Formula One: Improving the Show – Tune in to the #USGP Early!

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If you’re the type of Formula One fan that likes to tune into Race Day coverage 5 minutes before the start having grown tired of former driver pundits sitting on the fence over pre-race predictions, you might want to make an exception for today’s US Grand Prix.

As Formula One Management continue to evaluate new ways in which to engage with fans, one focus of this weekend is a plan to “showcase the talent”. Formula One drivers, with a few notable exceptions, have long been criticised for lacking personality and not engaging with fans. Formula One Management plans to start to address this in the build-up to the US Grand Prix this weekend with a new addition to the Show.

WWE legend Michael Buffer has been drafted in for the race and will announce each of the drivers as they take to the grid ahead of the race. At this time, it is unclear what format this will take, and how driver introductions will be incorporated into the pre-race schedule, but if Buffer’s profile in WWE is anything to go by, an approach of ‘Go big or Go home’ will be on the agenda. Perhaps in a bid to inspire drivers to come out of themselves in their introductions, Usain Bolt, who bought showmanship to the world of athletics, is a guest of Formula One Management this weekend at the Grand Prix, no doubt he’ll be offering advice to a few of the drivers less comfortable being the centre of attention. Can you imagine the likes of Pascal Wehrlein mimicking Usian Bolt’s classic moments seen here:

One driver likely to thieve in this feature of an F1 race will be Daniel Ricciardo, never afraid to out his personality out there for the world to enjoy:

For drivers still looking for inspiration for the big roll call, perhaps they should check out these classic moments from WWE. Will Formula One management open a social media poll for the best introduction?

Another key point of interest in the build-up to the USGP will be the actions of drivers during the National Anthem, and rather than read about the actions of any driver in a post-race write-up, fans would do well to watch for themselves and hear the rationale for any actions directly from the drivers.

Should any driver elect to take a knee or simply not attend the National Anthem ceremony ahead of the Grand Prix, there are two key points to remain mindful of. First, the process of drivers coming together at the front of the grid to collectively pay respect to the National Anthem of the country in which a Grand Prix is taking place was actually only introduced in 2014 at the request of Russian Grand Prix officials. It is not a long-held tradition within the sport. Secondly, Sebastian Vettel’s reprimand for missing the start of the Japanese National Anthem 2 weeks go set a precedent for other drivers. If a driver misses the National Anthem or behaves in a manner outside of the recommended procedure they can expect a reprimand and penalty points. Armed with this knowledge driver’s can make an informed decision around how to present themselves ahead of the Grand Prix with team’s well positioned to define a rational penalties with a precedent having been set.

So, if for no other reason than to hear the voice of Michael Buffer and to see Daniel Ricciardo throwing some magnificent pre-race shapes. Every F1 fan should take the time to tune into today’s pre-race show, Live on Sky Sports and Channel 4.

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Formula One: Turning the Red Bull Racing Aston Martin story on its head

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Amongst the #ToroHondaRenaultMcLarenRosso hype during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, news of around Aston Martin increasing its involvement in Formula One with Red Bull Racing has started to solidify. Andy Palmer, Aston Martin CEO, when quizzed on the grid by Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle confirmed the business is keeping a watching brief on 2021 engine regulations, which should they fall favourably towards independent manufacturers, could lead to increased involvement of the brand. Should this be the case Palmer confirmed Aston Martin may seek to preemptt the regulation change by enhancing their visibility with Red Bull Racing possibly from as early as 2018.

This news comes at a time in which the media are speculating Red Bull’s long-term interest in Formula One may be dwindling, which has lead some observers to suggest a change of ownership of Red Bull Racing under the guise of Aston Martin. Whilst this is entirely possible, there are, in my opinion, a few to many creative leaps being taken for this outcome to be viable.

