Fans who were eagerly awaiting the return of motorsport had been kept happy by a series of online racing events through the iRacing sim that professional drivers had been streaming over the course of the past couple of months - although there had been some driver struggles as two had come under fire for their conduct in these races, fans were delighted in the middle of May once NASCAR did return to the screens, and did so to some great success. So what went well with the event, and what can be learned from what has been seen so far?
Driver engagement needs to continue - Many fans have grown accustomed to some driver interaction whilst they’ve been live streaming throughout the lockdown and racing simulator usage, NASCAR was able to do this extremely well as an early race in May had lead driver Jimmie Johnson crashing out and having to retire to the pits - he later uploaded a video to his social media account just letting the fans know what happened, and what comes next. Broadcasters would then pick this clip up and play it during the race in place of a regular interview - if similar can be employed within Formula 1 then downtime during races can be filled with either pre-race interviews or driver thoughts who may not have made qualifying or have been taken out of the race early.
Empty grandstands could be a blessing - In many sports, fans in live attendance can be considered a core part of the event - this has been seen recently in combat sports as without the crowd noise every move by the athletes can be heard, it creates a unique viewing experience, but perhaps not something fans would like to see stick around. Fortunately, motorsports have never had such a huge reliance on fans for many - of course, there are exceptions when you see the huge crowds on balconies at Monaco for example - this could be taken advantage of in motorsport however as broadcasters may not need to cut to shots of the crowd cheering, and may instead be able to focus on different camera angles from within the vehicles instead - NASCAR had done this with cockpit views showing the drivers, and F1 has done this previously with cameras on cars, but this may provide an opportunity to be a little more creative with that camera placement to give fans viewing from home a different view, especially during battles on the track and drivers fight for positions.
(Image from sportingnews.com)
For both motorsports, however, there will be a lot to figure out over the coming weeks. For fans, not only of racing but those who like to bet on racing, exciting times are ahead. NASCAR is one of the most bet on sports in the US, but there may be a slightly different angle to proceedings given the current pandemic. On-Track bookies will be a thing of the past and future, but not the current – bookies taking online bets are the thing of the present. Expect top quality promotions, great bonuses, safe and secure sites in legal jurisdictions – all of these will be essential for bookmakers to get a larger chunk of market share, in an industry that will likely be booking as a result of the return of competitive sport.
We may begin to see big changes in motorsport has a whole as the industry starts to adapt to the changes that may be required following the lockdown - although some sports are already considering allowing fan attendance at a reduced capacity, it may be more difficult in motorsport as each event moves from state to state or country to country - early signs are looking good from NASCAR however, and now it is up to F1 to see if it can follow in the footsteps and hold an entertaining and engaging set of events for fans who have been missing racing for the past couple of months.