Category Archives: Sport

Formula One: Improving the Show – Tune in to the #USGP Early!

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If you’re the type of Formula One fan that likes to tune into Race Day coverage 5 minutes before the start having grown tired of former driver pundits sitting on the fence over pre-race predictions, you might want to make an exception for today’s US Grand Prix.

As Formula One Management continue to evaluate new ways in which to engage with fans, one focus of this weekend is a plan to “showcase the talent”. Formula One drivers, with a few notable exceptions, have long been criticised for lacking personality and not engaging with fans. Formula One Management plans to start to address this in the build-up to the US Grand Prix this weekend with a new addition to the Show.

WWE legend Michael Buffer has been drafted in for the race and will announce each of the drivers as they take to the grid ahead of the race. At this time, it is unclear what format this will take, and how driver introductions will be incorporated into the pre-race schedule, but if Buffer’s profile in WWE is anything to go by, an approach of ‘Go big or Go home’ will be on the agenda. Perhaps in a bid to inspire drivers to come out of themselves in their introductions, Usain Bolt, who bought showmanship to the world of athletics, is a guest of Formula One Management this weekend at the Grand Prix, no doubt he’ll be offering advice to a few of the drivers less comfortable being the centre of attention. Can you imagine the likes of Pascal Wehrlein mimicking Usian Bolt’s classic moments seen here:

One driver likely to thieve in this feature of an F1 race will be Daniel Ricciardo, never afraid to out his personality out there for the world to enjoy:

For drivers still looking for inspiration for the big roll call, perhaps they should check out these classic moments from WWE. Will Formula One management open a social media poll for the best introduction?

Another key point of interest in the build-up to the USGP will be the actions of drivers during the National Anthem, and rather than read about the actions of any driver in a post-race write-up, fans would do well to watch for themselves and hear the rationale for any actions directly from the drivers.

Should any driver elect to take a knee or simply not attend the National Anthem ceremony ahead of the Grand Prix, there are two key points to remain mindful of. First, the process of drivers coming together at the front of the grid to collectively pay respect to the National Anthem of the country in which a Grand Prix is taking place was actually only introduced in 2014 at the request of Russian Grand Prix officials. It is not a long-held tradition within the sport. Secondly, Sebastian Vettel’s reprimand for missing the start of the Japanese National Anthem 2 weeks go set a precedent for other drivers. If a driver misses the National Anthem or behaves in a manner outside of the recommended procedure they can expect a reprimand and penalty points. Armed with this knowledge driver’s can make an informed decision around how to present themselves ahead of the Grand Prix with team’s well positioned to define a rational penalties with a precedent having been set.

So, if for no other reason than to hear the voice of Michael Buffer and to see Daniel Ricciardo throwing some magnificent pre-race shapes. Every F1 fan should take the time to tune into today’s pre-race show, Live on Sky Sports and Channel 4.

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Formula E: Why Audi don’t need Formula One

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Following on from yesterday’s post suggesting that after their success in the World Endurance Championship, Porsche may be considering a future in Formula One, Livery designer extraordinaire & MsportXtra partner Sean Bull went on to post livery concepts around a Future for Audi in F1 again partnering with Red Bull Racing.

Whilst I’m a huge fan of the livery concept. To me, Audi’s future in motorsport sits within Formula E. Earlier this month Audi became the first German Automotive manufacturer to officially commit to the championship, taking over the Abt team license.

As an automotive manufacturer, Audi has recognised the trend towards Electric Vehicles and are embracing it. In motorsports, with Formula One, Audi would be forced into a battle of the budget in order to compete and to be seen as a success. With Formula E, they can engage with a younger audience demographic within a cost controlled environment, in a sport supported by governments and industry. They have an opportunity to lead, not follow.

As Audi works driver Lucas Di Grassi tweeted last month, drivers might miss the 1000bhp LMP1 beasts of Le Mans but the future is Electric, and Audi have embraced their future.

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Formula One: Throwback Thursday – Red Bull Racing (don’t) split from Renault

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If you’ve caught more than 10 minutes F1 coverage or spent anytime on popular F1 news aggregator sites over the last few weeks you would be forgiven for thinking the Mclaren Honda divorce was complete. Based on all confirmed sources this is not the case.

F1 media, as with any media, has a tendency towards sensationalism. A controversial headline will attract readership.  I have to admit, I’m not adverse to the occasional sensationalist headline here on JWGP.

