Formula E: Why Audi don’t need Formula One

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Following on from yesterday’s post suggesting that after their success in the World Endurance Championship, Porsche may be considering a future in Formula One, Livery designer extraordinaire & MsportXtra partner Sean Bull went on to post livery concepts around a Future for Audi in F1 again partnering with Red Bull Racing.

Whilst I’m a huge fan of the livery concept. To me, Audi’s future in motorsport sits within Formula E. Earlier this month Audi became the first German Automotive manufacturer to officially commit to the championship, taking over the Abt team license.

As an automotive manufacturer, Audi has recognised the trend towards Electric Vehicles and are embracing it. In motorsports, with Formula One, Audi would be forced into a battle of the budget in order to compete and to be seen as a success. With Formula E, they can engage with a younger audience demographic within a cost controlled environment, in a sport supported by governments and industry. They have an opportunity to lead, not follow.

As Audi works driver Lucas Di Grassi tweeted last month, drivers might miss the 1000bhp LMP1 beasts of Le Mans but the future is Electric, and Audi have embraced their future.

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Formula One: Porsche Red Bull Racing? 2+2 = 5

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The eagle-eyed F1 Fan will have noticed a few interesting faces in and around the F1 paddock over the weekend of the Austrian Grand Prix. After attending a recent meeting to discuss the future of F1 Power Units a number of Porsche ambassadors made their presence known through the event. As a pundit for Channel 4’s F1 coverage, seeing Mark Webber in the paddock is not an unusual sight. Less usual though was his choice of attire, as pictured below Mark spent much of the weekend wearing Porsche team wear. Similarly, Mark’s former teammate and former Red Bull Junior driver Brendon Hartley attended the Grand Prix and he too wore Porsche team wear combined with a Red Bull cap for much of the weekend.

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Of course a logical explanation for this is that both drivers were taking part in demonstration runs through the race weekend, but a far more exciting ‘hollywood’ story is that fresh from having achieved their objectives in the World Endurance Championship securing 3 back to back victories at Le Mans, Porsche are seeking a new challenge. Given Webber’s recent history with Red Bull Racing, he, perhaps under the guise of his ambassador role with Porsche is in someway involved in discussions to bring the two parties together with a role for Brendon Hartley as a driver within the package.

I have stated previously that the relationship between ExxonMobil, BP, and Renault for me is not logical. Fuel and Lubricant solutions must be developed in conjunction with power unit development. It is not possible to define a one size fits all development roadmap for the Renault Power Unit. At some point in the near future, if not, at some point in the past. BP or ExxonMobil will identify a performance opportunity with the Renault power unit which does not favour the other supplier. At this point power unit development will split. Renault will produce one power unit format for the works team and a different solution for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Who will fund this alternative solution, and at what point is a Renault Power Unit no longer a Renault Power Unit?

Could Porsche be considering redirecting budget from the World Endurance Championship, a figure believed to be in the region of $100M towards a power unit development plan in Formula One? Paying Renault to use their technology as a basis for involvement would minimise the risk of ‘doing a Honda’ ensuring reasonable performance from the word go.

One thing is for sure, Porsche are seeking a new challenge, drivers, unlike fans, don’t attend race meetings in team wear when they are not competing for the fun of it. Perhaps in this case 2+2 might just equal 5.

Thanks to Sean Bull for pulling together incredible concept artwork for a Red Bull Racing Porsche mash up.

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Formula One: Throwback Thursday – Red Bull Racing (don’t) split from Renault

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If you’ve caught more than 10 minutes F1 coverage or spent anytime on popular F1 news aggregator sites over the last few weeks you would be forgiven for thinking the Mclaren Honda divorce was complete. Based on all confirmed sources this is not the case.

F1 media, as with any media, has a tendency towards sensationalism. A controversial headline will attract readership.  I have to admit, I’m not adverse to the occasional sensationalist headline here on JWGP.

