Fans of motor racing deserve better than the now-crippled Formula One, fortunately better is already here
The BBC is in a state of crisis. Having announced that it’s cutting Formula One from its sports services to save itself 35 million pounds on the sports budget, dedicated fans have been denied free live coverage of the races and forced to either sign up for a Sky TV subscription or stop watching the sport altogether.
I believe it is time for the BBC to diversify its motorsport coverage. Formula One may be the most famous but it is certainly not the only major motor-racing series out there nor the most high-tech. The World Endurance Championship and Formula E are two suggestions that resonate strongly in the minds of motorsport fans.
The World Endurance Championship or WEC, is the most advanced motor-racing series on the planet. It has nine races scheduled for 2016 as opposed to Formula One’s twenty-one, meaning less disruption to the BBC’s weekend schedule. The cars provide an extra impetus with the top hybrids producing over 1000bhp compared to the 850 of modern F1 cars. As well as the advanced technology of the top class LMP1, the WEC also has diversity in its arsenal. With four categories, fifty-six racing cars and no overtaking aids, the series provides close racing between brands from all over the world. Companies ranging from Nissan to Ferrari and Toyota to Aston Martin race head-to-head. Each team runs diverse aerodynamic and engine packages that are boosted with or without a hybrid system, providing fantastic analytical possibilities for pundits and fans alike.
All this has been made possible by FIA Regulations that allow enough creativity to provide distinctive racing machinery while keeping the cars safe. By far the biggest incentive is the Le Mans 24 Hours, the most famous race in motorsport, a race the likes of which entices fans from all over the world to witness and marvel at. But why should the BBC bother with Le Mans? Eurosport already does excellent coverage of the race as it is. Unlike Eurosport however, the BBC does not do advertisement breaks every ten minutes and with their experience of Comic and Sport Relief it would be a simple case of switching the feed between the four BBC channels.
I genuinely believe that more people would watch the World Endurance Championship if it was broadcast on the BBC. The association of a series that attracts relatively low viewing figures with a major corporation would only mean good things for both. The WEC would gain greater attention and the BBC would have the fastest growing motor-racing series in the world.
As mentioned, the hybrid technology involved in the WEC means the cars produce very few emissions; but what about a series that produces zero emissions, goes to ten different cities and does all its racing in one day? Formula E was introduced to the racing world in 2014 for the first race of the season as the lights went out in Beijing. The concept was a zero emissions racing series that sets up tracks in the middle of the biggest cities on the planet and does Practice, Qualifying and the Race all in one day.
This would be a big score for the television schedule, and races of only an hour or so demonstrate cutting-edge technology being developed month-on-month. Formula E is dripping in potential and would set a good image for a BBC looking to evolve and invest in something new. The only issue is that ITV currently owns the rights to broadcast Formula E on its ITV4 Channel. A swap in which ITV gets Formula One and the BBC gets Formula E might appear to be a rip-off, a poor deal; but not when you consider the fact that Formula One is politically and globally in a mess. Viewing figures are plummeting and every year the series travels to new circuits that are dull and lifeless while abandoning its heritage by removing tracks like Hockenheim and the Nürburgring while also threatening to leave Monza, a track that has held sixty-four of the past sixty-five Italian Grand Prix. Formula E, aside from controversy regarding Battersea Park, is growing in popularity and attracting great drivers from around the world while taking them to exciting countries which not only made a mark on the history of motorsport but also want to be part of it as well.
So as Formula One continues to flounder under its foreign and national policies, what will the BBC do? Some may insist that it is either Formula One or nothing for a corporation that believes in only the highest quality of television. Yet, given the evidence of 2015 I think the quality has gone from Formula One. By moving to countries with barely any motorsport heritage it is losing its soul. There are two series though, the WEC and Formula E, waiting in the wings. The WEC has kept to tracks which are exciting and new that make it great, and Formula E is trying to bring motorsport into the twenty-first century. If anything, the BBC would benefit from losing Formula One, gaining from both these series a new Go! Go! Go!