Tag Archives: Formula 1

Formula One: The Race behind the Races

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The 2018 French Grand Prix is the first race of Formula One’s Triple header. Over three successive weeks, Formula One will first the South of France, the mountains of Speilberg, Austria, and the more than likely soggy Silverstone.

Whilst the prospect of back to back to back races may leave drivers and fans drooling, the prospect is a little more daunting for the supply and logistics team tasked with ensuring each event runs seamlessly.  In the 48 hours following each event DHL, The Official Formula One Logistics Partner, is tasked with moving more than 1000 tonnes of freight safely and on time.

“For the spectators at the track and in front of their TV sets view, a Grand Prix is a huge spectacle,” says Martin Pople, Trackside Manager at DHL. The logistical effort behind it, on the other hand, remains invisible to the spectators: “A single race weekend involves months of planning and the work of two dozen of our specialists,” explains Pople. The fact that this “race behind the race” is fast and safe is also due to the expertise of the DHL specialists.

 

The challenge ahead for DHL and the race teams themselves is not something drivers take for granted, Force India driver Esteban Ocon, reflecting “When I was a kid I wanted to race every day, so now it’s coming alive, that dream. I think, on the other hand, I’m thinking about the mechanics, all the people travelling around Europe, the truckies, everybody in the teams, you know, building up those beautiful hospitalities and tents and all that. This is going to be very hard for them, so we need to make life as easy for them as we can, because at the end, we are a team, so we need to support everybody.”

Since the 2018 F1 Triple Header was announced, teams and support crew will have been evaluating the most efficient way in which to manage both the physical and logistical challenge the schedule creates. The team that comes out of top come Sunday evening in Silverstone will likely be very well placed for the remainder of the season.

As with any support role, the role of the DHL Specialists will likely and for their sake hopefully go largely unnoticed. Their role is to ensure on time in full delivery of the championship and teams needs. When they manage this, they’ve done their job. The painstaking work required to ensure this performance will likely pass most people by.

So when if with three successive F1 race weekends, your thirst for F1 news isn’t quenched, check out the DHL Triple Header Diary for all the latest information plus fascinating background stories from Le Castellet, Spielberg and Silverstone.  dhl.com/F1TripleHeader

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Formula One: Arm the Sprinklers!

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Formula One returns to Paul Ricard this weekend for the first French Grand Prix in twenty years. The legendary circuit redeveloped in the early 2000’s under the guidance of former CEO Phillipe Gurdjian, has in recent years become a venue of choice for Formula One tyre development testing and was the logical home for the return of Formula One to its spiritual home of France.

Redevelopment of the Paul Ricard circuit was initially focused on the venue hosting racing testing and development programmes. Succesful completion of this objective came in the form of the FIA awarded the circuit as First Centre of Excellence for Motor Sport Safety. This recognition comes in part due to the layout of the circuit, it’s approach to run off areas and ability to sustainably simulate dynamic weather situations. As mentioned in an early article here on JWGP available here.

Whilst the venue’s approach to vehicle safety, through large tarmac covered run-off areas, perfectly lends itself to performance testing, minimising the risk of a driver being penalised for on-track errors and will likely lead to teams pushing the boundaries of track limits throughout the Grand Prix weekend. Coupled with this, the current philosophy surrounding Formula One aerodynamics have left many well informed observers to suggest overtaking will be somewhat of a challenge through the race:

With this in mind Formula One is at risk of a fourth successive event in which on track excitement looks set to be minimal. But worry not, there is a solution! As mentioned the Paul Ricard HTTT (High Tech Test Track) has a visionary trick up its sleeve, under the guidance of previous circuit owner Bernie Ecclestone and more recently his ex-wife Slavica, the circuit has an inbuilt sprinkler system.

The system is capable of simulating a multitude of wet weather scenarios at the touch of a button. Formula One returning to France and Paul Ricard offers owners Liberty Media the ability to bring to life the long-promised proposal from Mr Ecclestone to spice up Formula One through the use of sprinklers! (check out some of  his other proposals here)

Of course, with no announcement of such trial being made prior to the race weekend, Liberty Media will have to manufacture a scenario in which the magic sprinkler system can be activated by mistake thus creating global media coverage for an otherwise uninspiring event.  Winne Harlow, what are you up to this weekend? 😉

Formula E: Massa’s Formula E Prospects – S5 Silly Season

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Viewers of the 2018 Spanish GP tuning in for Martin Brundle‘s grid walk over the weekend saw, in a not at all preplanned interview, Felipe Massa discuss the prospect of him joining Formula E in the not too distant future. Having tested Formula E machinery last year, Massa has an understanding of the category and clearly sees a future for himself in the championship.

Season five of Formula E will see the launch of the Gen2 car. With it comes increased power, the removal of mid-race car changes, and increases in the application of aerodynamics. This coupled with huge OEM support makes the championship more compelling than ever for drivers at any stage of their career. That being said, I find Felipe Massa’s interest in the championship curious. Formula E is a championship made up of street circuits, looking back at Massa’s track record around the streets of Monaco, city circuits on the face of it are not his strong suit.

Speaking to senior team members on the topic of the Gen2 machinery, significant concern raised has been around the size of the rear diffuser, the extent to which it is exposed and that with current designs it forms part of a single piece floor panel. Repair costs in Formula E are expected to increase dramatically in Season five, with this in mind teams should be looking for Street Circuit Specialists.

Nevertheless. The prospect of a Former F1 driver with a huge Brazilian following possibly heading to Formula E serves as sufficient justification for a quick-fire look at the Formula E silly season rumours and paddock gossip.

First to remove from the list of potential homes for Massa has to be the big hitters from Germany. Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi have a huge pool of drivers at their disposal. They are highly unlikely to offer a seat to Massa over a contracted driver. With a fantastic showing from Abt in Season four and a season plagued by technical failings for current champion Di Grassi, expect Audi to maintain their current line up into S5 and beyond.  For S5, Mercedes have opted for a soft launch to their entry into Formula E via longterm motorsports partner HWA with customer technology from the Venturi Team. Through S4 Mercedes loaned out works drivers Engel and Mortara to the Venturi Team presumably with the plan for them to graduate to HWA in S5. Mercedes departing DTM at the end of 2018 also free’s up the likes of Paul Di Resta and Pascal Wehrlein. I expect HWA and Venturi to field works Mercedes Drivers for Season five of the Formula E championship.

Having said that with Venturi being a Monaco based entry, arguably there are some links to Monaco resident Felipe Massa. It is possible the team could be a home for the Brazilian in Season 5.

Moving to BMW, Season five will see the Bavarian Marque step up its commitment and investment in the championship, Felix da Costa will likely retain his place with the team operated by Andretti Autosport, BMW future participation in DTM will likely determine the driver in the second seat. Porsche will step into Formula E from season six, with in-house driver, André Lotterer set to be retained by Techeetah for Season 5 he will be well placed to take the lead position with Porsche upon their arrival. Alongside the German, Porsche have options on a number of WEC championship winning drivers.

On the subject of Techeetah, Massa is unlikely to find a home for season five with the current championship leaders. Jean-Eric Vergne has shaped the team around him, he is unlikely to find a more amiable seat on the grid. Lotterer having now found the form that escaped him in the first half of the season will more than likely be retained by the Chinese team as they look towards a full works status future.

On to mid-season championship favourites Mahindra. Team Principle Dilbagh Gil will be doing everything in his power to ensure Felix Rosenqvist remains with the team for Season 5 and well beyond. With Felix, Mahindra has a future champion in their team, they simply need to give him a consistent car in which to deliver. Nick Heidfeld’s season with Mahindra has been a challenge, his knowledge in setting up a car a maximising potential continues to prove invaluable to the team, but could his skills be best placed in a role similar to Pedro De La Rosa’s with Techeetah? Freeing up a seat with Mahindra for a young talent, perhaps in the form of Jehan Daruvala?

Jaguar Racing is another team which to my mind could offer a seat to Felipe Massa. Season four has seen the team improve dramatically after a challenging first year in the championship. Essentially operated via Williams F1, Massa has strong links to the structure of the team. However, Piquet is understood to have a long-term agreement with the team, and Mitch Evans has more than proved his worth this season. The team would do well to retain their line up into S5.

Then to Dragon Racing. The team have struggled this season, and don’t appear to have any short-term solutions in sight. Massa would only look to move to Formula E if he had a chance of winning races. Dragon are unlikely to be able to offer this until the Blue Oval comes on board.

That leaves, Renault Nissan eDams,  Vigin Envision Racing, and NIO Formula E team, All of whom I believe are the most likely candidates for Felipe Massa in Formula E. The Renault eDams team will become Nissan in Season five of Formula E. As the most successful team in Formula E with 3 constructors championships they offer the levels of success Felipe Massa is likely to expect. With Alain Prost recently selling his stake in the team it can be expected Nico, after a very difficult season, will likely leave the team ahead of Season five. Buemi is understood to be under an agreement, and Nissan seemingly doesn’t have an issue with him representing Toyota in WEC alongside his commitments in Formula E with them. Whilst my first choice for the seat alongside Buemi in the Nissan Formula E team would be Nissan EV ambassador Margot Robbie, a more likely candidate should Massa not be considered would be Jann Mardenborough.

In season five Virgin Racing is expected to lose it works manufacturer status, it is expected the team, the majority shareholding of which was recently sold to Chinese Energy group Envision will switch to a customer Audi partnership moving forward. Current driver and championship contender Sam Bird will likely remain loyal to the team with whom he entered Formula E, teammate Alex Lynn’s place seems less secure. Massa could be attracted to a race winning Power Unit in Audi and Race Winning team set up with the Virgin Racing Establishment, but the reduced testing opportunities offered to a non- works team will make getting up to speed with the intricacies of Formula E a real challenge as evidenced by André Lotterer in this season.

Finally, to the NIO Formula E Team, the team who in my opinion are most likely to offer the conditions Felipe Massa might expect from a Formula E team. They are well funded, they have delivered a world championship, with Nelson Piquet in Season One, and continue to prove on occasion they have the pace to run at the front. Oliver Turvey will likely retain his seat with the team for Season five and continue to maximise the potential of the car at every opportunity, running Massa alongside him would bring much-needed media coverage to the team and offer a face to the broader NIO EV global rollout.

Time will tell if Felipe Massa makes the move over to Formula E for the launch of the championships Gen2 machinery. Perhaps his following in Brazil will bring the championship to the country and facilitate the World Championship status Formula E management are working to secure. I’m not convinced Formula E needs Felipe Massa, and Felipe Massa’s bank balance is unlikely to need Formula E. In my opinion, the championship should not become the home for drivers coming to the end of their career in Formula One, rather the pinnacle for young drives proving their worth in the future of motorsport.

Following recent news regarding another arrival to Formula E for the Berlin ePrix this weekend I have to say I have a similar opinion about the commentary box.

Formula One: KangarooTV Returns!

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In 2006, incredibly over a decade ago, I travelled to the Italian Grand Prix with my then girlfriend, now wife, her sister and my future best man. Alongside watching Lewis Hamilton secure his GP2 title and Michael Schumacher retire for the first time, we experienced technology which we felt was going to revolutionise Formula One for the race attending fan. KangarooTV!

KangarooTV offered race attending fans a service in which you were able to rent a handheld device from onsite vendors which received the FOM world feed and commentary via transmitters located around the circuit. In the seasons following Kangaroo TV which went on to become FanVision and became a stable of our Grand Prix experiences. As geeks, we happily wasted a Friday walking through the forests surrounding Spa to test the strength of the transmission. When KangarooTV FanVision’s agreement with FOM was not extended, from memory 3-4 years after the introduction, We were extremely disappointed.

