The eagle-eyed F1 Fan will have noticed a few interesting faces in and around the F1 paddock over the weekend of the Austrian Grand Prix. After attending a recent meeting to discuss the future of F1 Power Units a number of Porsche ambassadors made their presence known through the event. As a pundit for Channel 4’s F1 coverage, seeing Mark Webber in the paddock is not an unusual sight. Less usual though was his choice of attire, as pictured below Mark spent much of the weekend wearing Porsche team wear. Similarly, Mark’s former teammate and former Red Bull Junior driver Brendon Hartley attended the Grand Prix and he too wore Porsche team wear combined with a Red Bull cap for much of the weekend.
Of course a logical explanation for this is that both drivers were taking part in demonstration runs through the race weekend, but a far more exciting ‘hollywood’ story is that fresh from having achieved their objectives in the World Endurance Championship securing 3 back to back victories at Le Mans, Porsche are seeking a new challenge. Given Webber’s recent history with Red Bull Racing, he, perhaps under the guise of his ambassador role with Porsche is in someway involved in discussions to bring the two parties together with a role for Brendon Hartley as a driver within the package.
I have stated previously that the relationship between ExxonMobil, BP, and Renault for me is not logical. Fuel and Lubricant solutions must be developed in conjunction with power unit development. It is not possible to define a one size fits all development roadmap for the Renault Power Unit. At some point in the near future, if not, at some point in the past. BP or ExxonMobil will identify a performance opportunity with the Renault power unit which does not favour the other supplier. At this point power unit development will split. Renault will produce one power unit format for the works team and a different solution for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Who will fund this alternative solution, and at what point is a Renault Power Unit no longer a Renault Power Unit?
Could Porsche be considering redirecting budget from the World Endurance Championship, a figure believed to be in the region of $100M towards a power unit development plan in Formula One? Paying Renault to use their technology as a basis for involvement would minimise the risk of ‘doing a Honda’ ensuring reasonable performance from the word go.
One thing is for sure, Porsche are seeking a new challenge, drivers, unlike fans, don’t attend race meetings in team wear when they are not competing for the fun of it. Perhaps in this case 2+2 might just equal 5.
Thanks to Sean Bull for pulling together incredible concept artwork for a Red Bull Racing Porsche mash up.
The eagle eyed F1 fan may have noticed a new name featuring at the Monaco Grand Prix podium, that name, Carbon Champagne. As the name suggests, Carbon Champagne fits perfectly into the world of Formula One, with a unique carbon fibre surround crafted for the premium champagne.
After Mumm Champagne transitioned motorsport involvement from Formula One to Formula E, a decision covered in detail here, Formula One Management partnered with sparkling wine brand Chandon. As followers of this website and JWGP on Twitter, drivers and teams referring to Chandon as champagne had been a continual pet peeve of mine. With this in mind I applaud Formula One Management for bringing a true champagne back to the podium celebration.
Entering into partnership with Carbon Champagne represents a curious strategic development from Formula One Management and possibly hints towards an evolving business strategy. Carbon Champagne fits into the super premium drinks segment both in terms of quality and price point. A single bottle of Carbon Champagne costs between 10 and 20 times that of the podium product it replaces. This partnership perhaps reflects Formula One’s ambition to ensure the sport retains it’s status as the pinnacle of motorsport through association with brands unattainable to the typical fan. It is clear the sport is walking a tightrope seeking to broaden the appeal of the sport and grow the audience, whilst maintinaing and perhaps elevating its premium nature.
Typically the relationship between a champagne partner and a sports championship is more expansive than the three bottles drivers receive during podium celebrations. As a minimum, a champagne partner can expect to see all championship hospitality requirements to be purchased through this relationship. Beyond increased brand awareness earned through Formula One association, this sale will provide a clear return on investment for the brand against any sponsorship fee agreed. With Carbon Champagne this relationship could prove challenging due to the super premium price positioning of the product. Put simply, it may be challenging for Carbon Champagne to be made available within Grand Prix hospitality without increasing ticket pricing, a move unlikely to be well received by patrons of such said hospitality.
The Carbon Champagne Formula One partnership is one of the first under Liberty Media Management, however long the partnership lasts, it represents a clear statement of intent from Liberty Media. Decisions around championship partners will be made to build brand equity not dilute it.
Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo heads to his home Grand Prix, the opening race of the 2017 F1 season, in Melbourne with aspirations of a top result. In this race preview for Mobil One’s The Grid, Ricciardo explains the complexities of preparing for the Melbourne Grand Prix and how the team will be looking complete as many laps as possible through free practice to fine tune setup.
