Silly videos aside, this Sauber-Chelsea link
could prove to be interesting.Since the announcement was made this morning there have already been mutterings that no money was involved in the deal, which will see Sauber advertising at Stamford Bridge and the C31 will bear the Chelsea logo in two weeks' time at the Circuit de Catalunya.While there has been predictable fanfare about an F1 car bearing a football
team's logo - and more than a few jokes about Superleague Formula
- it's worth remembering that the Tony Fernandes-owned Caterham have been running the logo of Tony Fernandes-owned QPR for ages. But what me curious about the announcement was the lack of an obvious connection between Chelsea and Sauber.A quick look at the list of Chelsea's existing sponsors and partners shows more obvious links to two higher-profile F1 teams: Singha partners Red Bull and McLaren sponsors Lucozade.So why would Chelsea have elected to break into F1 with Sauber when a quick chat with their account managers at either Singha or Lucozade would have put them in touch with established front-runners?One possible answer is that there was no money involved in the deal, as has been posited elsewhere. After all, despite Sauber's recent successes the associative brand value of Red Bull or McLaren is more established, and as a result vastly more expensive.A more optimistic answer says that Chelsea see Sauber as a team on the up, and want to get in on the ground floor by building a connection before the Swiss team are priced out of the market.But according to Reuters correspondent Alan Baldwin on Twitter, Chelsea first approached Sauber about a partnership at the end of last season, when the team were firmly in the mid-field.When I interviewed Sauber team CEO Monisha Kaltenborn in Bahrain, she told me that the team were involved in a number of sponsorship deals that had long been under discussion, and that the team's early season success had yet to translate into a raft of sponsorship deals.
“It’s not that easy, unfortunately, that if you have a race like [Sepang] you have ten people standing outside, ready with sponsorship contracts," she said. "
It would be great, of course. What certainly matters for generating interest, having negotiations, and then closing the deal is performance, because all of this is about performance. So if you are good, you naturally attract more attention, and then people come to you. "
Yes, that has happened – people are looking at us more, contacting us. But it’s not that suddenly we have a lot more sponsors coming in. But it’s a very important step, to get more sponsors on board."
Over the weekend, a British racer died of injuries incurred during a crash at the Goodwood time trials.According to a report in The Independent, Sandra Harrison-Moore was taking part in a time trial on Saturday when she lost control of her Caterham and collided with the tyre barriers.Harrison-Moore suffered severe head injuries as a result of the crash, and was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital. Despite the best efforts of the staff to revive her, Ms Harrison-Moore succumbed to her injuries and died on Sunday evening.
Ready for an earworm to start your week?
Oh, you wanted some F1 news, not a late-'90s europop flashback? Will confirmation of the rumour that the Chelsea football club have signed on a partnership deal with Sauber suffice?
"This is an innovative partnership that will see a football club link up with a Formula 1 team like never before, bringing together two of the world’s biggest sports and uniting our fans," explained Chelsea chief exec Ron Gourlay. "We felt that this Swiss team, the fourth oldest of the existing teams, reflects our own ideals perfectly.
"In a year when Chelsea celebrates 20 seasons as a Premier League team, Sauber does so as a Formula 1 team. We share many philosophies when it comes to how the respective organisations are run, from the development of young talent to constantly striving for success. Sauber's philosophy towards grassroots development has produced some of the best drivers in F1, which mirrors our dedication to develop promising young football talent through our Academy.
"This partnership will benefit us both greatly, with the potential to create unique commercial opportunities. It is a shared vision to unite the two most attractive sports in the world. We look forward to working closely with the Sauber F1 Team and wish them the very best of luck for the remainder of the Formula 1 season."
As it's something of a slow news day, and there's never anything fun to do at work at this time on a Friday, I thought I'd post this very grainy clip of the first Monaco Grand Prix, won by W. Grover-Williams
in a Bugatti Type 35B.
As I wrote in an email to some friends earlier today, the time I spent in Bahrain over the grand prix weekend left me both more cynical and more open-minded, which is an achievement in itself.
Like the bulk of the F1 press corps, I arrived in Bahrain expecting to find a country torn asunder by an ongoing revolution in which the cries for democracy and freedom were being suppressed with nightly raids.
And while there is that side to the country, the Bahrain I experienced was largely peaceful. The prosperous areas of Manama felt unchanged since 2010 - there was no sign of the revolution at the gates. Instead, the fighting was a long way into the distance.
Over the course of the weekend I saw a slow but steady increase in police and security vehicles on the streets, and more thorough checks on the way to Sakhir International Circuit. What I didn't see was any trouble, although signs of troubles recently passed - such as scorch marks on the motorway - were a not infrequent occurrence.
