F1 Business Diary 2014: the Malaysia Grand Prix

A busy sporting week in Kuala Lumpur culminated with a dominant drive by Lewis Hamilton to win the Malaysia Grand Prix, although the event itself was understandably low-key in light of the disappearance of flight MH370.

A big sporting week in Kuala Lumpur – the Laureus Sports Awards were held last week while the city's Glenmarie golf resort hosted the first EurAsia Cup, golf's newest matchplay event – was necessarily and appropriately subdued given the loss of flight MH370, which departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

Formula One teams and drivers paid tribute to those affected with messages of support on cars and helmets, a minute's silence was held on the grid ten minutes before the race and Lewis Hamilton dedicated his victory to the passengers and families affected. This was the 16th Malaysian Grand Prix to be held at the purpose-built Sepang International Circuit, close to KLIA. After attracting a Sunday crowd of 88,450 in 2013, a more modest 62,340 attended the 2014 Grand Prix.

Oil hail Petronas

It was the perfect result for Petronas, one of Formula One's biggest corporate spenders over the last decade, the title sponsor of the Malaysian Grand Prix for the 16th time and, on Sunday, the title sponsor of the team that recorded a dominant one-two. The oil company's part in Mercedes' triumph was duly, if without a trace of subtlety, highlighted during the podium interviews by second-placed Nico Rosberg, who told the crowd: “Malaysia you can be proud because your company, Petronas, has taken us to the front of F1 so you can be really proud about that – Petronas has given us the best oil and fuel in F1, it's absolutely brilliant.” Nascar, where drivers refer to each other by numbers and reel of a list of their sponsors whenever a microphone is parked in front of them, has nothing on Formula One 2014.

Weather update

Saturday's rain-delayed qualifying session at Sepang – qualifying and the race were moved to a later timeslot in 2009 for the benefit of European TV audiences, but that slot tends to coincide with Kuala Lumpur's daily storm – saw Formula One teams poring over the centrally-supplied weather forecast. In a change this year, Météo France, which has provided meteorological updates to Formula One for years, has been replaced by Austrian-founded firm Ubimet for 2014 and beyond. Ubimet will have a team of meteorologists and technicians on-site at every race this year, plus multiple weather stations deployed at various points around all circuits, measuring factors like wind speed and direction, air pressure, temperature and humidity, and applying what it calls 'NowCasting', an ultra short-term form of forecasting.

Esso and Asos

Still no firm word on McLaren's new title sponsor and after the British team filled the sizeable gap on its sidepods with Mobil 1 branding in Australia, it was another ExxonMobil brand, Esso, which filled the space in Malaysia. The team's new and prominent, but unannounced, Asos.com sponsorship has also been explained, at least partially. New McLaren race driver Kevin Magnussen has enjoyed long-term sponsorship from clothing brand Jack and Jones, which is part of the Danish Bestseller group. Bestseller owns a 27 per cent stake in Asos. Magnussen, who scored his second points finish in as many races on Sunday, has been hugely impressive so far, but the presence of Asos adds yet another layer of complexity to the discussion about what constitutes a pay driver in modern-day Formula One.

Quote of the weekend

“It is shit. I was on the pit wall during the race [in Australia] and it was quieter than in a bar.”

The world champion, Sebastian Vettel, sounds off about the noise – or lack of – emanating from the 2014-specification Formula One cars.
 

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