French Grand Prix sales success marred by flaws in television coverage

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The Independent Online

Against all odds, the French Grand Prix was a success. The promoter Jacques Regis - one of the men behind the imminent departure of Max Mosley as president of the sport's governing body, the FIA - needed 55,000 paying spectators on raceday to break even. He got 70,000, and 135,000 over the three days.

Against all odds, the French Grand Prix was a success. The promoter Jacques Regis - one of the men behind the imminent departure of Max Mosley as president of the sport's governing body, the FIA - needed 55,000 paying spectators on raceday to break even. He got 70,000, and 135,000 over the three days.

It was proof that there is still a strong appetite for Formula One, if the price is right. Ticket prices in France and Britain have been reduced this year, and both events boasted strong support races - Formula 3000 and Porsche Supercup. Magny-Cours also had two rounds of the Formula Three Euroseries.

The quality of the competition apart, what let things down was the abysmal and partisan television coverage. This is not the first time that a local director has followed 'his' cars to the exclusion of virtually everything else. David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen fought for half of Sunday's race, but you'd never have known it from the television.

The days of sponsors throwing limitless money at any sport in return for exposure at the heart of the action are long gone; these days every marketing director wants a second-by-second breakdown of the coverage his brand has received. The sport's other abiding problem is that modern telephoto lenses, while vastly improving visibility, reduce the impression of speed.

Back in the days of Bernie Ecclestone's ill-starred digital television, fans were treated to great television feed, generated by professionals thoroughly versed in their craft. This is not the case today, and no matter how good the commentary, days like last Sunday serve as an unpalatable reminder. It's time for the teams to organise themselves sufficiently to generate the money to do the job properly again, and to do themselves a commercial favour.

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