The other Hamilton raises questions over the excellence of F1 show
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Jan 2018   |  8:42 am GMT  |  334 comments

I went to the theatre this week to see Hamilton, the musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, which is now running in London.

Many have written more eloquently than I ever could about how extraordinary this show is, but what struck me most about it was how everything was of the highest quality. The writing, the music, the staging, the rapping, the choreography – it was perfect.

Hamilton sets new standards for what is possible in musical theatre and the response from the public is clear; good luck getting a ticket for this side of June 2019.

What might seem to some a tired old format, people singing and dancing on a stage, has been reinvented, proving that nothing becomes obsolete if it is brilliant.

It makes one wonder about what Formula 1 is trying to do in presenting itself as a show, as an entertainment as well as a sport.

You see, when I am asked to sum up what I think the USP of Formula 1 is I would say “excellence”. What I see up close every two weeks at race tracks around the world is excellence; the engineering, the driving standard, the pits stops, the logistics, the attention to detail, the safety standards.

Pretty much everyone there is striving for excellence – certainly among the competitors – and that sets a culture for everyone else in the sport, it raise the standards of everyone who comes into contact with it; suppliers, organisers, sponsors, TV companies, you name it.

The culture is of relentless self-improvement, that’s what a lot of companies see when they consider sponsoring F1 or one of its teams and they often trade on those values in their marketing and activation around the sport.

However, that doesn’t always come across on TV.

And, more broadly, you don’t need me to tell you that in recent years, the show that F1 has put on has disappointed, for various reasons.

Some very poor decisions have been made, like the farcical qualifying format we suffered at the start of 2016 and this stream of wrong moves has diminished the impression of excellence in the eyes of many fans.

When people switch on the TV they want to see the best drivers in the world driving the fastest cars, ideally in stunning locations. And they want to see a competition, with real highlights.

Like in a theatre, they also want compelling storylines and to some extent we have had those with our own Hamilton in F1 and the ups and downs of his story as well as his duels with Rosberg and Vettel, the renaissance of Ferrari, the arrival of Verstappen and so on. The cast in F1 is pretty good, we just need to do better at bringing out the characters.

So in looking to see where Chase Carey and his team build this sport, to make sure they fill the theatres every time, now that the honeymoon period is over and the work begins in earnest, they really want to start by looking at what makes F1 special, which is excellence and not accept anything that undermines that.

As Zak Brown blogged here last week, the plan for 2018 and beyond envisages a revamp of the TV coverage of the sport to try to showcase better the spectacle and the storylines.

Many fans have already made their feelings known on how the arrival of the halo on the cars will affect their appreciation of the beauty of the cars. My concern with the halo is that it is another thing that distances the driver from the fans, at a time when the major push is to bring the fans closer to the sport.

But a whole new approach is needed to what an F1 car should look like from 2021 onwards if this show is really going to fly into the next decade.

Just like in the theatre, where so many elements have to come together for the show to be ‘perfect’, F1 is complex, with technical rules, the rule making process, varying team budgets and many other factors that have dictated the quality of the show in recent years.

This is the nub of the argument between F1 and teams like Ferrari and Mercedes who don’t want to ‘dumb down’ the engines or other aspects of the sport.

But there has to be a compromise here; excellence doesn’t have to mean complexity. Some of the most perfect things ever created by man have been very simple.

In a busy world, people appreciate simple things done to the highest standards.

The F1 Strategy Group met in London yesterday and discussed details about bargeboards and rear wing heights. Let’s hope, as we move forward in redefining the sport over the coming months, that they remember to always put excellence first.

Otherwise the theatres could have a few more empty seats in future.

What do you think about this? What to you is the most important thing to present in F1? Leave your comments below

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Not bad Mr Allen, you seem to speak more sense here than on TV. Sorry about that. I know the TV world requires a certain kind of entertainment shall we say. Your original Notebook on ITV Sport was great and thanks for letting us fans get involved with a dude who’s in Formula One.


Ted Kravitz did the Notebook, not me !


Well, here in Australia we now have all but one race locked behind a horrific paywall. Sure I can afford it, but I do not want to give my money to the despicable human being sitting at the top of that particular food chain.

F1’s willingness to sacrifice viewership in exchange for broadcast rights dollars is not helping its numerous problems. Couple that with a dysfunctional governing body, the vested interests of a bunch of megalomaniacs etc and it’s no surprise that the “pinnacle of motorsport” is actually putting out the worst racing of pretty much any motorsport format. How perverse and laughable is that? I think we sometimes forget, but your average F1 race is typically awful these days, with the good races being the exception rather than the norm.


Am I the only one who can never see replies to my posts online, despite always receiving emails from JAF1 that indicate their existence?


Sometimes Gary there is an exceptional long lag between posting and hitting the site. I always read your posts and often see them. Are you saying that there are many more that simply vanish?


I’m 44 yrs old now and have watched f1 since I was old enough to sit up straight on my own, I have some great memories through my childhood and teenage years sat with my nan screaming in excitement at the TV as the races unfolded.

The cars were loud, the drivers were on the ragged edge and there was always a sense of impending danger, it made each and every move or overtake an event.

As you approached the circuit you could hear the cars from 2 miles away which just built the excitement to near fever pitch. The cars when you were there almost seemed alive such was the noise, I was both in awe of them and a little bit afraid at the same time.

F1 right now is a mere shell of what it used to be.

I know everyone will frown at me for this but for me all it would take is a return to a proper n/a engine to bring the excitement back, current f1 is about as exciting as dish water especially with hamilton/mercedes winning everything, yaaawn.

These days I watch the WEC instead, the racing is fast and exciting and the drivers actually race and push, it’s a genuine thrill to watch, everything f1 isn’t anymore.


f1 is a lot better now than it has ever been with cars smashing lap record after lap record by much better skilled drivers and the cars look light years ahead of those old awkward looking things.
if you still think f1 was more exciting in the past, lost a link of video footage from that era which is more exciting than this.


@ jason clark…A very good post. Many will agree with you.


I was getting ready to attach Hamilton, then I realised it was the wrong one. Oh well, better luck next time.

Great article.


It is an interesting comparison, but ultimately it is not fair to compare a stage show with live sport. A sporting competition (whether its F1, football, rugby, etc) is unpredictable – sometimes it is thrilling, sometimes not. With a stage show, it may be great – but if you go back the next night, it will be the same. And the same the day after that, and so on. It may be great, but it will be predictable. So sport trying to imitate art is not the answer. But F1 can do a better job of bringing the fans along. Let’s see the drivers’ heart rates. Let’s have some kind of tool the comentators can use that shows more clearly where a Hamilton or a Verstappen is clearly faster because of a piece of skill, not just because the car is better. More radically, I’d be in favor of running the race in two halves, with the second half starting with the grid reversed (an aggregate time of both halves deciding the winner) so that we see more overtaking. (Would also mean that the cars could be lighter – less fuel needed – and use the fastest tyre compounds).


if they want to learn from stage shows, they should know that fans do not tell the producers what they want to see.


@ Aveli…Wrong again. Fans do tell producers what they want to see. They tell them via the most open and public way…they stay away. Nothing invokes producers to engage with their audiences quicker that a box office flop.


Aside from the aesthetic of the cars, I think F1 needs to look at it’s venues. Some circuits are uninspiring and too similar to inspire fans. Honestly I couldn’t tell Abu Dhabi and Singapore apart if I was a casual fan, the same goes for Bahrain, Malaysia, China etc. They just have no variety. If you compare that to most of the European circuits, each one has a unique look and character.

So I think F1 has to look at its strategy towards race hosting and whether it is more lucrative to push for high race fees or to go for cheaper more popular venues and provide their own streaming service direct to the fans.

If something like WWE can charge £9.99 for their own network and back catalogue of shows, F1 should be looking to do something similar.


Me : Hon, how about we fly down to Melbourne for the F1 GP ?

Hon : Babe, it’s kinda boring and not very exciting on TV, I’m not fussed about going to a race.

Me : Excitement? Who needs excitement? Think of the excellence !

We’ll be staying home.
Started going to GPs in ‘85.
Been to about 25 I reckon.
I don’t go anymore.
And I can’t see that I’ll be terribly interested in watching anything on TV either.
But, by all means, please work on the “excellence”.


If the teams can agree to a change in car design for their sponsors signage, then why don’t they agree on a change on design which will allow cars to race more closely. Which design change do you think will improve the show????


