After years in which Formula 1 has increasingly distanced itself from the fans who ensure its very survival, the sport has now finally committed to giving something back to both its die-hard and occasional supporters, following the 'historic' FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) meeting in Geneva this week.
The reunion – chaired by Ferrari and FOTA President Luca di Montezemolo – has come to a number of conclusions regarding proposals designed to safeguard the future of the top flight from a technical, sporting and commercial point-of-view.
Whilst the first two are widely deemed to be the most significant when it comes to reducing expenditure and generating a better on-track spectacle, it is clear that the commercial angle has not been overlooked either.
A statement released following today's press conference in the Swiss city explained that measures to be put forward to governing body the FIA for introduction this year include mandatory driver autograph sessions during grand prix weekends; increased data provision for the media; a nominated senior team spokesman to be available for TV during grands prix; an exploration of means by which the presentation of Formula 1 action can be more informatively and dynamically presented – common to other sports such as tennis and cricket – with the goal of dramatically improving its engagement with the public; and a commitment to enhance fans' experience via team and FOTA websites.
Beyond that, in 2010 it has been proposed to launch a commitment to enhance consumer experience via TV coverage, with the statement explaining that 'an individual's view or understanding of Formula 1 is framed almost entirely by their local broadcaster'.
'Unlike most global sports, the vast majority of 'consumption' of Formula 1 is via race-day TV coverage,' it continues, 'supplemented in part by traditional, non-specialist newspaper coverage. Formula 1 fans are also mature consumers of new media channels (eg. online, mobile) and other touch points (eg. gaming, merchandise).
'The global nature of Formula 1, although an attractive characteristic in itself, impedes the uniformity of race schedules and often results in consumption of a race being limited to locally broadcast TV highlights programmes. Only devotees (25 per cent of the total potential viewing audience) are likely to watch a race live if it occurs outside peak viewing times.'
The initiatives – which will require formal ratification from both the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone's commercial rights company Formula One Management (FOM) before coming into force – received the clear thumbs-up from all of the sport's team principals, with Renault's Flavio Briatore particularly enthusiastic about the possibilities that lie ahead.
“Through FOTA we have found unity among the teams as we strive to provide a sustainable future for Formula 1,” remarked the Italian, who has long been a fierce advocate of the need to give back more to F1's legion of fans. “From a commercial standpoint, we recognise that while our sport enjoys a remarkable global reach, there is still room to improve its appeal as an investment opportunity.