By Alan Baldwin
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) – The British Grand Prix at Silverstone, whose future is at risk after 2019, has drawn the top rating in an online fan survey of the first half of the Formula One season while Canada came last.
The ‘Attitudes to F1’ survey carried out by Formula One through the F1fanvoice.com website, and made available to Reuters, also revealed that one in 10 fans would be happy to drop the showcase Monaco Grand Prix from the calendar.
Asked generally which race they would remove given the opportunity, one in four named Russia.
Monaco was next least popular, although 26 percent said they would keep all current races.
The survey carried out in July, and covering the first 10 of 21 races, drew on 7,483 responses — 87 percent of them male and mostly in the 25-44 age bracket.
F1fanvoice.com was launched in May as a global online community, free to all who register, for fans to provide feedback.
Silverstone drew a 96 percent excellent or good rating, with Austria and Azerbaijan the next most popular, while Canada rated only 29 percent.
Monaco, a glamorous destination where racing is often processional, drew a 31 percent response.
The main reason given for a high rating was unpredictability, rather than a fan’s favourite driver or team doing well.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took a clinical pole-to-flag victory in Canada in June, with the main talking point being model Winnie Harlow waving the flag a lap early.
The future of the British Grand Prix is up in the air after Silverstone invoked a break clause in their contract for financial reasons in the hope of negotiating a better deal.
The survey also found that 66 percent felt Formula One overall had improved in the last two years and 67 percent agreed the sport was in good hands. Two thirds felt television coverage had improved over the last year.
Some 44 percent of ‘avid fans’ declared more interest in 2018 than the previous season and only seven percent less. Most had heard of the F1 esports series but the majority did not follow it.
U.S.-based Liberty Media took control in January last year and Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director for commercial matters, was upbeat about growth.
“I think there is a true sense of belief that the best days of Formula One are in front of us,” he told Reuters. “We’re hearing that from many different areas of the business and our efforts are underpinning that notion.”
A Formula One spokesman said television audience figures for the first 12 rounds of the season were up in key countries, including the United States and China.
While the China figure reflected a new deal with state-run CCTV television, and Brazil was boosted by the addition of live qualifying, crowd attendances were also reported to be four percent higher on average.
“I think we are proceeding as we had anticipated on an extraordinarily accelerated rate,” said Bratches, who sees the sport re-positioning itself as a media and entertainment brand.
“We’ve got a full team in place now which we didn’t have a year ago. We have developed a strategic plan and a vision for our future which we didn’t have a year ago.
“Ratings are up and our media partners are benefiting from that… I do think a rising tide raises all boats and the tide is going up.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)