Lando Norris: The Darling of Formula One

All drivers are equal, but some drivers are more equal than others.

Paraphrase of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (1945)

 

Unlike Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, Lando Norris entered Formula One under a shower of praise from the sports press. Journalists, narrators, and commentators extolled the young English driver in the same way they did to Charles Leclerc in 2018 and 2019. The impression the fans had was that a big star was coming to the tracks.

However, compared to other drivers of his generation, Norris has not achieved great things. Still, this did not prevent the media from treating him as one of the greatest athletes in Formula One. That fueled the fanaticism of many fans, who are even aggressive towards those who doubt the driver’s alleged mastery. In this article, we will analyze Norris’s profile and the media’s intentions behind his idolatry.

 

1- Lando Norris’s origins

 

Born in Bristol on November 13th, 1999, Lando Norris is the second child of businessman Adam Norris and his wife, Cisca Wauman. The couple is also the parents of Oliver, Flo, and Cisca. According to a report in the Bristol Post, Adam Norris’s fortune reached £ 205 million in 2019, making him one of the richest men in the United Kingdom.

His family’s financial conditions allowed Norris to have certain privileges compared with most of the world’s population, like a full-time tutor to assist him in mathematics and physics subjects. The driver studied at the traditional Millifield School but dropped out of school before graduating. Norris is not modest in saying that “If I wasn’t a very good driver it would not be a wise decision.”

 

Lando Norris and his father Adam. (Photo: F1i.com) [1]

 

From 2014 to 2018, Norris participated in 16 editions of single-seat championships before debuting in Formula One. He won five of them: the MSA Formula in 2015, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, and Toyota Racing Series in 2016, and European Formula Three in 2017.

Considering the media treatment given to drivers who had previously debuted in Formula One in a similar situation, and bearing in mind his bourgeois origin, Norris would be a good candidate for the nickname “pay driver.” However, traditional media outlets avoid associating it with the category’s inherent elitism.

 

2- The internet’s teen sensation

 

It is almost a consensus among sociologists that social networks greatly influence a company or public figure’s reputation. Bought by Liberty Media at the end of 2016, Formula One itself began to invest heavily in online advertising in the hope of attracting young audiences. The result was positive, with a considerable increase in audience and interaction with the category, in addition to significant financial gains.

Lando Norris knew how to take advantage of that resource. Through humorous posts on social networks, the driver shaped his reputation among Internet users. Consequently, he formed a young fan base, which was one of the goals of Formula One. However, most new fans could not distinguish Norris from the internet from Norris from the tracks. Soon, delighted by the content of social networks, they started to consider the driver as one of the best in the sport, even though the facts prove otherwise.

 

Unlike what happens on the tracks, Norris’ posture on social media is usually very humorous, which attracted many fans. (Photo: Drive Tribe) [2]

 

To analyze the performance of the English driver, we consider seven drivers on the 2021 grid from the so-called “new generation of Formula One”: Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris, and George Russell. Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher, and Nikita Mazepin are left out since they are rookies in 2021, not having enough time to reach a substantial verdict. The same goes for Nicholas Latifi, who debuted in 2020. Among the seven previously mentioned, Verstappen had the best performance during his career, followed by Leclerc, Stroll, and Gasly. Norris is the third from the bottom’s list, just ahead of Ocon and Russell, as shown in the table below.

 

 

To classify someone as “talented” or “pay driver,” it is necessary to establish evaluation criteria. According to the impacts on the driver’s history and the championship table, the ones adopted are wins, podiums, pole positions, records, and points*. Through the joint analysis of the data, we arrive at the verdict on the athlete’s performance. Gasly, for example, has a win so far and Stroll none, but the Canadian has one pole, three podiums, and two records against two podiums by the Frenchman. Therefore, Stroll is ahead of Gasly, beating him on three of the five established criteria.

(*The points affect the championship table, but the records are more remarkable for the driver’s history, so they were placed ahead in the order of relevance for the analysis. In addition, the points are dependent on the particularity of each race.)

In the case of Norris, who so far has three podiums, he overcomes Ocon and Russell, drivers with a certain peculiarity. Until the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, that year’s penultimate race, Ocon had not had a podium, and Russell had not scored. It is clear from official data that it would be more reasonable to consider Verstappen, Leclerc, Stroll, and Gasly “more talented” than Norris. But traditional sports media has another approach.

 

An internet user expresses support for Norris on Twitter with a generalist phrase. (Photo: 9GAG) [3]

 

Unfortunately, the financial interests of a media outlet outweigh the commitment to the facts. In the sports environment, it is observed that sponsors of athletes and teams also fund broadcasters and websites, influencing the way their advisors are represented in the media. Therefore, the athlete’s reputation results from his press office’s work and his sponsors’ influence in the media. The driver’s posture can also have some impact on reputation (especially in scandals). But sometimes, in less severe cases, it falls into the shadow of the other two factors.

That explains, for example, the situations of Stroll and Norris. Facts indicate Stroll has talent and cannot be considered a “pay driver.” However, he will still be crucified in the media due to his advisers’ incompetence and the driver’s passivity before image crises (see “Racing Point: A Poorly Managed Image”). At the same time, Norris will be portrayed as a very talented and generous driver, even though his results and behavior show the opposite.

 

3- Humble Lando Norris: a character from children’s stories

 

During the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix broadcast, Brazilian narrator Sérgio Maurício and commentators Reginaldo Leme and Max Wilson took the time to praise Lando Norris. The most used adjective was “humble.” However, none of the three cited an event that proved this alleged “humility” of the driver. In real life, Norris’s behavior is far from what can be considered “humble.”

Norris’s first heated moment was at the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix when he collided with Lance Stroll. He apologized to the team for the crash, admitting his responsibility, but then raged against the Canadian. The Englishman blamed Stroll even though the commissioners had cleared him. At the French Grand Prix, he ordered McLaren to tell Carlos Sainz Jr. to swap positions. When Sergio Pérez overtook him at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Norris cried on the radio and belittled the Mexican’s performance.

 

Norris’s acid comments don’t spare even his teammates. The most recent case was Ricciardo. (Photo: GPBlog) [4]

 

In 2020, during the Belgian Grand Prix, the driver verbally assaulted his engineer, who had warned him about exceeding the track limits (which could lead to a penalty). At the Italian Grand Prix, annoyed that Stroll had won the podium, Norris acted hypocritically. He made unfounded criticisms of the FIA ​​regulation that allows tire changes during the red flag. However, he omitted that the stewards investigated him for being too slow in the pits, which in fact, runs counter to the rules. At the Eifel Grand Prix, the driver was rude to his team, using a foul vocabulary again. After a collision with Stroll at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Norris offended the opponent’s learning ability. In an interview the same week, he belittled Lewis Hamilton’s seventh world title and credited it to the Mercedes car. After severe criticism for the arrogant stance, Norris apologized to Stroll and Hamilton but did not even mention their names, referring to both as “certain people.”

At the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Norris demanded McLaren to order Daniel Ricciardo swapping positions. Unlike what happened in France in 2019, the team accepted the English driver’s wishes. Despite the maneuver, considered unsportsmanlike by many experts, the audience elected Norris as “Driver of the Day.” However, the most impressive performance of that race was that of Hamilton, who reached the second place after a hit in the wall almost took him out. In addition, Norris said openly that he “has no sympathy” for Ricciardo before the difficulties faced by his teammate and that he considers him “less adaptable” than Sainz. The Englishman also reports that he aims for a “leading” position within McLaren.

 

An article on the Formula One official website reports that there were team orders in Norris and Ricciardo swap positions. (Photo: Formula One official website) [5]

 

The facts listed above prove that Norris has no ethical and respectful posture within the sports environment, both with his team and other competitors. Therefore, the word “humble” does not describe his conduct, even though the Brazilian narrators and commentators insist on treating him as such. It is noteworthy that the same Sérgio Maurício, who applauds Norris, despite all the rudeness spoken by the English, criticized Max Verstappen for responding harshly to a journalist’s rude question in 2018. We return to the paraphrase at the beginning of the text: “All drivers are equal, but some drivers are more equal than others.”

While the mainstream media overlooks Norris’s inappropriate behavior and sells him as the best and most humble driver of all time, independent journalists and internet users have unmasked this fraud. Initially, the driver was compared to Veruca Salt, from the children’s book “The Fantastic Chocolate Factory” (1964). They have characteristics in common: both are English, very wealthy, and demand that all their wishes be met, no matter how much they need to shout for it.

