Category Archives: 2018

Formula E: Massa’s Formula E Prospects – S5 Silly Season

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 13.24.46.png

Viewers of the 2018 Spanish GP tuning in for Martin Brundle‘s grid walk over the weekend saw, in a not at all preplanned interview, Felipe Massa discuss the prospect of him joining Formula E in the not too distant future. Having tested Formula E machinery last year, Massa has an understanding of the category and clearly sees a future for himself in the championship.

Season five of Formula E will see the launch of the Gen2 car. With it comes increased power, the removal of mid-race car changes, and increases in the application of aerodynamics. This coupled with huge OEM support makes the championship more compelling than ever for drivers at any stage of their career. That being said, I find Felipe Massa’s interest in the championship curious. Formula E is a championship made up of street circuits, looking back at Massa’s track record around the streets of Monaco, city circuits on the face of it are not his strong suit.

Speaking to senior team members on the topic of the Gen2 machinery, significant concern raised has been around the size of the rear diffuser, the extent to which it is exposed and that with current designs it forms part of a single piece floor panel. Repair costs in Formula E are expected to increase dramatically in Season five, with this in mind teams should be looking for Street Circuit Specialists.

Nevertheless. The prospect of a Former F1 driver with a huge Brazilian following possibly heading to Formula E serves as sufficient justification for a quick-fire look at the Formula E silly season rumours and paddock gossip.

First to remove from the list of potential homes for Massa has to be the big hitters from Germany. Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi have a huge pool of drivers at their disposal. They are highly unlikely to offer a seat to Massa over a contracted driver. With a fantastic showing from Abt in Season four and a season plagued by technical failings for current champion Di Grassi, expect Audi to maintain their current line up into S5 and beyond.  For S5, Mercedes have opted for a soft launch to their entry into Formula E via longterm motorsports partner HWA with customer technology from the Venturi Team. Through S4 Mercedes loaned out works drivers Engel and Mortara to the Venturi Team presumably with the plan for them to graduate to HWA in S5. Mercedes departing DTM at the end of 2018 also free’s up the likes of Paul Di Resta and Pascal Wehrlein. I expect HWA and Venturi to field works Mercedes Drivers for Season five of the Formula E championship.

Having said that with Venturi being a Monaco based entry, arguably there are some links to Monaco resident Felipe Massa. It is possible the team could be a home for the Brazilian in Season 5.

Moving to BMW, Season five will see the Bavarian Marque step up its commitment and investment in the championship, Felix da Costa will likely retain his place with the team operated by Andretti Autosport, BMW future participation in DTM will likely determine the driver in the second seat. Porsche will step into Formula E from season six, with in-house driver, André Lotterer set to be retained by Techeetah for Season 5 he will be well placed to take the lead position with Porsche upon their arrival. Alongside the German, Porsche have options on a number of WEC championship winning drivers.

On the subject of Techeetah, Massa is unlikely to find a home for season five with the current championship leaders. Jean-Eric Vergne has shaped the team around him, he is unlikely to find a more amiable seat on the grid. Lotterer having now found the form that escaped him in the first half of the season will more than likely be retained by the Chinese team as they look towards a full works status future.

On to mid-season championship favourites Mahindra. Team Principle Dilbagh Gil will be doing everything in his power to ensure Felix Rosenqvist remains with the team for Season 5 and well beyond. With Felix, Mahindra has a future champion in their team, they simply need to give him a consistent car in which to deliver. Nick Heidfeld’s season with Mahindra has been a challenge, his knowledge in setting up a car a maximising potential continues to prove invaluable to the team, but could his skills be best placed in a role similar to Pedro De La Rosa’s with Techeetah? Freeing up a seat with Mahindra for a young talent, perhaps in the form of Jehan Daruvala?

Jaguar Racing is another team which to my mind could offer a seat to Felipe Massa. Season four has seen the team improve dramatically after a challenging first year in the championship. Essentially operated via Williams F1, Massa has strong links to the structure of the team. However, Piquet is understood to have a long-term agreement with the team, and Mitch Evans has more than proved his worth this season. The team would do well to retain their line up into S5.

Then to Dragon Racing. The team have struggled this season, and don’t appear to have any short-term solutions in sight. Massa would only look to move to Formula E if he had a chance of winning races. Dragon are unlikely to be able to offer this until the Blue Oval comes on board.

