When I started writing for Bleacher report almost one year ago, Honda (the team I supported and loved), were in the middle of a dire season that had led on from a spectacularly disappointing 2007 campaign.
This was a bit of a bummer to say the least as if I had only started a couple of seasons earlier, I could have written much more jolly articles!
That’s not to say that I didn’t love writing about 2008. I tried to find as many positives as possible and I have to admit rather enjoyed being a slightly quiet sideline writer to the Ferrari and McLaren boys.
It really shocked and annoyed me than, as a massive Honda fan when people seemed, almost immediately to grow bored and frustrated with 2009 as Brawn began to dominate the early races.
Of course now Red Bull have overtaken everyone is happy that anyone other than Brawn is winning. I’ve heard comments such as ‘finally someone other than Brawn’ and ‘god F1 is boring at the moment’. However, was Brawn’s dominance really so bad for F1?
I’d like first of all to talk about merchandise. Love it or not, it is probably one of the biggest aspects of Formula 1 these days.
Now I have always liked minichamps model replicas of F1 cars and keep a close eye on their stock levels of Honda and Jenson Button. The second Brawn won in Australia, no less than seven Brawn car replicas were announced!
These were the special Australia presentation set, both drivers’ launch cars, both drivers’ final livery cars and both drivers’ cars for the Australian GP (sold separately as opposed to together as in the special presentation set).
Would a company already struggling during a difficult economic climate, release so many products that I can tell you will be essentially the same (simply brought out at very different times; for example the release car is out now, and you’d be lucky to get some of the cars before mid 2010).
Not only did minichamps do this, they also announced replicas of every single race Jenson went on to win. Of course replica websites are going to big-up their stocks, but the models announced already have witnessed a sharp demand in pre-orders.
Aside from the model cars, look at the replica team wear. Now even though I am a Honda fanatic, I strongly disagree with spending £100 plus on a replica coat that will be more like £40 the following year. However, that’s just me!
Look at the grandstands throughout the early stages of the season...so many white caps! Granted, many of these fans will have been glory seekers...but they still clearly enjoyed turning up to watch Brawn win.
As the season continues, more and more products are released and more and more websites hark on about the fact that Brawn has sold more and faster even than McLaren. Surely this counts for something? People clearly want the stuff; would they want it if they didn’t like watching Brawn win?
I’m now going to turn to British TV ratings. The Autosport article I looked at to get these ratings showed 1996 as the peak year (between 1992 and 2009) for British TV ratings. Of course 1996 was the great year in which Damon Hill, one of my all time favourite drivers, finally won the championship.
That season raked in an estimated 5.3 million British viewers. The ratings then began to steadily drop to a ridiculous low of 2.7 million in 2006. This steep drop was of course due to the arguably boring dominance of a rather fast German bloke.
In 2000 Schumacher won nine out of 17 Grand Prix. This included a three-race start and a four race finish. Of the 17 rounds, ten were won by a Ferrari driver. This was not, therefore a dissimilar season to 2009.
The ratings for 2000 were 4.1 million which did lead from a steady decline anyway. Still this was a pretty high rating. Then as years rolled on and Ferrari easily collected more silverware the ratings fell drastically.
I do find it slightly odd that the ratings for 2006 were so low (what with Nando) but they were. Then as we went into 2007 and 2008, the British ratings began to steadily rise again reaching a peak of 3.9 million in 2008.
Personally, although the fight went to the last race in both seasons, I found 2007 and 2008 just as boring in many ways as the seasons before.
In both cases, Ferrari or McLaren would certainly win it; there was simply a choice out of four drivers. Now not being a fan of McLaren or a die hard Ferrari fan made these races dull for me, I understand that.
Just as I understand not being a Brawn fan would make 2009 rather dull. But, why were the Bleacher community so quick to be bored?
Already in 2009 the British ratings have risen to 4.2 million which is higher than any of Schumi’s yeas and the highest since 1999. Of course there are other factors to consider such as multi-media technology, but 2009 has unquestionably been a well watched season amongst British viewers.
This of course doesn’t necessarily mean that people are interested in the races and my way of gauging opinion is through Bleacher.
I suppose the question that puzzles me more than most, as I say, is why did the Bleacher community seem to have such a short fuse when it came to Brawn?
I think the reason I wrote this article was to try and defend the team I love so much and to try and ask you lot what went wrong?
Brawn GP did get off to an amazing start, but Rubens is yet to win a race. Although Jenson dominated the early races, he did so through excellent (and to my mind) exciting driving. The Red Bulls quickly caught Brawn and this added elements of luck and strategy very early on...still people were bored!
Now, I fear Brawn are on the decline as they struggle to finance a development scheme against the corporate giants in the other garages. All of a sudden F1 is exciting again, Lewis has even won a race now...but why aren’t people bored by this new Red Bull dominance? Perhaps they will be?
People always look at F1 with rose tinted spectacles. Since safety and the rise of mega business developed, F1 has become more dull by the second (of course, the safety is fantastic, but many people like to watch big crashes for some reason?).
To my mind, you will get more excitement from same chassis championships or different classes altogether, such as British touring cars or the WRC. However, although I am steadily being drawn even faster to the WRC, I can see why many people still view F1 as the pinnacle of motor sport...though it is rather dull most of the time!
To be honest with you, I don’t have any of the answers; that’s why I hope you will comment on this article. I just wanted to get this mini rant out there as I have been really shocked at a lot of people’s reactions to the season so far. I would also like to add that although I stated F1 was ‘rather dull’...I love it with a passion...I always have done.
I strongly believe that 2010 will see the old order restored. McLaren and Ferrari will be the top two teams, probably joined by Red Bull. Williams...well they’re Williams, they’ll probably start well and run out of money.
I can’t see Toyota on the grid and the rest will probably just make up the numbers. As for Brawn? Well that depends on their results from this year.
Bloody Virgin will probably leave even if Brawn win (but at least they stuck around and kept Brawn afloat for 2009!). Other sponsors will flock to the team should they be champions. However, if they lose the competition...they will most likely slip back to 2006 Honda...a strong team, with good performances...but not championship material.
I believe 2009 is the best chance Jenson has of winning the driver’s title and this could be the only year I get to see my beloved team as champions. I want to enjoy it whilst it lasts...why can’t everyone else?