 

Although the sports media tries to disguise it, Norris has many characteristics in common with Veruca Salt. [5]

 

Also, they compared Norris with other fictional characters. One of them is Quico, from the Mexican series “El Chavo del Ocho” (1973-1980), famous for shouting his catchphrase “Shut up, shut up, shut up, you make me crazy.” The reference is due to the several times Norris yelled at his engineer on the radio. Another character compared to Norris is Prince Adam, from Disney’s franchise “Beauty and the Beast” (this, in turn, is an adaptation of the French tale by Suzanne de Villeneuve, written in 1740). The movie “The Enchanted Christmas” (1998) revealed that Adam acted very rude to his servants and was indifferent to the suffering of others. As a result, a witch decided to turn him into a beast. In addition to the prince, Norris’s father’s namesake, another French character with behavior similar to that of the driver is Chloé Bourgeois, from the cartoon “Miraculous.” Unable to love anyone other than herself, Chloé mistreats anyone who crosses her path. Also, she thinks that serving and idolizing her is everyone’s duty. Although Chloé shows no respect for anyone, she has a large fan base (mainly Americans), just like Norris; these relativize her crude profile and hope for her triumph in the end.

 

Journalists treat Norris as a “humble rich one” (like Adrien Agreste), but in real life, he acts like a “spoiled rich one” (like Chloé Bourgeois). [6]

 

Unfortunately, because it is not in line with its interests, the mainstream media will not treat Norris and his rudeness in the same way as other drivers. In addition, his most passionate fans will continue to promote hostile environments on the internet on his behalf until his wave of popularity dissipates.

Also, people must take the racial factor into account. Hamilton said in an interview that he “would be more popular in the UK if he were White,” which allows one more hypothesis to be raised. Aware that Hamilton is the most successful British driver in history, perhaps the media will try to invest in Norris’s image (just as George Russell’s), hoping that the audience will believe that the post will one day be filled by a White driver. Consequently, the media in other countries adopt the same stance once the central bodies of the official Formula One press are based in the United Kingdom.

 

4- Conclusion

 

The sports media elected Lando Norris as its favorite driver mainly due to the financial benefits he brings to both his sponsors and Formula One.  His popularity on social media has attracted many young fans to the category, but these see him through a celebrity filter. Then, they do not realize that the athlete is far from being the gentle star the press sells. Since Norris is well-advised and Formula One keeps money as its most significant factor, we may not see him being treated like other drivers anytime soon.

 

Addendum (23/07/2021): Lando Norris confirmed that McLaren received more sponsors when he debuted. Also, his participation on Twitch attracted more public. That information (checked here) proves the article’s main argument.

 


Sources:

 

1- Lando Norris’s origins

 

2- The internet’s teen sensation

*Sources of the table

 

3- Humble Lando Norris: a character from children’s stories

 

Addendum

 

Photos:

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The weblinks where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

 

 

The Alexander Albon Case: A Wasted Potential

Article dedicated to the reader Lucilene Mota, who asked for an analysis of Alexander Albon.

 

On December 18th, 2020, Red Bull Racing announced Sergio Pérez to race alongside Max Verstappen in 2021. Therefore, the British-Thai driver Alexander Albon got relegated to a reserve driver. Some controversies follow the circumstances of this situation at Red Bull. Some examples are their inability in making a car as good as Verstappenthe exit of Pérez from Racing Point after Sebastian Vettel acquired shares of its future owner, and Albon’s hiring in the middle of the 2019 season to replace Pierre Gasly (what generated a big hope over the new driver);

It notes that Red Bull is impatient to become the new challenger of Mercedes, given the fall in Ferrari’s performance and the rise of Racing Point in 2020. Aware of Verstappen’s ability, who conquered the team’s first wins since 2014, the Austrian team was looking for a teammate who could follow the Dutchman’s speed after the exit of Daniel Ricciardo for Renault with the end of the 2018 season. Albon ended up being a victim of this haste and having a humiliating exit from the constructor’s championship runner-up. This article will explain how it happened and why there was a big injustice with the athlete.

 

1- The 2019 season: the opportunity to shine

 

As explained earlier, Daniel Ricciardo’s departure led Red Bull to look for another talent to race alongside Max Verstappen. The duo had achieved excellent results from 2016 to 2018, which allowed the team to be runner-up and then third place (for two consecutive years) in the constructors’ championship. Replacing a driver who guaranteed victories and podiums for the team would not be easy, but Red Bull had a young name in mind: Pierre Gasly.

 

Pierre Gasly takes fourth place in the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo: Sky Sports) [1]

 

The French driver had excelled in Toro Rosso, having his best result so far, the fourth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix of 2018. They believed that if Gasly could reach such a high position in a car considered average, he would succeed in getting at least podiums in a top team. However, his performance in the first year with Red Bull was below expectations. While Verstappen was an almost constant presence on the podium, Gasly was behind Ferrari drivers (Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc). Not being able to take advantage of the Italian team’s crisis (whose tension between the drivers was aggravating), the Frenchman got fewer points for Red Bull, which lost the chance to win the runners-up championship.

Unhappy with Gasly and Verstappen’s mismatch, consultant Helmut Marko convinced Red Bull officials to replace the Dutchman’s teammate. From the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix onwards, Alexander Albon would take the seat. It was too late for Red Bull to recover the loss, but they saw the new driver as a long-term investment (if he performed well, he would remain on the team the following year). Albon had commendable performances, as in the Russian Grand Prix (in which he started from the pits and finished in fifth place) and in Brazil (having a chance to get the first podium, but was reached by Lewis Hamilton with a few laps to go). Albon finished the championship in eighth place, with 92 points. Considering that he spent the first half of the season at Toro Rosso and only then went to a top team, the result is impressive. For this reason, he was elected by the Autosports Awards as the “Rookie of the Year” in 2019.

 

Alexander Albon being awarded the “Rookie of the Year” award in 2019. (Photo: FIA) [2]

 

2- 2020: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

This phrase from Uncle Ben, from “Spider-Man,” sums up the pressure that fell on Alexander Albon in his second season with Red Bull. The driver started the year well, having one more chance to get his first podium at the Austrian Grand Prix. An unfortunate coincidence prevented him from winning: again, a collision with Lewis Hamilton. In the following races, Albon reached the scoring zone, but in places much lower than Max Verstappen’s. The situation was soon similar to that of Pierre Gasly in 2019, but Helmut Marko chose not to fire the Thai in a hurry.

Two factors prevented immediate action by Red Bull. First, the second layoff in two consecutive years without the championship ending would put the team’s reputation in check. The switch from Gasly to Albon no longer seemed as justified in 2020 as it was in 2019, and taking out the Thai was in danger of resulting in yet another unsatisfactory replacement. Soon, Marko would be classified as “impetuous.” Second, AlphaTauri did not have the appropriate names to take Albon’s place. Bringing Gasly back would be “humiliating” for Red Bull (who would have to admit he “made a mistake” with the Frenchman), and Daniil Kvyat already had a ticket by the Austrian team, being fired at the beginning of the 2016 season and replaced by Verstappen. The switch from the Russian to the Dutch driver was the most assertive of Red Bull in recent years in the short, medium, and long term, which did not repeat with the following changes (this is because Verstappen is a separate case).

Helmut Marko (left) and Max Verstappen (right). (Photo: XPB) [3]

 

In the first half of 2020, Albon faced difficulties in training on Friday and Saturday, starting from intermediate places on the grid, which is not expected for a top team driver. Only in the Tuscan Grand Prix, a race marked by accidents that led almost half of the grid to abandon, the Thai got his well-deserved first podium after winning a duel with Daniel Ricciardo for third place. He repeated the result only at the Bahrain Grand Prix, in which Sergio Pérez’s car engine ignited the rear of the vehicle and forced the Mexican to abandon. Despite the podiums, Albon was nowhere near what Ricciardo had been for Red Bull, and Gasly’s victory in the Italian Grand Prix only added to the team’s embarrassment.

Pierre Gasly’s win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. (Photo: Matteo Bazzi/AP) [4]

 

The similarity between Albon’s performance in 2020 and Gasly’s in 2019 was just one ingredient in the change of drivers from Red Bull to 2021. Another reason is in the context of another team.

 

3- Changes in Racing Point: Sergio Pérez enters the game

 

In 2020 Racing Point started a landmark chapter in its history. The previous season served as a test for the team’s new plans, bought in the second half of 2018 by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll after the Force India bankruptcy. Deciding to join the group of top teams, the English team had impressive results thanks to the joint work of the engineering department and its team of drivers, formed by Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez.

