Earlier this year the FIA commissioned a survey of Formula One fans, carried out through their website. The results were published at the British Grand Prix last month. Bear in mind that it was a self-selected survey (though given that it covered 180 countries, it would have been difficult to do otherwise), but was carried out by a very reputable market research company, TNS.

The FIA’s press release highlights some statistics such as Japan’s fans being most likely to watch every race in the season; I wouldn’t give too much credence to these sort of findings in a self-selecting survey, it may simply have been publicised in Japan in a way that contacted more avid fans than in other countries. The overall opinions of fans though are pretty clear cut.

Firstly, respondents didn’t like the new qualifying system – 70% would prefer qualification to be based on the best lap out of a number of flying laps, the system that was abandoned at the end of last season. The latest suggested change to qualification is to go back in that direction – there are to but multiple flying laps, but with a knockout format so the slowest five cars are eliminated after each lap. Fans were happy with an increased number of races. 84% wanted 18 or more races in a season.

Predictably almost everybody (94%) said they wanted more overtaking, but most of the other questions suggested that fans wanted more focus on the skills of the drivers, 88% said that “showcasing the skills of the drivers” should be the most essential aspect of Formula One, but only a third of people thought F1 was showcasing the best drivers. 74% wanted more emphasis on driver skill and less on driver aids, with only 15% thinking that F1 had the right balance between driver aids and the drivers’ skills.

The questions are particularly relevant at the moment because, as I write, the new A1 Grand Prix series, due to run during F1’s “closed season”, is gearing up for its inaugeral race at Brands Hatch next month. A1 racing is going to involve national teams – 21 so far, but there are 4 gaps still open – there will be no driver aids, the aerodynamics are designed to minimise the dirty air behind cars and hence allow overtaking and, most importantly of all, everyone uses the same car. In other words, with everyone using identical technology, who wins or loses will be down to driver skill alone and, with the cars designed to facilitate it and without F1’s huge technological gulfs between teams, there should be plenty of overtaking. On paper, it should hit every button that Formula One fans say they want.

It won’t match Formula One of course, it simply won’t have the star quality (unless you count Jos Verstappen, which you shouldn’t), it won’t have the romance of the great formula one teams, the Ferraris and McLarens of the world, it won’t be the real thing. Given that it should work though, it’ll be interesting to see how it fares.