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Who is coming to Dinner Mr. Chase?

FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
10/11/2017

Part One: Entree, and First Course.

There is a quirky film called Dinner for Schmucks, directed by Jay Roach (based on an original French idea by Francis Veber) starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. (Ed's note: I have the original, Le Diner De Cons, it is superb) It is as close as Americans get to serving up Python humour, and while some segments grate, drag, or occasionally both, it is a curiously humour laden film with a strong core message.

I'll not relay any spoilers in case readers elect to watch it (if you dislike Steve Carell or Monty Python I'd return to the Downton Abbey from which you came, as this curio will only annoy you). However, the central premise is a group of men perceiving themselves as highly successful hold a dinner once a year where they try to out-do one another by bringing the most whacked out (to them) dinner guest for them all to mock. The story plays out wonderfully.

So, has Mr Chase, and his band of merry F1 hosts and chefs elected to invite the fans to dinner next season to delight them or to mock them?

Let us revisit our four-part series from the start of the season when editor Balfe invited comment from readers on how to improve F1, and your humble scribe attempted to relay the results in an entertaining manner (rather more of a who's coming for cheese and crackers than dinner here at Pitpass).

By way of preamble, we should note that the Malaysia Sporting Minister recently declined his dinner invite when he openly stated he would not take F1 back for free in its current state. I guess he clearly knows what he wants, and Chase's Pancake Stack with Southern Syrup it is not.

So by way of reviewing the dinner menu Chase is offering from his American Kitchen, I'm going to work through the summary suggestions captured in our series of articles from season start.

Part One looked at the Business Model and ended with the following general recommendations:

Lesson one. Sort the funding model. Make it possible to run a back of the grid team at a profit. Make it possible to run a circuit at a profit.

Pitpass Recommendation. Larger basic retainer payments to all teams. Significantly rebalanced historic payments, and a new calculation for winnings over the season that ensure a larger percentage goes to the lower half of the grid. Similarly for circuits, freeze, or heaven forbid reduce, basic hosting fees, and allow circuits to turn a profit. Improved racing and improved race weekends will result from the healthier more competitive environment.

So here, team owners find Mr. Chase's Dinner Invite in their morning in-tray. Opening the quality stationery they discover a gilt-edged invite card, with cost cutting being served as the entree. Does this suit our teams, circuit owners, and us, the fans?

Too soon to say really. This course has only just started coming out of the kitchen, and some team bosses are already wrinkling their noses at the odious smell. Has Chase started with a round of South Korean Hongeo (stinky fish)? Ask Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull, for I believe they think so. Other teams (step forward chief taste-testers at Force India) are more enticed by Chase's offering.

I've long held that in a (relatively) free open capitalist market, products and services usually find their own worth in the marketplace. There is a reason the top teams have the budgets they command. I believe a more reasonable spread of the winnings is a far more manageable process with which to proceed than a cost cap. Other than the auditing complexities of policing such an arrangement, the manufacturer linked teams will always be able to bury budget (and hence advantage) within other related departments.

Using Mercedes as an example; they can call upon marketing, research and development, graduate up-skill programs, staff secondments, client relations, sponsor partnering, and 'internal product sharing' with non-F1 departments in its attempts to ensure the budget is restrained on paper for the FIA audit, and free as King Kong in a Fruit Store back at the factory. Force India and Haas cannot achieve the same levels of freedom.

We previously suggested retaining series level sponsors, and distributing more money across the teams as being more beneficial. Our recommendation to rebalance historic payments with a concept like dollars per lap completed since 1950, with a weighting factor to make laps in the past ten years more valuable than laps in previous decades would also aid, while still ensuring the old teams had a (reduced), but still meaningful advantage. History is worth something after all!

So far Chase has not even got the circuit owners to the dinner table. Silverstone is scheduled to walk away, Malaysia has just done so, and a couple of others are thinking about it. The business model around circuits is simply broken, and so far Chase has shown no signs of serving himself some humble pie, eating a good plateful, and starting again. I believe this issue will run and run for the next couple of years.

So, for the first course Chase's Kitchen has scored 5/10 with a general comment from the judges of "Could try harder to be more original and serve an enticing opening dish."

Part Two looked at Fan Engagement

Our previous summary here was as follows;

Lesson Two: Make the free content engaging and enjoyable. Make the paid for content value added for the hard core fan, and exciting (game based) for the young fan. Get all involved in the sport down off Mount Olympus and back in the game with the fans. Connect one-on-one to rediscover the passion. Dare to be human!

Pitpass Recommendation: Free to air is the life blood of viewing figures for Formula One, it has to be an enjoyable easy to access option globally. Then to earn the money make the paid for content amazing. Mobile apps, timing apps, personal virtual qualifying each race weekend, followed by racing your B Spec driver on Sunday in a global league. Align with teams, gain their set up and data (even Lewis'). Drag the stars down from Olympus and make them connect as humans with the fans. Use the media to clearly support that this is a complex team game. People love the technology and the humanity. Showcase both!

The Korean fish cleared from the table, the second course is looking potentially far more inviting to our guests... As long as you love American food.

