A Cold One in Canada

2016 Canadian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton 1st, Sebastian Vettel 2nd, Valtteri Bottas 3rd

2016 Canadian Grand Prix:  Lewis Hamilton 1st, Sebastian Vettel 2nd, Valtteri Bottas 3rd

Unseasonably cool temperatures, changing weather conditions, and gusty winds added to the unforgiving nature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve this weekend.  As fans braved race day temperature in the mid 50s, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and runner up Nico Rosberg lost out to Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari at the start as Vettel overtook both drivers on the main straight before turn 1.  The Mercedes teammates came together briefly, bumping wheels as Hamilton forced Rosberg onto the chicane’s runoff, where he rejoined the race in 9th.

After several collisions with the wall and even more near misses earlier in the weekend, it was pit strategy that played a key role as the cooler weather today made lap 25 an optimum choice according to Pirelli for ultra and regular soft tires on a one stop strategy.  Vettel’s two stop strategy was revealed on lap 11 as the virtual safety car was called due an engine failure on Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda on lap 9.  Lewis was able to retake the lead, setting fastest sector times around the circuit, eventually changing his ultra soft tires in on lap 24 for regular softs.  Without looking back, Lewis held the lead to take his second win this season.

Williams F1 Team’s Valtteri Bottas, who was also on a one stop strategy, started from seventh on the grid, working his way through the field to finish third behind Hamilton and Vettel.

Hamilton has now narrowed the gap to Rosberg’s lead at 116-107 as the season heads back to Europe for the Summer.

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Heineken’s Gianluca Di Tondo on F1 in America

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Gianluca Di Tondo introducing Heineken as Formula 1’s new global partner at the Canadian Grand Prix

Heineken announced their partnership with Formula 1 this weekend at the Canadian Grand Prix, and Global Marketing director Gianluca Di Tondo shared his thoughts on how the new partnership would affect the sport’s growth in America.  A long time Formula 1 fan himself, Di Tondo grew up in Italy following the sport not as a Ferrari fan, but as a fan of racing.  Following his presentation on Thursday, some questions remained about how he sees the sport’s future in America, and here are some of his thoughts:

[America] is one of the biggest opportunities that I see . . . If you look at a bit of a parallel with soccer, 5 years ago there was nothing in America, when we were pushing our United Champions League activation, and now five years later we are also sponsoring Major League Soccer, because its the sport that is growing the most in the U.S.  I think we can do something similar with Formula 1.  It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think we are pretty good at engaging with people.  We have two very strong things, on one side, we are a very creative company, so we are going to find a way to intrigue an American consumer around Formula 1.  Second, we are a very good story teller, so we are going to find a way to make this story travel.

Gianluca emphasized a step by step approach in Heineken’s program, learning from the remaining two thirds of this season before a full launch in 2017:

I think 2016 is going to be our warm up, there are a lot of things we need to learn ourselves, as Formula 1 is a completely new world for us.  It is a bit more complex world than UEFA Champions League or Rugby World Cup, because there are different tiers of stakeholders, and we need to better understand how it works.  I’m sure we are going to find ways to start bringing in American consumers to turn into Formula 1 fans.

You know, I am a Formula 1 fan, and I’ve been in the grandstands many times in the spectator area, and other times in the paddock club, and the two are too far apart.  So my job is to open the world of Formula 1 to bring these two worlds closer together.  I think the U.S. is a good example of where by doing this, we are going to start bringing in more people and more consumers.  At this moment we have a big ambition, doing everything we can developing the program as we speak with our partnership in Italy.  We are not 100 percent ready for now, but 90% will be ready for September and we will pilot some of our program in the U.S.

Stressing the connection between American fans and the need for more Americans to be involved in the sport as part of home audience interest, how would Heineken’s involvement help energize the American fanbase?

The key to my job is to build the passion for the sport, and that goes beyond a single driver.  I grew up as a sports fan not attached to one specific team, and I think we should bring a program that makes this sport more attractive for people on it’s own.  Relying on just one team or driver can be a bit risky.  So this is why we focus where we can add value, and we are very good at gathering people together to show the race, creating a program to attract people, possibly for the experience of a lifetime.

Elaborating a little bit, Gianluca went on to describe what could be described one scenario as an example of what fans might expect in Austin:

You come to the circuit for a day, walk around in the paddock with Jackie Stewart, you bump into Niki Lauda, then you’re going to have a Heineken party after the race.

What’s not to like?  As Gianluca further explained, he has a vision of what he and Heineken can create for fans of the sport, and the pathway forward included the following roadmap:

So the first thing for me is going to be activating the city, starting a bit earlier, creating a program to get you to the race.  Joining everyone at the race is going to be the natural next step.  I think the entry point is starting with the city, feeling the Formula 1 fever, like something big is coming to town, and when it’s there, you don’t want to miss it.   

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Guenther Steiner on Haas F1 Team’s Progress

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain Wednesday 24 February 2016. World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image _L4R8036

Photo: Haas F1 Team

Speaking to Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner on Friday at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, I was curious to know how he felt the team was doing as the season approaches the one-third mark this season.  Having spoken to him at the Australian GP on the team’s debut, the team’s approach and success were both in focus as he shared his thinking.

At the 1/3 mark we know where we are, whereas at the beginning there is just so much to day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.  Now we’ve got better processes in place, where we can evaluate what we’re doing well and where we have to work from.  I think we’re quite stable, where we are performance wise, what we can do better and what we can do worse, but we know where our threshold is.  Part of our job now is to evaluate what we did wrong and how we do it better for next year.  We are working on next year’s car and just refining processes we learned weren’t perfect, and we need to do it now to be ready for next year because 2017 isn’t tomorrow, it was yesterday.

A lot of the team are spending 50% of their time on next year, and the race team is thinking about this weekend because they are out on track.  It’s pretty challenging and personally I’m very satisfied with the team and all the people we employed.  Out of 100 people we expected some changes, and some people weren’t happy with what they were offered, so we didn’t have a lot of turnover, and nobody left because they thought we weren’t a good team.

So for this weekend, just to explain where you make progress, it’s our seventh, and our mechanics went home at the same time as those from the top teams, at 7 o’clock  from the rack track to the hotel.  The first races, we worked until curfew: ’30 seconds to go lets run out to the gate’, otherwise we get a penalty.  So the team has done a good job to get organized, it’s not only how fast the car goes, its also how to stabilize the team so that when they come back to the track the next day they are not tired anymore.  We’ve made a lot of progress but we still have a long way to go.

After the team’s surprising 6th place finish on their debut in Melbourne, Guenther used a phrase that captured his thinking for making measured progress ahead, saying:  “If you get too sharp, you cut yourself.”  Sounding like words of wisdom, I asked him to elaborate.

If you think ‘oh, we’re good now, and we need to panic and use the latest and greatest developments…’ no, this isn’t reality.  We need to stabilize what we have got, and then we can add something new to the car.  The idea that ‘we finished 6th, let’s make a new front wing, or make this or that…’, that’s where you lose the plot.  By just looking at what we can do this year to make the car that much better would gain us three or four positions – and besides being very difficult, it means we can’t focus on next year’s car.  It means you just delay your drop in performance.

You need to be clear and honest with yourself.  Can we get to a podium this year?  I don’t think so, but if it happens, we’ll get lucky.  There are a lot of things we can work on the get on the podium next year, and that’s more important.  I stay well grounded in how we direct resources and how we do things.

When asked what keeps him so grounded, Guenther replied:

Experience, getting old!  No – it’s experience because by doing things wrong, you get experience… If you drop off too fast, people lose confidence in the company and in the team, so my job is to guide them how not to make mistakes… Right now, we’re building a solid base and not just putting a ladder on it to be high up.   Instead, we’re getting the base higher, and not just a ladder which can tip over more easily.

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