Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Five Best Formula One Adverts

April 28th, 2009 No comments

Sky F1 Monsters adFormula One and ads don’t really go together any more now that the BBC has taken over from ITV (at least in the UK.)

No longer do we need to worry about missing something vital just as the producer cuts to an ad break – although for those without the ability to pause live TV this has been replaced with the new problem of when to go for a ‘comfort break’.

But just because we hate ads interrupting races doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a good commercial on our own time.  So with that in mind, here are five of the best F1-themed adverts, ever.

Sky – Monsters: The awesome Sky ad on the right is by Italian advertising agency 1861.  It is worth having a browse around their site just to see some of their other print and video work.

Tag Heuer – The Duel: In 1969, Tag Heuer introduced the world’s first automatic chronograph.  The ‘Monaco’ was radical for its time in also being the first square-cased, water resitant watch in history.  A year later Steve McQueen wore a blue Monaco in the classic motor racing film Le Mans.  Now, forty years later, Lewis Hamilton stars alongside Steve McQueen in a video promoting the Monaco.  If you guess who will win you can win some nice prizes including a limited edition Monaco watch.

Honda – Impossible Dream: At the end of 2004 Honda were on a high.  Their engines had driven BAR to second place in the Constructors’ Championship in a season dominated by Schumacher and Ferrari.  In September of 2005 Honda purchased the remaining 55% of BAR to become an F1 constructor in their own right for the first time in nearly forty years.  Over the next few years Honda would slip further and further down the results before selling the team to Ross Brawn in 2009.

But in December of 2005 the future still looked bright for Honda and they released the ‘Impossible Dream’ commercial, featuring British actor Simon Day riding and driving various Hondas through the New Zealand countryside.  Starting on a monkey bike, he progresses from a Super Cub scooter to an ATV, an S500 sports car to a huge Gold Wing motor cycle to a FireBlade superbike.  He blasts an S2000 down a gravel road and a TT bike up through a forest.  An NSX, the supercar designed with Ayrton Senna’s help, makes an appearance before the beautiful 1965 RA272 F1 car morphs into the BAR 007.  Finally, Day drives a powerboat off the edge of a waterfall only to emerge in a hot-air ballon.

Unfortunately for Honda, it really was an impossible dream.

Shell – Refuelling: In 1997 Shell took an airplane, a Formula One car and some cameras deep into the Mojave Desert.  What they came out with was pure, unrefined awesomeness.

Shell – Circuit: We finish with another Ferrari/Shell ad that could possibly be the greatest motoring advert of all time.  ‘Circuit’ features a stunning array of Ferraris from the last 60 years driving the ultimate street circuit through Rome, New York, Rio, Hong Kong and Monaco.  The cars are beautiful but the sounds they make are sublime. Turn it up.

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So much for improved stewarding

April 10th, 2009 No comments

Sir Jackie StewartAt the end of last year the FIA published a number of changes to the Formula One stewarding process to try to improve the consistency and openness of the stewards’ decisions.  I think you would have to admit that despite these changes they haven’t really made much progress.

In 2008 Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his win in the Belgian Grand Prix after the stewards decided he had gained an advantage by cutting the chicane when passing Kimi Raikkonen.  At the time, Niki Lauda called it “the worst judgment in the history of Formula One”and Sir Jackie Stewart was (as usual) outspoken in his criticism of the FIA.

The stewards made a mistake in Spa and so had to invent a new rule saying a driver must wait until the second corner before repassing after giving a position back.

Now, in the very first race of the 2009 season, we have the results of a race being changed after it has finished.  Twice.  Again, because of a failure of the stewards.  Ironically, it probably only happened because  McLaren were paranoid about receiving a penalty.  If you look at what actually happened on track, the drivers didn’t do anything wrong.  Hamilton passed Trulli perfectly legally and when Hamilton was ordered to let Trulli past there was nothing the Toyota driver could have done differently.

