F1 should not become a 'beta test', says Wolff

Formula 1 must not rush into ‘beta test’ experiments with all-new rules in a bid to drive up audiences, claims Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff.

F1 should not become a 'beta test', says Wolff
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations; Chase Carey, Chairman and CEO of Formula 1; Ross Brawn, Managing Director, Motor Sports
Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director in the FIA Press Conference
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads team mate Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads at the start of the race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Bernie Ecclestone
Chase Carey, Formula One Group Chairman with Bernie Ecclestone and Christian Horner,  Red Bull Racing Team Principal
Herbie Blash, FIA Delegate with Bernie Ecclestone
Listen to this article

As Liberty Media begins its revamp of F1 following its takeover of the business and ousting of Bernie Ecclestone, Wolff has urged caution in making snap changes to improve the spectacle.

Instead, he believes that any moves to shake up the show need to be well-considered, and must not alienate the core audience that has kept F1’s popularity up.

“I think we need to acknowledge that Formula 1 is a technical sport, so it will always polarise,” Wolff said in an interview published on the Mercedes F1 website on Thursday.

“There are people who will say that they hate it and others will say that they love it. That is okay.

"But one thing is for sure – we shouldn’t make it a beta test.

“We shouldn’t mess with our loyal fans and our audiences by implementing rules and regulations that we haven’t assessed properly.

"We should use data in a scientific approach and see what works in other sports and other entertainment platforms, then combine that with the great strengths and assets of Formula 1.”

Wolff’s views appear to be in-line with those of Ross Brawn, the F1 managing director who has been tasked with improving the sporting aspects of grand prix racing.

Brawn wants a full and proper analysis of F1's strengths and weaknesses, which is set to include consultation with fans and working groups to evaluate the rules, before pushing through changes.

Not broken

Wolff also thinks it wrong to suggest that F1 as a sport is completely broken – because despite areas where the sport can improve, it still generates big audiences and has a loyal followings.

“Considering that we as a team have been doing pretty well during the last seasons, audiences have developed in a very positive way,” he said.

“The last couple of races we had record-breaking audiences in some markets in terms of TV spectators. There has been a lot of talk about F1 not doing well. Actually, we have been doing pretty well considering that the market has changed tremendously.

“I doubt that younger generations switch on a traditional TV at two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. They expect to watch it on a mobile device or via social media. Nevertheless, our audiences are pretty strong.

“We mustn’t talk the sport down, as it is not broken. There are ways to optimise it and there are areas which are blind spots in which we haven’t done a lot of work – for example the digital environment and social media. But we need to understand them.”

Social media issue

Liberty has targeted better use of social media and digital platforms as one of the key areas for growth in the next few years – but Wolff thinks the situation is quite complicated.

Ecclestone himself was long sceptical about how F1 could make good revenue from digital platforms, and Wolff agrees that it would make no sense for the sport to make all is assets available free of charge online.

“Social media is very important as a marketing tool to involve our audiences – both current fans and future fans,” he said. “But we have loyal partners in the TV stations that have been broadcasting our sport for a long time and have helped contribute to the team’s revenues.

“You can’t offer it for free in the digital world. You can see it as a marketing tool but not as the silver bullet that will solve all the problems.”

He added: “The Ecclestone era ending is a pretty big thing. I’m very curious and optimistic as to what the future holds.

"But one thing is for sure – the wheels turn very fast and yesterday’s news doesn’t interest anybody any more.

“We need to embrace the future and we shouldn’t be too nostalgic about the past. This sport has a huge opportunity for growing bigger and bigger and we could all benefit from this. We need to push in that direction.”

shares
comments
Liberty chief lays out four-point plan to lift F1
Previous article

Liberty chief lays out four-point plan to lift F1

Next article

Renault F1 team confirms switch to BP/Castrol

Renault F1 team confirms switch to BP/Castrol
Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss Prime

Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss

OPINION: Fred Vasseur has spent only a few weeks as team principal for the Ferrari Formula 1 team, but is already intent on taking the Scuderia back to the very top. And despite it being arguably the most demanding job in motorsport, the Frenchman is relishing the challenge

Formula 1
Jan 27, 2023
The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023 Prime

The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023

Changes to the regulations for season two of Formula 1's ground-effects era aim to smooth out last year’s troubles and shut down loopholes. But what areas have been targeted, and what impact will this have?

Formula 1
Jan 26, 2023
Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history? Prime

Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history?

Who are the quickest drivers in Formula 1 history? Luke Smith asked a jury of experienced and international panel of experts and F1 insiders. Some of them have worked closely with F1’s fastest-ever drivers – so who better to vote on our all-time top 50? We’re talking all-out speed here rather than size of trophy cabinet, so the results may surprise you…

Formula 1
Jan 25, 2023
One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1 Prime

One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1

OPINION: During what is traditionally a very quiet time of year in the Formula 1 news cycle, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been generating headlines. He’s been commenting on massive topics in a championship that loves them, but also addressing necessary smaller changes too. Here we suggest a further refinement that would be a big boon to fans

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
How can McLaren keep hold of Norris? Prime

How can McLaren keep hold of Norris?

Lando Norris is no longer the young cheeky-chappy at McLaren; he’s now the established ace. And F1's big guns will come calling if the team can’t give him a competitive car. Here's what the team needs to do to retain its prize asset

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make? Prime

What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make?

While a quick pitstop can make all the difference to the outcome of a Formula 1 race, most team managers say consistency is more important than pure speed. MATT KEW analyses the fastest pitstops from last season to see which ones – if any – made a genuine impact

Formula 1
Jan 23, 2023
When F1 'holiday' races kept drivers busy through the winter Prime

When F1 'holiday' races kept drivers busy through the winter

Modern Formula 1 fans have grown accustomed to a lull in racing during winter in the northern hemisphere. But, as MAURICE HAMILTON explains, there was a time when teams headed south of the equator rather than bunkering down in the factory. And why not? There was fun to be had, money to be made and reputations to forge…

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2023
What Porsche social media frenzy says about F1’s manufacturer allure Prime

What Porsche social media frenzy says about F1’s manufacturer allure

Porsche whipped up a frenzy thanks to a cryptic social media post last week, and though it turned out to be a false alarm, it also highlighted more just why manufacturers remain such an important element in terms of the attraction that they bring to F1. It is little wonder that several other manufacturers are bidding for a slice of the action.

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2023