Formula One Business Diary: Great Britain

Multiple tyre failures dominated the British Grand Prix, a race won by Nico Rosberg in front of a near-capacity crowd at a sunny Silverstone. But there were plenty of other talking points at the local race of eight of the 11 Formula One teams.

With the British Grand Prix the local race for eight of the 11 teams on the Formula One grid, it was no surprise to see drivers wheeled out to appease a host of sponsors in the build-up to Silverstone. Lewis Hamilton, for example, made an appearance – half an hour late, apparently – at London’s Selfridges store on Tuesday on behalf of Mercedes watch sponsor IWC. His former teammate Jenson Button, meanwhile, was busy promoting Santander's new young person's railcard scheme alongside professional celebrity Myleene Klass. Elsewhere in London, Romain Grosjean and Lotus tester Davide Valsecchi dabbled in a spot of Scalextric at Lotus' Regent's Street store as part of Group Lotus' new licensing tie-ups. As to which driver pulled the shortest sponsorship activation straw: that was a toss-up between Felipe Massa, who found himself posing for photos on a petrol station forecourt for Shell in Towcester, and Force India's Paul Di Resta. The Scotsman looked more than a little bemused to be spending his Wednesday afternoon greeting shoppers at the Milton Keynes branch of Asda.

Unsung heroes
One of the more remarkable sights at this year's British Grand Prix was the army of orange-clad marshals deployed to pick up exploded shards of Pirelli tyre, scattered across the circuit after the multiple tyre problems which dominated the race. The British crew, all of them volunteers, provided the usual sterling service on a weekend when Canadian marshal Mark Robertson, who was killed in a tragic accident shortly after the Grand Prix in Montreal, was remembered by the Formula One paddock with a minute's silence on Friday evening. In total, 1,166 trained volunteers were on duty at Silverstone – including 372 spectator marshals, 276 course marshals, 90 flag marshals and 96 medical officers – joining a near-capacity crowd at the circuit on Sunday.

Reading between the lines
Reading Football Club chief executive Nigel Howe was in the Silverstone paddock on Sunday morning, putting pen to paper on a new joint marketing partnership with the Marussia team. The deal brings together a Russian-owned Formula One team with a Russian-owned English soccer club – club logos will appear on the team’s cars, while Marussia's logos will appear on the reverse of the second-tier club's playing shirts. It is the second such tie-up in Formula One, following the lead of Premier League club Chelsea and the Swiss Sauber team, and brings the number of Formula One teams affiliated to English soccer clubs to three – Caterham and Queen's Park Rangers share an owner in Malaysia's Tony Fernandes. The Marussia/Reading deal is designed to boost awareness of both, but there may be other spin-offs from working with a soccer club, as Sauber hope to discover shortly. The Swiss press reported at the weekend that the struggling team is still hoping to land significant investment from Russian oil giant Gazprom, already a major Chelsea sponsor.

599-up for Williams
There was happy commercial news on the eve of the British Grand Prix for the Williams team as it announced a new technical partnership with communications firm Shoretel. But, starkly, after eight races the team has still to score a single point this season, its 11th and 12th place finishes at Silverstone just missing the mark. Silverstone was, however, celebrated as a landmark race for perhaps the sport's most popular team. Although Williams will officially reach 600 Formula One starts at Sunday's German Grand Prix, Silverstone seemed a more fitting place to mark the milestone. A special livery, featuring the names of all 691 Williams employees, was raced while refreshment was provided by another new team partner, Dom Pérignon.

Oh, and tyres
Amidst the drama of multiple tyre failures and the inevitable swathe of questions and criticism surrounding Pirelli after the British Grand Prix, it should not be forgotten that the Italian manufacturer has not yet been officially confirmed as Formula One's tyre supplier beyond the end of next year. Although Pirelli is understood to have individual commercial deals in place with a majority of teams and a trackside advertising deal for next year with Formula One Management, it is awaiting confirmation from world motorsport's governing body, the FIA, about its position. And speculation persists that the French top brass at the FIA would prefer Michelin, a manufacturer which has previously participated in Formula One and supplies a number of other FIA-sanctioned championships, in Pirelli's role. Quite how feasible a change in supplier would be at this late stage is unclear but even if it decides to make what would be a controversial change, the FIA now find themselves banking on Pirelli wanting to stay in a sport which, in recent months, has done precious little to enhance its brand value. Pirelli has been frustrated by Formula One’s inability to act in unison, it has been reprimanded by the FIA for its part in the Mercedes tyre saga and it has built, at the sport’s request, high-degradation tyres which go against the ethos of a tyre company’s image, and have required a significant communications assault to explain away. Add all that up, and few would criticise them for deciding, come the end of the year, that enough is enough.
 

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