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.

"It is clear that we need to strengthen Formula 1 as a show, and through our global audience survey we have given a voice to the consumers of Formula 1. The results confirm that we must exploit the potential of new media, while continuing to enhance the TV experience, which remains the most important interface with the public.

"It is therefore essential to provide our audience with more information and to make the teams and drivers more accessible to ensure that we deliver a product that is always exciting, unpredictable and compelling both on and off the track. I am confident that, working together, and in a constructive spirit with both governing bodies FIA and FOM, FOTA can help build a solid future for the sport in the years ahead."

That optimism was shared by the Renault F1 managing director's counterparts at Ferrari, Williams and Force India, all of whom agreed that whilst the ideas put forward can only be of benefit to the top flight, there can equally be no let-up as FOTA continues to work tirelessly to ensure that Formula 1 remains one of the world's most popular sports.

"United in our intentions and with a common vision for the future of Formula 1, while remaining rivals on track - these are the key strengths of FOTA," underlined Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali. "It is thanks to its creation that we have already achieved significant results in just a few months.

"Racing is part of Ferrari's DNA and will always be so, which is why we are working very hard, along with all the other teams. We must continue on this track to make our sport more exciting for the fans and more attractive for our current partners and also potential ones, while maintaining close links with the production of road cars."

"The new FOTA group has the best of intentions in representing the teams' best interests, both technically and commercially," added Williams co-founder Sir Frank Williams. "FOTA wishes to enjoy an open and productive relationship with both the FIA and FOM."

"Formula 1 is undoubtedly about competition and striving to beat one's opposition," reasoned Force India F1 chairman and managing director Vijay Mallya. "While this is very much the essence of the on-track action, unity and collaboration off-track is crucial.

"The open spirit of discussion and co-operation to increase both the spectacle and financial viability of Formula 1 is entirely positive for the sport and its investors - ie. the teams, the sponsors and of course the fans. I fully support the initiatives and hope that between FOTA, the FIA and FOM we can find a balance to safeguard the wonderful sport we have before us now."



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