#21- 2017 FORMULA 1 PETRONAS MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX
Updated: Feb 24, 2019
After 19 years of early-wake up call to watch the race, for us Europeans, the Malaysian government has called it quits after this Sunday's race. In a way, the Malaysian Grand Prix was doomed three years back, when the FOM and the FIA made this race two weeks after Singapore (which is roughly 300 km away). It is and will remain one of the hardest physically demanding race for drivers, with the weather always animating our early Sunday's. Therefore, lets hope this will be a very eventful last Grand Prix, with plenty of thunderstorms and rain (which are expected from Friday until Race-Day).
Before we talk about Malaysia, I wish to address a key aspect in regards to Singapore and how the fan engagement needs to be a priority in order to promote the perennity of F1 through generations to come, at the moment it is not embraced by everyone and that's a big problem.
It all started with a Tweet. During the race a Tweet was published by Ferrari, by which Mark Webber wrote a pleasant response:
The irony of this tweet, was one of the very few communications Ferrari did with its fans throughout the weekend. And clearly when they communicate, they create more backlash then any good in their favour. The loser of this, are the fans, especially the Ferrari fans.
Fan engagement has taken an evolutionary step with today's technology. As fans, we embrace this, it allows to connect even more with our favorite teams and drivers, we feel part of the adventure. This new frontier, allows new marketing strategies and forces everyone to rethink how and to whom they communicate to.
Throughout the weekend, on various channels (SKY F1 Uk, Channel 4 and ORF) they announced us that Maurizio Arrivabene will be giving them an interview. Couple of minutes before the interview, all three channels separately were notified that it wouldn't be going a head. Its not the first time a team as Ferrari, refuse to communicate with others. This secrecy and treating the media as the devil in disguise has been an integral part of their strategy since the start of the Season. In my honest opinion, this strategy is wrong and denies the Ferrari fans around the world to see their team communicate. Its nice to see a car on track, but as said previously you want to know their thoughts when back in the garage, connecting with a team is an added value that allows both parties to win.
Liberty Media (owner of F1) have made significant progress in their communication and engagement with us fans. Their youtube and twitter platform gives us plenty of information to analysis, make our own opinion and simply summarize FP's, Quali and the Race. Ferrari, sadly is going in the opposite direction and I cannot give you a proper answer to why that is. It's really bizarre, especially Ferrari's team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, who is an ex-Philipp Morris senior employee working in the Sales-Marketing partnership between Marlboro and Scuderia Ferrari F1, you see the irony.
We live in the 21st century, brands have to share their values, stories and take the fan by the hand behind the scene, in order to make him or her feel as an integral part of the story. Because with no fans, there is no interest, no interest means no money, no money means no F1. Ferrari is a legend, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, yes they are exclusive but that doesn't mean you need to alienate the dreamers.
In relation to my food for thoughts and how brands need to embrace/adapt to the new ways of communicating. Lamborghini have just made a huge mistake in not understanding this. Even though they are not yet in F1 (not before 2021, similar to Ferrari they managed to deny two renowned influential bloggers totalling more than 23 million subscribers, to film inside the factory near Modena, while both of them traveled all the way from Los Angeles to collect their customized Huracan Performante worth according to them $400'000 each.
The two youtubers name are Logan Paul and his brother Jake Paul, when both uploaded separate videos of the event (click on their names to view it), the videos combined more than 8 millions views after 48 hours of uploading it only. The hypocrisy is that couple of days earlier they had allowed a similar Vlogger, with much less subscribers and views to film the exact factory tour, circuit and reception of their cars.
Where I am getting at with all of this, is that you need to have a uniform strategy of communication. In every industry, going against a client is never the ideal situation, as often times more negativity comes out than positivity. In this case you have approximately 8 millions (mix of Generation Y and Z) viewers have witnessed how Lamborghini treat its customers, can you imagine the opinion these viewers now make of Lamborghini. How a reputation of such brand to these age groups can be shattered with a simple 15 mins video.
I will conclude on one very famous and cheesy quote: "It is not the strongest of the car makers that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change".
Now lets get the weekend started.
The Grand Prix Weekend
Welcome to Malaysia a.k.a Mercedes second home grand prix, thanks to their strong partnership with Petronas. As always, there are lots of things to look forward to this weekend.
We will have a new driver that will replace Dannil Kvyat for the next two races, ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you Pierre Gasly. Young French Red Bull junior talent driver that won the F2 championship and potentially the Super Formula in Japan. Basically, Red Bull put him in the car to see if he is worthy for a full time seat next year. So watch out for him and compare how does against the benchmark that is Carlos Sainz at Torro Rosso.
For the ultimate Malaysian Grand Prix, the weather is going to play a big part in deciding who will come on top of the rest of the field come Sunday night (lunch time for us Europeans).
They are predicting throughout Friday until Sunday, rain and thunderstorm. Can this play in the favor of Ferrari or Red Bull? Or will Mercedes still maintain their dominance on high speed circuits as they have previously?
Pirelli Tyres for the weekend
With the heat, generally Pirelli brings out harder compound tyres, this year they decided to play it risky and bring out the softer compound. Of course if it rains all weekend long, that wont make a difference. But if the sunshine peaks from time to time, temperatures can get hot enough to fry an egg on the race track, therefore imagine how soft tyres will respond to that.
The Drivers Championship fight: Hamilton vs. Vettel
In my opinion the constructors championship is over for Ferrari (102 points difference with Mercedes). Such gap means that within 3 races (Mexico), Mercedes will retain their crown. It will be very difficult for Ferrari to fight back, as I see a strong end of the season of Red Bull mixing in with the top 2 teams.
Drivers wise, I still remain very open on the idea that there is still everything to be played for. Engine blow ups near the end of the Season are frequent or even grid penalties due to mechanical failures will become more frequent. 28 points is not that much when you factor in a non-finish. I still see it as its Lewis that has most to lose out of all of this.
Track layout wise, its true that this will favor Mercedes, but the weather changes these odds. So be ready to see a rebound in the drivers championship.
Last words of wisdom
Force yourself to wake up and enjoy one last time this amazing Grand Prix, with so many unpredictable factors it could be one of the best race ever held in Malaysia. What a way for this track to say good bye to F1.
Prophecy for the Malaysian-Weekend
GP Winner: This is very tough, i am divided between Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen and Ricciardo. It is really that close. Its too tight to make a decision. You will have to go on your gut instinct right when making the bet. Its not often I say this, but this ultimate Malaysian Grand Prix is one heck of a tricky one to predict.
Joker: Pierre Gasly, F1 debut this weekend.
Safety Car period during the race: Yes
Vettel vs. Hamilton: Factoring in weather, i have to say its too tight to make a decision. Because with rain, you have to include Red Bull in the mix.
Fastest Pit-Stop: Mercedes
That is your lot from me, enjoy this last GP and don't forget that you can chat with me all weekend long via this website.
ps: also don't forget to follow me on Twitter @m_piekarski for the latest updates