Empty track leaves F1 at ‘five minutes to 12′ – Lauda

Hockenheim - Thursday Photos
Niki Lauda wants formula one to think urgently about what is turning off the fans in 2014.

Big crowds were buzzing in Austria and Silverstone recently, but it was impossible not to notice some almost completely empty grandstands at Hockenheim on Friday.

The sport’s reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was born just 40 kilometres away, while another German is leading this year’s title in a dominant Mercedes, within memory of the heady Michael Schumacher mania.

“It’s not satisfying,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had to admit on Friday.

“We have to analyse the phenomenon. If the weekend continues like it does now, we need to think about it,” he said.

Italy’s Autosprint quoted a F1 source as explaining that the issue this weekend is that the German public is at saturation point after world cup euphoria.

But Mercedes’ F1 chairman, Niki Lauda, has another theory.

“Formula one is seeing a serious cultural change,” he told Die Welt newspaper.

“The audience wants to watch sport in a different way than before, due to the rapid growth of the new means of communication.

“It is logical that the young people of today have other priorities. Everything in the world is changing, but only formula one is staying where it was,” said Lauda.

The F1 legend, therefore, thinks that one big problem is too many and complex rules, but also the fact that Bernie Ecclestone is steadfastly sticking to the old TV broadcast model.

“Young people do not want to stay at home on Sunday when the sun is shining to sit in the lounge with their father for two hours.

“The problem is that today, there is no alternative. You can’t just sit on the beach and watch the race highlights on your smartphone,” he said.

Lauda also said F1 has simply lost some of its appeal on the human level.

“We have a generation of drivers that, if they were not wearing their racing overalls, you would simply walk past some of them and not notice,” he said, referring to the general lack of “charisma” compared to the past.

“The ‘formula one system’ is to supervise, monitor, regulate. But we must again have the drivers, not the bureaucrats, in the foreground.

“If we continue like this, no one will be bothered about formula one anymore. It’s five minutes to twelve,” Lauda warned. (GMM)

  • Ross

    Cost reduction, cost saving, fuel saving……these are all problems we live day to day. I want to escape the real world feel the energy, sound and smells of a world that is on its limit and says fuck you. F1 has become too homogonised. I used to love seeing the different aero challenges each team fixed week to week through testing. It used to keep me interested. Also the “safeness” of the components assures me that 20 laps to go to the end of the race, I’m safe to go to bed and not miss anything because I already know the outcome of the race. I used to watch till the chequered flag because you were never sure a car would finish the race till it crossed the line. All too safe now.

  • 92gsr

    TV rights has killed motorsports in the US. When I was a kid ESPN2 was all I needed. As a teenager speedvision had the goods. Now I stream SKYF1 and Motors TV from the UK and set my alarm. I think there are only 4 races on broadcast tv that aren’t ovals.

  • KevinW

    I’d like to see the rules simplified so anyone can watch and understand the action. No moveable aero, inluding DRS flapper gizmo. No floor/diffuser ground effects. No high nose Raise ground clearance to 2 inches loaded. Cut wings to single plane, limited surface area, limited end plate size. Aero to cut drag wide open. Wider rear tires. Open engine spec, including allowance of ERS, but no mandatory components, configuration, etc… but limited total fuel to 6mpg. No mandatory pit stops, open tire manufacturers. Any transmission, no ratio mandates. 5 engines and trans and ERS system components per season. Allowed in season changes by teams, no homologation barriers. Allow track testing, retain current wind tunnel test rules. Not ever going to happen of course but would make for some serious fun again. On the current course of increasing restrictions and layers of fakery, the future is bleak spec racer boredom and more empty seats. IMHO.

  • Le Baron

    I have been a massive F1 fan since the early 1960’s. I even was involved in the business for 6 years. I still watch the races and qualy, but for sure the fact that there are no private tests allowed, the strong team who run a good car from the beginning of the season are pretty sure to keep the lead for the complete championship.
    Concerning the empty grandstands, would you like to pay a tremendous high price for few minutes of show, in free practice the limitation on engines, gear box, tires is so hard, that teams are limiting the runs. If Bernie wish to cancel any run on friday in the next future, that will be even worse.
    The last point are the rules. A skill driver cannot fight and doing great move as we saw not that long ago. The pinnacle was Arnoux and G.Villeneuve but now both would be penalized for dangerous drive; in the early 2000 the fight Montoya vs MSC, even JPM wasn’t helped at all by FIA, and a bit earlier the fights from the best ever Senna with Prost, Mansell were what was the F1.
    Now a driver wins position by pitting before or after an other he wants to pass. Let us do like in the 60’s you start with fuel and tires for the complete race, the show will be very different. the show will be on track, not in the pit lane, therefore crowd around the track will be able to see something and will come back.

  • Mike Harvey

    I have been a massive F1 fan since the early 1950’s and it pains me to say that F1 now is so sterile, political and boring it is unreal. I do watch the qualifying when i can, but am not that bothered about watching the race as at least in quali’ the drivers are trying. The smell and the noise was what first attracted me as a young 10 yr old, boy sadly this has gone. Unfortunately as always the fat cats are getting much fatter and the real supporters of F1 are paying a very high price. How on earth can a young family man now afford to take the kids to a GP with these stupid inflated prices and introduce these youngsters to carry on and support this fantastic sport of ours. Why can’t F1 be like Indy and NASCAR where the paying public can speak to the drivers for autographs, photos etc? Indy and NASCAR manage it very well and not for just the ‘posh’ priveledged few like F1. Unlike F1 the drivers don’t hide in their rediciously expensive motor homes and are there for their paying public. Perhaps it would pay the people who are asking why F1 is not being viewed now on TV and the grandstands are half empty should speak to us the fans and then boy, would we tell them. Rant over!

  • Jamie Huntoon

    No engine noise, sounds like a vacuum cleaner.Too much politics and gimmicks, pay drivers, people that think they are bigger than the sport ie: Lauda and Marko. Tickets cost too much.

  • Voice Man B


  • Greg Wood

    I would watch the qualifying and racing if it were broadcast live. Here in the US, MSNBC has the television rights but by the time they broadcast the race I already know who has taken pole or who has won the race. Instead of running the events at 2,3,4,5,6,7 or 8 AM ( live in the US) they show futbol or tour de France and delay the racing so I find out who has won from some other sports news outlet. The Speed Channel used to run the thing live. Bernie Eccelstone needs to give me the racing live over the internet or force NBCs next contract to run the events live. They have more than one channel available.

  • Gel73

    Who cares anymore? Used to watch F1 and be deeply sad if loose any race in an era when it was the pinacle of motorsport and MEN had to drive their heart & machinery out to the very limit and beyond to best their rivals and gain every point available. F1 currently is just a really strict set of regulations, nothing more, nothing less. How on earth is possible to create a fan base to new viewers when you have nothing to offer? The worst part is than when someone come’s up with a great design the others aren’t allowed to catch up or test… People have no idea about racing..

  • delboy

    I have watch F1 for over 30 years and the last 4 years have been boring i do not even watch any more as there is no racing any more last few years its been Red bull walking it this year Merc. is so far in front they have won everything how can we call it racing there are to many regs. that muck up true racing. If a team builds a good car then they win the lot and the others do not have chance to catch up them they give up and start next years car we want to see real wheel to wheel racing not a couple of car running away in the distance

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