Formula One Business Diary: Monaco

The Monaco Grand Prix is Formula One's most glamorous and famous race - and, as ever, there was plenty of politicking and power-broking going on around the principality over the weekend.

The prestige of the Monaco Grand Prix often tempts sponsors and teams to go that little bit further when it comes to activating deals and this year it was Lotus, one of the sport's more innovative outfits, who led the way. The team carried band-of-the-moment Daft Punk's logos throughout the race weekend as part of its previously announced tie-up with Columbia Records. Unsurprisingly, however, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean’s various accidents and incidents throughout the weekend led some wags to suggest it was less a case of Daft Punk, more ‘daft, punk’.

Hanging by a tread?

The dramatic pre-race protest by Red Bull Racing and Ferrari against Mercedes was an attempt to seek clarity about exactly whether the German manufacturer broke any rules in conducting three days of testing following the Spanish Grand Prix. Mercedes were called up by Pirelli, which has a clause built into its own contract with the sport’s governing body, the FIA, allowing it to test in certain circumstances, but an FIA note to the media on Sunday evening suggested a certain underhand nature to the affair and left the possibility of sanctions against the team and, potentially, Pirelli itself. Earlier in the day, the imbroglio led to the remarkable situation of Pirelli – a third-party supplier contracted to the sport to provide a product – being called to the stewards’ office to explain its role. With no contract signed beyond the end of the year Pirelli executives, already a tad exasperated by the in-fighting and political chicanery of Formula One, will await the stewards’ report with some interest. The worst-case scenario for the sport is that it could be left without a tyre supplier with just weeks to go until detailed 2014 tyre specifications are required by the teams.

Powering up

The 2014 engine picture became a little less blurred in Monte Carlo with confirmation that Toro Rosso will switch from Ferrari power to Renault for the dawn of the 1.6 litre turbo era. Despite the cost – Renault is believed to be charging as much as €23 million for a supply next year, the most of any manufacturer – the move aligns Toro Rosso with big brother team Red Bull Racing, which should allow for closer technical integration at a key moment of rule-change. Caterham will shortly commit itself to Renault engines from 2014 onwards, while it emerged over the weekend that Williams will switch from the French manufacturer to Mercedes – a deal brokered, no doubt, by Toto Wolff who currently holds shares in both Williams and Mercedes’ Formula One operation.

Bianchi and the bigger picture

Toro Rosso’s defection to Renault, for whom global ambassador Alain Prost is increasingly becoming an active frontman judging by his numerous media appearances in Monaco, leaves Ferrari looking for a second customer team to join Sauber for 2014. Marussia seems an obvious place to look, given that the Anglo-Russian team’s current supplier Cosworth will not be building a 2014-specification engine. A handy negotiating tool may well be the impressive Jules Bianchi, who has made a very good start to his Formula One career with Marussia but who has strong, longer-term ties to Ferrari.

Watch out

The last Formula One business diary took a look at the watchmakers currently using Formula One as a promotional platform and in Monaco one expanded its activity in the sport. Hours after Mercedes’ one-two in qualifying IWC Shaffhausen, a partner of the team since May last year, announced that drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have become brand ambassadors. Yan Lefort, IWC’s head of sponsorship, told SportsPro over the weekend that the company has gently built a relationship with both men over time – Hamilton is a self-confessed watch fan, while Rosberg was given an IWC watch by his father Keke when he graduated – and explained that the company’s deal with Mercedes will shortly include a novel new touch. “We will also have an interesting branding solution, which will take the shape of a watch being embroidered on the drivers’ gloves as if he was wearing his watch while driving,” Lefort said. “That’s going to be the new, fun angle – not massive branding, but something a bit different. It tells a great story. We have this authentic kind of approach to the whole thing.”

And finally…

And finally, because Monaco is Monaco a far-from-exhaustive list of the great and the good who were seen (and keen on being seen) at Formula One’s most glamorous event of the year: Ron Howard, promoting new movie Rush; movie stars Michael Douglas, Leonardo Di Caprio and Cameron Diaz; action sports legend Tony Hawk; David Hasselhof; Tottenham manager Andre Villas Boas; golfer Ian Poulter; Red Bull spaceman Felix Baumgartner; alpine ski champion Aksel Lund Svindal; and Star Wars creator George Lucas.