The #LondonEPrix – A Fan’s Experience

Formula eDiary

James Hedges is a London based motorsport enthusiast who attended the final round of the FIA Formula E season. Did the event live up to his expectations?


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A near sell out crowd of 30,000 spectators attending the penultimate and final round of the inaugural Formula E Championship at Battersea Park; which marked London’s first street race since 1972, when Formula 2 cars raced around Crystal Palace.  The atmosphere around the venue was very relaxing, more so than most other motorsport events such as Formula One or the World Endurance Championship, with the turnout a mix of hardcore motorsport enthusiasts, local residents seeing their local park transformed into a temporary racing circuit, and whole families – the low pricing for this event widened the appeal of the race and attracted a range of spectators across various demographics.

Despite being one of the criticisms of the series, the lack of noise from the…

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A clear indication that F1 doesn’t understand social media, or its fans

“People blame Bernie for not moving into social media. I don’t blame him at all because he can’t monetise it. You have TV stations and media partners who pay you for exclusive content so why do you want anything to do with social media making it for free.”

Those are the words of Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff.

It is the clearest indication yet that while businesses around the world have grasped the benefits of social media for building brand reputation, increasing sales and dealing with customer complaints, F1 – the self-proclaimed cutting-edge of motorsport – is sadly archaic in its views.

Today I feel it necessary to dispel some of the myths about social media perpetuated by Bernie Ecclestone and senior figures in the F1 paddock, as frankly the fans deserve so much better that the cold indifference shown to them at present.

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Let’s start…

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Gene’s Genies

The Buxton Blog

Gunther Steiner and Gene Haas Italian Grand Prix 2014 c/o James Moy Photography Gunther Steiner and Gene Haas
Italian Grand Prix 2014
c/o James Moy Photography

Gene Haas, it seems, is doing pretty much everything right. A methodical approach to entering the Piranha pool that is Formula 1 has seen him strike up key alliances and build the solid foundations upon which, finally and unlike the last four teams granted a license, we may see a new team enter the sport with a fighting chance of scoring points.

But all of this hard work and disciplined enterprise comes to naught without the soft fleshy bit of the equation between the pedals and the engine being as quick and reliable as the mechanical parts. So who will Gene Haas choose to drive his cars, and why won’t it be Danica Patrick?

Danica Patrick c/o www.danicapatrick.com Danica Patrick
c/o http://www.danicapatrick.com

Well, let’s start with Patrick. Haas has insinuated, again, that Patrick isn’t off the table for consideration but if…

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Ayrton Senna : 21.03.60 – 01.05.94

What could have been…

F1 Paddock Pass

We remember the date. Perhaps where we were. We remember that moment in time when the motorsport world held its collective breath and then grieved as one… the passing of the legendary Ayrton Senna. A nation in mourning, a family devastated and a name immortalised forever.

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In the past twenty one years, there has been a huge amount written about Ayrton Senna. Over 100 books have been written about his life and death, we’ve had a BAFTA winning film produced, countless other documentaries and theories delivered on that fateful accident. Anyone who has followed the @F1PaddockPass Twitter feed will know that Ayrton was one of my childhood heroes. For a long time, it wasn’t the same without him and I’ve often wondered over the years: what would it have been like if he walked away from that accident on lap seven?

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Imagine, if you will the sight above.

Moments before…

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The Calm Before the Storm 

The contenders and challengers for the World Endurance Championship assembled at London’s Marble Arch on an overcast Thursday morning, much to the delight of hardcore racing fans who took the time out to come by or for those lucky passers by.

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Visitors were treated to a collection of some of the most recognisable beasts that will be propelling their drivers in this year’s championship, including Toyota, Audi, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and the much talked about Nissan NISMO, with this version just being the showcar as they were testing in the United States.

