F1 2018: Assessing the off-track improvements at Silverstone
We take a behind the scenes look at the Silverstone race weekend, focusing in particular on the impact Liberty Media are having on fans’ entertainment.
One of Liberty Media’s main objectives when they came into the sport last season was to improve the fans experience at race weekends. They felt that not enough (apart from the racing) was being done for those who often travel far and pay good money to come to a race weekend.
Besides old school race fans, our recent trip to Silverstone revealed a new breed of Formula 1 fan, one that seemed to be there as much to have a good weekend as to enjoy the racing.
This is understandable as the British Grand Prix has become a destination event for many, and it makes Liberty Media’s aim to improve the race going experience plausible – providing there are equal efforts to improve the action on the circuit. So how are they catering for their diverse audience?
F1 fan zone
This is something Liberty Media have introduced to different tracks on the calendar – an area where fans can enjoy a whole range of entertainment throughout the day.
At Silverstone, the fan zone opens early and closes late each day. Its primary attraction, the main stage, was open to anyone with a ticket regardless of access level.
The stage was host to a range of different activities including interviews with drivers and performances from different bands and singers.
The fan zone was well attended on all days although the weather played a big role in that. On the Saturday, fans could watch the England football team’s World Cup quarter final match on the big screen, and the football was also shown on screens around the track.
After Saturday qualifying and the live football, a driver fan forum attracted a good turnout despite a delayed start. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were just two of the many stars who made an appearance, and it gave the fans the chance to interact with the drivers via a question-and-answer session. This was a welcome initiative and one that went down well with the fans we spoke to.
A similar event was held post-race on Sunday where again, drivers took to the main stage in front of thousands of fans.
A range of different bands performed on the stage from Friday through to Sunday although the lineup could have been better. While the US Grand Prix is set to feature Bruno Mars and Britney Spears, British fans had to make do with the likes of Dodgy, Sonique, Brandon Block and Mel C. Hopefully the budget will stretch to bigger names next year.
Apart from the main stage at the fan zone, there were different areas across the track setup for fans to enjoy themselves in the glorious sunshine.
The entertainment zone, near to the fan zone offered different activities for kids whilst the sports zone allowed fans free activities such as badminton and table tennis. None of the four different zones across the track were anything special, but they represent improved efforts to keep fans amused throughout the weekend.
In contrast to previous years, each corner of the track had an improved selection of food vendors, an official F1 store and a Silverstone merchandise store. One thing that hasn’t changed is the steep prices which prompt many groups to bring their own food and drink.
It is too early to make a final judgement on the impact Liberty Media have had on the fans’ experience as there is obviously still work to do. And many traditional F1 fans might be a little resistant to change. However, initial feedback was positive.
But whatever improvements are made behind the scenes need to be equalled by those on the track right across the calendar. Otherwise, more genuine racing fans may stay away, regardless of how they are entertained before and after the action.
The quest to provide fans with the whole package is still a work in progress.