Sunday, March 30, 2008

The basic ground rules of F1

The sporting regulations are the framework of rules used for running Grands Prix.
They define basic ground rules such as:
  • The length of a Grand Prix must be the least number of laps that exceeds 305km (189.5 miles).
  • What happens if a race has to be stopped.
  • Whether a Grand Prix happens regardless of rain. (It does.)
  • The points system: (currently 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points for the first eight places in the race).
  • Driving etiquette, such as the one-move rule, and transgressions, such as jumping the start, passing under yellow no-overtaking flags and ignoring blue flags (which instruct a lapped car to move aside).
  • Tyre allocation. Currently a maximum of 12 sets per weekend for each car.
  • Penalties. Anything from a small fine up to exclusion from the world championship depending upon the seriousness of the offence.

Mosley and Ecclestone

Although Max Mosley (president of the FIA) and Bernie Ecclestone (president of FOCA), represent two sides that are regularly in dispute, the disagreements tend to be about the specific tactics that will meet the agreed strategy. Both sides – the sport’s governing body and the teams – understand that the goal is to do what is in the interests of the sport. Seen in this light, the fact that Ecclestone, president of FOCA, is also vice-president of the FIA may not seem so strange!
Mosley and Ecclestone go back together a long way. When Ecclestone bought the Brabham Formula One team in 1971 Max Mosley was one of his fellow team owners. Ecclestone had the commercial sense and Mosley – a trained lawyer – the legal brain to transform Formula One from a minority-interest sport into a multi-billion dollar enterprise over the next two decades. They were co-founders of FOCA, the body representing the teams and one which fell into serious conflict with the sport’s governing body, the FIA, in the early 1980s. Mosley was instrumental in the conception of the Concorde Agreement between the two sides.
In 1991, Mosley, no longer a team owner, was elected as president of the FIA. He then gave up his role in FOCA. Ecclestone, by this time, had ceased to be a team owner although he continued to represent the team owners’ interests. To this day, the two men work closely together behind the scenes to ensure that Formula One heads in whichever direction they agree is best.

The Concorde Agreement

The Concorde agreement is the charter by which Formula One is governed. The agreement is between the sport’s governing body (the FIA) on one side and the participating teams (represented by FOCA) on the other. It is called the Concorde agreement because it was conceived at the FIA’s Paris headquarters in the Place de la Concorde.
Think of the Concorde agreement as the Geneva Convention which covers terms of conflict during wartime. And think of Formula One as a permanent civil and international war. The teams fight each other at every level and, in doing so, occasionally fight the governing body too. Teams accept the fact that they need to be governed because they’re too self-interested and competitive to govern the sport themselves. But that doesn’t mean they have to like it.


The FIA represents 150 national motor clubs from 117 countries. Formula One is the jewel in the FIA crown, but it also governs motorsport of all forms within its member countries. (The USA is not a member country and has formed its own governing bodies.) As its name implies, the Federation was founded in France because that’s where the sport was invented. Today it has bases in Paris, Geneva, and London. There is no legal reason why the FIA should be the only international motorsport governing body in the countries it represents. It is simply the one that has prevailed and through which all the contracts with teams, manufacturers, circuits, and race promoters have been worked. Its status and constitutional security has also been enhanced because European law recognises the FIA as the body that can assess vehicle and circuit safety. Even if a rival governing body were to set up, it would still need to accede to the FIA – at least in Europe – in getting cars and tracks certified as safe.
Every five years, the motor clubs vote for the presidency of the FIA. The current president, Max Mosley, was first voted to the position in 1991 and has been successfully re-elected twice since. He is the son of pre-war British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, although there is probably less significance in this fact than meets the eye!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

FIA, The Rule Makers

Formula One is governed by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the worldwide motorsport governing body. For almost as long as the sport has existed, the FIA has provided the rule book. It can – and frequently does – act independently of the teams in changing this book to serve what it judges to be in the sport’s best interests. The FIA controls only the sporting and technical aspects of the sport; European law prevents it from having any commercial control of the sport.
A body representing the teams, called the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA), works with the FIA in helping to formulate the rules. Although FOCA doesn’t have any statutory power in making the rules, it does hold the commercial rights to Formula One. Essentially this means it negotiates the terms of the revenues and shares the resultant purse between its management and its member teams.
These two bodies have a long and bloody history together and used to fight each other as hard as the teams fought on the track. In latter years, however, they’ve cooperated, aided no end by Max Mosley – formerly a leading light in FOCA – getting himself elected as president of the FIA in 1991. With Mosley, a former Formula One team owner himself, in charge of the FIA, the poacher has turned gamekeeper. Another benefit of the arrangement is that Mosley, as a former team owner, should be able to appreciate the difficulties and pressures of the teams.

When good TV time goes bad

Formula One sponsors love it when the team they are backing wins, but unfortunately at every race there can only be one winner. Although some sponsor gurus claim that there is no such thing as bad publicity, there are occasions when sponsors would prefer that their logos were on another driver’s car that day. It can be, perhaps, because a driver or team has been disqualified for breaking the rules or because a driver the sponsor is backing has been involved in a controversial incident. You can imagine how sponsors would want to run for cover when a driver wearing their company’s logo gets involved in a fist-fight with another driver – especially if the fight is caught by the television cameras and broadcast all around the world. Sponsors can sometimes find that they get bad publicity if a driver does something bad on the track and makes himself a lot of enemies – both amongst the other drivers and the fans who follow the sport.

Why F1 Sponsors Love Television?

Formula One has become so popular around the world because it is on television. Every other weekend during the season, which lasts from March to October, you can find Formula One qualifying sessions and races broadcast live on many terrestrial channels around the world. So, even if you are on holiday in a foreign country during the summer, keeping up to date with what is happening in Formula One is very easy. Very useful! But race coverage is not the only way that millions of fans around the world can follow the sport. You can find several analysis programmes on cable and satellite television that cover the latest news – as well as behind-the-scenes features and interviews.

Formula One’s bosses are well aware that the key to the sport’s popularity is that it has worked so well as a television concept. These days the format for coverage is the same for every race, and it sometimes means that a driver’s duties for the cameras are more important than speaking to friends and family. After the race, for example, the drivers are whisked up to the podium as quickly as possible, where they receive their winners’ trophies and spray the champagne. But before they can go back to the team and receive more congratulations, they’re ushered off to a special room where they are interviewed for international television coverage. These interviews are very often the first words the drivers speak after the race – and millions of fans at home can often find out things before the drivers’ own team boss knows them. This is the perfect chance for the sponsor logos of the driver to be shown to millions of fans around the world – as well as the title sponsors who back the actual Grand Prix.
In addition, the increase in television technology now means that in-car cameras are a regular feature of practice and race coverage, with sponsor logos positioned for maximum television exposure. You can also listen in on radio conversations between the pits and the driver in the car as they actually happen. Driver interviews take place immediately after the race, but television crews can speak to engineers and team bosses in the pits to try to help viewers understand race tactics as the Grand Prix is actually in progress. Nowadays, the coverage is not just restricted to television though. If you’re not sitting watching television, you can find out what’s happening in Formula One in a few other ways too:

  • Radio stations, especially those devoted to sport, give up-to-the-minute reports on the latest news and several include chat and analysis shows with commentary from experts, former drivers and other leading personalities.
  • Newspaper coverage is still increasing and, specialist magazines provide even more in-depth coverage.
  • The Internet has expanded so much in recent years that hundreds of sites now cover Formula One. In the future, Internet technology may allow Formula One fans to get even closer to the action. There is talk of a computer game that will allow those playing it to actually take part in a “virtual” Grand Prix as it actually happens in real life, while timing screens and other vital statistics can already be downloaded as they happen.
It’s not very hard to work out just why sponsors are queuing up to give their support to Formula One – it provides so many opportunities for high-profile advertising in the world’s popular media, making sponsorship deals money well spent. But this is not to say that the sport’s bosses have been complacent about Formula One’s position against other sports. For the 2003 season, single-lap qualifying was introduced to mix up the grid and make the races more exciting. In addition, they are always looking at ways to make the sport more entertaining, without losing its sporting challenge.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Don’t get taken for a ride: Getting the right stuff

If you go to a Formula One race there are hundreds of stalls selling everything that the avid fan could want. But merchandising is such big business that it is now difficult to tell which items are official and which are just cheap imitations. Although there is nothing wrong with buying a cheap T-shirt that features the face of your favourite driver, it is like everything else in life –you get what you pay for. That’s why Formula One teams all have their own official merchandise ranges these days. By buying official merchandise you not only ensure that your purchases have the right logos and photos, but that they are also of good quality. Drivers and teams like nothing less than seeing their logos on something that is poorly made or falling apart – it reflects badly upon them.

Although the teams and drivers do take a small percentage from each item purchased, which means these items are more expensive than the bootleg items sold unofficially, you at least know that you are getting the real deal. You also know that the exact same item that you buy is worn by the teams or drivers themselves.

The best way to check that you are buying proper merchandise is to go to an official shop at a Grand Prix. These usually feature the team’s name and logo above the shop – and if you look inside the items of clothing you should find an official label saying they are licensed by the team. You can be sure that anyone selling items from the back of a van or at the side of a street is not offering you officially licensed goods.

F1 Road Cars

On the more expensive side, teams have been known to put their names and technology to road cars. The McLaren team produced its own sports car in the 1990s, which went on to win the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race, while Williams most famously linked up with Renault a few years ago to produce “Clio Williams” road cars. Ferrari use Formula One technology in their road cars. You can also buy the same cars that drivers use for their day-to-day life. It is always worth checking out with your local garage to find out if any future tie-ins are expected.

McLaren is now producing a new Mercedes-Benz road car – but you will need a couple of hundred thousand pounds to buy one. If you want to show your support for a driver or team in a more subtle way, there are no end of pens, pencils, and rubbers available to buy. Stickers and sew-on badges are a very cheap purchase and can be put on bedroom windows, cars, or rucksacks to show support. Teams also produce hundreds of notebooks and diaries each year.

Home furnishings

Merchandise is now such big business that it is entirely possible to have your favourite drivers’ face plastered across the walls of your house (if you really wanted). You can easily get a hold of Formula One wallpaper, and you could match it with a bed-covering set featuring some of the front-running teams and drivers. Don’t forget the curtains, placemats on the dining-room table, and cushions on your sofa. Michael Schumacher even has his own official lamp, which you could use to read your Formula One books in bed! These items may not be the coolest ones you could buy, but they would let any visitors to your house know just how passionate you are about Formula One –although once they’d seen this, a visitor might not wish to hang around for a cup of tea from your David Coulthard tea-set.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

F1 Flags

When drivers are sat in their cars with their helmets on and ear plugs in to protect them from engine noise, it is very hard for them to hear their fans cheering them on. Instead, you’ll notice that drivers often talk about seeing flags waving in the crowd, because it shows them that their supporters are pushing them on to victory. Flags are available for every team and driver, and some people fit three or more on very tall flag poles.

F1 Toys

Formula One is hugely popular with children, although a lot of the model cars that are produced each year are bought as collectors’ items by adults. Watch out for models that refer to a specific race, like a drivers’ first race win because, if you get these signed, they could be worth a lot of money in years to come.
You can also find numerous other toys for children – ranging from official Scalextric sets to Lego models featuring the Ferrari and Williams teams. Computer games are also huge business nowadays (even with the drivers themselves). And if your kids (or the child in you) are not so keen on model cars, kits, or games, don’t despair: Teams now produce teddy bears wearing their very own Formula One T-shirts.

F1 clothes merchandise

If you are lucky enough to get to a Grand Prix you will find it hard to find somebody who is not wearing something to show that they are a Formula One fan. Nowadays, nearly every single item of clothing can show your allegiance as a fan, and sometimes you will find people wearing a Michael Schumacher cap, a Williams T-shirt, and a Jordan jacket. (A lot of people are very loyal to their drivers or teams, however. Some will kit themselves out entirely with official Michael Schumacher merchandise and buy the same trainers and sunglasses that the German driver wears.) Whether you’re after a T-shirt, shirt, jacket, or cap, you will undoubtedly be able to find one that features your favourite driver or team. Before you part with your hard-earned cash, keep these tips in mind:
  • Teams usually have an official colour scheme for the season, but this could change – especially if a new sponsor or new driver is on board. There is always a risk that the jacket you buy one year will be out-ofdate the next – but that is no excuse not to be kitted out with the latest line of clothing.
  • Make sure you pick the clothing that features the driver you’re after –because otherwise you could be supporting someone you do not really like. Drivers are given a specific number at the start of the season which they keep for the year, although you always have to be prepared for driver swaps.
  • You may want to wait until the first race of the season to see which is the best T-shirt to buy, because then you can see what your hero is wearing himself.
  • Some clothing manufacturers also make jackets that look exactly like the top half of a driver’s racing overalls. Just make sure you don’t get mistaken for one of the real stars!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Making Stuff That Fans Love

Walk down the street of your local town or take a journey on a bus or train, and you are likely to see somebody wearing a Formula One jacket, cap or T-shirt. Grand Prix racing fans love showing their support for their favourite driver or team, and the best way to do so is to wear the logo. Drivers can have a big influence when it comes to fans buying goods, and that is why they always try to sign deals with clothing companies. Car manufacturers have also found that fans will buy their brand of cars if they are successful on the race track. Mercedes-Benz and BMW, for example, both found that their car sales rocketed when they started winning Formula One races, and fans are often very loyal to their favourite car manufacturer. This, of course, is great news for all the sponsors in Formula One because it means that if you are involved with a successful team, you are likely to sell more goods.

A lot of drivers have their own range of merchandise, and some make more money from these than they actually get paid for racing. The following section looks at some of the items that you can get hold of to show your support.

Faster cars mean faster money

Sponsoring a Formula One team is not just something that happens on 16 weekends every year – it’s a 365 days-a-year business. Having your company’s logo blasting around the track in front of millions of people on television is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making the most of being a Formula One sponsor.

Grand Prix drivers are now such famous sportsmen that they can be used just like footballers and film stars in television adverts. Ferrari sponsor Vodafone has used Michael Schumacher alongside England soccer star David Beckham in its television commercials, while German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz loved to feature former world champion Mika Hakkinen having fun with tennis ace Boris Becker.

But television is only just one avenue through which sponsors get maximum value for money by being linked with a driver or teams. These days, you find Formula One cars and drivers pictured on food items in supermarkets, on advertisements in garage forecourts, and even in adverts and promotions for items that have nothing to do with racing. Michael Schumacher has famously been used by shampoo manufacturer L’Oreal – and he is definitely worth it. Some sponsors have taken completely different routes to gain exposure. Energy drinks giant Red Bull is not only planning to name a race track in Austria after it (so it will become known as the Red Bull Ring), but the company has also funded a driver search programme in the United States to help find America’s next Grand Prix driver.

Minor sponsors in Formula One

Not every company in the world can afford to become a team’s title sponsor, but that doesn’t mean that small sponsors have no chance of getting involved with a Formula One outfit. In addition to the big-spending sponsors, teams also have several dozen smaller sponsors, who may just want their name to feature on the drivers’ overalls or helmets or who are happy just to get a name check on the hoarding in the pit garages.

You can often find the names of smaller sponsors over the parts of the cars that aren’t so easy to see, like alongside the cockpit, at the bottom of the engine cover, or at the back of the sidepods. Sometimes these associate sponsors can get very cheap deals with a team because they supply something that the team needs – like petrol, team clothing, or furniture for the factory. Sponsors can sometimes find that a team is only too willing to take their money, especially if the team is one of the smaller outfits at the back of the field. Some teams cannot be too choosy about which sponsors they accept and which they do not – that’s why you often find the cars at the back of the grid covered in a lot of smaller stickers, whereas the cars at the front of the field get bigger sponsorship deals (and bigger advertisements on them). And from the sponsor’s point of view, getting a small sticker on the car isn’t such a bad thing. So many photographs are taken of the cars and used in newspapers and magazines that exposure comes very easily.

This fact explains why some sponsors are also happy to do personal deals with the drivers. Ferrari star Michael Schumacher is one of the highest paid sportsmen in the world, not only because of the wages he earns from his team but also because sponsors are only too happy to support him in exchange for one of their badges on his car or even on his famous baseball cap. More people, for example, now know of the small Germany company Deutsche Vermogensberatung because it bought the space at the front of Schumacher’s cap.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

How to meet a formula One driver?

Getting to meet a Formula One driver is not an easy task these days, especially because their time at a race track is completely filled up. If they are not out in their cars, they’re speaking to the team about their performance, speaking to the press or meeting sponsors. That’s why it is much easier to get your autographs at sponsors’ promotional days. The other good thing about sponsor days is that the driver is far more relaxed, because he hasn’t got a race to worry about.

You can find details on the time and location for these promotional days on a team or driver’s web-site or even in the local press. A lot of these events take place in the week before a race –so it’s always worth getting to a Grand Prix a few days before the track action starts. If you can’t make it to a Grand Prix or promotional event, you haven’t totally blown your chances of getting an autograph of your favourite star. Almost all drivers and teams now have official fan clubs which you can join to get a chance to meet their drivers, while some teams have open days where they open their factory up to the public.

You can also try sending something to the team to be signed, although such is the demand from fans that you may have to wait several months for a response – and even then only if you’re very lucky. If you do send anything, make sure that you enclose a stamped, addressed envelope so that the team can return your items if the driver is unable to sign it. There would be nothing worse that losing your favourite photograph of a driver and not having it signed.

Tobacco money going up in smoke

Formula One has thrived on the millions of pounds that tobacco money has pumped into it. The sport’s incredible popularity, which is on a par with the football World Cup and Olympics, has meant that cigarette manufacturers have seen it as a valuable platform for their brands. The very first sponsor of a Formula One car was cigarette firm Gold Leaf who backed the Lotus team in 1968. Nowadays, half of the field is supported by tobacco companies, and no other sector of business can match the kind of money cigarette firms are willing to throw at the sport. All of that will change in the next few years, however, when a tobacco advertising ban is introduced in the sport in 2006.

Although this will not be enforced, the governing body, the FIA, is recommending that all teams drop tobacco advertising from that date. Bans are already in place in several countries, most notably France and Britain, while a European Union wide ban will come into force in July 2005. As the date nears, the teams will have to find other areas for sponsorships – and it could well be that some of the world’s biggest global corporations like McDonalds, Coca Cola, and Pepsi could step in to fill the breach.

The headliners: Big benefits for big sponsors

The huge cost of running a Formula One team each year, from paying more than 400 employees to getting the cars to 16 race tracks in 15 different countries (there are two races in Germany), means that only big-money sponsors can afford what is known as title sponsorship. This effectively means that the team’s title can change to the name of a sponsor. So, with title sponsorship, the current McLaren team is officially known as West McLaren Mercedes. As well as changing the title of the team, a big sponsor will get its logos and name on the most prominent parts of the car. These are the front and rear wings, the sidepods, and the engine cover.
Of course, being a title sponsor does not just mean that you give the team your stickers and make sure that they put them on the car. Major sponsors also get the following perks:

_ They’re given VIP treatment at the track, so that staff and clients can be entertained against the backdrop of a glamorous sporting event. _ They’re allowed to use the team drivers for special promotional appearances – whether to meet the press at events or even just to sign autographs at a company’s office or factory. This is a great chance for a sponsor to boost her company’s morale. Question-and-answer sessions and opportunities for clients and employees to have their photo taken alongside a famous driver will take place on a promotional visit. Some drivers find these promotional visits more daunting than actually fighting it out on the track at 200 mph!

Such deals don’t not come cheap, however. Teams often demand more than £40 million per season for the privilege. Despite the huge cost, sponsors still believe that they get excellent value for money. Most major title sponsors at the moment are tobacco companies who find that Formula One is the perfect platform to advertise their goods worldwide. Marlboro, West, Benson & Hedges, Lucky Strike, and Mild Seven are the main cigarette brands that fight it out for coverage on the track. But in recent years, a growing brand of non-tobacco companies have been able to afford title sponsorship with the teams. The Japanese electronics company Panasonic has backed the Toyota Formula One team, while the small Italian team Minardi was supported by the Malaysian government in 2002 (as it helped the country’s “Go KL” campaign to boost tourism to Kuala Lumpur). If the price is right, Formula One teams will be happy to support anything. So start saving up now!

There has also been a trend in recent years for car manufacturers to buy teams themselves, or even become sponsors. German car maker BMW supplies engines to the Williams team and also pays to be a title sponsor so that the team is called the BMW.WilliamsF1 team, rather than Williams-BMW. The Jaguar, Renault, and Toyota teams are all owned by their parent car companies, while Mercedes-Benz owns 40 per cent of the McLaren team. Perhaps the most famous example of a sponsor supporting a team was when Italian clothing company Benetton bought its own outfit (so to speak). It purchased the Toleman team at the end of 1984, and the team became officially known as the Benetton Formula 1 Team. Although making good clothes may have nothing to do with making a racing car go fast, the team won two world drivers’ championships with Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995, before it was sold to Renault in 1999.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Funding the Sport: The Role of the Sponsor

Watch a Grand Slam tennis match, a World Cup football game, or even the Superbowl, and you would have to get pretty close to the action to actually see a sponsorship logo. But watch a Formula One race, either on television or at the track, and you cannot help but notice sponsors’ names, logos, and pictures everywhere. They are all over the cars, all over the drivers’ overalls, and the teams are even named after any company who wants to pay enough. It is not impossible for a driver to say: “I am very happy that my Marlboro Scuderia Ferrari team won the Mobil 1 German Grand Prix just one week after losing out at the Foster’s British Grand Prix to the West McLaren Mercedes team.” Wow, what a mouthful! And, from the sponsor’s point of view, what a lot of name checks.

