Has F2 Fallen Off? Are British GP Tickets Overpriced? Ask Dre – June 2024

Why F2 is struggling for relevance, are British GP tickets overpriced, and why we’re not covering Formula E anymore. Our admin cracks open the Inbox for another #AskDre!

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Read time: 14 mins

Hey folks, sorry it’s been a while, busy week on the day job, but it’s time for another edition of #AskDre, the monthly show where you the fine M101 audience ask me your Motorsport questions on F1, MotoGP, IndyCar, Formula E, or whatever else tickles your fancy. And for June, we’ve added some European football discourse too. Because talking about England does wonders for my mental health. On with the questions! 

Did it fall off, or has it always been this way? I think the new car and the adaptations to it as 2024 has played out has led to the penny dropping for a lot of fans realising that F2 has always been a mess. The Spain F2 Feature race was a tyre-saving war that probably should have been won by Joshua Durksen if it wasn’t for an engine failure mid-race. It felt like a hollow win for Jak Crawford when I was watching it.

Mechachrome is probably unfit for purpose as the engine supplier for a series of this size. From obvious reliability to murmurs behind closed doors about inconsistencies in build quality and even the amount of power they produce, with double-digit discrepancies in horsepower. Chuck in the system inequalities in the series such as  “spare parts” cars depending on the amount of funding (Which I’ve been told by people who work directly with drivers in feeder series), throw that in a blender and hit frappe, and it’s no wonder that the series feels unserious. 

It’s never been the fairest evaluator of talent and even when all the animals are equal, some are more equal than others. If you’re Prema, who has F1-level resources, chances are you’re going to know more about how to set a spec car up to win than a Trident or an MP Motorsport.

The problem with that is that 2024’s new car has shaken things up. Virtuosi, Rodin, Hitech and Campos all hit the ground running, while Prema, running two F1-destined talents in Ollie Bearman and Kimi Antonelli has struggled all season long. Bearman, who won four races last year, including a double in Baku at 18 years old, is sitting 17th in the standings right now and a point behind Amaury Cordeel. I know Bearman lost a weekend, but are you trying to tell me that’s all on talent? 

And none of it even matters because Bearman and Antonelli have been nailed on for F1 promotions since before this season even started. It’s gotta suck for people like Isack Hadjar, who’s having a breakout season, or Paul Aron, who Mercedes cut last year and is now leading the Championship knowing he has little chance of F1 despite being the exact kind of rookie we’d normally gush over. 

When you combine a series that has always bred inconsistencies, a political ladder system that has never been the meritocracy people want it to be, and a hardcore audience that is desperate to figure out who the next Max Verstappen is, you’re going to breed a lot of resentment. In a perfect world, I’d love to absorb the cost of F2 into F1’s operating costs so it could ideally be a talent-first series where subsidies aren’t needed and the best truly make it and we can all feel good about that.

But that would require eating a stupid amount of cash covering, probably in the tens of millions a year to make that viable. And that’s not happening for a ladder that the mainstream doesn’t care about. It sucks. F2 has always kinda sucked for that. And it’s not changing anytime soon.

It might be. MotoGP is entering the same problems that I think F1 and IndyCar are having, where there’s more good talent out there than seats available. As you said, there’s only one guaranteed graduate in Moto2 this season in Fermin Aldeguer and everyone else, feels like longshots. Even more so given the rumours that HRC is preparing to give 2021 World Superbike Champion Toprak Razgatlıoğlu a chance in the Premier Class with Luca Marini’s move being a total disaster. 

There’s a lot of decent riders floating around in said top class who may end up looking for work. Fabio Di Giannantonio, Jack Miller and Miguel Oliveira are all names that have been circulated with free agency. There are eight MotoGP wins between those three names alone and Luca Marini was a Top 10 runner in the world last year. 

Now the good news here, is that I don’t think Aldeguer’s moving up alone. If his form tracks, I think Sergio Garcia has a chance of moving up while he leads the Moto2 standings. I think there’s a reasonable chance Idemitsu pushes for Ai Ogura as a fresher regional face to push their side of the garage at LCR Honda. And of course, the big one – If Moto3’s David Alonso keeps this up, he could be another Pedro Acosta-esque talent that will be box office and that will have factories looking for his signature. But the latter option is still likely at least two years out. 