Seeing the Formula One press release yesterday announcing the return of FanVision created mixed emotions. On the one hand, this is fantastic for the race attending fan. The service enables fans at the race a way in which to follow the race, without needing to watch a repeat when they get home, but the technology is over 12 years old! Formula One is meant to present the Pinnacle of Motorsport, this by definition means the product offering should be at the forefront of technological advances.

I expected the 2018 FanVision to be a device agnostic solution. FanVision should be a service race attending fans can access via their phones through the ticket in their eWallet. Long range wireless charging should encompass the circuit on a 5G Network. All of this should be sponsored by the leading telecommunications provider of the country the race is located. FanVision should be a tool for technology leaders to bring to life the latest tech aimed at improving our day to day lives.

So with the formal announcement of the return of FanVision, I’m calling out longterm F1 partners Tata Communications, and team partners; Qualcomm, Microsoft, AMD, IBM, Acronis, Kaspersky.  As a lifelong fan of F1 and a bit of Technology Geek, I expected more!

To Sean Bratches & Albert Goma, “Engineered Insanity” is not reintroducing decade old tech. Formula One should do better than this, and to be honest, Formula E would do better than this.

For more on the return of FanVision in F1 or to hire a unit for your own Grand Prix plans this season head to Discover Grand Prix via this link

Formula One: Ricciardo Uncovered

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In the aftermath of the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which saw Aston Martin Red Bull Racing teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen collide after a race long battle for position, many questions have been raised as to how the team should respond and what happens next. When contemplating the options moving forward, opinions and viewpoints aren’t always based on a fair representation of a situation or the individuals involved.

Opinions and judgements from fans and in many cases the media as to the temperament and character of a driver are more often than not based on 2-3 minute sound bites from drivers over a race weekend. It is easy to build a false impression of a driver and their perspective on issues.

Over the past 12-24 months, long-form interviews in the form of independent podcasts have grown significantly in popularity, offering a platform for individuals to offer a greater level of insight into their personalities and what makes them tick. Earlier this year Natalie Pinkham launched her own series of podcasts “In the Pink” with Daniel Ricciardo being one of the first guests.

Recorded ahead of the 2018 season, the interview covers everything from his upbringing in Perth, his almost entirely trouble free, save for a small incident with superglue, school life, to his taste in music, and self-belief. When fans seek to understand the man behind the smile, and what may or may not be going through his head following the incident in Baku, they would do well to listen to this podcast.

It would be great to see other drivers follow Ricciardo’s lead and sit down for an hour or so to record an hour ‘in the Pink”!

To download Daniel Ricciardo’s’ interview with Natalie Pinkham or subscribe to ‘In the Pink’ on the Acast network follow this link.

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Formula One: Can F1 afford to wait until 2021?

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Barely a day goes by without one of the leading motorsport websites publishing comments around the future plans for F1. From louder engines to racing game inspired car designs, 2021 will amaze and inspire a new generation of fans. All of which sounds great, but it’s 2018. There are 3 seasons of Formula One between now and the promised fantastical future. The landscape of the motorsport industry can and will change dramatically in 3 years. Can Formula One really afford to wait?

2017 saw the introduction of the current set of technical regulations guiding the sport. Whilst cars are visually more impressive than there predecessors with the dimensions of the cars and tyres increasing. An overall increased emphasis on aerodynamics has had a dramatic impact on drivers ability to overtake with the 2017 season seeing less than half the number of overtakes of 2016.  At present, there appears to be no plan to address this issue, with the 2018 regulations seeing no modifications around aerodynamic regulations.

Mindful of a likely closer battle for wins, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, may have focused the aerodynamic philosophies of their 2018 challengers around an ability to more closely follow a competitor, but without regulation changes a significant increase in overtaking from 2017 to 2018 is unlikely.

