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Lotus F1 boss Fernandes to give keynote at Monaco forum
Lotus F1 boss Fernandes to give keynote at Monaco forum
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Dec 2009   |  11:48 am GMT  |  53 comments

Tony Fernandes, the team Principal of the new Lotus F1 team will deliver the keynote address on the first day of the 2009 Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco.

All eyes will be on the Grimaldi Forum next Wednesday morning as Fernandes, talks about his new team, his innovative ideas for sponsorship and monetisation of the team and his ambitions within Formula One. I will be putting the questions to him. Send me a suggestion for a question and if I like it and think it’s appropriate, I’ll add it to the list.

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Fernandes has been a sponsor in F1 for four years through his Air Asia airline and its deal with Williams. At the core of his F1 plan is partnership with the Malaysian Government and state affiliated companies. He plans to move the entire operation to Malaysia in time.

Another new team principal, Alex Tai of Virgin Racing, will be speaking at the Forum as will the CEO of the Mercedes F1 team, Nick Fry and a host of big names from the sport. The event runs for two days December 9th and 10th.

The Motor Sport Business Forum is in its fifth year and is at the heart of a busy week of motorsport activity with circuit owners meetings, F1 Commission meeting on the 10th and the World Council meeting on December 11th. The FIA gala at which Jenson Button and Ross Brawn will collect their world champions trophies will be on Friday night.

For more details or to attend the Forum go to www.msbforum.com

Here is the full list of speakers
Tony Fernandes, CEO Air Asia
Alex Tai – Director of Special Projects, Virgin Group
James Allen – Conference Chairman
Nick Fry – Chief Executive Officer, Brawn GP F1 Team
Richard Cregan – CEO, Yas Marina Circuit
Razlan Razali – CEO, Sepang Internatioanl Circuit
Paolo Flammini – CEO, InFront Motor Sports
Walter Kafitz – CEO, Nürburgring
Talal Al Zain – CEO, Mumtalakat
Neil Duncanson – CEO, North One Television
Simon Long – CEO, ISC
Peter Harris – CEO, iris Sponsorship
Stephane Ratel – CEO, SRO
Neville Wheeler – Director, Cisco Media Solutions Group
John Rhodes – Senior Associate, Populous
Gerard Quinn – Motorsport Activities, Ford Motor Company
Paul Hembery – Motorsport Director and CEO East Asia and Pacific, Pirelli Tyres
John Nolan – Head of North One, Commercial and Digital Content
Jarmo Mahonen – Managing Director, AKK-Motorsports and AKK Sports ltd
Robin Fenwick – Director of Sports Sponsorship, Hilton
Jacques Raynaud – Vice-Chairman, Eurosport Group
Michael Roche – Executive Director , Singapore Grand Prix Pte Ltd
Richard Bracewell – General Manager, Global Sponsorships, Shell
Sonja Kreye – Motorsport Business Relations, Porsche
Becky Morgan – COO and Finance Director, All the Worlds/F1 Rocks
Gary Carey – Global Sponsorship Director, Diageo
Marcello Lotti – GM, KSO
Ferran Juncar – Sponsorship Director, Dorna
Alan Baldwin – Formula One Correspondent, Reuters
Ian Burrows – Commercial Director, Haymarket Motorsport
Marissa Pace – Director, European Motorsport Programmes, Kangaroo TV
Mark Gallagher – F1 General Manager, Cosworth
Jonathan Noble – Group F1 Editor, Autosport
Ben Gallop – Head of Interactive and Formula 1, BBC Sport
John Hogan – Senior Associate, Global Strategy, JMI
Carlo Boutagy – Co-Founder and President , Fanzone
Jayme Brito – Founder, VPI
Gerard Lopez – Founder, Mangrove

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Did you downloaded Wikileaks docs? Give me link plz

Hih you hear me??

bye bye ;))


Hi to everyone, my name is Gabriele and I’m writing from Canada

I’ve searched a topic where introduce me but I don’t find it, for this reason I’m sorry if this would be the wrong topic.

I am a thememaker and I like this forum a lot:)


It does concern me how the Lotus name seems to have just been handed over like a cheap brand…

Lotus is British and moving away from the UK will do nothing but weaken its brand it amazes me that a business man thinks he can just transplant Lotus to another country. Its not going to happen it will be a name with no substance.


