Opinion: Two Things F1 Can Learn From the WEC

I’ve followed F1 ever since I got caught up in the incredibly dramatic and controversial 1997 season. I am an F1 fan but I am certainly not an F1 evangelist. Recent F1 seasons have been accompanied by a chorus of well-founded criticisms. This discontent coincides with the ascendancy of the WEC. The series has matured since its 2012 inception and delivers a compelling product that provides fans what they demand of a world-class racing series: an accessible broadcast presenting fantastic on-track action between cutting edge race cars.

1. Virtual Safety Car Procedure

In F1, drivers must drive to a time delta while under VSC conditions. As evidenced at the recent US GP from COTA, this allows the more enterprising drivers to close gaps to their competitors under the VSC. Most notably, the VSC allowed Nico Rosberg to close the gap to Daniel Ricciardo and, as a result, gain a position on the restart.

In contrast, the WEC’s VSC procedure requires drivers to be on the limiter, preventing drivers from gaining an advantage. Not only does this make for a more equitable competition, it supports the primary purpose of the VSC: to neutralise the race and provide safe working conditions for both track workers and drivers. Additionally, the WEC’s race director clearly announces the beginning and end of the VSC period so there is no confusion. This was a contributing factor to Rosberg getting past Ricciardo.

2. Online Stream

The WEC has made a commendable effort to allow fans online access to the action. Available as either a season pass or on a per race basis, fans can purchase the live broadcast and tune in for both qualifying and the race. While F1 has made progress this season with their feature rich subscription product, they still fail to offer a live stream. Historical footage, interviews, and technical analysis are all welcome additions but are hardly a replacement for the race itself.

The WEC, IMSA, and MotoGP all see the value of a streaming service as a means to expand their audience. The MotoGP offering is especially impressive. All sessions from all three categories are available live and on demand in addition to decades of historical footage. The price reflects the high quality of the product. F1 prides itself as a premium brand and should have no trouble charging a premium price if they offer a premium service.

Looking to 2017

F1’s proposed rule changes will do much to increase the spectacle and restore some lustre to the world’s premier open-wheel series. More mechanical grip, more speed, and more opportunity for overtaking will make for less processional racing. Writing these new regulations will not be an easy task. In the meantime, borrowing some of the good ideas proven in the WEC will keep fans involved and interested while we wait for the coming rejuvenation in 2017.