McLaren CEO Zak Brown has praised Formula 1’s approach to implementing new ideas to a race weekend, stating the sprint race plan sprouted from listening to fans.
F1 will conduct an alternate format at three race events in 2021, with qualifying moved to Friday, the result of which will set the grid for a short ‘sprint race’ on Saturday.
The starting line-ups for Sunday’s grand prix will be determined by the finishing positions of Saturday’s race, with the scheme scheduled to debut at Silverstone later this year.
The new project has been met with some backlash on social media, however Brown outlined that F1 simply paid attention to fans when discussing how to inject more excitement into a race weekend.
“I think it’s definitely worth trying and evaluating,” Brown said. “A lot of what F1 has done, which I think is the right thing to do, as a consumer-focused company, they go out to fans and ask fans.
“They’ve asked avid fans and what you’d call trend fans, more like Netflix audience, people who are just getting tuned in to Formula 1.
“A lot of the ideas that they have are coming from the fan base, which again I think is the right way to make decisions. It’s not 10 people sitting in a room deciding what hundreds of millions of people want.
“If you’re Unilever, the CEO doesn’t go and try to deliver it and decide ‘perfect, you’re going to have your new consumer research’. F1 under Chase [Carey]’s tenure started to really use consumer research and fan research to drive some thinking, which is great and exactly how you should do it.
“Reverse grids, things of that nature, that has come from a lot of fan surveys and has been well debated.”
Despite reprisal from some fans, Brown is confident that the new format will not hurt viewing figures, suggesting that those who oppose it will still tune in across the weekend.
“I think what you see is a difference of opinion, as you would expect from your hardcore, long-time fans versus your newer fans,” Brown commented.
“I think let’s try it. I can’t imagine, even though some people are critical of it, that they’re therefore not going to watch it. They’re definitely going to watch it.
“From a viewing standpoint, I’d be surprised if it didn’t work. Whether it changes the show to something we should do more often, do all the time, do five times a year, I think we have to wait and see how it plays out.
“But I think people are going to be intrigued, therefore people are going to watch it. That itself is going to be a success.”