Tony Fernandez is the poor man’s Richard Branson! He has followed a similar career path to Branson from music into airlines. In fact he has worked at Virgin before. He is good at thinking out of the box and good at using people’s expertise. Well good luck to him on running an F1 team. Only reservation is the moving of team to Malaysia in the future. Zero racing infrastructure in that country to support something as elite as F1.


Ask him how he can stand there and call himself “Lotus” with a straight face.


Significance of Pirelli attending?


I noticed them on the list also, any chance at all of them joining Formula One once Bridgestone leaves?

The teams that are being supplied with Cosworth engines next year, are they all on 1 year contracts, or are they signed with Cosworth for a much longer deal?


Given the government involvement with his team, and the prevalence of government support for circuits, does he believe that F1 can sustain itself without government financing on either level?

How can this business model survive if political considerations cause governments to withdraw their support? What contingency plans are in place for his team to deal with that possibility?


My question would be – Do you think under the resource restriction era there be enough ‘resource’ for F1 innovation to increase and develop at the rate it has in the previous 10 years? Will development and innovation come to a stand still when your spending only 1/6th of a previous budget?

I also have a less appropriate question for Nick Fry but I doubt it could be published here…. 😉


James, you are leading such a diverse role since your comentating days. Are you finding this new life more rewarding than when comentating? It seems to me that, you are involved in a much more diverse agenda than before


It’s different and as you say quite a diverse range of activities around F1 media and business. I love the interaction on this site


In buying the rights to the name Lotus, did Tony fully consider what that name means in the UK? To many of us old timers Lotus is the original British Ferrari, the iconic marque of the legendary, if highly controversial, Colin Chapman. We expect great things of anyone who takes over one of our national icons.

It is interesting to see Ford present but sad not to see GM, strange that Citroen are not represented as they are big players in WRC but maybe they are in the other locations. Presumably all attendees are different in each location, else they have time-travel portals.


how / why does nick fry still have a job?


I guess because he (and his employers) understand business a lot better than you do.

Harsh I know. But true.


christian horner i would suggest is held with much higher regard than nick fry amongst the paddock, and has certainly acheived a lot more with his team too. if you google his name, there are significantly more derogatory comments than positive – when there’s 90% negative comments about someone, chances are that he’s done something to make himself unpopular, and whilst there are some armchair critics, there are some fairly knowledgable F1 websites out there too.

nick fry in his position, even if it was not his main job day to day, must take at least some responsibility for the pathetically poor sponporship that his team has had to endure for the last few years including this one. he is off soon i believe to address a sponsorship forum in abu dhabi, so he certainly thinks he knows something about it even if you don’t think he should.

with regard to the buy-out, whatever the timings of exactly what happened, the fact is that the main person who was seeking and vetting potential buyers also had an eye out for getting the team for himself. This to me is a fairly clear conflict of interest, and he should have removed himself from the position of trying to sell the team. we also have no idea how involved fry was in the recent mercedes take-over.

lastly, the way he allowed super aguri to disintegrate at a time when they were embarassing their parent team and getting results way beyond there meagre budget was also incredibly disappointing.

by the way, mod, i thought your censorship of my mild description was a little harsh, but having seen that fry set his lawyers on pitpass to get various articles removed, i guess it’s fair! 😉


you would think wouldn’t you. or hope…

lets look at mr fry’s recent cv shall we? sponsorship failure over the past 4 years or so, co-inciding with pretty embarassing performance. the totally ill-conceived earth dreams disaster. no noticeable sponsors on this years championship winning car, and losing their main sponsor (virgin) to a new unproven entry. also losing brawn’s wdc winning driver to a rival team, and questioning his loyalty after jenson stuck with the team through the lowest of times for the team. Being one of the main people looking to sign up new investors for the ex-Honda team, telling us all that there were numerous serious interested parties. strangely enough, no investment offers were accepted by Mr Fry, but instead he became one of the management team who lead the buy-out.

you’d be happy with this [mod] working for you? i wouldn’t…


Whether you like him or loathe him, he is a class operator.

If he’s such a “class operator”, please explain the team’s total lack of success under his leadership.

