Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2016

Vettel blames expensive tickets and quiet engines for drop in spectators

2016 German Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel believes the high cost of attending races and reduced engine noise explains the fall in spectator numbers at venues such as the Hockenheimring.

“It’s clear nowadays, let’s say the last couple of years haven’t been that popular,” he said during today’s FIA press conference. “There’s been a lot of negative in the press and obviously people, fans, follow that as well and that doesn’t help.”

McLaren, Hockenheimring, 2016
German GP Thursday in pictures
“I think Formula One has lost a little bit of its excitement in terms of just if you listen, the cars are a lot more quiet, which also then looks a little bit less spectacular, even though it’s not true, corners speeds are as high as they’ve ever been. Just when we go on power it doesn’t sound as nice as it probably did in the past.”

“So there’s a couple of reasons and I think it general grandstand tickets are too expensive. In my point of view they should be a lot cheaper, a lot more affordable, so a lot more people would be tempted to spontaneously say ‘yes, let’s go, we want to be part of it and let’s not miss it’.”

Germany had two world championship races per season during the height of Michael Schumacher’s success but had no round at all last year. Vettel said it was Schumacher who made F1 truly popular in Germany.

“I think he was obviously the first German world champion and the first one that made Formula One really popular in Germany,” he said. “Obviously Formula One has been around for a long time and also there were a lot of races in Germany, but I think the real difference is that we didn’t really have a local hero for a very, very long time.”

“There were Germans participating, but obviously if there is one really, really successful one, winning a lot of races, that’s what attracts a lot of the attention. That’s what also caused the hype initially and caused the grandstands to be full.”

“I think entering the Motodrom in the old days was a bit different than nowadays, because the track was different, all the other parts of the track there was only trees, so I think that’s different now, you have big grandstands around the track, a bit more spread.”

2016 German Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Vettel blames expensive tickets and quiet engines for drop in spectators”

  1. “corners speeds are as high as they’ve ever been. ” It’s not true, they are 20km/h+ slower in Spain T3 than before.

  2. I think SV got it partially right. High ticket prices and no Michael Schumacher. Didn’t MotoGP bring 110k for their recent race in Germany?

    1. I thought it was 120k, or was that Assen?

    2. @photogcw, cost is certainly one major factor in the puzzle, but other races have seen attendance figures hold steady or even increase despite relatively high ticket prices.

      It does seem to be the case that Michael Schumacher had a big influence over the race – I believe that the attendance figures peaked in about 2004, when Michael was at his most dominant, dropped a bit for 2005 and then went into long term decline after he announced his retirement in 2006.

      However, when he came back out of retirement, the attendance figures started to recover slightly. After Michael announced that he had left the sport for good, the attendance figures went back to their historical trend and continued to fall.

      I think that Vettel is making a mistake by looking at just the past couple of years and assuming that it is due to the change in engines – the current decline began in the closing years of the V10 era (i.e. two engine generations ago), so just focusing on the last couple of years gives a very misleading picture.

      Generally, the impression that I am given is that F1, and indeed motorsport in general, just isn’t especially popular in Germany these days. Schumacher was popular because, in the 1990’s, he captured something of the zeitgeist of modern Germany – he was something of a self made man who’d come from a fairly modest background and risen to become a championship winning driver. He looked, sounded and came from much the same sort of background as the average German man in the street, so the average man in the street looked up to and was inspired by him.

      Couple that to a surge in motorsport culture at the time that reflected the might of Germany’s industrial capabilities and bolstered by the reputation of some ground breaking cars, such as BMW’s M3 or Mercedes’s AMG and Cosworth tuned cars, and you have an environment where Michael became an icon for an entire generation.

      By contrast, the lifestyles and backgrounds of figures like Vettel and Rosberg is different. They are seen as much more remote and privileged individuals, with Vettel having his career underwritten by Mateschitz whilst Rosberg had a fairly luxurious upbringing courtesy of Keke’s success as a driver. Even though Vettel has won multiple titles and Rosberg has challenged Hamilton for the WDC in recent years, they just don’t seem to have the same sort of popular touch that Michael had.

      Furthermore, there has also been something of a shift in the wider public consciousness in Germany too – as is the case in a number of other countries, motorsport and interest in cars in general is declining amongst younger people, and I feel that is also being reflected in the ticket sales.

      1. SV is no doubt correct about high prices, not just at the track but also at home, but I don’t think people flock to the track to have their hearing damaged and really the cars haven’t had a good sound since before the engineers started using exhaust gas to create downforce. As for corner speed, the real problem is that the drivers aren’t driving on the ragged edge of control for 98% of the race and that combined with vastly more reliable engines means the racing is not only much less spectacular but also lacks the suspense that lasted until the car(s) crossed the finish line in earlier eras.

