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.
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?
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:
Indian Formula E Team Mahindra Racing have announced a new partnership with British watch manufacturer Omologato. This new partnership will see Omologato branding feature extensively on the M3Electro, on drivers Nick Heidfeld and Felix Rosenqvist’s gloves and within the team environment with Omologato wall clocks.
Within the partnership Omologato have designed a unique Mahindra Racing timepiece collection, which can be found here. Omologato believe “everyone should have a watch with a story” as such they have positioned their products at a price which the everyday motorsport fan can afford. Omologato and Mahindra Racing set out to engage with their fans and followers with this partnership, combining a mutual passion for motorsport with a desire to pioneer new concepts and enhance awareness of Formula E in new markets.
Commenting on the new partnership Dilbagh Gill, Team Principal, Mahindra Racing Formula E Team remarked,“We are delighted to welcome Omologato into the Mahindra Racing family. The Omologato brand is highly regarded in the motorsport community; we both share the same passion for delivering exciting motor racing and heritage to fans across the globe. We look forward to engaging with fans at Omologato events and having their logo on our cars from the next race in Mexico City.”
Shami Kalra, Founder of Omologato added,“We are delighted to become an Official Partner of the Mahindra Racing Formula E Team in one of the world’s most forward-thinking sports championships. We welcomed the challenge of designing these special timepieces for the team to take to iconic cities across the globe. One of our aims at Omologato is to give motorsport enthusiasts the chance to immerse themselves in motorsport, through our chronographs and our #ChronosAndCars events. This exciting partnership will give Omologato fans the opportunity to get closer to the Mahindra Racing Formula E Team.”
The FIA have issued the following press release in response to inaccurate reports. To ensure no confusion the press release has been posted here in full:
Following the unanimous approval by the World Motor Sport Council of the change of control of Delta Topco Limited (the holding company of the Commercial Rights Holder of the FIA Formula One World Championship) from CVC Capital Partners in favour of Liberty Media Corporation on 18 January 2017, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has been made aware of certain declarations and comments, clearly inaccurately informed or made maliciously, relating to this process.
In light of this, the FIA wishes to make clear the following once again:
Firstly, the prize money allocated in the Formula One World Championship is done so in accordance with the bilateral agreements that exist between each team and the Commercial Rights Holder (CRH). The FIA has no knowledge of these agreements
Secondly, there is no conflict of interest on the part of the FIA with regard to its approval of the change of control of the CRH which has been approved by the World Motor Sport Council taking into consideration exclusively the terms of the existing agreements between the CRH and the FIA and the best interests of the Championship
As per the Agreements made in 2001 for 100 Years, the FIA could only have withheld its consent in the event that the change of control would materially alter the ability of the CRH to fulfil its obligations; it is obvious that the taking of control of the Formula One Group by Liberty does not create such a risk, and nobody has ever suggested a different view in this respect
The FIA would naturally be happy to demonstrate the absence of any conflict of interest to any competent authority that may so request.
Once again, the FIA looks forward to its collaboration with both Liberty and the Formula One Group to create a constructive relationship that will ensure the continued success and the development of the FIA Formula One World Championship in the long term.
President of Motorsports Governing Body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Jean Todt had kicked off 2017 by joining Twitter!
The account, whilst currently not verified, appears to be genuine with the President’s first two tweets coming from a BMW Autonomous driving demonstration at CES in Las Vegas and the Formula E Visa Vegas eRace over the weekend.
At this time Jean Todt, or those managing the account on his behalf, are not following any other users on the social media platform seemingly opting to use it to communicate on events attended rather than engage directly. This approach may evolve in the coming weeks and months as the full 2017 motorsport season commences.
During 2017 Jean Todt’s second term as president of the FIA will come to a conclusion. No formal comment has been made with respect to plans to seek re-election, nor have any alternative candidates been mentioned. It had been speculated that Jean Todt would not seek a re-election for the unpaid position following his appointment as Special Envoy for Road Safety to the UN.
Since the inception of Formula E little more than 3 years ago the championship has developed a real ‘can do’ attitude. The ‘no idea is a bad idea’ corporate language seen in offices across the globe is taken to it literal limit with the Formula E management team. So when the suggestion of taking a completing a demonstration run on an iceberg was proposed last year, the only question on the lips of Alejandro Agag and his team was when? not how.
Following the Marrakesh ePrix, an event twinned with COP22, the annual gathering of world leaders to address the issue of climate change, Formula E bought together key figures in the sport, media, and industry together for the première of ‘Ice Drive’. The film follows the team as they set about bringing to reality the challenge of taking a Formula E car to the ice caps and attempting to run the car on the ice.