@ Antpic…because they know that Ferrari would veto it. Can’t have anything to challenge Ferrari’s best interests!!!!


But won’t Ferrari benefit as well???


Not necessarily.


For me it is so simple. Simply cut back the red tape and let the manufacturer,s make the cars go as fast as possible. You wanna put a super duper electric turbo on it ?? Go for it!! Make them as noisy as possible?? Go for it!! after three years the public will demand more rules as the bigger teams will have won everything and there will be no small teams left. Then the rules will come back and the smaller teams will come back. The FIA will make F1 affordable and evryone will want the rules better. There you go simple.
Therefore I can say you are dammed if you do and dammed if you don,t. Thats F1its almost impossible to find a solution??!!??!!


Make it simpler, easier to understand for new viewers.

Make sure rules and regulations are clear, monitored and uphold in a very clear, unbiased, way.

Introduce re-fueling again, no more saving fuel. F1 can do a lot more in terms of being sustainable than save a bot of fuel.

Drivers should be more open to the media and the fans… Like NASCAR, IndyCar or WEC (And I am fm Europe.


Formula one is so restrictive now, to the point of there being penalties for everything under the sun. The appearance of the cars is bordering on ridiculous with so many aero appendages sticking out every where, and now we’ll have a massive halo on top of everything. After decades of passionately following the sport, this fan has little or no passion for it any longer.


its so stupidly simple: make the fuel on board and tires such that there is no limit to how fast the driver can go. You will get a spectacle instantly and identify the guys who are really fast.


Not bothered anymore. Just cancelled Sky – they asked why. I said its because of the halo and drivers who want mega bucks and not willing to put it on the line. No one deliberately seeks to see any driver killed or maimed and yet on weekends throughout the year all over the world other non mega buck drivers lay it all on the line every time they take the starting grid.


That’s the spirit! #nohalo


Watched the Grand Tour over the weekend – always excellent! never ever disappoint… last one was a case in point, especially the article on the World Rally Championship ‘tween Audi and Lancia…. all the tricks – plotting – drama – just brilliant, but SO importantly all on terrenstial TV and a collective experience for all. Ask anyone over a certain age and we all know Hannu Mikkola – Stig Blomqvist etc etc.. Okay I accept the predictable rant of an older chap, but drifting into pay or streaming mode can only diminish the audience. I am a huge WRC fan, so big I’ve not watched it for two years…. and last when I did, fragmented and cheap coverage shouted loud. To be fair to the participants – there’s a good show there – already! Fiddling with the rule – overtaking / faster – all good – keep it going – but I feel the trick is in the presentation more than the show. The content is good – less Ron and Bernie some true personalities may emerge – they’re all there – let them flourish! And present it better too…. on free to view…


As many others have mentioned, the problem with the “show” is twofold. First is the production. Hours of talking to fill the gap pre-race, and then the same again post race, with often very little of interest said. I don’t care about celebrities on the grid, it’s sometimes excruciating to watch. And then we have the often baffling choices of the director of what is shown, many times killing any excitement that might be happening. I’ve taken to watching the official highlights on YouTube rather than the Channel 4 coverage as it boils down the key points of the race quite nicely.

And I say “might be happening” because the racing itself is often dull. The unpredictability of racing was always one of F1’s highlights. Engines blowing, running out of full, cars getting beached in the gravel etc. All of these things meant that you often had no idea what the finishing order would be (or who would finish at all), and meant that you couldn’t turn away for fear of missing something. Now? I feel I could doze off and not miss anything major.

So what do we need? More excitement and unpredictability on the track, and less bloated production. How do we get that? IMO by removing many of the driver aids and complications so that we see more of the drivers skill, and replacing the concrete runoff areas with gravel. I’d love to see cars with only enough just fuel to finish at full pelt with no engine or fuel modes, meaning that it’s the driver themselves that manages the fuel simply by their driving style. And tracks where one mistake leaves the driver beached and cursing his luck (or the opponent who forced them off). And for the production, make the pre and post race shows shorter, and during the race, show the race, not the pit-stops by Sauber and 100 replays of the start.


@ james C …good post. Well said. Unfortunately none of that will happen!!!


I fear quite simply F1 has lost itself.