Please also explain the total failure of the team to attract sponsors.

For 4 years in a row.

Despite winning both Championships this year.

Please also explain how, as CEO, he failed to see these problems occurring and fix them. If the Marketing Director is failing, it’s the job of the CEO to fire and replace him. He hasn’t fixed that problem for 4 years now.

Fry is many things. Highly rated in the paddock, and a class operator, are not among them.


Sponsorhip – that is the marketing director’s job. The CEO’s job is to ensure the smooth running of everything else. This is why when Ross Brawn purchased the company he did not become CEO – he wanted to get on with the engineering and rightly chosen someone else to do the job. He kept Nick Fry for a reason – he is clearly very good at doing what the board want.

Honda’s micro-management no doubt interered with Fry’s ability to do what he really needed to do, ultimately culmintating in a dog of a car and the resultant unwillingness of people to sponsor Honda.

I agree with you Re: Jenson. We don’t know if that was Nick Fry, Ross Brawn or Mercedes pulling the strings on that. Either way, it was poorly thought out and an own goal.

Being one of the main people looking to sign up new investors for the ex-Honda team, telling us all that there were numerous serious interested parties. strangely enough, no investment offers were accepted by Mr Fry,

Wrong. He lined up a takeover by Mercedes. Ross got on with the engineering, told Fry what he wanted to happen and he made it happen.

but instead he became one of the management team who lead the buy-out.

Wrong. The team buyout was *BEFORE* the team was ex-Honda. The way you’ve written it, it was after.

I don’t know Nick Fry, I haven’t met him. I have no connections with him. I’m just an observer.

You don’t get to be CEO of a company like this without knowing what you are doing. And you certainly don’t get to keep the job through a management buyout and then through a takeover unless people rate you. The normal course is that during a takeover the MD/CEO is the first to go- the new owners want their own people running the show. That one simple fact tells you all you should need to know. Whether you like him or loathe him, he is a class operator.

I imagine in years to come, Christian Horner will be regarded this way, if he is not already.


I think the arrival of Ross has shown up just how the problems Honda had weren’t money, or drivers, or equipment, or ideas, or staff. They were all management related. The only change was replacing Nick Fry & the Honda board in the decision making process with Ross – and look at the results.

Brawn GP management and marketing’s total and utter failure to capitalise on the immense media attention they had this year must be mind boggling to someone like Jordan or Williams who are used to having to spin budgets and attention out of thin air. What the uber-marketers over at McLaren or Ferrari make of Nick Fry is anyone’s guess. But the bald facts remain: his team have attracted no sponsor for 3 years out of 4. No Title Sponsor for 4 years out of 4. This failure was underwritten off by Honda for years, Nick never had to face the music on the subject. Mercedes’ board have clearly signalled they will not be so forgiving.

Look at the difference between how McLaren and Brawn use something as cheap, direct, and easy as twitter and you’ll start to wonder just how shaky things are over at Brackley. If he weren’t a direct shareholder, I think Norbert would have Fry’s job, simple as that.


If he weren’t a direct shareholder, I think Norbert would have Fry’s job, simple as that.

Utter nonesense. Unless he has 50% or more voting rights (not necessarily same as 50% share holding) he cannot demand any position he wants. That means the only reason he has the position is because he merits it.

As for the sponsorship comments – that is the responsibility of the marketing director.

Most company takeovers result in the MD (or CEO in this case) losing his job. On the occasions the CEO keeps their job that is an outstanding sign that the new owners of the business value the MD/CEO. Clearly Mercedes do.


Did Lotus consider buying the Toyota desgins that were for sale? If not, why were the team not interested in them?


Yes, but they decided not to take them


My questions:

How competitive do you reckon Lotus can possibly be in its first F1 season? If we are looking at the examples of the past, then Stewart in 1997 and BAR in 1999 (they started from a new base, hence were basically a new team despite buying F1 licence from Tyrrell) were capable of running midfield on pure pace, although cars were extremely unreliable. And of course Toyota, who in addition to being in midfield had also reliable cars. Considering that Lotus seems like a well-financed team, are points achieved on merit an achievable goal already in 2010? Looking at those mentioned past examples, what do you think will be harder to achieve – speed or reliability? Which area is your bigger priority in car development?


