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Previously on TJ13:
OTD Lite: 1906 – The first ever Grand prix
Today marks the anniversary of what is officially recognised as the first ever ‘Grand Prix’. 108 years ago the competitors lined up to participate on the 64 mile lap based near Le Mans, France.
It was originally organised by the Automobile Club de France to circumvent regulations which limited the amount of cars a country could enter into the prestigious ‘Gordon Bennett’ races – seemingly French politics have always been prevalent in motor-sport!
The Grand Prix would be held over two days and the drivers would lap the circuit six times on both days. A combined race distance of 1,238.16 miles, the winning driver – Hungarian Ferenc Szisz – won in 12 hours, 14 minutes driving a Renault. Felice Nazzaro followed over 30 minutes behind in his FIAT. In total, 11 of the 23 cars finished, with the leading Mercedes over four hours behind…
The prestige of the race practically doubled Renault’s sales within the year and increased a similar amount in 1908 and until the First World War it remained the only annual race to be called a ‘Grand Prix”
Mercedes gives you wings
Form an orderly line for F1 engines please
One thing is certain, as McLaren toddles off to Honda, Mercedes will have no shortage of suitors wishing to insert the German F1 engine manufacturer’s power plant inside their 2015 chassis. Further, the fact that McLaren were known to be offski sometime before the final deals were done for between F1 hybrid engine suppliers and customers is likely to mean the odd savvy team will have negotiated opt out clauses from the current engine deals.
Either that, or a scorched earth policy may work. Don’t pay Renault F1 for this year’s engine, get kicked off their list as a customer and BINGO! You can switch to Mercedes power for 2015……..Oh yes, Lotus is trying that one at present.
Caterham are unlikely to be in F1 next year – certainly in their present form – so we can cross them of the list of possible Mercedes engine customer’s for 2015.
Marussia are a possibility, though for them on the budget they have, the difference a Merc engine would make of the Ferrari is probably marginal. Add to this, Ferrari have been fairly benevolent with Marussia in terms of credit and technical support.
Sauber have been in bed with Ferrari for almost ever and a day, with the, exception of a couple of adulterous interludes. If it wasn’t Ecclestone who bailed them out to the tune of $10m earlier this year, then the only other reasonable benefactor would have to have been the team in Red.
Where Red Bull go, little Italian Rosso Bull will follow as it appears a deal has already been done behind the scenes to allow teams to share more common components.
So this leaves Lotus. If Alain Prost fails to get his way and see Renault invest in a full works team, then surely Enstone will opt for the Mercedes power train in 2015 – and Mercedes will oblige – of course following a substantial up-front payment to indicate ‘good faith’.
Getting new fans to F1
The team principal FIA press conference event in Austria was interesting indeed. Fresh from their Biggin Hill F1 commission wrangling, for the most all the major players from the team appeared to be on the same page.
The recurring theme was F1 needs to engage more with new fans. Presumably this is based upon the 50m fall in viewer numbers this year which has set the cat amongst the pigeons.
Social media and fan engagement were repeatedly trotted out as solutions for the current malaise F1 finds itself in. Yet the only real detail of what could be done emerging from the eminent panel included the trading of twitter follower numbers and whose show car did the most promotional events – quite depressing.
Having been silent since his departure from Maranello, Stefano Domenicali emerged at the FIA’s annual Sport Conference, held this year ironically in Munich. He was part of a panel led discussion on “How to grow motorsport in a changing world”.
Dominelicali outlined the difficulties facing Formula 1 in terms of competing stakeholders who all demand satisfaction of some sorts. “First of all we need to talk about an incredibly large base of licence holders, support networks, teams, manufacturers and fans, so it would be wrong to say there is only one thing to do – it would be to look at only one part of the motor sport cake.
We are talking about a thing that connects different people of different ages and cultures. You have older people who want to simply go racing and enjoy it and then younger people who want to enjoy a different experience. You have manufacturers who have marketing and technical interests and teams who generally have an interest in pure racing. You have to keep developing for all these different communities.”
Clearly Stefano has lost none of his political astuteness, but following these two short paragraphs the listener is inclined to switch off, depressed, because the task is too great. Domenicali goes on to outline the key requirement of developing the sport for younger generations.
“We need to have a strategy. We need to be integrated with the stakeholders promoting all of the different categories. Without an integrated communication plan we will be disconnected. This week will be important in getting all of those stakeholders together, in finding out what each one is dealing with and hopefully then they can formulate a plan and choose the main route to follow. It’s important to act quickly”.
