Tag Archives: Mercedes

Shuffling the pack – 28 Sept 2012

28 Sep

What a day.

After an absurdly protracted silly season, the F1 driver pack shuffling finally began today. In case you have been hiding in a cave all day, Lewis Hamilton is leaving McLaren who are replacing him with Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez, while Michael Schumacher who was ousted by H.A.M. appears to be seeking gainful employment elsewhere. The entire F1 twittersphere has been expressing its displeasure/outrage/bafflement/pleasure (delete as appropriate) since the early hours.

This was the news I was dreading, and now we are 12 hours in I’ve gathered my thoughts. I am pissed off. Not as pissed off as I may have been, as this news is definitely not the worst I have received this week by one heck of a long way. The only thing which is pissing me off is the now-serious risk that my beloved über-weltmeister Schumi may have to retire permanently from the sport. Beyond that I have mixed feelings. Here is my take on the key players:

Schumi
I don’t believe he wants to retire. If he did, he’d probably have said as much today through a joint statement with Mercedes. His manager Sabine Kehm has been quoted today saying that Michael wasn’t sure in the summer if he wanted to re-sign when offered a deal. Given the nightmarish first half of the season he had, this really doesn’t surprise me. Why would he want to keep driving in the team, or at all, given all those DNF’s which were beyond his control? Was he thinking of looking around elsewhere back then? We will probably never know.

I really, really want Schumi to keep racing, but only in a team where he has a good, reliable car. Sauber would be a great fit. I don’t believe he should, would or could go back to Ferrari.

Mercedes
The team do need to think of the future, and while I personally don’t get the hype around Hamilton, he is a big name. He also has an ego to match. The arrival of Lewis, Simon Fuller, Pussycat Nicole & guest rappers will probably be quite a culture shock for the team compared to the quieter team of Michael, his manager Sabine and occasionally his wife Corinna. I suspect it will take a while for the two parties to gel, particularly with Simon Fuller.

Lewis
Was it the challenge or the $$$? Who knows. More so than Mercedes, I think Lewis is also in for a culture shock. He is no longer the protegé, no longer in the environment he grew up in where he appears to have been treated with kid gloves. If he puts a toe out of line or gives it too much attitude, the Mercedes management will come down on him hard. Niki Lauda, Norbert Haug and Ross Brawn are all fierce when it comes to discipline. This could be exactly what Lewis needs, but it could easily turn in to a disaster zone.

McLaren
Did they drop the ball? Yes, maybe. But did Ron Dennis want to keep hold of it? With relations soured it is probably best for the team that they have a new start. Jenson is an excellent team player and will give them the continuity, while their new young rising star will be a breath of fresh air. If Checo keeps Jenson on his toes from the start and only grows stronger, how long will it be before they stop looking wistfully down the pitlane to Lewis’s garage?

Checo
Mexico’s rising star is undoubtedly the one with the most to gain here. After being held back by Ferrari, he now has a seat at a top team which will give him a shot at becoming another of F1’s youngest world champions. I can’t wait to see what he can deliver next year.

F1 Merchandising – Have The Teams Got It Right?

19 May

Like fans of any other sport, Formula 1 fans want to get their hands on official merchandising of the teams they support. Before the start of the season I decided to look at what teams released and when so that I could write about it here. I’ve never previously taken a look across all the teams in this way, and what I found surprised me to the extent that I questioned whether or not the teams in one of the most commercial sports in the world have got it right.

Timing of merchandise release

We’re now past race weekend 5 of 20 – a quarter of the way through the 2012 F1 season, and some teams have still not released their merchandising collections online through their websites. Those still in that category are Williams F1, Sahara Force India and HRT. The majority of teams had their merchandise available by the Malaysian race, although Mercedes (whom I was very impatiently waiting for) didn’t release theirs until mid-April.

With merchandising changing from one season to the next, the late timing of the releases does not represent good value for money for fans; F1 merchandising (like most sports) is not cheap. Why is it so late in some cases? It is hard to say for sure in each individual case, but waiting until sponsorship deals have been sealed can put production of the merchandising on hold. It is inevitable for the team that the income from the pending sponsor(s) will be worth more to the team than income from merchandising.

The contrast in timing of release of official F1 team ‘kit’ for supporters with football teams is striking. The 2011/12 football season is barely over, but the kit for 2012/13 season for many teams is either already available to buy or can at least be pre-ordered. Even those teams awaiting sponsorship deals to be agreed (or branding changes) are likely to release their kit in July, still ahead of the start of the season.

