The Ridiculous Price of F1 Tickets

Formula 1 tickets are too expensive. There is nothing new in this, it has been the case for a while. That said, I’d blithely assumed they’d remained fairly static in recent years. It seems I might be wrong.

I buy my WEC tickets via Silverstone’s website so I receive emails from them. This week’s email says they are ‘offering’ the chance of a 0% interest loan, payable in 9 monthly instalments, to cover the cost of two weekend grandstand tickets for the 2015 British Grand Prix. Details here.

That cost? £755. Or to put it another way, for anyone reading in the US, that’s $1215.

Utter lunacy.

You shouldn’t need a loan to buy tickets! They should be a tenth of the price.

The parking pass alone makes up £65 of this. I didn’t know they charged for parking. As far as I am aware they don’t at any other race meeting.

Don’t misunderstand my point here. This isn’t an attack on Silverstone or the BRDC. None of this is the fault of Silverstone, nor any of the other circuits charging extortionate prices. They themselves have been charged eye-watering amounts for the privilege of hosting a Formula 1 race and the only way they can recoup this cost is through ticket sales; their other avenues of revenue – trackside signage, paddock hospitality, TV rights – having long since been redirected towards the F1 empire rather than the host circuit.

Honestly if they had chosen not to renew the British GP I wouldn’t have blamed them, the business model is crazy. They believe, perhaps rightly, that it is unthinkable to not have a British GP at all. And the only option is Silverstone, no other viable option exists without a serious upgrade (ask Donington Park how that went). So the BRDC are stuck in a bind; either lose the prestige of hosting this big halo event promoting and supporting the vast motorsport industry in this country, or keep it and force people to pay ridiculous prices to go and watch.

Somehow, Silverstone still managed to host a full crowd this year. This is more than can be said for Hockenheim, the Hungaroring, and even Monza. Throughout the F1 calendar fan attendances are declining almost across the board.

For a lot of GPs it doesn’t matter, the crowd is an afterthought, just as long as the rich countries in the Middle East and elsewhere continue to stump up their even-larger race hosting fees it doesn’t matter that nobody goes to Abu Dhabi, or that white elephant tracks are springing up in places like Korea and India only to be abandoned when the locals realise they are getting screwed.

The people to blame are the people running F1, the investment group which owns the F1 group who are maximising profit by selling races at ever-increasing fees and selling TV rights to broadcasters that charge people a fortune to watch the races (that’s a post for another day).

Surely the aim must be to make a Grand Prix the place to be. To fill the place with people who look like they want to be there. Silverstone, Melbourne, Montreal and Austin do this well.. at the moment. Price the seats to the market, fill the place, make it look like somewhere sponsors want to be seen. Keep the costs high for either the tickets or the TV package and fans might change their minds, the stands may empty, the sponsors might wonder why they are being invoiced so much for so little an audience.

It is a terrible thing for the world’s biggest and most popular racing series to race in front of empty grandstands. It is even worse to deliberately keep willing people from attending because they can’t afford to go, or under some pretence of ‘exclusivity’.

Anyway, I’ve only ever been to two Grands Prix and neither were at Silverstone. If I’m paying £400 I might as well travel, see other countries, it is more easily justified that way rather than paying £400 to see an airfield outside Northampton.

And I say that as someone who quite likes Silverstone. I go there every year for the WEC and the odd other things and plan to do so for a long time to come.

Spa-Francorchamps – A Fans Perspective

This is a tremendous short video by Will Hussey from this year’s Belgian GP at the fantastic Spa-Francorchamps.

This video captures the crowd, the atmosphere, the feel of the event just perfectly. I attended in 2010 and it was just like this except then it rained heavily, constantly. The only other things missing here are the waffles, the frites et mayo, and the selection of local beers in town. I think it is time to go back.

Author:  Will Hussey @racinghumour

Found via: Will Buxton

Predictions For F1 In 2014

Everything changes in 2014, yet some things stay the same. I always say the teams split into groups, they always have. Occasionally teams move from one group to another and wholesale rule changes usually provide that opportunity.