Having experienced the Melbourne podium in 2014 (as result which was taken away following a post race sanction), Ricciardo sets out a clear ambition to reach the top step in 2017 and “taste the big bottle of champagne” Unfortunately for Daniel, with Mumm Champagne being replaced by Chandon last season, should he reach the top step he’ll have to make do with sparkling wine. That being said I’m sure it’ll still taste sweet, even if it’s from a sweaty shoe!
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.”
As part of an overarching agreement between PSA (Parent Company of Citroen DS) and Total, recently extended until 2021, from this weekend’s Buenos Aires ePrix Total will join the DS Virgin Formula E Racing Team.
The Partnership will see Total focuses on the development of dedicated products, lubricants and fluids allowing to improve the car’s efficiency in terms of power, as well as reducing the quantity of energy it consumes.
The announcement of Total’s partnership within Formula E follows the conclusion of the brand’s involvement in Formula One as fuel and lubricant supplier to Renault powered works and customer teams.
Speaking on the partnership Xavier Mestelan Pinon, Director, DS Performance, remarked:
“DS Performance is in Formula E because the series offers a scope for research that no other form of motorsport can currently match. At this stage in the DSV-02’s development, we are exploring solutions to the different constraints we face. Total needs no introduction and our association with them has already harvested valuable efficiency-related gains. The lubricants, fluids and greases Total’s engineers have developed will bring a real plus in terms of performance and are also allowing us to push our own research work even further.”
“Formula E embodies the sporting expression of the evolution of the automotive industry with regard to the energy mix,” said Pierre-Gautier Caloni, Director of Total Competition & Sponsoring. The values of this championship are shared by Total. This partnership with DS Performance will enable our engineers to design, develop and test specific lubricants, fluids and greases under extreme stress conditions. Ultimately, technology transfer will enable electric vehicle owners to benefit from these products. Indeed, at Total, the same researchers formulate the competition products and those for the general public. A real “best-practice” laboratory, Formula E brings real added value to the mobility of all.”
In amongst new driver announcements, car launch dates, eRacing, and calender shuffling, the eagle eyed motorsport fan may have noticed a small but significant change in the name above the door of the current Formula One Constructors Champions over the Christmas period.
Since January 1st 2017, the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team has been re-branded Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. In contacting the team the rationale for the change was explained as a move to harmonise the team with the overall strategic direction of the business. The team went on to explain the change does not necessarily indicate plans for the Brackley based team to expand into other categories, but that the team would not rule out this happening at some point in the future.
With a notice of intent offered to Formula E having been made by the Mercedes Grand Prix in 2016, in effect granting them first refusal on the final team slot in the championship, the harmonisation of Mercedes Motorsport branding could signal team preparations to enter the championship. Another factor to consider could be the rumoured budget cap set to be implemented across Formula One. Mercedes Grand Prix employ over 1200 staff, the salary bill alone could exceed the budget for running a team in future. Diversification of the team into other racing categories would serve to increase Mercedes brand awareness and maintain it’s commitment to the motorsport industry in the UK.
Mercedes’ positions in DTM & GT racing, logically, could also be housed under a single Motorsport entity, possibly located in the UK.
In what may be one of the shortest retirements in recent Formula One history, Williams Martini Racing have confirmed the Felipe Massa will return to the Grove based team for the 2017 season.
Following earlier confirmation that Pascal Wehrlien will join the Sauber F1 Team for 2017, Valterri Bottas’ path to join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes AMG Petronas is now clear freeing up the seat alongside Lance Stroll at Williams for Felipe Massa in 2017.
Speaking about the announcement Felipe Massa said; “Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams. I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve. Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.
“In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I’m grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”
Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal, said; “I’m delighted that Felipe has agreed to come out of retirement to be a part of our 2017 campaign. With Valtteri having a unique opportunity to join the current Constructors’ Champions, we have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to give Valtteri this fantastic opportunity.
“Valtteri has been part of the Williams family since 2010 and in that time has proved a huge talent, securing nine podium finishes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the whole team, and wish him a successful season as he joins Mercedes.
“Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to. He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go. Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us.”
With the 2017 F1 regulations changes set to be the most significant in decades, Williams have been keen to ensure an experienced driver lines up alongside F1 Rookie Lance Stroll.
It is understood Felipe walked away from opportunities within Formula E in order to return to Formula One. Felipe has returned to the team with a single season agreement.
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.