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.
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.
— Epson Formula 1 (@EpsonF1) October 19, 2016
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.
Today was meant to be fun, not at all disrespectful. Some people take themselves to seriously. I had a blast, highlight of my day!
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 6, 2016
Today was meant to be fun, not at all disrespectful. Some people take themselves to seriously. I had a blast, highlight of my day!
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 6, 2016
Lastly, Japan is 1 of my favourite places. I admire their culture & values as people. Please visit if you can, there’s no place like it🇯🇵🙏🏾
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 6, 2016
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.
Following the announcement of Felipe Massa’s intention to retire from Formula One at the end of this season, the consensus of opinion is that Lance Stroll will be his most likely successor. Lance Stroll left the Ferrari Driver Academy and joined Williams at the end of 2015 in a development driver capacity. He is currently leading the European F3 Championship with Prema Powerteam.
Lance will turn 18 at the end of October and through his 2016 F3 campaign has achieved sufficient success to qualify for an FIA Super License and allowing him to participate in Formula One activities on track. Lance is the son of multi billionaire Lawrence Stroll. Lawrence, a keen motorsport enthusiast himself, has supported Lance through his career in junior categories. This support should not in anyway suggest Lance should be labelled as a ‘pay driver’ his domination in the European F3 championship clearly demonstrates he is a talented driver.
Williams have a reputation for signing up and coming drivers, signing Lance Stroll would be in keeping with this reputation. At this point all signs point to his announcement as a driver in 2017 seem entirely reasonable. In fact, both Lance and team representatives have suggested the levelling effect of regulation changes in 2017 would make it a logical time to make the change.
There is however another rumour about Lance Stroll which doesn’t make quite so much sense. In recent months highly reputable journalists in the Formula One paddock have suggested that Lance Stroll and the Williams team are completing extensive familiarisation tests for the Canadian using 2014 machinery at multiple circuits on the F1 calendar. These journalists suggest the programme is being bankrolled by Lawrence Stroll to the tune of up to $20M. At this time neither team or driver have officially commented on the rumours.
Rather than make a claim one way or the other, it seems of merit to delve into the challenges of how such a test programme could be achieved within current FIA regulations and Williams partnerships:
- Power Units. Whilst it is within regulations for a team to complete tests with power units from seasons two years prior to the current season which would allow Williams to complete tests using current hybrid power unit technology, Williams do not own any Power Units. The partnership agreement with Mercedes is a supply agreement only which means Mercedes deliver Power Units to the team on a race weekend. The team do not retain anything. In order for tests to be taking place an additional agreement would be required with Mercedes. Mercedes would then have to agree to supply or manufacturer 2014 specification Power Units. This is not impossible but does add a level of complexity.
- Tyres. FIA approved tests with 2014 machinery require tyre supply from Pirelli. Pirelli are only permitted to supply demonstration tyres for such tests. These tyres do not perform in the same way as a race tyre. This would devalue the purpose of familiarisation tests. Of course it is possible the team have found a dispensation within these rules, but again, Pirelli would be required to dedicate resource to this programme at the same time as developing 2017 tyres. It should be noted Williams declined to participate in the 2017 tyre development programme. Again this does not make the Lance Stroll test programme infeasible rather illustrates a supply challenge.
- Circuits. Contrary to the belief of some in the F1 paddock, Racing circuits do not lie dormant for the 362 days a year that F1 is not using a venue. Booking circuit time is not a simple task. Shutting a circuit down for private testing would not go unnoticed.
- Existing Commitments. Lance Stroll is currently leading the European F3 championship. The championship requires more commitment than an arrive and drive mentality. He will be fully focused on the task in hand.
- Existing Infrastructure. Williams, as with many leading teams on the F1 grid, have invested heavily into race simulators, completing tests way from the simulator in old machinery may suggest a lack of confidence in their own technology.
- Regulations. 2017 will see a radical overhaul in Formula One technical regulations. Ambitious projections suggest a lap time improvement of up to 5 seconds per lap. If this is accurate, the value of testing machinery by that time 3 years old and possibly up to 7 seconds per lap slower becomes highly questionable.
Without official confirmation from driver or team it is not possible draw a conclusion over these rumoured tests, but given the challenges surrounding their feasibility on the face of it they appear unlikely. A far more logical and cost effective approach would be to wait until Lance turns 18 and place him in Felipe Massa’s car in the Free Practice One sessions in the remaining races of the 2016 calendar.
Another challenge the Williams F1 team may face in signing Lance Stroll for 2017 could be with their principle partner Bacardi (with the Martini brand) Williams drivers pay a key role in the activation of the Martini Sponsorship, a driver not of legal in the US could prove to be a challenge for the business and this approach.