My groups?  Championship Contenders, Upper Midfield, Lower Midfield, Slowcoaches.

Those Rule Changes

1.6 litre turbos with 100kg of fuel and a big step up in energy recovery systems – the new ERS is 10x more powerful than the old KERS – as well as harder tyres, bigger DRS flaps, and personalised car numbers. Throw in a load of new drivers and a lack of testing and this year looks to be the most exciting in years, especially the early races!

Here are a couple of great videos explaining the new rules. Red Bull’s is brilliant as ever, and good to see F1.com stepping up this year.

Red Bull Motors: http://www.redbull.com/uk/en/motorsports/f1/stories/1331638258301/new-f1-rules

F1.com: http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2014/3/15539.html

After seeing some practice and qualifying at Albert Park it is clear the new cars are much harder to control. This is brilliant! The drivers are really having to work hard. We could see drivers making errors and losing positions, even retiring, because they lose control. This adds to the uncertainty – no longer can we assume a car ahead of another will just stay there.

Here are my predictions for 2014:

Championship Contenders

Mercedes and McLaren will steal a march in the first few races. Ferrari and Red Bull, and maybe Lotus, won’t be far off but some won’t get their heads around finishing races until Barcelona. Interestingly, this year unlike so many in the past, there is no testing data at all for these cars at Barcelona – all the testing was done at Jerez and Bahrain.

In the summer, maybe before the summer break or maybe after, we will see the order shaken up. I see Red Bull having sorted their problems long before then and putting in a charge in the many, many races after August to cut down Mercedes’ lead. I still can’t get my head around that from September 1st there are still 8 races to go, which changes everything compared to what we were used to a few short years ago when it marked the end of the final 1/3rd of the season.

Drivers and Constructors titles will be between Mercedes AMG and Red Bull. Ferrari drivers will take points off each other and that will be the only reason they aren’t in contention but Ferrari could compete for the Constructors’. After summer I expect McLaren to slip back as they turn their attention to Honda 2015.

Upper Midfield

Lotus and Force India will be rejoined by a resurgent Williams, who’ll score several podiums. In theory Lotus shouldn’t even be in this group but their testing was woeful, and they skipped the first test entirely. If they can sort out their car by mid-year they’ll score enough in the latter half to make up any deficit they’ll lose now. Really though I wouldn’t put it past Williams to top this group, that’s how much they’ve improved. They’ll certainly score the points in the early part of the year. The continuing saga of Force India’s money will roll on and on.

Lower Midfield

Sauber and Toro Rosso could be joined by Marussia who look to have a promising car (unless they were running low fuel all winter to attract sponsors, in which case they’ll be Slowcoaches again). I see Marussia scoring a few points here and there especially if the car lasts to the end and others don’t. Mind you, after the first practices in Albert Park it seems they’ve dropped to plum last again – so who knows. The only way Sauber & STR will get out of this group, at least in the points standings if not the timesheets, is if they are reliable and faster cars are not.

Slowcoaches

In testing Caterham didn’t seem to have caught the others at all, which is a shame. But still they could score a point or two with the odd 10th place if their car can finish and others do not. They suffered terrible luck in testing, except in the final test – will that be enough? It’s possible Marussia and STR will drop to the back here.

Reliability

I think instead of pushing it and having cars not finish races we will see teams turn the settings down and have the drivers cruise. They did that early in the season, especially Melbourne, when the switch from V10s to V8s happened, I expect Melbourne this year to be the same. So instead of cars dropping out they’ll slow down. Prepared teams will still take advantage and take the points. By the time we get to Silverstone it won’t be so much of an issue.

Predictions

Champion Driver:  Lewis Hamilton
Champion Constructor:  Mercedes AMG
Most Wins:  Lewis Hamilton

Thoughts on F1: 2013 Australian Grand Prix

F1 is back! I’m so glad the waiting is over. Apparently not glad enough – I slept through the first 15 minutes as I’m an idiot who can’t abandon a race in progress, I’d started following Sebring so I couldn’t stop, I had to see the end! At 2.45am. Not ideal when F1 started at 6am. I really did intend to watch F1 after a short sleep then go back to bed afterwards, but it didn’t happen.

