Category Archives: FIA

Formula One: Missing Sponsors

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As the clock struck midnight on December 31st 2017, many sponsorship relationships throughout the F1 Grid reached their conclusion. In the coming weeks and months, numerous new agreements will be announced at both a team and championship level as attention focuses on the season ahead. For myself as a lifelong fan of the business of Formula One, now aspiring to develop a career in this side of the sport, this period between commercial contract expiry and new contract announcements can be fascinating.

No team will encourage media to make a story out of the end of a partnership, so don’t expect any press releases confirming a departure, instead head to the partner’s section of the website of the team you follow and see if you can spot the brands or names suddenly missing from the list.

A well-publicised partnership expiration is that of the relationship between Santander and Scuderia Ferrari.  A partnership many believe will be replaced by the promotion of long-term team partners Phillip Morris introducing e-cigarettes to Formula One with the brand IQOS. If true, e-cigarettes could represent a high-value sector of sponsors for F1 moving forward, assuming advertising challenges can be overcome, and OEM’s including Mercedes and Renault are comfortable with the association.

Intriguingly, whilst Santander has been removed from the Scuderia Ferrari Website, it remains on the McLaren (no longer McLaren Honda) website. Santander, whilst no longer a brand represented on the McLaren livery have been partnered with the Woking based team since Alonso first joined the team in 2007.

Can you spot any other team websites with mysteriously missing partners? There are some out there which may surprise…

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Formula One : The Future of Pirelli in F1

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Pirelli returned to Formula One in 2011 as the sole tyre supplier and official championship partner. Pirelli, founded in Italy, recently acquired by ChemChina, joined the championship with a clear mandate from Formula One Management to ‘spice up the racing’ through the development of a range of tyre compounds with significant performance variables and accelerated levels of degradation. Initially, this new philosophy around tyre performance at the pinnacle of motorsports was well received with a positive response from fans and media around a new element of unpredictability surrounding an F1 weekend.

However, as teams and drivers adapted to the Pirelli approach to tyre compound chemistry, car set up and driving techniques evolved to minimise the challenges the tyres presented. This led to increasingly aggressive approaches to performance and degradation levels in tyre development culminating in the “challenging” 2013 British Grand Prix in which teams were supplied with tyres which were not capable of performing at the levels required. The result of which was a race which saw numerous failures throughout the field and a strategic re-evaluation from Pirelli.

In the seasons since 2013, Pirelli has maintained the vision of producing a range of compounds with varying levels of performance and high levels of degradation but with a more conservative approach. The result of this restraint has been races in which teams and drivers focus on tyre management over performance, understanding the optimal approach to a race has often been to extend the life of a tyre rather than push it to its limit. As such, in recent seasons, drivers have rarely complimented the performance of Pirelli’s efforts over a Grand Prix weekend.

Creating positive media coverage in a sole supply situation will always be a challenge. Since there is no competitor to beat, victory becomes the default leaving the only newsworthy coverage that of failure.  In such an environment it can be a challenge to understand how Pirelli quantify benefits from its sponsorship of Formula One. Over seven seasons they have developed a reputation for producing tyres with excessive degradation and minimal differentiation beyond coloured side walls. Would an F1 fan seriously consider buying Pirelli tyres for their own car based on how they perform in Formula One?

So where does this leave Pirelli?

At the end of each season, Pirelli produce an end of year summary detailing all every fact and figure imaginable around; corning speeds, top speeds, lap times, number of overtakes, number of compounds used by each driver and the figure which stood out to me the most, the number of sets of tyres produced in a season.

In 2017 Pirelli produced 38,788 sets of F1 tyres, which equates to approximately 3,258 tons of tyres. Of these, only 12,920 sets (1,085 tons of tyres) were actually used. This means two-thirds of F1 tyres produced in 2017 were never raced and simply destroyed. Whilst Pirelli makes it clear all tyres were recovered, a system in which such a vast number of tyres are produced and shipped around the globe and never used is hugely wasteful and frankly embarrassing for both the manufacturer and the sport. The strategy of an ever-increasing range of tyres being made available for a Grand Prix weekend has resulted in the requirement of an inefficient and cumbersome supply chain. Something which will only increase in 2018 with further tyre compounds and team selection freedoms being added to the Pirelli ‘menu’.

In recent years Michelin, a leading industry competitor, have repeated statements that the current philosophy of Formula One around the use of tyre degradation as a key variable in racing, is of limited strategic merit and is not in keeping with how they believe tyre technology should be presented in motorsport. Instead, Michelin has focused their efforts in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship, showcasing innovations around all-weather tyres, low profile tyres (18-inches, compared to the 13-inch profile used in Formula One), and minimal degradation allowing competitors to push the performance of a tyre throughout an event.