Sir Jackie Stewart has again spoken out against the unprofessional stewarding that has led to the sacking of one McLaren employee and as yet unknown further sanctions against the team when McLaren appear before the World Motor Sport Council later this month.  The triple World Champion said the whole thing could have been avoided if race control had been better organised and responded to McLaren’s requests for clarification at the time:

It seems strange that only one person has the authority to deal with these inquiries which could be result-changing in a multi-million pound sport.  As it is, we now have a potentially serious state of affairs for McLaren.

Sir Jackie’s right.  What Hamilton and Ryan did after the race was wrong but it could all have been avoided with better stewarding.

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Thank god for the BBC

April 6th, 2009 No comments

Heikki Kovalainen, Malaysia, 2009I’ve been travelling the last few days.  In fact I’m typing this right now very early in the morning at Sydney airport.  Somehow I managed to arrange things so that I’d be away for both the Malaysian Grand Prix and the Chinese Grand Prix so I was a bit worried that I would be at the mercy of the local TV stations when I wanted to watch the race.

Surely if I could get to an internet connection there must be a way?  I brought my PSP to try using remote play to connect to my PS3 back home, but that is always a bit random as to whether the PS3 is going to wake up.  Now that the BBC is broadcasting everything online, though, there is another way.  The BBC content is restricted to UK IP addresses but there are ways around that.

So in the end I found myself in my hotel room in Singapore watching the Malaysian Grand Prix 200 miles away on my laptop with a connection routed through my home PC in London.  And amazingly everything worked perfectly!

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FOTA: The new points system is illegal

March 20th, 2009 No comments

FOTA logoFormula One is a sport with so many rules and regulations that even the people who make them don’t understand them all.

On Tuesday, less than two weeks before the first Grand Prix in Melbourne, the FIA unexpectedly announced a new scoring system for 2009 whereby the Drivers’ Championship would be determined by the number of race wins rather than points scored.  In so doing they rejected FOTA‘s suggestion of a new points structure of 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 and effectively implemented Bernie Ecclestone’s medals idea.

The announcement was roundly criticised by drivers and team owners.  Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo called the change “absurd” and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli said:

It seems to be that Formula One wants to die and we will all have to go and race in some other championship.

Now, in a statement issued by FOTA on Friday, the teams say the rule change is not valid:

Following the decision of the World Motorsport Council of the 17 March 2009 to change the way the drivers’ championship is awarded, the Teams gathered and unanimously agreed to question the validity of this decision.

The amendment to the sporting regulations proposed by the World Motorsport Council was not performed in accordance with the procedure provided for by Appendix 5 of the Sporting Regulations and, as per the provisions of the article 199 of the FIA International Sporting Code, it is too late for FIA to impose a change for the 2009 season that has not obtained the unanimous agreement of all the competitors properly entered into the 2009 Formula 1 Championship.

Here is what Appendix 5 of the Sporting Regulations says:


1. Changes to the Technical Regulations will be proposed by the Technical Working Group (TWG) consisting of one senior technical representative from each team and chaired by a representative of the FIA.
2. Changes to the Sporting Regulations will be proposed by the Sporting Working Group (SWG) consisting of one senior representative from each team and chaired by a representative of the FIA.
3. Decisions in the TWG and SWG will be taken by a simple majority vote. The FIA representative will not vote unless the teams’ representatives are equally divided, in which case he will exercise a casting vote.
4. Proposals from the TWG and the SWG will go to the Formula One Commission consisting of six representatives from the teams, five representatives from the race promoters and one representative each from the Commercial Rights Holder and the FIA. At least two race promoters must be from Europe and at least two from outside Europe. Decisions of the Commission will be by simple majority. The FIA will have a casting vote in the event of equality.
5. The Formula One Commission may accept or refuse a proposal of the TWG or the SWG, but not amend it. A proposal which is refused may be sent back to the relevant Working Group for further consideration.
6. Proposals accepted by the Formula One Commission will be put before the World Motor Sport Council for a final decision. Proposals which are not accepted by the World Motor Sport Council may be sent back to the Formula One Commission and the relevant Working Group for further consideration.
7. Changes required for safety reasons will be considered separately by the FIA, which will take into account any representations made by the TWG or SWG.

