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Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany, right, and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, left spray team member James Vowles, during the ceremony for the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, Sunday, June 22, 2014. Rosberg won the race ahead of second placed Hamilton. (Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo)

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany, right, and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, left spray team member James Vowles, during the ceremony for the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, Sunday, June 22, 2014. Rosberg won the race ahead of second placed Hamilton.

(Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo)

Motorsports

Five ways Formula One can improve, and other racing news Add to ...

4. Remember tradition Yes, it’s a business and it must make money, but F1 also needs to remember its roots. That means running on proper race tracks in countries where people actually care about the sport rather than in places like Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, China, and Malaysia. The fact that there seems to be a threat to cancel the race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium every couple of years signals a huge disconnect between the fans and those running the sport. Spa is the most exciting track left on the F1 circuit and it should be protected at all costs, rather than simply being seen as poor revenue generator by its commercial arm.

5. Balance safety with competition There was a time when the “motor racing in dangerous” warning on tickets meant something. While nobody wants to put F1 drivers in unnecessary danger, there’s a fine line between making the sport safe and making it sterile. Once a mistake meant being beached in a gravel trap, but the pavement areas now covering most runoff areas make it easy to recover and rejoin the race without skipping a beat. There was also a time in F1 when corners like Eau Rouge at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit and Suzuka’s 130R would strike fear into even the bravest F1 driver. Now they’ve been neutered so much that they’re just another flat out corner, and it’s just not right.

By the Numbers: F1’s global television audience has been falling steadily since 2010, down a full 25 per cent since 2008. According to Formula One Management, 450 million people in 185 countries or territories around the world watched at least 15 minutes of the 27,000 cumulative hours of coverage during the 2013 season. That number was down 10.4 per cent from the previous season.

Although the U.S. audience was up 18 per cent, only 11.4 million people watched F1. Across the Atlantic in the U.K., there was a modest two per cent increase to about 29 million despite the move to Pay TV there for most live races. Italy, Japan, and Spain were about flat when it came to audience.

On the other side of the equation, a switch to Pay TV in France resulted in an audience drop of almost 63 per cent. After France, China’s audience plummeted the most at 61 per cent, Poland’s TV numbers dropped 20 per cent, and Germany and Russia were both down 10 per cent. While Brazil lost five per cent, it remains the biggest F1 watching country at about 77 million.

FACTBOX (Source: Formula One Management)

Year

TV audience

# of GPs

Average viewers per grand prix

2008

600 million

18

33.33 million

2009

520 million

17

30.59 million

2010

527 million

19

27.74 million

2011

515 million

19

27.11 million

2012

502 million

20

25.10 million

2013

450 million

19

23.68 million

 

Random Thoughts: Many observers have taken Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevy sporting a blue paint scheme care of new sponsor Panasonic in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway as a sign that he’ll be sticking around for a few more years. The Panasonic deal runs to the end of 2016 and it’s likely the agreement includes the four-time NASCAR champion as its driver spokesman.

The Japanese electronics company will be the primary sponsor for two events per year and be on the car in another form for the rest of the 36-race Sprint Cup season. Having the popular driver stick around a few more years is good news for NASCAR, which can only benefit from Gordon being in the field.

It also creates a good storyline for the sport as the active wins leader continues his pursuit of David Pearson for second overall in career wins. Gordon’s 89 victories is the most in the modern era of NASCAR and ranks third overall in the history of top flight U.S. stock car racing.

The 42-year-old is only 16 behind Pearson who scored 105 wins between 1960 and 1986. The leader is Richard Petty, who has an unassailable 200 triumphs over a 35-year career that began in 1958.

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