The FIA Formula E Championship is made up a truly unique group of people, with an endless drive to amaze and inspire. They are a creative marketeers dream, and a health & safety insurers nightmare!
When faced with the challenge of bringing to life the impact of climate change, what could have more impact than landing a car on an ice cap for a demonstration run? With support from Julius Baer, Visa, DHL, Schaeffler, The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Mumm Champagne House, Formula E bought this vision to life. The zero-emission racer was driven on the ice cap by adventurous race-winning Formula E driver and series ambassador, Lucas di Grassi.
The Brazilian, who will be seeking to go one better than his runner-up position in the season two championship when the series returns with the HKT Hong Kong ePrix on October 9, performed a series of jaw-dropping runs on the ice cap, inside the Arctic circle in the north of Greenland.
The seemingly impossible act was captured in a series of impactful short films that will draw the world’s attention to the escalating threat posed by the melting of the ice cap to global sea levels.
See the first of the films from the demonstration run here:
The stunning exhibition is a continuation of Formula E’s commitment to showcasing the ability of electric car technology to act as a key part of a more sustainable future, and play a vital role in tackling climate change.
Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said: “I have four children and the future of the planet depends on how we can control the effect that human life is having on the environment and the climate. That is why I think climate change is very important to address, to control, to face, and everyone can do something. We do something for motorsport, other people can do something from whatever they do in their lives.”
Formula E vice-champion Lucas di Grassi said: “It was such a beautiful, peaceful place. To come here and see how huge the ice cap is and how the effect of global warming is changing it, melting it, gives me a completely different understanding of what we are doing with Formula E and the importance of driving electric cars.”
The event was only possible due to the co-operation and assistance of the Greenland government and its desire to raise awareness of a need for action on climate change. In order to learn more about the effects of the melting ice cap, Formula E has teamed up with Southampton University, and during the trip a tracking beacon was place upon an iceberg that had broken away from the ice sheet.
This will help to advance the research into the behaviour of these ice sheets in the open ocean, and the tracking device will allow climate scientists and fans alike to understand more about the graceful journey they undertake as they return back to the sea.
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco said: “I fully support the bold and ambitious activity that Formula E has undertaken as a way of raising awareness of the effect climate change is having on the ice cap in Greenland. My Foundation recognises the role that electric vehicles can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and believes that Formula E can inspire a new generation of motorists and potential motorists to ‘drive electric’ and help in the fight against global warming through high-profile activations like this.”
A special 48-minute documentary looking at every aspect of how the event was put together has been commissioned and will be premiered at COP22, which takes place in Marrakesh, Morocco on November 13 this year. Formula E will also be in the North African country at the same time for the inaugural Marrakesh ePrix.
The Italian Grand Prix saw Heineken formally launch its Formula One partnership. Whilst the Dutch brewer took title sponsorship at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier in the year, Monza was always set to be the event in which the campaign shifted into high gear.
In the weeks preceding the Italian Grand Prix at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, Heineken executives spoke of strategy to bring Formula One to the fans, to improve the race going experience and seek ways in which to engage a millennial audience. If I am entirely honest I was somewhat sceptical. Brands all to often focus Formula One activation strategies around corporate entertainment and business to business network development.
With this in mind, upon arriving in Monza on the Thursday ahead of the Grand Prix the first thing I did was head to the fan village. In recent years the fan village, an area surrounding the circuit open to all ticket holders, has become little more than a few merchandising stands. It can feel as though the interests of the fan have been overlooked. Heineken have gone to great lengths to address this issue erecting a huge pop bar and entertainment space for fans, as pictured below. Whilst the beer isn’t free, prices are reasonable and they have created a communal space for fans away from the circuit.
Building on this, Heineken have addressed another common frustration amongst race going fans. How do you fill your time outside of track action? On Thursday evening, Heineken installed a temporary five a side football pitch on the start finish straight challenging Champions League stars to a game against Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer. Whilst it soon became clear the F1 drivers’ talents did not extend to the football pitch, it was fantastic to see Heineken hosting an event for the public outside of the regular F1 weekend schedule. More than 2000 fans filled the main grandstand to watch the game.
Of course Heineken must also use their partnership within F1 to address the fans at home and it would be naive to think there are no business to business expectations around the agreement. On Friday evening, Heineken set about explaining how these would be addressed. At the core of this session was the launch of the two advertisements Heineken have developed featuring Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard. The production values of both films are incredible, and both have been extremely positively received. So much so, that Freddie Hunt, son of the late James Hunt has suggested Heineken use footage of his father in their next campaign.
