Drivers set to ask fans how to make Formula 1 more exciting

May 20, 2015, 12:30 PM
McLaren driver Jenson Button of Britain gestures as he speaks to the media during an official press...
McLaren driver Jenson Button of Britain gestures as he speaks to the media during an official press conference prior the Formula One Grand Prix, at the Monaco racetrack, in Monaco, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
(AP Photo/Claude Paris)

MONACO (AP) — Formula One drivers will ask fans for their views on how to improve the sport as part of an increased effort to make racing more exciting.

The initiative will be officially presented on Thursday at the Monaco Grand Prix by the Grand Prix Drivers Association, a group which includes four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, former champion Jenson Button and retired F1 racer Alex Wurz.

In a statement Wednesday, the GPDA said it would be “the most extensive, in-depth survey of fan opinion ever undertaken by any sport in the world.”

Slower races, less noise and a lack of overtaking are among the current problems affecting viewers’ enjoyment of the sport.

“The fans are very important, their opinions, and that’s exactly why the GPDA has a global fan survey,” Button said Wednesday at a pre-race news conference. “It’s massively important because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fans.”

The Spanish GP two weeks ago highlighted some of the problems: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won almost unchallenged from pole position, and Vettel — who drives for rival Ferrari — crossed 45 seconds behind him in third place.

F1 also is also viewed as being less welcoming to fans than other sports such as Moto GP racing and the world endurance championship, where fans have greater access to riders and drivers.

Although F1 interest remains high in Britain — with Hamilton chasing a third title — television audiences have flagged elsewhere.

Button, who has competed in 273 races and won the world title in 2009, says the sport is less exciting now.

“The best year that I raced in Formula One, the most fun from a driver’s point of view, was 2004,” he said. “We had V10 engines, three liter, 900hp, they revved to 21,000rpm, we had a tire war. It was great, but times change.”

Last week, F1’s strategy group — consisting of Ferrari and Mercedes, governing body FIA, and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone –agreed on new measures for 2017 such as refueling, more aggressive-looking cars, louder engines, and faster lap times.

Refueling, in order to maintain a maximum race fuel allowance, was ditched five years ago.

Despite major advances in technology, lap times have dropped as drivers prioritize tire management over driving at full throttle. In order to increase the speed, cars will improve their aerodynamics with wider tires and less car weight, which the FIA hopes will lead to laps being “five to six seconds” quicker.

All changes still need approval by the F1 commission and the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council before becoming official.

It is uncertain whether the FIA will take the GPDA’s survey into consideration once the results are known.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Drivers set to ask fans how to make Formula 1 more exciting