News and views on motorsports

Saturday, December 10, 2005


More than one publication and Formula 1 website has mentioned NASCAR as a series from which Formula 1 should learn and emulate. For a site thats on the face of it, dedicated to Grand Prix racing, is absolutely in love with NASCAR. Do a search on their website for the keyword NASCAR and there's absolutely tons of articles written about or mentions them good old boys. GrandPrix's latest article on NASCAR can be found here. Am I missing something about GrandPrix?

What a lot of people seem to want is for Formula 1 to expand and gain a greater foothold in America. NASCAR seems to be doing the business over there and some people seem to think that Formula 1 should emulate some of its good points. With all due respect to NASCAR and its fans but to hell with that. Formula 1 doesn't need to be like NASCAR. Its a little too World Wrestling Federation for my taste. All that fiddling with the regulations to make the racing close is a little too artificial in my book. Its the same thing I have against the current WTCC rules with all that complicated weight penalty regulations. NASCAR goes beyond that to make things equal.

I've always voiced out that Formula 1 fans deserve to be treated with respect. And the FIA should be listening to folks like us. But somehow all the rah rah of NASCAR seems like overkill. Its all business of course and NASCAR's antics does the trick of attracting massive crowds. The constant fan pampering works. It brings them and their cash in and with it comes massive sponsorship from corporations that can't seem to get enough of bombarding consumers with their branding and "messages." And all that thanking of the sponsors from the race winner. Oh for f**k's sake.

Formula 1 should remain a "pure" sport. To make things more competitive, simply lay down a good set of rules and bloody well stick with it. NASCAR seems to have rule stability but they like to tweak the penalties on a race by race basis to make it fair. The FIA by contrast does not normally tweak rules over a season but insists on changing the rules year on year. Unless of course they're trying to help Ferrari as they did in 2003, carefully "reinterpreting" the rules to shove the advantage back to Maranello.

Of course, the FIA's way costs the teams a helluva lot more cash. If the rules were stable, the smaller teams would be able to catch the major players within a few years. The big boys would be so close to each other, we'd see more of Suzuka style action. They way its going right now, you seriously doubt whether Mad Max really has cost cutting in his mind.

Going back to Formula 1. What Bernie, the teams, manufacturers and the media want of course is for Formula 1 to break into the largest free market economy in the world. Bernie wants more TV revenues. The teams want the massive advertising sponsorship of America's corporations. The media want to sell more magazines and get more Google ad revenues from visitors from the states. The media likes to use the word greedy to describe Formula 1. Guess what? They're all part of the same conspiracy.

Let NASCAR be that and Formula 1 be itself. The difference is culture. The rest of the world has as much understanding of NASCAR as a drawlin Southerner has of Formula 1. Which is pretty much bugger all. So just pick which one you'd rather watch and leave it at that. For I hope that Formula 1 does not dilute itself to capture a market that for 10 years couldn't give a two fingered salute about it. After all, there are plenty of Formula 1 fans worldwide who'd never give up watching it. Keep em loyal to you Bernie. Stop trying too hard chase new ones.

NASCAR does however remain an object lesson to domestic series the world over on how to run a championship. Take Malaysia for example. Now just because Sepang holds the title Sepang F1 circuit doesn't mean it can afford to be aloof and arrogant. Formula 1 is a class of its own that has no equal in the world outside America. Its attraction is the drivers and teams that are simply at the pinnacle of the sport. Fans will come automagically.

Its different with domestic racing series. You have to work hard to please the fans. And be in no doubt that these fans need pleasing. For otherwise they couldn't care less about your precious series with its "gentlemen" drivers that collectively have less wheel ability than Alonso's toenails. And without them, the championship quickly loses the chance to bring in ever greater commercial sponsorship in order for the domestic series to survive and thrive. Without that growth, you can't attract new drivers into the sport. Bloody hell, you'd even lose the old hands. And that ladies and gentlemen means the end of the series.

I mean, just look at the Malaysian Super Series and the MME crowd attendances. Pathetic. The racing establishment ought to spend more time improving the spectacle for the people in the grandstands not puckering their lips to kiss the arse of politicians and businessmen or cutting some billboard deal.

The racing establishment in Malaysia should look to the example set by NASCAR. Lets face it. No championship created here will ever be the next Formula 1. But by looking at NASCAR's example, perhaps a racing industry can thrive in Malaysia, once again. For that to happen, the cash needs to flow in. It starts with the fans. Wake up for god's sake.

No comments: