McLaren deserves its fan popularity, says Wolff


A recent survey saw McLaren voted the most popular F1 team ahead of Red Bull, while Ferrari could only manage third and Mercedes fourth, Toto Wolff believes the Woking outfit deserves its fan popularity.

167,302 fans took part in the survey conducted by the Motorsport Network in partnership with F1 and Nielsen Sports, and among the surprises was the fact that globally - at least as far as those who took part were concerned - Max Verstappen is the most popular driver, ahead of Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton.

However, it was team popularity findings that really surprised, with eight-time world champions Mercedes ranked fourth, behind Ferrari, whilst McLaren was voted most popular ahead of Red Bull.

"It was very flattering, especially given where we have been the last five years," said Zak Brown, "so to see our popularity climb as our results climb...

"I think our drivers have done an outstanding job and are a big contributor to being a very likeable team," he added. "All the men and women have been working so hard at McLaren, so it's flattering.

"We try to put on a great show for the fans and our partners and it's nice to see the very positive response from a big group of fans around the world."

"Obviously you want your team to be number one everywhere," added Toto Wolff of the findings, "but I think it's the normal evolution that we have expected.

"We have been very fortunate to win seven times in a row," he continued, "and it's clear that in an age where you cheer more for teams that had more difficult times and a little bit of the underdogs.

"They are doing a super job with the drivers also," he added, "with Daniel who has been loved for a long time and with Lando doing pretty well. So they deserve to be right up there because the whole package in terms of marketing and social media is just very good.

"We need to think about what can we do, but you can't change history and I wouldn't want to change it."

Long regarded as the face of F1, Wolff was asked about the fact that Ferrari was ranked third favourite.

"Ferrari is the brand in Formula 1 and has been here since the beginning and will always have great attraction," he said. "I think what is interesting to see is that McLaren is just so much bigger in terms of fan attraction and yeah, they need to ask the questions why that is."

As for his own team only managing third in the popularity stakes, he said: "We need to find out for ourselves how we can improve and what needs to be done without jeopardizing the on-track performance that always comes first. But obviously you'd like all of that to perform well."

"It's an unbelievable brand with a rich history in the sport," said Brown of Ferrari. "I don't follow them so closely to, I think, have a view on what they do and how they engage their fans but they are one of the most famous brands in the world and it's a snapshot of a moment in time, so I don't think Ferrari has too much to worry about regarding their popularity."

In terms of Wolff's claim that McLaren is "so much bigger", Brown said: "All I can really do is speak for how we go about motor racing. We try to be a fun racing team, an inclusive racing team, drivers that are very open and communicate with their fans frequently and often and kind of speak with them, listen to them.

"So we are just kind of doing our thing and it's nice to see them react so positively to it.

"I try to bring a bit of... I'm a huge fan of the sport," he continued, "so I try to bring that to the lens. It wasn't long ago that I was sitting in the grandstands watching the Ayrton Sennas and the Lewises and trying to understand what would get me excited about the sport and we are just trying to provide that experience back to the fans and it seems to be working."

Meanwhile, F1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali admits to being surprised by the fact that Hamilton isn't the most popular driver, admitting that this is probably down to the survey's demographics.

"I have to say, yes, in a way," said the Italian when asked if he was surprised that the seven-time champ was only ranked third behind Verstappen and Norris. "But on the other hand, if you think about the demographic of the people that are more involved in these kind of votes, I think that you understand why Lando has a great audience, in that respect.

"It's more connected to the fact that he has an approach with them that is fresh," he added, "in a way that is more close to the people that are following that. That is my personal view.

"I don't want to give a bigger magnitude than what it is, but for sure it's a sign that, as I always said, we don't have a problem with the drivers for the future," he continued. "We have an incredible group of young, very talented and very good drivers that is of value for Formula 1."

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Published: 29/10/2021
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