Never mind. I watched the extended highlights instead. The name ‘highlights’ does it a disservice, there wasn’t much cut out of the Sky show I watched and even less from the BBC show I watched just minutes ago before writing this post. I do think the BBC version was superior in every way, but Sky’s show only had half the time to prepare it as it went out at 11am rather than the BBC’s 2pm. We have an interesting choice between speed and quality, and I do like competitive choice.

Was the race any good?

It wasn’t a classic race but it wasn’t boring by any stretch. It was interesting, in the same way I said Sebring was interesting – for racing geeks like us there was enough to think about. For casual fans it might’ve been easy to think it was just cars going around, but for the rest of us, if you followed what was going on it was a very interesting race. Races can be very interesting without being nail-biting and this was one of them.

There was passing too, in the early phase of the race, through the midfield during the race, and not only on the victims of the current supplier’s tyre degradation.

When Vettel and the pair of Ferraris scampered away into the lead I thought the race was already over. Oh, ye of little faith. Within a few laps, the Lotus of Kimi Räikkönen closed in on them. It turns out at this track in these conditions the Red Bull wasn’t a match for the Ferrari on tyre degradation and both were outclassed by the Lotus, specifically that Lotus because the other one wasn’t anywhere to be found. I was so pleased Kimi started reeling them in because then I knew we’d have a decent race.

Felipe Massa had a great day. If he is able to carry this on in to the next races, suddenly we might have two Ferraris in contention for regular podium finishes if not wins and that’ll transform the Constructors’ battle too.

Adrian Sutil was the other man I was very impressed with, I’d never rated him highly and I’ve been proven wrong. To take a year out and then not only put in a solid drive but also race hard, fair and professionally with those around him – a good drive slightly ruined by the red supersofts suffering higher degradation than the team expected on a rubbered-in track at the end of the race.

Finally a word for Jules Bianchi, the man I thought should’ve been in that Force India seat was easily the class of the ‘young teams’.

Early Form

Sam Collins of Racecar Engineering mentioned in the RLM F1 preview that he was very impressed with the Lotus and they’d not only win races but the Championship, too. I scoffed at such ideas and I still think a title, either title, is a long shot. I’m not scoffing any more at the thought of multiple race wins – sure I thought one or two, but now.. unless RBR and Ferrari get a handle on tyres Lotus could bag a few more at the other street-based venues. We must wait to see the form on a permanent race track.

The McLaren seems to be a dog of a car, for a McLaren. I’m astonished they turned out a car this bad. Early indications are that the Mercedes is pretty good relative to last year and Hamilton seems very comfortable with his new team – I bet that’s aided by seeing his old one struggling so suddenly.
The Force India is looking promising as well, they just need to sort out the tyre strategy. Sauber seemed to be nowhere but we only have one car to guide us after Hülkenberg’s DNS, all we can say is Gutierrez received practically no TV attention at all. Toro Rosso seem to have a strange car, Ricciardo was dreadfully slow early on but then he and Vergne both set Fastest Lap later on, again we’ll have to see how it behaves on a more normal track. Williams really are in the deep doo-doo.

We have to be careful, though. This was only one race and Albert Park is a famously unreliable barometer of performance. This weekend is the vastly different challenge of the Sepang circuit, a very fast, wide, flowing circuit in the damp heat of Malaysia with the potential (certainty?) of wet weather in late afternoon, when the F1 sessions will be running.
Even at Sepang we may not get a true picture, it’ll be clearer than now but we’ll have to wait until China for a true picture, perhaps not until Bahrain, then when the teams get to Europe there are usually a host of upgrades in time for Spain and Monaco before the real order is established.

Next Up

The Malaysian GP at Sepang is this weekend. Don’t forget the opening round of IndyCar also this weekend.

