Putting fans first
The Italian Grand Prix, the last event of the 2017 European season, celebrates a small revolution. Starting in Spain, where the European season began in May and the F1 fan zone concept was inaugurated, with a series of unique attractions, Formula 1 has actively been trying to reach out to fans like never before – and this is only just the beginning.
Probably the biggest change was the F1 Live event in London in July: the first time ever that all the Formula 1 cars have been seen in action together outside of a race track. Expect the same idea to be rolled out in several other cities that host grands prix in the future.
In the meantime, Pirelli has its own activation area at Monza: a place where fans can get up close to the world of Pirelli to find out more about the company, take part in a pit stop challenge, and race each other on virtual simulators.
There’s also more crossover between different forms of motorsport than ever before in F1: one of the most high-profile guests at the last grand prix Belgium was motorbike star Guy Martin, joining the Williams pit crew, with WRC ace Thierry Neuville visiting as well.
It’s all part of a concerted drive from the sport’s new promoters to give fans more behind-the-scenes access: thanks to extra activities on and off track (such as the two-seater Formula 1 car, which will be making another appearance at Monza) and fewer restrictions on social media broadcasting. There are also some other, more innovative methods to bring fans closer. Read on to find out.
Formula 1’s virtual champion
This month, a new Formula 1 driver will enter the fray in a bid to be crowned champion by the end of the season. It sounds sensational because it is: the new driver will be a virtual one, taking part in the inaugural Formula 1 Esports Series.
Competitors will race each other through three different stages, with qualification events taking place throughout September to determine the 40 quickest drivers. These will progress to the live semi-final events, which will be hosted in London from October 10-11. The top 20 will then go through to the finals, which will take place at Yas Marina during the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. At the end of a three-race virtual event, the first Formula 1 Esports World Champion will be crowned – possibly at the same time as the ‘real’ Formula 1 World Champion.
The virtual champion will also be assured of his or her place in history by becoming a character in the 2018 official F1 game, lining up alongside Hamilton, Vettel, and all the other household names. It just goes to show that possessing several millions isn’t necessarily the fastest way to achieve Formula 1 fame as a driver. The FIFA Interactive World Cup is currently the biggest esports tournament in the world, but there’s no reason why Formula 1 can’t provide it with a challenge in future. Watch this space.
Past and future
Formula 1 also offers fans of all ages to connect with the history of the sport, together with the virtual future. Already this year we’ve seen on-track displays featuring the first turbo cars at Monaco, while at Monza Pirelli is going even further back in time.
One of the cars that will be used for the drivers’ parade before the big race is a Ballot 3/8 LC, which won the very first Italian Grand Prix back in 1921, using Pirelli tyres: somewhat different to the tyres we see in Formula 1 today).
However, just as still is the case nearly 100 years later, strategy was at the forefront of the race: the Ballot (from France) was able to complete the race without changing tyres and this was a key to victory.
There will also be a demonstration of the Honda RA300 on Sunday, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Honda’s Italian Grand Prix victory with the car (by just 0.2 seconds in 1967, courtesy of the late John Surtees). Honda’s GP3 protégé Nirei Fukuzumi is scheduled to drive it on Sunday morning, followed by a Ferrari parade to celebrate 70 years of the Prancing Horse.
Surrounded by history in the emblematic atmosphere of Monza, Formula 1 – and Pirelli – has never been looking more firmly towards the future. With fans coming first.