Reporters – 05/08/2018

Features Reporters

One of Liberty’s aims, when they brought F1, was to broaden the sports appeal to the fans, last week the woman tasked with that spoke to The Guardian about how she plans to do that and her CV is impressive.  

Norman speaks about broadening appeal

Ellie Norman, the F1 director of marketing and communications, has been speaking to The Guardian newspaper about her plans to broaden the popularity and sustainability of the sport.

The aim she said is to convey the sport to a broader audience and bring passion to he heart of the sport. Speaking to the newspaper, she said “I’ve always had a fascination with cars. I bought a track car when I was 22 – a Porsche 968 Clubsport. I’ve kept it and it’s brilliant: I changed the suspension, upgraded the brakes.”

“It was much to my parents’ horror that I didn’t put a deposit on a flat or something sensible.” Norman grew up watching the sport and attempted to get into racing.

However, the place she excelled was in marketing where she pulled off a big coup by signing up Usain Bolt as part of a campaign to promote Liberty’s UK TV business Virgin Media. She believes, is to connect with fans more effectively and that is already being done by making them feel closer to the drivers. “It’s helmets off and an interview as soon as they step out of the car,” she says.

“We want to capture how athletic and demanding it is. To capture them when they are sweaty and out of breath, the raw emotion rather than a sanitised version. This sort of thing is being put into place to change the perception and to get across how exciting and visceral the sport is.”

Ticket sales for the German Grand Prix rose this season to 70,000, up 12,000 compared to 2016, which was close to selling out Hockenheim. Liberty now works closer with promoters with six monthly group meetings, and are working on ways that F1 and promoters can benefit.

She says that Ross Brawn, managing director motorsports and technical director, is planning for teams to be able to allow teams to go racing but in an “environment that is entertaining, sustainable and delivers what we know our fans want.”

 

This year’s winter testing was literary winter testing, as snow covered much of Barcelona, in a bid to avoid a repeat, plans have been made to move it to Bahrain. However teams are objecting on cost and for logistical reasons, so what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Teams discuss moving tests to Bahrain

Formula One teams are currently discussing plans to move pre-season testing from Barcelona to Sakhir. The Bahrain International Circuit hasn’t been used for pre-season testing since 2014, but has testing between  2006-09 and 2014.

However, that has always been alongside tests in Europe, where the teams have preferred to stay in Europe for testing, for obvious logistical and cost reasons.

The two pre-season tests in Barcelona were heavily impacted by cold weather and snow, leaving teams short of mileage and track time.

Liberty is open to the idea of contributing to freight costs, and that has tipped the balance in favour of going to Sakhir, where good weather and lots of mileage will be guaranteed.

But, the concerns for the teams are the extra time required to fly personnel back and forth, and to ship in new parts.

It is understood that F1 sees Bahrain as potentially a media-friendly place to start the season and that teams will be asked not hide their cars with screens or close garage doors, which is the usual behaviour outside of race weekends.

 

Stoffel Vandoorne’s poor season has lead to questions about his form and his results. Ahead of last weekends Hungarian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso moved to support his teammate. But why does he believe he belongs in F1?

Alonso gives backing to Vandoorne

Fernando Alonso has given his support to his McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne amid his difficulties. The Belgian goes into this weekends Hungarian Grand Prix, with the team unable to resolve the issues with hamper him at Silverstone and Hockenheim.

Despite Vandoorne being a serial title winner in junior series and being in his second full season in F1, he is the only driver on the grid yet to out-qualify his team-mate this year after 11 rounds and scored his last points at the Azerbaijan GP in April.

However, two-time champion says that the former GP2 champion has already proved that he belongs in F1, and says Vandoorne will be closer when the team get to the bottom of the issues affecting his car. He told Sky Sports, “I don’t think it [Vandoorne’s reputation] is going down, the car is what it is.”

“In Silverstone, it was the same case, the car is underperforming. We as a team are trying to find the problem and to have both cars in the same condition and the same performance.”

“He’s shown his talent already. No need to prove [anything]. Being champion in every single series before Formula 1 and he arrives now in a difficult car with some difficulties last year and this year as well.” Alonso believes that when McLaren get on top of those issues that Vandoorne can deliver a normal performance.

Alonso has out qualified Vandoorne at sixteen consecutive races stretching back to Malaysia last September, but the Belgian’s average 2018 qualifying deficit to the two-time world champion had been a respectable 0.236 seconds.

But that gap grew to nine-tenths at Silverstone, which CEO Zak Brown has described as “unusual”.

Alonso believes that Vandoorne has generally proved closer to him on pace than a lot of his past team-mates – citing Kimi Raikkonen as a particular example.

 

Mercedes went into the Hungarian Grand Prix on the back foot, however the turn around on Friday night and wet weather with Lewis Hamilton’s abilities in the wet saw him shock himself with pole…

Hamilton shocked with pole

Lewis Hamilton has described his pole position as a “shock” and “special” after Mercedes out paced Ferrari in wet conditions. While Kimi Raikkonen took provisional pole using used wet tyres, both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas switched to new wets and went faster to lock out the front row.

Hamilton told Sky Sports “As I went into the last lap I knew I had to piece together each sector and really pull something special out. The positioning on the track… I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s quite a shock really.”

Hamilton has always throughout his career has thrived in wet and drying conditions as has his teammate Bottas. Mercedes were lucky to find that performance in the wet as they have been playing down there expectations this weekend as this is a low speed high downforce circuit, suiting Ferrari.

Asked in the press conference whether their performances had proved Hamilton was a better driver than title rival Vettel, Hamilton replied: “I know the answer to that question but it’s for you and the public to judge that.”

 

Force India entered administration last week, however, the team insists that this is just to force the sale of the team. So why does Rich Energy claim its bid has been rejected?

Rich Energy claims it could buy Force India

The British energy drink company Rich Energy is claiming that it could buy Force India who went into administration last week, despite its earlier bid being rejected.

Rich has claimed that they have been negotiating with the team all season, but has repeatedly been rejected. The latest offer was tabled last Friday, however the £30 million sponsorship deal was dismissed because it was not deemed an offer that would help the team.

The plan was for two £15m instalments, however they were considered insubstantial by the judge given the weight of the team’s debt and it was considered better to place Force India into administration. This has been well received by most parties, including senior figures at the team and its creditors Mercedes and BWT.

William Storey, Rich Energy’s CEO told Motorsport.tv, he had backing from “four sterling billionaires” reported to include West Ham United Football Club owners David Sullivan and David Gold, had a contract to buy the team in May but was held back by lawyers on the team’s side.

Despite the support from the paddock after entering administration, Storey claims it was a “wholly avoidable and tragic outcome”. Storey would not “specifically outline what our plans are” but said Rich Energy would “be in Formula 1 sooner or later.”

“We’ve got the money to do so, the business model and the reasons to do it. Having spent six months working on Force India we’re not going to relinquish that overnight.”

He also says his group are ready to go and more than capable of buying the team. There are believed to be four serious offers on the table, for the administrators FRP Advisory to consider, to be linked to development driver Nikita Mazepin, Lawrence Stroll, the father of Williams driver Lance.

As well as two American consortiums, one involving IndyCar team boss Michael Andretti and his driver Alexander Rossi’s father Pieter; and one that includes ex-baseball franchise boss Jeff Moorad.

Rich Energy needs to convince to administrators, and creditors like Mercedes, that it is more credible than these well-established competitors.

 

And that’s all from Reporters this week, goodbye

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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