So, whilst the F1 world awaits formal confirmation from both Mclaren and Honda around future plans, now seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the last “SENSATIONAL” Team and power unit supplier fall out. When with no official word from either Red Bull Racing or Renault, after 18 months of continuous headlines around a fallout, their split was announced by the media. Except it wasn’t. Two seasons later the partnership is still alive. Yes it has been modified, but the fact remains Red Bull Racing and Renault are partners.  Below is a screen grab of just a few of the credible outlets that “confirmed” the news.

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So while we wait for official news from Mclaren and Honda about the future of their partnership, one fact to bare in mind;

As per FIA sporting regulations, Honda and Mercedes have already confirmed power unit supply plans to the FIA for 2018 (see story with verified sources here). Within this confirmation, Mercedes will supply the same teams they are in 2017, Honda will supply Mclaren and Sauber.

In retrospect Looking back at the “confirmed” Red Bull Racing Renault split, the story ensured continual press coverage for a team performing well below expectations over a 12 month period. This coverage was arguably greater than that which Mercedes received whilst fighting for the championship. A masterstroke in marketing by a true marketeer Dietrich Mateschitz. In November last year, Mclaren replaced Ron Dennis with marketing guru Zak Brown.

How many newspapers are giving midweek coverage to Mercedes win on Sunday?

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Formula One: Champagne returns to the F1 podium!

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The eagle eyed F1 fan may have noticed a new name featuring at the Monaco Grand Prix podium, that name, Carbon Champagne. As the name suggests, Carbon Champagne fits perfectly into the world of Formula One, with a unique carbon fibre surround crafted for  the premium champagne.

After Mumm Champagne transitioned motorsport involvement from Formula One to Formula E, a decision covered in detail here, Formula One Management partnered with sparkling wine brand Chandon. As followers of this website and  JWGP on Twitter, drivers and teams referring to Chandon as champagne had been a continual pet peeve of mine. With this in mind I applaud Formula One Management for bringing a true champagne back to the podium celebration.

Entering into partnership with Carbon Champagne represents a curious strategic development from Formula One Management and possibly hints towards an evolving business strategy. Carbon Champagne fits into the super premium drinks segment both in terms of quality and price point. A single bottle of Carbon Champagne costs between 10 and 20 times that of the podium product it replaces. This partnership perhaps reflects Formula One’s ambition to ensure the sport retains it’s status as the pinnacle of motorsport through association with brands unattainable to the typical fan. It is clear the sport is walking a tightrope seeking to broaden the appeal of the sport and grow the audience, whilst maintinaing and perhaps elevating its premium nature.

Typically the relationship between a champagne partner and a sports championship is more expansive than the three bottles drivers receive during podium celebrations. As a minimum, a champagne partner can expect to see all championship hospitality requirements to be purchased through this relationship. Beyond increased brand awareness earned through Formula One association, this sale will provide a clear return on investment for the brand against any sponsorship fee agreed. With Carbon Champagne this relationship could prove challenging due to the super premium price positioning of the product. Put simply, it may be challenging for Carbon Champagne to be made available within Grand Prix hospitality without increasing ticket pricing, a move unlikely to be well received by patrons of such said hospitality.

The Carbon Champagne Formula One partnership is one of the first under Liberty Media Management, however long the partnership lasts, it represents a clear statement of intent from Liberty Media. Decisions around championship partners will be made to build brand equity not dilute it.

Formula One: No Mercedes power for McLaren in 2018

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Away from incredible on track performances this season, recent Formula One news has been increasingly fixated by the prospect of ‘divorce’ between Honda and McLaren, with a number of respected outlets and leading pundits suggesting the separation is already all but finalised.

Whilst frustrations around the on track performance of the McLaren Honda partnership are plainly visible for all to see, with senior representatives from McLaren doing little to calm stories, one key factor appears to have been forgotten. The FIA Sporting Regulations.

Within the FIA Formula One World Championship Sporting Regulations, all power unit manufacturers are required to submit a list of teams they will supply in the following season by May 15th.  Under this regulation both Honda and Mercedes have already informed the FIA of the teams which will be using their power units for 2018

No power unit may be used in a given Championship season unless the Power Unit Manufacturer supplying such power unit accepts and adheres to the following conditions.

Each of the Power Unit Manufacturers of an homologated power unit must :

i)  provide the FIA, before 15 May (or such other date as agreed in writing between all the Power Unit Manufacturers and the FIA) of the season preceding that in which such power units are to be supplied, with the list of teams (clearly identifying the appointed “works/factory” team, if any) to which a supply agreement has been concluded for the given Championship season ;

ii)  if called upon to do so by the FIA before 1 June (or such other date as agreed in writing between all the Power Unit Manufacturers and the FIA) of the season preceding that in which such power units were to be supplied:

T = 111-A/B-C

–  A = Total number of teams (including “works/factory” teams) having a supply agreement concluded for the given Championship season with a New Power Unit Manufacturer.

–  B = Total number of manufacturers of homologated Power Units for the given Championship season.

–  C = Total number of New Power Unit Manufacturers for the given Championship season.

provided that if the result contains a fraction then the fraction shall count as a full team (e.g. 11 teams divided by 4 manufacturers = 2.75, each manufacturer must, if called upon to do so by the FIA, supply at least 3 teams).”

Appendix 9 – FIA Formula One World Championship Sporting Regulations. 

Earlier today, confirmation was sought from both Mercedes and Honda as to the contents of the lists provided to the FIA in accordance with this regulation.

Honda stated their list submitted to the FIA documents Power Unit supply intentions for both Mclaren and Sauber. Mercedes confirmed their submission to the FIA references three teams, Force India, Williams, and the factory Mercedes team.

No provision is made within the Sporting Regulations around deviation from this commitment. With both Honda and Mercedes having stated intentions around 2018 it seems highly unlikely any change is planned or possible without the consent of all teams participating in the championship.

Formula One: Jean Todt to seek 3rd term as FIA President

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Earlier today Jean Todt announced his intention to stand for a 3rd term as President of the FIA. Confirming his intentions on Twitter, former Scuderia Ferrari Team Principle stated that with support of his family and leadership team he has decided to seek a third term.

If re-elected, it is expected Jean Todt will maintain his role within the UN alongside his position as head of the FIA

At this time it is unclear if Jean Todt will face any opposition for the role. No clear candidate has emerged as a contender.  Jean Todt’s announcement can be seen in full here:

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You can follow Jean Todt on Twitter here.

Formula One: Time for Mercedes to go Aggressive?

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The 2017 Russian Grand Prix looks set to be the race in which Scuderia Ferrari cement their status as the dominant force in the World Championship. Having won two of the first three races of the season, the Scuderia’s pace was unquestionable yet many felt AMG Mercedes Petronas still held an ultimate performance advantage.

However with Ferrari having locked out the front row in qualifying for the first time since 2008 at a circuit which Mercedes have dominated in recent years, it is becoming clear that the boys in red have overtaken the silver arrows in terms of out and out pace. Since the introduction of the current power unit regulations, ignoring a few erroneous races, Mercedes have been the dominant force. The team has adopted an approach in which only an inter team battle is considered as a threat. In so doing, in a bid to ensure equality amongst drivers, race strategies have been safe and mirrored on both sides of the garage.

With a genuine threat from Ferrari for the overall  2017 World Constructors Championship clear, has the time come for this to change? At this point in the season Mercedes and Ferrari are the only team capable of challenging for race wins. Red Bull Racing being the next closest team were 1.8 seconds of the pole lap time in Russia. In this situation the challenging team, in this case Mercedes have two choices; acknowledging the lack overall race pace, they could take adopt the same approach as Ferrari in qualifying and the race, with the hope that driver skill or mistakes will elevate performances, or they could switch to an aggressive strategy, splitting their drivers tyres compound section in the hope of interfering with Ferrari.

For Mercedes to maximise an interference strategy the team should have sent either or both Hamilton and Bottas out into Q2 on Super Soft tyre compounds, with Ferrari qualifying on Ultras softs. This move would have safely taken them through the session and allowed them to run much longer in the first stint of today’s race. In electing not to do this Mercedes opportunity to interfere with Ferrari today will be limited to a strong start, or adopting a two stop approach over the expected one stop norm.

