F1 IN­SIDER

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - AN­THONY ROWLINSON @Rowl­in­son_F1

Ex­pert opin­ion and anal­y­sis

01

If you build it they will come. And if you stage a For­mula 1 street dis­play amid some of Lon­don’s most recog­nis­able land­marks, then they will cer­tainly turn up – in their tens of thou­sands.

The F1 Live Lon­don event, held around Trafal­gar Square and White­hall just be­fore the Bri­tish GP, proved a truth that’s easy to take for granted: For­mula 1 re­mains a hugely pop­u­lar sport, still very ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing hearts, minds and wal­lets. The Lon­don street demo was free, of course, which helped suck 100,000 rev-heads into cen­tral Lon­don to press noses against bar­ri­ers, but still, a fan-draw on that scale, for an event un­pub­li­cised on ac­count of se­cu­rity con­cerns, was im­pres­sive.

By way of con­text, the Bri­tish Grand Prix that fol­lowed drew 345,000 spec­ta­tors: 24,500 (Thurs­day); 80,000 (Fri­day); 103,000 (Satur­day) and 137,500 (Sun­day).

“It was an un­qualied suc­cess,” says Sean Bratches, F1’s com­mer­cial chief, speak­ing ex­clu­sively to F1

Rac­ing.“The re­ac­tion from fans on the day and sub­se­quently through so­cial me­dia has been hugely pos­i­tive.”

Of greater signicance is what the event her­alds for For­mula 1 and its de­voted fol­low­ers. F1 Live Lon­don, Bratches re­veals, was merely a taste of what’s to come as Lib­erty Me­dia seek to make the most of a sport that has suf­fered for decades from a lack of ac­tive pro­mo­tion:

“We’re go­ing to pol­ish F1 every day so that it shines as brightly as it can pos­si­bly shine,” he tells F1R. “Lon­don Live was demonstrative of our vi­sion as to where this sport should be and how it should be rep­re­sented and pro­moted. I started in For­mula 1 ve weeks be­fore the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, and one of the things that struck me was that the Aus­tralian GP just kind of ‘ap­peared’. There was no ex­cite­ment or an­tic­i­pa­tion of the start of the sea­son so, go­ing for­ward, I see an F1 Live Lon­don-type event hap­pen­ing prior to the start of the year.”

A key as­pi­ra­tion for Bratches is that F1 will have a 12-month me­dia prole, rather than the 20 or so ‘spikes’ from each race.“We need to keep the news cy­cle alive,” he says, “and there’s an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate events that some or all of the teams can par­tic­i­pate in, to do that. We want to cre­ate con­tent that lives out­side a GP week­end and cel­e­brates F1.”

Lib­erty’s stated am­bi­tion for F1 is bold: “To cre­ate the great­est rac­ing spec­ta­cle on the planet,” and this, via a ve-point plan that’s re­sulted from a freshly com­mis­sioned brand study, is how they plan to do it:

REVEL IN THE RAC­ING

F1’s sport­ing MD Ross Brawn and team are charged with im­prov­ing the on-track of­fer­ing by con­sid­er­ing thorny is­sues such as how to let F1 cars over­take each other more eas­ily and what as­pects of track de­sign pro­mote ex­cit­ing rac­ing. New hires ex-Wil­liams sport­ing di­rec­tor Steve Nielsen, Ja­son Somerville (head of aero) and Craig Wil­son (head of ve­hi­cle per­for­mance), will work with the FIA’s own staff and team en­gi­neers to de­vise reg­u­la­tions that guar­an­tee close, ex­cit­ing rac­ing.

“We need a much more com­pet­i­tive grid,” says Bratches. “We have a team of 25 spot­ters around the tracks look­ing at where rac­ing and over­tak­ing is hap­pen­ing at in­di­vid­ual cir­cuits.”

MAKE THE SPEC­TA­CLE SPEC­TAC­U­LAR

‘Fan en­gage­ment’ is a buzz-phrase for F1’s new own­ers: it means mak­ing the fun-and-games around a race week­end far more at­trac­tive to those fans who are con­sid­er­ing

spend­ing their hard-earned cash on a costly race ticket.

Lon­don Live has so far been the ban­ner event for this phi­los­o­phy, but at the Span­ish GP ear­lier this year, the ‘F1 Fan Zone’ boasted a be­hind-the-grand­stands zip­wire, Heineken bars, T-shirt guns ring into grand­stands, in­ter­ac­tive ‘ro­bots’ min­gling with fans, and a broad­band cloud to al­low real-time shar­ing of so­cial me­dia mo­ments.

“We have to make our fans be­lieve that their in­vest­ment in the sport is worth­while,” says Bratches.

