F1 News (and a hint of MotoGP): Jerez Has Rain & a Launch, FIA Says No to Missing Races, AirAsia Sponsors GP

What Happens When Things Cross-Over

12:09am EST — Even with a soggy, wet testing session in Jerez, the F1 and racing world had plenty of news to share, from a car launch, to more confusion from the FIA, and another sponsor for F1 and MotoGP.

Jerez Testing Day 1 Is Wet and Messy:
It was difficult for teams to set particularly fast times, nor log too many laps Wednesday in Jerez with the requisite rain in Spain jokes coming true.  Red Bull, who launched their RB6 moments before the testing began, suffered an oil leak and had to change an engine (dipping into the four allowed for pre-season testing and continuing a trend from the 2009 season for the Renault-powered team), while the Virgin Racing car posted a very slow time in the rain and a tiny amount of laps.  First day times and laps run were:
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:20.927, 57 Laps
2. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:21.031, 84 Laps
3. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:22.243, 118 Laps
4. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:22.895, 88 Laps
5. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, 1:23.287, 55 Laps
6. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:24.947, 68 Laps
7. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India, 1:24.968, 71 Laps
8. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:25.440, 27 Laps
9. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:26.502, 50 Laps
10. Timo Glock, Virgin Racing, 1:38.734, 5 Laps

FIA “Clarifies” the Ability of Teams to Miss Races:
While everyone in the Formula1 community was watching and analyzing times from a rainy Jerez, the FIA released a statement saying, essentially, that both Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt were wrong.  No team can miss a single race. “rom a sporting and regulatory point of view, each Team that has registered for the Championship is obliged to take part in every event of the season. Any failure to take part, even for just one Championship event, would constitute an infringement both of the Concorde Agreement and the FIA Regulations,” said the statement.
One has to wonder why Todt would say, only yesterday, “in the last draft of the Concorde agreement it’s written that a team can skip three races,” when the sanctioning body he represents does not agree.  Obviously, there is differing opinion on the interpretation of that clause, and one can see why Bernie Ecclestone might stir up some publicity and trouble by mentioning that teams can miss up to three rounds of the championship (it both helps and hurts the new teams he can’t seem to let alone and helps the possible team he just can’t seem to let alone, USF1 and Campos and Stefan GP, respectively).
The final decision on removal and punishment for any team that misses a round of the championship is up to the WMSC, so their interpretation is the one that matters.  This statement from the FIA says that it is attempting to clear up a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the rules.  In fact, it makes the situation worse.  Both Mr. Ecclestone and Mr. Todt are on the WMSC.  If they believe that the rules teams are allowed to miss a race or three, they might persuade the rest of the council that no punishment is necessary.

Fernandes’ AirAsia to Sponsor BritishGP:
In a bit of crossover from the pinnacle of auto racing to the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, MotoGP commercial rights holder Dorna, though its CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, announced that AirAsia is the title sponsor for the MotoGP 2010 British GP.  AirAsia is also a sponsor for the Williams F1 team, and is owned by Tony Fernandes, who also owns new F1 team LotusF1.  In the usual excitement over cash and sponsorship, Ezpeleta and Fernandes were quoted in an article on the official MotoGP website, and Fernandes’ previous involvement in MotoGP was mentioned as, “the airline sponsored AirAsia Malaysia 125cc riders Elly Idzlianizar Ilias and Mohd Zulfahmi Khairuddinfor as wildcard entries” for the Malaysian GP last season.
While this crossover can be quite typical, I think Fernandes is an excellent example of why companies sponsor racing.  Does it offer some financial benefits? of course, since (to non-racing fans) cars and motorcycles are just billboards that move really fast.  However, particularly in this sort of economy, initial returns on the sponsorship investment can be quite low.  What really happens to get a company involved in racing sponsorship is when the person in charge is a race fan.  When that happens, not only does the company sponsor a team, but you can see how that individual convinces many others to sponsor racing.  It is business, but if someone weren’t originally interested in the racing, there are other methods of advertising that come much quickly to the businessman’s brain.
This sort of growth of sponsorship, even if it is only spearheaded by one man, is a sign of progress.  The racing world (car, motorcycle, cockroach racing) needs this sort of drive and determination in sponsors and team owners.  A good business mind has become key to racing, and those who don’t seem to have the business mind are those who seem to be struggling in putting together teams and racing ventures.  This is the way to survive in an ever-evolving sport that, while vital to our personalities, is not vital in the minds of many in this world.


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