Friday marks the start of the eighth Formula One race of 2018 and spectators in France will gather to watch the familiar scenes of Hamilton and Vettel battling it out in an attempt to top the podium.
Vettel won his third grand prix race of the season in Canada and saw himself climb above Hamilton by a mere point. This race is significant as it marks the return of the French Grand Prix after a decade without it due to lack of funding.
F1 is currently in unknown territory. Bernie Ecclestone – or the ‘F1 Supremo’ as he was known to many journalists – has gone and in his place American billionaire John Malone and his company Liberty Media have arrived.
— Sky Sports F1 ???? (@SkySportsF1) January 23, 2017
Bernie Ecclestone’s departure signalled the end of an era and more importantly the end of an all profiting F1 business. The general feeling of optimism when the news of Liberty Media broke was palpable, and prompted by the obvious need for change when it came to the sport’s digital presence.
With Liberty came a team of marketing directives and technical directors as well as the foundations of a real business structure aimed at enhancing the F1 experience. The most obvious example of this is the new social media presence. The ban on broadcasting video footage from the race tracks has been reduced and short videos are now permitted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The same can be said for the F1 social media accounts which now aim to show clips from the races and short interviews with the drivers.
It was @ScuderiaFerrari's first win in Canada in 14 years
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 10, 2018
The sport recorded a 54.9% increase in social media since 2016, a statistic that proves their progression onto social platforms has been a success. The idea behind the change centres around improving the fan experience and engagement across all F1 media channels. Last summer’s pre-event for the British Grand Prix in London was widely received by broadcasters and fans. It offered the crowd of 100,000 a chance to see the drivers and perhaps more interestingly, the cars themselves, with spectators also enjoying music from Bastille, Little Mix and the Kaiser Chiefs.
The event also promoted F1’s affiliations with companies such as F1 In Schools, who encourage children to learn about science, technology, engineering and maths. The event was a global success with millions of fans engaging on both digital and social platforms. The only driver not in attendance was Lewis Hamilton, who received a poor reception because of his no-show.
The enigma that is @LewisHamilton revealed again. Calls for more freedom to engage with fans; doesn't show for huge fan event.
— Nick Trott (@NickTrott27) July 12, 2017
Media coverage, however, comes in both positive and negative formats. The coverage of his absence was almost certainly as big – and let’s be honest, probably bigger – than if he had been there.
As well as progression with social media, F1s relationship with esports has propelled the sport even further. The introduction of the FIA Formula One eSports Series at the start of 2017 brought the F1 video gaming community and the sport together. Competitors had to battle it out in two stages of qualification, a semi-final and a final. Over 63,000 people took part in the game with the winner featuring as a driver on the 2018 game.
The use of esports and gaming is a successful way of encouraging younger generations to find a connection with sports and may even be a gateway for them to then take up the sport themselves.
Congratulations to Brendon Leigh, who is confirmed as the 2017 #F1Esports Series champion ????
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 25, 2017
Formula 1 have also announced a Netflix series for the 2018 season which will focus on the drivers, teams and owners. For teams and sponsors alike, this is a fantastic way of reaching out to audiences that they would never ordinarily attract.
F1 chief executive, Chase Carey, has set 2020 as the year of total F1 renewal so despite the steps forward it is a process that will ultimately take some time to be fully integrated into the new F1 philosophy. However, there is already a feeling that F1 is heading into a modern era.