Formula One: Where next for Graeme Lowdon?

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After battling to bring the Manor Marussia team to the F1 grid in 2015, Graeme Lowdon and John Booth officially terminated their agreements with the team on November 20th  , leaving Steven Fitzpatrick, Abdulla Boulsien, and Vincent Casey as the remaining registered directors of the team. At this time, it is not clear if the name Manor will leave the team with Graeme and John, but it is understood a name change was discussed in a recent strategy group review. It should also be noted a holding company Just Racing is registered alongside Manor Grand Prix Racing at the team headquarters in Banbury.

Both Graeme Lowdon and John Booth are highly respected figures in the F1 paddock, as is the racing pedigree of Manor. Until a recent interview for Sky Sports it was believed Lowdon and Booth came as a pair, and the partnership would be unlikely to be seen in F1 in the near future. However, during the interview suggestion was made that Graeme Lowdon may be joining another team on the grid in a new capacity. In addition, the launch of the ‘@realmanor’ twitter handle suggests the name may continue to be used in the future away from the current team.

With a future as part of the team formally know as Manor Marussia seemingly out of the question, this article will explore the possible new home on the 2016 grid for Graeme and the likelyhood of each.  It has been assumed that any new role would be for a UK based team, and that despite questionable management decisions made at Red Bull Racing in recent seasons, management remain supportive of the current structure. Given the changes with the Renault F1 team a move towards Enstone has also been disregarded at this time.

Williams F1 Team:

Despite finishing 3rd in the 2015 Constructors Championship the Williams F1 Team and drivers have voiced disappointment with the team performance, seemingly unable to extract that final element of performance required to mount a genuine challenge for the top step. This coupled with a number of blunders in pitstop procedures and rumours of senior management moving to new challenges with the Haas F1 Team, perhaps the pragmatic no nonsense racing approach adopted by Graeme Lowdon would sit well alongside the commercial savvy of Claire Williams.

Sahara Force India F1 Team:

Change in team branding and possibly ownership is expected in the near future, Graeme Lowdon and even the Manor brand could offer racing pedigree and a steady hand during a possibly lively management period.

Haas F1 Team:

Success in F1 comes through experience. Graeme Lowdon has highly relevant experience to any new team joining the sport, he knows how to run a team on a budget and optimise all resources available. He also has practical experience of working with Scuderia Ferrari and knows the Haas UK headquarters well.

Mclaren Honda:

Ron Dennis has publically stated the team will be making a series imminent management changes, it is possible the team may again look to split the role of Team Principle bringing in a head such as Graeme Lowdon could be bring a fresh perspective on how to approach racing, and reduce the burden of responsibility on Éric Boullier.

In conclusion, it would be possible to draw sound rationale for any of the afore mentioned teams to be keen on attracting Lowdon’s services. The question should also be which prospect would be appealing to him. Outside of motorsport Graeme Lowdon is a successful entrepreneur, co founding Nomad Digital, providers of Wifi and wireless systems in transportation networks. His success away from the F1 grid allows him a security that he does not ‘need’ the sport.  Either way it is highly unlikely any announcement will be made until the new year, but of the teams mentioned the most likely would seem to be either the Haas F1 Team in a bid to further strengthen the management structure or what could be a very exciting challenge with Force India.

That being said those fashion aware amongst you may have noticed since leaving the Manor Massuisa team Graeme elected to wear blue in most public appearances. Which team wears blue?

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Formula One: David Coulthard join’s BBC Top Gear

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Reports have emerged in the last 24 hours that David Coulthard is set to join the soon to to be relaunched Top Gear on the BBC in the UK.

Following the BBC’s announcement that it will drop F1 coverage from its schedules in 2016, 3 seasons earlier than contracted, those involved in the coverage both in front of and behind the camera will be looking at new options.