Moving forward, in order for Mercedes to challenge for their 4th successive constructors championship they must adapt to the new norm and consider irregular approaches to race strategy. Simple accepting, ‘the second row was a the best we could expect’ is not good enough from a championship winning team.

Formula One: Sauber Honda Partnership CONFIRMED

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Earlier this morning, the Sauber F1 team confirmed a new partnership with Honda set to commence from 2018.  This Swiss-Japanese partnership will involve extensive strategic and technological realignment and creates a news basis for the team moving forward. Following the change in ownership of the Swiss based team, switching to Honda Power for 2018 demonstrates the team’s desire to return to the front through exploring all opportunities available to them.

Speaking on the new partnership Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO and Team Principal commented

“It is a great honor for the Sauber F1 Team to be able to work together with Honda in the coming seasons. Our realignment is not just visible through the new ownership but also now with our new technological partnership with Honda. We have set another milestone with this new engine era, which we await with huge excitement and of course we are looking for new opportunities. We very much look forward to our partnership with Honda, which sets the course for a successful future – from a strategic as well as from a technological perspective. We thank Honda for making this great partnership happen.”

Katsuhide Moriyama, Chief Officer, Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd:

“In addition to the partnership with McLaren which began in 2015, Honda will begin supplying power units to Sauber as a customer team starting from next year. This will be a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities. In order to leverage the benefits of supplying to two teams to the maximum extent, we will strengthen the systems and capabilities of both of our two development operations, namely HRD Sakura and the operation in Milton Keynes. We will continue our challenges so that our fans will enjoy seeing a Honda with dominant strength as soon as possible.”

Further details around the new partnership will be made available in due course.

Follow this link to check out the 2017 Sauber F1 Team Merchandise Collection from Errea Sport.

Formula One: Zak Brown’s strategic masterstroke?

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McLaren Honda’s announcement that Fernando Alonso will compete in the 101st running of the Indy 500 this week came at the perfect time for both the team and driver. After a more than challenging start to the 2017 season the team were in dire need of some positive press coverage. The move towards Indy, initialed by Zak Brown (Team Principle) has achieved exactly that.

There are a plethora of reasons as to why this move will be a positive for McLaren Honda moving forward, this article will seek to explore these from driver, commercial, and team perspective.

Driver: Fernando Alonso’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of the 2017 F1 season. Mclaren Honda’s failure to provide Alonso will a car capable of challenging for regular points let alone podiums or wins has been seen by many as a waste of Alonso’s talent. Should Fernando seek to remain in Formula One beyond his current agreement McLaren Honda will have their work cut out to convince him they can deliver a car that will allow him to challenge for a 3rd world championship. Zak Brown and the team realise this, and as such have begun to explore other ‘benefits’ they can bring to the table that other teams may struggle to offer. Running at the Indy 500 is one such benefit. With Honda power supplying half the grid in Indycar, slotting Alonso into a front running team was not a challenge. Realistically only McLaren could offer an active works F1 driver this opportunity.

Will this alone be enough to convince Alonso to stay? Beyond money, which at this point in his career may not be an incentive,  what else could they offer him? Running in LMP1 at Le Mans for the foreseeable future would prove very tough for McLaren to offer to Alonso. With only Porsche and Toyota capable of challenging for a win, it is doubtful a manufacturer drive would be open.

Through Zak Brown’s involvement in the Motorsport Network he has a connection to Formula E (Motorsport Network are minority shareholders of the championship) in addition McLaren supply ECU units. Could the team offer him a drive in Formula E alongside F1 from 2018 and beyond? Equally Zak Brown runs his own endurance racing team, could this be used to entice Alonso to events such as the Daytona 24hrs.

If McLaren can find Alonso success in other categories could they convince him to remain with the F1 team whilst they rebuild? Or could it show him there is more to life than Formula One.

Of course this assumes Alonso would perform well in other categories. The flip side of this strategy would be if Alonso struggles at the Indy500 or other events the team ‘allow’ him to compete in, he will devalue his own stock. He may make himself less appealing not only to F1 teams but also to other championships. In running at Indy Alonso risks limiting his own options when it comes to negotiating new a new agreement with McLaren.

