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Mosley on Europe

Most of the F1 news services have decided to focus on Max Mosley’s statements on the future of F1 racing in Europe and the drive from the manufacturers to have races in new markets. Ignoring (for the moment) the clear admission that it is marketing that decides where F1 will race now, it is worth taking a closer look at the blithe assumption made in Mosley’s reasoning here.

Nick

Nick Heidfeld (relevance will become clear)

Magnificent Max tells us that it’s unfair for Europe to have so many races and the rest of the world so few. He wants balance, it seems. In 2007, there will be nine races in Europe (counting the Turkish race as in Europe although, strictly speaking, it isn’t) and eight in the rest of the world – just over 50% are European therefore. That seems disproportionate unless we take the audience (that’s you and me) into account.

The FIA survey of the F1 fanbase for 2006 returned these figures for completed survey forms:

Europe 63% (59%)
North America 16% (16%)
Asia 8% (9%)
Oceania 5% (5%)
Africa 2% (5%)
South America 2% (3%)

The figures in brackets refer to the 2005 survey – and it seems that support for F1 has actually increased in Europe. Judging from these returns, it looks as though the calendar reflects the F1 audience pretty fairly. The sole anomaly is Africa which has no race at present – but that’s fine, I’ll support any move for a return to the South African Grand Prix (who remembers Kyalami?).

Surveys are not the most accurate way of assessing numbers (there are matters of language and opportunity to be taken into account) but they give us an approximate idea of the numbers watching F1 at least. And, on this evidence, it appears that F1 has got it just about right.

So it is marketing that enforces this determination to take races from Europe and put them in growing markets elsewhere. But even that looks dubious in view of the survey. The continent that has gained most new races over the last few years is Asia. This would make apparent sense when we consider the vast markets that are China and India and the Japanese passion for any form of motor sport. Yet there is an actual decrease in interest (from 9% in 2005 to 5% in 2006) in Asia according to the survey.

I would suggest that the marketing boys do a little more research before committing F1 to the continuing departure from Europe. There are more factors involved in this than sheer size of markets. Relevance counts and F1 is almost completely irrelevant to the lives of those teeming millions in Asia. In time, it may happen that the continent builds a genuine F1 fanbase but it doesn’t look as if it’s happening right now.

Like it or not, F1 is a sport that depends upon a mature economy such as Europe’s and America’s (and Australia and South Africa – I haven’t forgotten you). In countries where the vast majority are only just beginning to see beyond the possibility of a bicycle, F1 is profoundly inappropriate.

Marketing can only be effective when the product is aimed at those who can actually buy it; otherwise it is merely an insult. And it really is time that the manufacturers involved in F1 faced the fact that the market for high performance cars in developing countries will remain tiny for a long time yet. When the market is there, that is the moment to use F1 to sell your product.

Max is right when he suggests that the calendar might have to extend to twenty races, however. The more, the merrier, say the fans. And, from Nick Heidfeld’s statement that he is ready to start the new season now, the drivers would agree too.

But wait a minute – wasn’t it Heidfeld’s motivation that I wrote an article about recently? Oh dear, that looks like it could be more evidence that Nick wasn’t really extending himself in 2006 – he seems to have recovered very quickly from what should have been an exhausting season…

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