Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Talkin' bout a revolution // Moving F1 interviews outside the circuit

Published by Mr. C

Maurizio Arrivabene wants and F1 revolution

Ferrari's new man in charge Maurizio Arrivabene may have only been in the hot seat for five minutes, but he has already managed to make an impression. This week Arrivabene tabled one of the best suggestions for an improvement to Formula One I've heard in years. Cynics will no doubt already be listing out all the reasons why his suggestion is untenable, for the moment at least I want to believe.

My new favourite Italian penned a statement on Friday calling for an F1 revolution, in which he raised a number of points worth consideration. The standout proposal for me was the idea that the sport tear up the current model of imprisoning its star attractions inside the paddock and instead take F1 out to the people. Arrivabene said "Being closer to the people actually involves taking F1 to the people, possibly holding the Thursday driver press conferences and team presentations of a Grand Prix weekend, outside the circuit in a public area."

Keep your distance

Such a move would of course shake the sport to its very core. If you weren't already aware, Bernie Ecclestone built the perception of modern Formula 1 around a model of exclusivity. Over time he carefully introduced distance between fans and drivers, fans and teams and fans and the media. By erecting both theoretical, and in many cases physical, walls he was able to manipulate the idea that those inside the sport were in someway special.

Circuits are ring fenced, ticket only affairs. Within the circuit are yet further fences and restrictions (some for safety, many not), each requiring more elevated privileges and more expensive tickets, to access than the last. Bernie and his co-conspirators designed it exactly this way of course, and because everything is comfortably contained, it makes controlling access to the sport almost trivial.

Like all good monopolies, this design worked brilliantly until a pesky thing called the internet came along and tore the whole charade to pieces. These days it is possible to get closer then ever to the drivers/teams/personnel/whoever within the sport thanks to the interconnected world of social media. Everyone who is anyone is busy broadcasting their innermost thoughts to a world waiting to lap up each and every piece.

Any pretence that Formula One is in some way an exclusive, unobtainable place is patently ridiculous at this point

Spend even a limited amount of time on Twitter and you'll learn Max Chilton has a penchant for terrible British TV, or that Fernando Alonso is an obsessive collector of mini figurines. Spend a little longer on there and you might find team personnel addicted to soap operas, and a few more who practically create their own. These people are awkward geeks and adorable nerds, full of anxiety and apprehension just like the rest of us. Heck, Lewis Hamilton had a full on meltdown when he thought his team mate had unfollowed him.

Any pretence that Formula One is in some way an exclusive, unobtainable place is patently ridiculous at this point. Yet while the virtual walls so rapidly collapsed, the physical ones still exist and that is where the brilliance of Arrivabene's suggestion comes in.

Going public

Dragging drivers out of the paddock on Thursday and putting them in a public place as Maurizio suggests solves two problems. Obviously, catch fences that so often separate fans from drivers simply won't exist, personalities will literally be closer. Secondarily, and most importantly, you remove any restrictions Ecclestone and his friends might be able to enforce.

Right now it is currently forbidden for anyone to publicly broadcast audio or video from inside the circuit without permission and that permission inevitably comes at a massive cost and with multiple restrictions. These constraints make it tougher (and often more expensive) for F1's audience to discover and follow the sport.

Fans too routinely see personal video filmed within the circuit pulled from any website they dare to share them on. Take F1 to a public space and those issues cease to be a problem at all. However you look at it, the sport has much to gain from such a move and little to lose.

There are no doubt a thousand reasons why the idea is untenable. It is also equally likely that this is a political move from Arrivabene, designed to grab Ecclestone's attention rather than to truly propose any solutions.

Maurizio is well versed in marketing and I'm not for one second believing that Ferrari (a company also built around the principles of exclusivity), suddenly give a stuff about the fan in the street. Still, a little internal politicking, if escalated accordingly, might well end up resulting in a better experience for those watching from the sidelines.

Conspiracy thoughts aside, there was one line that Arrivabene absolutely nailed in his statement, he said, "It is up to us to provide something better and to download a new format for Formula 1 as soon as possible." Amen.