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.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski