The Mobil 1 seat swap footage is now out, with various content from Watkins Glen in upstate New York. Lewis Hamilton, fresh from his nightmare weekend in Montreal, was driving Tony Stewart’s Chevrolet Impala, while Stewart climbed into the cockpit of the McLaren MP4-23, the car from 2008, Hamilton’s title winning year.
Despite some fairly mixed weather, the pair seem to have enjoyed experiencing each others’ machinery on the long course at “The Glen”, which is a 3.4-mile road course.
There is a deeper strategic play going on here. The seat swap is quite timely and is part of the F1 teams attempt to get a deeper understanding of how to market itself in the USA ahead of next year’s US Grand Prix at Austin. We had a lively discussion on this subject at the FOTA Fans Forum in Montreal, with McLaren’s marketing guru John Allert explaining that, “The best way for us to show people what F1 is about is to get the cars out and about across the US and Canada. We need to give people the experience that gives people the tingles on the back of the neck. It’s a sport that’s very difficult to appreciate only on TV. Seen up close, heard and smelt, it’s extraordinary.”
Ferrari sent its head of communications Luca Colajanni to Kansas the weekend before Montreal to attend the NASCAR race and he had a series of meetings with teams and NASCAR officials to take a deeper dive into the US racing scene and come up with some ideas for how F1 can connect better than it has in the past.
“It was a very different experience to what I am used to, but I saw 70,000 passionate fans, ‘ said Colajanni. “I cannot understand why we can’t reach the same level of interest as NASCAR in the US. We have such beautiful cars, but it’s up to us. We have to do it this time.”
Renault team principal Eric Boullier meanwhile, revealed that the team has begun an in depth strategic review of how to market the sport and the team in the USA.
Having tried and failed a few times in the USA, it’s clear that this time the teams and trying to find a more sophisticated and coherent plan.
You can see the rest of the video content at Car Swap Video