F1 Business Diary 2014: the German Grand Prix

The halfway point of the German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2014 Formula One world championship - although there weren't many spectators at Hockenheim to witness it first-hand.

The halfway point of the German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2014 Formula One world championship – although there weren't many spectators at Hockenheim to witness it first-hand.

Only halfway there

Hockenheim shares the German Grand Prix with the Nürburgring – the former hosts in even-numbered years and the latter in the odd – and, given the size of the crowd for Sunday's race, perhaps it is beginning to show. The best estimates suggested an attendance of between 52,000 and 55,000 at a venue that can hold around double that. It has left race organisers searching for answers. Theories abound: the price of tickets; the lack of appeal of Germany's top drivers Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel compared to Michael Schumacher in his heyday; the lack of pre-race publicity in Germany given that the country's national soccer team has rather dominated the media in recent weeks. Perhaps most intriguing, however, is the suggestion that the revived Austrian Grand Prix in June attracted fans who had attended the German Grand Prix in previous years. Whatever the cause, Hockenheim's Formula One future looks decidedly perilous with just one race, in 2016, believed to be left on its contract and the Nürburgring now in the hands of new owners who look set to invest.

Lopez confirms Maldonado – and his money?

A dismal year for Lotus got no better at Hockenheim, with Pastor Maldonado only able to record a 12th-place finish and Romain Grosjean failing to reach the chequered flag. Lotus, which finished fourth in last year's constructors' championship and might have done better still, currently languishes down in eighth in this year's table. The team's co-chairman Gerard Lopez made a rare public comment in Germany, giving an interview to the team's official website and confirming that Maldonado will remain with the team for 2015. That, presumably, also means the significant funding from Maldonado's personal sponsor, state-owned Venezuelan oil firm PDVSA, will remain, too.  Lopez also issued this rallying cry – of sorts: “The attitude at Enstone is not one of finger-pointing and dwelling on issues,” he said, “but rather one of positive action to improve the situation. We're taking several steps to make us stronger for the future.”

The Caterham conundrum

Understandably, the team revealed few details but the widespread reports that over 40 Caterham employees were laid off in the build-up to the German Grand Prix formed the first part of the restructuring plan being executed by the squad's new owners. The team was acquired by a group of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors, steered by former Formula One team principal Colin Kolles, in the week before the British Grand Prix earlier this month, but, somewhat bizarrely, they have not identified themselves. Newly installed team principal Christijan Albers, speaking at the weekend, would only say they are “a group of private investors, too many to name individually”. Buying a Formula One team is usually at least partly about prestige, so it can only be assumed the mystery Caterham investors are in it for the money – profit, however, is a rarely spoken word when it comes to Formula One teams.

Sponsorship success

Another race, another win for Mercedes and, with a pair of world championships all but certain and the prospect of a thrilling duel between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton for the drivers' crown, it is no surprise that the team's sponsors are enjoying the moment. IWC Schaffhausen, the Swiss watchmaker, is one such. “It's great news,” the company's marketing chief Yan Lefort told SportsPro, “but luckily we haven't built our entire strategy, the entire relationship around success because that is something I would personally not recommend doing – it's not something you can control as a sponsor. We haven't done that. But we're very happy, of course, with the visibility that results generate and the hype, the positive hype, around the team. We benefit from a lot of visibility with the drivers on TV. It doesn't change anything in terms of how we activate and work, but it does change the spirit, of course, and stimulates the relationship.” It's not just the three-pointed star enjoying this season.
 

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