTCC - they know how to look after fans!


What a superb article James. Possibly the best article I have read in the 4 years I'v been coming to this site. There is so much to learn from these London Olympics. I had never witnessed a sporting occasion where sport and the people were at the heart of everything until the Olympics came to London. It was undoubtedly one of the most human experiences ever. And "human" is the key word here for F1. Formula One compared to motorsport is lightyears ahead of football. But it is still a world away from capturing anything near to the Olympics spirit. Formula One drivers are still probably the most intense and intriguing of all sportspeople. That's where the spirit of f1 has always lay. However this aspect has been let down and massively overshadowed by the commercial aspects of the sport when in days gone by that wasn't the case.


If merchandised sports have no place in the olympics, as you say James. Then tennis, soccer, basketball, even swimming and running (which are integral to the olympics) would have to go. For example, Usain Bolt is a runner and he is probably the most marketed Olympian there has ever been, with

commercial endorsements as far as the eye can see!


Mechanised, not merchandised!!


Well I'll try to read your articles much more closely in future to avoid these kinds of rather embarrassing mistakes. LOL.

But still, my position remains the same. Just because a sport is mechanical should not prevent it from being part of the Olympics. Its not as if there is robots driving; human talent, stamina, thinking and competitiveness are still required.

It kind of denigrates motorsport to say there is no place for it in the Olympics.


btw, in your view would "mechanised" include the heroic but mechanically-aided sprinter from South Africa?


Giving the drivers their end of season awards in private makes no sense but F1 rarely does. It use to be the case that F1 would be held outside the city so the issue was how to get the people to the track now the issue is how to the track to the people ie build a track in a city. However the atmosphere is still too stale. Went to Melbourne track this year and got a little bored to be honest watching little dots drive round.

One part that F1 does hold all the aces in coverage is Martin's gridwalks. Do we get Wayne Rooney talking before a match? Does Andy Murray talk about his game on the sidelines before playing? No but we do get that in F1.


F1 will learn very little from the Olympics.

It can learn more from its motorsport peers.

F1 is far to bureaucratic for its own good.

Athletics has Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.

Moto GP has Rossi, Lorenzo and Lorenzo Land.

Indycar has Helio Castroneves and his Spiderman antics.

Doughnuts have become de rigour in NASCAR.

What or who does F1 have? We get Placido Domingo trying to get the crowd sing 'happy birthday' for his friend Alonso.


Nice article James, and great work London on a fantastic Olympics- brought back memories of Syd in 2000. Put in perspective : memory=legacy=fans=money=investment=growth

Even from the pragmatic business view F1 should use the sense of spirit Olympics bring to grow its Business and equally inspire the spirit of the sport in the longer term.

We are fortunate due to scheduling here is Aus we watch free to air but I certainly would not watch live otherwise.

F1 needs to allow fans to get closer to its product- pit walk throughs, general seating near corporate grandstands,more public- driver teams interaction (sure they need to be controlled) but it needs to show people it values them a little and they will come back

I miss Indy on the Gold Coast terribly for this reason. I went almost every year because it was so Accessible and entertaining and the sporting side was no less diminished.

Its incredible to think that in a country like Australia many people don't even know what F1 is and the sport hardly gets a mention in the papers.

There is still a great deal of potential if F1 just relaxes its pretentiousness just a little and reaches out the way that the average bloke can relate to in these difficult economic times. This in turn can change perspective of the teams,sponsors, so we don't get these cold scripted interviews where drivers are too scared to say anything.

Is it true that Martin Whitmarsh stepped down as president

of FOTA for 2013?.. I think he has don't a terrific job in bonding the teams in the public image of the sport.


I remember the Indy racing at surfers paradise. Especially that huge crash in the rain, 2002 I think it was.

Champ Car was awesome about ten years ago when it had less oval tracks. It was kind of like 80's F1. The new IRL is just not that great; it's just open wheel NASCAR racing.


Yeah I was on the beach straight when that happened. But I saw lots of accidents. The point is you could walk through the pits & talk to mechanics and drivers, you could mingle with them at night spots , beach,etc, it was just so relaxed great fun.


"Done" not * "don't " apologies


Yes and we'll have a story on that shortly


Well, you can't get Mr. Allen, or anyone else on this site to believe that fans play a consistently strategic role in F1, but it sure sounds like the fans have a strategic function in Olympic competition. So, perhaps that is the lesson that F1 needs to take away from the London Olympics. Enlisting the fans can give a significant competitive edge, and accordingly F1 should invest in accessing this magic, not doubting its existence.

