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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Mark Gallaghers (@MarkGallagher62) thoughts on Bahrain – Original post at GoCar.gr (@gocargr)

One of the first lessons you learn when working in Public Relations is that your job is not to create a false image but to present the facts in the best possible way. Sometimes the facts are positive, sometimes they are negative, but good communications requires honesty, directness and consistency.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the political controversy surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix was the poor manner in which F1 handled its communications. This enabled the protest movement and particularly the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights to generate global outrage, with near-hysterical reporting and very difficult questions being asked about F1’s moral judgement.

I have been interviewed several times over the last two weeks by Al Jazeera News, the BBC and Sky News. The questions were not easy. Invited onto a popular BBC radio breakfast show, I was being interviewed against a Bahraini, Ali Mushaime, who was taking part in a 10-day hunger strike outside the US Embassy in London. He was protesting against his father’s life sentence in Bahrain for taking part in last year’s demonstrations.

The first question I was asked was how I felt about racing on the blood of the Bahraini people? Not easy to answer, but I did my best.

Fortunately I have 30 years of experience working with international media in F1 and I have dealt with a variety of crises and political controversies; the jailing of our driver Bertrand Gachot in 1991 for assaulting a taxi driver in London, the tragic death of Italian track marshal Paulo Ghislimberti when our Jordan cars collided in Monza, 2000, or the huge socio-political controversy over tobacco sponsorship.

What struck me most about the Bahrain controversy was the complete lack of credible media communications strategy coordinated between FOM, FIA and BIC to the extent that a vacuum was created. This vacuum was inevitably going to be filled by the messages from the protest movement, speculation from the 24/7 media and social networks. It also meant that since the media couldn’t get a proper answer from F1, they asked the drivers, the team bosses, the mechanics; people who should never have been put in that position.

With news organisations not allowed into Bahrain, it was left to sports journalists to report on the protests from the Shia villages. This was a huge error, for sports journalists are not used to seeing riots and the sense of horror in their reports was therefore all the greater.

It was only when the majority of F1 media started to report that the streets of Manama were very calm, and life appeared quite normal, that the tide began to turn. And ultimately it was with the appearance of Bernie Ecclestone in the paddock alongside the Crown Prince of Bahrain that the media finally had some proper, credible answers. Suddenly it no longer seemed like a crisis.

Over the next 12 months the debate will continue about whether F1 should be racing in Bahrain or not. Whatever the decision, the one thing F1 must do is to take its responsibilities seriously, communicate its messages effectively, and preferably base them on facts.

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Posted by on 24 Apr, 2012 in F1

 

Mark Gallagher on the Chinese GP (Original post at GoCar.gr)

Nico Rosberg’s maiden Formula One win in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix was a uniquely personally victory for Norbert Haug, head of Mercedez-Benz motorsport programmes. Although the team will rightly bask in the glory of a famous victory, Haug represents the only volume car manufacturer to own a Formula One team, and under his guidance the Stuttgart-based manufacturer has remained committed to the sport at a time when many others headed for the exit door.

Haug became responsible for Mercedes-Benz motorsport just over 20 years ago, supporting DTM and Sauber’s endurance sports car racing programme, but he soon brought the 3-pointed star into Formula One and CART, where its engine powered Al Unser Jr’s Penske to victory the 1994 Indy 500. He took Mercedes into partnership with McLaren in 1995, scoring their first win with David Coulthard at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, but perhaps Haug’s greatest achievement has been in the creation of the Mercedes Benz GP team.

The last 15 years have witnessed a dramatic time in the commercial fortunes of Formula One as large volume car manufacturers came and went; only Mercedes-Benz remains. Peugeot quit in 1997, Ford supported Stewart Grand Prix, created Jaguar Racing and finally sold out to Red Bull in 2004. Honda, Toyota and BMW joined the ranks, spending billions of dollars but never truly understanding what is required to become a winning team, and they disappeared again in 2008-09. Renault won, became the victim of scandals and sold its team to Genii Capital. It remains a supplier of engines alone.

While the management of other car manufacturers were unable to develop a competitive team and found it easier to quit, Mercedes Benz remained committed. Ironically Honda’s failure was to pave the way for Mercedes Benz’s success. After the Japanese manufacturer left F1 in December 2008 Honda was rebranded Brawn GP, winning the 2009 World Championships. Haug was able to buy the team and it’s superb facilities in Brackley, UK, for a fraction of what it cost Honda to develop.

In 2010 and 2011 it has remained McLaren’s role to produce the race wins for Mercedes Benz engines, and their continued success has often resulted in debate over whether the Mercedes Benz GP team is worth the effort. Sunday’s result will end that discussion because both Rosberg and Michael Schumacher look set to be fully competitive this season.

McLaren’s deal with Mercedes Benz High Performance Engines ends in 2015, and with McLaren now an automotive rival to the German company, Haug’s strategy of developing a team for Mercedes Benz seems set to flourish for years to come. It has been widely reported that Sunday’s victory in China was Mercedes Benz first team win in Formula One since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix; it has been a long wait, but one man managed to keep Mercedes Benz fully committed to F1 in order to achieve it. Well done Norbert.

