An Epistle Written to the Slightly Blinded and Never Attentive Mr. Ecclestone

An Open Letter to Mr. Bernie Ecclestone

This week we read about how the ‘Strategy Group’ for Formula 1 met and had discussions on how to improve the spectacle for the fans.   Mr. Ecclestone apparently is actually worried about the popularity of F1?   Numbers are down.  Yet this commercial rights holder has done just about everything possible to avoid the sport from becoming mainstream to a new audience. Why does this Empire control the rights in this manner? Does Mr. Ecclestone needs more money to cover the substantial tax debt he has amassed.  No.  His even larger income is the reason for the tax debt.   It does increasingly appear that Mr. Ecclestone does not realize the basic fact that any sport finds it strength in the number of followers it has.  A sport with no new followers is doomed to fail – the recent efforts at creating BKB (alternative boxing) in the United States illustrate exactly that.

Venues are not the problem.  F1 has by far the most exotic venues in the world.   There is no league in any sport that can compare. However, classic venues are closing. This is partly due to the lack in profits for the hosting venue. Mr. Ecclestone, I urge you work to make it affordable.   Italy, France, Germany, Monaco and England are historic venues. The sport should not lose its character by compromising established races. If this means increasing the profit margins for the hosts, this should be done.

Drivers being seen as banks is a problem.  Why are drivers with money being found instead of the fastest drivers? This unprecedented scam is not found in other sport. When a person is hired for the money he can find, I smell corruption and not talent.   This season has given us a glimpse of young, talented drivers that really do push and drive fast despite not having the speediest cars. I am all for Sainz, Verstappen and more from where they came from.

Noise is pollution, really.  The spectacle is also not in the noise – as much as some might think. Watching electric cars in Formula E has not entirely eliminated the spectacle, but it has some effect, agreed. The current sound is not horrid and making the cars noisier is not going to fix the races.

Predictability is a massive problem.  What is boring for fanatics is watching the same cars win race after race.  Watching a leader lap the cars at the rear is of little consequence. Guessing which cars will come first and second all season long without knowing anything about the sport, is exactly illustrates exactly what is wrong with the sport – it has become predictable.

No more tow.  What happened to Slip-streaming? Cars can no longer drive behind another car’s dirty air in recent years. Remember when drivers actually used to get a tow down the straight?

Controlling the Chassis is Not the Answer.  I recently watched several Indy (Verizon Izod Indy Series) races.  In this league all the cars are using the same chassis built by Dallara. This is not necessarily the way to go either – and Mr. Ecclestone is now proposing that he will supply a chassis and charge the poorer teams $15 million for it.  Mr. Ecclestone, that is not even one-tenth of the cost of the home your bought your daughter in Beverly Hills.  No keep your damn chassis.  We do not know who designed it and with what motive.  What makes a Ferrari unique, is the fact that it is Italian and built with pride. Controlling the chassis would detract from the sport.

Miserable Promotion and Unfriendly Tactics.  Track-side seats are expensive. Fans cannot find collections of past seasons recorded on DVD and sports stations cannot air past seasons either. Why are we not able to find DVDs of past seasons, so that fans can study and watch the races over and over again? Why are fans being pestered about copyright issues when posting racing clips or other photos? What is the use of these recordings if never to be seen again? Sports channels are allowed limited rights to replay races and footage posted to Youtube is flagged and taken down. In fact footage in some countries is minimal and only available on premium sports channels.   And why are so few children watching the races? The sign of any healthy sport is the number of young fans that follow the races.

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This heavy- handedness is paralyzing the sport and the spread of the thrill to a new fan base. Mr. Ecclestone can argue that F1 is an acquired taste and that this is the premium league. Yes, one has to acquire a taste to watch a procession going around the track with little or no changes in position. This is the not the case in GP2 or Indy racing. As a child I was told that smoking a cigar was an acquired taste and I have still to acquire it.  The fact is that if you are not drawn in 10 minutes, are you going to watch again?  The truth is that I could not glean interest in the average eleven-year old for Formula 1 in it’s current state. This is not the case in either GP2 or Indy where the top ten drivers are typically engaged in a constant shuffle during a race.

That is exactly what fans want to see.

The author at Circuit of the Americas in 2013.
The author at Circuit of the Americas in 2013.

Fuel Stops or Just Time for a Pee.  Making cars stop to get fuel is not going to help if the cars still cannot get close to each other; changing the tires is not going to help either.

A Daring Suggestion.  Open Source.  Perhaps open-sourcing designs might? This might cut the monopoly and leave racing to talent – talent what is that? After all this is business, not sport.

Precisely wrong.

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Open-sourcing did wonders for computing and software.   Perhaps it is time to think differently. Your absolute control Mr. Ecclestone, has led to an absolutely boring spectacle. And I have been watching for close on fifty years.  What is teams had to release their designs and make these known?  This would encourage development and interest.  This would change the sport and make the distances closer.  Yes.  I say yes.  

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