Stone the crows

One of the other key differences is how often we have the Olympics. The amount of time it takes an athelete to prepare and the possibility that this might be his/her one and only shot at a medal is very compelling. Formula 1 is the opposite, there's always another race and there's another season. Not that I want Formula One to only happen once every four years for two weeks, but the infrequency of the competition also builds an anticipation and makes it unique in its own right.



As for the idea of motorsport having any kind of place in the Olympics, I don’t think there’s any chance, nor is there any point. Mechanised sports have no place in the Olympic games.


I disagree on this though. Some form of motor racing (with identical vehicles of course!) would be a perfect addition. Something Race of Champions style perhaps.

I don't see why this could not be part of the Olympics.


F1 could go a long way if it adopted the version of the UK National Anthem that was used in the Olympics.... Lively, spritely and fun, rather than the traditional dirge that gets used for most events, including F1



I am lucky enough to live in London and after being foiled by the ticketing system went to some of the free events (the marathons & speed walking) and what struck me was the generosity of the spectators in their support of the athletes. I was at the marathon on sunday and the crowd was cheering itself hoarse and clapping until their hands were raw for EVERYONE! Obviously the leaders got huge cheers & the British athletes but the biggest cheers were for the guys at the back of the field. Standing amongst the crowds hearing them shouting 'Come on Andorra!' at an athlete they don't know from a principality they probably can't point out on a map was truly amazing.

I'm a regular at Silverstone and although that has a great atmosphere it's not got the same generosity of spirit and I've been trying to work out why. I don't believe it's the 'fault' of the fans it's the sport itself lacking some of the human element that made the Olympics so compelling.

In a roundabout way I'm agreeing with what several others have already said - F1 needs to embrace it's human element, become less corporate, allow us to see the emotions at the heart of it. They are there! Let us in!

Rubinho's Keyfob

I think it was very telling that in the drivers' press conference before the Hungarian GP all the drivers basically shrugged their shoulders and said that they were simply not interested (give or take the odd "I may watch something involving my country's athletes" lip-service answer).

IMO, it shows how much of an introspective bubble F1 is. To dismiss with a shrug the efforts of thousands of athletes from hundreds of countries who are doing their all after four years of effort just for the sport and prestige and not for their paycheck was incredibly disappointing.

I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned.


Cheaper tickets @ Spa. As Belgian I went for 5 years now to Spa, but this year i'll have to skip.

+- 130 (bronze admission) with a stupid fence in your way + sitting in the grass/mud.

For me it should be the price or lower like Magney Cours (80 €) for an grandstand-ticket instead of 230 € and more.


Thanks James - one of your best in my view. And gutsy because you are effectively critising the F1 heirachy. Not something I expected of you - sorry. I had you down as a lacky - sorry again.


Hi James,

One of your best articles and a great assessment of F1 from outside the sports introverted spectacles. Can't help but think the summer break and the amazing London Olympics have helped catalyse your views. Think we can all agree the games have been life altering in some way and a breath of fresh air, especially for Londoners, it felt like a different city such was the difference in atmosphere. And the weather surely helped!


James, great article for sure!!!

Enjoyed the Olympics very much without a doubt.

The closest feeling to F1 was the track cycling events especially the Omnium races, it was similar to F1 statergy except its human power and pacing similar to tyres.

But I don't think F1 can be applied to the Olympics, vice versa. F1 is an elitist sport, please do not pretend it's not.

How many people make a team for Phelps or Bolt, c'mon let's not kid ourselves.

As a fan the number one priority is the price of the tickets should be dropped by at least 30% to 50%. Having more interaction with the drivers and pit crews would be most welcomed (fat hopes). Hosting fees at the moment are daylight robberies IMHO, no wonder so many circuits are in trouble!

Then again as a sport fan for ages I must admit that no other sport can make me more excited than F1 and other forms of motor racing.


Agree. F1 is very pretensious.


James, firstly F1 needs to put in place some clear rules regarding on track incidents. It is unacceptable that we get different rulings every weekend, with no explanations given, that have major championship consequences.

In terms of the show, the very first thing they have to do is have an end of season podium ceremony where we see the winner lift the championship trophy. I'd wager 90% of F1 fans don't even know what the thing looks like.


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