Look out NASCAR, Formula 1 is upping the ante.
Hoping to take advantage of sagging attendance and declining ratings for NASCAR races, the Federation Internationale De L'Automobile (FIA) is toying with several ideas and initiatives that they feel could give them stronger interest from American fans. It's no secret Formula 1 wants to grow to other U.S. cities beyond their annual event in Austin, Texas, but they also must shore up their existing base in European and Asian markets.
"We want Formula 1 to cross the boundary between sport and show," said Liberty Media F1 commercial boss Sean Bratches to Autoweek.com.
Creating a spectacle beyond the nuts and bolts of a race has been a key focus of FIA ever since the takeover by Liberty Media and CEO Chase Carey earlier this year. Among the ideas being discussed is changing up the starting grid by alternating 2 and 3 cars in a grid row, a huge departure from the traditional 2 by 2 formations. The thought is to create more competition and chance of crashes.
"We are looking for ways to offer fans more," F1 chief executive Chase Carey said concerning the topic.
NASCAR is doing something similar. Some of the tracks host country music concerts and even MMA fights before some races.
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Carey knows Formula 1 needs to embrace the digital platform to attract and grow fans who can't get to event sites. He plans to launch an online streaming service and that it will create it in-house. This product will be used to live-stream races, as well as to create and distribute content that's more tailored to a specific audience, which would be based on their geographical location, favorite drivers, and what type of measurement system is used in their country, according to Motorsport.com.
"Our objective is to create platforms in the direct-to-consumer arena that engage fans and leverage our assets - whether they are live races, archival [or] are data," said Bratches.
FIA is also developing ceramic microphones to mount directly on the exhaust of the race car, having the enhanced sound make for a richer viewing experience. And they're debating eliminating the Friday practice sessions, which they say could help cut costs plus open the schedule up to additional race dates.
"We are not looking at changing the core event, but open question, do we need Friday running? Because if we didn't have Friday running, we could do more races because logistically it is better for the teams," F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn told Forbes.com
And better for the bottom line. Forbes reports that FIA made 36% of its $1.8 billion revenue last year from hosting fees. The more races, the more money to the organization. With an eye on expansion of races in the U.S., Formula 1 probably sees this as a win-win.