When sponsors first got involved in Formula One back in the 1960s, they only gave some support to certain teams, and their logos were very small. But these days, every single inch of car, track-side billboards, drivers’ clothing, and team clothing is used to advertise a company’s product. There was even an attempt in 2002 to get some sponsors’ logos put on the circuit itself –before the drivers complained that the signage would be too dangerous if the track got wet.

You will see sponsors’ logos covering the front and back of the driver’s overalls, and all over his helmet when he is out on the track. And if that wasn’t enough, as soon as a driver steps out of the cockpit he will be handed a baseball cap that features even more sponsors. When drivers are not even in their racing overalls, they will be wearing T-shirts, shirts, and even trousers that are promoting their sponsors. This is very important because the sponsoring companies pay a lot of money and want as much exposure as possible – so they don’t want their drivers wearing unbranded products while they are at work.

Such high profile allegiance to sponsors is not a bad thing, though. It ensures that teams can attract the big money sponsors that they need to be able to pay to race (see the sidebar “This costs HOW much?!” for details on the amount of money teams need to be competitive in Formula One), while sponsors use their links with Formula One drivers and teams to promote their goods. It is good for the fans too, because it allows them to identify with their favourite drivers. What better way to show your support for a driver than to wear the same cap as he wears? And covered in exactly the same logos.

From downtown garage to Paragon

When Cooper changed the face of Grand Prix racing in the late 1950s with their “kit car” of bought-in components, they did so from a simple garage workshop – the sort of small-time establishment that may have serviced your old car 20 or 30 years ago. Most of the teams that went on to dominate Formula One in the 1960s and early 1970s were based very much on the Cooper blueprint. Typically, these workshops would be home to around 15–25 employees. The cars would be designed, built, and race-prepared there. Ken Tyrrell’s team, which won three World Championships between 1969 and 1973, was based in a former timber yard. Then the money began to come in. When the car producers began returning to the sport, they brought not just the hardware of their engines to the specialist teams, but also vast research and development budgets. Teams quickly quadrupled in size and workforce, wind tunnels were built together with autoclaves where the cars’ carbon-fibre chassis are built. Today a top Formula One team employs over 600 people. And they no longer operate from timber yards or roadside garages. They are based in places like McLaren’s Paragon Centre.

Designed by the world-renowned architect Lord Foster (who numbers the Reichstag building in Berlin and Hong Kong airport among his credits), the Paragon Centre’s stunning circular glass and steel structure is housed within a 50-acre site. It has two man-made lakes – one of them inside the building! Within the circular form are 18-metre wide “fingers” housing individual departments. Between each are 6-metre wide “pavements” that also bring in sunlight and ventilation. The lakes form an intrinsic part of the building’s cooling. Hot air from the on-site wind tunnel heats the building when needed; the exterior lake cools it when it’s not. An underground tunnel links the Paragon Centre to an auxiliary building, in which is housed the McLaren museum. Fittingly, the man whose vision this all is – McLaren’s Ron Dennis –began his involvement in racing by working in Cooper’s roadside garage.

Power players in F1

British teams, using the Cooper model of the “kit car”, and others like them formed a power base throughout the 1960s, and this was emphasised in the early 1970s when Bernie Ecclestone – a former car-dealer and Formula Three racer – bought into one of these teams. An incredibly astute businessman, Ecclestone hauled the sport kicking and screaming into the world of commerce by banding the teams together in order to present a united front during negotiations with race organisers. Soon, and with the help of the emergent TV deals, the sport and the team owners became vastly richer.

Previously the only important players were the big roadgoing factories – such as Mercedes or Alfa-Romeo – who comprised the sport. It had therefore been a sport dependent upon their economic performance in the marketplace and was vulnerable. The new era made the sport’s health more independent of the industrial complex, with the major players now having the sport as their means of livelihood. Ecclestone and the power base the independent teams represented remain at the centre of the sport’s centre of gravity, regardless of which of them is winning on the track.