Why F1 must learn the importance of transparency

As the Singapore Grand Prix concludes and teams begin the hard work of packing up the cars so that the racing circus may begin again at Suzuka next week, it is very clear that FOM is not learning from its mistakes and still does not consider the sport’s fans as its most important asset.

Two incidents, one during the race, and yet another post-race matter, have once again demonstrated the need for F1 to increase its transparency – something that no successful brand can exist without.

Keeping the fans informed

The Italian Grand Prix concluded with a baffling episode unfurling, where many observers were left in the dark as to whether the result of the race would stand.

Today, once again, fans found themselves in a situation where they feared that a hard-fought victory would be stripped from Sebastian Vettel after it emerged that his Ferrari team were being investigated for a Pac Ferme infraction.

Some hours later it has emerged that the Italian squad will not be penalised for its team members behaving in an “inappropriate manner” after the race.

No further details have been forthcoming and both fans and the media find themselves completely in the dark about what may have occurred. This situation simply must end and ample explanation must be shared by FOM with the public to avoid cheapening the spectacle of the show.

Penalties and penalising fans

This is not the only example of F1’s lack of transparency this weekend.

Nico Hulkenberg was awarded a grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix following a collision with Felipe Massa. The TV coverage and commentary provided no insight into one driver being more at fault than the other, with the situation appearing to be an unfortunate racing incident.

However, the race stewards are privy to considerably more information than the fan at home, with data and other TV angles available to support their decision making – as is necessary.

Yet they did not make clear to the viewing public why the German driver was penalised. It is worthless to have such powers and information at your disposal if the drivers and the public are not able to understand what has informed your decision – this is the very same situation that Pirelli found itself in with the tyre pressure scandal, which resulting in a loss of trust from fans, the media and drivers alike.

The stewards and the FIA must ensure that fans are kept informed. Otherwise they will rely on the information presented through commentary and TV footage, which will result in a loss of trust for the FIA and race stewards.

Track invader

The final nail in the coffin relates to the track invader.

The mere fact that this was allowed to occur – for the second time in the 2015 season – is frankly unthinkable, and the sport must ensure that all access to the track during the race is secure.

However, once again the sport’s key stakeholders have not been forthcoming about the incident. Details on who the man was, how and why he was able to access the track, and the measures that are being taken to avoid this occurring in the future should have been a priority for the FIA and FOM press teams.

F1’s out-dated approach to keeping its stakeholders – by which I mean fans, sponsors, event organisers, teams, and the media – is unacceptable. F1 is a global brand that is known for quality and the actions of FOM this season, starting with threats of legal action against fans and culminating in borrowing $1bn to pay its shareholders when teams are on the brink of collapse, is at best short sighted.

This must change. Transparency is key and fans deserve better.

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