The growing crowd as then treated to some of the drivers as well, including the likes of Anthony Davidson, James Colado, Mike Conway, Brendon Hartley, Oliver Jarvis and Darren Turner. Unfortunately because of recent events Jann Mardenborough was unable to attend, our thoughts are with him and all those affected by the incident at the Nurburgring.

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After some posing with the World Endurance Championship and the Tourist trophies, the attending drivers mingled with fans and media alike in a relaxed atmosphere. I caught up briefly with Darren Turner, works driver for the number 97 Aston Martin, who optimistic ahead of the new season but said that he didn’t know how Aston Martin would fare competitively until lights out at Silverstone, with teams still probably not showing their hand during the Saturday qualifying.

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This promotional event was a good opportunity for new and existing fans to get up and close to those participating in this year’s championship, and to ramp up excitement with just one week to go until the start of the series at Silverstone.

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It’s Hit Home – The State of Play in F1

I’m not the pessimistic type, but this Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix was one the worst and most disjointed races in recent years.

After many shocking turns even before the field started the first racing lap of the season, spectators and viewers saw the competing field reduced to just 15 drivers. A mixture of injury, car failures and software issues saw the starting grid to its lowest level for an opening race since 1963. After looking at the times of qualifying on Saturday afternoon, it finally hit home to me the quite mammoth gap between the stunning time set by Lewis Hamilton, and the rear of the grid with Magnussen’s tuned down McLaren. Comparing against 2014’s Q1 times (as Q2 and Q3 was affected by rain), the times actually aren’t that bad. In 2014 Daniel Ricciardo’s quickest time was 6.2 seconds quicker than the slowest time set by Romain Grosjean, while this year 3.5 seconds seperated Lewis Hamilton from Kevin Magnussen. This should give Honda much hope – not only did Button’s McLaren finish the race (although he was two laps down, this was nothing but a minor miracle), but they have less ground to catch up on then the likes of Sauber and Lotus did in 2014.

There was a severe lack of action throughout the field in Australia, which was the only factor distracting everyone in 2014 from the sheer domination by Mercedes that had not been seen since the previous McLaren-Honda era. The combinations of lack of cars on the grid (mainly Bottas through injury and Kyvat because of engine trouble), Ferrari’s improvement with the power unit and McLaren’s immediate but temporary demise meant that the midfield is currently sparser and more spread out than in 2014. BBC commentator David Coulthard suggested that the new design of the nose cones were to partially to blame for the lack of overtaking, with the cars visibly greater effected by running in the wake created by the car in front. Suddendly DRS seems like a good solution again.

The build up to the race was dominated by the fascinating but yet scandalous battle between Sauber and Giedo van der Garde, at one point baylifts were at the gates of the paddock, ready to come in and seize Sauber’s race cars and equipment. Luckily for the good of the sport the case has been dropped by the van der Garde camp for now until they can reach a settlement, an announcement which should be released in the next couple of days. Personally I feel for van der Garde and think that he is right to try and claim back his seat or seek compensation – and he timed his legal action very carefully to ensure maximum media exposure while attempting to force Sauber into a quick reaction. The negative side to this was that it brought disrepute to both Sauber and the sport, and threatened the team’s very existence. The upgrade of the Ferrari power unit led to one of Sauber’s best performances in recent years, with Felipe Nasr finishing in fifth place – marking the highest place finish for a Brazilian on their debut. This put together with Ericcson’s eighth place meant that Sauber have already surpassed their 2014 total of zero points in the constructor’s championship, which in the long term will help to relieve some of their financial difficulties, which is what the van der Garde saga drew the spotlight onto. Granted the whole affair doesn’t seem to have been handled very well by Sauber’s management, but when a team has to ditch one ‘pay driver’ (regardless of talent) in favour of someone who brings more money in, we need to step back and view the bigger picture.

