Jul.2 (GMM/Inautonews.com) A debate is raging among F1 insiders as to whether the pinnacle of motor sport is being left behind in the internet age.

It has emerged that the average age of those who participated in the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association fan survey was 37, and “more than half” don’t even watch the races live on television.

“45 per cent now watch races online,” said Telegraph correspondent Daniel Johnson, which he says is a “a worthwhile pointer to Bernie Ecclestone, who is not a fan of social media”.

Alex Wurz, the GPDA president, admitted that the sport’s apparent inability to race into the 21st century is a concern.

“It is interesting that we have people who followed F1 for the first time in the 2000s … and they hark back to that era as the best”, he told the BBC.

“And there are no new fans to counter-balance their views,” added Wurz.

That could be because Ecclestone has stuck firm to his trusted old approach of keeping formula one utterly exclusive, even more so in recent times as pay-TV deals diminished the audience but revved up revenues.

So not only has the free-to-air audience shrunk, F1 footage on free video services like Youtube is also severely cut off to the young and savvy ‘internet generation’.

But Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ team boss, told Forbes: “Locking down the footage was absolutely the right thing to do. It kept the value of the content high.

“People blame Bernie for not moving into social media. I don’t blame him at all because he can’t monetise it,” Wolff told the F1 business journalist Christian Sylt.

But Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, worries that one of F1’s biggest problems is that the next generation is being locked out of the sport altogether.

“Amazon or Google originally didn’t have any revenue stream because they were giving everything away for nothing,” he told the British newspaper Express. “And that’s the model I think F1 could adopt.

“Since the internet began, the message it’s giving us is that you give a lot for very little. And so you build a much greater base of the pyramid and, that way, you draw people in,” Hill explained.

“So then (F1 could) have half the people on the planet who can get it and that might just turn them into people who will subscribe to the Sky platform or whatever.”