The challenge proved to somewhat more difficult than a simple arrive and drive, and the obstacles the team had to deal with along the way serve to highlight the true impact of climate change. You may note I initially referred to Icebergs and latterly an Ice Cap. This was no mistake…
It was a privilege to receive an invitation to the première of this film, hearing Prince Albert II of Monaco speaking of his foundation, their involvement in the project, and his dedication to supporting initiatives to tackle climate change, alongside Lucas Di Grassi talking through his eye opening experience of spending time around the disintegrating ice caps and the challenge of driving a Formula E car on ice, was hugely inspiring if a little daunting.
Formula E recognise they have a platform to educate fans of the sport on matters of environmental sustainability and a responsibility to support projects addressing the issues directly. They take this seriously but remain mindful to do so in an engaging and unique way.
Back in November I had the good fortune to attend the Marrakesh ePrix with the Techeetah Formula E Team and Jean Eric Vergne. Marrakesh played host to the second round of the 2016/ 2017 Championship and gave me my first behind the scenes experience of an ePrix weekend.
At 26 years old, you would still consider Jean Eric Vergne to be a young driver, so when you take a look back at his career in motorsport it’s incredible to think of what he has already achieved. As with many successful drivers, Jean Eric’s career started in Karting. At the age of just 4 years old he first got behind the wheel at his fathers karting circuit on the outskirts of Paris. At the age of 10 he entered his first competition and went on to become a junior French champion in 2001. He continued in karting competing in the European Championship and others until 2007 when he graduated to Formula Renault
Driving for Formula Campus, Vergne won the championship with ease securing 10 podium finishes from 13 races. His performance attracted the attention of the Red Bull Junior team, who navigated his career through the British Formula 3 Championship with Carlin where he won 12 races in 24 events securing the championship with 6 races remaining. Alongside his British F3 outings he also competed in GP3 and in 2010 Red Bull promoted Jean Eric to Formula Renault 3.5. A championship he secured his first win after only 3 races in the championship. He took the championship fight down to the wire and whilst ultimately lost out to another competitor, his skills in the championship were enough for Red Bull to bring him into Formula One initially in a test capacity then joining the Toro Rosso team as a driver in 2012.
Reaching Formula One can be the pinnacle of any drivers sporting career. From the very outset Jean Eric’s pace with Toro Rosso was unquestionable. More often than not Jean Eric would be found ahead of his teammates on the track, unfortunately he found himself in a situation of wrong place at the wrong time. Poor reliability left Jean Eric seemingly trailing his team mates Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kyvat at the wrong time. Resulting in him being overlooked for the Red Bull Racing drive
Despite these stumbling blocks, for which many insiders say were no fault of Jean Eric’s, 2015 saw him transition to Formula E with the Andretti team. The Frenchman instantly found a new home in the series setting pole on his debut in Uruguay. JEV went on to complete the season with Andretti and for season 2 moved to the DS Virgin Racing Team. A team which with the freedoms offered to teams as the championship found its feet took an alternative approach to technical gearing and power delivery compromising the team’s ability to consistently compete at the front of the grid.
For Season Three Jean Eric Vergne has become part of the newly formed Techeetah Formula E team, a team built on the foundations of the Aguri team with power unit supply from championship leading Renault. Edmund Chu, Techeetah Team President on Jean Eric joining the team commented:
“We are tremendously excited to have Jean Eric on board. He has a great experience in the upper echelons of racing and his experience in F1 and FE is going lend itself to us as being a competitive team.”
During pre-season testing Jean Eric showed the pace fans had become accustomed to in his early career, topping the time sheets on 5 of 6 days. Pace at the Hong Kong ePrix gave indications of the team and driver pairing potential, unfortunately with the team still familiarising themselves with their new surroundings the ultimate result did not quite meet expectations.
Bringing us full circle Marrakesh. Meeting Jean Eric on the eve of the ePrix the Frenchman comes across as relaxed and engaging. The characteristics of the circuit, look set to suit the Techeetah team, something Jean Eric demonstrated in shakedown testing setting the 3rd fastest time.
As we head into race day the air of quite confidence resumes, something which Jean Eric manages to carry all the way through qualifying, bringing his car into the super pole session setting the fastest time during the group sessions. Unfortunately, team teething troubles strike again leaving JEV unable to repeat his earlier efforts and he heads into the race starting P5, which later becomes P4 as Buemi is hit with a post qualifying penalty.
Between qualifying and the race Jean Eric and the rest of the grid compete in an eRace in preparation for the $1 Million eRace taking place in Vegas in the new year. Whist the crowds in Marrakesh are smaller than some may have hoped the fans that are at the circuit flock towards Jean Eric at any opportunity and relish this chance to meet their hero.
