My thoughts on #F1 and fan engagement, especially in the U.S.

I find it interesting that some F1 journalists have jumped on the “engage fans” bandwagon with full force.

It was not always this way.

Several years ago, I recall having an intense discussion with several prominent F1 journalists about grand prix racing in the U.S. and why it just doesn’t seem to appeal to American fans.

My take was simple but I think pretty accurate: F1 does not give U.S. fans what they expect. And “what is that?” I was asked. The answer, too, is simple: “Access.”

Unfortunately, F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone believes — and let’s be clear, many of the players in the paddock agree — that exclusivity brings huge value to F1’s brand. And, to be honest, it seems to work in Europe where many sports have similar walls built between fans and their stars.

That is not true in North America.

Anyone who went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Brickyard 400 or Indy 500 and then attended the U.S. Grand Prix saw the difference. During the NASCAR and IndyCar weekends, the paddock is packed. People are everywhere watching the cars get wheeled into pitlane and running into drivers and getting autographs. When the USGP was in town, electronic gates kept fans out of the paddock, and the usually bare chain-link fences were covered by tarpaulins to ensure nobody could even catch a glimpse of those inside.

There was a story going around last week about Montreal Canadian goalie Carey Price moving close to the glass to make sure he was looking straight into a kid’s smartphone as the young fan was trying to take a selfie with the players behind him. That’s the kind of stuff fans in the U.S. want to see.

If the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final goes into overtime, there will inevitably be a player who does an interview as he’s stepping on the ice for what will likely be the most intense period of hockey he will ever experience. And, fans would be aghast if a player didn’t make himself available.

But can you imagine, an F1 driver acting as an “in-race reporter” and chatting with the broadcasters about the race and strategy on the warm-up lap or during a safety car period? They do that in NASCAR.

The bottom line: If you want U.S. fans to care about F1, you need to give them access to connect with the drivers on a personal level.

It doesn’t have to happen every time, but they need to feel it can. And right now they don’t.


Christian Horner on changing engine regulations from the @FIA Friday press conference at 2011 British Grand Prix

I think that as [FIA Race director] Charlie [Whiting] will probably admit, it would have been best to deal with this at the end of the year, because it is tantamount to a rule change and when you enter the championship at the beginning of the year and you design your car around it – and let’s not forget that there’s other teams that have significantly designed their cars around this set of regulations – for them to suddenly change halfway through the year is cost, it’s time, it’s effort, it’s money and it’s confusing. It’s confusing to you, it’s confusing to the fans and it’s confusing to Formula One. So that’s where we are. I think hopefully we can now draw a line under it and move on. It’s probably not the last you’re going to hear about blown exhausts or whatever else is blown these days but hopefully we can now move on.

Here’s @spmIndycar’s release concering @arrowglobal’s sponsorship of @hinchtown. #Indycar

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Announces Arrow Electronics as 2015 Primary Sponsor

Indianapolis, IN – March 5, 2015 – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) proudly announced today that Denver-based technology company Arrow Electronics will be the primary sponsor of the No. 5 car driven by James Hinchcliffe in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.

The Arrow livery will be officially unveiled on the No. 5 car later today at Arrow’s Internet of Things (IoT) Immersions event in San Jose, CA. Schmidt, Hinchcliffe and key Arrow team members will be in attendance to present the car.

Arrow’s IoT Immersions tour brings together technology leaders to discuss comprehensive IoT building blocks and how businesses can leverage Interconnected Intelligence to improve lives. With forums in four key U.S. markets, Arrow connects technology developers with leading-edge suppliers to provide insights about IoT technologies and services, discuss topical issues and applications, and see demos of IoT solutions created with Arrow’s support, and more.

“The true goal of technology is to benefit people and improve their lives,” said Michael Long, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Arrow. “Collaborative learning on how society can improve, by being better connected and better informed, is what Arrow hopes to accomplish with our Immersions tour.”

Every Immersions event features a keynote presentation by SPM team owner Sam Schmidt. Schmidt shares his story of how working with Arrow on machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies enabled him to drive official qualifying laps at the 2014 Indianapolis 500 in a uniquely modified 2014 Corvette. He was severely injured in a practice lap crash in 2000 that left him a quadriplegic. Schmidt said the race car sponsorship is the next logical step in the evolving Arrow relationship that revolves around innovation.

“Having Arrow Electronics as a primary team sponsor is just another step in this dream come true,” adds Schmidt. “The company’s vision is perfectly aligned with SPM and INDYCAR’s key focal points: speed, innovation and technology. We look forward to an exciting race season and a great partnership for years to come.”

Aiden Mitchell, vice president of semiconductor marketing for Arrow Electronics said, “Our partnership with Sam Schmidt has helped bring to life how technology can help people become the drivers in their own lives. Working with Sam and sharing the technology behind our modified Corvette C7 in our Immersions series has been a pivotal element in demonstrating the power of M2M technologies and the Internet of Things. We look forward to taking this next turn with SPM, and helping to spread the word with a wider Arrow audience.”

Driver James Hinchcliffe added, “I’m very excited to drive the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car this season and set our sights on victory lane. Although the number 77 has been part of SPM since 2011, we have an incredible opportunity to spread the word about Arrow’s Five Years Out initiative, and coincidentally, we were lucky that the No. 5 was available to further Arrow’s brand story.

“The Five Years Out philosophy shows that Arrow sets the bar high, and that’s exactly what we want to do in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Competing in the most versatile racing series in the world means we’re focused on technology, which makes this partnership a natural fit.”

In less than two weeks, Hinchcliffe’s Honda-powered car will hit the track for the first time at the Verizon IndyCar Series Open Test on March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, AL. SPM and the other teams will fine-tune setups for the final time before the INDYCAR season opener on Sunday, March 29. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first of 16 races on the INDYCAR circuit.

Here’s the 2015 @ToyoTiresF1600 schedule. #F1600

  1. May 15-17: Victoria Day Speedfest at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
  2. June 19-21: Canadian Historic Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
  3. June 27-28: BARC Grand Prix of Ontario at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
  4. July 18-19: DAC Trillium Trophy at Shannonville Motorsport Park
  5. August 22-23: MCO Ted Powell Memorial at Calabogie Motorsports Park
  6. September 12-13: BEMC Indian Summer Trophy at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Here’s the @CTCCracing 2015 schedule.

  1. May 15-17: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Bowmanville, ON) (GT-ST-T)
  2. May 30-31: Shannonville Motorsport Park (Shannonville, ON) (ST-T)
  3. Jun 12-14: Toronto Honda Indy (Toronto, ON) (GT-ST-T)
  4. July 4-5: Circuit ICAR (Mirabel, QC) (GT-ST-T)
  5. July 31-August 2: Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières, QC) (GT-ST-T)
  6. August 28-30: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Bowmanville, ON) (GT-ST-T)
  7. September 19-20: Circuit ICAR (Mirabel, QC) (ST-T)