I’m a fairly large Formula 1 fan though I must admit I had no idea who Naraian Karthikeyan is until today. Based on a cursory Google search, Narain Karthikeyan was India’s first ever Formula 1 driver and last raced in 2012. His career spanned from 2005 to 2012. And that is about the extent of it. He never won a race or sat on a single pole position. Kudos for getting to Formula 1 and your unremarkable career there. Now I understand some heavy hitters are worth interviewing on the F1 news of the day. Names like Vettel and Hamilton come to mind. But not someone whose major career achievement was getting to the series at all.
However, that didn’t stop him from voicing his opinion over the recent changes made by the new owners and operators of F1. Case in point, most of us were fairly stoked to see Bernie Bernie Ecclestone let go, however Karthikeyan sees things differently.
“Bernie was doing a good job. There is no doubt that he built the sport to what it is. To take out the ringleader as they say…I don’t know. I’m not sure,” said Karthikeyan to Motorsport.com.
“People are expecting the things to be done in an American way. F1 is not American, it’s very European. I’m sure they are going to experiment on things. I’m just afraid without Bernie how it works.”
What do you mean by “American Way” there Narain? F1 has remained stagnant in their marketing for years now. Maybe a fresh infusion of ideas will benefit the sport? Here’s a radical thought, by engaging the fans a little more you might encourage more of them to watch or attend races.
“F1 is not accessible (to everyone) and that creates a value. If they like to create like an American sport, then that niche is gone,” he said. “Bringing the fans closer is okay, but F1 has always been on top of everyone’s mind. To go and watch an F1 race there was a lot of excitement.”
Not accessible creates value? In actuality it is the exact opposite, the lack of access is one of the things holding F1 back. Nearly every other racing series on the planet gives their fans some level of access to the teams and cars. If anything F1’s stubbornness to restrict and deny access is a perfect illustration just how out of touch F1 has gotten. I know F1 teams are so paranoid that someone is going to steal one of their precious little tech secrets, but that is just the price of doing business these days. If you don’t evolve then fans will go elsewhere.
“Hopefully they will try and look at those aspects and bring it back and make the cars a little more fun to watch and listen to. And bring that electric atmosphere like it was until 2006-10 when the V10s were there.”
Now Narain is beginning to speak a language I agree with. Screaming V10s is a proposal we can all get behind. Bashing the current cars for their lack of noise and excitement has become so prevalent it borders on cliche. Sure the hybrid turbo V6’s are technical marvels, but none of us like them. You could keep the hybrid-ness and make an exciting engine. This is one area I have complete faith in Liberty Media. I believe they will bring back the screaming F1 cars of the past while also pushing tech forward.
Narain Karthikeyan’s interview can be boiled down into a single sentiment. With an American company purchasing F1 he fears the Americanization of F1. Many share this sentiment and look on with scepticism as they wait and see what the Americans do. F1 is nor has it ever been an American Sport. It is purely a European enterprise. For the most part I agree it should stay that way. However spicing things up, Americanizing F1 in some areas will help. At the end of the day if it can make the F1 product better who cares where it came from.