Heading into the race as we circulate the grid Jean Eric has a quiet confidence about his ability to turn his P4 into something special. Early race performances vindicate this confidence with JEV moving into a strong P2 ahead of the car swaps. Then disaster, the pit lane speed limiter fails and JEV incurs a drive through penalty. Whilst able to recover and score vital points for the team. Jean Eric is left feeling as though a possible victory has been snatched from his grasp.
After such a challenging result you might expect Jean Eric to be frustrated, and there is no doubt he is, not so much for losing a race win, but because he knows the team can do better. After a few hours debriefing, Jean Eric puts the race behind him, firmly resetting focus towards the next race. He is commitment undiminished, Formula E is his home. A home in which he is determined to win.
Formula E is in a great place. With Jaguar joining the championship, Audi scaling up their involvement, BMW committing to the category and Mercedes taking up a placeholder position, OEMS are falling over themselves to get their place on the grid. The same can be said for host cities, in only 3 seasons Alejandro Agag has secured events in locations Formula One have spent decades trying to get on their calendar. The Championship is growing beyond anyone’s expectations.
The success of Formula E is due in part to the mentality of cost control placed upon teams and organisers. Through staggering development cycles of components teams are not in a position to throw money at a problem to find a solution, instead they are forced to find creative solutions to move up the grid. The result Is exceptionally close racing in which more than half the grid are genuinely capable of winning races on their day. However, the Formula E development cycle could be about to cause the championship a serious headache.
I have followed Formula E since day one of the championship. I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of races and spend time with a variety of people in and around the sport. I am a huge supporter of the championship and the racing, although I have to be honest until attending racing there was always one element of Formula E that I couldn’t get my head around. That was mid race car swapping. Why would a championship designed to promote electric vehicle (EV) technology build prospective EV buyers greatest anxiety, battery range, into the race? For a time, it seemed that OEMS shared the same concerns and to give credit to Formula E, they had a plan. From Season 5, battery technology will be upgraded and the need for a mid race car change will be removed. It is exactly this evolution of technology that has seen BMW commit to the championship.
However, I’m not convinced this is the best direction for the sport. As mentioned until attending a race I was a sceptic of the mid race car change. Why not have two shorter races? It wasn’t until spending time at the London ePrix last season with a group of lifestyle journalists and corporate management that I saw the value of the car change. In explaining how the breakdown of a Formula E race, the most thrilling element of the race without any question was the car change. Witnessing drivers jump from one car to another bought the race to life and gave a very human perspective to the spectacle. It became the talking point of the day and the lynch pin of subsequent questions around the championship. The championship had me and many others converted!
So what happens in Season 5? In theory the range of Formula E batteries will be increased to remove the need for each driver to require two cars to complete a race distance. In theory we could see a lights to flag race with no interruptions. Is this the right direction? Speaking to drivers and team managers at the Marrakesh ePrix last month few seem convinced. Formula E races with no concerns over battery life and range and no need for pit stops could become quite mundane and processional. Drivers talk of their enjoyment of having a unique challenge mid race. A new element of their racing to finesse. Do we realy want to loose this?
No doubt Formula E organisers are more than aware of this and have already started to evaluate how they can change the way in which the championship goes racing to maintain the thrill and strategic element to an ePrix. To help them out along the way I’ve mapped out a few options for them to build into the equation:
Tyre change pitstop: A relatively logical and simple way to maintain the strategic element of ePrix in the post car change era would be to introduce mandatory pitstops for tyre changes. However, Michelin (the control Formula E tyre supplier) have commented in the past that their strategy around motorsport engagement is to showcase durability. They would not want to develop degrading tyres to artificially impact the race. Moreover, pitstops require additional equipment and manpower from the teams. Any savings generated through the removal of a second car would be negated. Formula E is an environmentally conscious sport; tyre changes could be seen to promote a message of waste.
Joker Laps: A seen in World Rally Cross (WRX), introducing the concept of a secondary element to a circuit layout which when taken will increase lap times by a number of seconds. Drivers could be mandated to take a certain number of joker laps during a race, introducing a dynamic element of strategy. Recently crowned WRX champion Mattias Ekström has passionately advocated their introduction in other series commenting “In F1, if you see how close many races were and it’s difficult to follow, if you have a joker lap someone has to do at a certain time, you can also time it different to get free air for a couple of laps, and that time you can launch your attack,”
Of course concerns around open wheel single seaters returning to a racing line from another point on track at full speed would have to be addressed, but Joker Laps would certainly add an interesting element to future Formula E events.
Dynamic induction charging: Qualcomm are a founding partner of Formula E. They work with the championship in the development of new technologies fit for the evolving automotive industry, one such technology is the Halo system. Halo is an induction charging plate currently used by the championship BMW i Safety and Medical cars. The charging plate removes the need to plug an EV into a charging point. This technology will be launched on road going cars in the coming 18 months. The next phase of this technology is to replicate the induction charging technology whilst a vehicle is in motion. Formula E, could look to introduce dynamic charging strips of 100-200 metres around elements of a circuit off the racing line in which drivers could pick up a power boost. Qualcomm have the technology to facilitate this kind of development. It would require additional investment and require extended periods of preparation time at ePrix circuits, but such a move would push Formula E further towards the pinnacle of motorsport technology. An accolade I am sure they are keen to achieve!
So where to next? Formula E is riding a crest of success. The Championship will have it’s work cut out in the coming years to balance the growing demands of a number of OEM’s all of whom expect to win, and the expectations of fans and sponsors to be entertained. Formula E should see the removal of mid race car changes as an opportunity to throw another element of change into racing. They’ve convinced the sceptic once; I trust they will do the same again!
Over the past week various news outlets have reported BP are set to enter Formula One with a $30 Million sponsorship deal heading the way of either Renault or Mclaren. Whilst there is no formal comment from any party to confirm or deny the story, a little bit of a sanity check might be helpful.
The optimisation of current the iteration of Formula One power unit technology is more dependant on fuel and lubricant specificities now more than any time in the history of the sport. Power units and their respective fuel and lubricants are developed in conjunction with each other. Whilst the fuel used in Formula One is made up of 99% the same compounds you would expect to see in the forecourt, the remaining 1% has a huge impact on vehicle performance and is unique to each and every supplier.
At this time there are 4 power unit manufacturers and 4 fuel and lubricant suppliers in Formula One. These are:
Shell with Ferrari
ExxonMobil (Mobil 1 / Esso) with Honda
Petronas with Mercedes
Total with Renault.
All teams using customer power units will use the fuel and lubricant supply defined as above. Any additional fuel and lubricant sponsorship with customer teams are sponsorship partners only. They do not supply the team.
Unlike agreements such as that with BR Petrobras and Williams, given the comparable size and market share BP have to Petronas, Shell, & ExxonMobil it is highly unlikely either party would be prepared to have a customer team run with BP branding and a competitor’s fuel and lubricant supply.
The development of fuel and lubricant solutions is a continual process, at any given time Shell, for example, could have up to 65 compounds in development. Fuel and lubricant partnership is integral to a team. In 2015 Scuderia Ferrari attributed 25% of their performance gains through the season to Shell. Fuel and lubricant suppliers bring trackside laboratories to every F1 race. They analyse the performance of their product after every session. Relationships are so well developed that a fuel and lubricant supplier can and do advise a race team on how to approach race strategy.
Fuel and lubricant suppliers do not enter Formula One for simple brand exposure. They use the sport as a platform to innovate. Innovation reaching the circuit can take as long as five years to hit the forecourt. Formula One engagement is not a short term quick win project.
In short, if BP were to be entering Formula One the undertaking and commitment would require a significant change in business strategy. It would be much more complex than writing a cheque for $30 Million. If a new partnership is not already known it would not be realistic to expect anything for at least 2 years. With all this in mind it seems highly unlikely BP would find an existing power unit manufacturer prepared to leave an existing partner for the foreseeable future.
What could be possible is an acquisition. This could take a number of forms. An existing fuel and lubricant supplier could be looking to exit Formula One. They may look to sell their assets and technology in the sport to BP. With consumers looking increasingly to renewable energy sources the return on investment of motorsport engagement may no longer be what it once was so this is possible.
Another option could be BP acquiring, or being acquired. Both Shell and ExxonMobil have been reported to be considering growth through acquisition strategies. If this was the case, they may look to showcase the BP brand through their premier marketing platform. Equally if BP chose to merge or acquire Shell, Petronas, ExxonMobil, or Total, they may seek to promote the BP brand in F1. At this time it is not possible to entirely dismiss rumours of BP entering Formula One, but one thing is for certain, if a deal does transpire it will be a lot more complex than writing a cheque and putting a few stickers on a car.
Sepang, home of the Malaysian Grand Prix, has seen extensive redevelopment since the 2015 F1 race last March. The circuit first joined the F1 calender in 1999, this redevelopment represents this first significant upgrade since its construction.
Thankfully, rather than focusing exclusively developing the pit and paddock area, the upgrades are largely focused on the circuit itself. Making racing and fans the main benefactors. The entire circuit has been resurfaced, and many corners have been re-profiled. Whilst the layout is unchanged, Italian Circuit design house Dromo have set out to maintain the essence of the circuit and create a new challenge in races.
Earlier this year, a round of the SHELL Advance Asia Talent Cup Championship took place at the venue. This race highlights the impact of the changes, in particular the increase in racing lines into the final corner.
Dromo are the same design house tasked with the upgrades of the Monza circuit, which following the F1 contract extension now appear to have been postponed.