More corporate speak – and no plan of action.
This week, the FIA signed a long term deal with Gran Turismo developer Polyphony to promote new games platforms and to regulate a new FIA online gaming world championship.
This may see F1 enter the world of online championships where participants from across the world can compete with each other in real time. Further, a gaming option where competitors can race live during the current GP against the real drivers – as it happens – is not too far in the distant future.
“That’s important for those want to be in the show”, adds Domenicali, “but we also need to appeal to people who are purely sports fans and who want to challenge the professional or the champion through games or interactive experiences. One thing I learned from looking at the American market, in different disciplines, is that fans want to be the one challenging the most important player in basketball or whatever. Fans want to be the protagonist. If we can provide that it will help our entire movement to be connected to fans.
For young people who want to get involved as drivers it has to be affordable, otherwise it is impossible. Here there is a dichotomy. New technology at the beginning is expensive. We need to find a balance. If we are too aggressive on new technology we run the risk of losing the passion of motor sport. We need to balance it carefully”.
This is all well and good, but the most significant factor – BY FAR – affecting F1 viewership numbers is TV exposure. The drive towards pay-per-view was always going to reduce the number of people watching F1… it is currently doing so… and will continue to do so further into the future
A great F1 gaming platform is a good idea, but in reality it will attract only gamers to F1 – and will be limited to those with a penchant for racing games.
There was apparently some good news on the horizon this week as NBC Sports reported the highest ever viewing audience figures for a Formula 1 race, broadcast in the USA – for the Canadian GP.
However, in the F1 heartlands of Europe, figures are on the decline. The UK viewing audience had finally recovered in 2011 to almost the peak levels of the late 1990’s only to suffer a huge slump in 2012 as half the races were no longer shown live on free to air TV.
SKY and other pay-to-view channels have since been sweeping Europe, and there too, the viewer numbers are now in decline.
Formula 1 is in big trouble, simply, because it is too expensive to access. Whether it be to go to a race where ticket prices are exorbitant, or because ordinary people can’t afford the TV subscriptions.
Tweeting and gaming and facebooking and video blogging are all very well and good, but they need to be set against a sensible sustainable business model for the sport as a whole. And for now, there is absolutely no sign of a breakout of financial common sense on the horizon, nor even for some years to come.
Here’s a picture been flying around the web for the past 24 hours. Apologies to the creator as we cannot find your name to credit you….
Think what Ferrari could do if they entered LMP1
FIA software causing problems again
“Stereotypes – a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”
Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s Italian cars were made of tin foil grade steel. Whilst this would have been acceptable in the motherland’s climate, one whiff of the rain which permeates Northern Europe reduced them to rust as soon as they left the dealership and despite the extraordinary success in World Rallying of the Lancia Integrale – the Italian manufacturer eventually withdrew from the UK marketplace in the early 90’s. To this day, the reputation of crumbling metal has been maintained as an Italian build issue despite the cars being built with galvanised steel for over twenty years.
People forget that Vauxhall had similar problems a generation before and today’s Nissan was a re-naming from Datsun because they too suffered chronic rust issues. In 2014 for quality and reliability you buy German and Japanese manufactured cars. The French manufacturers deliver excitement and fun but still the Italian cars carry a reputation of unreliability. Mention of Italian electrics will have any Italian car or bike aficionado nodding knowingly.
Ferrari’s success a decade ago is attributed to the work of a German, Briton, South African and Frenchman – who took over the self-destructive team of Italians and made them fighting fit. Even to this day, this cliched stereotype holds sway with observers. As recently as the Australian Grand Prix when it was discovered that the Ferrari’s were handicapped by coding supplied by the FIA; the general rule of thumb is that in some way it was the input of Italians that was really the cause.
Yet Red Bull – undoubtedly the greatest Formula One team over the last five years suffered similar problems due to the FIA software. Thierry Salvi, the head of Renault engines for the team revealed after Austria that Sebastien Vettel’s retirement was attributed to a FIA sourced software malfunction which has been highlighted to the governing body earlier this season.
“There are several possible settings for the driver to use with the engine – including a setting that is activated by a button to deliver more power which automatically sets a different engine mapping.
When Sebastien pressed the button to start the race, there was a problem with the control unit. After digging deeper into the problem we think it is due to a bug in the car’s software which is unfortunately not managed by us but by the FIA.
The issue will be resolved for the next race – I think. We have already made the FIA aware of this bug earlier in the year and the Federation released a new version of the software to resolve the issue but apparently it has not.”