Outlets such as Variety and The Mirror are reporting DC will join the Top Gear team alongside the confirmed Chris Evans and also rumoured Sabine Schmitz. With the shows producer Lisa Clark leaving the project after 5 months before the new format has aired questions are emerging over the direction and management of the show.

David Coulthard and the BBC are yet to comment on these rumours. It is not clear if working on Top Gear would preclude Coulthard from involvement with the C4 F1 coverage or joining his long term colleague and friend Martin Brundle at Sky Sports.

 

Formula One: Renault completes purchase of the Lotus F1 Team

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Groupe Renault and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl, an affiliate of Genii Capital SA, formally and successfully completed the acquisition by Groupe Renault  of a controlling shareholding of Lotus F1 Team Limited.
The new team name, full management structure, team partners and other details will be announced during an event to be held in Paris in February.

In the interim, a new board of directors has been appointed, with Jérôme Stoll as Chairman and Cyril Abiteboul as Managing Director.

Following the signing of a letter of intent by Groupe Renault and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl on 28 September 2015, the parties entered into the various agreements on 3 December 2015. Since then, all parties involved have been working relentlessly to comply with all of the contractual and legal obligations under the agreements to enable the transaction to successfully complete. The technical teams are making good progress to have the 2016 car ready for testing in Barcelona at the end of February.
At this time the team have made no comment on possible driver line up or sponsorship changes. With PDVSA sponsorship coming under scrutiny, questions remain as to how 2016 funding plans.

Formula One: Channel 4 becomes FTA home of F1 in the UK

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Channel 4 will be the terrestrial home of the FIA Formula One World Championship™ from 2016-2018 in a new deal agreed today with Formula One World Championship Limited.

Channel 4 will broadcast 10 live Formula 1® races, including practice and qualifying sessions, in each of the three FIA Formula One World Championship™ seasons from 2016 to 2018. It will also broadcast comprehensive highlights of all 21 Grands Prix and qualifying sessions – including those shown live by Sky Sports F1®. All of the live coverage and highlights will be broadcast free-to-air and in high definition.

Reflecting Channel 4’s track record for innovation in sports broadcasting, in a first for a UK terrestrial commercial broadcaster, no advertising breaks will be taken through the duration of the live races.

Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive Officer of the Formula One group said: “I am sorry that the BBC could not comply with their contract but I am happy that we now have a broadcaster that can broadcast Formula 1® events without commercial intervals during the race.

“I am confident that Channel 4 will achieve not only how the BBC carried out the broadcast in the past but also with a new approach as the World and Formula 1® have moved on.”

David Abraham, Channel 4 Chief Executive said: “Formula One is one of the world’s biggest sporting events with huge appeal to British audiences. I’m delighted to have agreed this exciting new partnership with Bernie Ecclestone to keep the sport on free-to-air television.”

Jay Hunt, Channel 4 Chief Creative Officer said: “Channel 4 and Formula One are the perfect partnership. We’ve the same appetite for innovation and we’ll be demonstrating that to fans by becoming the first free-to-air commercial broadcaster to show the races ad free.”

Details of the 2016 races broadcast live by Channel 4 will be agreed in early-2016. Further details of Channel 4’s production and presenting teams will also be announced in due course.

The new agreement to broadcast Formula One World Championship strengthens the Channel 4 schedule and will not affect the level of spend on peak time, UK-originated content.

Channel 4 has a track record for innovative coverage of major sporting events, which most recently includes its BAFTA-winning coverage of the 2012 Paralympic Games, RTS-award-winning coverage of horse racing; and its BAFTA-winning cricket coverage. In 2016, Channel 4 will also broadcast the Rio Paralympic Games and 90 days of live racing coverage including The Grand National, Royal Ascot and The Derby

Barbara Slater Director of BBC Sport issued the following blog on the announcement:

The Director General announced recently that the BBC needs to plug a £150 million annual gap in its finances from next year. He outlined that two-thirds of the savings would come from ‘scope’ savings, meaning that the BBC would stop doing some of the things that we currently do.