— Freddie Hunt (@freddiehunt76) September 5, 2016
To see the Heineken F1 adverts in full click here
What struck me about the Jackie Stewart film in particular was the core of the message. If You Drive, Never Drink. Whilst anti drink drive campaigns are nothing new, making this the fundamental message of a campaign for a beer company is a bold strategy. One unimaginable in other sectors. Heineken should be commended for this approach. They have acknowledged the challenges of associating alcohol with motorsport and addressed it head on. More over they are seeking to evolve an F1 weekend, from 2 hours of racing on Sunday into something much more significant. This is neatly tied up in the tagline ‘more than a race’.
I am hopeful that Heineken’s approach to fan engagement within Formula One, alongside a fresh approach from the sport’s new owners Liberty Media, will apply pressure to existing brands in the sport to do more with fans. In the beverage sector brand loyalty is fundamental to success and if Heineken can demonstrate new customer loyalty through Formula One and through engaging with fans you can be sure more brands will follow and the Formula One experience will only improve.
To read my interview with Heineken ambassador David Coulthard follow this link
Liberty Media Corporation earlier today confirmed the agreement to acquire Formula One. The Liberty Media press release can be found in full here:
Liberty Media Corporation and CVC Capital Partners (“CVC”) announced today that Liberty Media has agreed to acquire Formula One, the iconic global motorsports business, from a consortium of sellers led by CVC.
Liberty Media owns interests in a broad range of media, communications and entertainment businesses. Those interests are attributed to three tracking stock groups: the Liberty SiriusXM Group, the Liberty Braves Group, and the Liberty Media Group.
The consideration comprises cash and newly issued shares in the Liberty Media Group tracking stock (LMCK) and a debt instrument exchangeable into shares of LMCK. The transaction price represents an enterprise value for Formula One of $8.0 billion and an equity value of $4.4 billion(1).
The acquisition will be effected by Liberty Media acquiring 100% of the shares of Delta Topco, the parent company of Formula One (Delta Topco herein referred to as “Formula One”)(2). The acquisition is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions and is described in more detail below.
Concurrent with the execution of the agreement to effect the acquisition, Liberty Media has completed the acquisition of an 18.7% minority stake in Formula One for $746 million, funded entirely in cash (which is equal to $821 million in consideration less a $75 million discount to be repaid by Liberty Media to selling stockholders upon completion of the acquisition). Prior to completion, CVC Funds will continue to be the controlling shareholder of Formula One.
After completion of the acquisition, Liberty Media will own Formula One and it will be attributed to the Liberty Media Group which will be renamed the Formula One Group. The consortium of sellers led by CVC will own approximately 65%(1)(3) of the Formula One Group’s equity and will have board representation at Formula One to support Liberty Media in continuing to develop the full potential of the sport. In addition, a CVC representative will be joining the Liberty Media Board of Directors.
Chase Carey has been appointed by Delta Topco and will serve as the new Chairman of Formula One, succeeding Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who will remain on Formula One’s board as a non-executive director. Bernie Ecclestone will remain Formula One’s CEO.
Greg Maffei, President and Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Media, said: “We are excited to become part of Formula One. We think our long-term perspective and expertise with media and sports assets will allow us to be good stewards of Formula One and benefit fans, teams and our shareholders. We look forward to working closely with Chase Carey and Bernie Ecclestone to support the next phase of growth for this hugely popular global sport.”
Chase Carey, Chairman of Formula One, said: “I am thrilled to take up the role of Chairman of Formula One and have the opportunity to work alongside Bernie Ecclestone, CVC, and the Liberty Media team. I greatly admire Formula One as a unique global sports entertainment franchise attracting hundreds of millions of fans each season from all around the world. I see great opportunity to help Formula One continue to develop and prosper for the benefit of the sport, fans, teams and investors alike.”
Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive Officer of Formula One, said: “I would like to welcome Liberty Media and Chase Carey to Formula One and I look forward to working with them.”
Donald Mackenzie, Co-Chairman of CVC, commented: “We are delighted Chase Carey is joining Formula One as its new Chairman and that he will be working alongside Bernie Ecclestone. Chase’s experience and knowledge of sport, media and entertainment is as good as it gets and we are very pleased to secure his services. Bernie has been a wonderful CEO for us over the last 10 years. There have been many successes and the occasional challenge but there has never been a dull moment and we have had a lot of fun. The combined skills of Chase and Bernie mean that the successes should continue and we wish them well. We would like to thank Peter Brabeck-Letmathe for his outstanding contribution during his tenure as Chairman. His leadership has served the company well, and we are pleased that he will remain on the board as a non-executive director.”
In the acquisition the selling stockholders will receive a mix of consideration comprising: $1.1 billion in cash, 138 million newly issued shares of LMCK and a $351 million exchangeable debt instrument to be issued by Formula One and exchangeable into shares of LMCK. Funding for the cash component of the acquisition is expected to come from cash on hand at the Liberty Media Group. The newly issued LMCK shares will be subject to market co-ordination and lock-up agreements.
