The British racing green team which showed F1 how not to do branding

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In her book ‘I Just Made the Tea’ Formula 1 hospitality doyenne Di Spires – who spent 30 years on the ‘beat’ – described the take-over of Stewart Grand Prix by Jaguar ahead of the 2000 season as follows: “Ford owns Jaguar and the Ford management had decided to promote the Jaguar brand through Formula 1, so that was the name under which the team would be known as going forward.

“Jacques Nasser, the Ford chief executive, had been so impressed by the sea of red Ferrari hats at every grand prix that he was determined to match it with a ‘sea of green’, as the Jaguar brand was just as impressive as Ferrari.”

Nasser fervently believed that by buying Stewart Grand Prix – whose start up in 1997 was largely funded by Ford in the first place – and painting the cars British Racing Green, Jaguar would rank equal with Ferrari in the hearts and minds of fans. However, the project turned out to be arguably the most expensive five-year flop in F1 history, ranking high on the list of the sport’s most cynical projects.

The fact is that after numerous management upheavals – not to mention engineering disruption by bigwigs in Detroit – Jaguar Racing was ‘sold’ to Red Bull for a dollar (and employment guarantees) in 2004. Within five years (and a change of engines from Ford-owned Cosworths to Renaults) Red Bull scored the first of four double back-to-back world championship titles.

Ford flogged Jaguar to Red Bull after five largely unsuccessful seasons
Prior to that Nasser ‘retired’ in 2001 at the age of 53 after various controversies. He was replaced by Williams Clay Ford Jnr – great-grandson of company founder Henry – who immediately demanded, ‘Who the hell is Edmund Irvine, who earns more than I do?’

He was, of course, referring to Eddie Irvine, who won four grands prix during his three-year tenure as Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari team mate, but subsequently scored just two podiums during a similar spell with Jaguar.

‘Jac the Knife’ had overlooked that for all their passion for the sport, F1 fans clearly value authenticity. Painting a formerly white car a metallic green hue and hiring an ex-Ferrari hotshot fooled nobody, certainly not beyond the first race, from which both cars retired on the sixth lap. Still, Nasser impressed the paddock by hosting a pre-race extended shindig at brother Jamie’s legendary Melbourne eatery Silvers.

Two new manufacturer names arrive on the F1 grid this year. But is Aston Martin’s rebranding (into British Racing Green, at that) of Racing Point (formerly Force India and Spyker and Midland, nee Jordan) authentic? Does the same go for Alpine’s renaming from Renault and hue change to French Racing Blue – complete with Tricolore – despite the ‘French’ team operating from a base in post-Brexit Britain?

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The same can be asked of existing teams. Can Alfa Romeo Racing (operated by Sauber) be likened to the team that won the 1950/51 world drivers championships with Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio respectively? Is the Mercedes – now owned in three equal parts by the eponymous car company, an Austrian dotcom entrepreneur and a British industrialist – a true descendent of the Silver Arrows raced by Fangio and Stirling Moss?

Does McLaren have an automotive heritage given its volume production activities commenced in 2011, three years after its last world drivers title and over a decade after its 1998 constructors championship? What about its great British rival, Williams, which has never had formal manufacturer shareholdings and whose control remained with its founding family for 40-plus years until it was sold last year to a US-based investment fund?

Which Formula 1 teams can lay claim to true authenticity in their image? Consider the backgrounds of each, in alphabetical order:

Alfa Romeo Racing

Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo launch, 2021
Sauber renamed its F1 team as Alfa Romeo in 2019
Dashes of red and white paint do not Alfa Romeos make. This marketing programme ranks below Jaguar on the cynicism scale given the brand does not own a slice of the team – Ford at least did that much. In its favour, Alfa Romeo has not claimed ‘seas of red/white’, but the bottom line is this is a paid livery deal.

That said, Sauber has a tradition of operating race programmes on behalf of manufacturers. It ran the Le Mans-winning Mercedes sports car programme in the eighties and BMW’s F1 team (the Bavarian company was part owner from 2006-09) – so at least the operation remains true to its roots. The fact, though, is that pretence has not stemmed Alfa Romeo’s plunging car sales. Tellingly, Jaguar experienced the same phenomenon.

Authenticity rating: 2/10

AlphaTauri

AlphaTauri livery launch, 2021
Until last year, AlphaTauri was known as Toro Rosso
Drinks company Red Bull acquired Minardi – which revelled in underdog status under its previous owners – at end-2006 and rebranded it to Toro Rosso, then to its current name. The Italian team does not pretend to be other than sister team to Red Bull Racing, playing supporting roles where necessary and fostering talent when called upon to do so. There are, though, no direct links between car performance and energy drinks.

The team bears the livery of its owner’s clothing label, having previously raced under the Italian translation for Red Bull – and its war-paint leaves little doubt about corporate connections between Red Bull and AlphaTauri. In short, what little pretence there may be is linked to its business model of sourcing parts from main company Red Bull Technology rather than producing everything to its own designs.

Authenticity rating: 6/10

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Alpine F1 Team

Alpine interim 2021 F1 livery
Renault has rebranded its F1 outfit
True, Renault owns Alpine; equally true, Renault’s experimental 1976 A500 F1 car was built by Alpine in Dieppe. But that strand is about as far removed from this year’s car as is Britain from the EU: the current operation’s roots lie in the original Oxford-based Toleman team snapped up by Benetton, sold to Renault, morphed into pseudo-Lotus and re-acquired by Renault in 2016. The F1 power units are built in France.

Alpine’s corporate objective is “To focus on the development of all-electric sports cars in the future” yet it is persisting with the premier internal combustion category, raising questions about authenticity: Is the brand in F1 purely to sell unrelated technologies? The operation colloquially known as Team Enstone suffered multiple personality disorders since its founding during the eighties, and these shows no signs of abating.

Authenticity rating: 3/10

Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin logo badge
British racing green is back in 2021
Obviously, Jaguar springs to mind, and there are some alarming similarities, but also salient differences: Both claimed the rights to green and both spoke of returning their respective brands to the F1 grid when they had little or no true grand prix pedigree to crow of – and both selected ex-Ferrari winners to spearhead their ‘returns’.

Crucially, AMR is a totally separate entity from the car company – a listed company – but arch car enthusiast Lawrence Stroll owns both operations. The team sources Mercedes F1 technologies and running gear, and uses the Mercedes wind tunnel, this, though, provides a tenuous thread of authenticity as the Aston Martin road car company has technical agreements with Mercedes in place for such hardware.

The question is whether buyers in this notoriously fickle niche market will get sucked in: when Aston Martin, under different management, bagged title sponsorship of Red Bull and stickered up the rear wings with Aston Martin logos they weren’t; in fact, the share price went south.

Authenticity rating: 4/10

Scuderia Ferrari

Giuliano Alesi, Ferrari, Fiorano, 2021
Ferrari’s instantly recognisable crest adorns all its cars
Be in no doubt that Ferrari is as authentic as any historic team can be – save its red livery is tobacco pack-derived rather than that glorious Italian racing scarlet of old. Ferrari is (largely) based within the same complexes as its production operations, its processes are similar, technologies are interchanged as compatible, and Ferrari races to sell road cars and sells road cars to fund racing – as it did under Enzo Ferrari.

True, Ferrari is now a listed entity, but so intertwined are the two divisions that a single umbrella structure oversees both. Indeed, production workers display Shell logos on their uniforms and no other team integrates its commercial activities as closely as does Maranello. Ferrari has always been a special case, and authenticity plays a major role in that distinction.

Authenticity rating: 9/10

Haas F1 Team

Corporate colours for Haas’s F1 team
Haas exists to sell machine tools on behalf of owner Gene Haas –its corporate colours are machine tool grey. It operates to the most basic permissible business model: Buy in whatever technology is permitted and out-source the rest – Ferrari will be its primary contractor from 2022 – and spread the brand name globally. There are no pretences.

Is five-year old Haas F1 Team, though, an authentic constructor competing in a sport aimed at fully-fledged constructors regardless of regulatory nuances? Clearly not, nor is there a relationship between performance and products unless suppliers use Haas machinery. Nor do the race cars improve Haas products in any shape or form.

Authenticity rating: 4/10

McLaren Racing

McLaren road cars
McLaren uses its F1 heritage to sell road cars
The closest competitor to Ferrari in terms of heritage, track record and vehicle sales, yet a company with a markedly different business model in that it raced for 50 years before branching into road car production. McLaren does not manufacture engines, whether road or track, sourcing power units from outside suppliers. In a hat-tip to its heritage McLaren now races in papaya as did founder Bruce McLaren during the sixties.

Where once the road car and race companies were separate legal entities with different shareholder structures – albeit operating out of the same Woking campus – these have been integrated as part of a recent corporate restructure. Over the years McLaren suffered various identity crises and strayed far from its roots, with Spygate being the nadir; now though, the rebuilding of its legacy is ongoing.

Authenticity rating: 7/10

Mercedes AMG F1 Team

Toto Wolff, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Ola Källenius, ercedes, 2020
Mercedes is shared between three owners
It carries a three-pointed star on its nose, but Lewis Hamilton’s championship charge is Mercedes in funding only – its (black) paint deviates markedly from the company’s hallowed silver motorsport heritage – with virtually nil technical input from Stuttgart. As above, team ownership is equally split three ways – so Mercedes at least has skin in the game – but where is the heritage the oldest car brand on the grid could call upon?

The F1 engine company is a separate entity with no cross-over shareholding, and its factory base has variously displayed BAR, Honda and Brawn signage, while the company registration is rooted in Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrells from the seventies. None of these factors have halted the team’s run of successes, but comparisons with Silver Arrows of yore – built and raced out of Stuttgart – are rather tedious.

Authenticity rating: 5/10

Red Bull Racing

Sergio Perez, Red Bull RB15, Silverstone, 2021
Red Bull turned Jaguar’s team into winners
The former Jaguar operation is going great guns, being the only team capable of regularly taking the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari over the past decade. The commercial model is as per AlphaTauri (above) save the main team enjoys priority and races under Red Bull’s corporate colours.

Both operations will move up a notch in the authenticity stakes from 2022 when Red Bull Powertrains supplies (ex-Honda) units to its teams, thereby turning Red Bull into a fully-fledged constructor. Its status as oldest (and most consistently visible) team within the Red Bull stable means its rates higher than its sister.

Authenticity rating: 8/10

Williams

The Williams family no longer runs the team it founded
The third-oldest team on the grid exists for one reason only – go racing in its own name, for its own account. Crucially, it has never strayed from that ideal – even when BMW (and others) came knocking – and as such Williams is absolutely authentic, arguably on par with Ferrari. The team’s business model has not varied since its founding in 1977, being based on full constructor lines, with power units out-sourced.

In seasons past Williams and WYSIWYG were synonymous: What you saw is what you got, which is the ultimate expression of authenticity. Whether new owners Dorilton Capital maintain that tradition is open to question and too early to judge despite initial assurances – already gearboxes will be outsourced – but for now the omens seem good and one hopes they stay that way. After all, why buy authenticity only to scrap it?

Authenticity rating: 9/10

Why authenticity is essential

Authenticity is the degree to which a team’s values and its heritage are consistently maintained despite the enormous commercial, technical, sporting and political pressures all F1 teams are subject to, with the most authentic surviving to fight another day rather than expediently changing direction in the face of the slightest obstacle.

Gaining authenticity is not the work of a moment but it can be destroyed in a split-second. Thus, it is no surprise that F1’s three oldest teams are our top scorers. Red Bull are next up despite having significantly younger roots than the likes of Alpine, Mercedes and Sauber. Authenticity is as much about maintaining heritage as it is about a winning attitude – and hence only on the strongest have rated highly.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 47 comments on “The British racing green team which showed F1 how not to do branding”

    1. Yes Jaguar was a flop. But a very pretty flop. If Aston Martin have liveries half as good, they’re onto a winner.

      1. I was a big fan of Jaguar F1 in those days. Eddie Irvine put in some great drives – his podium at Monza was amazing.

      2. I will never understand how such a path can be left, once such an invest being done.

    2. Alpine is not authentic at all but surely more authentic than merc and amr. There is a least a French conmection not just money.

      1. Really? Go to Norfolk in England and there’s not a lot of French going on there.

        Reply moderated
    3. Williams was so authentic that it killed the team.

