Propaganda wars, require a propaganda machine to deliver the required message.
And as Will Buxton posted in his recent blog article, “The Right Formula”, there are those in the F1 media who are helping spread a negative view of Formula One.
In just 24 hours we’ve had a flood of headlines, “Audi entry would be ‘super’ for F1”, “Ecclestone predicts F1 strategy Group Flop” and the most dramatic today, “F1 race promoters demand ‘urgent’ engine rule change.” All these are from Motorsport.com. They, and a host of recent articles have been published there by Adam Cooper, Jonathan Noble and others.
In most of Cooper’s recent articles he reveals he has had exclusive access to Ecclestone. To the casual observer, this may be perceived as a scoop. However, there is a clear polemic and platform being provided for Ecclestone by Cooper, who publishes these pieces without comment or opinion.
Jonathan Noble, ex F1 correspondent of Autosport.com is now accredited with the latest of these shock and awe stories. “F1 race promoters demand ‘urgent’ engine rule change.” Noble reveals, “a direct request has been sent to motor racing’s governing body for it to back a rules overhaul”.
Really? And how would Jonathan know this? Surely even the FIA wouldn’t leak to him bad publicity about their continued insistence that their new F1 engines remain.
The letter has been composed by Ron Walker, the retired promoter of the Australian GP and a long-time friend and ally of Bernie Ecclestone. Walker is the nominal head of a loose organisation by the name of FOPA. (the Formula One Promoters’ Association).
Ron Walker was still the promoter of the Melbourne race when the new V6 Turbo engines first raced in 2014. He was highly critical of them then and his views have not changed since he retired,
However, if you look carefully at what the author Noble writes, the letter to the FIA is not from FOPA and “F1 race promoters” per se; it is a personal letter from Walker. It’s not hard to join up the dots. Copy of letter goes from Walker to Ecclestone, and from Ecclestone to Motorsport.com/Noble.
So crisis over everyone – the circuit promoters are not in revolt. In fact a number of them who opposed the new engine formula, have changed their minds having seen parents bring more children to their events – no longer concerned their young ears will be shattered by the scream of wasted energy going up in sound.
But at the heart of Walker’s engine overhaul proposal, lies the old chestnut that is the Christian Horner suggestion of a simplified V6 bi-turbo unit with a KERS battery bolted on the side. Ecclestone has backed this proposal from the start.
This minutiae is drowned out by the 1,000 BHP headline soundbite and associated rhetorical distractions which dominate the article.
Also unreported, is this power unit solution is not backed by any of the current F1 engine manufacturers. Even Horner’s engine partner Renault have stated this is not how they wish to see the development of future F1 engines.
Christian has merely been flying a kite for Bernie.
F1 writers obviously make money by providing stories for their paymaster’s publications and previously little known web sites pay established authors to gain credibility.
But when a news outlet repeatedly becomes the mouth-piece of Ecclestone, there is more to this than meets the eye.
In fact Motorsport.com, where many of Cooper’s recent articles have been posted, was recently sold. Joe Saward charts the changing ownership of the website in his Nov 2014 article entitled, “The bizzare world of the F1 media”
The site was traded for little more than £20,000 then goes on a recruitment spree that will lead to a huge leap in cost base. One of those costs being a new large salary head above that of $6,640pm previously paid to Motorsport.com’s owner and producer of the GMM news stories.
Avquiring the services of Autosport’s editor Charles Bradley, was the lynchpin which gives the website development project a degree of substance. Then Jonathan Noble, has been Autosport through since 1999 and so this career jump must have been a most attractive proposition.
Adam Cooper writes almost daily for the site, along with other well known writers – though these individuals would most likely be on piece work or a retainer.
So, where has all this big time investment come from. Mike Zoi, whoseT1T Lab LLC operation acquired Motorsport.com has expertise in “strategic development, branding, corporate alliances, corporate websites, and investor relations”.
But why would he take on the financial might of Haymarket Publications who own Autosport, and have dominated this space for some considerable time?
These are unanswered questions, because Zoi has made no comment on this project – though it is hardly insignificant.
The tone of the articles prior to the big pow pow in Biggin Hill appeared to come straight from the FOM spin machine. Which gives an indication of where influence has been brought to bear.
Motorsport.com appear to have been using some ‘interesting practices’. The week before the Biggin Hill meeting, some articles had hundreds of Facebook ‘likes’, whilst others just 2 and 3.
Facebook ‘likes’ can of course be bought.
The articles posted by Motorsport.com have never really attracted more than a hand full of comments. Then in early May, hundreds appeared below many of their posts. A closer examination of these long lists of apparent interaction with the site revealed they were lifted from a Facebook site. Clearly, those posting their opinions were not reading the content above where their comments appeared.
It seems at times, nothing changes in F1-land – but knowing who is operating the megaphone helps us understand why we are hearing a particular message.