Lewis Hamilton’s ever changing accent isn’t the only bit of
Americanisation going on in Formula1.
Newly acquitted, Liberty Media, are looking for ways that
they can alter the race weekend format, chopping and changing sessions in an
attempt to make the sport more appealing to American audiences and generate a
higher revenue. This, paired with Hamilton’s suggestions for the sport to be
more like the Superbowl, means the current season has left us viewers with a
strong sense that the world of F1 is about to get like, totally radical dude.
This season’s pre-race showbiz shenanigans at the US GP only
added to this. Although, Michael Buffer’s seemingly endless driver
announcements left those of us watching at home feeling like we were about to
watch 20 guys go toe-to-toe in a ring for 12 rounds.
Then suddenly we had Usain Bolt pulling that iconic pose in
front of the grid before lights out. Not before a hot lap of the circuit in a
Mercedes AMG road car, piloted by Lewis Hamilton, of course. It all seemed a
All this glitz and glamour though, has to come at some
expense. In it’s first year of FOM ownership Liberty is estimated a turnover of
$1.38bn. 68% of this ($940m) is used as amortisation for the teams that qualify
to take part in the championship. This may seem like a colossal amount of money
but it’s actually a 3.5% decrease against last year’s figure, meaning Liberty,
if they’re not careful, could soon be a bit hard up. Liberty owner, Chase
Carey, has already made vocal his plans to knock one Grand Prix off of the
calendar in attempt to make up that 3.5%. But it’s still very much up in the air
as to what will to happen to the schedule of a Grand Prix weekend itself, if Mr
Carey is looking to make more money out of it
Regarding F1’s transformation; earlier this year, Lewis
Hamilton said in an interview with Time Magazine that, “The way Formula One is
run is not good enough at the moment. The Super Bowl, the events Americans do,
the show they put on is so much, so much better. So if you were to mix in a
little bit of that template through there, I think we’d be more inviting to the
This personal infatuation with the United States Hamilton
has adopted means that his views actually carry a lot of relevance and if the
rumours around the paddock are true, we could be looking at a drastic change to
the race weekend format in a bid to make the series more appealing.
In fact, Hamilton is no stranger to pushing forward his own
ideas of how to switch up the race weekend. After heavy smog had disrupted the
regular schedule at this years Chinese GP, he took to twitter to voice his
opinion on how to format the sessions. He proposed a two-day-spread, two practice
sessions on Saturday, moving qualifying along to Sunday morning, before the
race later that afternoon – you have to hand it to him, it certainly packs more
action into each day.
Interestingly, the proposal that Liberty Media are considering
doesn’t differ too greatly from Hamilton’s Chinese GP ideas. It involves
reducing the long-standing traditional three-day race weekend into two days,
with Friday Practice getting the snip. For sure it’s controversial, surely
Liberty can’t just scrap sessions, given the team’s heavy reliance on these
sessions to develop, set up and fine-tune the cars. Without practice who knows
what kind of mechanical meltdowns teams will be sent into on race day. But hey,
we already know that Liberty love a bit of drama.
If Liberty are seriously looking at a two-day weekend, the
Friday practice sessions could run on Saturday morning, sacrificing the support
series race that we see at most circuits. The most drastic change is the
possible introduction of a sprint race on the Saturday as well, resulting in a
shortened race on Sunday. These would be
the biggest format changes the sport has seen since 2005, when qualifying
sessions only allowed cars to set one lap time in order to determine their grid
position. The new proposal may create a more entertaining format for new fans
but will run the risk of alienating long-term viewers to begin with.
But if this is the expense of greater exposure and a superior
position on the world sporting stage, especially in America, then perhaps we
should embrace the changes. Because if something’s a big deal in America it’s a
big deal everywhere, right?