That leaves, Renault Nissan eDams,  Vigin Envision Racing, and NIO Formula E team, All of whom I believe are the most likely candidates for Felipe Massa in Formula E. The Renault eDams team will become Nissan in Season five of Formula E. As the most successful team in Formula E with 3 constructors championships they offer the levels of success Felipe Massa is likely to expect. With Alain Prost recently selling his stake in the team it can be expected Nico, after a very difficult season, will likely leave the team ahead of Season five. Buemi is understood to be under an agreement, and Nissan seemingly doesn’t have an issue with him representing Toyota in WEC alongside his commitments in Formula E with them. Whilst my first choice for the seat alongside Buemi in the Nissan Formula E team would be Nissan EV ambassador Margot Robbie, a more likely candidate should Massa not be considered would be Jann Mardenborough.

In season five Virgin Racing is expected to lose it works manufacturer status, it is expected the team, the majority shareholding of which was recently sold to Chinese Energy group Envision will switch to a customer Audi partnership moving forward. Current driver and championship contender Sam Bird will likely remain loyal to the team with whom he entered Formula E, teammate Alex Lynn’s place seems less secure. Massa could be attracted to a race winning Power Unit in Audi and Race Winning team set up with the Virgin Racing Establishment, but the reduced testing opportunities offered to a non- works team will make getting up to speed with the intricacies of Formula E a real challenge as evidenced by André Lotterer in this season.

Finally, to the NIO Formula E Team, the team who in my opinion are most likely to offer the conditions Felipe Massa might expect from a Formula E team. They are well funded, they have delivered a world championship, with Nelson Piquet in Season One, and continue to prove on occasion they have the pace to run at the front. Oliver Turvey will likely retain his seat with the team for Season five and continue to maximise the potential of the car at every opportunity, running Massa alongside him would bring much-needed media coverage to the team and offer a face to the broader NIO EV global rollout.

Time will tell if Felipe Massa makes the move over to Formula E for the launch of the championships Gen2 machinery. Perhaps his following in Brazil will bring the championship to the country and facilitate the World Championship status Formula E management are working to secure. I’m not convinced Formula E needs Felipe Massa, and Felipe Massa’s bank balance is unlikely to need Formula E. In my opinion, the championship should not become the home for drivers coming to the end of their career in Formula One, rather the pinnacle for young drives proving their worth in the future of motorsport.

Following recent news regarding another arrival to Formula E for the Berlin ePrix this weekend I have to say I have a similar opinion about the commentary box.

Advertisements

Formula One: Ricciardo to Renault?

 

AP-1VGV9FHAN2111_hires_jpeg_24bit_rgb.jpg
Daniel Ricciardo: Time to remove the Red Bull Racing race suit for good?

 

As the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads to Barcelona, silly season is kicking into high gear. At present, when looking towards the 2019 season, the state of play for the likely top four finishers in the Constructors Championship this season is as follows: 

Mercedes: both drivers out of contract

Ferrari: One seat open

Red Bull Racing: One seat open

Renault: both seats open

Being only four races into the 2018 season it may seem a little premature to be talking about 2019, but the events of Baku are likely to play a pivotal role in the decision-making process across the market.

With 99% certainty, it can be expected Lewis Hamilton will or has already renewed his commitment to Mercedes for 2019 and beyond in what will likely be his final contract as a driver in Formula One.  Leaving a single seat with the Silver Arrows. Whilst many have questioned his outright ability to take the fight to his competitors, Bottas has proved to be a reliable second driver for the team. Lewis’ response towards his teammate after being gifted his first win of the year, illustrates a team working in cohesion. Management would have to think long and hard about what they were trying to achieve in looking to replace Bottas. I expect he will be retained for a third season unless Ocon finds himself without a seat at Force India.

Over at the Scuderia, Kimi has been in his final season since he rejoined the team in 2014. Whilst never stella, he again creates an environment in which his teammate can thrive. Arguably he weakens Ferrari’s ability to challenge for the constructor’s championship, but I personally believe he will either be renewed on another single year agreement, or make way for Charles le Clerc, who finally started to prove his strengths with a fantastic performance in Baku. I do not believe Ferrari are considering Ricciardo as a possible partner for to Vettel.

