DECEMBER 5, 2007
Themes at the Forum
The first day of the Motorsport Business Forum in Monaco provided some interesting insights into the way that Formula 1 is going and and how there needs to be some serious thinking about the future. FIA President Max Mosley went through the reasoning for the F1's engine freeze and why it is important to maintain manufacturer involvement by adopting technology which can help the car industry deal with the environmental issues. This view was backed up by Burkhard Goschel, who represents the car manufacturers in F1. Making F1 relevant to the car business was his theme and he argued that F1 needs at the forefront of development with KERS and systems to collect the heat that is generated from the cars. He spoke of new fuels and of the need to reduce costs.
"Reducing costs will help F1 to survive,"he said.
On a more practical note, BMW's Dr Mario Theissen gave some interesting insights about running the BMW F1 programme saying that while BMW has doubled the budget of Sauber, the company is nonetheless spending less on F1 than it was when it was just an engine supplier.
Force India F1 team boss Vijay Mallya spoke passionately about why he has acquired the Spyker F1 team and how he believes India will be a boom market for F1 in the years ahead. This included some amazing statistics with India boasting annual growth of 9% per annum, 114,000 dollar millionaires and a middle class of probably 400m people by 2010. There are 500m people under 25 and their aspirations are higher than those of previous generations. Mallya says that he hopes that F1 can emotionally connect with this group in the future.
Mallya said that he believes the team will make aa big impact, reporting that Indian TV viewing figures jumped 60% after it was announced that he had acquired the team and adding that he hoped that there will be 150m TV viewers in India in 2008.
There are, however, problems. Theissen spoke of "too much politics" and argued that F1 has to "sit down and develop ideas to get that under control". While Toyota's John Howett spoke of the need for a better relationship between the different stakeholders in F1.
Force India's commerical director Ian Philipps was more outspoken, saying that in his 38 year career in F1 he had never been as worried about the future of the sport as he is now. Arguing that the FIA does not consult the teams about the rules.
"The way the sport is governed at the moment is really quite frightening, he said. "It is not working. I have never been so terrified."
One area which led to much criticism was qualifying with Stuart Dybel of 19 Entertainment describing the fuel burn sector of Q3 as being "utter folly" which makes F1 "a sitting target for our critics".
The need for a more ecologically-friendly F1 was highlighted by several speakers while the discord in the decision-making process being called into question. Marketing man Zak Brown argued that sponsors should be having a bigger say on the development of the sport.
"There is too much fighting off the track." he said. He gave as an example the loss of the United States GP which caught most of the F1 sponsors unawares. Brown said that in talks with Indianapolis's Tony George he had discovered that the negotiations broke down because of money back that the gap between the two parties was "not substantial in F1 terms" and less than $10m.
"I think we can be assured that if the sponsors had known that would have been sorted out," he said.
Brown added that "we can be back there in 2009".
ING was one of the parties caught out by the decision to stop the US Grand Prix but the company's head of the programme Isabelle Conner said that this season has been a success for ING beyond the company's wildest dreams, despite the poor results from the Renault team.
The conference looked at different areas in which F1 marketing men might like to look in the future with Disney executive Lawence Aldridge explaining about Disney's experiences with mums and kids. He argued that mothers pay the deciding role in 80% of consumer decisions and thus F1 would benefit hugely from targeting them more, as Disney does.
Honda's David Butler talked about Honda's plans to continue with the Earth Car concept and suggested that the sport needs to look at ways it can be used as a tool to solve real world world problems and the need for F1 to have more social responsibilty.