Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2017

Ferrari boss unhappy with US GP pre-race show

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In the round-up: Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne says Formula One got it wrong with its pre-race show at the United States Grand Prix.

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  • 46 comments on “Ferrari boss unhappy with US GP pre-race show”

    1. I was in the crowd at Austin… and on the whole it seemed like the reaction was generally unimpressed with the intro.

      Might have been different for those on the start finish straight who could see the drivers coming out directly though.

      1. @textuality Well hearing overdramatic introduction for 2 people competing head to head is good way to selling the fight. Hearing booming announcer voice (no matter how legendary that person is) for 10 minutes non stop and for 20 people when most of them is certainly not the top tier will make anyone cringe. In this case (driver entrance) F1 needs to learn from the best: WWE. On battle royale matches, they skipped the low tier wrestlers entrance and keep the pace flowing and audience focus on the big names. Or if they want to turn it up to 11, let the title contenders have WrestleMania main event style entrance. Could be still cringey at the end, but you can bet all eyes gonna watch that.

    2. You know, i don’t care about noise, i dig the complicated PUs, i think its a tragedy they aim to shake things up again after this year f1 finally was back to its absolute best, with (not too easy) overtakes, development races, two teams taking turns having the fastest car without knowing beforehand who will win where, i can get on board with the magnesium just-for-show skidplates, i can tolerate pirelli to a degree and i will survive the halo, but dammit low profile tyres would annoy the living hell out of me. They’re race tyres for crying out loud, they need to be PHAT like Sir Mix-A-lot will go “Dayem”!

      1. Sadly F1 has turned me into something I don’t like. I realise I’ve been putting anyone the laments the lack of noise into a box. I’ve also put anyone that can’t understand the benefit of DRS into another box. I genuinely grew to view them as idiots. Today I’m telling myself that I need to move on, ignore them I’m not the problem.

      2. @mrboerns, in the case of Michelin, you cynically suspect that the reason why they want to promote low profile tyres is because the profit margin is much higher due to their “sporty” image and, in recent years, their automotive tyre division has been starting to lose market share and the overall profit margin of their company has been falling (and they failed to hit their predicted profits earlier in the year).

        It looks like, as part of their current restructuring plan, they have decided that their best strategy is instead to move into offering more sports tyres and to position themselves as a premium product – so it’s clear that a strategy that would involve F1 moving to low profile tyres would tie in very nicely with the way that they are trying to reposition their company in the marketplace.

        As an aside, the reason for the use of low profile tyres in the WEC is more of an accident of the regulations. Instead of placing an explicit limit on the size of the brake discs, the ACO limits the size of the wheel rim instead, as well as placing a strict limit on the overall diameter of the tyre. Those regulations mean that, if you want to have the maximum size brake disc – and everybody does – then you also have to have the largest possible wheel rim: however, because the overall tyre size is fixed, you end up with a low profile tyre as a result.

        I would also like to point out that Whiting did admit afterwards that the switch to the magnesium skid blocks wasn’t actually made for the show, but was sold that way to the teams to make it easier for the FIA to pass a rule change that they actually wanted to make on technical grounds.

        The FIA wanted to change the skid block material because they were concerned that some teams were abusing the minimum ride height regulations. Because magnesium alloys are not as durable as titanium, the teams wouldn’t be able to run the cars quite as low on track or they would risk being disqualified for excessive floor wear (because the skid blocks would wear out more rapidly if they tried to run the car lower on track than permitted).

        Furthermore, there had also been a few issues with skid blocks coming loose from the floors and being struck by a trailing car, and a magnesium alloy block would also be lighter than a titanium block and therefore reduce the potential risk of damaging the trailing car.

        It seems the FIA knew that they couldn’t get the teams to accept that change on technical grounds, so instead they spun the spectacle aspect of it in order to get the teams on board – and it turned out that strategy worked pretty well.

        1. @anon I did a bit of quick googling and couldn’t find much to support your negative leaning claims about the state of Michelin’s business. It seems like everything is fine and normal business and it’s onward and upward. I didn’t see much about ‘restructuring’ nor ‘repositioning’ but I did see a bit about them being up 31% in the 18” and larger rim size tires category. But I don’t know what is cynical about a company reacting to consumer demand, nor trying to make money and profit. All companies do it globally and always have and always will. Pirelli, who are about 1/4 the size of MIchelin are no different. I’m pretty sure Pirelli don’t make nor sell big fat high sidewall tires for the domestic super car market. And on that note even mass market cars like Accords and Camrys rim sizes have only gotten bigger and bigger, including 18 inchers.

