Thursday Thoughts: F1 Launches

This week’s Thursday Thoughts question from Sidepodcast:

Should F1 teams launch 2010 cars in a single launch event?

When I first read the question I thought I would be in favour, but after considering the pros and cons I’ve turned out to be against the idea. Let’s run through them.

In favour of a group launch:

– It cuts costs for everyone. Perhaps they would each pay a flat rate to FOTA who would hire a venue, perhaps they could even get a neutral company (say a series sponsor like LG) to sponsor the event and make it break even.

– All of the world’s F1 media would be in the same place at once. Not only would this cut their costs but it would mean not having to choose between competing events held the same day.

– It would create a huge pre-season buzz with all the new cars appearing before the world at once, or in reality probably in stages through the day. The publicity would be huge! You could even set up a dummy grid, though I’m sure you’d have to draw lots for the order.

In favour of individual launches:

– ‘Launches’ these days aren’t the frivolous affairs of the late 90s with the Spice Girls and the dry ice. The cost of plonking a tarpaulin-covered car in the pitlane in Jerez really isn’t that high when it is there for testing anyway.

– If there are launches held on the same day in different countries, the bigger players tend to have enough staff or freelancers to be able to send one or two to each.

– We already have a huge pre-season buzz, it just isn’t concentrated into a focal point, it is spread over many weeks or even months. This for me as a fan is the clincher. The anticipation builds from late January as car after car is steadily launched right up until we can visualise the full grid in early March, just days before the real thing. No other form of motorsport can or does do this.

– If they launched at the same time only the specialist motorsport press will cover every team. At the moment the general media might have a larger story for McLaren and a smaller one for Force India, but they’d pretty much all get something, at least in newspapers. If they launched all at once the editors would have the same space to cram in 13 or 14 teams and it just isn’t going to happen, they’d pick Brawn, McLaren, Ferrari and maybe one other. This should be the clincher for the teams but they seem to have missed it.

The group shot idea I had above – it would look cool to have the cars lined up together but the team sponsors would probably prefer the focus to be on their car on that day. With an individual launch you get the focus on your team and your sponsors. For this reason alone I am amazed a team like McLaren, with their focus on “corporate partners” (never “sponsors” for McLaren) is prepared to even entertain the idea let alone consider it seriously.

In other responses I have seen it said the new teams would prefer individual launches to get the focus but actually I disagree with that. I think they are pushing for a group launch. Why? Because it legitimises them to be seen alongside Ferrari and McLaren and so forth. At this stage that is worth a considerable amount more to them than a single-focus launch – but that isn’t enough of a reason to go for it.

Then you have other issues such as the invited guests. Would you have one conference room, wheeling in each set of sponsor’s bigwigs before wheeling in the car? Then getting them all to leave in a timely manner before the next group, bearing in mind you have essentially 8am to 8pm to launch 13 teams?

I think the cons outweigh the pros on this one, not just in number but in gravity. It was a good idea and let’s not fault them for coming up with radical ideas for they are needed, but the execution of it is a logistical nightmare and the media benefits – which after all is the point of holding a launch – are diminished in my view.

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