Now the land of the free has an immense range of dining options. None of which is usually free, and the best costs a small fortune, but the tastes can be amazing.

Chef Chase clearly feels he and the team are cooking up a storm for this course of fan engagement.

The London fan event showed potential. And Lewis is single-handedly reaching out across social media with considerable success.

And then we had Austin...

For the thinking man's German, take a bow Herr Vettel, who elected to use the phrase "It was not my cup of tea." To sum-up his feelings over the event that was the Austin Circus is a mighty insight into the potential for the American Chefs to totally misjudge the tastes of their dinner guests.

We can at least be thankful that "Super Bowl Experience" is no longer catchphrase of the day for Chase and the team.

It was Two-Face, at the start of an earlier reboot of Batman, who, having flicked his coin, informed the security guard he was dangling over a vat of boiling acid that he would live to see another day of wine and roses, before correcting himself, and saying in this gentlemen's case, beer and pizza.

Two-Face had the insight to realise different people love different things. Chase does not appear to acknowledge that Formula One is at core a British sport first, a European sport second, and a Global sport third. It is not an American sport. Period, as those pesky ex-colonials would say. If he keeps adding sugar-sweet dressing to the salad, and feels that all the fans at the circuits need is "More of what makes America Great", it's not going to work.

Next we have more virtual, digital, engagement, and paid for engagement. Thankfully Chase's team have openly admitted too many paywalls are bad, and an aspect of free-to-air needs to remain. Sadly this does not appear to be having any short or mid-term impact on pay TV deals, and F1 is set to vanish behind more and more global paywalls over the next few years. This will continue to harm audience numbers.

Editor Balfe has been both lengthy and eloquent in his roasting of the F1 timing app. Savvy users of modern mobile applications, and the internet in general, expect significant free services, and when they do pay for something it simply has to be exceptional to survive. Currently nothing F1 is offering in the digital realm meets these criteria.

Finally eSports. F1 has made some hopeful sounds on this one, but delivery so far has been average at best. Online gaming, the virtual races we outlined in our fan suggestions, none of them have been successfully addressed as yet. This is very much a work in progress, but the potential is there. If only Chase and the team can get it right before we all stop watching.

So Chase is not cooking up a storm in this area... yet. He is clearly putting in significant effort, and once he throws out his American cook books and tries a mix of English cheekiness (Hello Jamie), and French complexity he might make it work. While this area has huge potential, the lack of development so far sees us award a 3/10 for this course.

So, for now, we leave too many cooks in the kitchen, frying-up an American super-soaked heart-attack trauma.

Some of their recipes align with Pitpass reader thinking, but much of it has been developed in an American isolation that the rest of the planet does not desire. Just because you call it World Series Baseball that does not make it so.

In the second part of this article we will continue our review of the current state of F1 compared to our reader's suggestions as we revisit the sporting regulations, and the vision we painted for F1 2021 Pitpass style.

Bon Appetit!

Max Noble.

Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Max Noble, 18/11/2017 3:42

"@ClarkwasGod - many thanks for a good chuckle and a travel recommendation. I’ll place it on the “To Do” list when next in Texas. "

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2. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 17/11/2017 14:30

"@Max Noble: Timely "joke" - How to surprise an American - tell them that Thanksgiving is not a world-wide festival - only the other day, I did that to a couple of colleagues - they were stunned. Talking (as I was earlier) about Jim Hall and Chaparrals, you should put a trip to Midland, Texas, on you bucket list. There, in the Petroleum Museum, lies the Chaparral Wing, where all his cars are on show - they're all runners, too. We (my son and I) drove from Austin, just a couple of days, but so worth it. I have to say that the town (City?) certainly celebrates their two stars, Hall and Hap Sharp. The rest of the museum is good, too."

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3. Posted by Max Noble, 17/11/2017 8:33

"@ClarkwasGod - quite, there are many ways to spice up the time at the track that would appeal... and I’ve a concern Chase is about to serve a right turkey for some of his dishes...."

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4. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 16/11/2017 15:45

"It seems completely appropriate that everywhere else in Texas (and the rest of America, California apart, maybe) thinks that Austin is "weird". Long may they remain so. The motorsport events held there until now, with WEC and MotoGP attract fans who actually watch the racing rather than just eat, drink and talk, as seems to be the case with Nasbore, Basebore and Basketbore. For Footbore they just hurl abuse at the opposition (reminds me of Millwall at The Den). Last year's WEC had Jim Hall as "Grand Marshall" with his fabulous 2E as parade car - EVERYONE bar none was blown away by that - Where are Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti for the GP's? Yes, I know Andretti did the interviews after the race in 2014 (great racer - not so sure about the interviews) - why not get them in their winning cars as part of the event?

NB - until I actually tried it, I thought deep-fried turkey would be appalling - but it's not - moist, succulent meat, not greasy in the slightest."

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5. Posted by Max Noble, 15/11/2017 10:46

"@General Comment - I note Ross Brawn is taken aback by life on the other side of the fence, re: no one likes our engine suggestions... Welcome to being a Park Ranger Ross! Remember your poacher roots. :-). "

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6. Posted by Max Noble, 15/11/2017 10:43

"@Spindoctor - quite...! The circuits are feeling real pain. Hopefully Liberty have noted you actually need a circuit to host a race. Not Trafalgar Square, Madison Square Gardens, or a large outdoor stage in Texas.