      2. WEC managed 62,000 spectators to the Nurburgring race last week. If F1 can’t match that figure, it really needs to ask itself why, as it suggests there’s more to it than motor sport not being as popular in Germany as before. Rather, it would indicate an F1-specific problem.

  3. Trackside you can hear more not less than before, because you don’t need earplugs. Prices. It’s still free to air on RTL?

    1. @lockup Yes its still free on RTL.

      since the late 90s there is also a Pay tv option via what is now sky germany (was called premiere sport before) that has more video options, no commercials, every session live & more in-depth pre/post race analysis.

      RTL coverage is quite bad, loads of commercials breaks, rubbish commentators, poor analysis….. which is why i pay for sky, there coverage is so much better & we get the onboard camera, pits and highlight feeds.

      1. Ah, interesting thanks.

  4. Record Crowds in Australia, Canada, Silverstone(adding capacity), Hungary, Spa, Monza.

    Austin was packed last year even with Hurricane and tornadoes.

    Zee Germans are just tired of their best 2 drivers ROS and VET constantly losing.

    1. i’m german and i can confirm it’s the prices and lack of other events, they haven’t released it’s not 2004 anymore

      1. How much are General Admission tickets? And are there many other supporting races during the day?

        1. dunno about supporting events, says all

    2. Dude, Austin was not packed last year. They had the lowest attendance in the 4 years they have had the race. I have been to 3 of the 4 and have had friends who have stopped attending as well. While I will admit the rain had a significant impact on the attendance, each year after the inaugural race attendance has dropped.

      The biggest issue among myself and my friends is the noise. No one I know enjoys the sound of the V-6 vacuum cleaner engines. They are horrible. The V-12 & 10’s were great. When the V-8 switch took place it took a bit to get used to. But these V-6 engines are horrible. I remember the inaugural race in Austin. You could hear the engines screaming from more than a mile away from the track. It was great. Not anymore.

      A close second is that if you compare a ticket to F-1 to say (I live in america so forgive the comparison) Nascar, you can get far more access for way less money than you can in F-1.

      1. I agree that the engine noise is definitely a factor. I feel like I’m in the twilight zone when I read the comments here saying that the V6 sounds great and that it is not part of the reason why people aren’t attending the race.

        The V6 sounds terrible. It’s a droning sound that somehow hypnotizes me to sleep. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever get the 18k-20k rpm V8/V10 back, and that’s depressing. With autonomous and electric cars on the rise, motor heads are destined to suffer and watch the slow death of the gas engine.

  5. The first F1 race that I attended was Hungary 2014 and my first impression of the engine sound was really positive. Just at the level for me to not need ear plugs, you can hear the commentator speaking in the PA’s and you could talk to people sitting next to you but when the GP2 cars came out, I got annoyed because the sound was just too unbearably loud..

    So, I do not believe that the engine sound is a big factor.. more like the cost of having the F1 channel and the tickets to attend the races.. F1 doesnt seem to understand that I it is not just the cost of the Grand Prix tickets, it’s also the cost of accommodation and the commute/taxi/bus/train to the circuit (and back) which adds up to an expensive event to attend.

    1. @dam00r

      With respect, I think having not heard the N/A cars you can’t really have any idea what F1 used to like before the hybrids.

      I recently posted on another forum, I current F1 live is like going to see Star wars at the cinema only to find out when you get there that the John Williams soundtrack has been removed and replaced by one by Justin Bieber!

      For a lot of people, the sound was a significant part of what made it worth paying crazy money to do a GP weekend.

      1. What do you mean?
        Oh, what do you mean?

      2. The ‘a lot of people’ doesn’t include me then. I’ve been to the track since 1999, and I can say eventhough the high pitch sound of the old engine was awesome, however, the awesomeness last for about 5 minutes, because after that, you can’t hear anything else, and even after the race you have this ‘zing’ sound in your head, and that’s using earplug.

        The new sound is much better. I now bring my whole family over. And it is much enjoyable because you can now have a conversation with others, and my kids , who keep asking questions about what’s going or even hear the trackside commentary (although they are rubbish)

        I am no longer drown for about 2 hours with nothing else but the high pitched engine sound. If sound I am after, then I would go to heavy metal concert.

        1. @toothless
          Too right. I hated the high pitched noise of the v8s. It was horrible. Within ten minutes you have a headache and the ringing in your ears after the race, truly unpleasant.
          I loved the v12s and v10s though.

    2. That is kind of the problem… The first race you attended was in 2014…

    3. Don’t listen to the others, I been attending races since the mid 80’s, You are correct, the V10’s sounded great for a couple minutes and then it was annoying, the V8’s always sounded horrible. These V6 are the best “sounding” engines for some time, they sound great without earplugs and don cause hearing loss/damage.

