Originally posted on Sport Witness.
In five years’ time, we will see a very different Formula 1 to the one we witness now. If the constant reports and speculation are to be believed, anyway.
Good ol’ Bernie is trying his very best to make F1 the sport of the globe – reaching out to every corner of our world in order to make the global audience as big as physically possible. It’s a very, very clever business model – one that has never been seen in this modern era of sport before. And a lot of sports around the world are following suit now, and tapping in to the ‘New World’, and more importantly, Asia.
F1, certainly in the UK, has grown nearly three-fold since the big re-brand and re-shuffle onto the BBC back in 2009. It’s an interesting concept to watch, as other countries around the world have also seen bigger audiences tuning in to watch the races, and the whole racing weekend. The leaps have been in Europe and western Asia, and this has been backed up by the increase in races and commercial ventures within these areas.
Nobody is really quite sure why, though. The introduction of KERS and the DRS system has allowed for an increase in overtaking, and the new tracks and races that have been brought in, with circuits designed by Hermann Tilke, have made Formula One racing much more exciting. I’m a recent convert myself to all this – and love every minute of the races. It’s so unpredictable.
Unless Vettel is leading from the front. Again.
But where will Formula One be in a few years’ time? Well, if you believe everything you read, we could have 30 cars on the grid, with 25 races on the calendar, with much smaller TV audiences. And it’s all for cash, too.
There is talk of Honda, BMW, and Toyota all making a comeback to the sport in the near future. The introduction of the slightly smaller, 1.6L turbo-charged V6 engines in 2014, with new technology and innovations to boot, could entice the three big engine manufacturers back to the sport. This would be great news – allowing for teams steeped in history to return to the grid, and race alongside the new, cost-effective teams, and making racing a little bit more interesting. But 30 cars setting off with the wave of the black-and-white flag could be absolute chaos.
The only conceivable way I can see it happening is to move towards a four-session qualifying. Six cars go out in the first session, and are not allowed to race in the weekend’s GP. A slight take on the 107% rule, re-introduced this season, but with a motive in order to get on that grid. None of this ‘steward’s discretion’ malarkey – what a waste of time that is.
This would still leave 24 cars racing in Sunday’s finale to the weekend, yet would still add a different dimension to the way the sport is run. However, we would still lose the same cars every single weekend if we’re not careful. As we’ve seen since the introduction of the new teams at the start of 2010, the six cars from these teams are always the first cars to be leaving qualifying. It gets a little tedious.
Bernie’s global conquest will continue, too. In 2012, we see the United States GP return, in Austin, Texas, and in 2013, there will be a second race, titled ‘Circuit of the Americas’, in New Jersey. 2014 will see the introduction of the Russian GP, in Sochi, near the Winter Olympics site, and there are whispers that we may see a South African GP, a Croatian GP, or even the Vietnamese GP. If all these races are submitted, without any leaving the calendar, the season would be 25 races long. That would make it the longest ever seen. And a very good one, as well.
There’s also all sorts of TV deals and media rights that are up for renewal. We saw earlier this year that Sky and the BBC have entered a joint venture, until 2018, to broadcast the races together. Sky will broadcast all three practices, qualifying and the race, whilst the BBC will have the rights to broadcast 10 of the season’s races, with highlights for the remainder. This has been seen as the way of making F1 even more commercially viable than it is currently, but has jeopardised the fans’ perception of how they view Formula One.
The movement to pay-per-view will save the BBC around £25m – a contributing factor to the £640m savings they will be making by 2016. However, the chemistry seen between Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, alongside the commentary of Martin Brundle, is second-to-none. It is no wonder four or five of the major nations who broadcast F1 use the BBC’s coverage and commentary. The changes will streamline the sport’s audience, and will suddenly make it quite elitist. And if this is the trend across Europe, and the rest of the world, then money will suddenly dry up very quickly…
We’ll have to see what happens, but it will be very different come 2016. Very different indeed.