Look at it this way, Joe Roberts, a 26-year-old in his seventh season in Moto2 was the #1 name on the board this year purely because we got wound up over the possibility of a USA alignment with Trackhouse’s Justin Marks, who was probably a bit too forward with the whole “We’re going to revitalise bike racing in the states” thing. 

Again, too much talent, not enough seats. Always the way in elite Motorsport circles. 

I’m with you Harley, it doesn’t look great. I’ll be honest here, it’s seemed that way for a little while now that Ed Carpenter Racing has been struggling to make ends meet. I often have a theory that the zanier a sponsor, the more you’re probably scraping the barrel, and Ed Carpenter’s recent partners have included but haven’t been limited to a Crypto bro, and the United States “Space Force”. And I do wonder if Christian Rasmussen’s part-time schedule this year was down to lack of funding for a full seat, Ed’s insistence on still running the ovals when he hasn’t finished in the Top 10 since 2021 or both. 

This is a team that to me, is still looking for that magic bullet to take them back up the order, ala Josef Newgarden when Sarah Fisher was still a part of the team and it’s unlikely they’re going to find it anytime soon. For a while, I thought that was going to be Rinus Veekay, but the man is getting swamped by the mediocrity of his team. Two Top 10s on the year so far and 17th in the standings. He can’t improve because he drives for Ed Carpenter and now he can’t get a better seat because he drives for Ed Carpenter.

It’s a team that feels like it’s stuck in concrete, and while I don’t think they’re truly at the bottom like a Dale Coyne, it needs new funding and fast because I fear they may be one of the casualties of a growing grid in the future with Prema coming in and others still keeping tabs on the series. (Pratt Miller, Abel, etc.)

Well, you may have noticed here in M101 Towers that we’ve stopped covering the series. To be completely honest, the lack of viewers and readers made it harder and harder to justify the time and effort for the series when we’ve had the growing feeling the it has gotten stale.

Every Formula E race now feels like it follows the same pattern. The first 80% of the race is boring as everyone shuffles around the lead group while trying to regen as much as possible, then in the final 20% of the race, it becomes an actual race as the drivers push and then hope you get an exciting, Sao Paolo-esque finish at the end. It’s great for trying to create viral moments on social media, but lowkey telling your audience that three-quarters of your product isn’t worth watching for anything beyond stat padding your overtaking count for me, isn’t a healthy business model.

They want to call it “peloton racing”, ala Cycling as a pull, but that doesn’t work when you actually watch cycling. That sport is far more tactical, there are often breakaway attempts when there are mountain stages and then that becomes the story of the stage as the hours roll on, said breakaways might have a top contender for the overall classification, or the outright leader looking for an opening to gain an advantage. That’s your hook for your day’s viewing. Formula E is not that.

We as a Discord server sat down for Berlin, the traditionally really strong Formula E weekend. When we realised it was just another series of punts and shoulder charging alongside 15 mentions of said peloton racing, we all just took a unanimous decision of “This is enough for us”. And we’re mostly a bunch of folks in our Late 20s/Early 30s with more than enough free time to dedicate towards fringe sports and outside hobbies. We’re exactly the kind of demographic the series should be aiming for and it’s missing the mark. We’ve just stopped caring.

The other management of their media I’ve often found cringe-worthy as well. CEO Jeff Dodds using a £250,000 bet for charity over “Anyone but Max” as a shot at F1 was in poor taste. Mahindra’s AI Influencer programme. The over-reliance on influencers for promotion which we as an audience can see right through. (A recent P1 reunion between Matt, Tommy and Katy did 5,000 views on YouTube1), the Jermaine Jenas experiment hasn’t worked for me at all either.

And of course, the big one – Formula E is now behind a £30 a month Discovery+ paywall in the country that cares about it most. If you want any chance of growing your audience, putting it behind a paywall is a death sentence. Ask the bike fans how the TNT Sports switch has gone.

Formula E needs to do a lot of course correction if it’s ever going to win us back as podcasters and journalists because I just don’t care for it anymore and I know I’m not the only one. 

Remember a classic phrase Sir Charles: You’re only ever worth what someone is willing to pay.

