FOTA gets our vote


This week has been all about James and Darren.

James and Darren are carpenters. Their task this week has been to give our kitchen what I believe is known as a ‘makeover’. In old money that means ripping the old one out and putting a new one in its place. If only it were so simple.

Right now, James and Darren are grappling with Plan F, or it might be J, I’ve lost count. Plan A looked pretty good but somehow life is rarely straightforward. Like most people I meet, these two lads like to watch a bit of Grand Prix racing and James is a big fan of the Goodwood Festival of Speed. More than that, they listen to Capital Gold while they work and that is music to the ears of my generation.

Now, as we’ve said before, motor cars and motor racing either remain hugely popular or I only come across people who take an enthusiastic interest. Today in Geneva the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) revealed their collective response to the results of a global survey which asked a comprehensive list of questions about what we like – or don’t like – about 21st century F1 racing. You may have completed this internet survey yourself. If so, you will – like millions of us around the world – be hoping that FOTA (and the FIA) have taken note of our opinions.

As the Fat Cats of Formula 1 gathered on the stage for a press conference in Switzerland, they were concerned with two important things. These are cutting costs, to preserve the sport in years to come, and to make the whole thing more entertaining, more fun for the people who pay large sums of money to sit in the grandstands or stand behind the fences. In broad terms this entails more overtaking, more generous access to the cars and drivers, a more thrilling and glamorous day out, and television coverage that leads us deeper into the political labyrinth that is currently the unacceptable face of F1.

The early signs are good. “This is an unprecedented moment in Formula 1 history,” said FOTA chairman Luca di Montezemelo. “We all share one common goal – to work together to improve F1 by ensuring its stability, sustainability, substance and show for the benefit of our most important stakeholder, namely the consumer.” That’s you and me, and the carpenters, so bravo Luca and we’re right behind you.

The reason that people like James love the Festival of Speed is that they feel part of the show, a welcome paying guest at a fantastic party for those who want a great day out surrounded by spectacular sights and sounds. This, in recent times, has not been the case with Grand Prix racing, where you pay a lot of money to see something in the distance and your heroes pass by on the back of a sponsored trailer before they disappear back into the safety of the paddock.

Of course the number of folk who actually go to races is not the prime concern of those who run the show. It is the television audiences that really matter, that bring in the serious money. The survey, sponsored by Renault partner ING, undoubtedly established that a great many viewers wish to be taken closer to the action. It will be interesting to see if Auntie is allowed any further than the previous incumbents.

Next week the electricians arrive. A small bet says that at least one of them will be a motor racing fan. We don’t talk about football – it’s just too edgy and explosive. Just what Grand Prix racing needs to be.

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