Firstly, lets address Red Bull or more specifically Dietrich Mateschitz’s diminished interest in Formula One. Red Bull entered F1 to sell a product, this objective is the same today as it was 30 years ago. In 2016 the Red Bull achieved more than $1,000M in media coverage from through Formula One. This far exceeds any investment the brand makes into the sport. With budget caps on the horizon, the business rationale for a marketing focused business to be involved with F1 will only increase. Should a $150M budget cap be achieved, Red Bull Racing can be assured of achieving this investment through existing sponsors, and prize funds. Red Bull stand to benefit from $1000M in free advertising.

2017 saw Aston Martin return to profit for the first time in over a decade. The business has stated ambitions around going public in the coming 5 years and are focused on expanding their automotive range to increase revenues. At this time, and in the mid term they are not a business capable of sustaining any form of Formula One engine development plan. Aston Martin Racing is a completely separate business to the Aston Martin which sponsors Red Bull Racing.

Returning to Dietrich Mateschitz. A serial entrepreneurr and self made billionaire. In recent years, he has seen the likes of McLaren diversify into the production of cars, and Williams create successful businesses in the application of their technology within a commercial environment. He is aware that the technical capability of the Red Bull Racing group is under utilised, something which will only increase under a F1 budget cap.  Projects such as Newey’s America’s Cup Project and the Aston Martin Valkyrie Hypercar project show an evaluation of ways in which the team can direct resources to other projects. Could this lead to an alternative direction for Red Bull Racing?

Rather than Aston Martin becoming title sponsor of Red Bull Racing, with a view to producing a power unit under the 2021 regulations. Could Red Bull be considering buying Aston Martin, supporting them in the acceleration of their automotive expansion plans, facilitating F1 power unit development, through their partnership with AVL, and using the proven brand power of Formula One allow Dietrich Mateschitz to evolve Aston Martin into a genuine competitor to the entire Ferrari Group.

Dietrich Mateschitz acquiring Aston Martin and reshaping his position in Formula One towards a Red Bull owned Aston Martin F1 Team, from a business perspective appears entirely more feasible than a company reporting $16M profit, having committed $550M to new road cars, suddenly investing $20M per annum in title sponsorship then paying to develop  an F1 engine.

All that being said, Red Bull, through offering half stories and snippets of information continue to dominate F1 news despite being unable to challenge for a world championship. The business continues to offer a master class in media manipulation. As in 2014, when F1 news was dominated by stories of Red Bull looking set to quit Formula One, Red Bull have an ability to create their own news to ensure they dominate the F1 headlines between the races.

Finally, despite quotes to the contrary, Red Bull Racing are very well aware that the best chance they have of securing a return to a championship challenging position is with a fully funded manufacturer. Talk of Aston Martin, in my opinion, is nothing more than a negotiating tactic around the terms under which the Volkswagen Group will enter Formula One.

Credit to Sean Bull for the fantastic livery creation supporting this article. 

Formula One: McLaren set to badge Renault Power Unit – McLaren

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As the F1 world awaits confirmation of the widely expected split between McLaren and Honda, attention has turned to the team name and branding for the 2018 season and beyond. It is fairly certain McLaren will switch to Renault power unit supply for next season in a deal which will see the Woking based team become a customer team for the remainder of the current iteration of Formula One Power Unit regulations.

Through social media, Fans and F1 pundits have been speculating on the likely name under which the McLaren Renault partnership will operate, with the overriding sentiment being that legacy of the respective brands not quite sitting well together. With almost every brand within the Renault-Nissan Alliance being touted as a possible fit for the partnership, from McLaren Infiniti, to McLaren Alpine, McLaren Nismo, and my personal favourite McLaren Dacia, the most logical naming convention appears to have been forgotten.

Zak Brown, Executive Director McLaren Technology Group, has been quoted as suggesting the team will consider producing Power Units under the McLaren brand under the new technical regulations, should costs not prove prohibitive. With this in mind it should be expected that the Renault agreement for 2018 will be delivered under a white label agreement, as already in place with Red Bull Racing who included naming rights to their Renault Power Unit in their partnership which LVMH, which sees the Power Unit branded Tag Heuer.