After the race Horner treated the world’s media by saying that the FIA should intervene and help balance the playing field, after again heavily criticising the Renault power unit. Dr. Helmet Marko has also suggested that Red Bull could exit the sport completely (a threat often exercised by Ferrari many times in recent years to no effect). If taken at face value then it seems that Red Bull are just bitter that their dominance has dwindled after their glorious 2009-13 spell, but there’s more to it than that. Red Bull do have a right to feel agreeived, their prior success was built around the genius of Adrian Newey and their aerodynamics, the development of which was not restricted and parts of it could easily be banned by the FIA at relatively short notice, such as the blown diffuser. Engine development however is restricted, so after Mercedes came flying out the blocks in 2014 it was going to be a tough ask to overcome them in a short period of time – with restricted development and limited testing the status quo is maintained and it is easier to hold that advantage, aero development can only go so far.

There’s additional subtext behind this. There have been whisperings that Dietrich Mateschitz wants to sell up and exit F1, with over $300m reportedly being spent by just Red Bull themselves annually, and around 1,200 staff employed by both Red Bull and Toro Rosso. This level of commitment is reviewed every year, and the point may come where they seek a buyer. With both Audi and Renualt viewing an entry to F1, this could provide the perfect opportunity for them both – Marko’s suggestion that Red Bull could exit the sport could be a ‘come and get me’ plea to Audi.

I’m hoping that in Malaysia we see some better action on track. With Bottas and Kyvat propping up the midfield, Magnussen and the Manors running we could see some more battles, plus the layout of Sepang with it’s huge straights will provide overtakes assisted by DRS at least. 

An F1 seat via the Courtroom

What a mess Sauber find themselves in. Geido van der Garde’s case against Sauber, for breaching the terms of his contract has been successful, pending appeal. 

Rumours that van der Garde would have a seat at Sauber for 2015 started back before the epic 2014 Bahrain GP in April by Motorsport Magazine, who stated that the former Caterham driver had some extremely wealthy Dutch backers behind him to help secure a seat. Clearly for Sauber they were not wealthy enough, as they opted for another Caterham driver in Marcus Ericcson with Swedish corporate backers, and Banco do Brasil supported Felipe Nasr, who moved up from GP2 and after his test and development role at Williams.

If the result of Thursday evening’s (in the UK) appeal goes in Geido’s favour, then this would open a huge can of worms. This could lead to 2013 Sauber driver Adrian Sutil opening up a similar case should he feel just as aggrieved, he suggested last year that he still had a contract in place with Sauber by saying,

“They’ve confirmed two drivers but that doesn’t mean they can drive and it doesn’t mean the team’s going to drive.”

Should one of Felipe Nasr or Marcus Ericsson be pushed out of a seat in favour of VDG, then one would expect a counter case supported by their respected sponsors. These companies have invested tens of millions of pounds in support, at the very least they would want any money paid to Sauber refunded should their driver be unable to race for Sauber.

Either way this will inflict serious damage to the future of Sauber. The Swiss team scored zero points in 2014 and were beaten to 9th place by Marussia, meaning that they missed out on millions of pounds of prize money – one could see why they needed to opt for two ‘pay drivers’. The loss of either Nasr or Ericcson, and any possible future law suits would make an even bigger dent to Sauber’s finances.

Monisha Kaltenborn’s position as Sauber CEO must also be called into question. At present she has violated the terms of at least one of her employee’s contracts, and thrown the team and sport into disrepute. No doubt the sport’s media will have a field day during Friday’s team principal’s press conference. All this case does though is highlight the bigger problem of the state of finances in F1, and what teams need to do to survive. Reports such as those saying the van der Garde only found out that about Nasr’s drive by easing the press release shows that Sauber haven’t handled this very well, but having the situation where one heavily backed driver is being replaced by one with even greater finances is what the sport needs to avoid.

I know most of this is pure speculation with the result of Sauber’s appeal not being decided until later today, and the potential loss of another team in F1 is not what fans want to see, but it is important to know the potential ramifications of this case and how they could have been avoided in the first place.