For 2021, the team sought even more investments to continue its triumphant path. One of the agreements reached was with the French company Aston Martin, which will give its name to the team. Everything seemed to go as it was, but now with improvements approaching, a turnaround happened: Ferrari fired Sebastian Vettel for his disappointing performances, and months later, Racing Point announced him as its driver for 2021. His signing would not have been so controversial if were it not for the confusion of information reported to the press: Racing Point oscillated between denial and interest in Vettel, and the narratives of Pérez and the team leader, Otmar Sznafnauer, about whether the Mexican had previously been warned of the situation conflicted with each other. Journalist Adam Cooper later revealed the truth, reporting that Vettel had bought shares in Aston Martin, thereby securing a seat on the team (to better understand this case, read the article by Ricardo Hernandes Meyer here).

 

Otmar Sznafnauer, Racing Point’s team boss (left), and Sebastian Vettel (right). (Photo: XPB) [5]

 

They note Pérez is one of the most consistent drivers in Formula One. He has podiums under challenging races, as in the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The journalist Noemí de Miguel, who reported first hand that Renault was negotiating the signing Fernando Alonso for 2021 (confirmed months later), stated that Red Bull planned to bring Pérez to be Max Verstappen’s teammate. One of the signs of this negotiation was when Antonio Pérez, the driver’s brother, started to follow Red Bull’s profile on Twitter. However, both “Checo” and the Austrian team preferred to keep the talks a secret (perhaps not to affect Albon’s results) and only announced the decision after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

 

Among the profiles Antonio Pérez, Sergio’s brother, follows on Twitter por Antonio Pérez, is Red Bull’s. (Photo: Twitter) [6]

 

We can see that Racing Point’s and Ferrari’s actions also impacted Red Bull, mainly in Albon’s fate. The expectation was that Vettel would have a gap year to reflect on his mistakes and rethink his career, just as it did with Esteban Ocon. However, the German had a master’s strategy: buying shares in the owner company guarantees a place. Indeed the press will not emphasize this because it prefers to generate controversies over Stroll, which has nothing to do with the story (the reason is implicit). Pérez’s need for a seat and Red Bull’s desire to replace Albon without being like what happened to Pierre Gasly led to the Mexican’s hiring and, consequently, the Thai’s replacement.

 

4- Helmut Marko’s haste: the sacrifice of young Red Bull talents

 

The Red Bull consultant had previously told the press that “none of the young people on the team’s training program come close to Max Verstappen.” Such a statement is harmful to athletes, who feel their work devalued. Sport is indeed an area that demands pressure to result in achievements, but this comparison hinders young drivers’ self-confidence and frustrates the team’s plans. Also, Marko seems to put too much pressure on the athletes and not to do the same with the engineering department, unable to produce a car up to Verstappen’s potential despite allegedly working focused on the driver. Recalling that engineers are fundamental in the performance of a team in Formula One, as noted in Williams’s case.

Verstappen, as previously revealed, is an exceptional talent. As a teenager, he achieved victories, podiums, and records in a team that did not have the best car on the grid. It does not mean, however, that other drivers cannot be talented. Demanding a Verstappen clone from his students is an absurd attitude by Marko, as each person has their work style. Not even Max’s father, Jos Verstappen, had such brilliant career results as his son. If instead of demanding a second version of the Dutchman, Red Bull worked to develop both drivers’ potential, the team would have a better performance in the championships. But it seems that this team favors one athlete and wants the other, as observed in the first decade of 2010 with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

 

 

Marko even accused Albon of not having self-confidence. With a boss like this, it gets tricky. (Photo: GPBlog) [7]

 

Pierre Gasly’s victory in 2020 proved that each rider has his time to adapt and that excessive charges do not shape an athlete based on another just because the team’s board wishes. Unfortunately, while being an enemy of perfection, haste shows up as one of Marko’s values, which sacrifices Red Bull’s opportunities. The example of Racing Point, which preferred to “take it easy” in 2019 to rock out in 2020, demonstrates that caution should be the main ingredient of good planning, not anxiety.

Another essential point to note is the hiring of Yuki Tsunoda to race for AlphaTauri in 2021. As Daniil Kvyat is no longer able to satisfy the group, and Gasly does a great job, it is natural to fire the Russian to give the Japanese a chance. Although this means an impediment for Albon to return to AlphaTauri, Tsunoda should is not responsible for the Thai’s misfortune, as this is a new talent that will have a chance to present his work. As demonstrated earlier, the purchase of Vettel’s seat at Aston Martin influences Albon’s situation much more than the hiring of the Japanese driver.

 

5- Conclusions

 

Alexander Albon’s case only differs from that of Pierre Gasly in one point: the time Red Bull fired each of them. Both were victims of Helmut Marko’s haste and eagerness to have two riders with the performance of Max Verstappen, which places all the responsibility on young athletes. Both Albon and Gasly have proven their talent and deserve seats in Formula One but have suffered from the Austrian team’s conflict of interest, which wishes for triumph by choosing the wrong ways.

If Sebastian Vettel had not bought Aston Martin’s shares in his successful attempt to stay on track despite his impetuosity, perhaps Red Bull would have to keep Albon for longer. That’s because Racing Point would probably keep its drivers, as Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez have excellent dynamics as teammates and guarantee remarkable results in the races. As the Mexican is more experienced and then has a more extensive curriculum, he became the ideal candidate for Red Bull to continue its fight against Mercedes, besides satisfying the desire to fire a driver whose “mistake” was “not being” Verstappen.

 

This is how Red Bull thinks: Verstappen is above any driver. [8]

 

Although he said he never suffered racism in his personal or professional life, some fans and journalists remember a case that is at least suspect. At the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, the stewards decided to punish him for an incident with Carlos Sainz Jr., even though it was the Spaniard who threw the opponent off the track. That was one of the actions that led to suspects of racism on the stewards (the others were the unfair decisions with Stroll and Lewis Hamilton), which hurt the three colored drivers on the grid to benefit white athletes. Albon may not have noticed the “coincidences” in the Italian Grand Prix’s decisions, but these cannot be ignored. Also, when speculation began about his departure from Red Bull, much was said about a possible interest by the company’s owners in keeping him from being Thai. Sponsoring companies are indeed interested in compatriot athletes in their respective sports categories, but Albon should not be remembered just for his ethnic origins. His work and effort justified his presence in Formula One.

Alexander Albon is yet another driver condemned for his team’s irresponsibility even though he is innocent. A similar case was that of Sergey Sirotkin, who left Formula One with the stigma of a “pay driver” although he was not to blame for Williams’s crisis (which was proved in the following years to be by its engineers and managers). Those directly responsible for leaving the Red Bull driver are Vettel (for causing Pérez to quit Racing Point when he bought Aston Martin shares) and Marko (for demanding perfection from his drivers quickly). But what can we consider the “culprit” for Albon’s misfortune is Red Bull’s segregationist policy, which prefers to turn one driver into a prince (even though he doesn’t have the resources to do so) and the other into a beggar when he could turn them both into heroes. If they do not change their strategies, the Austrian team is in danger of going through a crisis similar to that of Ferrari, and other “Albons” will be sacrificed in the process.

 

In short. [9]

6- Read also:

 

 

7- Bibliography

 

 

8- Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article, except the montages, belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

Formula One: The Business Sport

Virtually all Formula One fans love the sport for its competition. A proof of this is the television audience rates in the 2010s: in Brazil, at least, the number of viewers was falling year after year during the Turbo Era, which marked the dominance of Sebastian Vettel, while it began to increase at record levels when it started a certain balance between Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. However, fans get so emotional from the cars’ disputes that they forget about a definitive factor in Formula One: money.

I decided to do this article because of an unpleasant episode that happened to a friend of mine. In a Whatsapp group, she talked to a professor and, to reinforce her point of view, included a weblink to an article on the Motorsport website signed by Adam Cooper, which reported on the investments of Sebastian Vettel in Aston Martin. Behold, a man appears and then laughs at her comment, finding it absurd that someone says that a four-time champion buys a place in a team, even if the facts show just that. My friend responded well, arguing that Vettel was not indeed acting as a four-time champion (look at his accidents and results, which in no way resemble his champion days). But the man kept making fun of (and still questioned the journalistic quality of Cooper, an experienced and respected journalist in the area), ignoring a simple question: Why would anyone invest in a team in which they could not participate?

