Formula One: Hamilton talks to the fans

A relaxed Lewis Hamilton took part in a Facebook Live event hosted by Mercedes AMG Petronas sponsor Epson earlier today. During the session Lewis took live questions from followers across social media.

Sharing insights on his favourite circuit, Macau and the Nordscheife, details on how a mistake in qualifying in Brazil 2015 cost him pole, and how he values having an input in the team look, it could be suggested the session was of higher quality than interviews conducted by professional elements of the media of late.

With the FIA calling Lewis Hamilton to the Thursday drivers press conference for the second race in succession it will be interesting to see if the media can extract a similar level of engagement.

Formula One: Debunking the BP rumour

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Over the past week various news outlets have reported BP are set to enter Formula One with a $30 Million sponsorship deal heading the way of either Renault or Mclaren. Whilst there is no formal comment from any party to confirm or deny the story, a little bit of a sanity check might be helpful.

The optimisation of current the iteration of Formula One power unit technology is more dependant on fuel and lubricant specificities now more than any time in the history of the sport. Power units and their respective fuel and lubricants are developed in conjunction with each other. Whilst the fuel used in Formula One is made up of 99% the same compounds you would expect to see in the forecourt, the remaining 1% has a huge impact on vehicle performance and is unique to each and every supplier.

At this time there are 4 power unit manufacturers and 4 fuel and lubricant suppliers in Formula One. These are:

Shell with Ferrari

ExxonMobil (Mobil 1 / Esso) with Honda

Petronas with Mercedes

Total with Renault.

All teams using customer power units will use the fuel and lubricant supply defined as above. Any additional fuel and lubricant sponsorship with customer teams are sponsorship partners only. They do not supply the team.

Unlike agreements such as that with BR Petrobras and Williams, given the comparable size and market share BP have to Petronas, Shell, & ExxonMobil it is highly unlikely either party would be prepared to have a customer team run with BP branding and a competitor’s fuel and lubricant supply.

The development of fuel and lubricant solutions is a continual process, at any given time Shell, for example, could have up to 65 compounds in development. Fuel and lubricant partnership is integral to a team. In 2015 Scuderia Ferrari attributed 25% of their performance gains through the season to Shell. Fuel and lubricant suppliers bring trackside laboratories to every F1 race. They analyse the performance of their product after every session. Relationships are so well developed that a fuel and lubricant supplier can and do advise a race team on how to approach race strategy.

Fuel and lubricant suppliers do not enter Formula One for simple brand exposure. They use the sport as a platform to innovate. Innovation reaching the circuit can take as long as five years to hit the forecourt. Formula One engagement is not a short term quick win project.

In short, if BP were to be entering Formula One the undertaking and commitment would require a significant change in business strategy. It would be much more complex than writing a cheque for $30 Million. If a new partnership is not already known it would not be realistic to expect anything for at least 2 years. With all this in mind it seems highly unlikely BP would find an existing power unit manufacturer prepared to leave an existing partner for the foreseeable future.

What could be possible is an acquisition. This could take a number of forms. An existing fuel and lubricant supplier could be looking to exit Formula One. They may look to sell their assets and technology in the sport to BP. With consumers looking increasingly to renewable energy sources the return on investment of motorsport engagement may no longer be what it once was so this is possible.

Another option could be BP acquiring, or being acquired. Both Shell and ExxonMobil have been reported to be considering growth through acquisition strategies. If this was the case, they may look to showcase the BP brand through their premier  marketing platform. Equally if BP chose to merge or acquire Shell, Petronas, ExxonMobil, or Total, they may seek to promote the BP brand in F1. At this time it is not possible to entirely dismiss rumours of BP entering Formula One, but one thing is for certain, if a deal does transpire it will be a lot more complex than writing a cheque and putting a few stickers on a car.

Kids and Motorsport

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Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching Formula One on the TV with my dad. Sitting together to watch our heroes racing against each other on a Sunday afternoon created a very special father son bond, something we have maintained to this day. From the moment my children were born I’ve been looking forward to the day I can start taking her to racing events with me.

Over the past year I have set about forging a career in motorsport, whilst the financial aspect of this career choice is taking a bit more time to come together than I might have hoped, developing a network within the industry is coming along nicely. It was through this network I found myself in the position to be able to take my daughter (6) and eldest son (3) to the closing rounds of the European F3 championship and DTM championship in Hockenheim last weekend.

As a bit of a racing obsessive it is very easy to forget the intricacies of motor racing and just accept them as a given. Taking the time to explain them to my children made me take stock and start to question a few of the accepted norms.

