When a sponsor pays huge amounts for their name / logo / brand to appear on the side of a car, there usually some expectation – or at least hope – that it will appear repeatedly throughout broadcasts across the globe.
This is usually tougher for sponsors paired with teams at the back of the field, or even worse – the midfield, where even the latter cannot get exposure due to not being at front, but not getting lapped either.
Of course there is far more to sponsorship activation today than that, but it still plays a part in the process. So much of modern day sponsorship in international sport is about business-to-business dealings, as opposed to simply plotting images on a screen.
That would just be nonsense.
This morning, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg utterly dominated the Australian Grand Prix – the first Formula One race of the 2015 season – with the former taking the top spot and looking reasonably untroubled throughout.
It was a reminder that just because one is fastest during the Friday practice sessions, that is not necessarily going to translate where it really matters. It was also a reminder that domination at the front will lead to broadcast directors giving attention to other battles on track.
While Rosberg appeared to get close to the rear of the reigning champion from time-to-time, Hamilton rarely ever looked threatened. If anything, the double-world champion probably enjoyed one of the most understated victories of his career.
His praise post-race was, naturally, saved for the efforts of his team. “It’s quite unbelievable, really, what this team has done. It’s a great feeling to start off the season the way we finished the last and the car is just incredible.”
From the start, Hamilton was never troubled and held an easy lead into turn one, while Rosberg tentatively kept his works machine ahead of the squabbling pack – led by Felipe Massa’s Williams – upon corner entry. There was chaos behind as a Ferrari (Kimi Raikkonen) sideswiped another Ferrari (Sebastian Vettel) who touched a Sauber (Felipe Nasr) who clattered a Lotus (Pastor Maldonado) who was introduced to a wall (concrete). Virtual safety car.
Following the brief neutralisation, Hamilton again led away, although he was helped to build a sizeable gap into turn one by a sleepwalking Rosberg. The Briton pushed on and built a solid gap to Rosberg and was at one point over four seconds ahead of his German teammate / rival (delete where appropriate).
The victor tried to press home the win was not all easy. “It was still a tough race, though, as Nico was very quick throughout. It was about managing fuel and also the tyres – trying to see how long we could push them.”
That was all Hamilton had to do to a degree. By keeping some air between himself and Rosberg, Hamilton controlled the race, knowing too that there was little to push beyond the realms of necessity. Rosberg did close in at various times, but Hamilton merely turned up the wick – just enough – to solidify his position. He added, “Once I’d built a two second gap it was about maintaining it. But when Nico turned up the heat it was tough. He drove really well and it’s a great result for the team to start the season with a 1-2.”
Despite this, the Mercedes pair finished nearly half-a-minute ahead of the 3rd place Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari). Now that’s domination.
Hamilton was also happy to see Ferrari back on the pace and the 30-year-old acknowledges that a resurgence from the Scuderia could do much to add an extra dimension to the season. “It’s good to see Ferrari back up here on the podium. I think they have taken a big step, so I anticipate a good fight with them this year at some point and we can’t back off.”
Indeed Ferrari’s step up also was also noticed by Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff. “Ferrari have bounced back strongly, too, and it’s good to have them back in the game – they have everything they need and they will be coming closer.” Just as long as they do not get close enough…
During the race, Rosberg was informed to cool things down as he was using too much fuel, which added yet another nail to chances of victory in Melbourne. It was a feature commonly seen last witnessed and a deficiency that Rosberg has yet to eliminate.
Naturally there are those who will scream and shout about team orders – tin foil hats not only go cheap nowadays, they also come in different sizes – but the reality is probably closer to Rosberg’s general higher use of fuel compared to Hamilton.
However the German feels his race was lost not on Sunday, but during Saturday. “Yesterday after Qualifying I was already on the back foot and that’s difficult to change in a race against Lewis. I need to have a better Saturday, which I was able to do last year.”
In a way, it goes further than that. Hamilton’s advantage from the start and in the race gave him first say over pit strategy, with the Englishman taking new tyres on lap 25, shuffling Rosberg’s stop to one tour later. The season is still in its infancy and with nineteen Grand Prix still to run, Rosberg is already looking ahead. “It’s still a long season with lots of races to go. I want to strike back in Malaysia, so that’s the focus.”
And so, Mercedes traipsed almost unseen to an astonishing 1-2 finish; their 43rd victory in all championship competition if one allows the author to go back as far as July 1935 and Rudolf Caracciola’s win at Spa-Francorchamps in the W25B machine – that was a 1-2 finish as well.
The aforementioned sponsors and their associates who fret in marketing might just care about that statistic though, but television coverage? Maybe, just maybe the Mercedes were simply too quick for the cameras.