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Dear Bernie…

By Rob Finkelman

Dear Bernie,

They say change is good. And surely change, in and of itself, is always good and certainly inevitable. But what things change INTO isn’t necessarily so.

While I’d be the first to admit that without you, Formula 1 wouldn’t be the global sport that it is today, the results of the orchestrations you and Monsieur Todt have made of late are indeed not good.

So with all due respect to you and your track record of success in the past, I humbly suggest to you and your FIA counterpart that you have become completely absorbed in change for changes’ sake, and have utterly lost sight of what the results of said evolution have been.

Another cliché states that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I’m afraid your Ivory Tower station in life and within the sport have left you in a state of hubris of the highest order. And it is abundantly clear that neither you nor Jean Todt are suffering the consequences. No, to be sure, your bottom line continues to grow exponentially. But at what cost and to whom?

I’m here to tell you that the cost is astronomical, and has struck deep in the hearts of obsessed F1 fans the world over.

So before Formula 1 undergoes a Götterdämmerung of catastrophic proportions, I suggest that you take a moment, pause in your manipulation of the chessboard, and listen to this rabidly passionate F1 fan who speaks for many, many others, and knows infinitely more than you would ever give me credit for.

First and foremost, get this through your head: the new hybrid 1.6L turbo formula is terrible on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. To justify the new formula, you and Mr. Todt have repeatedly proselytized about how F1 must represent the cutting edge of automotive technology and that the age of the internal combustion engine is at the beginning of its end. This is undoubtedly true. You have also stated again and again that to attract manufacturers such as Mercedes and Honda to the sport, it is necessary to implement a change towards cutting-edge engine technology so that these companies can learn and allow that technology to trickle down to their consumer vehicles. This too is indisputably true.

But what you have forgotten in the pursuit of technical excellence and the recruiting of major automotive players is that no F1 fan gives a proverbial can of warm spit about hybrid systems and how complex and cutting edge they are; and it is only the opinion of the F1 fan that truly matters. Without the fans, you will be holding races to empty grandstands and fewer tuned in televisions, which as you are all too aware, means less advertising value, and thus less moolah to line your coffers. The game is, to quote the film The Right Stuff, “No bucks, No Buck Rogers,” but somehow, you have become convinced that the inverse is true. And you are wrong. Very, very wrong.

On the Formula 1 Facebook group I run for fans (Formula 1 Unlimited)  there are weekly discussions not about how fantastic and complicated these hybrid cars are, but how they sound like crap, are far too complicated for the layman to understand, and how the fuel-flow limits compromise the drivers’ ability to go flat-out for the whole race. Which do you really think means more to the fans: how fuel efficient the Mercedes is versus the Ferrari, or who is the mightier warrior, Hamilton or Vettel? I’m afraid I would be disappointed to hear your answer. And not to beat a dead horse, but I have yet to hear one solitary fan say that they like these cars better than the cars of the past. To the contrary, the universal consensus is that folks would prefer an atmo V8 or V10 with their banshee wail, over these raspy vacuum cleaners any day of the week.

Furthermore you and Mr. Todt’s propensity to contradict yourselves when it comes to cost cutting is laughable. On the one hand, you demand that the teams come to agreement amongst themselves to do something to reduce the astronomical dollar figures inherent to the sport. And then what do you do? You force the idea of this formula down their throats, which has increased the cost of the sport to the point that one team has collapsed under the financial weight of it, another has gone through administration because of it, and at least two more are teetering on the brink. Here is a case of “Too many bucks, No Buck Rogers.” Absolutely foolish of you.

