F1 needs to do more for fans, says Lotus chief

Amidst growing fan unrest Federico Gastaldi, chief of the Lotus F1 team, has stated that now is the time for the sports’ team bosses to take the lead in improving the show and promoting F1 to fans.

The Argentine called F1’s current team bosses “prima donnas” and that they are at fault of not doing enough to adapt to the changing media landscape that demands sports to increase their accessibility and promotion.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Gastaldi commented: “We have been talking about how to improve the show since the beginning of last year and we [the teams] are guilty of all charges. There are so many opinions but for some reason or another, we have not been helpful enough to bring these new ideas into action.”

“Bernie keeps pushing us to try to be more open. There are many, many things on the agenda, but there are points we can improve that don’t need money; like being more approachable. The drivers and management can be more open with the journalists and TV crews, and we can have the drivers more accessible to the fans. We should do more [promotional] events.”

Increasing fan accessibility

The Lotus chief, and former promoter for the Argentine Grand Prix, also stated that teams need to provide greater support to race promotors to attract more fans to watch F1 live:

“Obviously I cannot point fingers at anyone in particular, but we became prima donas in the paddock. I think we need to be more open to help Mr Ecclestone to make the show more approachable to the fans.”

“It is down to all of us. It is our responsibility. Because if we do not help the promoters then we will not be here. If there are no promoters there is no F1.”

Gastaldi recognises that the sport is facing greater competition, while the costs involved for fans mean that F1 can no longer afford to maintain the mind-set that it is big enough to attract sell-out crowds without doing its part.

“I was a promoter in Argentina and we were very lucky because in those days, if you go there and talked about bringing F1, it would fully, fully sold out. Back then they [race promoters] didn’t need so much help because it was going very well. Now there are so many other options: with social media which has won the attention of the young generation.”

The next steps

It is heartening to see that leading figures within the sport are speaking out about increasing the accessibility of F1, particularly following the results of the 2015 Global Fan Survey, which clearly demonstrated that supporters of the sport are progressively feeling alienated.

The bureaucracy of F1 is no secret to its fans, but the answers here are simple and provide benefits for all parties – increase fan engagement, reduce the focus on revenue and embrace new media channels.

As regular readers of the blog will know, I have been campaigning for F1 to engage its fans on social media and create an active community rather than the cold-shoulder that the fans have been met with to date.

I am pleased to see that the first tentative steps have been made in this respect, particularly with the latest #F1DreamTeam campaign. However more must be done, and it is time for F1 to strip away its exclusionary reputation and welcome its greatest asset – its brand advocates (the fans) – with open arms.

Plaudits to Federico Gastaldi for addressing this matter with such transparency.

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