Formula 1: to many it’s just a bunch of cars going round in circles. To the more enthusiastic amongst us, it’s just a bunch of very fast, technology laden cars…going round in circles.
I’ve followed Formula 1 since the late ’80’s. It’s had its fair share of ups and downs over the years and some spectacularly bad teams have come and gone along the way. The “Life” team from 1990 was a great example of how not to do it.
In all the years I’ve been watching, though, I can’t remember 4 new entrants in a single season. That’s precisely what is happening (in theory) for the 2010 season which kicks off in Bahrain on 12th March. I say “in theory”, because I doubt all 4 will make it to the grid, but more of that in a minute.
This not being 1990, you can bet your bottom dollar that a new Formula 1 team would immediately see the need to get its website up and running as a priority. In 2010, what better way to connect with your target audience and keep the enthusiasts up to date with latest news and developments. Formula 1 runs at such a frenetic pace, even in the off season, that things are constantly changing. Not only that, but a website provides incredibly cost effective marketing, especially compared to the costs of wining and dining your corporate sponsors at every race.
A quick scout around the 4 new teams’ sites has left me somewhat underwhelmed…
Virgin Racing – www.virginracing.com
When Richard Branson’s at the helm, you know marketing will be fairly high up on the agenda. Last season he was a relatively minor sponsor of Brawn, but used his unparalleled promotional nous to gain far more TV minutes than those pennies would buy in anyone else’s hands. Whatsmore, Virgin is only really the title sponsor of a team formed by Manor Motorsport and based in the less than glamourous town of Dinnington in South Yorkshire. I somehow suspect that’ll be kept relatively quiet.
On to the site. It certainly lives up to Virgin’s reputation for slick marketing – it looks good, has lots of gloss and is a front runner out of this bunch. It is HTML based but uses font replacement technologies all over the place (Cufon), which gives it the feel of a Flash based site. There’s a lot of top level information about the car, the team, the drivers, etc., but it doesn’t have news or up to date information. No mention of the first test in Valencia last week – arguably the biggest news since the team was announced.
Geek moment – the new Virgin Racing car is the first Formula 1 car ever to be designed exclusively on a computer.
Lotus F1 – www.lotusracing.my
From my initial draft of this post to now, I am pleased to say, Lotus have re-launched their site as it really needed it! It’s now built entirely in Flash which is not exactly best practice, but it does work well. The design is perhaps not as cutting edge as the Virgin site, but where is delivers is up-to-date news and information. As of writing, it has news articles from 13th February. If they update it this week following their first official test sessions in Jerez, I’ll be even more impressed.
Another geek moment. Lotus is a historic name in Formula 1 and still is the fourth most successful constructor of all time. The new team is connected to Lotus Group as it stands today through Malaysian its parentage – specifically Proton. Beyond this and being based in Norfolk there is little in the bloodline from the team that ended its long association with Formula 1 in 1994. Having said that, this matters little to many (me included, Murray Walker apparently not) and with experienced technical chief Mike Gascoyne (formerly of Toyota, Jordan) at the helm, they could go well.
USF1 – www.usgpe.com
Unlike its European cousins, the US based team’s site is far from glossy – it’s very dated in design. In its defence, there is a “reasonable” amount of information on there. The homepage does have news…albeit aggregated motorsport content as opposed to USF1 specific. The “blog” isn’t really a blog – more of a…er…page! That feels a bit cheap, as do the embedded YouTube videos.
As with Campos Meta, there are rumours that USF1 won’t make it to the grid. A quick check on their Twitter feed shows little activity since 8th Feb.
Campos Meta – www.camposmeta.com
What is there to say? The site consists of little more than a homepage. It’s about as finished as the car if you believe the rumours…
Predictions for the year?
For what it’s worth, Campos Meta won’t make it at all; USF1 will fair slightly better but may miss the first race or more; Virgin Racing will be off the pace all year, the computer-only design approach will be quietly abandoned and next year’s car will see a wind tunnel very early on; Lotus will come out on top of this pile and will be mixing it with the lower end of the established runners by mid-season.
But what do I know…