Blasting off the season

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Blasting off the season
How to improve dismal and boring car launches in Formula 1
Jonathan Simon | February 20, 2019

The Simon Racing Report - Sports Journalist
2019 car launches are over. Why are teams still launching cars the same way they always do? I’m not saying it’s terrible, it’s just plain boring. It’s time to change the way it’s done before more fans lose interest in these nonchalant car reveals.
I’ve spent a week watching dismal car launches. What happened to the excitement and the hype with all this? I remember getting into my first car launches as a kid, waiting for that countdown, the excitement to see the car for the first time. I’m over it now. You know you won’t miss anything spectacular anymore. None of us want to sit through thirty minutes of corporate blabber. Isn’t it easier to wait for the photos and the Motorsport.com article presented with them the next morning? That’s what I did this year, no regrets, it’s awesome.
I still ended up watching a few afterwards to see if I missed anything special. I’m currently watching Ferrari’s car launch. Is somebody graduating from university? That might have been one of the least entertaining car launches I’ve seen in my lifetime. Too many speeches and sitting down for long periods of time. That Ferrari launch was painful and a waste of time.
There were two people out of place at that car launch, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. Vettel probably had a joke or two ready to go, but refrained from saying either of them. It’s just unfortunate that each driver’s personality is slowly being fossilised into a walking corporate card. As I’m watching this, Leclerc is definitely too young enough to be here. Oh, I just noticed one more person out of place. Mattia Binotto looks like Harry Potter and James Bond made their crossover film debut. What a superb tuxedo.
The Haas launch took place at a genuinely exquisite location, The Royal Automobile Club in London. A rich venue, I tried spotting James Bond, maybe even Mattia Binotto, but I spotted a terrific looking afro on the head of Guenther Steiner. Could this man get any better? As messy as it looks, I love it. It’s something different, I like different. Sources say Rich Energy helps stimulate hair growth. Or does it? Nobody knows, it’s Rich Energy. I gave CEO William Storey a quick google search, not much to find but he’s got to be doing something correct. Just remember, Zoran Stefanović has spent over two decades around Formula 1 and is still unable to associate himself with a team.
Racing Point had minimal budget left for their launch – evident as the event took place in what looks like a lecture theatre. I’ve only just wanted to understand, what does Racing Point even mean? Reddit tried to give it a go. Are they racing for points? Or are they planning to score one point?
Whilst it’s nice to see each team get a little creative with their own car launch, they’re not getting creative enough. Apart from McLaren’s hype music and lighting, there was little to no entertainment.
Now it’s time to talk about these interviews – rant for a better word. Who the hell reads some of the answers to these questions? “Hello Lewis, as a five-time world champion, what keeps you coming back to Formula 1?” Because he enjoys driving?
“So now to Valtteri, you had one of the worst Formula 1 seasons in history as a teammate of a world champion in 2018, has your hunger developed in pursuit of a better campaign?” No, Bottas wants to lose more than ever.
I made that last question up. How about “are you desperate into jumping into the car tomorrow for the first time in pre-season testing?”. Seriously, who wants to read the answer to these questions? These were genuine questions asked in the past couple of years at F1 car launches.
Let’s ask the drivers questions centered around the wider front wings, the new tyre warmer limit and its effects on warming up the tyres on an outlap, what you can learn from driving in such cold conditions during testing, the advantages and disadvantages of having a full day of testing all to yourself, instead of a half day, differences you expect between the 2018 and 2019 car based on driving in the simulator. That’s the stuff I want to read.
So here’s my idea to improve F1 car launches. A similar idea has been conjured up somewhere else, but I want to add my own dusting of salt and spice to enhance the taste. Maybe more than a dusting, it’s an overhaul. And another quick disclaimer, while I sprinkle some of my own ingredients, I’m going to baptize my idea with American cuisine. At the end of the day, I have to sell this idea to Liberty Media.