When you say ‘the cast is good we just need to bring out the characters’, well sadly im afraid there doesnt seem much scope for that. Corporate image/money and PR people have seen to that. Drivers dont say anything interesting anymore. Heaven forbid they do anything ‘out of line’, Vettels wheel bump this year was action / story but too many vanilla types responded ‘like someone peed in their milkshake’ (i am no vettel fan). This is truth, just look back at the recent Mansell article on this website and we realise the years that made F1 great.

The new tracks are too flat, too much safe tarmac run off, too wide, too boring, make cars look slow (Exemption given to COTA) ….Ticket prices are too high to attend.

The cars are way less physical (even with the 2017 aero changes), sound unimpressive. (I do agree with modern safety on cars though)

We have this ridiculous situation where engines are so ‘green’ and environmentally friendly while we know this is image driven and not anywhere close to the whole footprint of the engine programs. All the while we maintin this charade going through bucket loads of tyres that get freighted around the world! Ha.

The distribution of money is cartel like.
This system was built so manufacturer interest was stabilised and Bernie could pocket more money for the fat cats cvc. Thats great for them but sucks for the ‘sport’ – unpredictability etc.

Bernie took us away from FTA tv and so the sponsors have dwindled, affecting mostly the small teams and generally the broad appeal of F1.

Jean Todt continues to use leverage to maintain his ‘democratic’ position in the FIA, seemingly for the purpose of progressing his political career. FIA is supposed to be our sporting body while they attend to road safety? I want a sporting body that gives a damn!

So….F1 exists off its former glory while pissing itself away. Frankly the problems are too big.


Drivers need to be able to hang onto the gbx of the guy in front, to push him into mistakes. The complex aero of cars prevents this. Reduce aero grip and inc mech grip


As a partial response to the technological and financial burrows that F1 and other open wheeler formulae dig for themselves, in Australia there’s an attempt to bring back raw lower-tech racing with the creation of a modern F5000 competition using engines from the Australian V8 touring car competition in a new chassis.

This is a clip of a Super5000 car from the Adelaide Motorsport Event in December 17 on part of the old Adelaide F1 GP circuit.


@ Bob….Bodywork/design is naff but the sound is oh so sweet…if only?


kenneth, you’re right about the look of the cars. It’ll be interesting to see if they can pull together decent fields and provide some close, entertaining racing.


For me its the closeness of the racing but that sadly has been diminished over the past few years as one team totally dominates.

I believe F1 was run into the ground on selfish ideologies and hopefully after a year of Liberty Media ownership, they will have learnt not be so selfish and put the sports best interests above any owner, team or driver.

Also concerning is the lack of free to air coverage and after hearing what is soon to happen in Italy it paints a bleak future for the sport if a fan / audience member can not access at an affordable price.

One last item is the ticket price to entry and specifically at Silverstone – about 180 pounds for the Sunday race, that is ridiculous when you can go to the Austrian GP for about 90 Euros…something needs to be done here.


“As Zak Brown blogged here last week, the plan for 2018 and beyond envisages a revamp of the TV coverage of the sport to try to showcase better the spectacle and the storylines.”

I’d like to be able to comment on how good the spectacle of the showcasing of F1 in 2018 will be, only I won’t be able to since it is now behind a paywall here in Australia


Oh God, spare us the US obsession with “the storylines”, which is now blighting so many things on UK TV. I don’t need 20 minutes of back story about the challenges faced by A. N. Driver because their auntie Pauline survived a minor ailment or trivial setback in their lives.


@ mr banana,….. You’re too late…it’s coming.


I see the new indy cars are designed to run close to each other next year in races because 66% of their downforce will be generated by the floor. for me the lack of f1 cars being able to do just that, get close and really have a go at each other has been one of the biggest issues for the last 15+ years. why do you think f1 hasnt taken the same approach to the aero side in order to improve the racing and the show?




The difference is ‘Indy’ had to start making good moves beacuse open wheelers wars destroyed both series in US.
Only when we tear F1 down can we rebuild it from the bottom.


Good question, the F1 cars need to generate a lot more downforce to get the lap times they have, but I’ll do something on that, adding it to the list Thanks


@ James…Have you had time over the break to read Newey’s latest book? I mention that as a direct corollary to the matter of downforce. Newey cut his teeth on downforce and ground effect especially during his time in Indy cars early on. What chances are there that you could entice him to pen an article for us ?


