When it came time to vote on the qualifying format, it was intriguing that the FIA offered two options, retain the new format or accept a tweaked version of the new format. Force India and others were vocal that they were not keen to changing away from the new format but perhaps a tweak here or there would suffice while others felt that it deserves more than a single chance. Perhaps, given a few races, the teams would acclimate and start to strategize appropriately and this would improve the spectacle.
For fans who were outraged by the new format and stupefied as to why they have not changed back to last year’s version, they may not have to wait much further than this weekend’s race to see that happen. According to Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, if it doesn’t work again, changes may be coming forthwith Ecclestone told AUTOSPORT:
“Let’s see what happens for qualifying,” Ecclestone said.
“But I’m 100 per cent confident we will resolve whatever issues arise should they occur again. After tomorrow we will know what we are doing.”
Ecclestone also seemed to dismiss the idea that he teams needed to be consulted on the matter too. Given his comments about the power the teams now hold, I don’t think he really cares what Toto Wolff thinks at this point:
“We don’t need the teams to sit down and discuss it. It’s nothing to do with them.
“I’m not being rude. What I’m saying is, it’s nothing for them where they can do something.
“To change the regulations it needs to be unanimous from all the people involved [within the F1 Commission], so it is not just about me or the FIA. It’s all of us.”
In the second half of their story, Ecclestone said something that I have not seen him say or read anything similar. It is in defense of the new Sky Sports contract:
“We’ll have to have a good look now and see which way we want to go,” added Ecclestone.
“We’ve lost a television audience, like all sports have, including football.
“So while we’ve lost an audience one way, actually more people are viewing F1 now than ever before on their phones and tablets.
“So there is more interest than there was before, which is what we have to take advantage of, and which is what we are doing.”
It’s the first time I can recall him discussing “phones and tablets” in those specific terms and with an admittance that they are changing the consumer model and something F1 is interested in as they have lost viewers. Ecclestone has generally been dismissive of any suggestions about mobility and yet this statement addresses it head on and even admits that it is an agenda item for F1 to take seriously.
If you were anchored in the theory that F1 isn’t listening at all, then perhaps this will ease your concern. I happen to know that FOM is very aware of the changing landscape and will most likely capitalize on it once they have designed a way to offer services without compromising or risking their assets in the process.
I’ll be intrigued to see where this leads because if free-to-air isn’t paying as much as pay TV is but their reach isn’t what F1 wants, they’ll have to look at all the alternative ways to capitalize on revenue streams that deliver the kind of viewer numbers they want.
In the US, folks who have unsubscribed to cable/satellite and turned off any terrestrial broadcast service are what we call cord-cutters. They get their programming from online only like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Most of those would be watching it on terrestrial or cable if they didn’t have the new medium to consume it so that’s not a gain in viewership, merely a change in how they consume it.
Having said that, the ubiquity of a mobile format may draw more new fans in to the service than cable may have. I am sure FOM are doing the research and looking at the metrics involved because it is their lifeblood.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT