Comments coming out of this week’s Motorsport Business Forum in Monaco have confirmed what I first reported back on October 5, in Issue 66 of GPWeek. Namely, that Formula 1 is not only considering but has now reached consensus over the concept of a group team launch in 2010.
Now there are many commentators who will say that this is a terrible idea, an unworkable idea. I can see their point, particularly if they’re writing for weekly motorsport magazines as the steady drip flow of news afforded by individual launches makes those early winter weeks far more bearable. The concept of 13 team launches all at once for daily newspapers is also something of a nightmare. How are they supposed to speak to Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Vettel etc all at once? Which team would take preference? Which team would be the focus and which would completely miss out?
It would appear that FOTA has been thinking about this, and that the body has ultimately chosen the best possible location for a group launch, if one is to happen at all.
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) in Valencia is one of the most tremendous venues in Europe for hosting big events. I’ve got firsthand experience of the place, having organised the 2006 GP2 launch and 2007 GP2 End of Season Awards ceremony at the venue. Its design, layout and multiple venues make it unique and, I believe, for what FOTA is envisaging, completely perfect for an F1 group launch.
But you can’t do it all in day. Oh no. Not even with all the venues available in Valencia would such a feat be possible. Instead, the only way I can see this working is by hosting a launch event over three days. You split the teams at intervals of three from the official entry list published by the FIA to ensure an even spread of teams from the top to the bottom each day, and ensuring that you don’t have one day filled with the new teams, and one day filled with all the top teams from 2009.
To my mind, it would make sense to limit team launches to a maximum of 30-40 minutes and get them all out of the way in the morning in one hour time allocations. By utilising the Opera House, the Hemesferic (which can be split into two launch venues) and the main Science building (which can be split into upwards of three separate launch venues), you have individual launch venues within walking distance of each other.
Over lunch you make all the drivers of the teams launching their cars that day available for autograph sessions on the walkway that links the Science building with the Hemesferic. The fans get to meet their heroes in the flesh and it brings the city into the event.
Then, in the afternoon, its time for the media to get their interviews done in slots allocated for TV, two group sessions for journalists would be divided on national lines and within those chunks the time utilised as each team sees fit. Finally there’d be an hour for one on one interviews with key team personnel.
The event could run like this for three consecutive days, and on the final evening the event could be rounded up in style with a street parade around the venue by the 2009 teams in a style similar to the 2007 McLaren launch, as it is not definite that the new teams will have rolling chassis by the end of January date set for the launch.
It wouldn’t be difficult to keep everyone happy… at least I don’t think so. In this way the teams get an equal footing, the media gets the time it needs with the teams, and the fans get to meet their heroes and see the cars in action. And all this in the days before F1 2010 makes its debut at the Ricardo Tormo circuit down the road on the outskirts of Valencia.
To my mind, an event of this nature would create an enormous buzz and would be a fantastic way to start the season. DTM’s been doing it for years, IRL has a huge parade before the Indy 500, so why shouldn’t F1?
And the great thing is, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. I know from my own experience what it costs to put on an event at this very venue in Valencia. Even renting the entire Ciudad for three days shouldn’t cost the earth. I know that McLaren blew a huge amount of money on their own launch, but so long as FOTA plays its cards right and actually barters this deal down, it could work out to be so financially viable and so fan friendly that it becomes a regular part of the annual F1 season build up.
And imagine that… every year a different city. Every year a different set of fans, coming out en masse, meeting their heroes. This could be the beginning of something truly fantastic.