Price Comparison

The price of merchandising across F1 teams varies significantly. I took a look at the cost of a team replica ladies shirt for each team who has released merchandising to date. Replica kit is always more expensive than other ranges offered by teams so it should be noted that there are cheaper alternatives available. Here are the prices, in descending order:

Caterham £60

Mercedes £58.50

Lotus £53

Sauber (unisex) £52 (Conversion based on current £/€ exchange rate)

Red Bull £44.19 (Conversion based on current £/€ exchange rate)

Marussia £39.99

McLaren £39.95

Toro Rosso – no official shirt

Ferrari – not available online

This list shows a significant range in price across the teams. The McLaren shirt is a relative bargain(!) for one of the ‘big teams’ but is a t-shirt rather than a polo or shirt. By contrast the prices of the Mercedes and Caterham shirts are somewhat eyewatering.

Gender balance

Being a female F1 fan, I was particularly interested by the merchandising available to women. It was striking, and disappointing, that some teams only sell a fraction of items to women compared to the menswear range. If my twitter feed (@schuvettelainen) is anything to go by, the gender balance amongst F1 fans is pretty equal. Shots of the grandstands on race weekends also support this – there are always plenty of women at races.

Red Bull, Lotus, Marussia and McLaren all have full ranges for women, while Sauber’s official team line is unisex.  By comparison, Mercedes has 2 items (plus  a unisex jacket) for women compared to 11 for men.

Even more depressing is that some teams don’t even have menu filters for women on some parts of their website. The Ferrari store has a women’s section in their general range, but in the Scuderia section containing the F1 merchandise there are filters for men and kids, but not for women. It is possible to buy Ferrari women’s clothing in shops but it is really odd that it isn’t available online. (Interestingly in the Ferrari Scuderia section there is a filter for Fernando Alonso, but not for Felipe Massa – there is Felipe gear on there, but you have to trawl through everything to find it).

The Scuderia section of Ferrari’s online shop

Caterham have women’s team replica kit, but not a lifestyle range. I contacted their e-shop to ask why this was, and I was assured that the items are on their way (and that Caterham value their female fans as much as their male fans), but if they are able to produce men’s lifestyle products from the start, why not women’s?

The Caterham e-shop. See menu on left hand side.

With some teams having full lines for their female fans it seems that some recognise that women are massive F1 fans too, but others apparently haven’t got it right and have some way to go to catch up.

Accessories and other items

One thing all teams are good at is producing accessories and other assorted items. Here’s a selection of what is out there.

Red Bull have a massive range of items:

Seb Jigsaw (£10.41), Bandana (£9.61) and RB7 nosecone (£80,38) from the Red Bull Racing Shop

Mugs and USB sticks are a popular choice with teams. McLaren and Lotus have the nicest, although the Lotus USB is frankly extortionate.

Lotus USB stick (£40), Lotus mug (£14) and McLaren Tea-Lemetery Mug (£9.95)

Belts and notebooks are also popular choices. I like these ones from Caterham F1:

Caterham Belt (£24) and Leather Notebook (£18)

Have the teams got it right?

In some cases it seems the teams are spot on – a good choice for all, while others seem to have got it wrong (from a fan’s perspective) in terms of timing and/or gender inequality. I don’t know how teams plan their merchandising ranges, but they don’t seem to be drawing on consistent data. It will be interesting to see what the remaining teams offer when their collections are released.

Storm Clouds Are Gathering

22 Mar

The Formula 1 season has barely begun, but it already feels like it’s never been away. As race 2, Malaysia, rapidly approaches, tensions appear to be increasing, and I’m not just talking about the stormy weather forecast for the weekend. Here’s my look at what has been bubbling up over the last few days, as well as a look ahead to the weekend.

Inter-team bickering

A new season always brings new technical developments, and an inevitable knock-on effect of that is disputes between teams about who may be breaking FIA rules or breaching informal agreements between teams. Red Bull and Mercedes are currently engaged in a spat about the respective legality of their Renault engine behaviour and the  Mercedes ‘Super F-Duct’. The FIA has ruled that both are legal, and since Ferrari aren’t involved in the dispute those rulings are likely to stay in place (ooo handbag!). I hope this dispute doesn’t rumble on all season as it can get incredibly tedious.

