The FIA has published the full results of its survey of F1 fans during 2006. It makes interesting reading and is certainly worth a look, if you have the time. Otherwise, F1 Racing-live has a summary of the more important points issuing from the survey.
Perhaps the most notable fact emerging from an overall view of the results is that F1 has enormous numbers of dedicated and knowledgable fans. The sport has succeeded in capturing a huge following and the fans understand the complexities of F1 to a considerable depth. As I have said before, this is inevitable where any appreciation of a sport is dependent on a knowledge of the technical, historical and political aspects. Those who cannot or will not expend the time to learn the complexities never become fans.
Because F1 is so dependent upon revenue from its media outlets, especially television, the opinion of the fans assumes great importance and it is good that the FIA conducts surveys of this kind (and takes note of the results). In general, the survey has confirmed that the fans approve of the changes made this season, particularly as regards qualifying. The FIA can congratulate itself on getting this right.
Like all surveys, however, much depends upon what questions are asked. Just as an example, it is fine to note that the improvements to qualifying are applauded but no questions are asked about what made qualifying so awful in the past. That might raise memories of bad decisions made by the FIA that have only now been rectified.
Any organization needs to learn from its mistakes and the FIA is no exception. If the fans are crying out for more overtaking and changes to the circuits (which they are), the FIA should remember that many of the problems in these areas have been caused by its introduction of changes and regulations without considering the effect they would have on the racing. There are better ways of making circuits safe than introducing chicanes into every straight, for instance.
So I am hoping that in the future the FIA will think carefully about how changes made in one area create unexpected effects in another. It’s a complicated business and the rulemakers have a very difficult job to do; but they knew that before they took it on. We have a right to complain when bad decisions are made.
There was one revealing question about the FIA’s own role that has been tucked away where it might escape notice. In the section asking “How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements about F1?”, right down at the bottom is the option “Is well managed”. Oh dear; it seems that only 37% of the fans agree that it is and nearly as many feel strongly that it is not.
To me, that looks like the FIA needs to work on its image. And they could start by not making rule changes and dubious decisions in the middle of the season. No-one appreciates having the goal posts moved while they are playing; the time for tinkering with the rules is after the season has ended.