The F1 area MotoGP is yet to successfully copy
Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli took aim at the television direction in MotoGP, noting that none of the midfield battles during the Austrian Grand Prix were given much airtime.
While that’s not uncommon even in F1, a midfield battle that features two world champions in Marc Marquez and Fabio Quartararo, definitely warranted attention. After all, Max Verstappen’s charges through the field in Saudi Arabia and Spa this year were well-documented.
Marquez would later note how MotoGP has allowed an aero war to envelope the on-track spectacle, much in the same way F1 has done at various points over the last 15 years. But the eight-time world champion pointed out that F1 saw the error of this way and has gone in the opposite direction with its ground effect regulations, while MotoGP seems to be standing still.
Indeed, the racing spectacle in both series this year has left a lot to be desired. While MotoGP has enjoyed some more thrills than F1, which has seen the last nine of its rounds dominated by Max Verstappen, it’s hardly been box office viewing.
And while that is true of F1 in 2023, it hasn’t stopped the masses from flocking to races this year. That was evident at the Dutch Grand Prix last week, which was attended by KTM’s Jack Miller on the Friday practice day.
Asked on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Catalan GP what he felt F1 was doing better than MotoGP right now, the Australian said: “Marketing. The way the exposure is. You just have to look at it. I went to Zandvoort on a Friday and the grandstands were completely packed, there was not an empty seat.
“They had shows on in between giving the fans entertainment in between the sessions, constantly staying engaged. It’s a fun day out, I didn’t see anyone with a frown on their face. They were all on the beers at eight o’clock in the morning walking in. For sure, I think the way they are marketing and the audience they are projecting to helps. Of course, the Netflix series has been a big boost to them. But they have taken the ball and run with it.”
The grandstands were full across the entire Dutch GP weekend
Photo by: Erik Junius
Over 300,000 Dutch fans packed the tiny seaside circuit at Zandvoort for a weekend that left most soaked to the bone. MotoGP’s Dutch GP at Assen in June, by comparison, welcomed 179,167 fans across the three days – 105,842 on Sunday alone.
While that’s not a number to be sniffed at, MotoGP’s spectator figures in 2023 have been inconsistent. While the French GP broke the weekend attendance record at 278,805, while Germany was not far off with 233,196, the season-opener in Portugal welcomed 123,608 fans, while the British GP saw 115,959 turn up.
At most rounds in 2023, F1 has had no trouble accommodating 300,000 fans and above.
Marketing plays a massive role in all of this, through social media campaigns, celebrity exposure and television deals. F1 is getting all of that right.
Miller is correct to mention Netflix. Drive to Survive has proved instrumental is driving F1 into the mainstream, so much so that it inspired Hollywood star Brad Pitt to put plans in place for an Apple-produced fictional film on the series.
MotoGP, at one time, enjoyed similar interest. Pitt provided the voiceover for the 2015 file Hitting the Apex, directed by Mark Neale. Pitt even turned up to that year’s British GP, where the film premiered.
In recent years, as the series has become less accessible to a mainstream audience, MotoGP tried to follow the DTS route with its Amazon series Unlimited in 2022. But a botched launch led to the series tanking, while one centred on Marquez released earlier this year also failed to land.
Jack Miller, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Motorsport.com learned from a source working on another motorsport documentary that Amazon now has no interest in any bike racing docuseries after the failure of Unlimited.
The hiring of Dan Rossomondo from the NBA as CCO at Dorna Sports earlier this year is very much an attempt to get MotoGP back on the mainstream track, though he will need time to get this to work.
Miller added: “Definitely it’s nice to be in Formula 1 in the paddock and be able to walk along with someone like [Daniel] Ricciardo and get stopped twice in the space of 500m, instead of 5000m, which is pretty cool.”
Miller has 856,000 followers on Instagram – Ricciardo has 8.9 million. That’s more than even Marquez (6.8m) has. MotoGP has done more in 2023 to engage its fans, with more rider signing sessions and the Sunday parade lap.
But this will only get it so far if it doesn’t prop itself up on the marketing side to really reap the rewards of its current efforts.