FOTA to consult fans on F1 rules

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Grand Prix racing fans will be consulted more about future rule changes, claims a leading figure from the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA).

Ahead of meetings scheduled for the Nurburgring from tomorrow to discuss framing the 2010 regulations, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh reckons that the input of fans will become vital for the longer term health of the sport.

In a video interview produced by McLaren, Whitmarsh suggests that FOTA embarked with the intention of listening to what fans wanted - something that he believes put it on a collision course with the FIA and F1's commercial rights holders.

"FOTA set out to conduct the first proper audience surveys, which were an exciting piece of work," explained Whitmarsh. "The first time we went out we didn't just ask the ardent fans, we asked those with a passing interest in F1 – what is it that they wanted from F1? How could we make it better? What did they want from the show? What did they want from the technology?

"I think that process started to challenge perhaps, wrongly in the minds of the commercial rights holder and the governing body, and inevitably there led to differences of opinion and philosophy about how we should take the sport forward."

FOTA did reach an agreement with the FIA last month about future rules for F1, but there remains some uncertainty about the immediate situation after Max Mosley expressed anger at what he felt were deliberate attempts by the teams' body to mislead the media.
Whitmarsh said he hoped the future would see greater cooperation between teams and the FIA – but said the priority would always be doing what was best for the fans. Speaking about the recent accord with the FIA, Whitmarsh said: "Some of the proposals that were unacceptable to the teams were dropped, and hopefully that is the start.

"There is no absolute in F1 as it is a complex business with all sorts of politics and egos, but hopefully it is part of a process where we can now start to build and work together. "That is not just the teams, but also the governing body and the commercial rights holder to improve the sport.

"So what does it mean for the fans? It means we should be more actively listening to them. A lot of changes have occurred in F1 over the recent years that haven't really taken into account the wishes of fans. We haven't properly brought those into the thought structure and hopefully in the future we will see much more of that."