This story proved that the mentioned guy does not know Formula One well, but many fans also do not realize the sport’s financial character. It is no wonder that many journalists try to sell sensationalist headlines based on creating controversies about money instead of informing fans about the role of money in Formula One. As we propose to inform and raise awareness, here is the true face of world motorsport’s top category.

 

1- Expensive sport, investors rule

 

Anyone who accesses the Formula One website notes that there is a part reserved for partners, in other words, the sponsors. As Paulo Mourão well defined in his book The Economics of Motorsports: The Case of Formula One (2017), the costs of running each race are around millions of euros, as there are high material and human demands. Everything costs money in Formula One: the structures of the track and the paddock, the cars’ engineering, the physical preparation of the drivers, transport, the salary of the employees, among other components of the category. Many sectors benefit from this process (hospitality, fuel, tourism, etc.). As you may know, money does not grow on trees, so resources are needed to make all of this possible. Therefore, the sponsoring companies invest in the category for this purpose (other than Formula One revenues, such as selling tickets and consumables, taxes, transmission agreements, contribution rates for teams and organizers).

 

Bernie Ecclestone (the former owner of Formula One) and Chase Carey (the current CEO of Fórmula One). [1]

 

As well explained in the article Understand the Esteban Ocon Case (2019), the high costs of Formula One make it difficult for drivers who do not have significant financial support to cover the team’s expenses. Unfortunately, the sports media fails to teach the public that this is an intrinsic characteristic of the category. However, the following logic can explain it: the press vehicles are usually sponsored and avoid demolishing investments in general. Sensationalism ends up being a profitable business, as it holds more people’s attention and helps disseminate the materials. In other words: it is easier to label drivers and teams than to show that everything in Formula One is related to money.

 

2- The case of Sebastian Vettel

 

It is not uncommon to see drivers expanding their area of expertise. We had the cases of Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, and Emerson Fittipaldi as team owners; Niki Lauda was a shareholder and adviser to Mercedes, Alain Prost became an ambassador for Renault, among others. More recently, we had Lawrence Stroll, father of Lance, as a majority partner at Racing Point, and Nico Rosberg as the manager of Robert Kubica (although he quit the role months later). But the case of Sebastian Vettel has peculiarities that are fundamental to understanding the situation.

 

Fired from Ferrari, Vettel invested in Aston Martin. The event did not generate much controversy (if it were with other driver…) [2]

 

To start, except for Jack Brabham, all the drivers mentioned above (Fittipaldi, Prost, Roberg, and Stewart) entered the business world when they were no longer on the tracks. Sebastian Vettel is a member of the current grid and found himself on the edge of a precipice when Ferrari fired him. After all, as explained in the article The Dismissal of Sebastian Vettel, they were losing money and credibility with the German driver’s constant accidents. It is important to remember that the teams receive payments for their results, which are better when their drivers have consistent performances. It was useless to have won four titles with Red Bull in the early 2010s; nowadays, he was wasting good chances to score points with Ferrari. But Vettel did not give up and was willing to do anything to continue in Formula One, so he looked for an opportunity to invest in a team: he would make money as a driver and shareholder.

However, it could not be any team but one with great potential and real chances of triumph. Nobody wondered why Vettel did not buy Williams shares as Toto Wolff did? Or Haas? To realize why he got so interested in Racing Point, look at its growth in 2020. And unlike Wolff, who was thinking about marketing gains, Vettel wants to clean up his image and bring a glorious new chapter to his athletic career.

 

3- Conclusion

 

Even if the fans do not realize it, sport is a business. That is not the only case of Formula One (Brazilians will remember Neymar’s transfer from Santos to Barcelona, known as Neymargate). Sometimes the press does not instruct the fans properly because as much are people lay on the subject, it increases the chances of believing in sensationalist headlines and feeding a certain fanaticism through controversies. Therefore, many fans still do not realize that business is a much more significant component of Formula One than the competition itself.

 

The case of Neymar is one more proof of the inherent relation between money and sports. [3]

 

So, if you think that Sebastian Vettel does not need to buy seats because he was victorious in the past (even though this is, indeed, the current situation) or that Nico Rosberg managed Robert Kubica for charity, know that you are analyzing the case in a shallow way. And there is no point in laughing or trying to disqualify the other based on sex or age. Both sides must inform themselves to have a reasonable debate.


Bibliography

About Brazilian television audience rates

About the article itself

 

Note: Some sources consulted for this articles are present in the thesis “A Fórmula 1 no Brasil: Uma análise sobre a transmissão televisiva no país” (2020), that will be published by Faculdade Cásper Líbero (I gave sources for the author during the elaboration of the thesis and she gave me resources for my publication). I am clarifying his point so that there will be no accusations of plagiarism.

 

Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The weblinks where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

Who’s Lawrence Stroll? Lance’s Famous Daddy

Businessman Lawrence Stroll has been attracting sports media attention due to his investments in Formula One. From the entry of his youngest son Lance into the category to purchase the Force India team (now Racing Point and future Aston Martin), the Stroll name arouses curiosity in journalists and fans.

However, Formula One fans often end up believing in rumors and having false impressions about the Canadian. Consequently, they do not realize the true intentions of his detractors. This article will explain who Lawrence Stroll is through facts and show the motorsports lovers who the famous Daddy Stroll is.

 

1- The origin of the Strolls

 

The Stroll family, whose original name is Strulovitch, has origins in Russia. During the tsar era, there was intense persecution of Jews. One of the state policies was the pogroms: invasions of Jewish villages accompanied by raids, fires, and deaths. Soon, many Jews had hoped for new times with the revolutions of 1917 (including some leaders of the movements against Tsar Nicholas II, such as Leon Trotsky, were Jews). However, the Communist period did not bring peace to this community, especially in the regime of Josef Stalin. The persecutions not only continued but intensified.

As a part, many Jews fled Russia for democratic countries. A large part fled to the Americas. It was the case of Leo Strulovitch. Resuming life on the New Continent, Strulovitch and his wife Sandra (born in Canada) had two children: Lawrence and Randy. Lawrence decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, a clothing merchant who, years later, became an investor and introduced Ralph Lauren and Pierre Cardin’s feminine line in Canada. He studied, worked, set up his first businesses, and started his initial investments a few years later.

 

Lawrence Stroll and his partner Silas Chou. [1]

 

Specialists point to Lawrence Stroll as responsible for the popularization of the Polo Ralph Lauren brand in the European continent and the expansion of Michael Kors in the market. In 1989, Stroll and his partner Silas Chou founded Sportswear Holdings Limited, one of the largest companies in the fashion industry in history, as pointed out by Spanish journalist Jaime Cevallos. The company allowed the popularization of the Tommy Hilfiger brand, which gained ample space in the textile sector. In the 2000s, Stroll and Chou saw some brands that received their investments entered the Stock Exchange, like Michael Kors. The purchase and sale of shares earned a good fortune to entrepreneurs.

In August 1994, Stroll married Belgian fashion designer Claire-Anne Callens; on April 11 of the following year, their first daughter Chloe was born. Their second son, Lance, was born on October 29, 1998. Claire-Anne, the owner of the Callens brand, runs her business alone, and her stores are in many cities in Europe, the United States, and Canada.

 

Belgian fashin designer Claire-Anne Callens, Lawrence Stroll’s wife. [2]

 

2- Lawrence Stroll and sport: an ancient interaction

 

In the documentary W5: Lance Stroll Canada’s Top Formula 1 Racer, Lawrence Stroll reports that he raced in the Ferrari Challenge, a competition made by collectors who own the Ferrari model 348, around his 30 years and continued during the childhood of his children, who used to see their father at the event. That was the first insertion of Stroll into the sporting world, long before Lance thought about being a Formula One driver. Soon, the first myth about the entrepreneur falls apart: he would only have entered the motorsport business because his son wanted to be a driver.

Just as Lawrence acquired a taste for fashion by observing the work of his father Leo, Lance Stroll shares a love of the sport with his father. Motorsport is one of the most expensive sports categories that exist due to the cost of your labor and materials. Consequently, it is necessary to have financial support in the athletes’ careers, making it impossible for drivers without investments to enter from the basic categories to the highest. Possessing a fortune stemming from his textile business, Lawrence Stroll was one of his son’s supporters on his way into the sport.

 

Lawrence Stroll at the Ferrari challenge with his children. [3]

 

The training of a driver requires investment and athletic performance. In this case, it does not matter if the sponsorship comes from your family or not. A talented driver without a good investment cannot help the team’s budget. An athlete without aptitude does not achieve impressive results that translate into financial gains for the team. With these obstacles, it is almost impossible for a driver to reach the top category of world motorsport with only financial and frustrating performance. Athletes like this usually abandon their careers in lower stages, such as karting. Besides that, according to Nuno Sousa Pinto (sports director), FIA hampered drivers whose performances would not justify investments in their careers (the famous pay drivers). From 2016, to enter Formula One, they would have to score 40 points in the Super license.