Like many in the paddock, I spent much of my weekend fielding phonecalls and emails from worried friends and family back home, all of whom were watching Bahrain burn on the nightly news, becoming increasingly worried for my safety.
I didn't go out to the Shia villages where skirmishes with the police are a near-nightly occurrence, but nor did I lock myself up in my Juffair hotel room, ignoring the temptations of the city below. I spent my evenings out and about on the streets of Manama, and found a city filled with people who thought the protests an excessive response to an imperfect regime.
The majority of the Bahrainis I spoke to - Sunni and Shia alike - wanted the violence between protesters and police to stop so that they and their children could return to their ordinary lives.
The sense on the street was that meeting violence with violence was a fool's errand, and that Bahrain as a whole would be better off if both sides were able to put their weapons down and begin a peaceful dialogue designed to give the protesters a voice while rebuilding the country's shattered image.
Last year's uprisings scared away a number of foreign companies that had been significant employers in Bahrain; as a result of the ongoing violence the job market has stagnated and unemployment is on the rise.
The sooner the conflict is resolved, the more quickly multinational organisations will return, bringing their jobs with them.
A concern voiced by the majority of the women I spoke to was that of their individual liberties. Bahrain is one of the most liberal Arab nations, and there are none of the restrictions on women found elsewhere in the region.
Women can choose whether or not to cover their hair and how they dress; they can attend university and pursue careers; they have freedom of movement, and agency.
There are fears that a more representative government would see a return to Sharia law, and that a Bahraini woman's right to equality would be eroded. Al-Wefaq, the lead opposition party in Bahrain, has previously campaigned against women's rights.
So it could be argued that a move towards a more representative democracy in Bahrain is likely to lead to a regression in equality for Bahraini citizens across the board, in which case is that representative democracy really desirable?
My experiences in Bahrain have shaped the way I look at the world at large.
First, I am far more cynical in my reading of international news, having seen first-hand the disconnect between the vision of Bahrain being played out on our screens and what I was seeing with my own eyes.
But more importantly I was reminded of the existence of the silent majority - those people caught up in the middle of any conflict who simply want a quick and peaceful resolution so that they can go about their daily lives once more. People for whom the status quo may not be perfect, but for whom it is better than any alternative they can foresee.
There are some very angry people in Bahrain, fighting for a cause they believe in, some of whom use excessive force on occasion. There are some heavy-handed police officers, who respond inappropriately to genuinely peaceful protests.
But there are an awful lot of people trying to keep a normal life together for their children, finding new ways to school that avoid signs of the last night's battles.
According to a report on Reuters today
, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe is the man most likely to chair F1 in the event of the planned Singapore IPO. Brabeck-Letmathe already sits on the board of Delta Topco, and has years of experience in multi-national business thanks to his years spent with Nestle.Not knowing much about
Brabeck-Letmathe, other than the fact he is the chairman of the Nestle Group, I thought I'd do a little research...
Peter Brabeck-Letmathe is an Austrian businessman who made his career with Nestle, starting out as a salesman in 1968 and working his way up to CEO.When in charge of Nestle,
Brabeck-Letmathe oversaw a period of extraordinary growth in sales. At the same time, he worked to streamline processes to reduce costs while embedding the Nestle brand in emerging markets.From the sounds of it, he's a pretty ruthless businessman. While being interviewed for the 2005 documentary We Feed The World,
Brabeck-Letmathe said that the concept that water was a basic human right was 'extreme', and that it should have commercial value as a foodstuff.It is an approach to capitalism and profit that isn't entirely unknown in Formula 1, where the application of ethics and business
is often criticised by the world at large.
And from the sounds of it, a profit-driven business chaired by Brabeck-Lethmathe will involve expansion outside its core competencies, if the following extract from a profile in Time
is anything to go by:Brabeck pooh-poohs the notion that a company should focus tightly on its core competency. Nestle's big challenge, he says, "is that we have to be able to learn how to get operational efficiency with a relatively complex business structure. This is what I think real management is all about. The other thing is much too easy." Rather than narrow its focus, he believes that a well-managed and flexibly organized consumer-goods company can sell dog food and ice cream--as well as coffee, water and candy--and gain advantages in marketing, purchasing and distribution over more specialized firms.
Should Brabeck-Letmathe apply that kind of thinking to Formula 1, the sport might see an increase in efforts to market the sport through a variety of media in an attempt to attract a wider fanbase.
We shall see...Image via www.time.com.
There's no denying McLaren have been finding their pit stops to be somewhat troublesome so far this season.
Chances of points and race wins have been thrown away at seemingly every race, with either Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button sitting idle in their box as precious seconds tick past.