Increasingly Formula One and its regulations are focused on reducing unnecessary waste. limiting fuel use through a race, and limiting the number of power units available to a team through a season. This focus on efficiency appeals to existing OEM’s in the sport including Mercedes, Renault, and Honda, and again sits in contrast to the wasteful and confusing approach mandated to Pirelli. For the 2018 season there is no longer any opportunity for Pirelli to change their approach to racing, but with minimal technical regulation changes set for 2019, perhaps the management of Formula One should look to change the conversation around Pirelli’s role in F1 and encourage the manufacturer to innovate relevant style.

For 2019, perhaps Pirelli should look to consider a simplified approach to tyre compounds, produce tyres with increased variance in performance yet minimised levels of degradation, and adopt 18-inch low profile tyres, enabling the end user to better relate to the product they see racing on a Sunday.

It is understood 2019 is the final season of Pirelli’s current agreement with Formula One. Without change, will it be their last?

Formula E: Shaky Start to Eurosport UK Coverage of Formula E

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Season Four of the FIA Formula E World Championship got underway this weekend, with rounds 1 & 2 of the action coming from the streets of Hong Kong. The all electric championship continued to thrill fans with ambitious on-track action, and controversies both on and off the track. For Season 4, championship management has stepped up a gear in their creative approach to social media engagement and radical on-screen graphics.

As interest in the championship continues to grow, sponsors and broadcasters are increasingly keen to get in on the action. The latest high profile partner to switch from Formula One to Formula E being Hugo Boss, joining the likes of Allianz and Official Champagne Partner G.H. Mumm in switching categories to refresh their involvement in motorsport and engage with a new audience.

Another partnership announced between Seasons 3 & 4 of Formula E was an enhanced partnership with the Discovery Group, which see’s Eurosport take on increased broadcast rights across a number of European territories. In the case of the UK, Formula E will now be broadcast on Channel 5, BT Sport, & Eurosport.

Through season 3, Channel 5’s Formula E output was criticised for the show anchor and race pundit being removed from the event and the director cutting away from key moments in order to fit a channel schedule. The Channel has addressed this feedback in Season 4, with increased involvement at the races. Unfortunately for the opening rounds of the championship the channel did not have rights to broadcast races live.

Live broadcast rights in the UK for the Hong Kong ePrix weekend fell to Eurosport. Curiously in their approach to Formula E coverage, Eurosport have chosen not to use the Formula E World Feed commentary provided by Jack Nicholls, Dario Franchitti, & Bob Varsha, instead, they are working with in-house commentators for Hong Kong at least Tom Gaymor and Mike Conway.

The commentary duo of Jack Nicholls & Dario Franchitti have, over 3 seasons developed a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging dynamic, they convey a passion for the championship and critically attend the races. By contrast the Eurosport team of Tom Gaymor & Mike Conway felt removed from the action on track. Providing a dispassionate overview of the action.

Commentary missed both simple and critical elements of coverage, making fundamental errors in identifying drivers. Put simply, the joy and enthusiasm of Formula E was missing.

Eurosport’s desire to differentiate itself from other broadcasters is understandable, but Formula E’s core appeal, besides technological, is its fast pace, close racing, and unexpected results. Commentators should act as advocates for the championship. Their enthusiasm should drive fans to find more content. The Eurosport UK Team did not achieve this in Hong Kong. Quite the opposite in fact, with many fans commenting they were left cold by the coverage.

The simplest and most cost effective solution would be for the channel to use World Feed Commentators from the Marrakesh ePrix onwards. Why try and reinvent the wheel?

Formula One: Underestimate me at your peril – Marchionne to F1

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Underestimate me at your peril. The resounding subtext pointed in no uncertain terms towards Chase Carey and Formula One from Sergio Marchionne at the launch of Alfa Romeo’s title partnership relationship with the Sauber F1 Team this weekend. 

The long rumoured return of Alfa Romeo to Formula One with the Sauber F1 Team was finally confirmed earlier this week. The announcement of the return was closely followed by an invitation to the worlds motoring media to attend a press conference in Milan. On the face of it, the objective of this event was to confirm 2018 Sauber F1 Team drivers Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson with Antonio Giovinazzi taking on a 3rd driver role and to unveil the 2018 livery theme. What transpired was a master class in negotiation from Chief Executive Officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Sergio Marchionne.

After a period of observing, tinkering, and to some extent grandstanding, the final races of the 2017 Formula One season have seen Liberty Media begin to share their vision for the future of Formula One. Until now, key protagonists set to be impacted by this vision have largely kept their views to themselves or at least limited opinions to isolated sound bites. Sergio Marchionne and FCA, have now firmly stuck their head above the parapet to makes themselves and their views clear for all.