 

3- Lance and Lawrence: father and son in Formula One

 

As the 2014 Italian Formula 4 champion (the first in the category), the Toyota Racing Series in 2015, and European Formula Three in 2016, Lance Stroll earned the points needed in the Super license to join Formula 1 in 2017 for the Williams team. Nuno Sousa Pinto points out that Stroll’s curriculum is more impressive than many young athletes who also entered Formula One and, even though having wealthy families, do not receive criticism. It reveals that, unfortunately, some journalists let personal preferences stand out from the expected professionalism and spread misinformation, ignoring one of the main principles of journalism: ethics.

Athletes need time to adapt to the category in which they work. The criticism of Lance Stroll during the pre-season was, from a journalistic point of view, hasty. The first half of 2017 confirmed it. Stroll scored his first points at the Canadian Grand Prix and finished third at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, breaking his first record: youngest rookie to score a podium. A pay driver would never get such impressive results because he would not have an aptitude for the sport, only financial contribution. At the Italian Grand Prix, Stroll broke the record for the youngest driver to start from the front row, proving his potential and talent for motorsport.

 

2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix’s podium. [4]

 

In an interview with Canadian broadcaster RDS in 2018, Lance Stroll stated that his father is a businessman and invests in ventures that he is sure will work. Therefore, from Prema Powerteam to Racing Point, Lawrence Stroll’s interest in teams goes far beyond interaction with his son: these are opportunities for high investments.

It is worth noting that the only drivers on the 2020 grid who came from more humble families are Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas. Everyone else comes from families with high financial conditions: some from the middle class like Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, others from more affluent classes. However, without exception, all have financial contributions, whether from their families, companies, or even both.

Some drivers were born to entrepreneurs who work in different areas such as fashion, investments, automobiles, engineering, among others. Some examples are Lance Stroll, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, and Sebastian Vettel. Others are children of athletes (Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Pierre Gasly) and have privileged conditions since birth. The driver’s origin does not interfere with his performance because, as Lawrence Stroll defined, parents do not drive the car for their children.

 

4- The rumors: reporting before knowing the truth

 

In 2018, Force India was sold to the consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, also formed by Silas Chou, Michael de Picciotto, John McCaw Jr., John Idol, Jonathan Dudman, and Andre Desmarais. Then, the media speculated that Lance would move to the team immediately, as the engineering department of Williams failed in making a competitive car. When Esteban Ocon left the team after the season, his fans and some journalists immediately blamed the Strolls. They acted as if the French driver had his situation already assured before the sale of the team.

However, as Joas van Wingerden reported, Toto Wolff was already considering taking his patron from Force India. The negotiations failed because the ties between Ocon and Wolff were viewed with suspicion by the other teams, as stated by Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull. That was proved in 2019 when Ocon undid his ties with Wolff to get an opportunity to return to Formula One for Renault.

At the time of the purchase of Force India, Sergio Pérez was more attractive to investors than Esteban Ocon due to his consistency in scoring and sponsors. That, added to the intentions of the French driver manager, ensured that the Mexican was the best option to race alongside Lance Stroll. Also, the Canadian presented good prospects for the following seasons due to investments and his achievements in the debut year.

 

Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez at Racing Point. [5]

 

In 2020 there was a similar situation. Sebastian Vettel did not have his contract with Ferrari renewed because his work was not meeting their expectations. Racing Point owners claimed they considered contracting him because of his past as a four-time champion (though it was proven later that the German bought shares from Aston Martin and ensured a financial investment to the team). Although it seemed apparent that the team would not choose Lance Stroll to give Vettel his seat, this is not just because he is the son of one of the owners. There are indeed companies that prioritize family ties. If their members are not prepared to take this kind of responsibility, the business will go bankrupt. But this is not the case observed in Lawrence Stroll: the success of his investments is due to care in decisions.

That means that family ties are not the deciding factor for choices like this. The discussion was about which of the two drivers, Stroll or Pérez, would have more chances to bring the team’s desired results in 2021. Both have impressive achievements, differing in career time in Formula One: Pérez has ten, and Stroll has four. In technical terms, both can be considered experienced drivers. However, the Mexican is more likely to retire early, as he is 30 years old and is in Formula One for a decade. Having both good sponsorships, sports investors find more prospects in young athletes, such as Stroll.

It perceives that business involves much deeper issues than just kinship ties. Investment in Formula One is high risk and therefore, decisions require caution. Of course, the inconstant narratives of Racing Point difficulted the understanding of the facts (added to the team’s refusal to admit that Vettel is now a partner, not only a driver), so laypeople in business can judge this is a case of a father protecting his son. That is why one must coldly analyze the facts to disclose the information correctly.

 

5- Conclusion

 

That is the story of Lawrence Stroll: a man who built his fortune with investment and entrepreneurship, works that require a lot of commitment and caution. If you expected the stereotype of a wealthy heir to significant capital, married to a socialite and a playboy child, look for someone else. Maybe you will find a driver’s father with that profile, but that is definitely not Lawrence Stroll.

 

Update (October 9th, 2020): As revealed by Adam Cooper in the website Motorsport (check here), Sebastian Vettel bought shares in Aston Martin before signing his contract. It proves what was said here: the hiring of Vettel instead of the renewal of Sergio Pérez was due to business, not a priviledge of Lance Stroll for being the son of the owner.

 

Bibliography

 

 

Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

The Fall of Williams: From Height To Ruins

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic that caused the cancellation and postponement of many races of the 2020 season, two announcements alarmed the sports media. One of them was the dismissal of Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari. The other is related to the severe financial crisis that affects Williams. Champion in the past, the British team, led by Claire Williams, underwent many bad management periods that culminated in a potential bankruptcy. Amid so much speculation, we will unravel the reasons that brought Williams to the current situation.

 

1- Origins: from Lady Virginia’s love to the first crisis

 

Williams’s origins come from two loves: Virginia Berry for Frank Williams and his for cars. Having come from a humble family, Frank joined a group of wealthy friends who loved races. To earn some money, he worked buying and selling car parts. Therefore, founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966 and entered the automobile market, selling cars to drivers from diverse countries, mainly Italians. In the following year, he met Virginia, a wealthy but married woman. Both started a relationship, and she got divorced from her husband to be with Frank. After participating in some Formula Three rounds, known for his dangerous and risky way of driving, Frank turned Frank Williams Racing Cars into a Formula One team, having Piers Courage as the main driver.

 

Piers Courage, Frank Williams’ trusted driver. (Photo: nobresdogrid.com.br) [1]

 

However, in 1970, Courage died in a tragic accident at the Dutch Grand Prix. His death made Frank Williams very sad. In the following years, being renamed Williams FW by 1973, the team’s performance fell drastically and was criticized by the press. The cars were made with second-hand materials due to the team’s low budget. Having married Frank officially in 1974, Virginia made many sacrifices to keep the team, including selling her apartment. However, both the Williams family and the team experienced miserable days. With poor structure, the cars did not reach good results; then Formula One paid a low amount of money to the team. Consequently, there were not many resources to invest in cars’ improvement.

Deep in debt, Frank had no choice unless to accept the offer of oil magnate Walter Wolf and sell 60% of the team in 1976. At the end of that year, Wolf removed Frank from administration and bought his part, renaming the team as Walter Wolf Racing.

 

Walter Wolf: the first investor to resolve a Williams crisis. (Photo: reporter.si) [2]

 

2- Restart: Patrick Head and the new Williams

 

In 1977, Frank Williams signed with Belgian brewery Belle Vue, sponsor of driver Patrick Nève, and founded with Patrick Head the Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited. As an engineer, Head was one of the responsible for the technological advance that allowed Williams’s rebirth. The team’s first year was not very encouraging, ending the season without points. However, better times were coming.

In the following year, Alan Jones got Williams’s first podium, with a third-place at United States Grand Prix. Five round later, at Great Britain, his teammate Clay Regazzoni guaranteed the first victory of the team’s history. Jones was victorious in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and Canada and Regazzoni got podiums in Italy and Canada, ending both races in third place. Scoring 75 points, Williams became runner-up in the constructors’ championship, staying 38 behind first-place Ferrari.