          Bottom line as I see it is that F1 has had a mandate to have one supplier make gadgety tires as one of their angles to combating their damaging addiction to too much aero, and Michelin isn’t interested in doing that. If we want to go the cynical root perhaps I would suggest it is Pirelli, who are a much smaller tire maker than many, who is desperate for the F1 exposure such that they are willing to sell themselves out and make tires that only frustrate teams and drivers and that you would never see on performance cars or even many domestic cars nor in most other racing series.

          I think it will be very interesting to hear what Liberty and Brawn have to say about tires now, and what they envision by 2021. Would love to see those ‘sketches’ or what have you that gt-racer said Brawn was showing to teams and media about proposed potential looks for the cars in 3 or 4 years.

          1. @robbie, this article from Reuters from earlier this year indicating the slight undershoot on profits, as well as confirming that the reduction in profitability within their automotive sector. It also mentions the cost savings plan that Michelin have implemented. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-michelin-results/michelin-profit-softens-but-tyremaker-firm-on-2017-goals-idUSKBN1AA229

            Similarly, here is a press release from Michelin from June 2016 that announced the cost savings plan, which makes reference to streamlining their internal organisation and reorganising their engineering division. https://www.michelin.com/eng/media-room/press-and-news/press-releases/Finance/Michelin-announces-the-scale-up-of-its-competitiveness-plan-targeting-cost-savings-of-1.2-billion-between-2017-and-2020

            When you talk about them being up in the 18″ and up sector, are you sure that isn’t confusing their “specialist tyre” division with their automotive division? The indication that I have seen is that their automotive sector has shrunk, but their specialist tyre division – which produces, amongst other things, large diameter tyres for the mining sector – is growing quite rapidly.

            1. @anon Good stuff. Thanks for that. You’re always full of it…great info that is, lol.

              I still haven’t read in the articles you cite, any reason for concern about Michelin. Everything sounds like normal business, and things happening that they expected, some of them due to the cost of materials for production which will be coming back down, as one example. When you use words like cynically, and phrases like losing market share, overall profit margin falling, failed to hit their predicted profits, and restructuring you made it sound, at least to me, quite dire, when in fact they are still doing great, still very profitable, and merely having to make some fairly minor adjustments, as all companies do. Many companies would likely envy how well Michelin is doing.

              As it relates to F1, I just think low profile tires are inevitable, and my comment about Accords and Camrys even having them was just to point out that they are that prevalent now that we needn’t even think of these tires as just being road relevant to high end performance cars…all cars can be fitted with them. In other words I don’t blame Michelin for only wanting back into F1 if they go to the lower profile sidewalls. They are plenty healthy as a company to do F1 again. I don’t see it as them pushing some agenda just to please themselves via F1. They likely think F1, no matter who is making their tires, should have more current tires on their cars. And not ones that are intentionally gadgety at that.

    3. Yes Serg between the Stroll deal and the cringey Americana rubbish opening, l worry where F1 is going….

    4. People being way too hard on that opening at the US race. Simple fact: you want your sport to work in the US, ya gotta have the flash bang whizzzzz and as much as it’s not my thing I don’t see much wrong with it either, apart from the unnecessary cheerleaders. When they started doing that kind of thing in hockey at playoff time I thought it was pretty cringeworthy, but actually it’s kinda won me over. I mean it’s guys driving cars really fast, they’re not delivering university lectures, it’s ok if for one race a year everybody takes it a bit less hoity toity.

      1. @maciek, I get the impression that quite a lot of US viewers also thought that the whole “driver introduction” show was cringeworthy and detracted from the atmosphere, rather than made it more entertaining.

        1. Probably the viewers we communicate with. @ anon
          But I think @maciek is right. Name me one succesful sport in the USofA which doesn’t have these gimmicky things around it.
          Even golf is presented differently with the player introductions and the annoying “in the hole!”

      2. @maciek
        l don’t care if F1 works in the USA or not! Fact is F1 have tried and tried to capture the US market for donkeys years and keeps failing.
        Why? maybe it is cultural or maybe there has not been a USA driver that has really shined in F1 for over 30 years, and there is no up and coming talent in the near future.
        Trying to make F1 into a Vegas show was ridiculous …Why not have all the drivers riding Kangaroo’s onto grid drinking Fosters for the Aussie F1 opener…what makes America so special?