Then to the curious case of Red Bull Racing. In Baku, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo broke the golden rule of motorsport and took each other out. The incident was a long time coming, after a race in which multiple passes between the two had already resulted in contact, the drivers compromised their own strategies and slowed each other down. With the team standing by their philosophy to “let them race”.  In the short term, I don’t believe this will destroy team harmony, but it went some way to sowing the seed in Riccardo’s mind that a team not willing to favour one driver over the other may not be the team in which he achieves his ambition of securing a world championship. This coupled with the widely expected announcement that Red Bull Racing will switch to Honda power for 2019, which whilst much more competitive with Toro Rosso than it ever was with McLaren may not quite be at the level to compete for championships.

AP-1VGVAEUKW2111_hires_jpeg_24bit_rgb_news.jpg
Renault F1 Team  successfully challenging Aston Martin Red Bull Racing for position during the 2018 Azerbaijan GP

Then to Renault, a team whose 3-year plan to reinvigorate the Enstone facility and rebuild a once championship contending team, is now starting to come to fruition. From 2019 onwards Renault should expect to be challenging for outright wins and comfortably challenge the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari. In Hulkenberg and Sainz the team have a formidable but unthreatening lineup. As the team look to challenge for wins, they need a superstar driver. Could Ricciardo become Renault’s next superstar? As a works team, they are in a position to offer the salary driver of Ricciardo’s calibre should command, and they can offer something no other team can, the ability to shape the team around him. Some will say it would be risky for Ricciardo to give up a race-winning seat for a team which hasn’t won a race in over a decade, but the same could be said for Lewis Hamilton when he walked away from McLaren. Renault presents opportunities Red Bull Racing simply can’t offer.

Should the top four teams be covered by four manufacturers, it would be fantastic to see the top four drivers of the current era; Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, and Ricciardo behind the wheel of different cars each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Daniel Ricciardo racing for the Renault Sport F1 Team for 2019 is my prediction for the big shift this silly season. Sainz may well return to Red Bull fold as a result, but I personally believe he will remain with Renault with Hulkenberg heading to life after F1 and Gasly moving into the Red Bull Racing team.

Image Source: Red Bull Media Pool

 

Formula One: Ricciardo Uncovered

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.34.11.png

In the aftermath of the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which saw Aston Martin Red Bull Racing teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen collide after a race long battle for position, many questions have been raised as to how the team should respond and what happens next. When contemplating the options moving forward, opinions and viewpoints aren’t always based on a fair representation of a situation or the individuals involved.

Opinions and judgements from fans and in many cases the media as to the temperament and character of a driver are more often than not based on 2-3 minute sound bites from drivers over a race weekend. It is easy to build a false impression of a driver and their perspective on issues.

Over the past 12-24 months, long-form interviews in the form of independent podcasts have grown significantly in popularity, offering a platform for individuals to offer a greater level of insight into their personalities and what makes them tick. Earlier this year Natalie Pinkham launched her own series of podcasts “In the Pink” with Daniel Ricciardo being one of the first guests.

Recorded ahead of the 2018 season, the interview covers everything from his upbringing in Perth, his almost entirely trouble free, save for a small incident with superglue, school life, to his taste in music, and self-belief. When fans seek to understand the man behind the smile, and what may or may not be going through his head following the incident in Baku, they would do well to listen to this podcast.

It would be great to see other drivers follow Ricciardo’s lead and sit down for an hour or so to record an hour ‘in the Pink”!

To download Daniel Ricciardo’s’ interview with Natalie Pinkham or subscribe to ‘In the Pink’ on the Acast network follow this link.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.27.41.png

Formula One: Ferrari QUIT …Ordinary Smoking

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 10.08.51.png

Scuderia Ferrari secured their second victory of the 2018 Formula One World Championship in Bahrain yesterday, with Sebastian Vettel managing to extend the life of the soft tyre compound well beyond the Pirelli advised operating window. The four-time champion converting a two-stop strategy focused on pure pace into a one-stop endurance challenge in response to what many saw to have been a checkmate move from Mercedes with Bottas and a recovering Hamilton pitting for medium compound tyres after Vettel’s first stop. This demonstration of masterful tyre management and dynamic race strategy suggests a thrilling season is in prospect.

After the processional opening race of the season, the eventful Bahrain Grand Prix was a welcome relief for fans and media alike. Overtaking is possible in 2018! Away from the racing, another feature of the 2018 season that continued to grab the attention of commentators was the smoking Scuderia Ferrari and the Ferrari powered customer teams. Technically minded reporters suggest this feature of the 2018 Ferrari power unit is the result of the power unit solution employed by Ferrari to overcome additional restrictions on oil being used as fuel. Through 2017 the oil generating this ‘smoke’  would have been channelled back into the power unit and possibly improved performance, for 2018 Ferrari have elected to channel oil out of the car. Much to the frustration of any competitor lapping behind them.

