Formula One slammed as ‘not saleable’ and a 's*** product' by Silverstone boss Patrick Allen

Patrick Allen critical of sport based on data where the drivers are told to ‘coast’ or ‘settle for second’ 

Christian Sylt
Wednesday 07 October 2015 21:17
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Lewis Hamilton won the 2015 British Grand Prix earlier this year
Lewis Hamilton won the 2015 British Grand Prix earlier this year

The boss of Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, has launched a stinging attack on the state of Formula One, saying that the sport has turned into a procession which is “not saleable” and is a “s*** product”.

A sell-out crowd of 140,000 may have watched Lewis Hamilton cruise to victory at this year’s British Grand Prix – but the manner of his victories at that and other races is unlikely to woo new fans, argues Patrick Allen, the managing director of the Northamptonshire circuit.

Months and months back I said it to Mr E himself that I can’t sell tickets for a s*** product

&#13; <p>Patrick Allen, Silverstone managing director</p>&#13;

“Fans don’t want to see a procession,” Allen told The Independent. “As a promoter I can only promote what you give me and if that isn’t up to standard, people aren’t going to buy.” He said he had already addressed his concerns to F1’s chief Bernie Ecclestone.

“Months and months back I said it to Mr E himself that I can’t sell tickets for a s*** product,” Allen added on the eve of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

“I’ve said that people don’t come to watch guys looking at data screens. Fans want to see gladiators racing and fighting it out in a fair fight. Nobody wants to hear drivers getting told to ‘lift’, ‘coast’ or ‘we’re not going to catch the guy in front, settle for second’.

“I think it is criminal when we have got to that state of racing and that is not saleable. I think Bernie is as frustrated with it as we all are. How long is it before the technical director is stood on the top step, not the driver? You’ve just got to throw the towel in then and look for something else.”

Bernie Ecclestone (right) with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi

Hamilton currently has a 48-point lead in the championship, as the F1 roadshow heads to Russia this weekend with the aim of spreading the gospel further afield. He has won seven other races including last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, where Mercedes got just six minutes of television coverage as Hamilton’s race was so flawless and uneventful. Allen says that F1 should perhaps look back to its early days or take its lead from its two-wheeled equivalent, the motorcycling championship MotoGP.

“I’m massively into F1 and used to race bikes. If you compare F1 to MotoGP, they are changing lead every few minutes, there are at least three or four guys that are going to do well. The Brits can do well in it. It is exciting stuff to watch.

“In my opinion you should probably get flag-to-flag racing back into F1. You go out with a tank of fuel and once you’re out there you’re gone until the second flag drops. The Stirling Moss days. Do away with pit stops. Once you’re out there you’re on your own mate, and you’re not allowed to communicate at all. You go back to using your pit board.”

Allen is right in thinking that Ecclestone believes that F1 is a tough sell. “It is hard enough today, forget Formula One, for anybody to sell things unless they are top of the range, and unfortunately our product isn’t,” Ecclestone admitted when approached by The Independent.

Felipe Massa leads the 2015 British Grand Prix at Silverstone

Hamilton’s dominance on the track and his jet-set lifestyle have made him a huge star but Ecclestone said the public still want less predictable racing.

“Lewis gets attention this year because it’s new, it’s a novelty. Wait until this year is gone and the public say, ‘I wonder what is going to happen? Are we going to have another year like last year? Hamilton is going to go rushing off.’ People want a race.”

Allen’s attack has added to the uncertainty surrounding Silverstone and the future of the British Grand Prix, which is in doubt following the recent revelation that it is struggling to pay the £16m hosting fee, despite managing to attract a sell-out crowd.

The track has a contract to host the British Grand Prix until 2026 but is suffering after losing rental income from selling a lease on 280 acres of land two years ago to clear its debts. This previously plugged the difference between the increase in ticket sales every year and the five per cent annual rise in the race hosting fee. Silverstone’s plight has led to it paying the hosting fee for the British race in arrears and Ecclestone has the right to terminate the contract next year.

Hamilton’s performance has been driven by new V6 engines which were introduced to F1 last year and were mastered by his Mercedes team. Ecclestone has been one of the fiercest critics of the engines and some observers have interpreted this as him talking down F1.

While Ecclestone’s criticisms may seem counter-intuitive, they make more sense when F1’s byzantine structure is taken into account. The rules are made by the governing body, the FIA, while Ecclestone runs the company which commercialises the sport.

In a nutshell, Ecclestone sells a product which is made by the FIA so his business suffers if it isn’t up to scratch. As do the race promoters.

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