 

Alan Jones: Williams’s first champion. (Photo: Motorsport) [3]

 

The ’80s marked Williams’s domain in Formula One. Having Alan Jones, and Carlos Reutemann in 1980, the team won for the first time as the drivers’ championship ad the constructors one. Jones was champion and Reutemann was third-place. The following year, the team was again constructors champion, with its drivers scoring 95 points (49 from Reutemann, runner-up, and 46 from Jones, third-place). In 1982, Keke Rosberg replaced Jones e became champion with 44 points. Getting six podiums, Rosberg was known as “one-victory champion,” as the only race he won that year was the Swiss Grand Prix, but his constancy in scoring guaranteed the title. Williams was fourth in the constructors’ championship, repeating it the following year when Jacques Laffite replaced Reutemann.

Ending sixth in 1984 and third in 1985, Williams returned to win the constructors championship in 1986, having Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet (two-time champion with Brabham in 1981 and 1983) as its drivers. Mansell ended the season as runner-up, and Piquet was third-place. The following year, the Brazilian was champion and British was the runner-up. Williams conquered its fourth constructors’ championship. The team ended the decade with a seventh-place in 1988 and a second-place in 1989.

 

Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet: highlights in Williams’s golden age. (Photo: Esportes em Ação) [4]

 

3- Frank’s accident and the rise of Claire

 

On March 8th, 1986, Frank Williams suffered a severe car accident in France, becoming a quadriplegic. However, he kept active as the team’s director. The team repeated success in the ’90s, winning constructors championship in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997, and drivers championship in 1992 (with Nigel Mansell), 1993 (with Alain Prost), 1996 (with Damon Hill), and 1997 (with Jacques Villeneuve). In 1994, the team suffered a significant loss: Ayrton Senna died in an accident at San Marino Grand Prix.

Father of Jonathan, Claire, and Jaime, Frank did not trust his children to rule the team, but his daughter was always interested in the family business. Joining the communication department in 2002, Claire took the sector’s highest post eight years later. In 2012, Frank abdicated the function of team principal, and Claire took office the following year, remaining until nowadays. She is also responsible for departments of marketing, communication, and the commercial business of Williams. Her brother Jonathan also works in the team. Ele played management roles until the rise of Claire.

 

Claire Williams: funders’ daughter and current team’s CEO. (Photo: Pinterest) [5]

 

4- The second crisis: Toto Wolff saves the team

 

At the beginning of the 2000s, Williams kept itself in a good position among the constructors. It ended in third-place in 2000 and 2001, and second-place in 2002 and 2003. After 2004, the team’s performance was going down, varying between fourth and eight-place until 2009. During this period, at least one driver left Williams by year. Among the most famous names of the team in that decade stand out Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber, and Nico Rosberg.

It was clear there was something wrong with the team. The agreements with engine suppliers Cosworth (2006) and Toyota (2007-2009) did not yield good results. Earning less than in glory times, Williams had not enough resources for good upgrades in carr. However, in 2009, entrepreneur Toto Wolff bought some of the team’s shares and started to integrate its board of directors. It was the perfect opportunity to get out of the crisis.

 

Toto Wolff: Williams’s second savior. (Photo: EsporteNET) [6]

 

In 2010, deluded with Toyota, Williams returned to use Cosworth engines, signing a long-term agreement. However, without good results, the  partnership ended the following year. In 2012, the team started to use Renault engines, but performance kept well below the expected. Pastor Maldonado guaranteed the last Williams’ victory in its history at Spanish Grand Prix in that same year. Toto Wolff was named executive director, and his wife Susie was hired as a test driver. Williams had the opportunity to have, officially, the first woman in Formula One since Desiré Wilson, who drove in 1980. However, internal barriers impeded the realization of this fact, besides necessary changes in the engineering department. With this, Williams varied between sixth and ninth-place among the constructors between 2010 and 2013.

 

Pastor Maldonado’s win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, the last of Williams. (Photo: CarsNB.com) [7]

 

5- Wolff’s exit and third crisis: Lawrence Stroll saves the team

 

In 2013, seeing himself with tied hands, Toto Wolff sold his shares in Williams and joined Mercedes, buying 30% of the team’s shares. Claire Williams took office as team principal and management positions. In the following year began the German team’s domain in Formula One that remains until nowadays. In 2014 and 2015, counting with Mercedes engines, Williams got back to the constructors’ podium, ending third-place. However, the team’s financial administration still had problems. Risking to close after the 2016 season, which ended fifth-place, the team needed more investments. Among its drivers, Felipe Massa announced his retirement at the end of that year, Valtteri Bottas remained in the team.

Still, in 2016, garment entrepreneur Lawrence Stroll, father of that year European Formula Three champion Lance Stroll, announced he would invest in Williams. Lance replaced Massa. However, with Nico Rosberg’s retirement, Wolff called Bottas, his patronized, to replace him at Mercedes. To complete the transference, Frank Williams’ daughter required Paddy Lowe back to the team, and he took the engineering department. According to Massa’s reports, Claire phoned him at Christman to return to the team to replace the Finnish driver.

 

Lance Stroll and his father Lawrence, Williams’s third savior. (Photo: F1Sport.it) [8]

 

In 2017, Williams had a medium start. Massa got some scores, and Stroll faced difficulties, with mechanical failures in the first race and accidents caused respectively by Sergio Pérez and Carlos Sainz Jr. in the following ones. The media started to attack the Canadian driver, blaming him for the team’s problems. Even before the season starts, during tests in Barcelona, Claire dared to blame Stroll’s crashes for the cancelation of one of the teams’ tests, which incited furious supporters to attack the young driver at social networks in a coward, unfair way. Lowe always criticized him in the press. At the same time, the same media that was delighted with a woman as a team principal did not have the same reaction with the debut of an Amerindian driver at the category. However, at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Stroll had the only podium of the team and Williams’s last until nowadays, with a third place. With this result, the team jumped to fifth place in the championship, earning a better bonus than the previous year.

 

Lance Stroll’s podium at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Williams’s last one. (Photo: Formula 1) [9]

 

Unfortunately, Stroll’s contribution to the team was not adequately recognized by people. In 2018, after Massa’s permanent retirement, Williams hired Sergey Sirotkin to replace him. Even with one more sponsor, Russian bank SMP, the engineering department did not know how to convert the investment in upgrades in the car. Consequently, both drivers had much difficulty in scoring. The media returned to attack Stroll, exonerating the engineers of any guilt for the bad performance of the cars. Some journalists ignored journalistic ethics (taught at college) and dared to use liable-to-prosecute-terms as “questionable talent drivers,” ignoring Stroll’s achievements in the previous year and championships precedent to his debut in Formula One and disregarding Sirotkin’s lack of experience. The media simply “forgot” that who makes the cars are the engineers, not the drivers, and that the team’s budget comes from sponsors (so investors are always welcome). Also, journalists used the argumentum ad hominem fallacy to attack the drivers and acquit Claire Williams and Paddy Lowe (see the source on the article written by Kadu Gouvêa at the bibliography).

 

Paddy Lowe, Williams’s technical director from 2017 to 2019. (Photo: Jornal Cruzeiro do Sul) [10]

 

6- Stroll’s exit and fourth crisis: masks start to fall

 

In mid-2018, Lawrence Stroll set up a consortium of investors and bought the Force India team. Indian authorities wanted its previous owner Vijay Mallya for alleged corruption. Lawrence kept Lance in Williams until the end of the year, even aware of his son’s difficulties with a nothing competitive car and his crucifixion by media. The Canadian driver moved to the new team, renamed Racing Point, the following year (see “Understand the Esteban Ocon Case”).

With Stroll out of the team, Williams lost its biggest scapegoat. The critics, believing the Canadian entrepreneur and his son were to blame for the team’s crisis, trusted that the new hirings would bring the team back to its golden age. However, with Stroll’s exit, Williams had the worst performance ever. Robert Kubica was the only one to score, making one point at German Grand Prix. George Russell, Toto Wolff’s sponsored, finished season without points. However, no media organ called him “pay driver,” even came from a wealthy family and not having chances to justify investment in his work, generating suspects of racism by media (see “The Lance Stroll Case: An Amerindian in Formula One”) .