This first occurred when explaining qualifying. When the DTM cars first went out on track my daughter, Isabelle, asked if they were racing now. I explained, they were out driving as fast as they can to decide what position they will start the race in. Without any hesitation, she replied “so the fastest starts as the back?” to which I explained the opposite was the case “but that’s boring, no one will overtake like that” came her reply. It’s such a simple point, but entirely fair. If the fastest start first how can we expect an entertaining race? Don’t get me wrong I completely take on board the traditionalists view of going racing, but it’s very hard to argue with a child’s logic.

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Our tickets for the weekend came from friends in an F3 team. At short notice they had arranged Paddock tickets for us. When we arrived at the circuit our host took the time to meet us at the circuit entrance and take us over to the paddock on the back of her quad bike. My son, Ben, would tell you, as he has all his friends, that was the real highlight of the day! Being given paddock tickets for a race is and will always be, a huge thing for me, but when it came to watching racing Isabelle made another observation. “why can’t we sit in the Stadium [grandstand]?” my reply “We don’t have tickets for the grandstand, we’ve got a good view of the track here” to which she replied “but there are so many empty seats, why can’t we just go and sit there?” Again she made a valid point. Why do fans simply accept empty grandstands and find a hill to watch the racing on. Sure I could have paid for a grandstand seat, but to be honest I wasn’t sure they would sit through an entire race. If circuits have empty seats, and fans sitting around the circuit, why not just open up the grandstands. Create a positive atmosphere and people will be more encouraged to come again, and pay for other activities at the circuit.

On to the racing itself, DTM worked fantastically for kids, well for my kids at least. During qualifying we each picked our favourite car, by colour of course, Isabelle went for the Pink Mercedes (Mücke Motorsport, Chrisitan Vietoris, & Lucas Auer) I went for the Red & White Shell BMW of Augusto Farfus, and Ben went for the Yellow BMW post van driven by Timo Glock. Each car has a digital read out on the side window displaying the drivers position in the race. Each lap Isabelle and Ben had to tell me what position their car was in and if they had move up or down from the last lap. As the race progressed this developed into telling me the position of the Red Bull cars, or the make of the car in first. The race flew by and despite our drivers not winning both Ben and Isabelle were able to explain the race to an impressive level of detail.

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Supporting the F3 and DTM was the Porsche Supercup, it was impressive to see that in addition to huge hospitality areas, Porsche had invested in creating a road safety area for young children. Children were given a tutorial on crossing roads safely and watching out for traffic lights and other simple road signs, then given 20 minutes to roam around a specially laid out circuit in peddle powered go karts and scooters. Whilst for an adult it might not sound overly riveting, my kids loved it. Plus, it gave me a chance to sit down for a few minutes!

Overall my first experience of Motorsport with children was positive, The DTM set up feels far more family friendly than my experiences of Formula One, there are activities for all ages, teams and drivers are happy to make time for you and the racing is easy to follow and not too long.  Leaving the circuit Isabelle talked about what she had enjoyed during the day and what our next racing experience would be, casually mentioning informing me I’d be taking her to a Formula One race to meet Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. No pressure then!

Formula One: Lewis gets inked

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Who says current F1 drivers don’t have a sense of humour? In a promotional campaign for Mercedes AMG Petronas sponsor Epson, Lewis Hamilton demonstrates the capacity of Epson printers by getting himself covered in ink!

Whilst Lewis might not have had the best of seasons so far on track, his profile continues to grow with brands and advertisers clambering over themselves for access. Lewis’ willingness to embrace this form of campaign should be remembered when media outlets question attitude.

 

Formula One: Magnussen states his intentions

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Following confirmation that Nico Hulkenberg will be joining the Renault Sport F1 team from 2017, Kevin Magnussesn has taken to social media to confirm his future intentions.

In a series of tweets posted earlier this morning, Magnussen seeks to put to bed rumours of a possible move to Indycar and restates his desire to remain part of the Renault Sport F1 team future. In that this news is coming from Kevin himself with no comment from the team it is possible to conclude there are other drivers in the running for his seat in 2017.

Current team mate Palmer is thought to have an outside chance of retaining his position within the team. Bottas and Ocon are also known to be contenders. The performance of the Renault power unit with Red Bull Racing this season suggests a fully funded works Renault team can expect to be competitive in the near future making this, the only works seat available on the grid, an promising prospect.

 

 

 

Formula One: Force India confirm Hulkenberg departure

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Nico Hulkenberg will leave Sahara Force India at the end of the season to pursue other opportunities within Formula One. His last race with the team will be in Abu Dhabi next month.
Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director: “Everybody at Sahara Force India wishes Nico well as he embarks upon a different path in Formula One. Having spent five years with us, Nico has become a great friend and contributed a huge amount to the team’s success. He’s an outstanding driver, who has scored more points for this team than anybody else. While it’s true we will miss Nico, we respect his decision to explore fresh opportunities and it would be wrong to stand in his way.”
As of writing, Hulkenberg’s 2017 plans and beyond have not been confirmed. It is widely expected he will be announced as a Renault Sport F1 driver in the coming hours.