Here it is. Let’s have a collective car launch one day before the first day official day of testing. Each team will have a chance to reveal their cars one after the other, voilà, we have an event out of it. If Williams can make it on time, even better. The basic outline is to give each team a fifteen to twenty minute time slot to reveal their car, with enough time for a preview and review of every team at the beginning and end of the broadcast, analysis per team, along with an abundance of other gimmicks that I need to attempt to sell Liberty Media on. It’s a four and a half hour extravaganza! Think F1 Live London, the NFL Draft, that kind of length. It’s possible.
The venue. Choose an indoor arena or football stadium. Tickets will sell, it’s Formula 1. Just don’t hold the event at the Yeongam circuit in South Korea if you want to earn any form of profit. We already pay for a multitude of other overpriced gimmicks related to F1, so why won’t we pay for this? It’ll be an atmosphere like no other. Cheering, booing, yelling and screaming. How often will you get to hear an atmosphere that resembles qualifying at Australia in 2014?
Do we still have to satisfy the corporate members of each team? Nobody cares right? Can’t teams hold a separate private event if they please? I’m quite naive as you can tell. I don’t know of any contractual obligations these teams face on the car launch front, I just want to have fun.
The event coverage commences with a short timeslot to preview the car launches. Here are your hosts, Will Buxton and Anthony Davidson. That duo will have chemistry, something José Mourinho and Paul Pogba never had. Throw in another driver or personality as well. Eddie Jordan? Mark Webber? Anyone capable of having some fun. I’ll save Martin Brundle and David Coulthard for something special later. To make these broadcast teams work, let’s have FOM broadcast the event on F1 TV. I’d love to see Brundle and Coulthard back together again.
To keep it simple, the cars can launch based on last year’s constructors’ championship standings (or reverse). Once the preview is over and Buxton keeps the others in check, we come back from commercial. Could we now possibly hand it over to a historic driver representing the team? Picture the overwhelming reception for Mika Häkkinen as he steps up to the podium to announce McLaren as the next team to launch their car. The crowd would ERUPT. Michael Schumacher would be perfect for Ferrari. The crowd would go ballistic before he even opens his mouth! Let’s hope he’s back healthy ready to do that someday.
After the special guest introduces the team, we kick it straight to the hype video of the team. A thirty second hype video, we’re excited, we’re nervous! Tension builds, nostalgia looms. These need to be the same hype videos that play at an NBA game before the starting lineups are revealed for the home team. Similar to the build-up videos Sky Sports F1 plays five minutes before each race, I don’t mind those. Which begs the question, do we bring back driver introductions for each team? I don’t think it’ll be as cheesy as the last one Formula 1 had, even if that event just didn’t go to plan at USA in 2017. I’m afraid… of publishing this column with that idea out in the internet forever. I think it’d work better at this collective car launch. It’ll be shorter, snappier, with less technical issues. We’re doing it team by team and hopefully Buxton’s microphone actually works this time out.
Now throw in Jake Humphrey and Jennie Gow, get a conversation going between the two drivers, introduce the team boss and designer as well to show off the beautiful aspects of the car. On that note, someone lock Jake Humphrey to a ten-year deal before he goes off running again. Even better, throw in Brundle and Coulthard into the interview role. They’ll ask great questions, they’ll stimulate the conversation and have a few laughs, it’ll be great.
Now that the car is revealed, as well as the fact that we’ve minimised the time for those dismal corporate interviews, each team should have a classic car ready for a demo. There are a couple ways you can do this. Is there space inside the arena? Or must you drive from inside to outside to make it all work? Either way, as long as there’s a mosh pit of fans behind fencing or barriers, they’ll experience the thrill of a burnout or two. How cool would it be if Nico Rosberg took this beast for a spin after the car launch?
If there’s time to implement a technical analysis section to the broadcast then let’s do it! Grab Craig Scarborough or Pat Symonds, just don’t give them the fucking SkyPad. Why does that screen always lag so much? Haven’t they considered upgrading it in the past 7 years?
Is there time for a live music performance as well? F1 does it well every year at Singapore – at least that’s what my friends have told me when they flew out to the grand prix over there. I don’t really want one though, I just want a ten minute period where I can head to the bathroom and not have to worry about missing anything valuable.
Is the idea too brash, audacious or optimistic?
(Not really.)
Is it too American even for Liberty Media’s standards?
(Possibly.)
Will it work?
(Got to try it and find out.)

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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

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