All this comes at a time the commercial positions of Formula One are coming under threat. Longstanding partners involved in the championship are defecting to the likes of Formula E or other sports, and at this time, prospects for new partnerships appear limited. With the Formula One business focusing their attentions towards 2021 why would a partner commit to the championship ahead of the ‘revolution’? The Formula One product from 2018 -2020 may be a difficult product to sell.

It is possible, Formula One management are focusing taking a strategy of focusing to the future with the view and expectation of teams demanding an earlier introduction of new regulations. With the Season 5 Formula E car set to make its public debut in the coming weeks, and Indycar looking strong with a new car concept, competition between championships is ever growing. Can Formula One and the teams committed to its success afford to wait another 3 years for change?

Formula One: JB Launches Jenson Button TV!

Following in the footsteps of fellow former World Champion Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button has launched his own YouTube channel to chronicle his adventures post F1.

VLOG001, released earlier today, features Button and his crew heading to Sepang to test the Super GT Honda NSX he plans to race through 2018. Adopting a style similar to that of Jon Olsson, Button offers almost behind the scenes like insights into his life alongside glamour shots coupled with a chilled soundtrack.

Similar to the only professional racing driver I’ve had the pleasure to share a car with, early on in the Vlog, Button demonstrates the true level of respect racing drivers have for the handbrake of rental cars…

Vlogging, similar to blogging, or podcasting allows the host to present themselves to an audience in a way in which they feel most comfortable. Free from broadcast restrictions, hosts control what they share and when they share it. That being said, this being Button’s first post, the extent to which he posts content through his channel and the amount of his daily life he chooses to share remains to be seen.

Similar to Nico Rosberg’s YouTube Channel, Button’s motive behind this level of engagement isn’t overtly clear. Fan’s will appreciate the access and the feeling of inclusion, beyond this, as Jon Olsson will attest, developing a following in the Vlogging space can prove extremely lucrative and facilitate the fulfilment of the most unthinkable personal goals. (check out Jon Olsson’s Youtube Channel here for more)

Subscribe to Jenson Button TV here

Enjoy Mr Snow!

Formula One: Preparing for the budget cap

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The Liberty Media vision for the future of Formula One Teams is clear. The owners expect 12 commercially viable, profitable, franchises all capable of challenging for race victories. In his role as Managing Director of Motorsports, Ross Brawn, has been mandated with the task of delivering a strategy to ensure this vision is achieved.

12 commercially viable & profitable teams, on paper, sounds fantastic. With the variable of available finances removed, the resourceful nature of F1 teams will truly be put to the test. Outwardly it seems as though there is widespread support from the teams for such a move. Afterall, what business wants to spend more money? With representatives from leading teams including Red Bull Racing emploring Liberty Media to ‘ Save F1 Teams from themselves’ the route to implementing a budget cap should, in theory, be straightforward.

However, As with any commercial decision in Formula One nothing is straightforward. The first major hurdle to overcome is the existing structure around payments and the legacy of disparity. In 2017 Joe Saward explained the complexities around the current structure in this article. The existing structure rewards success and longevity, a something which is not overly inviting to a new team, nor geared towards a midfield team ever being in a position to surprise. In an estimated payment fund of $900M per season, the top 3 teams receive approximately 60% of the revenue, leaving the remaining, currently 7, teams to compete for 40% ($360M) between them. It is estimated that the smallest operational budget in F1 today is in the region of $100M, with only $50M coming from the championship, teams have a significant shortfall to cover.

A more appropriate payment structure would be equal distribution amongst all teams, with a proportional bonus for constructors championship position, similar to that seen in the Premier league as detailed here.  Unfortunately, in order to reach this point, the largest teams, with operational budgets believed to be in excess of $400M per season must agree to a cut in support from the system under which their team structure has been developed. What business would agree to lose as much as 50% of its funding without a clear view of how it will cut costs or increase revenue through other ventures.

