Racing towards the future


Yesterday’s opening plenary session gave a fascinating insight into Motor Sport’s capacity to excite, connect and innovate, at every level of competition.

FIA, Sport Conference, Geneva, Motor sport

The first plenary session of FIA Sport Conference 2017 began by looking back over the achievements and advances that have been made over previous editions. With the great strides that were made at conferences in Goodwood, Mexico City, Munich and Turin, this first session gathered some of the most influential figures in motor sport to discuss the biggest challenges facing the sport in the coming years.

The session began with a keynote speech from two-time FIA World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, who discussed the differences in the motor sport landscape now compared to when he first discovered his passion for driving.

“When I was younger it was much more difficult to get involved,” he said. “Today it is possible to fall in love with the sport immediately, with access to the videos online, on social media and so on. All the new technology will help them become the next generation of fans.

“So few people reach the very pinnacle of any sport, it is always an incredible achievement. All of us in motor sport need to keep the balance for our young drivers, and in that I think the FIA single-seater pyramid is great. But the key, for me, is to make sure that the very best drivers, the winners, automatically have to opportunity to move up to the next level.”

The rally legend was then joined on stage by Formula One Group CEO Chase Carey, Mercedes-AMG F1 Executive Director Toto Wolff and Lamborghini CEO and FIA Single-Seater Commission President Stefano Domenicali.

With the recent change in Commercial Rights Holder in Formula One, the panel first considered the steps being taken to grow the sport.

“There’s no one thing that’s a silver bullet – it’s a cumulative process,” said Carey. “In the world today, where people have more and more entertainment choices, you have to keep finding ways to make the events more special and more memorable. We’ve got a sport that lends itself to that. We have magic and mystique, power, speed and all the things that if presented in the right platform, can grow.”

Wolff looked at the significant impact motor sport has had on the Mercedes brand, and added, “Ten years ago, if you’d asked what a Mercedes was they might have said a taxi, but with success on track we are changing public perception of the brand. This shows how powerful Formula One is as a way of making global changes to your identity.”

From looking at the pinnacle of the single-seater pyramid, the discussion then turned to the system as a whole. As FIA Single-Seater Commission President, Stefano Domenicali has been instrumental in recent developments in completing this system within the FIA framework.

“Due to the vision of the FIA President, we planned for the right way to create this pyramid,” he said. “Since 2014 we already have 12 championships around the world. For the future, in terms of performance, we need to make sure there is a balance in their training and learning. We must also keep costs under control at all times. It is something that is very tricky to manage, but we are working in the Commission to achieve this.”

To close the opening session, the panellists were invited to speculate on the future of motor sport and paint a picture of how they see the landscape in 10 years’ time.

For Sainz, one of the main areas for development is safety. “Safety is a never ending story. When I think how we were doing rallies when I first started, not only with cars, helmets, but also so many issues with the public and spectators, today that is history, and I think we can continue this progress.”

Wolff considered the future in terms of the essence of the sport, saying: “I think we are in a crucial period because the world is changing. If I think back to Carlos’ career, I remember smashed windows towards the end of a rally – all the drama and the glory, this is the key ingredient of motor sport and the question is how do we preserve that for the next 10 years.”

Continuing on a similar theme, Chase Carey said: “Our challenge is to find new ways to stay at the pinnacle of motor sport. We’re working together with the FIA to make Formula One all it can be.”

Finally, Stefano Domenicali closed the session by concluding: “The more connected we are to the world the more we can develop sport that is focused on what fans want and make sure that in ten years, motor sport is even more popular and exciting than it is now.”