Paul Hembery - F1 Reform


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This is Paul Hembery's view on F1 where he suggests putting the driver back (?) in charge, making them more accessible and Friday night qualifying.

He is right that F1 is losing sponsors, but I don't think that's because it is not entertaining. It is not entertaining someone who doesn't watch it because it is out on pay-TV and can't chance upon it on FTA as they're eating Sunday lunch. I accept that Friday needs to have a pay off in Formula One, although I'm not sure a Saturday sprint race is the way to go; that seems to me to go against the history of F1.

I do think the talk of a crisis is overblown, but not everything is rosy, either. Hembery is, as the article states, someone in significant power talking reform and that can only be a good thing.
I disagree with one key point: for one driver in particular, you can rightly argue that changing his helmet design is a big part of his public identity as a driver.

I don't like the idea of Friday as qualifying. I would make it a fan exposure free-for-all, a mandated "you must spend this much time signing autographs or otherwise directly interacting with fans" kind of thing. Maybe bring some older F1 cars along too (repro or original, doesn't really matter, as long as the performance is the same), and do a classic F1 speed trial on the Friday too? Show where the sport has been, and how much improvement happened over time, in the most visceral of ways - put some good drivers in the cars and push them like it's a qualifying session.
I don't really agree with anything he says! The prime problem for me is that drivers are stifled in what they say and revealing any sort of personality due to media/fan indignation/political correctness/whatever that turns them into robots parroting the same old guff. Some of the drivers of yore such as Hill, Stewart, Hunt were great personalities with a fantastic sense of humour, and as such were famous in their own right on TV for their wit and derring-do. I also hate to say it but the danger of the old days probably played a part in the idolization too.
It is difficult to distinguish drivers with varying helmet designs but this is very far from being one of the main problems with F1 (how about different car colours for each driver to distinguish them?). The marketing for instance is dismal. At the start of the season all we heard about was the troubles at Sauber, financial troubles, falling viewers etc. How about something a bit positive for a change, bigging up the actual racing perhaps?
F1 is like a horrific car crash, it is all at once too predictable, too ghastly and yet you can't turn away, you have to see how it ends.
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I wouldn't say all drivers follow the corporate line, some may mouth it , but the facial expression tends to contradict the mouth. Kimi is very open about it by not answering, Jenson is much more subtle, Lewis with his large salary plays the corporate game, that's why he has a large salary. Ferando does his own thing according to the penalty clauses in his contract and his take home pay:)
I agree with TBY's main point that pay TV is the problem. When boxing used to be on the BBC or ITV I would watch it, I'm damned if I'm going to pay what ever the extortionate amount is required on Sky Box Office to watch boxing now. Sports administrators should think far more carefully about where they place their product rather than just worrying about who has the biggest cheque book. I think the EU also has to share some responsibility when they forced the FIA to separate their role form that of controlling the broadcast rights.
And the same thing happened in Rugby. (the sport not the town :D). There was a big piece in Rugby World magazine bemoaning the fact that English grass roots rugby didn't spring on in leaps and bounds since the world cup win in 2003. Why? Because within 12 months of winning the world cup virtually all Rugby disappeared behind the pay wall. Apart from the 6 nations which for the time being remains a 'crown jewel' (look at Cricket and the Ashes to see what difference that makes) all of Englands internationals are now on Sky. That means a young Rugby fan in Wales can watch his team play against the All Blacks for free, same for someone in Scotland and Ireland but if you are an English fan you have to pay Murdochs 'sport ransom'.

As far as some of the other things that Mr Hemrey was saying, I don't think the world is capable of handling 'driver interaction' anymore. You only have to look at the mess of black friday in Asda to see that people fight like animals over a cheep TV. Could you imagine the pushing and shoving for a Lewis Hamilton autograph? Let's say that 80'000 people got to the British GP on a Saturday to see Qually. If only a quarter of those are Hamilton fans (we are in the UK after all) that's 20000 people who would want his Autograph. If only a quarter of those try and get it, how many out of 5000 do you think will be able to meet their hero?

The days of being able to walk around the paddock, bump into a driver having a crafty smoke behind the team bus, have a quick chat and move on are long long gone. That's the same for any sport. Since the inception of agents, PPV TV, marketing, adverts and celeb culture, we are all supposed to fall on our knees and kiss the feet of our sporting idols. That way, everyone up the chain get's a few more pounds. Why do people want an Autograph in the first place? for the bulk of them you just need to look at E-Bay.
Celebrities at massive fan conventions don't usually get mobbed while signing autographs, as entrance to an autograph area is often controlled and orderly. There's no reason it can't be done the same way for sports.
Yes Mosley is correct, something needs to be done. The problem is that he's just as much to blame for getting F1 into this situation.

For me, the whole game changed in 94. It all stemmed from 1992 when for the first time that I can recall there were grumbles that it was becoming all too easy to drive an F1 car. Mansell cruised to the title and of course there was all the talk of revolutionary driver aids, active suspension, semi-automatic gear boxes and the like. You would have thought that it would have been the same grumbles in 88 and 89 with the all powerful McLarens but the thing is, they had Prost and Senna knocking lumps out of each other. In 92 you had Mansell, who was so much quicker than Patrese that later in the season Mansell oh so genrously pulled over to let his team mate win.

So, Mosely's knee jerk reaction soon after coming into power was to ban driver aids. This left cars that were already a little over the edge of performance for cars of that generation, dangerously unstable. We all know what happened in 94 there after. This brought in another raft of knee jerk safety regulations. Don't get me wrong, safety improvements were needed however from this point forward, it set up the F1 we have today. Almost every rule brought in there after was about improving the show. The more the regulations restricted development the more the show needed improving and so on and so forth.

The EU may have had a hand in changing the TV rights but the decision by Mosely to extend the contract with Ecclestone to a 100 years effectively removed any barrier to Ecclestone doing whatever he wanted with the sport. Hence a huge percentage of revenue now going directly to a private investement firm. I think the term 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' applies here.

So, yes we need to change things but for Max to remind us of that fact is a bit rich.
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I heard Bernie say to the camera that that the teams get 95% of the profits from the TV revenue, that is only true if you count profit after 95% of the revenue is skimmed off by the FIA and Bernie, in truth the teams get 95% of the 5% that is left, the other 5% of the 5% that the teams don't get pays for the so called free transport for the top ten teams..
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