Four-time F1 World Champion Alain Prost has expressed his frustration over the reception that the sport’s new efficient engine regulations have not won over fans.
Talking to Motorsport.com, the Frenchman spoke out about the perceived lack of interest from fans for the new hybrid turbo power units, which have been broadly criticised due to their lack of noise.
However, Prost believes that F1 needs to work harder to engage fans and help them understand the benefits of the new engine format, as showcased in Formula E: “In F1 it’s a bit different and what is happening is a bit frustrating.”
“We have an engine whose technology is incredibly advanced, but people have not bought into it. Maybe people expect something very different from F1. At the end of the day, they don’t really care about the chassis, or about outright pace – they want on-track battles, because they want it to be interesting; it’s a real drivers’ championship.”
“Formula 1 remains a bit distant, and you’re always a bit far away from F1. Yet, this two-year-old engine which is as powerful but consumes 30% to 40% less fuel, you feel like the fans don’t really care about that.
“You also need to understand it according to the series, according to the approach, according to the customer base – and they’re real fans, rather 40 to 60 years old.
“But we in [Formula E] are aiming at another category, notably for younger people. You shouldn’t have the same marketing positioning on both, that’s obvious.”
The power of perception
Prost is certainly right to highlight that F1 has not done a good enough job of demonstrating the advantages of the current engine format.
While the noise produced by the power units has caused a rift amongst fans, the sport has made it clear that it is investigating opportunities to improve the sound to add to the show.
However, the media and F1’s key stakeholders must work harder to showcase why the changes are so important to the longevity of the sport and its relevance to the wider world. With the G8 leaders committing to eradicating dependance on fossil fuels by 2100, F1 must continue to move forward and pertinent not only to the audiences of today but also the near future.
Formula E has taken a bold step for the development of electic powertrain development, which will gain pace over the coming years. But its greatest success to date has been getting its audience to not only buy in to the technological advances but in truly understanding societal significance of electric vehicles on a global scale. F1 must follow suit if it is to keep its place in the modern world and, as ever, effective communication is key.