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Fernley: Formula 1 can learn from IndyCar’s fan approach

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Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley believes that Formula 1 can learn some lessons from IndyCar in its approach to accessibility and fan engagement, but stressed the importance of retaining the sport’s identity.

Comparisons have been drawn between F1 and IndyCar in recent weeks following Fernando Alonso’s shock decision to enter the Indianapolis 500 in May, skipping the Monaco Grand Prix in order to do so.

F1 is in the process of assessing its approach to fan access and engagement on race weekends following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the series back in January, with changes being put in place for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

For Fernley, F1 can take inspiration from IndyCar’s more open approach to fans, but feels that the sport needs to retain some element of its exclusive nature.

“Having done both IndyCar and Formula 1, I can speak from a reasonable amount of experience on that,” Fernley said.

“IndyCar is a fantastic show, especially the Indy 500, there’s no question of that. Can we get more access? I think we can.

“I think we can learn a little bit from IndyCars but overall we are Formula 1 and we’ve got to keep that identity as well. I think that Liberty understand that.

“I think they’re working to getting it more inclusive but, on the other hand, keeping it where it needs to be, which is slightly exclusive as well.

“So it’s a balancing act and I’m sure they’ll do a great job. They have all the expertise to be able to look at that.”

F1: Hamilton leads Mercedes front row lockout in France

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Lewis Hamilton needed to outduel teammate Valtteri Bottas in qualifying for Sunday’s French Grand Prix, after the Finn jumped ahead of the Briton on his final run – Bottas turned in a lap at 1:30.147 to barely get clear of Hamilton.

However, Hamilton ultimately got the last laugh and turned in a 1:30.029 on his final lap, bettering Bottas by just over one tenth of a second, to take the 75th pole of his career.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified third, followed by the Red Bull Racing duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in fourth and fifth. Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen ended up sixth.

Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. qualified seventh, and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc qualified a brilliant eighth as the Frenchman continued a strong rookie campaign in front of his home crowd.

The Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean completed the top 10, with Grosjean actually crashing out of Q3 after nosing his VF-18 into a barrier.

Results are below. Of note: the McLaren drivers of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne failed to advance out of Q1 and qualified 16th (Alonso), and 18th (Vandoorne), though Vandoorne will start 17th as Brendon Hartley will start at the back of the grid after Toro Rosso changed several components of the power unit.

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