Sorry this is late; I blame AT&T or possibly me for not noticing that they were about to withdraw their entire e-mail service of which I was a client, and then deleting all the settings for my other e-mail account.
So I arrived at Silverstone very much on the back foot and having to sort out my e-mail problems, which meant that the preview was placed on the back burner. But here we are on Friday morning, the sun is shining and it’s just taken me about 20 minutes from where I’m staying to get into the circuit and all is looking good – or a lot better than yesterday at this time.
I can’t say that the British Grand Prix is my favourite event. It has the usual package of support events which, in their own way, are of interest to me but I still remember when we used to have a British Touring car championship round which was so great to see, and perhaps a British F3 round and a historic race to round off the day. I enjoy races where we have different, national support race programmes such as in Australia.
I’m not a great fan of the new Wing building either, although the doors are very nice! The mistakes that have been built into that structure are incredible; how anyone could have approved it is beyond me, but that’s another matter altogether, one might think. We all have to get on a bus to get to it, because there’s no parking and no access to the other side of the track. So that’s not ideal either. And so it goes on.
OK, I shall ignore my plight and look at that of the fan these days. Another fan survey has appeared – this one from the Grand Prix Drivers Association along with motorsport.com – and it has some quite interesting conclusions. Fans don’t want any knee-jerk reactions, no gimmicks, just well thought-out changes. They want wider tyres and more downforce – but these sort of things have to be changed with advice from engineers and teams. An immediate reaction to the demand for downforce, for instance, was that more downforce means less braking which probably means less overtaking, so more downforce isn’t necessarily good for racing. So the findings have to be treated carefully.
Over 200,000 fans took part in the survey which is a reasonable turn-out but again, I think the surveyors should be popping down to a supermarket car park in Dartford or somewhere and asking why those shoppers aren’t interested in Formula One, and what would attract them. It is still a major business as we shall see this weekend and as we saw at Goodwood last weekend. It is a very attractive sport and you only have to look at a simple YouTube clip of Alex Lynn, for instance, going up the hill at Goodwood in a Williams – viewed tens of thousands of times – to realise that some people will watch anything about F1.
At this stage, there are doom-mongers talking about the plummeting figures in F1 but we recently got the message that licence payers here in the UK are watching less and less stuff live, preferring to record it. So the viewer or spectator is changing his habits, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s deserting the sport. He or she is just viewing it on a different medium and at different times. One of my colleagues is just asking the same thing here in the media centre at Silverstone; the promoter – who has never promoted anything – just needs to take account of this fact.
Having said that, FOM is hosting a feed to the screens here this weekend in the wake of Silverstone TV which can no longer be paid to do so. Again, the endless stream of interviews has to be controlled; at Goodwood last weekend, we were aware that people were being interviewed in the paddock, before the start and at the end of their runs; there were just too many talking heads. On event output has to be controlled and carefully thought out. Interviews are the easy way out.
And there are signs of changes from the top – hopefully not knee-jerk. The strategy group – which one observer pointed out didn’t have a strategy – has come up with some measures which they hope will please fans, including putting the driver more in control of the car, particularly at the start. The penalty situation has been reviewed as well and all this for the near, medium and long-term future, so things are happening. Let’s hope that 1) they aren’t expensive and 2) they are well thought out.
And what about this weekend? A fast, sweeping circuit could well be just what is required and in good weather conditions, at the moment, at least. We should see plenty of running this weekend and the on-going Hamilton versus Rosberg contest could well keep the interest alive. Hamilton was well beaten in Austria but will it be the same again here? This is Hamilton’s home circuit and one where he won in GP2 and it takes a special driver to not just enjoy but excel here.
Ferrari might well find themselves more at home, and Williams think they are going to be more competitive, but maybe that will just push Mercedes to go quicker. There will be plenty of bullshit, that’s for sure, and for that reason I will keep my head down! It’s the first race post-Austria test so there might be a small change in the hierarchy but I think the Mercedes teams are going to be good. We shall see. I shall come back with a more considered column after the race. Sorry if this one is a bit rushed!
By Bob Constanduros