BBC Sport was asked to deliver approximately £35 million of these savings. This was due to the pressing need to realise the savings and the greater flexibility that BBC Sport has to deliver them compared to most other parts of the Corporation.

No Director of Sport wants to be responsible for reducing the amount of sport on BBC TV. But the current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made. There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.

The amendment to the TV rights agreement for the Open Golf (a move from live to extended highlights) and the sharing of the 6 Nations Championship earlier this year contributed to our savings target. These deals also helped to mitigate the super-inflation that is prevalent across the sports rights market.

And the BBC is announcing today that a significant chunk of BBC Sport’s remaining savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1. Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.

As part of the exit arrangements we are extending our radio rights deal to 2021 and will continue to cover the sport via our sports news service and the BBC Sport website. The package of TV rights we have foregone will transfer to another free-to-air broadcaster.

I’d like to extend my appreciation to our production team who for seven seasons consistently produced coverage to the very highest level which has been loved by the sport’s fans. It has won numerous awards, including a BAFTA. The quality of production from those behind and in front of the camera has been without equal.

These are very challenging times for the BBC and sport is not immune to those financial pressures.

We have had to take some unpopular decisions this year but we have done so from a position of strength with long term deals already in place for the likes of the Football World Cup, Wimbledon, the FA Cup, the Olympics, Match of the Day, UK Athletics and the World Athletics Championships, the European Football Championships, Rugby League, Snooker, the London Marathon, the Boat Race and much more.

Barbara Slater is Director of BBC Sport

Formula One: OPINION: How ITV could make a success of UK F1 coverage

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Respected British broadcasting news outlet Broadcast is reporting that ITV are set to over the free to air (FTA) broadcasting rights for Formula one from the BBC as early as 2016, 3 seasons ahead of the current contract. This site has contacted both the BBC and ITV for comment, both of whom responded that they do not comment on contract negotiations.

Under the current FTA UK agreement the BBC broadcast up to 50% of race weekend’s live with the remaining races broadcast in highlights form several hours after the race has taken place. SKY holds the broadcasting rights for all live race weekend coverage through the season.

Estimations on the costs surrounding the BBC’s agreement for F1 coverage range significantly from $20 to $60M per season. Whatever the true cost may be, in an environment in which the corporation is seeking to reduce costs F1 coverage may well be a luxury that can no longer be justified.

FTA coverage in a blend of live and highlights form, whilst not as strong as full live coverage has provided the BBC with a solid audience share since the deal came into place, although overall audience figures are on the decline.

News of ITV possibility taking on the FTA agreement comes at a time when overall audience levels for the sport are somewhat diminished, SKY are known to be exploring ways in which to reduce costs in their output.

With UK broadcasting agreements seemingly under re-evaluation perhaps now is the time to reconsider the way in which viewers receive F1 content. At present both the BBC and SKY have their own production teams sent to each race.  This leads to a duplication of costs and headcount at each race. This despite both broadcasters using the same world feed for actual race and live session content. On site teams are in place to provide race build up and analysis. This compared to the way in which Formula E coverage is broadcast, where a single world feed is available to broadcasters and each country operates studio based build up and analysis. A studio based approach is far more cost effective and sustainable.

Whilst the BBC and SKY have been rightfully applauded for their breaking down the 4th wall approach to F1 broadcasting, in a cost conscious environment is now the time to consider a change? If ITV, a commercial entity, are to take on the FTA UK rights, rather than developing a new team to support the coverage, could they simply take on the SKY coverage, using the same broadcasting and or commentary team and content? The ITV coverage could be positioned by SKY as a promotional tool for the premium ‘ALL LIVE’ coverage, and sponsorship rights of the ITV coverage sold by SKY. This would give SKY access to a larger audience which would satisfy sponsor expectations. Such a model would allow ITV to broadcast the sport with minimal investment outside of the FOM broadcasting contract, and SKY could spread costs across a second broadcaster.

