Race Blog
Abu Dhabi 2010

Men & boys

Simple really, the key to Formula 1 respectabilty: it’s all in one’s brand.

It doesn’t matter what you do: mechanic, engineer, driver, team boss, photographer, journalist, team spin doctor or sponsor rep, to succeed all must have one. If you don’t you’re invisible; if you do, you’d better hope the guys in the know like it,  because you will be judged by the image you project.

Some get it, some don’t. That’s life.

This years newest ‘get it’ crowd can be found at the far end of F1’s paddock parade: Lotus Racing.

Just think about what they’ve achieved in such a short time. Little over a year ago, when Tony Fernandes put the deal in place, Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne and his very small crew set about designing and building a car, passing crash tests, running some pre-season laps and fronting up in the desert for the 2010 season opener in Bahrain. All in a tiny timeframe that seemed impossible in modern F1.

The fact that it was achieved isn’t far short of a minor miracle; to gain respect in the piranha pool that is F1 is a major one.

Now that the final race has been run and 10th place in the championship secured, thoughts naturally turn to 2011. Looks promising, doesn’t it: a title winning Renault engine for power, and a Constructors’ Cup-clinching Red Bull Technologies gearbox and hydraulics package to boot.

So where’s the downside?

Argh – that’ll be the chumps at Group Lotus.

You’re all no doubt far too fully clued-up regarding the ridiculous legal shenanigans about who owns what when it comes to the wording of the Lotus brands for me to have to rake over the details.

It’s sufficient to say that grown men really should know better.

Erstwhile Red Bull and Ferrari marketing ‘guru’ Dany Bahar and his motley crew of F1 outcasts and wannabes (including their ‘Director of Corporate Affairs’ Gino Rosato – who once, when not carrying Jean Todt’s slippers into First Class, insisted he and I fight out our pitlane differences) seem hell bent on making a mess – and what a mess they’re making.

While Lotus Racing have been doing exactly what they said they would – race – Group Lotus have been doing their level best to unsettle their F1 namesakes.

So as lawyers get rich(er) in preparation for courthouse bust-ups, what’s the future for our sport’s newest top ten team?

If they lose the who-owns-the-name legal battle, valuable work by the team’s marketing men on cultivating the brand will have been wasted as the ‘new’ owners reap the rewards of a whole year’s work. Then there’s the dilemma of what to call the team.

I’m no legal eagle or marketing genius, but might it have been a better idea for Group Lotus to put down their rattles, climb out of the pram and work with Lotus Racing for the betterment of Lotus as a whole?

It’s quite a feat that Bahar and his boys have so utterly destroyed their ‘F1 brand’ before ever really having one.

The difference between men and boys is, after all, the size of their toys!


Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by clicking here.

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