Bearing in mind the new teams had to sign up to Cosworth engines, how much credibility did the Cosworth engine gain when Williams ‘chose’ to run it next year? And are you pleased with the progress they are making?


Does Tony think that the ‘secret cost cutting measures’ the teams have signed up for has gone far enough to reduce costs? And why does this deal have to remain so secretive?


Does Tony think that a sponsor like Air Aisa will get more for their money as a title sponsor for a newer team than it would as a ‘normal’ sponsor for one of the more established teams and why?


Wonder why North One are represented as they don’t do BBC’s content any more unless there’s something we don’t know.


Because they are doing a section on the WRC


Thanks James. I’m thinking of buying your book from your site, are they still signed now?


With so many new teams in F1 next year, other than on track performance, how does a team like Lotus ‘stand out from the rest’ in respect to building their fan base, attracting publicity and sponsors?


Jaguar, Honda, Toyota, BMW…. what do you have that they didn’t?

Maybe word it a bit more diplomatically though!

(I could also add to that list Eddie Jordan, Paul Stoddart, Tom Walkinshaw and even Sir Frank Williams in recent years… but you get the gist – I’m fascinated to know what different in the business plans of all these new entrants that convinces them they can succeed where big names didn’t).


(I could also add to that list Eddie Jordan, Paul Stoddart, Tom Walkinshaw and even Sir Frank Williams in recent

Hmm, three of the above paid their bills, and one didn’t. He should not be listed in the above list. Very dishonourable.


But I’m sure he went in thinking he had a plan to cut it with the rest of them… which is the point.


Does Tony think that the amount of politics and scandal in F1 are good for sponsors?… generates more headlines and “any publicity is good publicity” or do sponsors feel it hurts their brand?


I know you won’t be able to, but I would really love you to ask Nick Fry how his questioning of Jenson Button’s loyalty to Brawn/Mercedes ties in with Fry’s/Brawn’s/Mercedes’s own loyalty to Rubens Barrichello…

As for Tony Fernandes, I would like to know what kind of incentives he thinks he is going to have to offer his presumably mainly British-based staff to relocate with the team to Malaysia in a few years’ time. F1 engineers and other staff aren’t used to having to relocate much further than Cologne, Maranello or Hinwil.


Question for Tony:

Do you think the amount of innovation possible in F1 is being driven down by the amound of standardisation imposed by the regulations? (thinking engine freezes, reduced aero, control tyres etc)


Maybe you could ask him (or answer this yourself), how with all these new teams entering F1 the teams will differentiate themselves to attract fans to one team or another?

Brawn pulled off the trick of gaining lots of fans quickly by combining their underdog image with instant success, but the new teams are likely to be circling at the back of the field while everyone else races off – I can’t see this attracting many supporters, and with it extra sponsors.


For Manor/Virgin and Campos, it is probably about the drivers. In Australia, I think the Ferrari team get a following, otherwise it is a bit of ‘not Ferrari’ but really your favourite driver and from that people buy things like McLaren shirts. Bruno Senna seems well placed having the name and some talent – yet to be proven in F1.


That’s something I’m a tad concerned with. It’s always exciting to have new teams enter the sport – any sport for that matter. But let’s not kid ourselves – I doubt anyone really expects any of these new teams to have any real success, for the first couple of years at least. And a couple of years can sometimes be all they get – it wasn’t that long ago we had Super Aguri and Spyker trundling around the back of the pack, and look at what happened with them.


“sponsorship and monetisation of the team ” oh please James, tell me you did not write that ! No new “buzz” words, please !

Question: How serious are F-1 Teams and/or the rule makers at combining the “green future” and the fans who want an ever better scrap out there on the tarmac ?

All the very best with the Monaco Forum.




Could you ask a question of Nick Fry?

He stated after Button left that they wouldn’t release him early to McLaren “because he still has commitments to us”. So far, they haven’t used the World #1 driver for any sort of marketing, at all as far as anyone can tell. No sponsor days. No media blitz re: Sports Personality. Exactly what “commitments” was Fry referring to? Are these the same sort of phantoms he was referring to when he stated mid-season “we have plenty of sponsors for next year, this team is very well funded” – having announced… er… no sponsors. For the 3rd year out of 4.

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