Juan Pablo Montoya offers F1 advice: follow IndyCar and NASCAR’s lead to regain fans, TV viewership

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Juan Pablo Montoya has raced in numerous motorsports series, including Formula One, IndyCar, CART and NASCAR.

So when Montoya offers suggestions, he knows what he’s talking about.

That’s the case with F1, where Montoya recently told AutoSport that the international racing series could learn a few lessons from its motorsports counterparts in America, particularly IndyCar.

With F1 having downturns in at-track attendance and viewership, much like the same battle NASCAR has fought the last several years due to the poor economy in the U.S., Montoya thinks F1 should study what’s going right of late, particularly in IndyCar and its engagement of fans.

“(To get fans engaged), they ought to look at IndyCar,” Montoya said. “I think IndyCar does the best job of looking after its fans.

“It’s very different (for fans), just walking around seeing the cars. In the garage in NASCAR, the drivers are never there. The cars are there but the drivers are always in the motorhome. (In) F1, (the paddock) is always closed. It’s so complicated. There is no right answer.”

Montoya won a CART championship, an Indianapolis 500 victory, and seven F1 races before a seven-season/two wins tenure in NASCAR.

Now that he’s back in IndyCar and has returned to his open-wheel roots, Montoya shows that he still has some affinity for F1 and its troubles.

His No. 1 suggestion on how to “fix” F1?

“Number one, F1 has to change the sound,” he said. “It is a really hard compromise because they all talk about saving money, but at the end of the day F1 has never been about that.

“They still spend all the money in the world. One team there could probably sponsor the whole series here (in IndyCar).”

Montoya also said F1’s teams and the league as a whole could learn a great deal from both NASCAR’s and IndyCar’s efforts to attract fans, particularly with social media engagement, as well as the latter’s numerous autograph sessions at every race, plus fan-friendly and accessible paddocks.

As a result, it’s not surprising that IndyCar especially has shown significant attendance and especially TV rating gains in the last two years, particularly with its TV deal with NBC and the NBC Sports Network.

“The people that best understand it … NASCAR is the best at understanding that at the end of the day it’s a show,” he said. “Formula 1, being very European, they think it’s a sport. And it is a sport. But the way it’s played … the fans have to like it.”

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F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.