Since Russia took over control of Crimea there has been whispers to whether the first Russian Grand Prix should in fact go ahead. It’s not loud shouting, teams are not publically stating they don’t want to go, probably in the hope that relations with Russia and the rest if the world improves. However, the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 allegedly by Rebels supported by Russia, is bringing the subject more to the forefront. Some journalists had already committed to staying away, whilst “Bernie” give a predictable statement that politics should not interfere with sport.
The problem is, you can’t really describe the downing of a passenger flight and 298 deaths as something “political”, nor using brute military strength to annex parts of the Ukraine.
It Is Commercial Not National
F1 is not a national sport, it is a 100% commercial business that exists to make money only. It is not about countries coming together in the spirit of good will to compete with each other. But a well oiled business, that exists only to make money through international marketing.
Big teams like Mercedes and Red Bull invest the millions into F1, for the exposure they get, especially when they win races. Every time there is a good result,, thousands of pictures find themselves on 100,000s of publications and online sites, showing the racing car, the brand, the winning podium etc. All extremely good marketing for a big international brand.
But if the Russian race takes place, you can pretty much guarantee that all winning photos will be situated within the bigger story of a civilian plane been shot down with 298 lives being lost. This is where I see the challenge. No big brand wants to be associated with bad news only good, and very little is as bad as what has happened above the skies in eastern Ukraine.
Connection With Brand and Russia
Imagining the winning driver holding up the cup, a few words about the brand and car that was being driven, then far more paragraphs of the crimes taking place. No brand wants exposure that connects their image to this type of news. This is why I think the Russian Grand Prix, should be postponed until next year, subject to better relations.
Drivers will be uncomfortable, even if they want to be there to race. Anyone who can avoid the weekend subject to contract is likely to sit this one out and you can’t help thinking there will be naked cars driving around the circuit as sponsors ask for their brands to be removed from the cars on this race.
I for one will not be watching and that is the first time I have said anything like this, as it dominates my household 20 times a year.