Whilst the technical explanation is entirely logical, (albeit poorly explained in this article) there is an alternative school of thought around this new feature of Scuderia Ferrari. Ahead of the 2018 season, it was widely expected the scarlet team would feature branding from title partner Philip Morris International’s electric cigarette / vaping division IQOS. In fact livery designer extraordinaire Sean Bull put together this fantastic mockup livery around such an announcement:

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 00.02.23

Regional advertising restrictions around products containing tobacco likely put an end to these plans, but curiously around the same time as the 2018 launch, PMI announced an extension of its agreement with the Scuderia. Since 2008, when all tobacco advertising was banned in sports, PMI and Ferrari have sought to bypass these regulations through the use of suggestive images, such as barcodes mimicking the brand name Marlboro or team logos reflecting the Marlboro brand identity, is it possible the new smoking look to the 2018 Ferrari is a form of next level subliminal advertising?

IQOS stands for I Quit Ordinary Smoking. The IQOS device acts as a substitute for cigarettes, giving users the tobacco kick as cigarettes, with reduced health risks. During use, IQOS emits a harmless smoke cloud (seen here). Has Ferrari Team Principle and Former PMI Marketing Executive, Maurizio Arrivabene, created the ultimate subliminal advert for IQOS in developing a car to mimick the characteristics of the product a sponsor is seeking to promote?

Is it time to rename the Ferrari SF71-H  the SFIQOS-H!?!

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 12.11.32.png

Photo credit: Mark Sutton

Formula E: Winners Wear Spine

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 17.51.59.png

Leaders in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the Techeetah Formula E team announce a  new partnership with SPINE OPTICS.

The Techeetah Formula E team rounded out the South American leg of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship with a second win of the season for Championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne yesterday.

The team and driver now hold a commanding lead in the constructors and drivers championships respectively. Highlights of the thrilling race from Punta del Este can be seen here:

Away from the circuit, the team have been finding success with new partnerships in the form of Blockchain Crypto Currency Dragon Inc, and industry-leading eyewear manufacturer  SPINE OPTICS. As a core brand within the Mondottica group, SPINE OPTICS are revolutionising eyewear with a patented arm design.

The Techeetah Formula E Team SPINE OPTICS Partnership will see all Team Members wearing SPINE wear for the remainder of the FIA Formula E Season with SPINE branding featuring prominently within the team environment.

For more information on SPINE head to their website here.

Formula E: Championship leaders Techeetah announce major new partnership with Dragon Inc

Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 18.45.37.png

Ahead of the 6th round of the  ABB FIA Formula E Championship coming from Punta del Este, Championship Leaders Techeetah have announced a major new partnership with Blockchain platform provider Dragon Inc.

The partnership will see Dragon branding feature prominently on the side pods of the four TECHEETAH race cars, garage, race wear and drivers’ helmets.

Speaking on the announcement Paul Moynan, Dragon Inc. Co-Founder commented: “Dragon Inc. is pioneering a new era of blockchain and entertainment while Formula E is leading the electric revolution across motorsports, it is only natural that both come together for a ground-breaking collaboration. Both Dragon and TECHEETAH are applying technologies that are reinventing their respective industries. We seek to support one another not only in the sharing of technology but by bringing a greater awareness of the benefits to the world stage. Being a former Royal Marine Commando, I’m taught to lead by example and set our standards high to pave the way for others to follow; the combination of Formula E and Dragon’s blockchain solutions is doing just that. This will be an amazing year for both our teams and by working together we can build something bigger than ourselves,” 

Keith Smout, Chief Commercial Officer for Techeetah added ” We are very pleased to welcome Dragon Inc. to the team. We are constantly striving to bring new and exciting partners on board and with Dragon now joining us we feel that we have accomplished this.  We look forward to helping build their brand and share our aligned technologies as we push for the Formula E Championship,

Further details on Dragon Inc can be found here

Follow Dragon Inc on social media here

Formula One: “Grand Prix Driver” – The Conflicted Review

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 11.58.12.png

I’m conflicted. Last week I was sent an advance copy of the Amazon Prime documentary series Grand Prix Driver. This fantastic series offers previously unimaginable of levels of access to the McLaren F1 team as they prepare for the 2017 Formula One Season. Recorded over a period of four and a half months, Manish Pandey, Chris Connell, and Anwar Nuseibeh have produced an in-depth study into the life of a Formula One team with seemingly no topic being off limits. All of which, for a lifelong F1 fan such as myself, sounds incredible. So why am I conflicted?