      At some point, authenticity hurts your performance and it’s pretty clear that fans favor results over authenticity.

    4. Aston Martin should get 7Up as a sponsor.

    5. Wait I thought this article was gonna be about Lotus/Caterham…

      1. @wsrgo Which is another example of why one must be very careful about trying to gain a foothold as a manufacturer in F1…

    6. Painting a formerly white car a metallic green hue and hiring an ex-Ferrari hotshot fooled nobody…

      Deja vu?

      1. A+ comment. Would read again.

    7. It’s all a matter of opinion in the end, you could argue Alpine is more authentic than Williams

      1. I don’t get why Mclaren is not ranked higher either.

        1. Neither do I. Reading the article, points were deducted from McLaren for not building their own engines but it didn’t stop Williams from scoring more than Red Bull…
          Strange indeed.

    8. You lost me when you rated RB higher than Mercedes. The strong arming shenanigans RB committed to keep a Honda engine that they will not even produce does not make RB a full fledged constructor. They themself stated that they want nothing to do with the development of that engine (hence the freeze rules). That Honda power unit will always remain a Honda power unit, no mater the re-badging.

      1. I’m totally with this.
        The engine may have a Red Bull logo on it next year – but it is no Red Bull engine, nor is Red Bull an engine manufacturer in any true, meaningful sense. It’s a case of badge engineering.

      2. I don’t mind the Mercedes score. It makes sense. The Red Bull is the baffling one. Ranking Red Bull ahead of Mclaren? confusing

        1. Yeah, exactly @ajpennypacker, can understand reasoning but only until RedBull. I suppose not pretending to be have another, longer F1 history than they do counts some, but remains abit odd esp with regards to McLaren.

    9. You say F1’s 3 oldest teams are rated highest followed by Redbull, however you have rated them:
      =1. Ferrari 9/10
      =1. Williams 9/10
      3. Redbull 8/10
      4. McLaren 7/10

      Something isn’t adding up. Typo?

      1. I was going through the comments because of this! Hopefully @dieterrencken meant to give mclaren 8/10 and RBR 7/10 :)

    10. Lawrence knows branding, that’s how he’s a billionaire. Mercedes get their brand mentioned thousands of times every weekend, that’s what he’s after. I don’t know if ‘authenticity’ is an issue for him at all. Nobody thinks there ought to be a link between a fizzy drink and an F1 car do they?

    11. Ferrari 10/10
      McLaren 9/10
      RBR 9/10

      Mercedes about right at 5/10.

      Williams 6/10 before they got sold they used pay drivers for crying out loud.

      Now about 1/10.

    12. I disagree with your authenticity ranking.

      The team either has racing in their blood, a purpose, or it doesn’t.
      Then, they either have funds to do it all the way, or they don’t.

      You could argue that some teams lack purpose – Alfa Romeo, Haas, maybe Alpha Tauri (as a junior team) and “New” Williams (not yet clear where they want to go), but everyone else seemed to prove that they are here to race hard.

      I read what you are saying and it sounds like “you can’t call this pizza a “pizza”, because it was not made by an Italian in Italy, therefore it’s not “authentic”, therefore worse”. I disagree with demeaning anyone’s efforts based on anything else than pure skill and effort demonstrated in the past.

    13. You could rate authenticity by how likely a team is to stay in F1 even when the political climate / results / global economy are against themselves. Ferrari, McLaren and Williams (at least until now) will most certainly stay in the long term unless they go bankrupt, that is a true measure that they are authentic teams. Despite their neverending threats of quitting, Ferrari will never quit, and even though they diverted to selling luxury cars, there’s no doubt what’s McLaren’s main raison d’etre as a company.

      That’s why I wouldn’t rate Red Bull so high. They have shown great commitment until now, no doubt, but their main reason to exist as a team is to further sales of the mother brand. I would not be at all surprised if, in 5 years time, someone with a lot of money (a car manufacturer or other) happens to want to buy Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, Mateschitz would sell.

      1. Even if Red Bull leave F1, they will still fund extreme sports, which makes them a lot more authentic to me than a brand without that kind of marketing focus.

