What fans think of Formula 1

2015-07-15 06:00

THE Grand Prix Drivers’ Association has conducted a survey to find out what the fans think about Formula 1.

More than 215 000 fans from 194 countries took part in the survey, which ran from May 22 to June 8.

The top five represented countries listed are the UK, France, USA, Austria and Germany. The prominence of France and Germany is significant if you consider that neither of these countries currently forms part of the Formula 1 calendar. It is noteworthy too that the US fans feature high up the list as Formula 1 has invested a great deal in growing its brand there. The Netherlands, Australia, Japan, Italy and Brazil comprised the rest of the top 10 countries.

The demographics of Formula 1 reveal that the average age of F1 fans is between 25 and 44, with their support spanning an average of 10 years. Of these fans only one in five has attended a Grand Prix in the last 12 months. The survey revealed that the biggest motivating factors are good vantage points, pit lane walkabouts and paddock tours.

There is an age-old question that all Formula 1 are inevitably asked – Whom do you support? A third of the fans participating in this survey said they supported more than one team and driver with less than 10% only following one team. It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Ferrari ranked as the favourite team, with McLaren and Williams in second and third respectively. After all, they are the teams that started Formula 1 - the teams that embody the history of the sport.

When asked about favourite drivers, Kimi Raikkonen came out on top, with Fernando Alonso second and Jenson Button third. Much of Raikkonen’s appeal surely centres on his genuine personality. He tells it like it is, no matter what, and that is something which is appreciated. The infamous quotes and ice-cool demeanour help too.

Fernando Alonso is regarded by many as the best all-round driver on the grid and seems like a fairly approachable lad. What’s more, Alonso has always understood the importance of his fans; a perfect instance of this was during the 2008 street race around Valencia. Then a Renault driver, Alonso sustained damage in a collision, returned to the pits and urged his team to get him back out on the track despite being a few laps down. Kudos Fernando.

Jenson Button embodies much of the fighting, never-give-up spirit that most adore about Formula 1 drivers. Several years of struggle at BAR and Honda didn’t dull JB’s love and enthusiasm for the sport. There couldn’t have been many who would’ve begrudged Jenson Button his championship- winning 2009 season. Similarly, there was a real feeling of sorrow among fans at the thought of Button’s career coming to an end one year ago.

Sure, you can be a neutral, but there is always one driver/team that makes your racing heart pump a little faster.

In terms of how fans get their F1 fix, Twitter was named as the most popular social media platform for following the sport. There must be some irony hidden in here about Bernie Eccelstone’s reluctance to embrace social media as a necessity but we won’t look too hard for it. Of all the drivers on Twitter, Jenson Button is the most-followed driver.

Instead, we will focus on the fact that the survey further revealed that F1 websites are listed as the number-one source for fan information, beating television by a five percent margin. Yet, 90% of the viewing audience still prefer to watch their favourite sport on TV as opposed to 45% who watch it online.

The saddest statistic is that since its move to pay television, 50% of those polled can no longer watch the races live.

Formula 1 on its best day is the most magnificent thing in the world and in a perfect world everyone should be able to share in that bit of magic.

In South Africa too it is an unfortunate reality that there is no access to the sport without forking out the cash. It is my great hope that this column offers you a piece of that magic

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