Formula 1 is getting old.
Old in attitude, old in age and old in audience.
May be it’s the marketeers? A been-around-for-years group of guys who are – on the whole – middle-aged-plus, often dull and a little staid, shuffling around the globe on flat–bed airline seats selling small spaces of real estate on F1 car bodies to the highest bidders.
Perhaps it’s the team brand men and women, press officers and media handlers? Often hamstrung by a lack of available minutes to effectively use their drivers’ time to promote the blue (and not so blue) chip brands emblazoned on their caps, shirts, shorts, overalls and shoes, their stock-in-trade response to most requests for as little as 30 seconds of one-on-one time is a firm ‘NO’.
Could it be Formula 1’s commercial rights holder? Bernie Ecclestone is famously über-protective when it comes to the use of ‘his’ sport as a promotional tool. Push the limits – just an inch over what is allowed – and a double-decker bus-sized salvo will flash across your bows.
Truth is it’s probably all of the above and a whole lot more besides, but regardless of who is to blame they need to wake up soon. The clock is ticking and we ain’t getting any younger.
In this ever-changing world, where time and those on the digital super-highway wait for no-man, Formula 1 had better get serious about planning for the future. Now.
Apparently the average F1 fan fits neatly into a predictable category: he’s 45 years old, has two children, a middle-management career, plans on attending one race a year, and couch-slouches the rest on either terrestrial or digital TV.
Trouble is – for F1 and the companies funding it – 45-year olds are not where it’s at. They will follow the sport because that’s what they’ve done for years. The key to the sport’s future is youth.
Within the F1 paddock the comfortable incumbents assiduously protect their golden egg; the same old faces sloshing about year after year, barring the way for fresh young minds to enter the sport. When a team sponsor liaison man or media-handling woman is shown the door by one team it’s odds on he or she will walk through the open one of another. This inevitably means the same tired attitudes prevail year on year.
Kids these days should adore Formula 1. Loud and fast racing cars and their derring-do drivers tearing up race tracks in brightly coloured exotic locations all over the globe.
But they don’t.
They play Xbox shoot ’em–ups, they fly Angry Birds, they interact with each other on Facebook and Twitter. What they don’t do is follow F1.
How about joining the 21st century?
The sport lives in the past on a diet of one-off $50m deals when progressive minds are all about 500 million $1 deals.
When ‘Iceman’ Raikkonen flashes past in his screaming Renault-powered super-sexy black and gold(ish) Lotus, one would imagine trendy ‘yoof’ would love it.
Once they notice the decals proudly proclaiming anti-dandruff shampoo and loser brand deodorant, one can see why they don’t.
Time to reboot the Xbox!