Yeah, I think Silverstone head Stuart Pringle trying to pin this years race not being a sellout yet on Red Bull’s dominance is a thinly veiled excuse that doesn’t really track when critical thinking is applied.  

Red Bull was destroying people in the back end of 2022 after the ride-height regulation changes kicked in after the summer break. Tickets sold out in minutes, despite the addition of “dynamic pricing” where the prices went up as availability went down. 490,000 people rolled up in 2023 over the weekend, an unofficial attendance record for an F1 race. And I saw the screenshots of the prices paid on social media, four figures for a weekend Grandstand ticket was very common. I think that’s insanity, but clearly the demand was still strong enough for people to pay for it.

April 2022.

I think the difference this year is that we had a cost of living crisis in 2023 right as tickets went on sale and all of a sudden with the Bank of England slapping the interest rates at over 5% and inflation at nearly double that, all of a sudden it was hard to justify a £1,000+ purchase for a luxury event. Combine that with more bells and whistles thrown in like early access and jumping the queue for a fee, I think a lot of people’s patience ran out.

I think the first sentence in that last paragraph would be a perfectly valid thing to say to the media, rather than pin the blame on Red Bull for being too good. And people might not like me for saying this out loud, but if these ticket prices are so ludicrously expensive, why does this GP sell out almost every year?!

I know my A* in GCSE Business Studies isn’t worth much these days, but I’m smart enough to figure out that the British GP ticket prices have been ludicrous for years and yet people were still prepared to pony up out of FOMO. So as an audience, I think we have to take a degree of accountability on this one that I don’t think we’re prepared to take given how many people lashed out at Silverstone’s announcement or screamed in agreement with Lewis Hamilton’s call for cheaper tickets. 

Personally, I’d never pay £1,000+ out of my own pocket for an F1 weekend. I wouldn’t even pay half of that. But there’s a large percentage of fans here that happily would. We have the receipts. And no amount of complaining about it is going to change that. Want my advice? Go there during a MotoGP weekend instead, way better value for money…

In former bookmaker odds language – 7/1. About 15%. Simply put, I don’t think IndyCar really cares about placating a handful of its drivers going to Le Mans. The series doesn’t really gain anything by doing so. Personally, I think if someone’s watching Le Mans and recognising IndyCar’s talent, they’re probably already going out of their way to watch IndyCar too. 

IndyCar is appealing most to their TV partners, because that’s where the bulk of their revenue is coming from, and if you look at their 2025 schedule, I did notice that the calendar is basically a carbon copy of 2024, only even tighter with an August 31st finish in Nashville.

I think Fox wants a schedule similar to NASCAR, where you have as few weekends without it as possible. From the Month of May onwards, there’s only 5 free weekends until the end of the season (Four if you count the importance of 500 Qualifying). That’s bonkers to me. 

The series could move Gateway up to June 8th and dodge Le Mans and F1’s Canadian Grand Prix on June 15th, but they knew this going into it with F1 having its calendar out in April, so I just don’t think IndyCar cares knowing most weekends, it goes on after F1 anyway. So yeah, I don’t see it on this one. 

What I am concerned with here, is if you’re FOX, how do you sell a racing series with a six-month off-season?!

Let’s try and break this down shall we?

Penske are almost certainly going to keep all three of their drivers. McLaughlin was tied down on a multi-year deal last season, as is Newgarden’s new extension he signed at Detroit. Power has openly talked a lot more about a potential retirement but generally given how well he’s driving at present, I’d be surprised if he called it a day just yet. 

Chip Ganassi isn’t showing many signs of movement either. Scott Dixon and Alex Palou are on rolling contracts, Marcus Armstrong and Kyffin Simpson are essentially paying for their seats and Linus Lundqvist is a project so moves at CGR looks unlikely.

McLaren has Pato O’Ward on a long-term deal, and Nolan Siegel is now tied down through at least 2025, and all talk suggests Alex Rossi will be retained too, so I don’t think there’s movement there. Same at Andretti, with Herta being their talisman, Kirkwood on a deal he signed last year and Ericsson still being a new entry2.

If David Malukas is solid, I think Meyer Shank keeps him alongside Felix Rosenqvist. Rinus Veekay and Christian Rasmussen look secure enough at ECR. RLL I think will shithouse keeping Lundgaard with Rahal, and I wonder if Juri Vips has a package for 2025 given Rahal’s teasing about getting him seat time over Pietro Fittipaldi, who hasn’t done much in the #30 car. 

