We’ll be the first to admit we didn’t see it coming. Too many Sunday afternoons glazed over in front of blurred formula one cars lulled our senses, fogged up our normally clear cultural lenses.
Yet it’s true. Formula one is set to become a trailblazer changing the face of professional sport. It’s part of a wider trend we’ve seen for a while – consumers demanding more and more engagement with the things they buy and the experiences they enjoy. And whilst there’s been a lot of development in connecting viewers with one another during a professional fixture, now racing fans will be able to actually engage with the athletes themselves.
From September anyone will be able to use their twitter accounts to vote for their favourite driver in the run up to and during Formula E races. The cars are powered by electricity, which allows the most popular diver to be given a turbo boost during the race.
It’s basically Mario cart for real. Pretty exciting stuff in itself.
But it’s also interesting when you consider the impact outside of sport. In terms of betting it lifts a huge amount of emphasis off of the car manufacturer, and onto the driver, whose popularity, and therefore race outcome, presumably has the propensity to wax and wane much more than the technical ability of the cars. And it quite overtly puts power to personality, in a way never seen before.
Beckham remains one of the most recognised stars on the planet (so much so it justified a TV show documenting his quest into the Amazon to find someone, anyone, who doesn’t know his face god damn it) but it didn’t halt his exit from the glorious game. If the influence of the tweeting public had a say would Becks have been dribbling up the pitch in Rio? Ok so there’s no turbo boosting footballers (yet) but it does pose the question – will Formula E’s put popularity above prowess, and force athletes to become PR machines? Does it matter? With the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio entering their own teams, the sport is set to get its fair share of the limelight, but it remains to be seen how long it will shine bright.