Wapping, Thursday: A survey by British “magazine” Salutations! has attributed F1’s declining viewership in recent years to a lack of identifiable characters and realistic storylines in the continuing saga of man and machine at the limits of motoring technology.

The magazine, which focuses on exploiting famous people and reminding the nation’s poor of how stupid and ugly they are, suggested that the quality of the high-octane motorsport drama has been plummeting catastrophically for the last few years, and viewers are now switching off to watch other, more believable soaps.

F1 rogue Felipe Massa
Lovable: F1 rogue Felipe Massa

Roderick F. Damn, chief executive of Damn & Blast Popular Magazines, which publishes the glossy weekly rag, suggested: “Formula One has become too self-centred and pie-in-the-sky. Back in the glory days we had shining heroes like Damon Hill, and evil villains like Michael Schumacher. Although F1 never took up on our recommendation to give Schumacher slavering fangs and devil horns, just to show how really evil he was, at least you knew where you were. Now you have ‘lovable rogues’ like Felipe Massa and ‘flawed anti-heroes’ like Lewis Hamilton, and it’s far less easy to figure out who you should be supporting. Ambiguous personalities, neither good nor evil? You just don’t get that in real life.

“Add to that the unrealistic and poorly-written stories – who would be stupid enough to drive away with a fuel hose still attached, for example? And all that nonsense with the S&M scandal was, for me and many viewers, the final straw. If Formula One wants to attract the modern audience, it needs to revert to a level of realism like that of Holby City. It’s perfectly believable for a train to crash into a hospital and blow up every other week, but an industrial espionage case? Get real, guys. The conclusion is clear – F1 is rapidly going downhill.”

The magazine reportedly suggested to F1’s writers new storylines, including allowing Nelson Piquet Jr. to get into an exact replica of his father’s famous fist-fight with Eliseo Salazar, but so far writers do not seem keen to follow up on these recommendations.