So, whilst the F1 world awaits formal confirmation from both Mclaren and Honda around future plans, now seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the last “SENSATIONAL” Team and power unit supplier fall out. When with no official word from either Red Bull Racing or Renault, after 18 months of continuous headlines around a fallout, their split was announced by the media. Except it wasn’t. Two seasons later the partnership is still alive. Yes it has been modified, but the fact remains Red Bull Racing and Renault are partners.  Below is a screen grab of just a few of the credible outlets that “confirmed” the news.

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So while we wait for official news from Mclaren and Honda about the future of their partnership, one fact to bare in mind;

As per FIA sporting regulations, Honda and Mercedes have already confirmed power unit supply plans to the FIA for 2018 (see story with verified sources here). Within this confirmation, Mercedes will supply the same teams they are in 2017, Honda will supply Mclaren and Sauber.

In retrospect Looking back at the “confirmed” Red Bull Racing Renault split, the story ensured continual press coverage for a team performing well below expectations over a 12 month period. This coverage was arguably greater than that which Mercedes received whilst fighting for the championship. A masterstroke in marketing by a true marketeer Dietrich Mateschitz. In November last year, Mclaren replaced Ron Dennis with marketing guru Zak Brown.

How many newspapers are giving midweek coverage to Mercedes win on Sunday?

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Formula One: Red Bull Racing ready to fight for the championship – Ricciardo

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Heading into the second and final pre-season test ahead of the 2017 Formula One World Championship confidence is sky high on Daniel Ricciardo’s side of the Red Bull Racing Garage. From the bold ‘My time’ statement made by the Australian in his latest helmet design to his confident demeanour in recent interviews, Ricciardo is  projecting the air of a driver destinted to challenge for the drivers crown this season.

In his first in depth interview for Mobil One’s the Grid, Ricciardo speaks candidly about his expectations for the season ahead and why he believes 2017 will be his year.

Formula One: Premium partners flock to Force India

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Judging by additional branding adorning the VJM10 and partnership announcements in the off season,  plaudits surrounding Sahara Force India’s forth place finish in the 2016 Formula One Constructors Championship have extended far beyond the commentators and fans.

With an increasing number of leading teams in Formula One struggling to secure new partners Force India are bucking the trend. The teams ability to attract new partners can be attributed in part to their success on track, but perhaps of more relevance, the way in which the success has been achieved. It is a well known fact the Force India operate on a significantly lower budget than the majority of other teams on the grid. Rather than complaining about a lack of finances, the team focus there efforts on maximising what they do have. The ratio of investment to performance gain and as a consequence exposure gain is far higher with Force India than with any other team on the grid. No doubt the marketing team of the Silverstone based team use this information as a key factor in presenting to new partners. The approach is paying off!

Diageo, have upgraded their relationship with Force India, increasing branding space and influence on the 2017 livery and shifting the brand they are seeking to promote through the partnership from mass market offering Smirnoff, to premium brand Johnnie Walker.

Innovative premium watch brand Felio Siby have extended their partnership with Force India for a second year, with promises of unique brand activation events through the season.

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Hype Energy Drink have expanded their partnership within the sport for the third season in succession. With increased branding on the VJM1o in premium exposure positions.

New clothing partner Farah have joined the team, supplying a unique range of travel wear and fan range to be launched later in the season.

Eye Respect – LDNR eyewear join Force India as the official sunglasses / eyewear partner for the team, taking brand positioning on the wing mirrors of the VJM10

Forex Trading partner FXTM also join the team with branding on the rear sidepod of the car. As forex trading moves into the mainstream Force India have done well to secure a leader in the sector.

With online gambling partner W88.com and digital technology partner Orangebus also joining the team, the Force India marketing team should be more than satisfied with an impressive winter work rate!

Another interesting component of the partnerships Force India have established ahead of the 2017 season is the amount of deals which are customer facing. Increasingly partnerships within Formula One are focused on business to business relationship building or hosting high net worth individuals. Force India are establishing partnerships which incorporate a consumer facing offering. They are achieving this whilst also introducing partners with aspirational product offerings.

Formula One: Are Sauber ahead of Mclaren?

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With the first week of pre-season testing in Barcelona drawing to a close to decipher the true pace of any team is almost impossible. All teams will be running their own development programs with differing approaches to fuel loads, tyre usage, aero set up, and engine mode settings. However after four days of testing some trends are beginning to emerge. One such trend could be concerning for Mclaren.

