Through the continued Starwood Hotels and Resorts partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, Lewis Hamilton recently filmed a new short film at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel in London to showcase Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) membership. As Lewis and the team prepare for the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi, Starwood Hotels and Resorts have shared behind the scenes images taken during the filming where we see Lewis, fresh from filming his Zoolander 2 cameo, is keen to get behind the camera.
Ahead of the launch of the #TravelLikeLewis campaign on Thursday you can preview the finished film here:
Starwood Hotels and Resorts choosing Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team as ambassadors for SPG membership further demonstrates the value of F1 engagement and the sports audience reach. It also goes to show a Formula One drivers job extends far beyond requirements at the track.
To see more from #TravelLikeLewis you can follow SPG on twitter by clicking here.
Disclaimer. Views expressed in this blog are my own. They represent a rational pragmatic view of a situation.
I’ll kick off with the headline. Red Bull Racing will enter the 2016 F1 season with a self-funded engine program supported by Ilmor. Now I realise this view flies in the face of 90% of what the team and media are reporting, but hear me out. Why wouldn’t they?
In 1997, Dietrich Mateschitz purchased a majority shareholding in the Sauber F1 team; this investment came only 3 years after Red Bull launched globally. Dietrich Mateschitz is a self-made billionaire who only a few years prior to his F1 involvement invested his entire life savings on buying a 49% share in Taiwanese Beverage Company bought to his attention by chance when travelling on business suffering with jetlag. It can be safe to say that the first significant investment Dietrich Mateschitz made with his new found wealth was into Formula One. The cynic could say it was simply because he saw the marketing potential of the sport for his brand; my personal belief is he has a passion for motorsport. Either way, passion and marketing potential do not disappear overnight. Walking away from the sport, I believe, is not an option.
Take a second to consider the success of Red Bull. This did not happen by mistake, the growth and development of the business has been carefully structured and strategically managed. This approach to business would not allow itself to be reliant on the goodwill of its peers to allow it to stay in the market. We cannot be expected to believe that Red Bull Racing truly expect Ferrari or Mercedes to supply them with engines, media coverage around these talks has been managed as a distraction technique. Something those with experience of Formula One Management will be well versed in.
The struggles Renault & Red Bull Racing have experienced in the hybrid era of the sport did not come as a surprise to the team. In 2013 the team, despite clinching their fourth consecutive constructor’s championship were making moves to streamline the operation. In the knowledge of a drop in competitiveness the team discontinued the contracts of a number of employees working on temporary contracts. With the knowledge that performances were unlikely to meet those of their competitors it could be argued that the team began considering the long term future of their relationship with Renault at this point already.
In the first half of the 2014 season the Red Bull Racing Renault relationship rapidly deteriorated. Before the first lap of the Melbourne GP Red Bull Technologies had already seemingly taken on some responsibility of engine development entering into an agreement with AVL, the world´s largest privately owned and independent company for the development of powertrain systems with internal combustion engines, to resolve immediate performance issues and use the company rolling road facilities. At this time there was a rumour Red Bull Technologies signed off investment in their own in house rolling road.
Later in 2014 Helmut Marko publically earmarked the Austrian GP as a milestone date by which time Red Bull Racing expected Renault to have resolved performance issues. There was no public statement around the consequence of failing to meeting this milestone, but it is my opinion that this was this point at which Red Bull Technologies green lit their engine development partnership evaluation between AVL and Ilmor. Renault, in my opinion, had full awareness of this project and the likely end point.
Moving further forward consultation between Red Bull Technologies, Renault and Ilmor was made public; the details of the agreement remained unclear, but Mario Illien (Ilmor co-founder) was present as a guest of Red Bull Racing at a number of races in 2014. It was stated that Mario Illen acted advisory capacity providing direction on possible development routes for the Renault power unit, earlier this year it was announced that Renault had elected not to take the development path outlined through the Ilmor partnership. In my opinion this represented Renault allowing a contractual option defined by Red Bull Technology to expire.
It is my belief that the ‘messy divorce’ between Red Bull Racing and Renault is around the Ilmor engine development program. The Ilmor program uses Renault developed technology as a baseline. Red Bull will argue they have been involved and invested in the development since the beginning and as such lay claim to the rights to the engine. Renault of course will disagree. This disagreement will be concluded through a financial settlement, and the basis for future Red Bull Racing engine supply will remain the original Renault power unit with development direction becoming Ilmor’s domain. The project may latterly be badged by another manufacturer.