It is said you should never meet your heroes. After watching Grand Prix Driver, I think this phase should be modified to ‘never watch a documentary about your heroes. I want to make it clear, the production values of the documentary are second to none. To gain the level of trust required to film some of the scenes depicted through the episodes is a testament to the passion, dedication and commitment of Manish Pandey and the team surrounding him. This series is a must-see for any fan of motorsport. Unfortunately, however, it’s also a must-see for anyone studying business management looking for examples of how not to run a successful business, and perhaps most importantly, for Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing on how not to work with a Power Unit Partner.

If you have seen a trailer for the documentary, it will be clear the series charts the breakdown of the relationship between McLaren and Honda on the eve of the 2017 season.

 

Analysing the series and reflecting on narrative documented, I have tried to break down my assessment of the team into a few key sections.

Partnerships

The key rationale for the McLaren Honda partnership was that Ron Dennis and/ or the team felt it would not be possible for McLaren to challenge for world championships as a customer team. Logic and recent history suggest this assessment is absolutely correct. The mantra throughout the McLaren Honda partnership and throughout this series is that of “One Team” and “We win as a team; we lose as a team”. The documentary shows those words to be largely empty. Relations between McLaren and Honda employees at every level of the business seemed strained at all times. There is a constant feeling of us and them.

An interesting insight into teams using customer power units in Formula One is when the customer receives the power unit. As a customer team, power units very rarely enter the team facility. One unit will be made available for the first time the car is fired up ahead of the season. After this, Power Units will be delivered to the circuit by the supplier and taken away again at the end of a test or race weekend. The benefit of direct / works relationship with a power unit manufacturer should be these limitations are removed. Team and Power unit manufacturer work as one in parallel. Based on the Grand Prix Driver documentary, this unity was never achieved between McLaren and Honda.

The first time McLaren physically saw the 2017 power unit was in the days preceding the first fire up of the unit. This is not an integrated partnership. Heading into 2017, Honda were playing catch up, they decided to overhaul their design philosophy. This decision, it is implied, was one McLaren did not have a say in. After taking such a decision, communication between McLaren and Honda should have been continuous, when it came to installing the power unit there should have been no surprises. As the documentary will show, this was not the case, with components having to be re-engineered on the fly.

The relationship between McLaren and Honda was not a partnership. It was barely more than a customer relationship, where the supplier happened to be supplying power units free of charge.

Humility

In speaking to Manish Pandey about the documentary, the topic of humility came up. Manish’s view of humility was interesting. His perspective was that both Honda and McLaren demonstrated great humility as they prepared for the documentary. He and his team made several attempts to get the team to discuss ambitions for the season. Looking for the soundbite of ‘returning to the top step’ or ‘challenging for the championship’. No one offered such remarks. Manish’s view was that this demonstrates the team were realistic in their approach to the season, and on this, I agree.

However, as the McLaren Honda relationship fell apart around them, it was the team’s complete lack of humility that struck me. Throughout the entire series, no McLaren representative takes any level of accountability for the partnership failing. Honda is made entirely responsible for the shortcomings of the team performance. This is wrong. We’ve all had relationships that haven’t worked out, at no time is one party solely responsible for a relationship failing. It comes across as hugely arrogant of McLaren to place all the blame for their performance through the Honda partnership at the foot of the power unit manufacturer.

Honestly, I am amazed McLaren are happy for this lack of humility to be made public. At times I wasn’t sure if I was watching a documentary series set in Woking or a Mockumentary series from Slough.

Communication

In the opening episodes, meetings are filmed from outside rooms giving the viewer a feel for events taking place without the content being made public, by the final episode cameras have been invited into meeting with no talking points edited or removed. Whilst again, this is great access, being part of these meetings will be quite distressing for any fan of the sport. Time after time the viewer is shown milestone dates on timelines being missed or management interactions in which it seems almost impossible to offer a clear answer to basic questions. To me this again comes down to accountability, no one in the organisation seems willing to accept their role in the failure.

