The 2017 Italian Grand Prix served to highlight once again that current Formula 1 regulations around grid penalties for exceeding…
The Formula One circus springs back into life this weekend with the championship heading to Spa for the iconic Belgian Grand Prix. If history is anything to go by we can expect to see Red Bull Racing have made a step forward in performance through the break, and for Lewis Hamilton’s form to kick into high gear.
For the F1 fan during a Grand Prix weekend, it can easy to forget other forms of motorsport exist let alone other forms of sport, but this weekend it will be nigh on impossible to miss the relentless coverage of Mayweather vs McGregor.
Everyone loves a cross over! Mayweather vs McGregor is the sporting world’s ultimate cross over. The undefeated heavyweight boxing champion Floyd Mayweather coming out of retirement to answer the challenge of UFC legend Conner McGregor. Cynics would say it’s all about the money with each fighter set to earn in the region of $200 Million for the night and let’s face it, it is, but who cares?
Give the fans what they want and the world will talk about it. Prepare for every social media record ever set to be broken! It costs more for a sponsor to have their name on Conor McGregor’s elasticated waist for 1 night than it does to be title sponsor of a leading F1 team for an entire season!
How can any other sport compete? Has there ever been a comparable event in motorsport? Could F1 or any other category put on a similar show?
What the world of boxing and UFC have in Mayweather and McGregor are personalities. Neither are backward in coming forward, both believe they are the best in everything they do and both have a constant need to tell the world. Their respective categories embrace this, encouraging them to build their names, which in effect will build the category. They are showman, they are entertainers. Within Motorsports this level of self-adulation isn’t overtly encouraged, the sport is about the team and is often attached to an automotive manufacturer whose reputation could be tarnished by an extrovert driver. In the coming years, should F1 elect to move away from it’s mandate of acting as a basis for automotive development and focus more on entertainment, the Mayweather and McGregor characters could emerge. Until then, we’re stuck with drivers being forced to apologise for sneezing in a way which could damage the brand they represent.
Motorsports is no stranger to a crossover. This year alone, Fernando Alonso was given the opportunity to try his hand in Indycar and proved to be no slouch, drivers often compete in multiple categories such as Jean Eric Vergne racing in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship this season. But when did a champion of one series last race directly against another champion? The simple answer is the annual Race of Champions event, which can attract a high calibre of driver including the likes of Vettel and 2016 champion Montoya, but given the knock out style of the event do they really get to race against each other? Is it really want the fans want?
Motorsport can do better than the Race of Champions. Liberty Media should take inspiration from Mayweather vs McGregor and go all out. What would you like to see them do? Who would you like to see compete?
Finally, how many F1 drivers will be getting up at 5AM / staying up until 5AM on Sunday morning to watch the arguably the greatest sporting event of the year, and how many drivers will dare tweet about it?
Friday free practice running for the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix was all but a complete washout. With conditions at the circuit and the neighbouring city, in which the hospital on call for medical emergencies from the race weekend, too poor for helicopters to operate in, the FIA delayed and eventually cancelled most of the days running.
Current weather forecasts suggest conditions will improve for tomorrow, but are likely to return on Sunday. Should forecasts prove to be accurate there is a real possibility that it will not be possible for the race to take place on Sunday as scheduled. With only a one week turnaround between the Chinese and Bahrain Grand Prix it will not be possible to hold the race on Monday or at a later date. As such FOM, the FIA, teams, drivers, and broadcasters are apparently in talks to host the entire race weekend activities tomorrow.
Within Formula One, there is no prescient for a race taking place a day earlier than scheduled, and in reality with the highly complex global broadcast agreements in place, it is highly unlikely that terms for running the race a day early can be agreed. Sponsors, Broadcasters, race attending fans, teams, will all seek compensation. As such at this point in time the most likely outcome, if the poor weather returns, is that fans will be treated to a four hour broadcast of no track action at all on Sunday.
This will significantly damage the reputation of Formula One globally and most specifically in Asia, a market in which the sport is struggling (note the discontinuation of the Malaysian Grand Prix agreement from 2018 announced earlier today). To avoid such an outcome it is time for Formula One Management to get creative? Could they look towards a solution involving Cloud Seeding?
Cloud seeding is a form of weather modification, a way of changing the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds, by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud. The usual intent is to increase precipitation (rain or snow), but hail and fog suppression are also widely practiced in airports. (thank you Wikipedia). The process could be applied in areas away from the circuit and the route to the hospital supporting the race.
It is understood organisers of the Singapore Grand Prix, have long used this technology to ensure a dry race weekend during the rain season for the region.
The process was used during the 2008 Beijing Olympics to ensure a dry Olympics.
No doubt, as the weekend processes, the weather forecast will evolve and fans concerns will evaporate!
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.
The press release from the FIA can be found here
The Italian Grand Prix saw Heineken formally launch its Formula One partnership. Whilst the Dutch brewer took title sponsorship at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier in the year, Monza was always set to be the event in which the campaign shifted into high gear.
In the weeks preceding the Italian Grand Prix at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, Heineken executives spoke of strategy to bring Formula One to the fans, to improve the race going experience and seek ways in which to engage a millennial audience. If I am entirely honest I was somewhat sceptical. Brands all to often focus Formula One activation strategies around corporate entertainment and business to business network development.
With this in mind, upon arriving in Monza on the Thursday ahead of the Grand Prix the first thing I did was head to the fan village. In recent years the fan village, an area surrounding the circuit open to all ticket holders, has become little more than a few merchandising stands. It can feel as though the interests of the fan have been overlooked. Heineken have gone to great lengths to address this issue erecting a huge pop bar and entertainment space for fans, as pictured below. Whilst the beer isn’t free, prices are reasonable and they have created a communal space for fans away from the circuit.
Building on this, Heineken have addressed another common frustration amongst race going fans. How do you fill your time outside of track action? On Thursday evening, Heineken installed a temporary five a side football pitch on the start finish straight challenging Champions League stars to a game against Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer. Whilst it soon became clear the F1 drivers’ talents did not extend to the football pitch, it was fantastic to see Heineken hosting an event for the public outside of the regular F1 weekend schedule. More than 2000 fans filled the main grandstand to watch the game.
Of course Heineken must also use their partnership within F1 to address the fans at home and it would be naive to think there are no business to business expectations around the agreement. On Friday evening, Heineken set about explaining how these would be addressed. At the core of this session was the launch of the two advertisements Heineken have developed featuring Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard. The production values of both films are incredible, and both have been extremely positively received. So much so, that Freddie Hunt, son of the late James Hunt has suggested Heineken use footage of his father in their next campaign.
— Freddie Hunt (@freddiehunt76) September 5, 2016
To see the Heineken F1 adverts in full click here
What struck me about the Jackie Stewart film in particular was the core of the message. If You Drive, Never Drink. Whilst anti drink drive campaigns are nothing new, making this the fundamental message of a campaign for a beer company is a bold strategy. One unimaginable in other sectors. Heineken should be commended for this approach. They have acknowledged the challenges of associating alcohol with motorsport and addressed it head on. More over they are seeking to evolve an F1 weekend, from 2 hours of racing on Sunday into something much more significant. This is neatly tied up in the tagline ‘more than a race’.
I am hopeful that Heineken’s approach to fan engagement within Formula One, alongside a fresh approach from the sport’s new owners Liberty Media, will apply pressure to existing brands in the sport to do more with fans. In the beverage sector brand loyalty is fundamental to success and if Heineken can demonstrate new customer loyalty through Formula One and through engaging with fans you can be sure more brands will follow and the Formula One experience will only improve.
To read my interview with Heineken ambassador David Coulthard follow this link