McLaren as an automotive entity in its own right will likely brand the white label Renault Power Unit as McLaren. Suggesting to the casual F1 follower or fan that the team is already producing its own power unit. Such a move will serve to further enhance the credibility of the McLaren Automotive Group and remove confusion around relationships between the road going cars and track based power unit partnerships.

After three of the worst seasons in the team’s history, it is highly unlikely McLaren will be in a position to sign a title sponsor for the 2018 season, the team must rebuild its reputation with brands and partners. As such when the 2018 team listing is announced expect McLaren to be listed simply as McLaren with no reference to any power unit supplier.

Should, for what ever reason, the Renault Power Unit fail to elevate McLaren from its current plight expect to hear some awkward interviews in which an unbranded power unit is held accountable for challenges facing the team.

The three P’s of Formula One: Points, Penalties and Prizes – Paddock Magazine

The 2017 Italian Grand Prix served to highlight once again that current Formula 1 regulations around grid penalties for exceeding…

Source: The three P’s of Formula 1: Points, Penalties and Prizes – Paddock Magazine

Formula One: Motorsports Mayweather vs. McGregor

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The Formula One circus springs back into life this weekend with the championship heading to Spa for the iconic Belgian Grand Prix. If history is anything to go by we can expect to see Red Bull Racing have made a step forward in performance through the break, and for Lewis Hamilton’s form to kick into high gear.

For the F1 fan during a Grand Prix weekend, it can easy to forget other forms of motorsport exist let alone other forms of sport, but this weekend it will be nigh on impossible to miss the relentless coverage of Mayweather vs McGregor.

Everyone loves a cross over! Mayweather vs McGregor is the sporting world’s ultimate cross over. The undefeated heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Mayweather coming out of retirement to answer the challenge of UFC legend Conner McGregor. Cynics would say it’s all about the money with each fighter set to earn in the region of $200 Million for the night and let’s face it, it is, but who cares?

Give the fans what they want and the world will talk about it. Prepare for every social media record ever set to be broken!  It costs more for a sponsor to have their name on Conor McGregor’s elasticated waist for 1 night than it does to be title sponsor of a leading F1 team for an entire season!

How can any other sport compete? Has there ever been a comparable event in motorsport? Could F1 or any other category put on a similar show?

What the world of boxing and UFC have in Mayweather and McGregor are personalities. Neither are backward in coming forward, both believe they are the best in everything they do and both have a constant need to tell the world. Their respective categories embrace this, encouraging them to build their names, which in effect will build the category. They are showman, they are entertainers. Within Motorsports this level of self-adulation isn’t overtly encouraged, the sport is about the team and is often attached to an automotive manufacturer whose reputation could be tarnished by an extrovert driver. In the coming years, should F1 elect to move away from it’s mandate of acting as a basis for automotive development and focus more on entertainment, the Mayweather and McGregor characters could emerge. Until then, we’re stuck with drivers being forced to apologise for sneezing in a way which could damage the brand they represent.

Motorsports is no stranger to a crossover. This year alone, Fernando Alonso was given the opportunity to try his hand in Indycar and proved to be no slouch, drivers often compete in multiple categories such as Jean Eric Vergne racing in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship this season. But when did a champion of one series last race directly against another champion? The simple answer is the annual Race of Champions event, which can attract a high calibre of driver including the likes of Vettel and 2016 champion Montoya, but given the knock out style of the event do they really get to race against each other? Is it really want the fans want?

Motorsport can do better than the Race of Champions. Liberty Media should take inspiration from Mayweather vs McGregor and go all out.  What would you like to see them do? Who would you like to see compete?

Finally, how many F1 drivers will be getting up at 5AM / staying up until 5AM on Sunday morning to watch the arguably the greatest sporting event of the year, and how many drivers will dare tweet about it?

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.

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