McLarenHQ_Boulevard_SM_060.LA.jpg

Sponsorship

The topic of sponsorship or partners is something frequently addressed through the series. In a bid to highlight a new beginning for the McLaren team, it was decided that a departure from silver, grey and black tones in the car livery and team environment was required. The origins of this decision and influencing factors are a little conflicted in the series, but the message for change was clear. The ambition being a new livery concept will entice new sponsors to join a new McLaren.

For me, the professionalism around this decision is diminished somewhat by branding being applied on the eve of the launch in what appears to be a corridor. Nevertheless, the ambition is clearly communicated. This desire to rebrand after a challenging period also explains why McLaren are expected to reveal another new livery concept for the 2018 season.

The McLaren team has developed a strong reputation within the technologies sector for its work outside of Formula One in recent years. Major FMCG’s consult with the group on numerous challenges. The McLaren Formula One Team depicted in this documentary is not one many FMCG’s would look favourably upon. I do not believe the McLaren commercial team will look favourably on the way in which the team is portrayed.

Even Handed Approach

In my discussion with Manish Pandey, in an interview for Paddock Magazine (click here to head to the interview) I raised the question of the way in which McLaren and Honda were depicted within the series, highlighting my concern that Honda did not have the opportunity to offer their side of the story.

Understandably Manish did not hold my opinion. The narrative of a documentary is often defined by the events it covers from the perspective of the lead. This is not a Honda documentary. It is a McLaren documentary and the views within it are communicated as such. Again this is not a criticism of the documentary, more a reflection of the brief and the client.

 

I sincerely hope my interpretation of the McLaren team based on the series is not an accurate reflection of the way in which the business operates. 12 months have passed since this documentary was filmed. With new management structures in place, much-needed process and accountability may have been successfully implemented. I, like many other F1 fans, hope to see McLaren back at the front of the grid challenging for race wins.  With The McLaren Team seen through this 2017 documentary, I doubt this would have been possible. Whatever the power unit.

Grand Prix Driver is available on Amazon Prime from February 10thClick here for more.

 

Formula One: Can F1 afford to wait until 2021?

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 13.54.10.png

Barely a day goes by without one of the leading motorsport websites publishing comments around the future plans for F1. From louder engines to racing game inspired car designs, 2021 will amaze and inspire a new generation of fans. All of which sounds great, but it’s 2018. There are 3 seasons of Formula One between now and the promised fantastical future. The landscape of the motorsport industry can and will change dramatically in 3 years. Can Formula One really afford to wait?

2017 saw the introduction of the current set of technical regulations guiding the sport. Whilst cars are visually more impressive than there predecessors with the dimensions of the cars and tyres increasing. An overall increased emphasis on aerodynamics has had a dramatic impact on drivers ability to overtake with the 2017 season seeing less than half the number of overtakes of 2016.  At present, there appears to be no plan to address this issue, with the 2018 regulations seeing no modifications around aerodynamic regulations.

Mindful of a likely closer battle for wins, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, may have focused the aerodynamic philosophies of their 2018 challengers around an ability to more closely follow a competitor, but without regulation changes a significant increase in overtaking from 2017 to 2018 is unlikely.

All this comes at a time the commercial positions of Formula One are coming under threat. Longstanding partners involved in the championship are defecting to the likes of Formula E or other sports, and at this time, prospects for new partnerships appear limited. With the Formula One business focusing their attentions towards 2021 why would a partner commit to the championship ahead of the ‘revolution’? The Formula One product from 2018 -2020 may be a difficult product to sell.

It is possible, Formula One management are focusing taking a strategy of focusing to the future with the view and expectation of teams demanding an earlier introduction of new regulations. With the Season 5 Formula E car set to make its public debut in the coming weeks, and Indycar looking strong with a new car concept, competition between championships is ever growing. Can Formula One and the teams committed to its success afford to wait another 3 years for change?

Formula E: Raising the Bar in Motorsport Sponsorship

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 15.39.58.png

Season Four of the FIA Formula E World Championship resumes this weekend with the third round in the calendar coming from Marrakesh. As the first major motorsport event of 2018, now is a good time to reflect on the success of the championship and explore how Formula E’s approach to partners is changing the face of motorsport sponsorship.

