The change that has attracted most attention, while making zero difference to F1 as a sporting spectacle, is the decision to stop using grid girls in 2018.
This was a front-page story when it was announced in early February; the subsequent news that “grid kids” will take their place, similar to mascots in football, received considerably fewer column inches.
It became a minor PR disaster for F1. The word “ban” was used across the board when, in reality, the sport has simply stopped hiring a group of freelancers. This is absolutely par for the course, but it reached farcical levels when some began asking whether F1 should compensate the women for lost earnings.
But for all the hand-wringing about the sport being governed by political correctness, this was a decision based on what does and does not sell.
In the official announcement, F1 commercial chief Sean Bratches said that grid girls do not “resonate with our brand values”, which is marketing speak for “they were bad for business”.
Evidently, there is a belief – based, you would presume, on research – that the continuing use of grid girls would do more harm than good in attracting fans and sponsors to F1. Had Liberty concluded that grid girls were good for business, they would surely still be around.
There was perhaps a middle ground to be reached here, but ultimately the anger at this decision is largely limited to a demographic that F1 already has nailed down. Introducing grid kids is an easy win, because it takes a special kind of cynic to feel angry at children being given VIP access to a sport they love.
Still, the process was badly managed. Why the week-long gap between announcing the withdrawal of grid girls and the arrival of grid kids? Delivering this as one piece of news would have been an easy way to alleviate negative publicity. To put that in marketing speak, it seems like a no-brainer.
In another significant break with the Ecclestone era, 2017 saw F1 launch its own virtual championship. Suffice to say, Bernie was not an avid gamer.
At the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, 20 competitors fought to be crowned the inaugural F1 eSports Champion, with 18-year-old Brendon Leigh emerging as the winner.
While not everyone agrees that a sport of F1’s stature should give gaming such importance, it is a clear attempt by Liberty to engage new fans. It’s also nothing new: Formula E held its own virtual event at the start of 2017.
Let’s return to Ecclestone’s belief that F1 should focus on the wealthy 70-year-old. The person in question probably fell in love with motorsport as a teenager, when there was a culture of young people – predominantly men – travelling to race circuits at weekends to watch whatever was on.
That no longer happens to anything like the same degree. Fashions have changed and there are a wealth of alternatives that make standing on a rain-sodden bank at Silverstone seem rather less appealing.
If you see a teenager at a race circuit in 2018, chances are they’re with their dad (who might even have his father in tow as well). On the plus side, female interest has increased in recent years.
Nevertheless, F1 needs a new pool from which to draw fans and it stands to reason that the world of online gaming is a very good one. This group is predominantly male and in their mid-twenties, so effectively the same people who would have stood on a bank at Silverstone in decades past.
But they’re not necessarily F1 fanatics yet – many will play the game without fully following the sport. By officially sanctioning its own e-racing championship, F1 is making a play for a community full of potential fans.
Source : http://www.givemesport.com/1256700-formula-1-is-not-delivering-the-radical-rethink-it-needs-to-survive