Yes really interesting


@ James…. Did you find it ‘illuminating’ in regards to certain elements that have been presented differently in the past? I certainly did.


You make a good point that the essence of F1, the sport, is the attention to detail and the strive to achieve excellence on all levels.

Its a bit like comparing Bangkok to Tokyo. The attention to detail is strikingly apparent when your in Tokyo however the grit and raw energy of Bangkok stirs excitement.

F1 needs both. I think we agree that the attention to detail is well covered, its the former that we are struggling with and In my opinion that trait is what we refer to as the element of danger, tampering with it is wrong. Safety car wet starts, halo, you name it. This was not meant to be a family friendly sport ( the word sport being used loosely to describe what is essentially a serious business).

Racers that are comfortable and afraid, like Alonso, need to find another sport. its not for them, no matter how well they appear to drive. If you want to raise a family – great – retire like Nico did. Otherwise leave our sport alone. It was great before you and it will survive without you.

Does there really need to be a compromise here ? Some of the most perfect things ever created by man have been very simple – yes on the outside – that’s whats so perfect but in reality what appears to be very simple is in fact complex to create.

Nature always reminds us that its through disorder, that we achieve what appears to be as order. Its simplistic to think otherwise.


What makes you think Alonso is afraid? Of what?


I think that he’s suffered some close calls in his recent crashes and this has taken something from him which I feel he needs to prove to himself he still has what it takes.

Indy was such an event. When a racer needs to prove to himself that hes’ still fast, then I think its over – at least on an F1 level.

Indy 500, in its current format, is ridiculously insane. Your in a race car that is driving you more than your driving it, in a field of second tier drivers. Surely that’s not comfort, but his F1 seat is.


@ James…you beat me to it. Alonso, ‘comfortable and afraid’!! What a complete nonsense. Watching Alonso throw his car around is more aptly described as being relatively ‘fearless’, the same as his daring raid on the Indy 500, which, had the Honda engine not let go, he stood a great chance of winning. Comfortable and afraid….?


Not sure Alonso stood a “great chance” of winning. He was already falling behind somewhat as the race was gearing up, as it does towards the end. Chilton and Sato were 1-2 up front, with Alonso in 7th, when his engine blew. That front group stayed the same for quite a while, so much so that I feared Chilton might actually win it!

I’m guessing the OP was thinking about how Alonso is a firm backer of the Halo. But it’s silly to then say he’s afraid … Alonso would race with the Halo or without, that’s clear.


When I do track days today, I can tell you that at times I feel like I am a passenger, strapped in that seat, thinking of times gone by when such thoughts never entered my mind…… well I describe it as a form of fear. Its oddly comfortable but its not racing anymore.


@ TC…Track days in what?


Off topic, does anyone know what channel will cover F1 in the states?




Sitting at the computer trying to book 2018 tickets
F1 fans are getting ripped off
Paris Formula e €40
Le Mans 24 hour €85
Paul Ricard £185 ( general access cheapest stand €275)
German GP had discounts in 2016 but not this year and even with free parking it is going to put a dent in my holiday fund
Now for €40 euros in the middle of Paris that’s like tickets to Hamilton but Paul Ricard in the middle of nowhere and no gurantee of a good show is taking the preverbial. No wonder some tracks are struggling to sell a full F1 ticket quota.
TV coverage is dire and mainly behind a paywall.
Liberty now face the challenge of trying to enthuse a twitface generation who get their music and video for free ( or close to it) Somehow I don’t think they are going to be as gullible as my generation.
Good luck


Check out historic racing events. Monaco, circa 60 Euros for the weekend. Race of the Ramparts, Angouleme, peanuts, Le Mans Historic race weekend, pocket money.
Who needs F1 with it’s penalties, PU’s, fuel flow management (subject to a penalty), halos and the Racing Prevention Committee aka Stewards?
(Yes I know drivers have always had to manage fuel consumption, but the only penalty then for getting it wrong was a failure to finish, not a reprimand or worse from a committee).
I hate to use the ‘P’ word, but what’s happened to the ‘passion’?


Agree and will do more Le mans this year . I am a bit spoilt as we have free road rallying events near me plus a fair amount of cheap motorsports events. Going to my first Formula e event this year (should prove interesting) F1 is the pinnacle but the days of going trackside on a whim have long gone.

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