F1 Business Diary 2016: The British Grand Prix

The rain affected British Grand Prix was won by home favorite Lewis Hamilton but radio issues still remain in Formula One.

In a congested weekend of sport – which included a British winner of The Championships at Wimbledon, Portugal’s triumph at Uefa Euro 2016, and British cyclists dominating at the Tour de France – Lewis Hamilton was determined not to let his 47th career victory be overshadowed.

The enigmatic world champion celebrated his fourth win of the season by crowd surfing on top of his adoring home supporters, whom the overjoyed Englishman described as: “The best fans in the world, without a doubt.”  

The emphatic race victory, in which he led from pillar to post, was his fourth triumph in Great Britain and it draws him level with Nigel Mansell for wins at Silverstone by a British driver. The race began unusually under the stewardship of the safety car following a pre-race deluge. Hamilton – a master in wet conditions – was not affected and the topsy-turvy nature of the race worked to the Stevenage-born pilot’s favour, especially when he took advantage of a virtual safety car on lap seven. 

As a result, the 31-year-old moves to within a point of teammate and rival Nico Rosberg in the drivers’ championship standings. 

Radio rules rumble on       

Lewis Hamilton found the race at Silverstone so straightforward that he claims to have turned down his engine for the last 15 laps. However, Nico Rosberg had a far less serene finish to his race and he ended up in the steward’s room for four hours after the chequered flag.  

The FIA implemented new stricter rules at the beginning of the 2016 season regarding team radios. The enforcement of article 20.1 of the sporting regulations states that ‘the driver shall drive the car alone and unaided’.

However, Rosberg reported difficulties with his gearbox on the 47th lap and radioed in for help.  His pit crew can be clearly heard telling the German to “avoid seventh gear”, which enabled him to solve the mechanical issue and keep ahead of the third-place car. 

As a result of the flagrant rule breach Rosberg received a ten-second time penalty, which relegated him from second to third – much to the chagrin of Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, who said: “This would have been the end of the race for him, probably. These rules maybe need a rethink. It needs to be discussed.” 

However, the regulations are very unlikely to be changed this year. The driver to benefit from the controversy was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen but his team principal Christian Horner was equally disparaging of the rules. Horner did, nonetheless, believe Rosberg to be guilty to the letter of the law.   

“I think the rule is rubbish,” said Horner. “It doesn’t make a great deal of sense but the rules are the rules, and, on two counts, it sounds like instructions were given that breached that protocol. 

“It is all fair game for the rest of the year. There will be loads of messages that will take into account whether it is worth five seconds or not, or a reprimand.” 

Sunglasses, data, and a Finn

Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren-Honda each announced major sponsorship and partnership deals on the eve of the Grand Prix.   

Ferrari surprised a lot of the paddock by securing the services of the 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen for a further season. The decision to re-sign the Finn, who was rumoured to be leaving at the end of the season, will certainly come as a blow to the ambitions of a number of drivers who had desires on his seat. 

Not content with one deal Ferrari and luxury eyewear manufacturer the Luxottica Group signed a sponsorship agreement. As a result, the livery of Luxottica brand Ray-Ban was on Ferrari’s cars in time for the Silverstone race.

McLaren-Honda signed a three-year contract with telecommunications company NTT Communications. The Tokyo-headquartered company has become McLaren’s new technology partner and will provide the UK team with network, cloud and data connectivity. 

Red Bull Racing secured a four-year deal with IBM Spectrum. The extended partnership will result in IBM Spectrum branding on the team’s race-day cars and garages, in addition to data being used in the design and development of Red Bull cars.

New Hill on the horizon

Former Formula One world champion Damon Hill is reported to be setting up a new a new professional racing drivers’ association.

Hill, 55, is being tight-lipped on the new venture but together with Alexander Mahony he has founded a UK-based limited company called the Professional Racing Drivers’ Association (PRDA). Furthermore, with relations between the FIA, teams and drivers at an all-time low, a wise head like Hill’s could be beneficial in future negotiations. 

“Time will tell whether it has any role to play or not,” said Hill. “This will depend completely on whether drivers feel strongly enough to want to have a say on how their sport is shaped and whether they wish to do that through a representative body. 

“The driver’s perspective is a unique one and very intimately connected to the hopes and dreams of the fans. But there is currently no body in our sport – apart from the GPDA, which is specific to F1 – that seeks to promote these ideas and insights across the whole sport. 

“I think the PRDA could be an extremely valuable addition to the whole of the motorsport industry for the future.”


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