      2. but their main reason to exist as a team is to further sales of the mother brand

        Surely this is no different to any other F1 team? If Ferrari races to sell road cars and sells road cars to fund racing then you could probably argue that Red Bull races to sell fizzy drinks, and sells fizzy drinks to go racing. Mateschitz is said to be a big racing fan and has spent lavishly but wisely on the team. They don’t profess to be something they’re not – and for that reason I would consider them to be authentic. Certainly more-so than Alfa Romeo who have just paid to have their logo slapped on the Sauber.

        I’m not sure I agree with them being ranked more highly than McLaren though, whilst there’s obviously been a lot of change at that team you can still trace their lineage back to their inception. Whilst they’ve had different owners and shareholders they’ve operated on a continuous basis and whilst there have been some missteps along the way they’ve always managed to recover and prosper in a way that no-one else but Ferrari seems capable of.

        All in all it’s a rather silly conversation, but also quite a fun one.

      3. Mateschitz hasn’t shown any inkling of selling the team yet, he owns two teams, a race track, obviously the facilities and is now building an engine division as well.

        If anything, he’s shown more commitment than pretty much any other team owner in F1 history.

        1. @aiii

          If anything, he’s shown more commitment than pretty much any other team owner in F1 history.

          No :))

        2. @aiii Agreed. Well, just below Enzo anyway.

        3. @aiii Fair enough, agreed!

    14. Nasser fervently believed that by buying Stewart Grand Prix – whose start up in 1997 was largely funded by Ford in the first place – and painting the cars British Racing Green, Jaguar would rank equal with Ferrari in the hearts and minds of fans.

      and this is why you never leave your branding to the upper management, my dear guys, gals, and non-binary pals!

    15. Good one. Yet, I would argue that 2/10 is still generous for Alfa Romeo. It is really reminiscent of (among few others) the deal Bowmaker-Yeoman has made with Reg Parnell…all those years ago.

    16. Probably should have mentioned the disaster that was Niki Lauda at Jaguar. I don’t think he had much input at Mercedes though he was there to give Toto some credibility.

    17. Say what you like about Jaguar, they bought for Jackie Stewart the green tartan suit he is still wearing today.

    18. From the footer of Ferrari’s own website:

      Ferrari N.V. – Holding company – A company under Dutch law, having its official seat in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and its corporate address at Via Abetone Inferiore No. 4, I-41053 Maranello (MO), Italy, registered with the Dutch trade register under number 64060977

      Of course done to evade paying any taxes, surely Ferrari being a Dutch outfit pretending to be pure Italian would knock it’s authenticity just a bit further down?

      1. That’s an interesting point indeed @aiii, so after Spyker there is now a Dutch team again, cool 😉

    19. In my opinion there are only three authentic teams in F1, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. These are the only teams that are still operating under the same flag as they did when they were founded. Off course there were some management changes over the years and changes in share-holders, but the base of the team remained.
      The two car-manufacturers with F1 heritage, Mercedes and Renault (Alpine), they only supply engines. The teams are based on several mutations of old-F1 teams who are running the operation under the Mercedes or Alpine name only, it’s just a badge. A company supplies the money to operate but the team underneath is not at all part of the parent company. Same goes for the Alpine WEC program that is run by Signatech. It’s probably the cheapest way to do F1 for a manufacturer, just pay an existing team to run your operation. I think Toyota was the last manufacturer to try and start up a team from the ground up.
      Haas is maybe scored a bit low, this is still an operation set-up by Haas. They may be buying parts of their car and it can be argued they are not true manufacturers. But still, this is an authentic team build from the ground up.
      As for all the other teams, these are true badge-operated teams. Whoever pays, that’s the name they will run under. If Alfa pay’s the bill, so it’s an Alfra-Romeo car. The same goes for the teams paid by Mateschitz and Stroll, the team is pure a marketing vehicle for their brand. As long as F1 pays off for them, they’ll be whatever they want to sell. As soon as F1 is no longer interesting, some other billionaire will come along and replace them as name sponsor.