Usain Bolt was the coolest thing in Texas. And that’s because he is awesome at something else and has a stadium sized presence. You cannot host a race with Usain, but without a circuit.

@Chris Roper - love it! Yes, F1 is simply the longest running most expensive reality TV show in human history... except no one has noticed that fact...! Sigh. I can hear Bruce McLaren spinning (flawlessly) in his grave from here. He signed up for engineering and sport... not Malibu Housewives go Aldi Shopping or whatever the latest might be... "

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7. Posted by Chris Roper, 14/11/2017 12:03

"F1 was technically, if not clinically, dead the day Bernie Ecclestone convinced CVC it was time to sell.

Not because the sport needs Mr.E to survive, but rather because he could see that the bubble was about to burst. He is a businessman first and foremost, and a damn successful one at that, so if Mr.E says time to bail the smart investors follow. He is also very manipulative and clever.

By Convincing Liberty to buy in, he has found a gullible investor with deep pockets and a big ego.
He thus ensures that when everything starts to collapse it won't be seen as Ecclestone's fault, despite the fact that he created the unsustainable bubble, it will be the “Damn Americans” that get the blame.

I will continue to savor F1 for as long as it survives but I am one of the few who derives more entertainment from the activities in and around Planet Paddock, than I do the 3 hours of race day coverage.

If Liberty want to make money from F1 maybe they should rebadge it as a Reality TV Soap Opera and stop pretending it is a sport.
"

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8. Posted by Spindoctor, 12/11/2017 10:31

"Thanks for a very nicely written extended metaphor.

Although the spotlight tends to be on the Teams, and the FTA \ Paywall dichotomy the lead shot hidden in the pheasant is the Circuits. No Circuit can host Formula 1 and make a profit. In a Capitalist World this is more of a Going out of Business Model than anything else.

Bernie & his merrie men could bamboozle circuits into hosting based on "History, Emotion" etc. but Liberty can't. Silverstone is unlikely to be the last to leave given the current cost-structure.
The slew of Dictators and assorted repressive regimes which Bernie got on-board are unlikely to stay for too long, especially as F1 disappears behind paywalls. Not much PR to be had if only a few hundred thousand viewers can see your magnificent Nation...... The same holds good for the likes of Silverstone - no real reason to lose money over a minority sport.
Without the Circuits there's no Formula 1 Circus.

All the other problems outlined in the piece are still there and unlikely to go away any time soon. In my view its the "lesser" teams who are in an analogous position to the circuits. Their position seems weak, but without them the whole shebang just falls apart. I doubt that Mercedes et al are blind to that reality, and re-distribution of Prize\Participation cash will be a small price to pay.
"

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 12/11/2017 9:17

"@Oinksta, @Anthony - quite agree. In this capitalist world a business needs to make money. However if the “core business”, the bus Ness owner and the fans are not aligned on what the attraction is and what it is worth, a major storm is brewing... which I believe it is.

Just which side “sees the light” according to the other side first we will have to wait, and watch in fascination as the storm clouds roll...

"

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10. Posted by Anthony, 11/11/2017 12:58

"Excellent article, Max. My main fear, having spent decades doing business with Americans, is that LM will take the view that they need to make it more and more "American". In other words when each change (away from the desires of the UK/European fans' interests) doesn't increase their profit, they will respond by making more changes to take it even further away from what the main fan base wants. "

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11. Posted by Oinksta, 11/11/2017 9:56

"It would seem that Chase (and thus Liberty) are trying to work out what to do to make F1 more profitable (or at least slow its decline), rather than to improve the sport for its own sake.
While these are not multually exclusive goals, they do not necessarily go hand in hand and every stage.

To some degree I feel for Liberty as they are encumbered by the existing rules, although they knew about that when they bought it.

But I'm not filled with hope with regard what they will do as current arrangements end. The attempts to cut costs post 2020, more standard components, greater limitation on freedom of design, increases the difficultly to engineer improved performance over the compeditors because there are so few freedoms are left. More difficult, typically results in more cost, opening up the rules allows for more inventive and inspired options to be explored, importantly, inspiration is most definitely not the exclusive domain of the big budget teams.

It appears that those involed are after making as much money as they can (which to some degree we all are), but its not clear that the amount money they want is there for the taking. It also interesting to watch Ferrari, Mercedes and the others teams of significant influence, looking after themselves first and the sport as a whole a very distant second.

Ferrari, for example, indicating that they don't really need F1 as a barganing tactic. And, while this is probably true from a business perspective, if it is also true from a 'what it means to be Ferrari' perspective, the soul of Ferrari and maybe others may already be lost.

Which make one wonder, while the fans want a sport, is this also what the decision makers want, or do they just want a business?

"

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12. Posted by Paul C, 10/11/2017 14:14

"Chef Chase just misjudged a little. He misinterpreted the admiration of NASCAR by Bernie and Max several years ago. But you should give the deep fried turkey leg and other fair food Chef Chase offers a try."

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