      3. Personally, I don’t understand why we’re even talking about this. If Formula 1 is in the US of A, it will be treated as an American sport – with all the bells and whistles. Attractive cheerleaders, pre race events and media coverage to make drivers going around in circles more interesting. Sure, not everything was great, but it’s going to be a little hit and miss before they get things right.

        It’s a little ironic that Marchione talks about the ‘DNA of Formula 1’ , considering how he’s made a Ferrari world in the middle of the desert, and in a place that doesn’t even allow the age old tradition of spraying champagne on the podium. But I don’t think Ferrari mind that diluting that part of Formula 1’s DNA.

        If there’s anything cringeworthy in that entire article, it’s Sergio’s attitude and feudal mindset of criticising Liberty because he cannot he that he wants in 2021.

        1. Exactly, criticism from Marchionne is laughable. I was at Austin and although the intro dragged on a touch I was pleased they tried something new, local races should certainly have a local flavour to appeal to the crowds attending.

        2. +1 @todfod
          ….and personally I think we should be far more concerned that no one who matters seems particularly interested so far in actually fixing what the sport is on the track. Beyond that I couldn’t really care less what kinds of bells and whistles they tack on.

          1. @maciek “no one who matters seems particularly interested so far in actually fixing what the sport is on the track.”

            I hope and expect nothing could be further from the truth. Liberty/Brawn are doing exactly that. So far they are dealing with what they have inherited and sorting out how they want to proceed, with a vision that they want everyone on board with. And I’m sure that vision is a work in progress as is getting everyone on board as much as possible. For now they have spoken of getting away from the knee jerk moves that have F1 where it is. I’m encouraged by that and don’t understand what it is some people think they should have already done to ‘fix’ F1. I’d rather they take measured steps in F1 for a long term gain, for a change. F1 is still BE’s F1 for now, as evidenced by the likes of Ferrari trying to hang on to the BE skewing towards themselves. Perhaps any of us in Marchionne’s shoes would try the same tact. At least posture, and try, and then likely accept a compromise, since Liberty has already spoken about their concerns over unbalanced money distributions and the struggles of the smaller teams. Let’s give them a minute to shake off the old and bring in the new. We should want the process to take some time.

            1. True that, true that @robbie I have decent faith in LIberty (reserved but hopeful); it’s more the big players in the sport and the FIA that I find exasperating at times. But, yes let’s take a breather and see how things play out.

      4. It was quite simply terrible and unenjoyable, to the point I turned over until the start of the race! I enjoy the grid walk, hearing the words from the trackmabout the cars and not hearing some jerk announce the drivers (in some cases in a derogatory fashion) to the circuit.

        This kind of thing may is fine for fight related sports, but, not Motorsport and to me as bad as the knockout qualification system.

        1. I completely understand the point @maciek is making. There are much more important things to worry about.

          I watched the intro and like a lot of people I could hardly stomach it. It was really cringeworthy to a British or European audience I think. However, if this is what’s required or expected in the U.S. then that’s fine. Let them do what they like in Austin as long as Liberty don’t want to copy it elsewhere.

      5. “you want your sport to work in the US, ya gotta have the flash bang whizzzzz”
        As an American this is simply not true. Next year I hope they just get on with the racing as usual.

        1. @kanundra don’t get me wrong, I’m not painting all Americans with the same brush, but the way sports are marketed in the US is pretty much flash bang whizz, or certainly more so than in Canada for example, and for one reason or another, it is what seems to work

    5. I think we have a new villain figure in F1. For years that title clearly belonged to Bernie. Now he’s gone that space appears to be reserved for whoever is the current boss at Ferrari.

      (Jesus, for people who supposedly care about races first and the rest of the stuff later, we sure do talk a lot about that US intro, as if that’s what’s going to make or break the sport).

      1. @zimkazimka When the big evil boss finally defeated, you can bet there will be always smaller ones vying to replace him right away.

      2. Wasn’t it Bernie who said ” Ferrari winning is good for the sport” ? Now he’s gone, Ferrari are tripping over their own tails and now moaning and making threats.

        1. But it’s not since Bernie was removed. Ferrari last won a WDC in 2007 and a WCC in 2008, in spite of all the alleged assistance.

      3. @zimkazimka I don’t think it’s the specifics that’s worrying, it’s the glimpse of their mindset. Liberty appear startled in the headlights and have offered zero forward vision and their ‘tweaks’ to date have included drivers in smoke filled tunnels, a no-brainer proposal regarding PU’s (which was still rejected by most), and a logo change. Say what you like about Bernie, F1 is in his DNA. I would like to see far more buzz from Liberty than we’re seeing at present..