Elaborate team and sponsor launches are something which for many had been consigned to the history books with the vast majority of team unveiling now taking place minutes before pre-season testing on a chilly pitlane in Barcelona. Yet this weekend saw the team finishing plum last in the championship host over 400 media representatives from all over the world at the Alfa Romeo Museum situated just outside of Milano launch a sponsorship less than one week after the end of the season. With media from the US being flown in First Class with 48 hours notice, it would be conceivable to say that the budget of this single event exceeded the marketing and activation budget of the team for the entire season. Sergio Marchionne wanted an audience for his message, and he wanted his audience to leave the event singing his tune.

In addition to the media contingent, Sergio Marchionne and FCA invited newly reappointed FIA president and former Scuderia Ferrari Team Principe Jean Todt to attend and speak at the event, alongside Formula One CEO Chase Carey, with Sauber F1 Team owner Pascal Picci. So with the stage set, Sergio Marchionne opened the event, in Italian, focusing on the great news of Alfa Romeo returning to Formula One. This was followed by Mr Todt waxing lyrical about the passion of the brand and its significance with motorsport. Chase Carey then took to the stage to applaud FCA for bringing Alfa Romeo back to Formula One, he acknowledged their history in the sport and spoke of his enthusiasm for their return. Then the big reveal, driver line up confirmation and an indicative view of the team livery.

What followed was pure mastery. Sergio Marchionne returned to the podium for a few more words. In the space of 10 minutes, he politely panned the Michael Buffer COTA show, make clear FCA & Ferrari did not want to be part of a ‘dumbing down’ of Formula One, asserted the sport should be focused on technology over entertainment, and what could be the knock out blow, “our partnership with Sauber is until 2021, if we don’t like the direction the sport is taking at that point, we will leave and we’ll take them with us”

This rhetoric was delivered not only to a room full of media, but squarely at Chase Carey seated directly below the rostrum at which Sergio Marchionne made his speech.

Following this, team owner Pascal Picci and team principle Frédéric Vasseur returned to the stage for an open Q&A session. I would not like to suggest any questions were ‘planted’ but the position of FCA strength ahead of any negotiations with Formula One over the future of the sport was highlighted at every available opportunity.

Of course, Chase Carey and Liberty Media did not get to where they are today by chance, I have no doubt they have more than a few tricks up their sleeve as they head into negotiations with Formula One teams over the future of the sport. Sergio Marchionne has simply set the tone of future discussions and made it very clear he is more than happy for any discussion to be made in full view of the media and the Formula One fan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You can follow Jean Todt on Twitter here.

Formula One: Zak Brown’s strategic masterstroke?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

F2, F3, F4: Erreà Sport join Prema

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formula One: Could F1 consider cloud seeding to ensure Sunday’s race?

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Friday free practice running for the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix was all but a complete washout. With conditions at the circuit and the neighbouring city, in which the hospital on call for medical emergencies from the race weekend, too poor for helicopters to operate in, the FIA delayed and eventually cancelled most of the days running.

Current weather forecasts suggest conditions will improve for tomorrow, but are likely to return on Sunday. Should forecasts prove to be accurate there is a real possibility that it will not be possible for the race to take place on Sunday as scheduled. With only a one week turnaround between the Chinese and Bahrain Grand Prix it will not be possible to hold the race on Monday or at a later date. As such FOM, the FIA, teams, drivers, and broadcasters are apparently in talks to host the entire race weekend activities tomorrow.

Within Formula One, there is no prescient for a race taking place a day earlier than scheduled, and in reality with the highly complex global broadcast agreements in place, it is highly unlikely that terms for running the race a day early can be agreed. Sponsors, Broadcasters, race attending fans, teams, will all seek compensation. As such at this point in time the most likely outcome, if the poor weather returns, is that fans will be treated to a four hour broadcast of no track action at all on Sunday.

This will significantly damage the reputation of Formula One globally and most specifically in Asia, a market in which the sport is struggling (note the discontinuation of the Malaysian Grand Prix agreement from 2018 announced earlier today). To avoid such an outcome it is time for Formula One Management to get creative? Could they look towards a solution involving Cloud Seeding?

Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification, a way of changing the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds, by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud. The usual intent is to increase precipitation (rain or snow), but hail and fog suppression are also widely practiced in airports. (thank you Wikipedia). The process could be applied in areas away from the circuit and the route to the hospital supporting the race.

It is understood organisers of the Singapore Grand Prix, have long used this technology to ensure a dry race weekend during the rain season for the region.

The process was used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics to ensure a dry Olympics.

No doubt, as the weekend processes, the weather forecast will evolve and fans concerns will evaporate!