As motorsport goes, Formula E is a Championship still very much in its infancy. When considering the achievements of the championship, this fact is something many forget. Over three seasons Formula E has established a global audience in excess of 200M, this compared to Formula One which using the same metrics reported an audience of 350M across 2017 is hugely impressive. On average, Formula E appeals to a younger audience, with a gender split whilst still leaning towards males is far more balanced than any other form of motorsport. The city-centre, single day format has proven successful, as have affordable ticketing policies. Attendance of an ePrix is successfully positioned as a family event.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 15.34.51

The level of manufacturer support Formula E has achieved since its inception has exceeded all expectations. Championship management targeted 4-5 OEMs to have committed to the championship by season five. With DS, Jaguar, NIO, Mahindra, Audi, Renault (set to run as Nissan from next season) Venturi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche now involved, the championship finds itself in the position of having the most manufacturer-backed entries in any form of motorsport. Of course championship management acknowledge manufacturer support is cyclical, but Formula E represents a unique platform for manufacturers to showcase Electric Vehicle technology in a cost-controlled environment. The appeal of the championship goes beyond racing, Formula E gives manufacturers access to an audience demographic they would otherwise struggle to connect with. There is every reason to expect the current level of manufacturer support to be sustained.

Season Five will see the most significant change in the championship to date. In a bid to keep team costs under control, Formula E limits the development of components on a season by season basis and in some cases mandates the use of standard equipment across all teams. Through season five, two of the most significant standard elements will be upgraded, in the battery and the car itself. Whilst both elements will remain standard items, significant improvements in battery technology will remove the requirement for a mid-race car change, alongside delivering a sizable increase in performance. With the new car, Formula E promises to amaze fans with a futuristic design incorporating FIA mandated cockpit safety structures in a fully integrated design concept. The new look championship promises to leave other forms of motorsport looking old-fashioned by comparison.

Following the lead of Mumm Champagne, long time partners of Formula One including Allianz and Hugo Boss continue to transition towards Formula E. This shift is due in part to the way in which Formula E engages with its audience and has positioned itself at the forefront of the conversation around Electric Vehicles. The technology demonstrated within Formula E is perceived to be of greater relevance to the future of the automotive industry and as a consequence, has positioned itself as a sport which a broad and diverse audience can engage with. Free from shackles of history, the Formula E message evolves with it’s fans. This open and dynamic approach sits well with the marketing teams behind the championships growing list of partners and continues to attract new partners to the sport.

Formula E and its approach to fan engagement has not gone unnoticed.  2017 saw Formula One announce a partnership with premium partner Carbon Champagne. In attempts to build awareness of the F1 – Carbon Champagne partnership, CEO, Alexander Mea has acknowledged taking inspiration from the Formula E podium celebrations. Carbon have already employed ideas such as the use of a DJ to build atmosphere around the podium (as seen at the Mexican Grand Prix), to branding the cool down room and presenting drivers through the crowds to increase visibility. Formula E and its partners have inspired the established brands to up their game to maximize any return on investment.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 15.34.17

Engagement extends far beyond the podium ceremony, for race attending fans the eVillage supporting every ePrix provides an area for championship partners to engage with fans, delivering both tangible sales and the ability to build brand awareness. Formula E encourage championship partners and local partners to embrace the eVillage and its captive audience of fans. Beyond the eVillage is the The EMOTION Club.  Formula E’s unique take on the VIP paddock life experience. In contrast to other forms of motorsport where team and championship guests are hosted in separate motorhomes or paddock buildings, Formula E, through the EMOTION Club, have created a shared environment in which all guests and partners are together, facilitating an environment which truly lends itself to the development of new business to business partnerships and allows guests to maximize their experience from both an entertainment and commercial perspective. Formula E has always been keen to ensure all brands and partners involved with the championship have every opportunity to maximize their position in the sport. Success in this open approach is evidenced by the fact that to date, all partners joining the championship have chosen to renew and extend their commitments.

Another great asset of Formula E is its relationship with the media.  Of course the sport has it doubters and critics, but media reporting from within the championship hold Formula E in high regard. Motorsport will be criticized irrespective of any decisions taken, but Formula E seeks to balance this by engaging with the media, explaining the strategy of the championship, ensuring a feeling of inclusion and community. Many journalists have been a part of the championship from the very beginning, they feel part of the championship and their value in its continued growth does not go unnoticed by championship management.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 15.33.42

With the imminent announcement of title sponsorship of the entire Formula E Championship, Formula E management can be proud of what has been achieved. Formula E continues to outperform rival motorsport championships in terms of its reach and engagement. Founding partners including Qualcomm, DHL, Michelin, and Mumm Champagne continue to be rewarded for their willingness to embrace a new form of motorsport. As the championship grows, so will their return on investment.