Dear F1

7 min read
16 Jun

Dear Jean Todt, Chase and Ross. 

This Letter is to ask for your help and action to stop F1 from going down the wrong road, to oblivion.  So Jean, Ross and Chase, we are exiting F1 and fear for the sport, so please read this and act, and call if you would like support to fix F1.Growing up F1 was the stuff of dreams, it was Hollywood and worth my admiration and just as you might have a favourite Singer, or Film star I was smitten with F1 and Senna. 

F1 was to me pure showbiz, glamorous and dangerous and immensely appealing until recently. Today we have no racing and just a procession, and yet I am told by those in the sport, that we have never had it so good? My F1 love star in 1988 when I recall a family friend trying to explain to me why Prost and Senna looked like they were lying down in a red and white car going around a Millionaires playground that was called Monaco. From this day I was spell bound by these hero’s, the battles and daring driving each Sunday. It started my interest in Honda and Ferrari which still lasts to this day, so the entire purpose of win on Sunday and sell on Monday had worked, and is working. (I have four Honda’s and counting.) My massive racing hero is Senna and drivers with determination so included on my hero list are Kimi and Hunt and Mika, and Alonso. Note at this point Bernie was for decades the all conquering F1 Circus Ringmaster who knew he needed Drama and Entertainment to keep the Money flowing, and the TV audiences watching. Sure I can see why in say the 1988 season might be seen as just McLaren dominance, but here is the nugget many miss. You just did not which of the two Marlboro McLaren cars would win, if both would finish the race or both would not end upside down in the kitty litter. Back when we had real racing the circuits leant themselves to more battles. The Circuits appeared faster, as they were in Touring Cars (BTCC) in the late 80’s and early 90s and yet we had less TV coverage, but we had a spade loads more racing and it was 100% more entertainment. Who do you hear down the Pub, when we could go was ever heard taking about last Sundays Super Soft-Dry tyres? None. Because today it's horse turd dull and only Lemmings and Laptop Geeks can care for this.The need to have three sets of tyres has made F1 worse, as has DRS. DRS is a aerodynamic stupid system that enables our eco harvesting drivers to overtake the car in front with more ease and less effort or skill. Now Mr F1 driver can stay in 3rd all day long. Thus making the show less for all and making watching this process worse, if that’s actually possible. So the CEO of F1 and the Governing body the FIA have introduced something new to make less fans watch, to remove more skill, and eradicate all the entertainment. Next they will add rules saying you can’t block the car from overtaking as this might upset someone. So we have two key introductions have made it more boring, yet it’s kept in the sport this year? Jeremy Clarkson I saw had a rant along these lines, expressing dislike for today’s F1, so did the CEO of the F1 or the Sports governing Body (FIA) act? It did nothing and this season we face more hype which will never appear in the prospect of racing.  If I was BMW and Honda/Toyota I would be more than glad not to be spending Billions in F1, and Happy not to be associated with today’s F1 effort. Why would VW or Ford say waste Billions to sit your cars in 4th and  8th  all season, and why then does Wizzo Firm X want to pay to advertise to less and less viewers? F1 needs to act fast as less fans watching and less seats sold at Race Tracks is not good, and we hope the F1 teams act to save the sport. BTCC in the 90s was just epic, in 1992 we did not know who would win and this best demonstrated when the Toyota's at Brands took each other off the track, handing Vauxhall the win which was totally bizarre. The year had it all and epic recovery heroic drives from Steve Soper. At one race Soper spun out of the race to recover to finish an amazing 3rd at Donnington in what I consider the best recovery drive ever, and the drivers title went all the way down to the last race, with three potential champions by the end of the day. In these BTCC days circuits were packed with adoring fans, sometimes more fans than F1 at Silverstone and the drivers would race only once, but boy did they race fast, on every lap. Today’s BTCC offers three times as many races but sadly no spark, no battles and its becoming very F1, grey and pointless to watch. I say that with the heaviest of hearts as I am a huge BTCC fan, right up to the point where it imploded.Today’s F1 procession yawn from Mercedes sees drivers slow up after 17 laps of nothing happening to harvest stuff, i.e. save tyres and fuel. Did you ever see James Bond ever slow-up his Silver Aston Martin to protect his MPG number or ask for Tap Water in a recycled cup? F1 now is not appealing to me or it seems most of France whom have voted with their TV sets and switched off in the millions. Viewing figures in France have gone from about 5 million to about 14. Honestly.F1 is in clearly bad health and seemingly can’t see the issues