A ruling in the long-running intellectual property theft case between Sahara Force India and Caterham F1 and Aerolab has also emerged today. If you’re not familiar with the case, Force India accused Aerolab, a wind tunnel supplier, of copying the F1 team’s design in the development of the Team Lotus T127. Legal proceedings were also launched against Mike Gascoyne (Caterham F1’s then-Chief Technical Officer) and the team. The ruling conceded some intellectual property ‘theft’ on the part of Aerolab and awarded Force India 25,000 Euros in damages. However, much more significantly, the High Court ruled in favour of Aerolab with regards to £4 million of unpaid legal costs; a bill which Force India really could do without right now with the near-collapse of Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines.

Drivers

After their performances in Melbourne, all eyes are on Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa and for once this is due to unrelated events.

Lewis Hamilton’s disappointment at coming third in Melbourne was plain to see last Sunday as he stood stony-faced on the podium and then spoke through gritted teeth during the post-race official press conference. After such a tumultuous season in 2011, the media are desperately looking for any sign that Lewis hasn’t got over all of his ‘issues’ from last year. Whether he has or not, Lewis really needs to learn some good sportsmanship and appear graceful in defeat. In his Telegraph column this week, David Coulthard pondered whether Jenson Button’s seemingly easy success in Melbourne has knocked Lewis’s confidence. I think there is little doubt that it has knocked him, and if Lewis can’t strike back with a strong victory in the first few races then his frustrations may re-emerge on the track.

Felipe Massa did not fare well in Melbourne, and an unusually worded press release from the Ferrari team about his new chassis has ignited speculation about whether he will still be driving for them all season: “Felipe knows he can count on the team to do everything, both from the technical and the operational point of view, to put him in a better state to show off his talents – even at the cost of extra work in these few days that separate the Australian race from the one in Malaysia. For example work has already begun in the Sepang pits to prepare chassis number 294, which replaces the number 293 and will be used by the Brazilian in the second race of the season. This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park” (from http://www.ferrari.com). A number of drivers have been linked with Massa’s seat, including Sauber driver Sergio Perez and currently unemployed Jarno Trulli. Ferrari and Massa have been quick to dismiss these rumours but they have a habit of not going away. If Massa doesn’t improve his performance on track then this will only continue to distract all parties.

F1 this weekend

Melbourne saw all cards get thrown up in the air, and it still isn’t clear exactly how things compare between some of the teams. Mercedes and Lotus both clearly have very strong cars, but they were hindered by problems over the weekend. Hopefully the race at Sepang will bring both teams more luck and we’ll see what they’re really capable of.

The mid-field appears to be a tightly bunched pack and we should see some fierce battles for points.  Williams, in particular, appear to have turned themselves around, and I really hope to see them do well and score the points they so narrowly missed out on in Melbourne.

At the back of the pack, Caterham will be seeking to show what they can really do after some bad luck in Australia. Heikki Kovalainen will be hindered by a 5 place grid penalty, but he should be able to push forward through the field. Whether he will need to negotiate the mobile chicanes of the HRT cars won’t be known until after qualifying – will they be able to pass the 107% rule?

The greatest unknown in all of this though is the weather. Stormy weather is forecast which would inevitably complicate things further. If the race is wet I’d expect Button and Schumacher to do well, given their particular skills in the rain.

Other action this weekend

The GP2 season kicks off in Malaysia, and after only occasionally dipping in to coverage in previous years, I’m looking forward to getting to know this formula a lot better in the coming year. Coverage on Sky will, of course, help this rather than somewhat erratic coverage on Eurosport last year.

Also starting this weekend is the Indy Car season. The first race from St Pete’s is being broadcast on Sky Sports F1, and I’m looking forward to getting in to it again. I’m sure interest will be higher amongst F1 fans this year, with Rubens Barrichello competing, and it’ll be great to see him getting his teeth in to the races. I also can’t wait to see Dario Franchitti back in action.

Some Reflective Moments

There’ll also be a real sense of poignancy races on both sides of the globe this weekend.

It is the first Indy Car race since the tragic loss of Dan Wheldon, and this street circuit takes place in his adopted home town. Dan’s sister Holly will be waving the green flag, as well as presenting the winner’s trophy. A street on the track has also recently been dedicated as ‘Dan Wheldon Way’.

Back in Malaysia, the scene of the equally tragic loss of Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli, drivers and teams have been visiting T11 where Marco lost his life, and pausing to remember their friend. Fernando Alonso’s comments about being in Sepang this weekend and remembering Marco have been particularly touching.

 

This will be a weekend packed full of racing action; bring it on.