F1 car launches have lost their glamour

For a huge fan of Formula One like me, the advent of accessible live social media technology a few years ago signalled what looked like a new and exciting way to engage with the sport before it hit the race track in March. Actually, it’s ruined the spectacle.

Paul WoodfordI made a point of planning my schedule this week around being able to – at least in the background – catch the live streams as the teams began to launch their 2017 challengers to the world. Appointment-to-view content, it was not.

The fact that the Mercedes Team has so far been the only one to have the foresight to plan the reveal to coincide with the UK’s accepted lunch hour window is of little consolation, as we could barely see the car.

Mercedes GP trialled a live 360 degree launch, with their presenter introducing the session in selfie-mode, before proceeding to interview the driver line-up, along with Toto Wolff in a format that felt like it had seemed like a good idea in someone’s head.

In practice, it lacked any kind of polish, excitement or glamour. Even Lewis Hamilton took to making his own unveil video on social media during the stream, following complaints from viewers that they couldn’t see the car properly.

Paul WoodfordPrevious to this, we’d seen the Williams and Sauber cars launched via a series of arty photos, with Renault and Force India opting for a corporate stage-and-stool set-up, and more ‘traditional’ live stream formats for fans to tune in. Ironically, the most exciting launch so far has been a spoof video, posted online last week, and purporting at first glance to show the new McLaren.

The BBC only this week ran a story throwing back to the lavish, showbiz launches favoured by teams in the ’90s, with Renault sailing their new car through a canal in Venice, McLaren staging a live Spice Girls concert and Honda employing the Natural History Museum’s infamous T-Rex to present one of their previous launches.

Paul WoodfordThis frustrates me immensely, particularly as one of the things I’ve been quite excited about during the Liberty Media takeover of Formula One, is the prospect of them bringing an element of the spectacle that American sport does so well. You only have to look at the driver introductions at the 2016 Daytona 500 race, or the concert that has a certain American Football game tagged onto the end of it.

Not one of the drivers at the launches I’ve watched so far had their helmets with them to take a (previously compulsory) under-arm shot. And to make matters worse, it would appear Lewis Hamilton’s new helmet design has had a more glamorous unveil – and more press coverage – than any of the new cars have.

We need to attract new fans, new sponsors, and new manufacturers to Formula One, for it to continue to hold its place as one of the world’s top sporting series. And in order to do that, we need more spectacle.

What we don’t need, is another “Minecraft” car launch with a substandard 360 degree camera, or a conference room done up to look like…err…a conference room. 

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