January is both an interesting and infuriating time to be a motorsport writer. On one hand, the lack of action and the continued slow drip feed on news means there is often precious little to report or discuss.
It goes some way to understanding why so many publications publish retrospective copy, list-articles, predictive pieces and “what if” speculative drivel. It is what it is, and eyeballs are needed, so why the hell not?
Truth be told, unless you bathe in the sea of rallying and ultra-hardcore endurance racing, January represents a month where there is precious little news to get too terribly excited about. For most championships, teams at this time are busy building the stories and timelines that are soon to come, particularly for the livery launches.
That’s not to say there is nothing to report, but rather the morsels of news that do appear are often not very interesting. In essence, January announcements are the kind of things that could often be covered in single paragraphs. It’s easy: headline – breif opening paragraph – a four-line story. Ta-dah!
I jest of course. Slightly.
Of course, the cleverer sources will occasionally drop a positive major story in this period of relative quiet, as one may be guaranteed plenty of extended coverage. The announcement of Davide Brivio’s move from the Suzuki MotoGP team to become Racing director of the recently renamed Alpine F1 squad to replace Cyril Abiteboul raised some eyebrows.
And yet, Abiteboul’s move to become Head of Car Performance with the Alpine brand – alongside his role as his Team Principal position – sent signals that maybe his long-term path lay in the grander corporate machinations of Alpine. What really surprised was the news of Abiteboul leaving the manufacturer altogether, with Laurent Rossi slotting into what was due to be Abiteboul’s position.
This was a story that got the column inches it deserved.
Naturally, January is also the month where you really don’t want negative headlines to emerge for precisely the same reason as above; with no other stories to detract, bad tales linger like bad smells.
But not every bad story is a negative one. The postponement of the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix were unfortunate, but given the sprawling COVID-19 pandemic, these postponements can be forgiven with relative ease. After all, in days like these, it is better to tiptoe with caution than it is to stumble haphazardly over a cliff.
If one wants an example of a negative story, one only needs to look to the embarrassing tales emerging from the Australian Open tennis tournament, as players and their partners openly lament the nature of their lockdown on social media channels.
It showed a relatively small percentage of players and entourage behaving and complaining like spoilt brats from the verandas of a five-star hotel. Whether one agrees with the players or not, it was a bad look and utterly misjudged the tone of the situation in the State of Victoria.
Had I been the Head of Communications of the Australian Open, it is likely that my hair would have been ripped out in frustration, although it entirely plausible that I may have become Malcolm Tucker to their Ben Swain or Nicola Murray.
The tournament has not yet begun, and the news is all negative. This could have been the time where the ATP and WTA delivered a feast of enjoyment and hope; where positivity could have been matched by charitable tokens at a time when people are living through an incredibly difficult and tragic time. Instead, the tournament has only dumped self-entitled faeces on the mat. Well done. People tend not to like that.
Thankfully Formula One has not yet dropped a giant news turd, but there is always time. Trust me, there is always time.