 

George Russell: European White, he is not criticized by media even being unable to score. (Photo: AutoSport) [11]

 

Enduring in the last position of the championship with the lower bonus of its history, Williams found itself back in a severe crisis. Shortly at the beginning of 2019, seeing media now could not blame Stroll anymore and that Russell and Kubica could not get out of the last places, Lowe asked to exit from his functions claiming personal reasons. The engineering department kept failing at its job, being the most notable case of the delay in months of Kubica’s adapted steering wheel. Finally, the pressure fell into Claire. At the end of the year, Kubica was fired, and Nicholas Latifi, a Canadian driver of Iranian descent, was chosen as his substitute. Latifi had not even debuted, and some fans accused him of being a pay driver and made xenophobic offenses against Canada. There was even no statement of Williams about this.

 

Nicholas Latifi: had not debuted yet, and furious fans already blamed him for Williams’s fourth crisis. (Photo: tomadadetempo.com) [12]

 

In 2020, amid the paralyzation of the team’s activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Claire admitted that they could sell the entire Williams. Toto Wolff acquired 5% of the team’s shares in June.

 

7- After all, who is to blame?

 

Unlike what some journalists tried to instill at fans’ heads, Williams’s crisis’ fault is NOT Lawrence Stroll’s, even less Lance Stroll’s, and nor of any other investor or driver to whom the media dishonestly name as “pay driver.” No one is to blame except Claire Williams herself. As the daughter of the team’s founder and its gestor, Claire should manage the financial part better to ensure control in her hands. However, excessive spending that did not convert into results on track let the team depend on extern investments. Now, if Williams’s problem was money, how can it be possible to blame who put money on its cash? Toto Wolff and Lawrence Stroll did nothing but to HELP the British team at the moment it most needed support. Drivers and investors do not make cars; engineers do. Besides, the engineering department led by Paddy Lowe had enough money to develop a good project but failed considerably.

The fact that Lance being the son of Lawrence means absolutely nothing on the subject of Williams’s financial crisis. The Amerindian driver’s participation guaranteed to the team the fifth-place at the constructors’ championship in 2017 due to his third place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, justifying his father’s investment in the team. It is evident that the car’s performance is the engineer’s responsibility and financial control if for the team owners. Still, many people do not see it and, by ignorance of lack of character, blame Stroll. The media’s insistence in condemning him for all the problems that happen in current Formula One, since internal issues of the teams until the ones of the category as a whole, reflects two phenomena that follow the history of humankind and that caused the most significant tragedies.

 

 

This Einstein quote says a lot about the way the media treats Lance Stroll. (Photo: GoodReads) [13]

 

One of them is antisemitism, as powerful groups always blame Jews for the world’s misfortunes and do until now. As current society is more conscious of discrimination, the media only accuses Stroll and omits his ethnic origins (the reason for the persecution) to avoid being retaliated by public opinion. Some fans accept the speech because they go along with these ideas; others are easily fooled, reflecting what was previewed by Harold Lasswell in the 20th century: some passively accept everything the media says, without questioning anything. In the 21st century, Ben Shapiro proved the existence of this face of media, noting that it ignores the facts and shows the narrative as it wished to fulfill its agenda.

The other phenomenon is structural racism. Even with good financial conditions, Lance Stroll still belongs to minority groups (as he is Jewish and Amerindian), so the media will favor historically privileged groups (Europeans and Whites). With this, proving Shapiro’s analysis, it ignores Claire Williams’s management incompetence to blame Stroll, even without arguments and proofs. Its speech ends prevailing because many fans do not want to think, as it is more comfortable to accept what is said without checking the facts. For some people, it can seem absurd that racial questions are made in Formula One’s context, mainly in the case of a team’s bankruptcy. However, it is humanly impossible to ignore the unhealthy, unfair persecution the media and some fans do with Lance Stroll, and people must unmask the reasons.

 

8- Conclusion

 

Williams’s bad financial management put the team in four crises throughout its history. Even with suitable investments and sponsorship, the engineering department failed successively to upgrade the car so the drivers could fight for good positions and put the team back to the top of the championship. The media preferred to blame who was helping instead of the responsible ones for the car’s inefficiency. The hostile internal atmosphere keeps the team from potential investors under the fear of facing barriers to decisions (and if they belong to an ethnic minority, they risk being crucified by the press and fans and blamed by issues out of their responsibility). Then, for Williams, there is just the sale of the team or learn with its pasts and make a radical change in its attitude.

 

Williams’s problem: it always bites the hand that feeds it. [14]

 

Update: On March 21th, 2020, it was announced that Williams was sold to the American company Dorilton Capital.

 

9- Bibliography

 

 

10- Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article, except the montage, belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

 

The Dismissal of Sebastian Vettel: Justice or Injustice?

On May 12th, 2020, Scuderia Ferrari announced that it would not renew German driver Sebastian Vettel’s contract. The decision shocked the press and supporters, as two main characteristics have spotlighted Vettel’s performance in recent years: his disputes for the title in 2017 and 2018 and his constant accidents. In 2019, the German ended behind his teammate, Monegasque Charles Leclerc, on final results, with Leclerc being on the second year of his career and first with the Maranello-based team.

During the 2018 season, some fans considered that retiring would be more indicated to the German driver. Others used Vettel’s glorious past as a four-time champion to justify his permanence in Formula One. So, after all, was Ferrari’s decision fair or unfair? To answer this question, let’s make a retrospect of Sebastian Vettel’s career and rate if his performance was worthy of Ferrari’s investments.

 

1- The beginning: a young talent enters Formula One

 

Sebastian Vettel debuted in Formula One at the 2007 United States Grand Prix for Sauber, replacing Polish driver Robert Kubica, who had suffered a severe accident on the previous round in Canada. Vettel finished eighth, the last place of the scoring zone at the time, scoring one point. In the same year, he was hired by Toro Rosso to continue the season from Hungarian Grand Prix. His second and last scoring was a fourth-place at the Chinese Grand Prix. He finished the championship at 14th place, with six points.

As of 2008, Vettel’s star started to shine more. Scoring in nine races, the German had a triumphant victory at the Italian Grand Prix, being the first time a Toro Rosso driver won a race. At this same round, he broke two records: “youngest Grand Prix pole position winner” and “youngest driver to score a double” (pole position and race win). He finished 2008 in eighth place, with 35 points.

 

Sebastian Vettel’s first victory, at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. (Photo: MAXF1.net) [1]

 

2- Joining Red Bull: the apex and the fall

 

In 2009, Vettel was hired by Red Bull Racing team. He broke two more records: “youngest driver to score a hat-trick” (pole position, race win, and fastest lap) and “youngest World Drivers’ Championship runner-up.” With four wins, eight podiums, and four more scores, he got 84 points, 11 lesser than champion Jenson Button (from Brawn). His results were so impressive that he turned into Red Bull’s bet to dispute the title.

Racing alongside Australian driver Mark Webber, his teammate since his first year with the Austrian team, Sebastian Vettel became champion for four consecutive years. In 2010, with five wins, ten podiums, and five more scores, he got 256 points and guaranteed the first title of a Red Bull driver. In 2011, Vettel conquered 392 points, 11 wins, 17 podiums, and one more score. The following year, he had 281 points, five wins, ten podiums, and scored on seven more occasions. His last title was conquered in 2013, with 13 wins, 16 podiums, and he scored in two more races. Vettel’s four titles meant two things for Red Bull: the engineering department has succeeded in their turbo engine development, and the team had one of the most talented drivers in the sport’s history.

 

Sebastian Vettel’s win at the 2013 German Grand Prix. (Photo: Motor Authority) [2]

 

In his four titles’ years, Vettel broke nine records he keeps until nowadays. In 2010 he became the “youngest Formula One World Drivers’ champion,” at the age of 23. In 2011, he broke the ones of “most podium finishes in a season” (17 at all), “most pole positions in a season” (15 at all), “most laps led in a season” (739 at all), “most wins from pole position in a season” (totalizing nine) and “youngest driver to score a grand slam” (pole position, win, fastest lap and led every lap). In 2013, he broke the records of “most consecutive wins” (nine at all), “most consecutive grand slams” (two at all), and “most wins in a season” (totalizing 13). Vettel also got three more records, “youngest driver to led at least one lap,” “youngest driver to score a podium,” and “youngest Grand Prix winner,” but these were surpassed some years later by Max Verstappen. With these achievements, Vettel was considered the biggest winner of the Turbo Era in Formula One.

 

With Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel won four championships and got nine records he keeps until nowadays. (Photo: Sports Mole) [3]

 

But in 2014, the situation changed drastically. ith Mark Webber’s exit, the team chose his fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo to replace him as Vettel’s teammate. If before it, Vettel’s mastery was evident, he passed to be left behind by the team in favor of the new teammate. His car in 2014 had little power to reach previous years’ results. By contrast, Ricciardo’s car enjoyed perfect conditions, allowing him to get his first win at Canadian Grand Prix. Getting only four podiums and 12 more scores, Vettel finished the year in fifth place of the championship, with 167 points. Ricciardo finished third, with 238 points. In the same year that Red Bull decided to prefer a new driver, the team lost leadership in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton’s title (the second of his career) started Mercedes mastery, which persists nowadays.