While the causes of the botched stops have varied from race to race, the McLaren pit crew have come under heavy criticism from fans and pundits alike.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh has defended his team, citing the extraordinary pressure of a modern Formula 1 pit stop with a sub-three second target.
"Firstly you’ve got to say that any guy who volunteers to be a gun man in the team like that is a brave guy," Whitmarsh said. "I know how hard he’s being on himself at the moment.
"All on the same axle, on the same side, you can imagine the pressure. These are mechanics, they don’t get paid extra for doing it. They put themselves in the firing line, they put themselves under pressure.
"So naturally I’m very protective of them, because they deserve my protection. They’re brave, they volunteer for it, they try hard, they know the pressure they’re under."
Whitmarsh then went on to say that the team would be reviewing its pit stop procedures once again: "We’ll look at the equipment, we’ll look at the process, we’ll look at the approach."
Over the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend the McLaren team did a lot of pit stop practice, but if anything Sunday's race saw worse pit stops, not better.
HRT will not be running in the Mugello tests on 1-3 May, the team announced today.
"The start to the season was a little bit rushed for us and, since the cars were set up for the first time, we have been working on them at the grands prix," said team principal Luis Perez-Sala. "The team and the material have just got back from Bahrain after leaving for Australia in early March.
"And they return - for the first time - to the team’s new headquarters at the Caja Mágica in Madrid. This move is very important for us and by not going to Mugello we can work thoroughly on the car to prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix.
"We won’t have the new upgrade package until then so we’ve preferred to focus on what can contribute more to us, which is teamwork at the headquarters. And there is a lot to do."
While the announcement is probably going to provoke criticism for HRT in some corners, I think it's actually a wise decision.
If their upgrade won't be ready in time for the tests, there's not much they'll learn except that the opposition are slipping further away - or that their opponents planned upgrades have caused backwards steps - and to a certain extent they can learn that without the hassle of attending.
Given the frantic pace of the first four flyaways, it's no bad thing for the team to arrive in Barcelona refreshed and ready to go, particularly if there's a move to contend with and new premises to adjust to.
According to reports in the financial press, Morgan Stanley, Santander, DBS Group and CIMB have been listed as bookrunners for the Formula 1 IPO expected to happen in July.A bookrunner, in financial terms, is the "main underwriter or lead manager in the issuance of new equity, debt or securities instruments
".Already on the list as bookrunners were
Goldman Sachs and UBS.The International Financing Review
estimates that the value of the IPO will be $2 billion, and confirms reports that CVC Capital Partners will retain much of their 63.4 percent stake in the sport.
Before I begin, a few things to get out of the way:
First, Bahrain has a long way to go to undo the damage caused by the events of the 14 February uprising and the reaction of the security forces. Credible human rights organisations continue to criticise the regime here for abuses past and present.
The reforms named in the BICI report must be implemented and prisoners of conscience released before Bahrain can begin to look towards a unified future. Those government and security officials who were involved in human rights abuses - whether past or ongoing - must be held accountable for their crimes.
That being said, the time I have spent in Bahrain this week has changed my perspective on the situation here.
I do not wish to suggest that Bahrain is perfect, or that this is a country in which everyone's happy, because that is far from the case.
However, my experiences show that the international news media is fomenting trouble by reporting on a series of relatively small skirmishes.
I am not trying to denigrate the protesters' efforts for equality, and I am aware that the police have been responding with excessive force, but I have not seen any trouble with my own eyes.
The widely reported 50,000 people on the streets of Manama on Friday night were not visible in my journeys through and around the city. I'm not sure how you miss a demo that big in a city this size.
There are angry people, to be sure, but there is also a silent majority going about their daily lives as best they can.
I have been contacted by many Bahrainis keen to express their support for Formula 1, both those who are pleased that our media spotlight is shining a light on their plight and those who feel that the race is a beacon of hope and stability in a time of strife.
I am media-savvy enough to know that the protests in Bahrain are unrelated to the sport, but that the protesters are using F1 to regain the media spotlight after it was lost to the far greater atrocities in Syria.
One of the aspects I find most morally disturbing is my wavering over the concept of minority rule. Because while I object to non-democratic representation, I have concerns about the Shi'a movement to gain power.
There is support for the return of Sharia law, and many want to cancel the constitutional amendment granting women the vote.
Since arriving, women both Sunni and Shi'a have contacted me to say that while the status quo is far from perfect, they prefer the civil and human liberties they have under the current monarchy.
How does one go about balancing the desire for equitable political representation with a group that does not view all citizens as equal? It's not a question I could even begin to answer.
What I do know is that the political situation here is so complex that any recovery or reform is sure to be a slow process. Let us hope that it is one that happens peacefully.