Well the announcement of Nicole Scherzinger and The Black Eyed Peas as headliners at Baku gives us a clear indication that's it's Radio Gaga, sorry I mean Lady Gaga, and Super Bowl time at Liberty. If they bin the race altogether and hold an anti-Trump, anti-Capitalism rally on the track with free low carb beer instead of a race they could well have a record crowd. Cannot wait. Actually for free Heineken and a few free Rolex I'd happily march...
And then we have the recently floated idea of more street races. Let's explore this idea and see where it leads.
Monaco must be the most famous street circuit of all racing history. And the cars have been too powerful for those tiny streets since, oh, only around 1957. So it's only been sixty years of over powered cars and limited over taking. And I love it. As I've noted before I love driving games on the PlayStation. The "Azure" track on Gran Turismo is an inch perfect Monaco. In my custom MX-5 I can scream around the track with sweet four wheel drifts, maxing it out in each gear as I run the MX-5 to its limit. It's a hoot, but I'm not on the edge.
Move on up my virtual garage and we arrive at the Pagani Zonda. If I make a clean lap in this I tend to run to the kitchen and break out the Champagne! Five clean laps and I'll be hospitalised with joy. It is a seriously difficult task that takes all my (modest) driving skill, total focus, zero alcohol, and gets my heart racing to manage laps without "lap invalidated" crashes every tour of those winding streets.
As a (virtual) driver Monaco is an amazing challenge. Along with the old Nordschleife it is my most driven track. As a result I have total respect for the drivers and the insane speeds they manage around Monaco (the Nordschleife is a whole other story for another day). In real life I've walked the crazy streets of the Principality and they are real small. No wonder Lewis crashed his non-virtual Zonda the other year!
But would you enjoy watching me howling around the Principality as a paying viewer? Well I think after about four or five laps, each lap would look the same. You might be curious as to when the next six figure virtual crash was going to happen, but like our esteemed editor Balfe, I believe you'd be searching for the shortbread biscuits before lap ten.
Singapore? The visuals at night are stunning. It is a remarkable, breathtaking circuit. And the races are occasionally exciting. Like Monaco it needs an upset such as multiple safety cars, or a main player well out of position, or in the case of Monaco rain, to ignite the race and ensure the biscuits remain safely on the plate.
Yet Monaco and Singapore stand out for each is unique. If we add, for example, New York, Rome, London, and Sydney, all of which have world renowned, dare one say ‘iconic’, back-drops, all of a sudden those unique features that make Monaco and Singapore standout are diluted. How much dilution can they stand before they all blur into one season-long procession?
How many right-angle around the block corners can the viewing public stand? Sure it will be easier to host the street parties and concerts, but is this not supposed to be a race weekend with the race being the main event? Maybe Liberty should have signed U2, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran and become a tour promoter and left motor racing alone. Or maybe open a chain of celebrity backed restaurants.
The Olympics could not withstand a move to being yearly. It would dilute the brand, and exhaust the viewing public. For the football World Cup, and the Olympics a four year rhythm is just the right level of excitement, anticipation, and pay off.
The current level of twenty grands prix per year is about the right level of building excitement each fortnight, and then delivering the event. If we went weekly for nine months of the year, delivering nearly forty Grand Prix, the brand dilution and viewer exhaustion would out-weigh the gain in event numbers.
Here in Australia one of our rugby codes is looking to delete a team from the competition because it simply cannot afford to run them all. Observers are saying that despite the national love of all sports we are now stretched too thin, for both time and money, as a nation. Multiple rugby codes, Aussie Rules football, soccer, basketball, swimming, cricket, tennis, track and field, cycling, sailing, surfing. Good lord! How do a modest twenty-three million of us manage to play, support, and watch so much sport!? There is only so much money in sport, and we all have only so much time in the week to be involved.
So Liberty wants to move to week long "Grand Prix events". They will need to charge for that, and then they need all those people to have the time to attend for a week. How can we all spend a week at the current Grand Prix venues? Most are in the middle of nowhere. Unless of course you move the event from a purpose built track in the middle of nowhere to a great city that is already filled with people.
Then, all of a sudden, rather than need a week of annual leave to get rained on in the middle-English countryside people can drop in and out of segments of the week-long event at lunchtime, after work, for a Friday night out. Take the event to the (potential) fans. Make it as easy as possible to attend a part of this mighty Super Bowl experience. You might even see a Formula One race if you stick around until the Sunday.
So a desire for street races is all about moving the event so close to the potential fans that it is as easy as possible to attend. In the post-Russian Grand Prix podcast Mat Coch and I joked about running the cars in a New York subway tunnel to minimise disruption to the city. If your goal is a week-long series of concerts, dinners, presentations, and street food, then making the race as small an irritation to the city dwelling folk is a good plan.
For the dedicated fan who loves Parabolica, Stowe, Les Combes, or heck even the corkscrew at Laguna Seca, the endless parade of near identical street circuits that all blend into a numbing season of right angle 40 mph turns will be a horror. Not only will Liberty have succeeded in diluting the unique brilliance of two great street circuits, Monaco and Singapore, but they risk making city bound Formula One a concert and dining experience with cars, rather than the gladiatorial sporting combat we all desire.
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here