      All that noise is just wasted energy anyway.

  6. Personally, having been to the Hungarian GP last weekend and seeing large numbers of German fans I think the fact the Hockenheim itself being a bad track is the key reason why crowds are decreasing at Hockenheim. Because German fans can really easily visit Spa, Monza or Hungaroring which are much better tracks and provide better racing, they might as well go to those GP if they want to than go to the boring Hockenheimring.
    If it is simply that Vettel and Rosberg aren’t winning the championship/haven’t won the championship for last couple of years and that’s why there’s declining viewer numbers then I’d be interested to see what viewer numbers were like around 2007 and 2008 when it was also a relatively dry period for German drivers, because I personally don’t think that it can be just down to Vettel and Rosberg why viewer numbers are decreasing in Germany. Although… the fact Rosberg isn’t really German (having had Finnish dad and grown up in Monaco) could be an influencing factor

    1. I think you make a really good point. The revised Hockenheim is awful and much worse than the revised Nürburgring which sadly is not part of the calendar anymore.

      I do though have to agree with Vettel a little though. Whilst the engines are more interesting to listen to nowadays and I’ve generally been in favour of the new turbo era, there was a certain excitement to hearing an old F1 engine. It was a unique experience that would scare you a little. I don’t want to get too nostalgic, but in terms of attending a live event the truly amazing technology of those PUs is better explained on the TV at home than at the circuit (which wasn’t the case before).

  7. How many tickets have to be sold to give Ferrari their reported €90~100 just for showing up?

  8. My one and only race attendance so far was Melbourne 2015. Hearing the 2 seater Minardi V10 on track made the F1 cars sound like buses. But that alone wouldn’t stop me going to a race.

    Ticket prices for Melbourne were actually fairly reasonable, I think my 4 day GA with premium zone access was less than a Sunday GA only ticket for Silverstone. That is what stops me even considering Silverstone.

  9. F1’s decline in popularity in Germany began well before the current power units were introduced.

    I can’t talk about ticket prices as i’m unsure how prices at Hockenheim/Nurburgring compare to 10 years ago which incidentally is about when the decline began (Who retired around that point?).

  10. Pierre Racine
    29th July 2016, 14:53

    You’ve got it all wrong Sebastian. The new generation (16 to 35 years old) has shifted its general cultural interest and cars don’t fit in anymore: they are appliances to them and therefore the cult of horsepower and speed has vanished. It has been replaced environment pollution consciousness for the most part. Cars have lost their social status to them and the lack of F1 audience reflects this fact. Moreover they are more interested in their phones than wether the F1 engines sound is loud enough. It’s a social paradigm shift more than anything else. Larger tires and louder engines won’t do anything about that.

  11. F1 has been my favorite form of racing for a while. The first race I saw was USAC contest in 1956. Bback then auto races were not televised and it was not till much later that Ii became aware of F1 . Because F1 has the better tracks and the better cars ( though not by much ) it has become my favorite .
    The ticket cost is an issue and the reduced engine sounds makes the atmosphere less race-like but,the problems go far beyond those things.
    For one ,fans are put off by the lack of competition . Being actually a constructor’s competition rather than a driver’s’ competition can be boring . Mercedes, with the split turbo and it’s intelligent choice in making PU development its priority, put itself ahead of the others and made the contests for third and back.
    To this add the terrible and totally inconsistent application of the rules . F1 has two forms of DRS. The drag reduction and the “different rules” systems : Different rules for different drivers.
    Again the special treatment has involved Max Verstappen ,who F1 obviously wants to do well so they can hold him out as a star and thus a selling point .
    In Hungary he used a double move to block Kimi Raikkonen to stay ahead of him but,no penalty was called. This week ,however ,when Nico Rosberg blocked Max by forcing him out wide Nico got a five second penalty. Different rules for different drivers.Either both incidents were penalties or neither was. Special rule application is just about the worse thing that a sport can be guilty of. Were the field is not level the purity of the contest is lost and sport devolves into exhibition. That is both boring and an insult to the intelligence of the fans.
    When you add to the other failings of F1 its clear favoritism in the application of the rules to fit it’s marketing designs F1 has ruined the sport.
    Today,Indycar past F1 as my favorite form of racing .WEC is behind F1 but,I have a feeling that as the powers that be in F1 keep up their designs to bend the rules in favor of those it perceives as the present and future money maker I can see WEC passing F1 in my mind.
    Sebastian may be right in that cost and authentic sounds are important but, the failings of F1 go far deeper than he is willing to say. What a shame. .

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