Do you remember that Singapore Grand Prix when Peace One Day sponsored Lotus F1? I do. That was the moment I first realised that there were other pacifists in the motorsport community. It made my heart glad. In fact, it made me feel so happy that I rushed out and signed up to be a Peace One Day participant.
One of the basic premises of Peace Day is that if we all did something to bring peace into our spheres of influence, the world would be a more peaceful place. For staffers of organisations like the UN and Medecins Sans Frontiers, ways of celebrating Peace Day are easy and obvious, as the day is traditionally celebrated with a ceasefire and distribution of humanitarian aid in war zones. For those of us who don’t work for those organisations or live in a war zone, ways of bringing peace seem a less relevant.
While we don’t have an all-out war in Formula 1, we do have points of conflict that I will detail below. We could resolve these issues, if we really wanted to, but it would need everyone to put aside their own view points for a moment and see the other side of the argument. Most importantly, it requires us to see what needs the other side are trying to meet.
I feel compassion for Pirelli. They try hard to give the sport good rubber to race on, and yet Paul Hembery finds himself on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism at most race events. I have even seen calls for ‘explosion-proof tyres’ on social media. Heads up, sports fans: the laws of physics don’t allow for explosion-proof tyres, so we’re placing an unrealistic expectation on Pirelli by demanding that.
What Pirelli’s needs are: Primarily, Pirelli are in the sport as a marketing exercise. They need to show the world that they make good tyres. They need people to buy their rubber in order to make a profit. If they build tyres for road cars (what the audience will buy), their products have to be durable.
What F1’s needs are: To meet its viewership quotas, F1 needs exciting racing, which most people agree includes a variety of strategies between teams and individual cars. The sport needs the tyres to wear out quickly in order to shake things up. They need Pirelli to defy the laws of physics in order to provide exciting racing without causing safety issues.
The wealthier teams want to spend what they have to get the competitive edge. The…er…financially challenged teams would prefer a cost cap, so they can be competitive on a smaller budget. Yet nobody is willing to concede on this issue.
What the big teams’ needs are: They need to maintain the competitive edge in order to score points, rank higher in the championship, and get a big slice of the broadcast royalties at the end of the season. This is central to their business model. They need to stay ahead to keep the money flowing in, so they can stay ahead.
What the small teams’ needs are: They need to gain a competitive edge so they can score points, rank higher in the championship, and get a bigger slice of royalties to boost their R&D budget. They also need to rank higher to attract more sponsorship money. Essentially, they need to be more equal. However, in the words of George Orwell, all pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others.
BROADCASTERS AND PIRATE STREAMS
Viewership figures for F1 have been dropping in recent years. Some say this is because people are moving from legal broadcasts to pirate streams. Others say that the proportion watching pirate streams are negligibly small, and the non-watchers have simply left the sport.
What the broadcasters’ needs are: Essentially, they need people to watch in order to collect subscription fees in order to produce high-quality shows. They need the money to justify paying for exclusive broadcasting rights, and to justify paying their crews’ salaries. They need people to talk about their shows online and drive traffic to their feeds in order to push the viewership figures up.
What the pirates’ needs are: They need broadcasts that fit into their budgets, and a lot of the people who watch the illegal streams can’t afford pay channels. Alternatively, they need a higher-quality broadcast than is available in their country. In some parts of the world, coverage is very basic – just the world feed of the race, with no pre-race build-up or post-race discussions. Nobody minded this bare-bones approach to F1 broadcasting before social media opened their eyes to the wealth of coverage available in other parts of the world.
WHERE TO FROM HERE
FOTA: Re-forming FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) would be a step in the right direction. It would provide a forum in which issues facing the sport could be discussed. But FOTA is a toothless bulldog, unless the people participating are willing to work together to reach an acceptable compromise.
BUSINESS: Re-examining Formula 1’s business model would be another positive choice. Recessions are good opportunities to have a look at what’s not working any more, what technological advances have been made to help with those problems, and plot a course to a more positive future. Unfortunately, FOM (Formula One Management) seem unwilling to do this.
It’s possible that ‘regime change’ is what’s needed here in order to take our sport in a direction more suited to the current postcapitalist/info-tech economy. However, an organic, team-led, evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) re-direct would be more sustainable in the long run. Evolutionary change allows for small corrections to be made along the way to keep the sport going in a positive direction.
DISCUSS: Ultimately, what the sport needs is for people to put aside their differences and embrace the spirit of Peace One Day. The issues facing Formula One can only be solved by the major players cooperating with each other, and fans cooperating with the leadership. If you have suggestions for how we could work together better, let’s discuss on Twitter @BadgerGP @mma_brij