Formula One and the inevitable move to sports entertainment

Formula One has long been the testing bed for prototypical automotive technologies – but that all may be coming to an end soon.

Ah, Formula One. How long have you been at the forefront of technological innovation. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and change is the only constant we can be sure of. The sport has undoubtedly undergone several large upheavals over the course of it’s long and storied history, and now finds itself on the precipice of yet another.

The 2017 regulations were meant to be a precursor for those to come in 2021 – a foundation of sorts. With new ownership and a new mentality over the direction which the sport should head into, the future of F1 is beginning to look a lot more focused on entertainment as opposed to a technical showcase of what latest innovation the engineers have to show.

Liberty Media have made it their agenda to serve up the most visceral and impactful spectacle of automobile racing to the masses on an ever-evolving and expanding platform. From their perspective, the technical showcase that was once the carrot on the stick for manufacturers should be limited in proportion to how it contributes to the spectacle of the show. Oh, your new incredible innovation makes the engine sound indistinguishable from a dying cat? Sorry pal, head back to the board and iterate.

While the concept of Formula One as a prototypical testbed is in the sports very DNA, it may find a new way of coming through. Innovation could still find its way, but it may find itself in the trapping of a spectacle rather than of raw performance. Sure, the current engines are incredibly powerful and efficient, but they do little to stir the hearts of the crowd in the manner which their predecessors have.

Yes, the sport is in for an incredibly intriguing future, even if it is one that lies obscured in shadows. And, such an impending pivot is definitely on the minds of head honchos the likes of Red Bull’s Christian Horner, who threw in his two cents recently:

“I think what’s really interesting is that Formula One is effectively at a crossroads with the new regulations. The regulations theoretically come in 2021 and there will be probably an eight to ten-year life on those engines, so what we are looking at is actually is Formula One’s relevance pretty much up to 2030.

By 2030 how many people are actually going to be driving cars? Are they going to be autonomous? Are they going to be electric? The world is changing so fast in that sector.

Formula One has some serious questions that it needs to answer today in the choice it makes for the engine for the future. What is Formula One’s primary purpose? Is it technology or is it a sport and entertainment, and man and machine at the absolute limit?

I sense that with the new ownership that has come into Formula One that creating great entertainment, creating great content, the noise, the sound, the exhilaration of seeing the drivers as the star is of absolute primary concern to them.” – Christian Horner

Horner is right on the money. The future is certain to hold many changes for Formula One. But it will take the entire establishment working together to ensure that the future is as bright and illustrious as the past. Now if only we could find a way to stop the FIA from introducing ridiculous additions to the vehicles in the name of “safety”.