And section 199 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code states:

c) Sporting rules and other regulations

Changes to sporting rules and to all regulations other than those referred to in b) above are published at least 20 days prior to the opening date for entry applications for the championship concerned, but never later than 30 November each year. Such changes cannot come into effect before 1 January of the year following their publication, unless the FIA considers that the changes in question are likely to have a substantial impact on the technical design of the vehicle and/or the balance of performance between the cars, in which case they will come into effect no earlier than 1 January of the second year following their publication.

d) Shorter notice periods than those mentioned in b) and c) may be applied, provided that the unanimous agreement of all competitors properly entered for the championship or series concerned is obtained.

The FIA has responded by saying that if the teams don’t unanimously accept the new rules then they will be postponed until 2010.

Some have suggested that the FIA’s attempt to radically change the scoring system just weeks before the first race was a smokescreen for the proposed £30m budget cap to be introduced in 2010, but the whole thing has been handled rather badly and the FIA just comes across as trying to assert its dominance over the newly united teams.

When the change was announced it seemed like the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone had the upper hand but FOTA’s response and the subsequent U-turn by the FIA just shows where the real power now lies.  The fact is that the teams and drivers are what the fans care about, not the FIA and their rules and regulations and if FOTA decided to set up a rival championship they could potentially take a lot of fans with them.

There were a lot of good ideas in the proposals FOTA presented in Geneva earlier this month (as well as a few dodgy ones) and the FIA would do well to take them seriously.

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Engines and the new scoring system

March 19th, 2009 No comments

Toyota TFf109 engineI’ve said before that awarding the Championship to the driver with the most wins won’t necessarily make for better racing; you just don’t get to be a Formula One driver unless you have the will to win.  There are too many good drivers and it takes too much hard work to get to F1 to be really happy with anything other than first place.  Second is just the first of the losers.  But could the FIA‘s new scoring system actually harm the racing spectacle rather than improve it?  It raises some interesting questions.

My biggest worry is that it won’t produce a championship that is as close run as we have had the last two years.  Thanks to the old points system, introduced to minimise the Schumacher effect of one driver running away with the Championship after a few races, we didn’t know until the last lap of the last race of 2008 who was going to be crowned Champion.  Will it be likely, or even possible, that we can have the same tension under the FIA’s new scheme?

Then there is the effect on those teams in the mid-field and those at the back of the grid.  Often the closest and most exciting battles in a race are for the lesser places.  Will drivers still race as hard for 5th and 6th position when they know it won’t really make a difference for them, especially in the later part of the season?  I know, this goes against what I said earlier about a driver’s innate aggression but it could be disheartening to know that under the old scheme a driver could still have a long shot at the Championship but under the new scheme they really have no chance.

It is also interesting to consider how the new engine rules could interact with this system.  Jenson Button pointed out the possibility of a team having a great start to the year and not having to work much for the rest of the season:

I think the public will struggle to understand why a driver with 60 points can become champion instead of the one who has 100. I understand the logic behind it and I find it interesting. For sure it’s an incentive to always go for the win, but it seems risky too – after nine races, we could find ourselves with a driver that has already won the title and can stand still eating ice cream, while the guy in second in the standings is just 18 points behind.

The new engine rules for 2009 state that a team may only use eight engines.  If a driver uses a ninth a penalty is applied.  It is conceivable that a team could use a fresh engine in each of the first 8 races of the season and if they won them all then the penalties the driver would receive in later races wouldn’t matter as he would have already sown up the Championship by the middle of the season.

A crazy idea?  I don’t know.  It is a fairly extreme interpretation of the rules and a big gamble but in theory it could work.

We won’t really know the full effect of the decision until the season gets underway but I still think FOTA’s points plan was a better solution.

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