With the Sauber F1 team opting to run a 2016 Ferrari power unit through the 2017 season many expect the team to struggle for outright performance. When the decision was first announced the team explained this move would ensure stability in design and reliability allowing them to focus on the challenges of the changes in aerodynamic regulations for 2017. This approach appears to have paid off as through the first week of testing, only Mercedes and Ferrari have covered more KM’s in testing, 2,597KM  & 2,173KM  to Sauber’s 1,624KM. Mclaren on the other hand have struggled for reliability and not to mention outright pace. Power unit supplier Honda have new approach to the 2017 engine configuration to address inherent performance shortcomings, unfortunately this new design coupled with a new fuel and lubricant supplier, has lead to unreliability. In four days testing Mclaren have covered less than 1000KM.  As teams head into the second pre season test in which performance will should become a greater focus, Mclaren are unlikely to have collected sufficient baseline data to understand how best to extract maximum performance from the MCL32.

As stated in the first week of pre-season testing teams rarely focus on outright performance, however there will certain simulation runs in which drivers are allowed to push the car and situations in which softer compound tyres will be used.

@MsportXtra has complied a useful summary of fastest time set by each driver, total number of laps, and tyre used to set the fastest lap in tweet below:

Comparing the data between Sauber and Mclaren in this format adds further weight to the suggestion Mclaren could be set for a difficult start to the season. In every session in which Mclaren and Sauber completed their fastest laps on the same compound tyre, Sauber were able to post faster lap times. Further more in the session in which Mclaren worked with the Ultra soft compound, Sauber were faster using the super soft compound.

In reviewing the below table provided by Pirelli of the overall fastest times over the test, Mclaren again look to be in a precarious position.

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It is widely understood that Mclaren are not able to use all performance modes with the Honda power unit owing to concerns over reliability. Much of the teams issues can be attributed to this, but with such limited running the team may struggle to validate aerodynamic concepts in the design of the MCL32. After a challenging 2 seasons for the Woking based team could 2017 see the team fall further back down the grid?

The approach taken by Sauber of focusing on understanding the new aerodynamic regulations and minimising the impact of using a year old power unit appears to be paying off, with strong reliability the team should be targeting points early in the season which should also attract interest from new partners, something most teams in Formula One are actively seeking.

Formula One: The Final Seats

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As the  F1 world rapidly heads towards the winter break. The sport finds its self in a highly unusual position of having for seats still to be confirmed on the 2017 grid.

Whilst it is not out of the ordinary for seats at the lower end of the field to still be open at this point on in the year, for a seat to be open with the championship winning team is almost unimaginable. Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement from the sport has effectively stalled the driver market with no driver or team wanting to make a commitment before Mercedes conclude a deal with whoever their new driver will be.

At the time of writing favourites for the drive alongside Lewis Hamilton with the Silver Arrows in 2017 are; Valtteri Bottas, Pascal Wehrlein, and my own favourite Sergio Perez. Which ever driver is awarded the drive will have a knock on effect for the teams they are currently or likely to be driving for.

Should Mercedes manage to agree terms with Williams and they release Bottas, the team will be left with serious lack of experience in their driver line up as they head towards one of the most technically challenging regulation changes in two decades., As such working with Pascal Wehrlein who has only taken part in 21 races in unlikely to be their first choice.  More likely would be development driver Paul Di Resta taking the role or recently retired Felipe Massa or Jenson Button making an unexpected return.

In the scenario in which Mercedes take the brave move of putting Pascal Wehrlein in the second seat of the W08, Manor Racing will be left with two seats to fill. The team are likely to be secure drivers with funding, which could lead to a return of a funded Rio Haryanto to the grid. Anther option could be Felipe Nasr should, a driver Bernie Ecclestone has commented he is keen to keep on the grid to assure Brazilian interest in the Championship. Manor Racing development driver Jordan King is likely to find a role within the team. Dependant on the budget he brings this could be in the role of reserve or second driver.

Moving to Sauber, with Marcus Ericsson confirmed the rejuvenated Swiss team have one seat still to fill. 2017 will be a season of rebuilding for the team, as such their focus will be on ensuring consistency and strong feedback. In an ideal world I can imagine the team would like to work with a driver already familiar with the world of F1. Critics may dismiss this option but I would not rule out Pastor Maldonado finding a new home in Hinwil. Should the team head down the rookie route GP2 vice champion Antonio Giovinazzi would be a bold move and one demonstrating the team’s commitment to the future.