BREAK­ING BOR­DERS

Part of For­mula 1’s al­lure over the decades has been its ex­clu­siv­ity. From the tin­sel of Monaco, to the stud­ied in­scrutabil­ity of Kimi Räikkö­nen, through to the clois­tered im­pen­e­tra­bil­ity of the F1 pad­dock: For­mula 1 has never been a place for ev­ery­man – and less so in the lat­ter years of Bernie Ec­cle­stone’s reign than ever.

Lib­erty want to open up the sport in de­grees and let the pub­lic look back­stage. “We want seams in that ex­clu­siv­ity where peo­ple can touch the sport in dif­fer­ent ways,” says Bratches. “We want them to have their vis­cera moved by the sounds and smells of this amaz­ing sport.”

Ev­i­dence of that am­bi­tion can be seen with the re-imag­ined F1 two-seater pro­gramme run­ning at most grands prix this year. And there are plans to open up F1 garage tours, while of­fer­ing lunches with se­nior F1 per­son­nel for ‘golden ticket’ win­ners.

Tak­ing races closer to fans is also key to the Lib­erty vi­sion. The lo­ca­tion for F1 Live Lon­don was no ac­ci­dent: evoca­tive city-cen­tre lo­ca­tions are rmly on the agenda for fu­ture calendar ex­pan­sion – though not at the ex­pense of tra­di­tional venues. Bratches says: “For 2018, we’ve lost Malaysia, but gained France and Ger­many. Go­ing for­ward we want to ap­peal to cos­mopoli­tan au­di­ences, by pro­mot­ing the tech-rst essence of the sport.”

“TASTE THE OIL”

This pun­gent phrase is how Bratches de­scribes F1’s need to tell its own tech­ni­cal story far bet­ter. “We are the most so­phis­ti­cated sport on the planet and what en­gi­neers achieve is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing, ex­tra­or­di­nary,” he says.

But the story of those achieve­ments, such as the stun­ning ther­mal efciency gures achieved by hy­brid V6 power units is un­der­sold, or veiled in com­plex­ity. “We need to be do­ing a much bet­ter job of ex­plain­ing and broad­cast­ing our tech­ni­cal ex­cel­lence,” says Bratches.

LET THE BLOOD BOIL

“Gla­di­a­tors and pi­lots – what are their back-sto­ries?” The hu­man as­pects of F1, the epic con­tests be­tween the Hamil­tons, Vet­tels, Alon­sos and Ric­cia­r­dos are recog­nised as the vi­tal life-blood of the sport by its new own­ers. And it will come as no sur­prise to read­ers of

F1R that the hu­man in­ter­est sto­ries of­fered by the gifted in­di­vid­u­als who work in F1 are what make it such an end­lessly com­pelling dis­ci­pline. But it’s re­fresh­ing to hear those sen­ti­ments ar­tic­u­lated from on high: “Let’s un­leash

WE’RE GO­ING TO POL­ISH F1 EVERY DAY SO IT SHINES AS BRIGHTLY AS IT CAN POS­SI­BLY SHINE. F1 LIVE LON­DON WAS DEMONSTRATIVE OF OUR VI­SION AS TO WHERE THIS SPORT SHOULD BE AND HOW IT SHOULD BE “REP­RE­SENTED

those hu­man sto­ries. Fans are clam­our­ing for all of this.”

Make no mis­take, Lib­erty need to make money from their $8bn in­vest­ment – and plenty of it. The dif­fer­ence is that they are set on do­ing so by boost­ing the sport’s global ap­peal, rather than by squeez­ing huge race-host­ing sums out of states keen to im­prove their pub­lic im­age.

“There are so many un­tapped op­por­tu­ni­ties that we need to ex­ploit,” says Bratches, “like our pop­u­lar­ity with women and fans un­der 35. We’re be­ing trans­par­ent, we’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing, and we have a vi­sion the F1 com­mu­nity

SAY HALO, WAVE GOOD­BYE?

02 So far, so pos­i­tive, but an­other as­pect of F1’s fu­ture is prov­ing al­to­gether more con­tro­ver­sial: the halo head­pro­tec­tion sys­tem. Since it was rst tri­alled in pub­lic, by Kimi Räikkö­nen at a March 2016 Barcelona test, its aes­thet­ics have been panned, with some com­men­ta­tors claim­ing its in­tro­duc­tion will her­ald the demise of F1.

The trou­ble is, for those in the ‘anti-’ camp, the halo (and fu­ture vari­ants thereof) is here to stay.

Dur­ing a tech­ni­cal brieng at the Hun­gar­ian GP week­end, Lau­rent Mekies, FIA deputy race di­rec­tor and safety di­rec­tor, said that the 8kg ti­ta­nium com­po­nent, com­pul­sory for 2018, has been in devel­op­ment since 2011 and is the only de­vice yet de­vised that is ca­pa­ble of meet­ing prescribed pro­tec­tion tar­gets. These are that a wheel/tyre as­sem­bly weighing 20kg, impacting the halo at 140mph, should be deected with no driver con­tact.