Do you really want to decrease costs, enhance fan interest, and satiate your desire for constant change at the same time? Try this on for size: Simpler engines yielding higher horsepower, wider tires and suspension width to increase the cars’ mechanical grip, and a massive reduction in wind tunnel time to reduce the emphasis on aerodynamics. Gee, powerful, loud cars that handle well and can actually pass one another due to the lack of dirty aerodynamic wake? What a novelty. Aw, but what does this fan know…

Secondly, in your pursuit of dollars from emerging markets such as Russia and the Middle East, you have literally trampled on the historic core market of Formula 1: Europe. How dare you let races at vaunted F1 venues like France and Germany fall by the wayside to make you more money. Legendary tracks such as the Nurburgring, Hockenheim, Paul Ricard, Jerez and others no longer host races, because it is more lucrative for you to see the vacuum cleaners go round and round at boring, featureless tracks such as Sochi, and Abu Dhabi. F1 fans are universally outraged by this, Bern. We don’t care about going to new tracks every annum. Give us the tracks we know and love year after year and we’ll show you our happiness by watching those races in person and on TV. Oh, and if you dump Monza from the schedule as you have recently threatened to do, you will have a multi-million dollar contract put on your head from the Tifosi Mafia overnight. Mess with that at your peril.

And thirdly, we come to your recent statement that attracting young viewers doesn’t matter to you, a statement which instantly convinced me that you were either going senile or were on a massive LSD bender that day. I’m not sure which one was the root cause, but I can assure you that this is the stupidest thing you have ever said, and contradicts all of the positive changes you have made to the sport since the 1970s to make it a world-wide draw. Without new and especially YOUNG, new viewers, F1 dies. Plain and simple.

Take a look at how the Hollywood Studios have managed to survive in a world of dwindling attention spans and a reluctance by people to leave their abodes to be entertained when they have the technology they need at home. They have done this by catering specifically to the youth market, Bern-o! Instead of making adult films like The Deer Hunter or Taxi Driver, they now make sequel after sequel of superhero films, animated features, and remakes of beloved TV shows. Why, you ask? Because it’s the youth demographic that goes out and buys tickets, DVDs and Blu-Rays, and movie based action figures and models. Oh, and there’s also a little phenomenon known as getting an additional ticket sale out of a parent who must take their youngster to see these films. Pretty smart, huh?

Now let’s see, would this kind of marketing work for F1? Me thinks so. I became obsessed with F1 at the age of 9 when my PARENTS took me to Watkins Glen to see the 1979 United States Grand Prix. And after seeing Gilles Villenueve win in the rain, in a powerful, loud Ferrari that handled well and could actually pass due to the lack of dirty aerodynamic wake, I began to ask my dad to take me to more races, and buy me Gilles Villenuve Ferrari models, and buy me books and videos too. And guess what? I still buy all of those things myself as a 45 year old, and will be attending two races this year. With my wife. Who I’ve turned into an F1 fan. And remember that whole additional ticket sale thing? Yeah, when I have kids, I’ll be sharing my enthusiasm with them. That’s how this whole thing works. It begins with capturing the imagination of the youth.

So get with the times, Bernie. The F1 website is terrible. There are dozens of independent F1 based sites that provide more and better content. Why bother? Because that’s what the kids are doing these days. When they are interested in something, they turn to the Internet to find out more about it, okay? And while you’re at it, kick-start the pathetic F1 Twitter and Facebook presences too.

And what other changes could you make that would have positive results? Please do away with this myriad of rules and regulations that dictate everything the teams and drivers can and cannot do? A driver can’t change the colors of his helmet mid-season? Really? Um… Why? And if you want something to regulate, like low noses to make the cars safe, don’t leave the rules nebulous, resulting in phallus noses and the like. Pretty cars are very important to us fans. Make the rules unambiguous on things like that, old boy.

And for all of our sakes, Bernie, do it fast.


An Obsessed F1 Fan

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Writer Info about Rob Finkelman

Rob describes himself as a ''rabid Formula 1 fan''. He resides in Malibu, California. He is an experienced writer who has had his work published on many websites and publications. Rob is also the owner and main administrator of 'Formula 1 Unlimited' on Facebook. Join the group by clicking the website icon below.

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