F1 was ‘too arrogant’ to succeed in United States

Stefano Domenicali says F1 was 'too arrogant' to succeed in the United States

Stefano Domenicali says F1 was ‘too arrogant’ to succeed in the United States

F1 boss Stefano Domenicali has suggested the sport was previously “too arrogant” to succeed in the United States.

Formula 1 is enjoying a sharp rise in interest from American fans with strong upturns in television audiences and social media followers.

In turn the sport has moved to capitalise on that, adding the Miami Grand Prix last year and heading to Las Vegas this year for the first time in four decades.

It makes for a total of three events in the United States, and four in North America when considering the Canadian Grand Prix.

Traditionally, the United States has proved a difficult market for the sport to crack.

Since Liberty Media purchased the commercial rights to the sport, that has begun to change, with Domenicali crediting that with a different mindset.

“The reason why we have always been there but were not a great success was because we were too arrogant to pretend that the American fans would understand who we were without really taking the time to explain with the right language, with the right narratives,” he told Speedcafe.

“We’re going there for the weekend, three days, pretending everyone was really interested in us – big mistake.

“So we changed completely the other way approach.

“Of course, being an American company, we have the privilege of understanding better.”

Formula 1 has become increasingly open in recent years with a more relaxed approach to social media deliberately designed to encourage fan participation.

That has made F1 more accessible and palatable in the United States, while also drawing in a younger demographic.

It’s also seen new initiatives introduced, such as the F1 Sprint and the driver introductions seen in Miami – divisive changes but done with the interest of growth at their heart.

“That’s the role that we have to play,” Domenicali said when asked how the sport balances its traditional roots with its modern, commercial, requirements.

“Understanding what is the mix, the balance of this mix…

“The younger generation wants to be the protagonist. That’s why, for example, the simulator, the fact that our drivers are playing with everyone through our games is an incredible attraction for them to feel ‘we are part of this world’.

“That’s why social media is crucial for them because they … want to be involved in our work.

“Of course, on the other hand, we have the duty to respect our avid fans.

“[We’re] working on how we can do better racing, explaining the technologies that we are using, and working with them and through the very, very super expert media to give them what they want.

“So it’s up to us to understand the needs of our markets and our customers and make sure we have the right feed with a different tonality, with different way of talking.”

Fundamental to that is ensuring the basic product, racing on track, is right.

That is a complex task, evidenced by the questions now being asked of regulations introduced to improve the action at the start of 2022.

For Domenicali, that is a case of getting the mix right; sporting purity balanced carefully with the show-businesses elements to make it appealing.

That was why driver introductions were trialled in Miami – not for the die-hard fan but to add a point of difference and appeal to an audience that is interested but unconvinced.

It personifies the drivers, highlights their differences, and offers fans an opportunity to identify with one.

For a sport that has typically been technologically focused, it’s creating heroes and villains.

While the sport is working to continue its growth it is aware of its core fanbase and the traditions that are so deeply rooted within it.

A key to that is the world’s largest economy; the United States.

“We need to stay focused on understanding that the American fans have a different way of living the events and talking about Formula 1,” Domenicali said.

“We have the opportunity, now we are capturing new fans, much younger, more diversified, to get into the details of explaining what Formula 1 is.”

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