Commercial: McLaren Honda’s recent struggle to retain and entice new partners has been well documented. With another underperforming season in prospect the team’s ability to ‘stop the rot’ is unlikely. Partners join Mclaren on the basis of front running exposure. They are not receiving this. Media coverage the team does receive is largely negative or not focused on racing.

Alonso running at the Indy 500 has created a good news story for the team, media coverage has been extensive and positive. This will continue into Indy. Through running a McLaren livery at the Indy 500 with all Mclaren’s partners gaining exposure, Mclaren will be able to make up for any exposure shortfall they may have faced as a result of disappointing performances in Formula One. Running at Indy will also give Mclaren’s partners additional exposure in the US, a key strategic market. This will help the team in future partner discussions.

The counter argument to this is that existing partners may realise they can achieve expansive coverage, greater than that of F1, simply by partnering with a top driver at a single event. Any partner / sponsor questioning a future with the team may be presented with a new strategic direction through this gimmick / project.

Team. There is no I in team. As fantastic as it is to see a current F1 driver taking part in the Indy 500, but Zak Brown and McLaren Honda management can’t for one second forget that they have fundamental problems to address within their own team. Issues that no PR stunt will overcome. There is talk that Mercedes have agreed to support to Honda in overcoming some of their Power Unit shortcomings, assuming the support leads to a turnaround in form, perhaps there is a light at the end of the Honda struggle. McLaren must focus on this. There is no point ploughing resources into keeping Fernando Alonso happy if the situation around overall team performance does not improve.

A side comment on the offer of Mercedes support. It is impossible to imagine a scenario in which Mercedes will give Honda sufficient information to enable them to challenge for outright performance. Will a Honda Power unit developed with Mercedes not just become an incredibly expensive customer power unit which similar to a Williams or Force India will not be allowed to win?

Could McLaren Honda heading to the Indy 500 also be a comment to the FIA ahead of discussions around future power unit regulations? If they find success in Indycar will Honda start to camping for the same power unit to be used in F1? Are McLaren in sufficient a position of strength to threaten to switch to Indycar should future F1 power unit regulations not shift in their favour?

In conclusion. Zak Brown’s commercial minded approach to management of McLaren Honda and their issues is hugely refreshing for the fan and for sponsors. I look forward to seeing this same dynamic approach being taken to resolving team performance issues.

Credit to Tim Holmes for the concept Mclaren Indycar livery imagery supporting this article. Follow Tim on Twitter here

 

F2, F3, F4: Erreà Sport join Prema

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Italian clothing Manufacturer Erreà Sport continue their rapid growth throughout Motorsport with the announcement of a new partnership with Prema for 2017 and beyond.

Joining the ranks of the Sauber F1 Team, Mahindra Formula E team, & Manor Endurance Racing, this new partnership will see Erreà Sport represented across F1, F2, F3, F4, Formula E, and the World Endurance Championship, with further partnerships in motorsport in development.

Fans of Erreà Sport in motorsport can find the online store for the Sauber F1 Team and Mahindra Formula E team though this link. Highlights of the Prema and Manor Endurance Team collection will be made available in the coming weeks.

The 2017 Prema team wear collection is a result of coming together of minds between the Prema and Erreà Sport design teams. The collection reflects the teams Italian heritage and team history, alongside ensuring functionality for the team in races around the world.

Commenting on the partnership René Rosin, Team Principal, remarked:
“We are proud to partner an excellent Italian company like Erreà for what is expected to be a particularly demanding season. Like in all professional sports, also in racing every single component can make a difference and Errea, to whom we will entrust our personnel, will definitely be a key component of the team”.

Errea Sport Chairman Angelo Gandolfi added:
“We are delighted for this new and prestigious partnership. Prema and Erreà share the same values and represent a dynamic, efficient and determined combination, looking forward to score great results in the upcoming season. We worked hard together with the team in order to provide them with all the support they need to keep pushing the limits forward.”

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To keep up to date on  Prema through the 2017 season in motorsport you can follow them on Twitter here.

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