Button backs reduced length F1 races

Jenson Button stands in front of the garage. Credit: McLaren Media Centre

McLaren-Honda F1 Team driver Jenson Button believes that in order for Formula One to move with the times and attract younger viewers, the most important demographic for securing F1’s longevity, the FIA should look at shortening the length of races.

A number of other sports have implemented a shorter format of the game to great success, take cricket for example, who have seen attendance figures rise significantly in the T20 format of the sport. The fast-paced action delighting the younger audience, who in this 24 hour society live for a quick excitement fix, rather than one sustained over a longer period of time.

Speaking to Autosport.com recently Button explained his thinking, acknowledging that long-time supporters may not be so keen on such a radicalisation.

“There will always be the diehard fans that have watched Formula 1 for 10, 20 years and will watch a whole grand prix, but that’s not who we’re after.

“It’s the younger fans we need to appeal to, to try to attract them to something for an hour and a half is very difficult.

“People have a short attention span. We’re like kids, we can’t sit down and do one thing for so long – we have to move on and do something else.

“I can’t sit in front of the TV for an hour and a half and watch a film, I have to be active.

“It’s a tough one because Formula 1 is Formula 1, and changing that is a shame because that’s the way it has always been.

“But we need to move with the times if we want the sport to be relevant.”

Although many seasoned F1 supporters may well be able to appreciate much more in a less action packed race, those on the outside who are new to the genre and do not understand all of F1’s intracacies, could be put off by what they consider to be a dull race.

Growing a sport is all about attracting a new and youthful audience, and the current F1 format does not particularly lend itself to pulling in the short attention spanned youngster of today. Button appreciates why people may find the sport boring, and believes changes need to be made in order to get new, younger viewers onboard.

“When I watch Formula 1, I see a race that’s exciting.

“Other people might look at it and say ‘well there are a few overtaking moves, but in an hour and a half there is 10 minutes of action!’

“That’s why I find it exciting, because when those moves happen it’s amazing that driver has put everything on the line.

“But 10 minutes of action in an hour and a half is not enough for most people, and I can understand that.

“Short races, short sports are on the up.

“For example, people love sprint track and field because it’s a short burst of energy.

“I’ve never watched a Tour de France stage [in cycling, which goes on for several hours], but I’ve recorded a Tour de France stage and watched the last 10 minutes.

“F1 needs to attract a younger audience, but how you go about doing that is a lot more difficult.”

Under Bernie Ecclestone, F1 has often been reluctant to move with the times, happy to plod along with its loyal following. But now with Liberty Media at the helm, will the sport begin to open itself up, and provide the sort of coverage and interaction that appeals to the masses?