When I have discussed this option in the past I have lambasted on two key points. Firstly, the time it take s to develop an engine, and secondly Red Bull can’t afford an engine program. I don’t see either of these arguments as valid. To support this I contacted a Cosworth representative some weeks ago to understand the time they believe it would take to develop a power unit compliant with current regulations, their response; 10 months. Red Bull Technologies and Ilmor by the start of preseason testing for the 2016 season may have had as much as 18 months (Since the 2014 Austrian GP), and will have been using an existing engine to base the concept on which would serve to further reduce the development time required. To address financing, how much do we believe it costs to develop an engine? If we consider Red Bull Racing have been awarded $200M in prize funds over the past two years alone, and have an extremely healthy sponsorship portfolio minimising the investment Red Bull have to make into their own racing team, despite operating as a private company and as such not reporting profits, we can be confident Red Bull is a highly profitable organisation. Red Bull has the money. It should also be noted the cost of engine development may not be paid up front. The cost of capital could be shared over future years performances, with FOM heritage payment assured Red Bull could borrow money against his assurance to fund an engine program if necessary. So in summary, they’ve had the time and they can afford it!
If Red Bull pulled out of F1 they face significant penalties from FOM and will be left with extensive racing infrastructure on their books. The cost of leaving the sport is greater the than the cost of a self-funded engine development route.
So, to 2016 and the prospects for Red Bull Racing & Toro Rosso, it is my view that the current ‘negotiations’ or lack thereof with Mercedes and Ferrari are somewhat of a front. Red Bull wants to position themselves as the injured party with no other option than a self-funded program. This will go some way to once again endear the team to fans of the sport. Success with the Ilmor project will not come overnight, but that is fine. The teams can spend 2-3 seasons as a capable mid field entrants, focusing on restoring their reputation as a fun team with the fans, whilst using their clout with FOM and the FIA to restore an emphasis on aerodynamics in future technical regulations. Success in Formula One is cyclical. Red Bull, despite what we see through the media appreciates this and remains fully committed to the sport.
FIA Formula 2 Championship
Significant progress has been made in negotiations with the promoter of GP2 regarding the establishment of the final step in the FIA’s single-seater ladder; the FIA Formula 2 Championship.
Discussions remain ongoing with the intention of finalising an agreement.
Opinion: In amongst the F1 2016 calendar confirmation the FIA have publicly commented for the first time on progress around the progress of GP2 morphing into F2. GP2 organisers have commented on the prospect but in recent months talks appeared to have stalled. It’s fantastic to see logic being applied to the development of the FIA single seater ladder. It will be interesting to see the timing around the transition and the FIA drivers license points requirements to enter the series.
Press Release FE167
Formula E fans will have the chance to boost their favourite driver during the races this season following changes confirmed to this unique socially interactive concept.
Starting at the Beijing ePrix on October 24, voting for FanBoost will remain open during the opening six minutes of the race.
As well as being able to vote during the race, fans will also find it much easier to have their say as changes to the voting system will make it possible to vote using a hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This has been achieved through a partnership with Telescope, the global leader in real-time fan engagement.
Voting will be possible through the official Formula E website and app and fans will be able to vote once a day through each of the available channels. As was the case during season one, FanBoost voting will open 12 days before the race takes place, which means that voting will open for the Beijing ePrix on Monday, October 12.
As a result of these changes FanBoost will only be available on the car that the drivers get into following their mid-race car swap. Unlike last year FanBoost will provide an extra 100kJ of energy to be used in a power window between 180kW and 200kW.
This presents the three winning teams and drivers with a strategic call to make. Do they raise the power for a short boost or run at a slightly lower power for a prolonged period? As before, FanBoost can only be used once, rather than in a series of short bursts.
OPINION: In race FanBoost will in theory bring fans closer to the sport, encouraging live viewing which will be music to the ears of the FTA broadcasters recommitting to and joining the sport for season two. Flexibility in deployment will appeal to teams and drivers, but removing FanBoost from the first stint of the race feels like a miss. Qualcomm and technical partner’s developments in induction charging on track must be the ultimate end point for FanBoost. Overall it’s fantastic to see the series evolve.