2013 F1 Preview

The 2013 F1 season starts just hours away with the Australian GP. Before the race starts (and before the resumption of the interrupted qualifying session), here are a few thoughts about the upcoming season.

As well as reading this, do listen to the Sidepodcast Season Preview Megamix. I joined several other listeners in submitting voicemails/recordings with predictions for the season ahead!

The new tech regs come in next season and that means 2013′s cars are much like 2012′s cars. Therefore I don’t see a big change in performance compared to last year. There might be a team that assigned more of a priority to this season than another team. Obviously there will be differences as there are from year to year anyway, it isn’t like they are carrying over the same car (in most cases) so there is scope for a bit of a shuffling.

Up Front

I think the Championship will ultimately settle down to another contest between Vettel and Alonso. The Ferrari seems better sorted so far this year than it was a year ago. Alonso is my tip for the Championship.

Among the teams, I am convinced Red Bull will again win the Constructor’s title, Seb will undoubtedly score bundles of points but the difference will come from the other seat. Webber vs Perez vs Massa should result in Webber winning that little battle but it obviously depends on what mood they are in (especially Massa) and the performance of the cars.

I thought Button should be up there but after his complaints from Friday practice that may not turn out to be the case. Perhaps they are just ‘managing expectations’. In any event, even if they are back a bit, McLaren are the best team at developing from a poor situation and by the midseason they should be scoring podium finishes and wins – unfortunately for them this seems to now be a recurring theme, certainly over the last few years.

Midfield

The burning questions are whether Mercedes, Lotus, Sauber or Force India will take a step forward or are they regrouping for 2014? From the early running in Melbourne it looks like Mercedes have made a nice step, at least in wet conditions! Will they still be there in the dry? Perhaps. Fast but maybe a bit fragile. I reckon Hamilton will get a win or two, Rosberg may also bag one too. It’ll be more competitive than last year.

Sam Collins of Racecar Engineering is adamant the Lotus is a car to watch. I am not so sure, I’ve not seen it tearing up the racetracks so far but I’d like them to do well. I do think they’ll score at least one win and it’ll be Kimi that does it. The Sauber is also a very tidy car and last year’s could’ve won a race or two with more experienced or faster drivers – if they’ve produced another fast car could Nico H. be the man to take a win? I think he can.

I’m not sure we’ll see a big change from Force India. The car looks no different and what’s going on with the money? Will it dry up? They could be looking at next year.

The other interesting thing about the midfield is their choices about when to ditch 2013 and look forward. With completely new rules there is a great chance to move forward, so if you are underperforming this year you will reach a point when you feel it is better to abandon it, do what you can with this car and throw the kitchen sink at the next one.

Lower Midfield

Williams should stay ahead of Toro Rosso, but they’ll be vying with each other to stay out of the Q1 drop zone alongside the two slow teams. I’d like to wish Williams would improve but I don’t think it’ll be this year.

At The Back

Marussia and Caterham will again be at the back and it seems by just as big a margin as before, which is a surprise. Perhaps they are just treading water with another bad car while they put a concerted effort into the 2014 cars. That’s potentially what I would do in their position, but they have to be careful to make a car good enough to beat the 107% qualifying rule.

I like the look of Bianchi. He got screwed out of the Force India seat when Mr Sutil turned up with bags of money, something Jules didn’t really deserve. These teams have four seats and three of them are filled with rookies, which is a terrible idea. You always want one experienced driver to work with. Pic should use his year of experience to beat them but he’ll be up against Bianchi. The other two will be nowhere.

Generally

Much like last year we’ll see some fantastic races, some mediocre races, and some absolutely terrible ‘races’ where we wonder what the point is (hello Korea). With any luck some of the good ones will be in surprising places – last year nobody expected Valencia or Abu Dhabi to be worth watching but they turned out to be among the best of the season!

Last year wasn’t a classic season (as some F1 media seem to claim) but neither was it a terrible season (as others seem to claim, particularly among sportscar media). I think we’ll see much the same this year. A mixed year of good races and bad, fortunes changing as the year goes on. That’s fine. That’s perfectly normal and I don’t think anyone can be unhappy with that. If it develops into a genuine classic then so much the better!