      The interesting question is, do we, as fans, mind? Obviously it is still too difficult or costly to start a new F1 team, all the current teams have been around since the 90s, except for Haas. In the last 10 years, no new team have formed, only name changes or buyouts.
      The only car manufacturer to try and get into F1 with their own operation was Toyota. BMW and Honda were also using other teams to run their name.
      Looking to the teams of the past, most F1 team was based around a chassis builder who runs a bought/sponsored engine. In the past the great teams like Lotus, BRM, Tyrell, Brabham used this method, and even today McLaren and Williams still are.
      For me that is the line between authenticity and branding, the Canon-Williams-Honda team, John-Player-Team-Lotus or Malboro-McLaren were the authentic way of branding. And still feel were an authentic team. As fans we still talked about Lotus, Williams or McLaren, no matter who was sponsoring them. Marlboro or John-Player were as iconic in their days as RedBull is now, but are no part of F1-DNA. Times have changes, regulations have changed, brands (sponsors) come and go. Maybe in a few years we will look at sugar-based energy drinks the same as we now look at cigarettes, who knows.

    20. @aiii Piero Ferrari owns 10% and is vice chairman so there is still a family connection. I admit not as strong as it used to be.

    21. I think this is a similar type of article as who is the greatest driver E.TC. It’s a bit click batey isn’t it :)
      Some of the reasons that give teams low scores can also be applied to teams that have been given high scores. All of the teams except maybe Williams race to promote a product, four of those teams Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault/Alpine and McLaren build and sell high performance vehicles. They also have a very long connection to Motor Racing in several categories.
      Hass is a tool manufacturer but has been involved in Motor Racing for many decades as a team owner, but that doesn’t count?
      Alfa Romeo is just a sponsor the car has no connection at all to the name on the side.

      While Redbulls efforts in F1 are 100% aimed at promoting their business which is to manufacture and sell soft drinks. This from the Haas article except for the time line equally applies to RB surely.

      “Is five-year old Haas F1 Team, though, an authentic constructor competing in a sport aimed at fully-fledged constructors regardless of regulatory nuances? Clearly not, nor is there a relationship between performance and products unless suppliers use Haas machinery. Nor do the race cars improve Haas products in any shape or form.”

      RB will not be building ‘their own’ PU until 2025 at the earliest

    22. Jaguar is owned by TATA motors. Not by ford

      1. …depends on the era one is referring to.
        Ford owned Jaguar Cars until 2008, then purchased by TATA Motors.
        Jaguar F1 ( ex-Jackie Stewart Racing ) ran from 2000 – 2004 & owned by Ford.
        Nov. 2004 was sold to Red Bull Racing.

    23. I think RedBull is every bit a 9/10 on the authenticity scale as Ferrari and Williams are. (With Williams probably being the last 10/10 until Monza 2020?)

      There may not be much of a connection from F1 track to spicy-liquid-in-a-can you may buy at the supermarket, however, RedBull has been loyal to it’s mission to promote it’s brand in the most unique and extreme sports, and events, on a global scale. RedBull sponsors motorsports on every level one can think of, and have a driver program for drivers that gives them a direct path to F1.

      All that’s left is for them to buy a dying car maker (Mitsubishi) and use that as a basis to kickstart their in-house engine engineering arm.

    24. Same could be said of Mercedes and even Ferrari until recently.

    25. What’s with the wall of text to “answer” a simple question?

      Plus what’s with pretending to be the preposterous authority on F1 livery design and “authenticity”?

      1. I think it’s called modern journalism(blogging).

    26. Authenticity indeed is very important in sports / marketing.
      Imagine there still were Tyrrell, Ligier, Brabham and Lotus around.
      What big, solid brands they might have become.
      Imagine we could witness races on Jacarepaguà
      or old Hockenheim.
      Imagine there would still be old Wembley stadium.
      In sports & arts (culture) both matters: evolution AND tradition.
      Commercialisation / its overkill seems to hate tradition & heritage (the asset for max longterm profit).
      And many (sports)marketers seem to be unsatisfied with just gardening a precious heritage.
      What a pity — what a damned pity

    27. The story of Bill Ford’s surprise when he discovered the retainer of Edward Irvine has been widely commented; however, after @dieterrencken explanations of Checo’s contract before Force India became Racing Point, is seems to me a bit weird that Mr. Ford Jr. would find Irvine in a list of wages of the employees. In the end, the driver would have a Ltd. company more similar to a “service supplier”.

      Were these societies a usual tool back then? I believe that, at least, they were already a common feature in other sports.

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