Formula One: Writing yourself out of a job

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The British written press within Formula One have worked themselves up into somewhat of an unnecessary frenzy at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, and have left many followers of the sport asking if they have become surplus to requirements.  Following the drivers press conference on Thursday in which Lewis Hamilton spent a proportion of the session engaging with his followers on Snapchat, members of the British media took to social media to challenge the behaviour of the driver. This questioning of respect shown to them from Lewis latterly became the centre piece for many journalist’s preview for the race weekend.

Following the negative response from elements of the media Lewis Hamilton responded over social media explaining he did not intend to cause offence and that he was simply looking to refresh an element of the Grand Prix weekend.

This explanation drew further criticism from journalists who suggested the purpose of the session was not to entertain fans but to give print media the chance to pose questions to drivers.  They went on to suggest Lewis’ behaviour was a deliberate attempt to avoid challenging questions around his ability to challenge for the 2016 World Championship.

It is fair to say there may have been an element of this in Lewis’ actions, but this suggestion was met with public observation that the quality of questions asked within these sessions is so poor, they rarely generate headline news either way. Journalists then went to explain, again through social media, that the reason for poor/ no questions being asked in these sessions was because they are televised and by the time they had opportunity to document anything from the session the news would already be available through other outlets.

This justification calls into question not only the format of driver press conferences but the rationale for print media attending race events in person at all. Journalists suggesting driver briefing sessions are of no value to them because others get the news out before they can suggest their delivery method is outdated. They, along with their publishers should be looking inwardly at ways in which to present content in formats that reflect consumption models, rather than criticizing something that is out of their control.

British Newspapers coverage of a Formula One weekend typically will take the form of a race report with driver quotes. If Journalists are no longer prepared to ask questions to drivers because other outlets will publish the responses, they, and their employers would be better placed producing race reports based on TV coverage. Investigative journalism within motorsport has long been the reserve of online only outlets such as Motorsport.com.

The actions of select members of the British print media have prompted a response from Lewis which will further reduce their access and further call into question their value in being in the paddock.

With the announcement that the Motorsport Network have taken control of Autosport and Haymarket Motorsport interests, many motorsport journalists will be feeling anxious around future employment security, biting the hand that feeds you may have been the worst possible response.

Formula One: Mercedes elevate Haas in Qualifying

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The Haas F1 team achieved their best qualifying positions of the season Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez qualifying 8th and 10th respectively for the Japanese Grand Prix earlier today.

The teams elevated positions on the grid can be in part attributed to continued concerns from Mercedes Powered teams around the reliability of their power unit following Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Williams F1 team, whose drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas qualifying 12th & 11th confirmed they were using an older power unit (unit 3 of the allocated 5 per season) at the request of Mercedes.

It is understood similar precautions have been taken with at both Force India and Manor Racing. The Mercedes works team also confirmed neither Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg were permitted to run power units at fully optimised levels during qualifying. Completing qualifying in at reduced performance levels may explain why the gap to Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari was less than in recent qualifying sessions.

Non Mercedes powered teams can expect  similar cautionary actions to be taken in the race tomorrow, no doubt every effort will be taken by other teams to capitalise on this opportunity and apply pressure to the power unit dominating the series.

Formula One: Motorsport network acquire Autosport & Haymarket Media motor racing portfolio

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Motorsport Network, the Miami-headquartered publisher of Motorsport.com and Motor1.com, today announced the acquisition of six business operations that make up the Haymarket Media Group’s interests in motorsport publishing, photography and events.

The acquired businesses in the Autosport portfolio include Autosport.com, a respected and authoritative digital voice in international motorsport. The website has a provenance derived from its sister business, Autosport Magazine. Continuously published since August 1950, the weekly magazine has a heritage that dates back to the very origins of the Formula One World Championship™.

In addition to the Autosport brand, Motorsport Network has also added F1 Racing, the premium monthly periodical, to its stable. F1 Racing is published in nine languages in 15 editions, sold in 60 countries and is the only magazine licensed by Formula One Management.

The print assets acquired also include Motorsport News, which has been the voice of British motorsport since the era of Moss and Fangio in the fifties.

The publishing interests are supplemented by the world’s richest and most extensive motorsport photographic archive, LAT Photographic. With 13 million images that date from 1895, the archive forms the central element of a full-service photo agency with staff presence at all major international motor racing series. The company also provides image production services and studio facilities.

