Empty Seats Overshadow German Grand Prix; Lauda Says F1 Needs To Change
Nürburgring officials "are confident about the track's F1 future despite the alarmingly low attendance number at Sunday's German Grand Prix in Hockenheim," according to the SID. Capricorn Nürburgring Managing Dir Carsten Schumacher said, "Last year, we were satisfied with a total of 110,500 spectators at the Nürburgring over the F1 weekend. I'm confident that the Nürburgring will keep its attractiveness. Therefore I wouldn't talk of a 'German' problem." Schumacher called the small crowd in Hockenheim -- the official number for Sunday was 52,000 -- "unfortunate." However, he did not want to evaluate if Hockenheim's low attendance "would increase his track's negotiating position." Schumacher: "Please understand that we do not interfere in the affairs between [F1 CEO Bernie] Ecclestone and the Hockenheimring" (SID, 7/21). REUTERS' Alan Baldwin asked, "Where have all the German Formula One fans gone?" The "glamour sport was asking itself that question after tens of thousands stayed away from a home grand prix that should have been box office gold in the land of Mercedes but instead left plenty of empty seats on Sunday." Some "pointed the finger at the country's reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, struggling for form at a below-par Red Bull this season and unhappy with the new rules and engine format." Others "blamed World Cup fatigue, Germany's strict tax rules on corporate hospitality or the absence of Michael Schumacher." Whatever the reason, "the facts on Sunday were stark." Instead of "queues of cars on the autobahns and crowds thronging through the turnstiles, the race at Hockenheim drew an attendance of just 52,000 on Sunday." In total, 95,000 "turned up over the three days -- a small crowd in one of the world's largest car exporting nations and home of sporting marques like Porsche, BMW and Audi." The Sunday figure represented a 38% "drop on the previous race at the circuit two years ago." High ticket prices, with a category one weekend pass costing €515 ($700), "were also seen as a factor -- particularly with Austria offering a cheaper alternative as well as novelty value in the same German-speaking catchment area" (REUTERS, 7/21).
TIME FOR A CHANGE: In London, Byron Young reported triple world champion Niki Lauda "warned Formula 1 is at 'five to 12' and must change fast or risk extinction." Lauda "issued the starkest warning yet after disappointing turn-outs for a second successive day at the German Grand Prix." And he "slammed modern racers as unrecognisable and lacking in charisma." He was speaking "as vast swathes of the Hockenheim grandstands were empty for qualifying and as little as a half-capacity 50,000 expected for the 10th round raceday." He said, "Formula One is seeing a serious cultural change. It is logical that the young people of today have other priorities. Everything in the world is changing, but only Formula One is staying where it was.” He added, "Young people do not want to stay at home on Sunday when the sun is shining to sit in the lounge with their father for two hours. The problem is that today, there is no alternative. You can’t just sit on the beach and watch the race highlights on your smartphone." Lauda "was also critical of the faceless drivers." Lauda: “We have a generation of drivers that, if they were not wearing their racing overalls, you would simply walk past some of them and not notice. We must again have the drivers, not the bureaucrats, in the foreground. If we continue like this, no one will be bothered about Formula One anymore. It’s five minutes to twelve” (DAILY MIRROR, 7/21).