Last season the GPDA launched a global F1 fan survey to much fanfare, drawing feedback from over 200,000 supporters from nearly 200 countries worldwide. And yet, despite the full results being published in July 2015, little action or acknowledgement seems to have been paid to this essential, public fan appraisal of a sport that has been haemorrhaging enthusiasts in recent years.
So was this a genuine effort to gauge opportunities for improvement, or perfunctory marketing stunt of little consequence?
The results (in brief)
Last year’s survey found that the average F1 fan is 37 years old and has been following the series for more than a decade. Yet, only 25% of those surveyed said that F1 was their favourite sport, despite their long-term support, and just one in five fans have been to a race in the past 13 months – and even more telling, more than 50% haven’t watched races live since they moved away from free-to-air.
Fewer than 10% of respondents felt that F1 was healthier than it was in 2010, with the cost of attendance and predictable races cited as two major turn-offs for fans.
Furthermore, 85% of those surveyed felt the sport needed to do more to attract and retain new fans, while 74% wanted the sport’s rulebook to be relaxed for greater diversity between the cars. In addition, 80% of respondents were keen on a return to a competition tyre companies – last seen in 2006.
The GPDA’s own analysis of the results concludes by stating: “Alex Wurz, the Chairman of the GPDA, said the drivers’ group would analyse the results from the survey before approaching F1 chiefs with their recommendations.”
Regulations and response
Has F1 responded in any way to the survey? In short, no.
Few within the sport commented on the findings of the survey, and there appears to have been almost no explanation of why the will of the fans has been so widely ignored. Even the GPDA has become silent on the matter when contacted.
In the meantime, F1 has repeatedly faced self-imposed embarrassment by implementing short-lived regulations that done little to bring new fans to the sport. For example, Fernando Alonso received a 45-place grid penalty in Malaysia which garnered much media attention worldwide for a punishment that demoted his car by more than double the number of cars on the grid.
Furthermore, the change in qualifying format become an overly drawn-out fiasco that offered little confidence in the series’ governance. The fan response to this major regulation change was immediate and comprehensive, but the same could not be said for F1’s response.
The few concessions that have been made to improve fan interaction, such as Driver of the Day voting, offer little value and are frankly out-dated.
Subsequently it would appear that no action has been taken to cut the cost for fans (at home or at the track), and Pirelli has been selected to continue as the sport’s sole tyre supplier until 2019. And this is only likely to grow the global antipathy to F1.
Is the survey still relevant?
While more than a year may have already passed since the results of the survey were published, it still stands as the most proactive fan initiative undertaken in F1 in over a decade.
Furthermore, the key to any successful PR activity is to promote transparency – why ask questions if you don’t listen to the answers? To not take action and, more importantly, to be seen to ignore the will of the fans, sends a very clear message that will result more TVs being switched off and fewer seats being filled on race day.
With the sport under new management, there has been much talk of how the new owners should approach making F1 more accessible and profitable. Recognising and responding to the will of the fans by outlining how they will tackle supporters’ biggest concerns would be a positive start – and provide a solid foundation to secure a profitable return on their investment.