The acquisitions by Motorsport Network are founded on the principle of preserving the rich heritage in Haymarket’s motorsport businesses. Its fans, followers and customers can continue to seamlessly enjoy the world’s best-loved racing websites, magazines and blue-riband events.

Best known for its Motorsport.com and Motor1.com brands, Motorsport Network speaks to 75 million people every month across 22 website editions operating in 16 languages. The success of the Motorsport Network has been founded on three guiding principles: speaking to audiences in their native tongue, packaging & presenting unique content for digitally engaged audiences. Together this provides customers & clients with an integrated array of products & services to connect with this global audience.

The acquisition of the Haymarket businesses will contribute a rich seam of heritage and unparalleled media assets to Motorsport Network’s dynamic business culture and intent to provide solutions in automotive and motor racing across digital, broadcast, social networking, merchandise & license and gaming.

Commenting on the announcement, Kevin Costello, CEO of the Haymarket Media Group, said, “Motor racing has formed part of the Haymarket portfolio for almost half a century and the company has nurtured these businesses from their origins to be global category leaders. However, we are reassured that the Motorsport Network are the right people to be custodians of these businesses for the next stage of their investment and development.

The acquisition and integration of the Haymarket motorsport portfolio into Motorsport Network will be stewarded by its Chairman, Zak Brown. “This milestone in acquiring the businesses that Haymarket has grown over decades will be recognised by everyone in the industry as a mark of our intent. All that is best about Autosport and its sister businesses will be preserved. Supported with investment and aligned with our dynamic organisational culture and high-speed growth that is attracting younger demographics to motorsport, the fusion of these two organisations presents tantalising opportunities for our staff and our clients alike.” he said. “This acquisition is part of a broader consolidation strategy and is aligned with a series of significant changes we’re witnessing across the motorsport landscape,” he added.

JWGP Opinion: The rapid expansion of the Motorsport Network juggernaut is overwhelming. The group is growing from not simply touching every element of motorsport to dominating or controlling it. On the one hand this could result in improvements in consistency in quality, the Motorsport Network is ultimately a business. It needs to generate a return on investment. The way in which this will be achieved remains to be seen, but it could result in restructuring across the networks. Dominating the world of motorsport journalism could have a negative impact on the quality and diversity in voices.

The motorpsort industry being dependant on a single network for specialised journalism could be a concern. The industry is dependant on their success to ensure sports are promoted.

The ultimate investors behind the Motorsport Network at this time have not been disclosed, but given Zak Brown involvement in the group and his rumoured future involvement with Liberty Media and taking on a leading role in Formula One Management, could the Motorsport Network be part of the Liberty Group?

It is never healthy for a single entity to control anything. The same can be said about Motorsport.

 

 

Formula One: Mercedes confirm Formula E intentions

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Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd (MGP) and Formula E Operations Ltd have signed an agreement by which Mercedes takes an option to enter the FIA Formula E Championship in Season 5. According to the option agreement, Mercedes may choose to be one of the maximum of 12 entries to be proposed by the Championship Promoter to the FIA to enter the 2018-19 Formula E Championship.

Mercedes could take one of the two new entries that will be allocated in season five – subject to approval of the FIA – when the all-electric racing series goes from the current format of two cars per driver, to a single car for the entire event.

The current 10 teams in Formula E are all expected to continue in Season 5 and beyond, on their current format, or joining forces with other OEM’s.

Alejandro Agag said: “We are delighted to confirm that we have reserved one of our two new entries in Season 5 for MGP. Formula E wants to become the platform where car manufacturers test and develop the technologies that they will then introduce on their road cars. Having the chance to include in the future a brand like Mercedes our Championship would be a major boost to achieve that objective. Formula E is becoming an exciting mix of consolidated manufacturers like Renault, Citroen-DS, Audi, Mahindra or Jaguar, and new futuristic brands like Faraday Future, NextEV, or the likes of major component manufacturers like Schaeffler and ZF. Mercedes would be a great addition to that growing line up.”

Toto Wolff said: “We have been watching the growth of Formula E with great interest. At the current time, we are looking at all the options available in the future of motor racing, and we are very pleased with an agreement that secures us an opportunity to enter the series in Season 5. Electrification will play a major role in the future of the automotive industry. Racing has always been a technology R&D platform for industry and this will make Formula E very relevant in the future.”

As the dominant force in Formula One, committing to a future in Formula E is a bold step for Mercedes Grand Prix and a huge vote of confidence in the success of the series. The development will no doubt have been facilitated by Liberty Media, who own shareholding in both Formula One and Formula E and recently confirmed intentions for the series to work in harmony in future calendar planning, management and possible driver sharing. Could we see Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg duke out future championship challenges in Formula E?