Sergio Perez moving to Mercedes would cause Sahara Force India a great deal of pain. Of course Mercedes would compensate the team, but over the past 3 seasons Force India have focused the majority of their business development efforts around building a profile in Mexico. To loose Perez would be a major blow. As such I can see them looking to replace one Mexican for another and signing Esteban Gutiérrez to the team.

One thing is for sure, the F1 silly season is far from over and it still has a few surprises in store!

Formula One: Kimi & Seb head to the beach

Ahead of 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen tried their hand at Beach Volleyball. In an event organised by long term team partner Santander the duo competed against each alongside banking customers who later took time out to explain the challenges of fitting training into a hectic life schedule.

Scuderia Ferrari and partners Santander, UPS, & Shell have gone to great lengths in 2016 to create accessible content for fans of the team to engage with their drivers in new and original ways.  The approach is clearly paying off as Kimi, notorious for not enjoying the commerical aspect of F1 life, can be seen in this film actually smiling!

Great job Santander!

Formula One: KIO Networks join Scuderia Toro Rosso

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Scuderia Toro Rorro have announced a new partnership with Mexican IT company KIO Networks. At the Mexican GP, their logo will appear prominently on the nose and barge boards of both cars.
Franz Tost, Team Principal commented: “Last year’s Mexican Grand Prix proved to be a great success, providing an amazing show. It’s a real pleasure to welcome KIO Networks on board for this race on their home soil, establishing a good new connection with such a high profile IT company. We look forward to enjoying together what we are sure will be another exciting race weekend for the many passionate fans filling the grandstands here.”
 
Sergio Rosengaus, KIO Networks’ CEO, said: “We are very happy to join forces with Scuderia Toro Rosso, with whom we share the passion for technology, innovation, IT and its high-level performance. We are happy to be associated with a team that, as KIO Networks itself, is daring, challenging and fun. We are sure that Carlos and Daniil will give their best on track and we can’t wait to see them in action at our home Grand Prix, with Scuderia Toro Rosso.”
This partnership will be a great opportunity for fellow Tech partner of Toro Rosso, Acronis to explore possible business to business opportunities. The Mexican Grand Prix paddock will be a buzz with senior leadership in a critical growth market for this industry.
KIO Networks partnered with the Lotus F1 team over the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix weekend.
 

Formula One: Stepping into a VR Future

 

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Joining Lewis Hamilton in victory at the United States Grand Prix this weekend was Datu YogaBrata. Winner of the 2016 Tata Communications F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize. Working in collaboration with Formula One Management and Mercedes AMG Petronas, Tata Communications challenges fans of the sport to rethink the way in which Formula One is consumed.

Now in its 3rd year the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize has seen over 200,000 entries from participants all over the world. This year has seen the competition focus on challenges around fan immersion through Virtual and Augmented reality technology.

Datu’s winning entry  is a live, 360-degree virtual trackside experience that transports fans to the exhilarating world of a Grand Prix. The ultra-immersive VR application is enabled by a group of roaming commentators with wearable cameras, capturing the excitement of the trackside to make fans thousands of miles away feel like they are part of the action. The application also harnesses AR, encouraging fans to collect ‘hidden stars’ at the  trackside, and enabling them to seamlessly glean additional insights on their favourite driver, team car, or anything else they see around them in the virtual Grand Prix environment.

Lewis Hamilton, one of the judges in the process commented  “It is great to be a part of the F1® Connectivity Innovation Prize and to see first-hand fans become part of the F1 action in real time, in addition to watching it on their TV or phone. The winning solution, from Datu YogaBrata gives us a glimpse of what the future of F1® could look like – and how we will be able to share so much more of our race weekend at the track with people at home. I would love it as a fan!”  

Datu YogaBrata said, “There’s no bigger or more powerful showcase for technological innovation than F1 and VR and AR will push the excitement of the sport even further. My idea aims to capitalise on that by bringing fans closer to the exciting world of F1 than ever before. I’m thrilled that the judges saw the potential of my virtual trackside experience for fans.”

Julie Woods-Moss, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer, Tata Communications, said, “We created the F1® Connectivity Innovation Prize to show the immense potential of virtual reality and other technology advancements to transform the sporting experience. These disruptive ideas from fans that are powered by data and superfast connectivity continue to inspire and excite us for the future of F1″

To see more on the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize check out this film