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Juan Pablo Montoya offers F1 advice: follow IndyCar and NASCAR’s lead to regain fans, TV viewership

Aug 15, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT

(Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Juan Pablo Montoya has raced in numerous motorsports series, including Formula One, IndyCar, CART and NASCAR.

So when Montoya offers suggestions, he knows what he’s talking about.

That’s the case with F1, where Montoya recently told AutoSport that the international racing series could learn a few lessons from its motorsports counterparts in America, particularly IndyCar.

With F1 having downturns in at-track attendance and viewership, much like the same battle NASCAR has fought the last several years due to the poor economy in the U.S., Montoya thinks F1 should study what’s going right of late, particularly in IndyCar and its engagement of fans.

“(To get fans engaged), they ought to look at IndyCar,” Montoya said. “I think IndyCar does the best job of looking after its fans.

“It’s very different (for fans), just walking around seeing the cars. In the garage in NASCAR, the drivers are never there. The cars are there but the drivers are always in the motorhome. (In) F1, (the paddock) is always closed. It’s so complicated. There is no right answer.”

Montoya won a CART championship, an Indianapolis 500 victory, and seven F1 races before a seven-season/two wins tenure in NASCAR.

Now that he’s back in IndyCar and has returned to his open-wheel roots, Montoya shows that he still has some affinity for F1 and its troubles.

His No. 1 suggestion on how to “fix” F1?

“Number one, F1 has to change the sound,” he said. “It is a really hard compromise because they all talk about saving money, but at the end of the day F1 has never been about that.

“They still spend all the money in the world. One team there could probably sponsor the whole series here (in IndyCar).”

Montoya also said F1’s teams and the league as a whole could learn a great deal from both NASCAR’s and IndyCar’s efforts to attract fans, particularly with social media engagement, as well as the latter’s numerous autograph sessions at every race, plus fan-friendly and accessible paddocks.

As a result, it’s not surprising that IndyCar especially has shown significant attendance and especially TV rating gains in the last two years, particularly with its TV deal with NBC and the NBC Sports Network.

“The people that best understand it … NASCAR is the best at understanding that at the end of the day it’s a show,” he said. “Formula 1, being very European, they think it’s a sport. And it is a sport. But the way it’s played … the fans have to like it.”

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  1. f1fan1 - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    So the IRL gets a couple hundred thousand people in the US watching their events…maybe a couple hundred thousand in the rest of the world combined, and Juan is telling F1 they should follow Indycar’s lead?? Amazing the effect the kool-aid has in Indy.

    • indygirl500 - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      It isn’t the IRL, it’s IndyCar. The IRL doesn’t exist anymore. IndyCar is starting to grow and is much better racing, which obviously you don’t watch.

      • f1fan1 - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        Indy Racing League, LLC is the legal name of the entity that owns indycar. Indycar is a d/b/a of the IRL.

  2. uknownothingatall - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    IRL has no fans and NASCAR is WWE for hillbillies with it’s ’70s technology. But I guess we can tell which series’ Mr. Montoya is getting paid to race in right now.

  3. rupp246 - Aug 15, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    Most of the F1 races come on early in the morning because of the time change. That is one reason. Another is there is no American driver the fans can relate too. Those are some reasons why it is not popular here. Why attendance is down at tracks is probably because the ticket prices are most likely way too high.

    • crunge4461 - Aug 17, 2014 at 10:44 PM

      I went to the Houston 2013 Friday practice, was in town on business. I paid 20 dollars and had full access to the paddock…saw virtually every driver close-up, I was practically next to RHR while he talked to some folks about a practice crash. I met John Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, and saw A.J. but figured he’d come over if he felt, I’m not shouting at A.J. Foyt. I have attended F1, Nascar, and IndyCar events and this was by far the coolest of all racing experiences..20 dollars on a Friday and I was hanging out in the paddock! My Point, Indy is great to their fans, no doubt, has got to be the best bargain in top tier racing…great racing, reasonable cost, and full access.

  4. barrylibby - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    I suppose he hasn’t noticed empty seats lately at NASCAR events !

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:15 PM

      They’re still easily getting 50K a race not to mention a pretty darn good TV number

  5. wethog66 - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:15 PM

    You guys know better than a guy that has driven in all of the series he is talking about, and been more than competitive in most of them. Sure.

    Say what you want about NASCAR, and it has its issues these days, but at least in NASCAR there are way more drivers and teams that are competitive race to race. This season, to date, there have been 12 different winners in NASCAR. F1, 4 different winners out of 11 events, with 1 driver winning 6 of those races.

    To this dumb American that is why I can’t get into F1. The F1 champion is determined by which ever team has come up with some state of the art widget that the other teams spend the entire season trying to replicate. Not so much the guy behind the wheel. Not saying F1 should tone down the technology, but maybe make the drivers more of a factor over the cars and I will watch.

    • worknman24hours - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:45 PM

      weedoggy!thems some great facts you got there!

      I’m all over what you posted there wethog,I am stone tired of watching one team win everything in Formula One every season.

      At least with Indycar we get to see the drivers getting a chance to shine and actually win a race.

      In F1 they shine and get to see the team with the best car win the races over and over and over and are frozen by rules that keep that team ahead all season.

      NASCAR’s had some real slugfest races this year that have also gone down to the wire.

      I like all the series for different reasons but I hope that Indycar can get more exposure because they’ve got a great racing product that’s underseen for how good it is.

      But to get the fans involved,you have to get them down near the action and that means open pits and racing people happy to see and interact with the fans.

      That goes with ANY racing series.

  6. techmeister1 - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    NHRA and drag racing in general has done the best job over the years of supporting their fans by allowing 100% access to the pit area, cars and drivers. That’s probably one of the reasons drag racing has endured even though it’s attendance varies with the economic times like most “entertainment”.

    As Montoya indicated the pro race organizations in the U.S. understand that motorsport just like Dancing with the Stars or American Chopper or football is “entertainment” and everyone is vying for consumer viewership and the $$$$$$. Europeans think of their sports as purely sports but it’s not when you start involving sponsors, TV rights, etc.

    With no disrespect to Indycar, they had pretty low viewership and attendance so increased interacting with the fans was one of the few things they had to offer to increase interest and differentiate them a bit from other forms of “entertainment”. It’s good for the fans and all involved. F1 however has a real issue with fans in the paddock area and I can understand this on many levels. They have talked about opening up more to the fans and I expect they will be forced to do this. Autograph sessions and access to the cars but not necessarily the garages may be a viable means to help.

    I think however like most motorsport organizations they are looking for the casual fan not the die hard fans who are already present and accounted for. That’s a tough nut to crack as casual fans can change their interest in a heartbeat and be gone to whatever is cool this week.

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