Don’t see any reason Juncos changes from Romain Grosjean and Agustin Canapino yet unless the Argentine runs out of backing, but heard nothing on that. AJ Foyt will keep Santino Ferrucci if he can afford it, but I wonder if a better paying option than Sting Ray Robb emerges in the #41 car, maybe Jacob Abel if his family hasn’t got enough for a full team yet. Dale Coyne is anyone’s guess, likely highest bidder on the table like in 2016 when they shuffled between drivers like Tristan Vautier. 

The other mystery is Prema. Now, rumblings at the time of their announcement was that they’d like to pair an alumni with an experienced driver. This opens up a range of possibilities. I wonder, does Callum Illot want to stay in IndyCar? Because he might be the best option on the board as the best of both worlds. Could they use the Road to Indy to promote someone like NXT Championship leader Louis Foster?  

Right, here’s my full roster breakdown, let’s see how many I get right later in the season:

Penske – Power, McLaughlin, Newgarden
Ganassi – Palou, Dixon, Simpson, Lundqvist, Armstrong
McLaren – O’Ward, Siegel, Rossi
Andretti – Herta, Kirkwood, Ericsson
RLL – Rahal, Lundgaard, Vips
MSR – Rosenqvist, Malukas
ECR – Veekay, Rasmussen/Carpenter (Ovals)
Foyt – Ferrucci, Robb
Dale Coyne – Harvey, TBA
Juncos – Grosjean, Canapino
Prema – Illot, Foster

Hot Take? I think this is the end of Gareth Southgate, no matter what happens. I just think everyone’s tired of this current situation, like watching two divorced parents figure out who’s moving out of the family home. 

Everyone’s tired. As a football nation who now know we have one of the two or three best squads in the world, now expect England to make a major final as a minimum expectation, and that’s not an unfair opinion to hold at this point. Worse yet, we’re now expected to batter everyone who isn’t a country that’s recognisable on an Atlas, and we’ve largely not done that in the run up to this tournament. 

Southgate had to prepare differently for this one because a lot of his talisman players had been forced out. Marcus Rashford had a poor season, Raheem Sterling was hard to justify, Harry Maguire was injured, Jordan Henderson killed his stock via Saudi Arabia and Luke Shaw just wasn’t fit. Gareth has picked on form, which is what a lot of people wanted him to do, but there was other clunky decisions, like putting Jarred Branthwaite in his 33-player provisional squad but then dropping him from the main team, or only taking one healthy left back in a squad with no other outlet on the left flank.  

And of course, as I write this the day before the Slovenia game, we’ve had two flat performances. We’re into the knockouts, which is great, but the Serbia game was needlessly nerve wracking via having zero midfield control and sitting back when leading, only for England to do it again and get punished for it against Denmark. And when the game situation was screaming for someone like Adam Wharton or Kobbie Mainoo who can control the game from midfield, he brought on Conor Gallagher, who has a great engine but doesn’t give you that control. 

And I’ve barely mentioned the delicate conversations around wonder kid Jude Bellingham and the fact he’s not playing like a good Number 10, Phil Foden being shunted out on the left flank, or Cole Palmer sitting on the bench with a lot of Chelsea fans not realising that you can’t just add playmakers and magically expect the situation to improve. 

It’s a mess and it’s easy to see why we’re all frustrated and fed up. The blessing for England here is that there hasn’t been an obvious big-hitting team in this tournament yet (France look equally off the boil, Germany are too narrow in midfield, Spain played with their food against Albania etc), but anything less than a Final and people will be calling for fresh blood.

When you’re on TV saying we don’t have a natural replacement for Kalvin Philips, you have no goodwill left to barter with.

And for GalarianMike asking me to pick a winner – Give me Germany, they seem to have the best midfield and I like to think at International level, that control can win you tournaments. Musiala and Wirtz are THEM.

Thanks for reading or listening to Ask Dre, see you in July!

  1. And this isn’t shade from my time on WTF1. I knew what some of those influencers were getting paid. It was five figures. This is how the sausage is made now. ↩︎
  2. This is probably where the desirable seats end for Christian. ↩︎

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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