 

Red Bull’s preference for Daniel Ricciardo not only harmed Sebastian Vettel’s 2014 season, as it allowed Mercedes to be the new dominant team. (Photo: Marca) [4]

 

3- Going to Ferrari: a good deal?

 

Seeing Vettel’s deception with Red Bull, Ferrari made him a proposal to join the Italian team replacing Spanish driver Fernando Alonso. The Maranello-based team could not win the drivers championship since 2007 and the constructors’ one since 2008. Unhappy with Alonso’s failure, Ferrari’s officers bet on the young four-time champion to bring back the team’s times of glory.

Vettel’s contract with Red Bull would end at the end of 2015, but Ferrari paid his severance to have him in its team. Racing alongside Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen, the last champion with the Italian team, the German returned to the drivers’ top-3. Conquering three wins, 13 podiums, and scoring in four more races, he finished the year at third place in the ranking, with 278 points, 44 lesser than runner-up Nico Rosberg and 103 lesser than champion Lewis Hamilton (both of Mercedes). Though without getting another title, his position in 2015 relieved Vettel. He was in a more competitive car, being the team’s priority, and was closer to compete for the champion trophy.

 

With Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel retrieved chances to fight for the title. (Photo: O Globo) [5]

 

But in 2016, destiny brought another big rival: Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver had debuted by Toro Rosso in 2015. The following year was promoted to Red Bull replacing Russian driver Daniil Kvyat (fired because of his weak performance and his constant accidents, even harming Vettel at the Russian Grand Prix). Verstappen has the same characteristics as the German driver: he was young, fearless, audacious, brave, and had no fear of taking risks. Responsible for breaking three records that belonged to Vettel, the Dutch driver held intense disputes with Ferrari’s driver. The most emblematic ones were for the Mexican Grand Prix podium and the Brazilian Grand Prix fifth place (Verstappen ended third). The young driver nearly surpassed Vettel in the championship, ending only eight points behind the German, who finished the year at fourth place in the ranking, with 212 points.

In 2017, Vettel was highlighted again, starting the championship with a win at Australian Grand Prix. The dispute for the title with Hamilton kept balanced for 13 races, with the German having some advantage. However, at Singapore Grand Prix, Ferrari’s craving for victory ended harming its primary driver. Starting from pole position, alongside Max Verstappen, Vettel and Räikkönen squeezed the Dutch driver, which caused a triple crash. The three drivers had to retire from the race, and the victory ended with Hamilton. With the British driver leadership, Vettel needed to win Mexican Grand Prix and cross his fingers to Hamilton to finish at least ninth to become champion. However, one more dispute with Verstappen frustrated the German’s plans. The Dutch driver took him the leadership, and both had a touch. While Verstappen kept it normally, Vettel ended shocking against Hamilton, and both went to the last places. Ferrari’s driver finished the round in fourth place, while the English driver crossed the finish line in ninth place, guaranteeing that year’s title. Winning for the last time at Brazilian Grand Prix, Vettel ended 2017 as runner-up, with 317 points an outcome of five wins, 12 podiums, and five more scores.

 

Accident at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix involving Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, and Max Verstappen. (Photo: Busy.org) [6]

 

The year 2018 was similar to the previous one. Vettel started the championship with two consecutive wins (in Australia and Bahrein). However, as of the Chinese Grand Prix, in which he had a touch with Verstappen that dragged him to the eighth place, his luck started to change. In that year, Vettel involved himself in a series of accidents that cost him precious points to dispute the title. At the French Grand Prix, he collided with Finnish Valtteri Bottas. Later, the team broke it down at the German Grand Prix, ordering teammate Räikkönen to give him the lead), but Vettel crashed into the wall and retired. At the Japanese Grand Prix, he risked his luck in a fight against Verstappen that made him leave the track momentarily, ending the race in sixth place. At the end of 2018, Vettel had five wins, 12 podiums, and eight more scores, consolidating himself as runner-up once more, with 320 points.

In 2019, Kimi Räikkönen was replaced by Charles Leclerc. Although many journalists and supporters speculated that the new driver would bring a hazard to Vettel, old experts in Ferrari knew that the team would prioritize the German and would make the Monegasque his squire (as they did to Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa in the past). It was what happened at the year’s first race, in Australia. Though Leclerc’s car had a better output, Ferrari did not allow him to overtake Vettel (the same happened two rounds later, in China). For this reason, Leclerc was nicknamed “Cinderella.” However, Vettel did not justify his team’s preference for him in 2019: he got only one win, Singapore, that even lent him the controversial accusation of being helped by Ferrari (that changes his tires before Leclerc’s), besides eight podiums and seven more scores. The primary mark of Vettel in 2019 was his accidents, notably the crash with Hamilton at Canadian Grand Prix, the purposeful collision with Verstappen at British Grand Prix, with Lance Stroll at Italian Grand Prix, and with Leclerc at Brazilian Grand Prix. In the second and third cases, Vettel only stayed in the last positions, including receiving penalties, while in the other, he caused a ferrarist double-retirement that alarmed the team. Finishing the year in fifth place, with 240 points, Vettel ended one position and 24 points behind his teammate.

 

4- From hero to zero: what was Sebastian Vettel’s mistake?

 

Conquering a title in Formula One is not an easy job. The specialists are practically unanimous in saying that the key to success in motorsport is the sum of the driver’s talent with the car’s good performance. There is no point in having a potent car if the driver has no stamina to bring it to the title (Valtteri Bottas is an example). Also, there is no point in the driver being talented if the car’s performance does not match (Max Verstappen is an example). Vettel’s achievements (records, wins, and titles) prove his talent. Ferrari and Red Bull are considered top teams (though recently, the Austrian team is quite different from when the German was its main driver). So how to explain such a fall in such a short time?

The answer is simple: self-control. That is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a champion. A significant example of how it works is the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton disputed the title with Vettel and had started from pole position. However, a full-of-range Max Verstappen fought for the win. Hamilton preferred not showing too much resistance. He chose to guarantee a second-place, keep an ongoing series of scoring, and steady the title than disputing the win and risk an accident, giving chances to his rival to surpass him. Vettel does not think the same way. The German is very impulsive and hazards until the last second, causing unnecessary accidents and losing significant points. When this dispute happens with another impulsive driver, like Verstappen, the damage is even more powerful. Who knows, the 2017 championship would have ended differently if Vettel and Räikkönen had not framed that squeeze for Verstappen to try to scare him?

 

Sebastian Vettel’s crash at the 2018 German Grand Prix. Silly mistakes cost him the chance of winning three more titles. (Photo: Goodwood) [7]

 

A strategy is also vital to win a game. Formula One is a collective sport that depends on the interaction between the driver and his team (this one is divided into its many departments and staff, as engineers, mechanics, strategists, among others). Audacity and courage are indeed relevant factors to a successful career, but even in extreme situations, as a dispute for positions, it is necessary to think very well before acting. Reuniting the team before the races to discuss how to proceed in hypothetical situations and practice what was discussed before would be a good strategy.

The main mistake of Sebastian Vettel was letting his emotions take control of his reason. Accidents like those of the 2019 British Grand Prix and the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix resulted from the driver’s rage for being overtaken by his rivals (Verstappen and Leclerc). Vettel should follow the suit of Hamilton’s prudence if he wants to win titles again.

 

5- Conclusion

 

Ferrari realized that it is not worth spending its investments in a driver who, though talented, always gets into trouble. Charles Leclerc likely became the team’s new bet, which will hire another driver to be his squire (sources speculate about the name of Carlos Sainz Jr.). Sebastian Vettel, in turn, has two possible ways: retirement or a weaker team. Though Toto Wolff had already shown some interest in putting him in Mercedes, it is unknown if Vettel would accept race alongside Lewis Hamilton. The four-time champion waiver was an outcome of his impulsivity that harmed him more than helped him. However, it would be unfair to ignore Vettel’s achievements, as he left his legacy in Formula One as a bold and fearless driver who translated his courage into four titles. The most important lesson that he gives for the new talents in the sport is that it worths thinking before acting more than risking everything, as you can lose the last chance to shine.

 

Sources

 

 

Photos

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