    6. This might not be taken the right way, but if F1 wants to make it in the us of a (and I mean it in that way) you have to go over the top with the razmataz thing. Seriously, if anyone thinks, Americans in general, are going buy in F1 doing things as they are done in Europe during race weekends they are dreaming. They obviously have not been paying attention to America for the last 40 years. Crude, but that’s the way it is. For 1 weekend, or eventually if it works 3, we have to put up the cringeworthy intros.

      1. It’s the same thing when you go to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The singers run out through smoke and flames and a row of cheerleaders.

    7. I think Marchionne has some nerve criticising the way austin was handled esspecially referring to the “noble origins” of Formula 1 while being allright about cosying with dictators on a regular basis. As a european i don´t think “our” opinion should be the focus all over the world. For me it´s more than welcome if the U.S. GP is amercan, the Mexican GP is Mexican and so on.

    8. … then keep out, Michelin! F1 doesn’t need you, doesn’t miss you! F1 is already too much road relevant, restricted and spec, turning it into a complete “testing&marketing playground” too for all kind of car-related manufacturers who join the series briefly… would be an incredible bad move overall. We know now how a bigger rim (16-17”) would look on an F1 car (thanks to modified screens, Formula E etc) and I don’t like them. These tyres with a big tyre wall (and a small rim of 13”) is not only some sort of F1 trademark, but the cars look better too in my opinion.

    9. The Michelin approach to not getting a job sounds pretty awesome. I’m totally giving it a try next time I fail an interview.

      Instead of telling my friends and family, “Oh, they chose someone else,” I’m going to sit picking apart one of the company’s sales brochures or their website, pointing to the bits I don’t like and saying I didn’t want the job anyway.

      1. Perhaps more accurately you could tell your family and friends that you went to apply for a job where you could use your advanced knowledge and experience only to be told they weren’t interested in that and were just looking for people who are not progressive and will just shut up and do what they are told, even when the users of the product can’t stand what they are making but have no choice in the matter.

        Your family and friends will probably say it is a good thing they told you up front what you’d be in for.

    10. I’m curious, do the various technical heads (Brawn, Newey, Allison, Lowe, etc.) have an opinion of low-profile tyres, and whether they see it as an overall beneficial change?

      I do know that teams did point out that changing to low-profile would mean a significant rework of the suspension geometry, since today there’s more of vertical movement in the tyre sidewalls than there will be in a low-profile tyre, and that loss will have to be compensated for in the suspension arms.

      1. @phylyp, well, when the idea of introducing low profile tyres in 2014 was pitched, Newey did not seem to be enthusiastic about the idea:

        “Maybe I’m ignorant of what’s been going on, but as far as I understand, then the only reason for proposing this is to make it look more like the road tyres that that particular tyre manufacturer makes,” says Red Bull’s Adrian Newey. “So it’s not being done for technical reasons, it’s not being done for performance reasons, it’s being done purely for styling and commercial reasons and I think that to me does not seem the right reason to make a technical change.”
        http://f1weekends.com/are-lower-profile-tyres-just-a-marketing-exercise/

        1. @phylyp As you can see by the article anon cites, they don’t feel it would be a great challenge, but rather a fun one, to rework the suspension to accommodate low profile tires.

          For me if these tires would just be a marketing exercise, that’s fine, as pretty much all of F1 is a marketing exercise to a great degree. If marketing through all racing series didn’t work, racing wouldn’t exist, so I don’t see low profiles as a marketing exercise anything that should stop them from going that route. I agree that it will be interesting to hear what the new regime has in mind for the cars for 2021, and it will not surprise me at all if they include low profile tires. Personally I’m indifferent as I don’t mind the current tires, but would also be fine with low profile too.

    11. That Ferrari F138 is the best looking car Ferrari ever produced IMO. I love this design, a shame it wasn’t good enough and furthermore after the steel / titatium tyre row the championship was over anyways.

    12. Michael Brown (@)
      4th December 2017, 21:45

      I thought the USGP intros were cringeworthy, like the Mexican GP DJ. But I think the circuits should be allowed to put on whatever kind of show they want.

      For example, a parade was held on the pit straight of the Korean GP circuit. People were carrying colourful banners and flags; it was quite beautiful.

    13. To help with the viewer experience, Liberty should force Ferrari to face the cameras pre and post race.

      If F. is so important they shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind screens and closed doors. Vettel is the only person in red likely to be seen for a few mins after race. Ferrari has a huge fan base, (unless all those red flags are planted). so F. bosses and engineers should interact.

      The American tunnel job just didn’t work.

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