Parc Ferme: Formula 1’s silliest season... Ever.

Parc Ferme: Formula 1’s silliest season… Ever.

Parc Ferme: Formula 1’s silliest season... Ever.

Hot off the back of Ferrari’s revelation that Lewis Hamilton will drive for them in 2026, they have now announced his arrival will also herald a new sports drink sponsorship deal.

Consequently, the team will be renamed the Carlos Fandango Satsuma Racing Horse Formula 1 team. Ok, ok, the last comment is not really a thing, but based on events and rumours currently touring the F1 paddock, it’s not so far-fetched.

Seriously?

Colin Chapman must be turning in his grave. More than just an engineering innovator, he was the first to sell team naming rights to a non-automotive sponsor – Imperial Tobacco.

In 1968, his cars appeared in the cream red and gold livery of the cigarette brand and were entered under the name Gold Leaf Team Lotus. This opened the door to a new source of income for the F1 teams for what was becoming an increasingly expensive activity.

This worked well for all involved. The products gained exposure and started to become synonymous with F1’s brand world as the fans mentioned their names in the same breath as those of the teams.

Marketing for the hard of thinking

However, the marketing wonks seem to have out-thought themselves based on the recent spate of unintelligible team names being stillborn into the F1 ether. What they seem to have forgotten is that apart from the Germans, most people have a penchant for shortening long names, normally to acronyms.

The Visa Cash App Racing Bulls F1 Team is already resonating as the anonymous VCARB team or VCARBS (a name which sounds uncomfortably close to RETARDS).

Sure, there’s lots of noise over them at the moment,  but not in a good way. Being associated with “stupid” is off-brand for most products.

“D” for effort

I have no problem with innovation or the guys who come up with the ideas. For example, look at McLaren’s LED branding that changes throughout the race – genius. But this team naming malarkey is just lazy work and brings nothing for the sponsor.  Note to the marketing department: go away and try again.

Santa Claus to replace Leclerc

Hamilton’s move has also legitimized an upsurge in F1 “clickbait”. Primarily because what was an almost implausible story has now turned out to be true. Fanciful ideas like Max Verstappen going to Mercedes are now doing the rounds.

I’m sure Toto Wolff would welcome the young Dutch Champion, a guaranteed winner. I doubt he’d want his dad, a guaranteed problem. As they seem to come as an item these days, this is a deal that won’t be happening.

If not him, who?

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: Zhou Guanyu of China and Alfa Romeo F1, Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin F1 Team and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing laugh in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit on March 30, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

A slightly more realistic possibility is Fernando Alonso. One of only three F1 World Champions on the grid, he’s out of contract at the end of 2024. Whether this becomes a thing or not will depend much on how Mercedes and Aston Martin perform this year.

However, a more probable suggestion would be either Alex Albon or Mercedes’ Wonderkid,  Kimi  Antonelli, taking Hamilton’s vacant seat.  The latter will depend on whether he continues to bury the competition in F2 this year, as he has done in every other category.

Return of the bon

Albon has emerged from the Red Bull career mauling at the hands of  Verstappen, validating the promise he showed earlier in his career, at Williams.

Proof of this is Helmut Marko’s apparent attempt to rekindle the relationship. Something he has never done before and an invitation the young Brit should steer well clear of. My advice to him is to beware of Greeks bearing gifts or, in this case, Austrians.

Albon would flourish at Mercedes; but returning to the Good Doctor’s School of Driver Management would be a wash, rinse, repeat. Besides, there seems to be big trouble in Milton Keynes these days, but that’s another story.