The audience for sports coverage is more dynamic than ever, in an environment in which broadcasters appear almost bullied by each other into paying astronomical fees for coverage rights is now the time to reconsider how the sport is delivered to the fans?

Formula One: Ultrasoft compound set for Sochi debut at the earliest

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Pirelli will bring the following three compounds to Bahrain and China for the second and third rounds of the 2016 Formula One championship:

P Zero White medium
P Zero Yellow soft
P Zero Red supersoft

With the compounds for the Australian GP already announced this means the ultrasoft will not appear on the calender until the Russian GP, the 4th race of the season.

These are the tyres that Pirelli has said must be used at some point in the race:
One set of P Zero White medium
One set of P Zero Yellow soft.
Each driver must have both these sets available for the race, and must use at least oneof them.

There are the tyres assigned for Q3 in qualifying:
One set of P Zero Red supersoft
Following on from the 2016 regulations, each driver must save one set of the softest of the three nominated compounds for Q3. This set will be given back to Pirelli after Q3 for those who qualify in the top 10, but the remaining drivers will keep it for the race – as is the case currently.

The teams are free to choose the remaining sets; making up 13 sets in total for the weekend.

The tyre choices so far:

Purple Red Yellow White Orange
Australia  Supersoft Soft Medium
Bahrain  Supersoft Soft Medium
China  Supersoft Soft Medium

Formula E: Avis talk Mahindra Formula E Team partnership and an EV future

MahindraAvis

Ahead of the 3rd Round of the FIA Formula E 2015/16 Season in Punta del Este, Uruguay, JWGP spoke to Mahindra Formula E Team sponsor Avis about their involvement with the team and perspective on EV technology. Darren Peacock, Director of Brand Marketing EMEA, Avis Budget Group offers his insights:

Jon Wilde (JW): How did Avis come to be involved with the Mahindra Formula E team?

Darren Peacock (DP): Avis was introduced to the Mahindra Racing team through a corporate relationship that we had established. Avis recognised the potential of the sport and it generated a real enthusiasm with everyone who became involved with the negotiation.

JW: What initially attracted Avis to Formula E?

DP: Formula E’s ambitious global plans align with our own global footprint and commercial strategy. The championing of sustainability and clean energy was a refreshing and much needed angle in motor sport which matches our own vision of mobility in the future.

JW: What attracted Avis to Mahindra? Do you have any deals outside of Formula E?

DP: In Mahindra Racing we recognised a company who were not only committed to the sport but also developing automotive technology for everyday travellers

JW: Formula E have taken a very different approach to other racing categories in the way in which the series engages with fans, did this influence your decision to get involved with the series? Do you think it is paying off?

DP: FanBoost is a really unique aspect of the sport which puts fans at the heart of the sport which certainly appealed to us as an organisation which works hard to offer an unrivalled customer experience.

 

JW: Building on the EV (electric vehicle) agenda, how relevant is the technology and the cars to Avis now and in the future? Do Avis have EV’s in the company fleet already?

DP: EV technology is extremely important to the future of mobility and Avis is involved in a number of projects across the globe, in the UK we offer a Hybrid range while in Denmark we operate the largest Electric vehicle fleet for a car rental company in Europe and we continue to work with manufacturers on future developments.

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JW: Do Avis plan to increase motorsport sponsorship in future to cover other categories?

DP: At present Formula E is our current focus although we are constantly reviewing opportunities through our manufacturer partners.

JW: Does Formula E involvement represent good value for money in terms of consumer/ brand awareness?

DP: We partnered with Formula E towards the end of the 2014/15 season and so this year’s season will be our first full season to measure the performance of our sponsorship.

JW: Would you encourage other consumer facing companies to consider Formula E as a promotional platform?