The Teams will be given the opportunity to participate in the investment in Formula One, and the detailed terms of that investment will be agreed in due course. Certain teams have already expressed an interest in investing after completion of the acquisition.
The interest in Formula One already acquired by Liberty Media, and the remaining interest to be acquired upon the closing of the acquisition, along with $4.1 billion of existing Formula One debt (which will be non-recourse to Liberty Media) and $0.7 billion in Formula One cash, is being attributed to the Liberty Media Group tracking stock.
Upon completion of the acquisition, the Liberty Media Group will be renamed the Formula One Group and the ticker symbols for the Series A, Series B and Series C Liberty Media Group tracking stocks will be changed from LMC (A/B/K), respectively, to FWON (A/B/K), respectively. Formula One will remain based in London.
The completion of the acquisition is subject to certain conditions, including the receipt of: (i) certain clearances and approvals by antitrust and competition law authorities in various countries, (ii) certain third-party consents and approvals, including that of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of Formula One, and (iii) the approval of Liberty Media’s stockholders of the issuance of LMCK shares in connection with the acquisition and the name change of the Liberty Media Group to the Formula One Group, and is expected to close by the first quarter of 2017. Additional information regarding the acquisition and Formula One will be included in a proxy statement to be filed by Liberty Media with the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to the matters to be voted upon by Liberty Media’s stockholders described above.
Italy’s leading multinational recruitment group, The Gi Group, have announced a 3 year partnership with Scuderia Toro Rosso this morning. The partnership will see Gi Group branding feature on the arms of drivers overalls. This partnership follows the recent announcement of a long term partnership between Acronis and the Italian team. Such developments serve to underline the independence of the team away from Red Bull and demonstrate the credibility of team in it’s own right.
Speaking on the partnership Otello Valenti, STR Legal and HR director commented:
“Success in Formula 1 needs a talented team to work in the best way possible, demonstrating ability, passion, energy and determination. Scuderia Toro Rosso has always sought out and brought on the most talented people and the partnership with Gi Group is a strategic collaboration to support the constant growth of our team.
Earlier today Mahindra Racing Formula E team announced the signing of Felix Rosenqvist for the 2016/ 17 FIA Formula E World Championship. The partnership will see the 24-year-old Swede line up alongside Nick Heidfeld as the team embark on their third season. JWGP caught up with Felix during the filming for the announcement of the team’s new partnership with Errea Sport.
JW: Felix, how much time have you spent behind the wheel of a Formula E car, what are your first impressions?
FR: In total I’ve been in the car for 8 days. Mahindra have a private test track just outside of Barcelona, we’ve been working flat out to maximise our time before the first group test at Donington Park. The level of dedication from the team has been incredible. We’ve been working from 7AM to 10PM on every day of testing. The team use a test car for private testing, I haven’t driven a Formula E car before so can’t really pass comment on changes from Season 2 to season 3, but the team seem very happy with the progress.
Driving a Formula E car is very different to Indycar or a DTM car, in those cars when you are doing 200 KMPH and come off the power it is almost like applying a brake. In a Formula E car, when you come off the power the car will just keep going. It feels counter-intuitive at first, but you soon get used to it.
JW: Have you spend much time with your team mate Nick Heidfeld? What are his thoughts on the M3Electro compared to last season’s car?
FR: Nick was around for 2 of the days I was testing. I think our driving styles will compliment each other. Nick is highly technical, focused on the fine details to optimise. Where as my approach is more toward making the most of the package I have. In bringing our styles together we should be able to push the team forward. With respect to progress from the team from S2 to S3, Nick has reported a positive step in performance. The first indication of this should be seen in Donington, but in reality the true pace won’t be seen until Hong Kong.
JW: What drew you to Formula E? Have you been following the series?
FR: Formula E represents a new and different type of challenge in motorsport. I have a good record around street circuits (most notably winning the 2015 Macau F3 race) The cars and frenetic approach to a race appeal to me. The racing has been enjoyable to watch. I’ve been impressed with the performances of Robin Frijns and Felix Da Costa, the other ‘younger’ drivers on the grid. I hop we are in a position to challenge the ‘old’ boys in this season.
JW: Does racing in Formula E rule out options in other championships for you?
FR: Not at all, I think of myself as a jobbing driver. I’ve been racing or testing almost every week this year. Racing in Indycar is still on the agenda, and DTM, whilst initially only for Moscow is still an option. I like to be busy, the Formula E calendar and race format allows me to be just that.
JW: Finally, what are your hopes for the Season with Mahindra Racing
FR: Until we start the group testing its impossible to know exactly who we are competing against. I hope to perform strongly and surprise a few of the established drivers.
Thanks to Felix for taking time out during his day with Errea Sport. Best of luck for the season ahead!