The Managing Director of Silverstone has launched an attack on the state of F1, calling it “not saleable” and a “shit product”.
Patrick Allen spoke with the The Independent newspaper about the current state of the sport, and the increasing isolation of fans due to a lack of innovation and restrictive regulations:
“Fans don’t want to see a procession. As a promoter I can only promote what you give me and if that isn’t up to standard, people aren’t going to buy.”
“Months and months back I said it to Mr Ecclestone himself that I can’t sell tickets for a shit product. I’ve said that people don’t want to watch guys looking at data screens. Fans want to see gladiators racing and fighting it out in a fair fight.”
“Nobody wants to hear drivers getting told to ‘lift’, ‘coast’ or ‘we’re not going to catch the guy in front, settle for second’.”
“I think it is criminal when we have got to that state of racing and that is not saleable. I think Bernie is as frustrated with it as we all are. How long is it before the technical director is stood on the top step, not the driver?”
“You’ve just got to throw the towel in the and look for something else.”
Not top of the range
Allen’s comments come just a day after Ecclestone announced that the sport is likely to be sold to new owners by the end of the year, and follows growing discontent from both fans and promoters alike as the cost of attending and hosting races continues to escalate.
Ecclestone addressed Allen’s comments when approached by The Independent: “It is hard enough today, forget Formula One, for anybody to sell things unless they are top of the range, and unfortunately our product isn’t.”
A formula for fans
Ecclestone’s comments will do little to allay the growing fears of fans around the world that the series is increasingly becoming a business, and that F1 has become a “product” rather than a sport.
Earlier this year the Grand Prix Drivers Association conducted a Global Fan Survey, which has resulted in minimal coverage and even less action from the sport’s bosses. At a time when fans are more readily accessible than ever before thanks to social media, the sound of silence coming from FOM and the FIA screams louder than ever.
This has been compounded by threats from Ecclestone that fan-favourite races, such as Monza and Silverstone, may be lost from the calendar if they do not meet the rising fees to host a race. Simultaneously, new races in locations that do not have a heritage in the sport are being introduced for their financial benefit, despite Turkey, India and South Korea all proving to be highly unsustainable in recent years.
Furthermore, it follows the Formula One Group borrowing $1 billion to pay its shareholder at a time when several team’s futures like highly uncertain. While this business move may ease the sale of the sport and profit for current majority shareholders, CVC, it compounds the image of greed that F1 has so carefully nurtured in recent years. The financial imbalance of F1 has even resulted in two teams submitting a formal complaint to the European Commission, questioning the competitive structure of the sport.
Action simply must be taken and that should start with measured and transparent communications with fans – silence has been the sport’s medium for far too long.
If F1 is not able to keep their promoters, fans, teams and sponsors onside, then the sport is lost. Let’s hope that a thrilling title showdown over recent months can return some sport to the pinnacle of motor racing.