HEADING FOR DISASTER? If Formula 1 doesn't find a way to race into the digital age, experts believe, the sport could be doomed. Image: AFP / Philippe Desmazes
LONDON, England - A debate is raging among F1 insiders about whether the pinnacle of motor sport is being left behind in the Internet Age.
It's emerged not only that 37 was the average age of those who responded to a Grand Prix Drivers' Association fan survey but also that "more than half" didn't even watch the races live on TV.
Daily Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson reported that "45% now watch races online" and that that should be "a worthwhile pointer to Bernie Ecclestone, who is not a fan of social media".
'NO NEW FANS'
Alex Wurz, drivers' association president, agreed that the sport's apparent inability to race into the 21st century was a concern. He told the BBC: "It's interesting that we have people who followed F1 for the first time in the 2000's... and that they hark back to that era as the best.
"There are no new fans to counterbalance their views."
He said that could be because Ecclestone had stood firm with his trusted approach of keeping F1 utterly exclusive, even more so in recent times as pay-TV deals diminished the audience but revved-up revenues. Not only had free-to-air audiences shrunk but F1 on free video services such as YouTube was also severely reduced to the young and savvy 'internet generation'.
However Mercedes' team boss Toto Wolff told Forbes' business journalist Christian Sylt: "Locking down the footage was absolutely the right thing to do. It kept the value of the content high. People blame Bernie (Ecclestone) for not moving into social media - I don't blame him at all because he can't monetise it."
'GIVE IT FOR NOTHING'
Damon Hill, 1996 F1 champion, was worried that one of F1's biggest problems was the next generation being locked out of the sport altogether.
"Amazon and Google originally didn't have any revenue stream because they were giving everything away for nothing," Hill told the Britain's Daily Express. "That's the model I think F1 could adopt.
"Since the internet began the message it's giving us is that you give a lot for very little and so build a much greater base of the pyramid to draw people in. Then (F1 could) have half the people on the planet able to get it and that might just turn them into people who will subscribe to the Sky platform or whatever."Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 British GP this weekend.