Convincing; Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Ferrari, and Mercedes Grand Prix to agree to this change will be one of the key tasks ahead of Ross Brawn through 2018 and 2019 if a new system is to be introduced under the new commercial vision for the sport in 2020.

The task is far from simple, the infrastructure of the top teams has been built around a mindset of a limitless budget. If a budget cap of $150m per season were to be introduced in 2020 with no consultation from the teams, it would be almost impossible for the top teams to comply. From a personnel headcount perspective alone a team such a Mercedes Grand Prix, with in excess of 1400 employees, if an average salary of $50,000 is applied, the team commit 46% of its budget to salaries before considering building a car. Without modifying the current team structure, introducing a budget cap within the next 3 seasons, unless Liberty Media expect teams to make more than 50% of their workforce redundant, is not feasible.

On a more positive note, there are indications that the top teams in question are preparing for the change. A budget cap in Formula One will not mean that the likes of operating entity such as Mercedes Grand Prix or Red Bull Racing will be limited to an expenditure of $150M per season, rather their allocation of resources to F1 will see this limit applied.

As a result, it is highly likely that diversification will be a key element to the future of F1 Teams. Over the past decade, McLaren and Williams have established an industry-leading position in the application of engineering solutions developed to improve performance in motorsport being incorporated into manufacturing processes and commercial entities.  For these teams, this third-party business will likely continue to grow. it is, however,  unlikely Ferrari or Red Bull Racing will view this as an appropriate use of resources or brand credibility.

Instead, expect the very top teams to move towards expanding their foothold in other forms of motorsport.

  • Mercedes Grand Prix has already made steps in this direction with the announcement of a commitment to Formula E team from season 6 of the championship. This alongside the development of the Mercedes Project One, which to many is a clear indication of Mercedes ambitions to return to Endurance Racing. A return which with LMP1 regulations under review and the prospect of the reinvigoration of the FIA Global Engine strategy, Mercedes are well positioned to find success.

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Credit to Sean Bull Design for the concept Mercedes Formula E livery 

  • Similarly, Red Bull Racing through their partnership with Aston Martin has acknowledged an interest in taking the Valkyrie racing, and under guidance from Ross Brawn will no doubt be seeking to bring the Toro Rosso team entirely in-house.

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  • McLaren has taken the decision to take control of their GT programme, and have already explored further engagements in championships including Indycar following the positive coverage generated through the one-off partnership with Andretti Autosport at the Indy 500 in 2017.

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  • Ferrari continually talks of a return to Endurance Racing, and could, similar to Red Bull Racing consider a strategy of an in-house B-team with which budget cap compliance could be achieved.

In conclusion, political posturing between the top teams in Formula One, Ross Brawn, and Liberty Media throughout the 2018-19 seasons will likely overshadow on-track performances. Fans of the sport should take any empty threats from top teams to walk away from the sport as just that. Empty threats. The financial implications of such a move make the option unviable. Instead, teams will double down on motorsport, getting involved with more championships, with the eventual winner being the fans.

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Formula One: Confirmed – Renault will not feature in McLaren team name designation

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McLaren has confirmed that Renault will not be referenced in the official team name designation for the 2018 season. Whilst Renault branding will feature within the team environment and livery as would be expected in a customer power unit relationship, the team will not be referred to as McLaren Renault.

As speculated on this site in September 2017, such a move will facilitate a single focus for the McLaren brand and enable consistent naming conventions should the team implement its own Power Unit solution under future F1 regulations.  Unlike fellow Renault customers, Red Bull Racing, McLaren have not taken the route of rebadging their Power Unit.

The Renault Power Unit supplied to Red Bull Racing has been badged TAG Heuer since 2016, in an agreement which saw the LVMH owned brand end a long-standing partnership with McLaren switching to the Milton Keynes based team.

The naming convention surrounding Toro Rosso’s relationship with power unit partner Honda is yet to be confirmed.