Al­ter­na­tive shields and screens have been tested but found want­ing, so the halo it will be, built by a sin­gle sup­plier to be ap­pointed through a ten­der process.

Three types of ac­ci­dent were as­sessed in halo test­ing: car-to-car; car-to-en­vi­ron­ment; and small-ob­ject im­pacts.

Car-to-car ac­ci­dents such as the Alex Wurz-David Coulthard col­li­sion at Mel­bourne 2007 and the Ro­main Gros­jean-Fer­nando Alonso tan­gle at the Bel­gian GP in 2012 were an­a­lysed to es­tab­lish what ef­fect the halo would have had. Sim­i­lar stud­ies were made of Lu­ciano Burti’s high-speed bar­rier im­pact at the 2001 Bel­gian GP, Heikki Ko­valainen’s Barcelona 2008 ac­ci­dent and Car­los Sainz’s 46G prac­tice shunt at Sochi 2015.

In all cases, said Mekies, a halo would have had an “over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive” ef­fect on driver safety.

None­the­less, and de­spite universal ap­proval by the F1 Strat­egy Group for the halo to be in­tro­duced, it re­mains a di­vi­sive topic among driv­ers. Lead­ing lights in­clud­ing Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, Lewis Hamil­ton and Fer­nando Alonso

THE HALO IS THE ONLY DE­VICE YET DE­VISED THAT IS CA­PA­BLE OF MEET­ING THE PRESCRIBED PRO­TEC­TION TAR­GET THAT A WHEEL/TYRE AS­SEM­BLY WEIGHING 20KG, IMPACTING THE HALO “AT 140MPH, SHOULD BE DE­FLECTED WITH NO DRIVER CON­TACT

I UN­DER­STAND THAT THE HALO IS NOT GOOD-LOOK­ING, BUT IT WILL BE DE­VEL­OPED. AND AT THE END OF THE DAY IT’S THERE TO SAVE “DRIV­ERS’ LIVES PADDY LOWE

have all backed the halo, although the likes of Ro­main Gros­jean, Jolyon Palmer and Max Verstappen have all ques­tioned its ne­ces­sity.

Their op­po­si­tion – and that of any com­men­ta­tor or fan – is moot, for the halo has now been blessed by both the FIA and the For­mula 1 Group, so what­ever the aes­thetic reser­va­tions, they’ll sim­ply have to be put aside or over­come.

Wil­liams chief tech­ni­cal ofcer Paddy Lowe of­fers this view: “It be­came clear that there had been a num­ber of near-misses around the driv­ers’ heads oc­cur­ring at the rate of around one per year and that this was a haz­ard we needed to close off. I un­der­stand that it’s not good-look­ing, but it will be de­vel­oped. And at the end of the day it’s there to save driv­ers’ lives.”

The only per­ti­nent ques­tion, then, is surely this: is any driver’s life worth sacricing for the sake of a pret­tier car?

COME­BACK KING

03 As F1 Rac­ing went to press, Robert Kubica was due to take a fur­ther, signicant step to­wards what seems in­creas­ingly likely to be a full-time F1 come­back. If he does so, whether this sea­son or 2018, it would rank as one of the great­est sport­ing – make that hu­man – re­cov­er­ies ever.

You’ll read on p36 of this is­sue about the strug­gles he’s en­dured over the six years since his near-fatal rally ac­ci­dent. Per­haps you’ll be struck, as oth­ers have been, by his re­serves of courage, and his new per­spec­tives on life and rac­ing as he fought to x his bro­ken body. Or maybe you’ll be scep­ti­cal that he will ever be able to tame a beefy 2017 F1 car sufciently well to ex­tract its max­i­mum per­for­mance. What­ever your view, Kubica and the ad­mirable Re­nault Sport team un­der­stand that the only rel­e­vant judge­ment is the im­par­tial author­ity of the tim­ing screen.

Cyn­ics be damned. He’s back. It’s real.

F1 Live Lon­don drew 100,000 fans to the UK cap­i­tal to see their he­roes in ac­tion – and the so­cial me­dia re­sponse was huge

Sean Bratches plans to open up F1 to the fans and add value, giv­ing them the con­fi­dence that their in­vest­ment in the sport is worth­while

Aes­thetic crit­i­cisms of the halo de­vice con­tinue to come thick and fast, but if it saves lives does it mat­ter what it looks like?

Kubica im­presses in Hun­gary dur­ing a Re­nault test set up to give him his first taste of a 2017 F1 car

Stud­ies proved the halo would have had a pos­i­tive ef­fect in Sainz’s 46G shunt at Sochi in 2015

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