I’m really looking forward to it.

New Jersey F1 Postponed

It is a shame to see the Formula 1 race planned for New Jersey next June has been postponed to 2014, just a few weeks after the WMSC released the 2013 schedule with New Jersey listed with an asterisk.

From the plans I was not convinced the racing would’ve been all that good but I was willing to give it a chance, and having a race in that location would’ve been Very Cool. No racing series currently holds an event on NYC’s doorstep and it is a notoriously difficult nut to crack. A potentially poor track for racing situated opposite NYC is better than a poor track for racing in Valencia, and if it turned out to be a good track for racing then it would be a win-win.

That said, despite often boring races I did always like the atmosphere projected through the screens from a sunny Mediterranean, it was just the docklands area and the poor racing which turned people off. Nobody objected to Valencia as a venue, it was the track that was the problem, coupled with the extortionate prices of flights and accommodation and tickets (and yes I did look into going). It’s a little sad that Valencia was actually a very good race this year as it showed it is possible there! Some track changes and ‘a serious talking to’ from race promoters to hotels and airlines may have saved this event. I’d have happily done away with Korea instead.

The real loss for F1 as whole – series sponsors, team sponsors, teams themselves -  is the ability to get into the New York City market just across the water from the New Jersey track, and the North Eastern US region as a whole (as well as those in South East Canada). A delay of a year could stall the momentum. But was there any momentum? It seems it was only on the track build side and that was delayed. I’ve not heard of any clamouring to get this race going and the only PR I’ve seen is from Red Bull running their show car and sending their drivers to smoke the tyres of some Infinitis.

Maybe the delay could work for them. Give them time to put some proper event promotion in place. If you let Austin (and NBC) start to build up F1 in the US consciousness over the next 9 months it might help calls for a second race, maybe leading to the financiers paying more attention, and more money.

I think everyone wants to see two successful US races as well as retaining those in Canada and Brazil. More races in those timezones helps grow F1 in the important and previously underserved US market as well as satisfy the fans already existing in Canada and South America – and why not carry on and add a second South American date? It helps us Europeans because the races are on in the evening – prime time! – so it bumps up the viewing figures. It’s only a negative for the growing Asian region for whom the timezones don’t work at all, but they’ve got loads of races of their own now and can see all the European races without getting up too early. And of course it all justifies the World Championship moniker.

There is no suggestion of a replacement date from Bernie Ecclestone and he denied as such yesterday, despite Turkey having been mooted by some. This means the 2013 schedule is down to 19 races which I personally feel is a more manageable number anyway.

In the meantime, let’s hope New Jersey gets itself ready for 2014.

2013 F1 Schedule Switches Valencia for New York

The 2013 F1 Series schedule was announced at the FIA World Motorsport Council last Friday. It features mostly minor tweaks to the pattern we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the last five years or so.

I’ll take the same format as yesterday’s IndyCar post, albeit it’ll be a little shorter as there are fewer changes.

Good

- 20 races. This is arguably too many and I’m sure the teams think it is. These days I’ve taken the view that if I miss some it isn’t the end of the world, and I can watch them later at at time of my choosing. When there were fewer races they were all unmissable. Now you have to pick and choose to protect some semblance of life. I do think 20 is the most any major series needs, anything from 17-20 is ideal for me.

- Valencia gone. I know Valencia is a fantastic place to visit, I’ve not been but I know people who have and the place even looks great on TV (away from the back half of the track). The problem is the races are horribly bad. This year was an exception. There are no guarantees they’d all be good from now. Add to that the cost of attending the GP there, you’re better off going a week earlier or later when it is much cheaper. Valencia is a place to go as a tourist and lounge on the beach, not to see a race. It’s possible Valencia may alternate seasons with Barcelona.

