Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery has suggested a wholesale overhaul of the format of a grand prix weekend in a bid to reverse F1’s falling viewing figures.
Formula 1 finds itself in a dire state at present, with declining TV audiences and empty grandstands suggesting a fall in interest in the sport. To compound the problems further, half of the grid find itself in financial difficulties thanks to a skewed distribution of F1’s prize money.
Amid such issues, Hembery feels the sport could attract more attention by preponing qualifying to Friday and adding a sprint race on Saturday.
“I thought qualifying on Friday night was a good idea, so you can actually win something, and the promoters have something to sell,’’ Hembery told the Guardian. “And maybe a sprint race on the Saturday, an extra product, so Saturday fans actually see a result and podium places.”
“It’s not for us to tell people what should change, and how it should change, but change is needed. We’re anxious to understand what’s going to happen in 2017, when we will be looking at a new contract. We’d like to see what the plan is. We are in the entertainment business. Some people get ruffled by that idea, but if we don’t entertain people don’t watch us, and then the sponsors won’t come, and the cycle continues,’’ he added.
The Italian also wants the drivers to be the heros of the sport and emulate their football and Nascar counterparts.
“We have a sport which is very much dominated by technology,’’ he continued. “But I’d like to see the drivers positioned so that they are the kings, the stars who people are following and looking up to.”
He also asked the sport’s decision makers to make Formula 1 more accessible to the fans, by giving example of a speedway event in Las Vegas.
“The garages at the back of the pits had glass windows, so the fans were looking into the garages, and they also had a window which slid open at the back of the garage and the stars were giving autographs. And this was an event that had 100,000 people, so people can’t say more people go to F1.’’