driving millions of fans away. From this we must conclude that you’re sporting entertainment and on track battles and not knowing the outcome are of no value to today’s audience as Chase Carey (F1 CEO) and the FIA won’t act. Bernie must be extremely glad to be free from F1 as it’s not offering fans any racing today. Bizarrely today we have hours of pre and post f1 procession analysis and insights, and Sky have done a fabulous job on its coverage. But no matter how much money you throw at a dull event, it’s still dull. (The fable is true; you can’t polish a turd.) An aspect I recall with fond memories is the Sound F1 cars used to produce. Sound is absolutely vital as it adds to the drama, and like watching a good Bond film, its best in a Cinema. In 2018 I was asked to take some VIPs to Silverstone on race day, and within a few hours all of the guests said they preferred the sound from the lower level race cars (F2) to the F1 cars. Sound and vision in the form of battles have gone from today’s offering. The sound of a F1 car in 90s or 80s on full attack mode is one of the best sounds in the UK ever made. In the early 1990’s I recall bunking off my office job to spend a day watching F1 Testing at Silverstone, and sneaked into what were the Pits back then. The sound of a V10 or V8 on 100% qualifying mode made my spine tingle, and nothing else in the world has achieved this feeling to date. My Favourite place to watch the heroic 1990s drivers in an empty grandstand drinking hot coffee was at “Bridge” or “Copse”, two staggeringly fast corners where drivers would fly by, sparks flying from the car at over 150mph+ for hours. The Sound of a V10 or V8s whizzing passing by was like the loudest Rock Concert or Opera from the front seats. F1’s speed and soundtrack even on those grey days in deserted track in Northamptonshire was addictive and brilliant. Yet todays sound like my washing machine on a dry cycle and definitely not something you would skip work for.  The amazing Jet set lifestyle drivers had and the raw spectacle of F1, i.e. sound and danger made it alluring and the old drivers were Hollywood to me, and to true F1 fans. Getting into F1 is not easy or cheap, and I wonder which current sponsors will stay if it stays the same. So if fans and Sponsors are exiting then the sport is sadly finished. Thus today’s F1 poor health affects many in the sport and its longevity for future generations. Fans say they are disappointed that all the teams apart from Mercedes should be wheel to wheel racing, yet because of rules FIA/Chase set it means this is not possible either, removing all theatre from F1 for all teams and sponsors. About four years back my Midlands Buddy whom would join me on these bunk-off days at Copse called to point out the many empty grandstands at the races on Sunday each weekend. We both felt cold in our hearts at this, and amazed the CEO of F1 Chase Carey was not taking big action to address the problems. I do wonder if Ross Brawn (F1 MD) is aware of the avalanche of fans exiting the sport and has any plans to fix it. Quite how and why a sport famed for Speed and vast sums of Money is not acting to address its many health issues is a concern. So we wonder why Mercedes has its cars 23 seconds apart for 2hrs, how did we get to this? Max Mosley (Ex FIA Boss and Bernie’s wing man) is partly to blame for the introduction of today’s Eco Harvest procession yawn cars, and the ever increasing costs of just being in F1. You see the F1 Teams would for example build a car at vast cost just to qualify on the Saturday, and this Cash burning was not sustainable for anyone, and was not healthy for the smaller teams. The motor homes in the paddock at the races became a game of who had the biggest bank account, and it was getting silly. Yet DRS and 82m tyre softy-dry tyre choices no one cares for have cost the teams millions of viewers, and thus less income. You lose the entertainment, you lose the income and longevity of the sport. I do wish Jean and Chase would act, and be more Bernie focused on the show, and not on pretending a Mercedes 23+ second gap for two hours of procession is worth watching or following. Those that actually pay cash to see nothing on the track are sadly sporting Lemmings. In 2021 we know Mercedes-Lewis will win all; how anyone can enjoy eco harvesting drivers hitting the cruise control on lap five and no actual racing after lap eight would for normal people remove any reason to watch. Only Lemmings watch it. I recall walking the Monaco Race Circuit in 2005 and I was dreaming of the drivers racing in such a concrete jungle and the Jet set lifestyle, and would I spot one. Now I view F1 drivers as mere tyre and fuel MPG focused and have no appeal to meet them, or follow them. For example in the 1990’s, I would often get spare F1 tickets, and recall bagging a pair VIP F1 tickets to Silverstone in the year Damon Hill won the title. Deliberately loitering outside the “F1 Paddock” Marque VIP tent I watched Schumacher/ Villeneuve and Kimi Raikkonen arrive and depart in just enough time to meet them for a few precious seconds that felt like hours on the day. No selfies here, just a rapid meet and great whilst trying not to look star stuck which I clearly was. (Sorry Kimi for losing the ability to talk coherently to you on your scooter.) That event made my year and I told all in the Pub about it. These drivers gave it all, had it all and were providing us with entertainment and were simply the stuff of motoring dreams. Today we don’t care or want to meet any drivers apart from Kimi, to ask how about how high his Harvesting MPG figures are or to ask how DRS helped them stay in 4th position all year. My Uni pal went to Monaco a few years back and was a massive Schumacher Ferrari fan, yet did all she could not to meet any F1 drivers as she said they were laptop geeks. I can see Ferrari leaving the F1 show soon, and F1 going Electric before any racing returns. We need the element of surprise and unpredictable factor in F1. Do you think the next 007 film will now feature Bond first having to gain agreement on a date that works for both parties before any Spying action or fights take place so as not to cause any surprises? F1 and Blockbuster Films do have a role today in offering escapism and entertainment that is at risk of disappearing in this culture of being afraid of upsetting someone with unpredictable outcomes, or that saving two litres of Petrol is worth killing a sport that saved the lives of many though its technology. Saving the planet is great, but V8 Engines are not melting the ice caps, look at the water used to make clothes before removing our engineering marvels.Don’t just take my word for the issues F1 faces, en ex F1 Senior Marketing Executive from a top team told me at Christmas that the sport was playing it safe for the Lewis fans, and that Mercedes had Nike Trainers whilst the others ran in ski boots. He said people who watched it were lemmings; paying Sky for a comfort blanket that there man will win it all. (Minus any actual racing taking place for anyone, but some big MPG or tyre saving figures for the Lemmings.)  Lewis or no Lewis its bust he said, and that F1 was now beyond boring and sinking rapidly. He felt Max or someone might win one or two races, but it’s the Lewis 23 sec gap per car no racing circus now twenty times a year, minus any theatre or spark.  Tracks that are used today are not exactly helping and the F1 Marketing man blamed F1 for followed the money, and claimed some tracks were just a cash machine for the Sports Owners, and offered more reasons not to watch. He said that making (and allowing) the world’s best fastest drivers slow up mid race was just diabolically crap for everyone and that anyone in Lewis’s car would win, even you’re Gran. This is proven when we saw Lewis being replaced for one weekend and almost matched in pace and speed by a reserve driver. My ex F1 contact spoke about being offered thousands of pounds back in the 90s and right upto the Red Bull Domination for basic grandstand tickets. Now he says F1 friends have to give away 2017/8 tickets as the show has gone. Solutions and strategies to sort the F1 show are evident and could be implemented quickly for the F1 CEO team and the FIA, and the TV firms paying millions whilst fans all leave F1. This year will sadly be more of the same and don’t be fooled by talk of “Sprint” races being offered on Saturday. This won’t fix anything; it will just add another yawn DRS non racing 2hr event on Saturday. The Motorsport legend Ron Dennis was a F1 Team manager who made McLaren F1 the globally brilliant team and he was clear when he said all F1 races must always be free to Air, and offer a reason to get up at 5am and watch the Japanese race for example. I agree, and Sky getting 99% of the rights shows the FIA/F1 Money greed ruled over the fans or sponsors best interest. How people can pay to have F1 today must show high levels of optimism given no racing has taken place for years, or it’s now a sport for Lemmings?What you may ask do I use to get my fix of glamour and speed on a Sunday? My Sundays are now free for about the last six years of F1, and old 1990s BTCC or old F1 DVD races being used for the replacement, along with old Bond films and now other interests. One of these other interests was to try and have our race. So a few years back we had our very own Field Motor race in an obliging farmer’s field, in three identical old scrap road cars and it had 163m more overtaking incidents and actual racing than five years of your Mercedes yawn F1. At no point did DRS make it easier for any of us, and no soft-dry dull tyres were changed, yet the lead did swap more times than I can recall. I am not anti F1 or racing and do truly wish F1 was appealing, heroic and simply offered a modicum of entertainment. If I can put on a race and entertainment for the twelve (paying) fans for over one hour in a field for less than £140 then why can’t Chase or Jean Todt?  My feelings for DRS & Mercedes and Pirelli are far worse for them going racing, as they have killed the sports appeal. Just look at the France TV viewing figures that are showing you a red flag, act on it and ditch the DRS Harvesting Lemming Yawn Procession, please.I do hope Jean/Chase/Ross do call me or act! Or Both. Andy Selmes(c) 2020