BelieveInMcLaren or Can we get some racing, please?

McLaren’s 2013 season consists of problems, and everyone who can make use of their common sense understands that points seem to be the highest target McLaren can aim at in any race. It is sad, but true, and to be entirely honest I was pleased to hear that the team is switching focus to the 2014 car. So 2013 season can be written off and forgotten like a bad dream, but I believe McLaren can still do something to enhance their image as a racing team.

I am not an expert, if I were I wouldn’t spend my spare time writing a blog, but I don’t get why McLaren are so unprepared to risk, where they pretty much have nothing to lose. There are several sources of cash in Formula One, and while McLaren don’t have a chance to score any good points in WCC this year, they probably should try to get some sponsorship money. Sponsors want exposure, they want the car with their logos to be on screen for as long as possible, in a current situation it seems achievable – just go racing. The beauty of overtaking maneuver is not measured by what place the drivers are battling for, so why not adopt a strategy with more pit stops in order to let the drivers go racing on track? Fans would be happy to see some action, sponsors would be happy to sponsor a racing team, not the tyre conservation team, and the sport in general would get a bit more spectacular.

McLaren seem to be sticking with conservative approach in a situation where they have nothing to lose. I seriously doubt that these potential couple of points are worth more to the team than half a minute on TV screen.  I really hope that McLaren will stop being too smart and just go racing.

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Testgate

I doubt there has ever been time when Formula One was not surrounded by some sort of scandal, it became an integral part of the sport, and we are not just used to it, we desire it. Scandal is always an excuse to have an opinion even for those, who cannot claim to be an expert in the field, like myself.

I find it fascinating how quickly the Mercedes – Pirelli undertaking got to the -gate status, so that expectations to scope of the conflict have risen to a whole new level. We love conflict, we want it to be big, so that we all can moan about how bad it is for the sport. Funny enough, every conflict has a potential to evolve into a vital kick in the ass for the teams to get to agreements in the sports’ interest, or not.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner said the test was “totally unacceptable” because Mercedes, who run their current car with their current drivers, gained an unfair advantage. One can discuss whether there was any advantage, but I believe it’s fair enough to say that if there were none, Mercedes wouldn’t do this test. I believe this particular advantage, that Mercedes gained through this test, is not exactly why other teams are upset, it’s rather the whole idea of in-season testing that buggers competitors.

Martin Whitmarsh, as a FOTA representative, mentioned a couple of times that cost cap is essential for the survival of smaller teams and the sport as a whole, teams even seem to agree with at least the general idea. Whether this idea is implementable is questionable, to be honest, I don’t see the teams agreeing on the level of the cap or related auditing mechanisms any time soon. But ban on in-season testing is one of the agreements that actually go in this direction, and by breaching this agreement Mercedes have questioned the direction in which the sport attempts to go. Funny enough, none of the FOTA teams has officially filed the protest. Horner said the reason for McLaren not to do it is the fact that Mercedes are their engine suppliers. Maybe this is the reason, maybe McLaren have their own problems, or maybe McLaren themselves fancy a chance to do some in-season testing. They can afford it after all. I believe Red Bull and Ferrari, who are not members of FOTA, did not file the protest because Mercedes gained an advantage in this particular case, they did so because they want the same for themselves. Ferrari have been lobbying in-season testing for ages, and now with Mercedes breaching the ban, they could not let such a great opportunity to make their point pass.

The decision, which FIA is faced with, is crucial to determine the direction in which Formula One is about to go. If Mercedes are not punished, or the punishment is not severe enough, this will give a carte blanche for all the other teams to do this so-called tyre testing. And there is no way to control whether it is tyres that they test or anything else, Formula One teams are not too bad with keeping things secret. It is the signal that the decision will make, that matters. After all it’s all politics, and any guess-work what FIA will decide, is at this point in time a mere speculation. One thing is clear, the decision has a potential to kick the sport in one direction or another. I am not sure it’s a proper crossroad, though, it’s rather a choice of a traffic lane.

#BelieveInMcLaren project

Being a fan doesn’t only mean celebrate success, but also not abandon your team in tough times. That’s why me and Karmen decided that we should do something McLaren related, so we tried to make a small twitter flash-mob, in order to get #BelieveInMcLaren trending on twitter, and simply show that we support the team, no matter whether they win or not. I am not sure, whether we were successful in getting it trending, but we definitely had a good time. These flash-mobs is how I get to follow really amazing people on twitter, so it was worth it anyway.

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Monaco’s next top model

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I don’t like Monaco, or at least I like to think I don’t. Formula One world which is something completely surreal in general, gets the showing off to the whole new level. Monaco is a masquerade, and every mask is in a way a self portrait, so Formula One playfully admits that racing is not exactly what the sport cares for. Martin Brundle interviewed a lady on the grid – she had no idea where she was, or what was going on. “You have to talk to that guy…” she said when asked, how to get such an access. I bet it was Bernie’s name she couldn’t remember.  It is a pity that the drivers, who are just about to take on a challenge of tight streets of principality, have to entertain people, who don’t really care. But this is the reality of motor racing, it needs the sponsorship money to breathe, and it has its price.  It is the case on every grid, but it is grotesque in Monaco.

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Thoughts on Barcelona or An unavailing search for the greener grass

Formula One is now back to normal. Pirelli are back on top of the list of hot topics, namely. It is tempting to blame tyres for the lack of racing, but it is too easy, don’t you think?

Depending on their position, every team and every driver has complained about the tyres at some point. These complains are encouraged by the media as well as by the fans. At the end of the day it’s always nice to have some higher power to blame for your failure. Voices saying that it’s a job of the teams and the drivers to maximise their performance with what’s given are becoming louder with every single race. I can get the point, it sounds rational, but I still cannot get rid of the feeling that it is wrong.

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Unicorns and eagles or a National question

After the chequered flag falls and the winner is established, a national anthem is played to honour his success and the success of his team. Every time I hear a national anthem on the podium I ask myself whether it is actually appropriate. Every time a national anthem is played I ask myself whether Formula One is a sports where the nationality matters.

The general bias towards own countrymen in the media is probably not even worth mentioning: British Sky or BBC obviously have their affections towards Hamilton, Button, or di Riesta; RTL puts Vettel, Rosberg or Hülkenberg to the centre of their coverage. To some not negligible extent Formula One has been perceived by many as a playground for a British-German(-Italian) motor racing rivalry, and it probably not that far from the reality. But the more people and me myself are talking about the national element in Formula One the more I ask myself whether there actually is any logical reason to pay so much attention to the nationality in racing. (more…)

Dummy’s guide to team strategy or It’s all about expected cash flows

Is Formula 1 a team sport? The question might sound simple, but the answer is not. Technically, according to the regulatory framework of the FIA it is both team and individual sports. We have World Drivers’ Championship and World Constructors’ Championship. Despite high correlation of the performances in those two, sometimes – and rather often – a huge conflict of interests arises.

At the first glance good performance in WCC appears to be more important from the economic point of view. It gives the team a certain cash inflow in addition to the positive media coverage, which is beneficial for the team’s sponsors and therefore improves their chances to secure further less certain cash inflows. On the other hand, it would be wrong to underestimate an economic impact that a driver’s personality has on sponsorship deals.
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