- New Jersey in. As expected. This may be marked a TBC and we may have seen reports of contract difficulties, but the latter came from Bernie’s pet leak so I don’t give it much creedence. I think he’s trying to test how serious they are. Ask yourself, after 25 years of trying to get a race opposite the New York skyline why would he jeapordise the best chance he’ll ever have? No this race will happen. Whether it’ll be a good race is an unknown. It’ll look fantastic. This is also good because it creates a fourth race in the Americas after Sao Paulo, Montreal and Austin. It’s about time F1 headed West again.

- The Cool Factor. Remove the track or place names and list the nearest cities instead. Suddenly, you have one of the coolest schedules in all of sport let alone all of racing:  Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Barcelona, Monaco, Montreal, New York, Budapest, Milan, Singapore, New Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Austin, Sao Paulo. Sprinkle in some classic racing names: Silverstone, Spa, Monza, Nurburgring. From a PR standpoint that’s unbeatable and F1 should be doing a LOT more than it is to promote the fact.

- Continuity. Multiple returning races in pretty much the same slots they’ve occupied for many years.

- Australia still first. Albert Park in Melbourne is the perfect season-opener.

- Brazil still last. What a great track to end the season with, such fun especially if the title fight makes it to the last round. Even if it doesn’t, great venue. Bit dangerous in terms of crime but they’ve put up with it for 20 years so another won’t hurt.

- Belgium is still there. Everyone loves the race at Spa-Francorchamps. It’s always in danger of being cancelled so it is good to see it still running on.

Bad

- Some poor race venues are still there. Whatever the positive commercial implications of racing in India, Korea, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, even Barcelona, the races there have been dire. I have nothing against visiting these countries I just wish they’d come up with better tracks! Some are also quite empty of fans. Not to mention the political dimension with Bahrain although that has been improving. Many dislike Singapore but I quite like it, it’s unique, and in any case they’re talking seriously about making upgrades to their track.

- Back-to-backs. There are a lot of back-to-back consecutive races just a week apart, just like this year. The killer for the teams and mechanics will be the run from September to November – just like this season there’s a stretch of races bunched close together. Great for momentum for fans not losing interest, not so great for the teams flying around the world. At least with European back-to-backs they don’t have jet-lag! I suppose this is all the price of having the long summer break which is essential.

- 2 weeks between Spa and Monza. Happy they are both on but I’ll be slightly hypocritcal and complain they aren’t on back-to-back weeks. Only because there was a chance of doing a road trip from one to the other and now it can’t happen! Plus I really liked these classics scheduled up next to each other.

- Slightly late end. Okay a crazy complaint from someone who loves racing, but March to late November is a pretty long season to follow especially including the ‘Winter Grand Prix’ of pre-season testing. An old off-season was too long though, so could we strike a balance and end in early November?

- New Jersey. Despite questionable sources we can usually ignore there are still those niggling doubts that it may get cancelled.

Summary

This calendar like most recent F1 seasons is a small evolutionary change. That’s a good thing, wholesale changes cause instability.

Other notable points include the moving of Silverstone from early July to the last weekend in June. I’m not sure why this was done, effectively it has meant the British GP and the Goodwood Festival of Speed have traded weekends. Perhaps that is a good thing, perhaps it isn’t relevant.

2013 Formula 1 World Championship Schedule

17 March – Melbourne, Australia
24 March – Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
14 April – Shanghai, China
21 April – Sakhir, Bahrain
12 May – Barcelona, Spain
26 May – Monaco
9 June – Montreal, Canada
16 June – West New York, New Jersey, USA
30 June – Silverstone, UK
14 July – Nurburgring, Germany
28 July – Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary
25 August – Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
8 September – Monza, Milan, Italy
22 September – Marina Bay, Singapore
6 October – Yeongam, South Korea
13 October – Suzuka, Japan
27 October – New Delhi, India
3 November – Abu Dhabi, UAE
17 November – Austin, Texas, USA
24 November – Sao Paulo, Brazil

I’ve added these dates to my TMR Google/iCal calendars which you can import for your own use. If you subscribed earlier in the year these should be visible to you already.