 
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Posted by on 18 Apr, 2012 in F1

 

China GP – Race- Twitter Live

Clik here to follow China GP 2012 – Race – Twitter Live

 
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Posted by on 15 Apr, 2012 in F1

 

Lotus F1 Statement on Bahrain

Earlier today, the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) issued a press release attributing quotes to our team showing support for the Bahrain GP. These quotes were part of a full internal and confidential working document, that was also sent on a confidential basis to all F1 team managers last week. Lotus F1 Team is one of 12 contestants of the Formula 1 World Championship and we would never try to substitute ourselves for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which is the only party entitled to determine if a Grand Prix should go ahead or not, and we endorse the FOTA statement that was issued earlier to this effect.

 
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Posted by on 10 Apr, 2012 in F1

 

BIC responds to recent speculation in the media – Statement

10 April, 2012

Over the last week there has been intense media speculation regarding the Bahrain Grand Prix, with comment from those inside and outside the sport as to the current security situation and whether Bahrain is in a position to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix on 20-22 April 2012.

Over recent weeks, a number of neutral interested parties have visited Bahrain in order to understand better the current situation on the ground. The findings of these parties can be summarized as follows:

Lotus F1 Team briefing sent to all F1 team Principals

Two representatives of the Lotus F1 Team visited Bahrain recently to investigate the security situation and sent a report to all Formula 1 team principals on 5 April 2012. The Lotus report said:

“Yes there is a need to keep the circuit and the teams secure and they are doing this and they feel very comfortable about the arrangements. If there is going to be protestation then it will be confined to peaceful protests – you will maybe see some banners being waved and maybe some tyres on fire but that is all that they expect.

“We came away from Bahrain feeling a lot more confident that everything is in hand and to be honest if it wasn’t for a few more police you wouldn’t know any difference from the last year we were there.”

British Ambassador to Bahrain, Iain Lindsay

The UK Ambassador – the diplomat responsible for the safety of the majority of F1 personnel during their time in Bahrain – wrote on March 27: “The British government is pleased to see the progress the Bahraini authorities have made in implementing the recommendations of the landmark BICI, chaired by Prof Cherif Bassiouni. I firmly believe that the (F1) event can act as a way of bringing communities together… there are some who favour direct action on the streets. I believe they are wrong, and have little doubt that they represent a small minority of their own community and an even smaller minority of the Bahraini population. Incidents have been been mainly confined to particular districts, away from the city centre and areas frequented by visitors. I have little doubt that the Bahraini authorities will do everything they can to ensure that the Grand Prix goes off smoothly.”

Along with other Embassies, the UK has maintained a “no travel restrictions” security status on Bahrain, last updating that status on March 29.

Ben Wallace MP

Ben Wallace, Chair of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Iran, made the following comments last week:

"Bahrain has made massive steps towards reform in the last year. Many observers have been encouraged by the independent commission of enquiry into events last year and so far 15 out of the 24 reforms recommended have been implemented. As chair of the UK parliament’s all party group on Iran I have been at the forefront of pressurising Bahrain to do more for its Shia population and have met a number of the opposition groups in the past months. If I thought it would help I would be the first to call for the cancellation. I believe however that as things stand, by allowing the Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead it can play a part in healing the country."

Professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, Chairman of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry

Following a visit in February 2012 to Bahrain, Professor Bassiouni said:

“"The grand prix is a significant national event, which is of great interest to a substantial percentage of the population and all of its communities. It is, therefore, an event of deserved national pride.

"Aside from the economic, publicity and public relations advantages that the grand prix brings to Bahrain it is, on the one year anniversary of the February/March events of last year, an important point of departure for the people of Bahrain to forge ahead in their national efforts towards reconciliation."

In addition, John Yates, a former assistant commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police Service, who is an adviser to Bahrain’s Interior Ministry on policing, said in an interview this week that the authorities are aiming to provide adequate security that keeps F1 personnel and fans safe without showing overt force that impinges the event. He said:

"It is very much hoped that the policing will be low key and discreet. But if there are problems, they … must be able to escalate their response if need be. People can be assured that if problems arise, then there will be a plan to deal with that, as there would be with any public event in the world."

"It’s a really important event for this country. There is nothing that in any way warrants for the race to be postponed."

Zayed Al Zayani, Chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, said:

“What has been happening is that armchair observers – who have not been sufficiently interested or committed to investigate the situation for themselves – have been driving this debate, at the expense of those neutral parties who have taken the trouble to investigate the situation at first hand. This, combined with the scaremongering tactics of certain small extremist groups on social networking sites, has created huge misconceptions about the current situation.

“We have welcomed a number of people to Bahrain over the last few weeks, who have all been able to find out for themselves that the Kingdom is ready to host Formula 1 next month. I therefore urge all stakeholders in the sport to listen to those with an informed, educated view of the situation and to form their views on the facts of the situation, as presented by neutral first-hand observers.”

 
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Posted by on 10 Apr, 2012 in F1

 

FOTAs position on Bahrain

There has been a lot of speculation and articles on the web lately about teams not been very positive about going to race in Bahrain. Even an anonymous team principal was mentioned in recent news pieces. I got in touch with FOTA’s Secretary General Olivier Weingarten and he commented on the situation:

‘There’s been some media speculation recently to the effect that the Teams may seek to cancel this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. That would not be possible. Teams are unable to cancel Grands Prix. We race in an international series called the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and it is therefore for the FIA to offer the Teams guidance on these issues.’

So the days ahead are very interesting! Lets see how the story develops with Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone attending the event

 
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Posted by on 10 Apr, 2012 in F1

 
 
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