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“Seat Fillers”

July 22, 2014

Sunday morning at Hockenheim. © Leigh O’Gorman

Sunday morning at Hockenheim. © Leigh O’Gorman

One of the major talking points of last weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim was the lack of a crowd over the course of the weekend.

The Grand Prix itself reportedly had a crowd in the region of 55,000-60,000 {note 1}, while just under 50,000 attended qualifying Saturday.

The lack of attendees for the Friday sessions were just appalling, with occasional people surrounded by swaths of plastic seats. This is Formula One. It should be doing far better than pulling DTM numbers at a time when Mercedes lead the Constructor’s table.

Whether one buys into the ‘Nico Rosberg is German or not’ argument, the fact is, he flies a German flag on his racing licence, while the sport has seen Sebastian Vettel string out four consecutive titles.
Yet there is little no interest in Rosberg or Vettel. While talented racers, they rarely appear to stir the soul.

The price is, of course, another issue – and not just the actual numerical value, but rather the perceived return that fans get with regards to on site entertainment.

Hockenheim can also not do like Monza or the Circuit de Catalunya; both of which can afford to run fewer elements of circuit entertainment as they play off the proximity to Milan and Barcelona respectively.

As a sport, we really must forget this old idea that on track action is going to be enough to encourage someone to fork out huge sums for tickets, travelling and accommodation.
In terms of weekend structure, F1 needs to be more like Glastonbury, with all the amenities that match. These are large events; not speedweek for anoraks. The lack of entertainment or facilities on site beyond (or even during) the track action was telling.

Some races’ success are partially down to location, a more welcoming price, better access to amenities, while also having lots of non-racing action at the circuit.
But that costs money and that’s a problem.

As a whole, it is an indicator that Formula One can do more. Reasonably priced tickets would be a start, but that would start with lower sanctioning fees. Over to you, Bernie.

{note 1}
*Disclaimer: This photo was taking on Sunday morning, but is designed to be representative of some of the gaps in the Hockenheimring over the course of the weekend.

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