DP: Obviously each company has to evaluate what property is relevant to their product or service.For a very new competition the sport has already attracted some of the most respected brands in the world so anyone who joins will be in good company. From a great start it is only going to grow in popularity especially amongst a younger audience.

JW: How would Avis like to see the category develop in the coming years? (additional venues,increased vehicle performance, increased vehicle differentiation)

DP: Given our global footprint at Avis with 5,450 rental station around the world we would love to see expansion to further markets. Expansion in to key territories including the Middle East would expand the sports appeal and customer base while meeting the strengths of our network.

JW: Have Avis looked at using the Mahindra Formula E team as a basis for business to business deals, for example something like AVIS and IHG (other Mahindra sponsor) offering fan packages for race events or as Mahindra supporters?

DP: As a travel specialist we consistently partner with other premium brands in the industry to provide added value to our customers. Specifically for Formula E we joined up with IHG to create a competition offering fans tickets to the last race of the season and accommodation with IHG. This attracted much interest so is something we are keen to repeat.

Thanks to Avis for this candid perspective on Formula E engagement, best of luck to the Mahindra team ahead of this weekends action.

To see more on the Mahindra Racing Formula E team click here

To check out the latest offers from Avis in your area click here

 

 

Formula One – Formula E: Jaguar confirm motorsport return with Williams Advanced Engineering

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Jaguar, in Partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, earlier this morning confirmed their entry to the 2016/ 2017 FIA Formula E Championship.

Taking over the franchise, but not infrastructure,  vacated by the Trulli Formula E team, the team will acquire four new Dallara chassis and develop its over powertrain.

Entry into Formula E will coincide with Jaguar launching roadcar EV technology, which following the success of the C-X75 concept, will be a joint development again with Williams Advanced Engineering.

At this time Jaguar have not finalised details around the final team name, the livery, or driver line up, although representatives are keen to make clear the team will focus on the heritage of the Jaguar brand alongside new technologies

Jaguar’s entry into Formula E represents the brands first official participation in a single seater series since the sale of the Jaguar F1 team in 2004. The team that went on to become four time world champions Red Bull Racing.

FIA Formula E offers a unique opportunity for Jaguar Land Rover to develop its own future EV powertrain including motor and battery technology on the track, which will be seen in the brand’s future range of passenger vehicles. The team entry has been granted by Formula E and approved by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering, said; “There is a saying that racing improves the breed and Jaguar’s entry into Formula E will be a powerful way of honing a new generation of EV technologies for its products. We are delighted that they have chosen Williams Advanced Engineering as their technical partner in this new and high profile chapter in Jaguar’s racing history. Williams has extensive knowledge of EV technology, racing car design and the logistics of running a successful racing team so we are well set to support Jaguar in what promises to be an exciting new challenge for both parties.”
Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director for Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Jaguar is proud to announce its return to racing. We’re at the forefront of pioneering technology. Over the next five years we will see more changes in the automotive world than in the last three decades. The future is more about being connected, electrification and lightweight architectures. Formula E enables us to engineer and test advanced technologies under extreme conditions.
“Formula E will provide genuine live testing for future electric vehicle powertrain technology, which will appear in our new range of vehicles. We are working with a number of partners on the future of electrification including Warwick University, battery suppliers and of course our long-term partners Williams. We will have our engineers embedded with Williams from the start and our innovations will directly affect future Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.”
James Barclay, Jaguar Team Director, said: “We looked in detail at alternative ways of returning to motorsport. This was such an important decision for Jaguar and we wanted to get it right.  With our future EV plans Formula E was the obvious choice and we believe that the benefits are enormous. The FIA and the promoter have exciting plans for the future of the championship and we are proud to be one of the first vehicle manufacturers to commit to the series with our own team. We have a lot of work to do ahead of the first race but it is a challenge we relish. We hope that we can welcome a new generation of fans to Jaguar through this exciting programme.”

Involvement of Williams Advanced Engineering in this project is a further demonstration on the diversification strategy of the Williams Group (Williams F1 Team) such developments strengthen the core of the business reducing any reliance on sponsorship. It should not be dismissed that Williams and Jaguar may look to further expand their partnership in future years, possibly towards Formula One.

Check out the video to celebrate the launch here:

 

Formula One: Ricciardo Rocks Perth Speed Fest

This week Daniel jetted back to his home city of Perth where he was set to appear at Sunday’s Perth Speedfest, a massive homage to all things motorized and fast. Before that though, Daniel and the showcar crew had a little surprise in store for the citizens of the Western Australian capital – taking the double title-winning RB7 out for a breakfast-time hoon around St George’s Terrace.

Daniel blasted between the lights of the CBD’s main drag three times before treating a shocked but thrilled crowd to some tyre-melting donuts. Speaking after his early morning dose of donuts, he said: “It’s obviously nice to be home for starters and to drive the RB7 through my city streets. It woke me up and certainly made the jet lag a bit easier to deal with! It definitely got me alert. It’s nice to bring such a show to Perth.”

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“I came home at the best time of the year: it’s summer, it’s Christmas, everyone is in a great mood”– Daniel Ricciardo

The 8am burnouts were a teaser for Sunday’s main event, the first Perth Speedfest. The huge show featured more than 60 separate events across 25 different motorsport disciplines on five customised track layouts at Perth Motorplex.

 
Daniel joined a stellar array of Aussie racing royalty at the show, including 1980 F1 champ Alan Jones, Moto GP rider Jack Miller, V8 Supercars stars Will Davison, Alex Davison and Nick Percat, as well as Superbikes ace Wayne Maxwell, Red Bull X-Fighter Josh Sheehan and WRC star Alistair McRae. After a morning of media commitments, Daniel took to his first run on the Perth Motorplex track, which consisted of a short track, with a drag strip in the middle.

In front of a crowd of 10,000, Daniel completed three, three-lap runs in the RB7, before hitting the event’s ‘snake pit’ burn out pad to reprise the rubber-smoking series of donuts he’d shown off with the previous morning.

Then it was time for the big face-off, the RB7 against three other top-line motorsport machines. First up was a racing Lamborghini but Daniel made short work of the sports car on the prepared drag strip. Next up was Nick Percat in his V8 Supercars Holden Commodore and this proved to be a close affair, with the 5.0L V8 –powered saloon car and its 640hp making the battle (briefly) interesting, but once again the RB7 emerged victorious.

“It was interesting going up against a few different cars and putting the car to the test on the drag. Now I can veg out!”– Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel’s final run was against a Funny Car dragster and this time, on the drag racers home turf, things were not so easy. With a Funny Car putting out upwards of 8,000hp to the F1 car’s 800 or so and with the dragster capable of hitting 100km/h in around 0.5s, the RB7 was always going to struggle in a straight line and so it proved. However, give us some corners and we know we’d put that bad boy in its place.

There was only one way to restore pride: hit the snake pit for more huge burnouts and donuts to finish off the event in style. “I know a lot of people travel from Perth for the grand prix (in Melbourne), but it’s great to be able to bring the show to the guys in WA,” said Daniel afterwards. “I know a lot of my fans are here, so it’s great to bring F1 here and take a bit of that travel away for them at this time of year.

“It was interesting going up against a few different cars and putting the car to the test on the drag. Now I can veg out! But, seriously, it’s great to be involved in bringing and event like this to Perth and to get the F1 car here is obviously a massive effort from the organisers and also the team to bring it out here, I was more than happy to be involved and make it as good a weekend as it could be.”

 
“I came home at the best time of the year: it’s summer, it’s Christmas, everyone is in a great mood and obviously being here with Alan Jones and being among other Aussie motorsport stars with so much of my family here as well, it just makes it that bit better. Half the people here are probably related to me! Or at least say they are!”