Opinion: Campaigning for F1

Somewhere around 2003, after almost 20 years of ALDC-approved campaigning and concentrated Rennardism, I burned out and resigned from every bit of Libdemmery I was involved in bar party membership.

Goodbye campaigning, I thought, and went off to do quieter things, like setting up a motorsports website supporting British drivers, www.BritsOnPole.com.

All went well until a chancer named Simon Gillett met a bigger chancer named Bernie Ecclestone and won a deal to take the Formula One British Grand Prix to cosy old Donington Park. Quite how the necessary redevelopment work would be paid for was unclear.

Since then, the slow, painful, but wholly predictable collapse of Gillett’s plans have led to worried fans of British motorsport arriving in droves at our site in search of news and reassurance.

Their fear is that the failure of Gillett, the rapacity of Ecclestone and the financial prudence of the British Grand Prix’s traditional home, Silverstone, would leave a hub of the global motorsport industry raceless.

Donington Park facilities are not at F1 standards

Donington Park facilities are not at F1 standards

Because this is about far more than 200mph advertising hoardings, jet-setting millionaires and under-dressed young women shivering in the cold wind of a converted Northamptonshire airfield.

This is about skilled technical jobs – lots of them. This is about the British brand in global commerce and industry. And, as Scottish Lib Dem blogger Duncan Stephen argues, it is about technical innovation with relevance to everybody.

Lose the British Grand Prix and we lose a lot more than a day out with Murray Walker. The fans visiting our site knew that, but they lacked a central focus to rally behind. What was needed, clearly, was a campaign to give them voice. So we set one up.

From the start, it was clear it needed to be practical and focused. We thought about who would make the decision whether to give Silverstone its race back, and how best to influence them.

We deliberately avoided online petitions, customised Twitter icons, activities only accessible to Facebook members, and anything else that might have generated more heat than light.

Expecting purely online activity to influence a hardened case like Bernie Ecclestone is, frankly, as futile as trying to get a laugh by sticking captioned PostIt notes on your neighbour’s pet cats.

So we compiled a list of people to lobby and provided links to their website contact pages. Five simple action points, minimal effort needed to participate – but anyone who wanted to get more involved by printing out fliers for a race meeting, or blogging themselves, could easily do so.

It seemed an obvious approach to us – and Blog of the Year shortlistee Caron Lindsay immediately spotted why, titling her supportive post “Help Save the British Grand Prix – Rennard style“.

Well, if that’s what it takes, we’ll buy it.

While “Jenson Button – winning here” stakeboards may be a step too far, the campaigning techniques we’ve all been taught for potholes and pavements remain versatile and powerful, even for seemingly-unrelated issues – and even in the age of Twitter.

Andy Darley is a former Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate and the co-principal of BritsOnPole.com. Sign the PledgeBank pledge here or visit the campaign page.

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11 Comments

  • Good for you andy. Its good to see one of my passions being supported by the skills learned through another ofmy passions.

  • Does no-one else feel that motorsports are not exactly the most carbon-friendly of past times…?

  • Felix – you may be interested to know that the Formula One regulations have just been reworked so that the emphasis moves to engine and fuel efficiency. Summarised, the team who can make the most efficient use of resources will have the biggest advantage. James Allen writes on the subject here: http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2009/10/fia-releases-2010-calendar-and-details-of-green-racing-future/

    Also, don’t overlook the role of top-level motorsport as an engineering laboratory that can produce positive effects that ripple throughout society. An excellent example is the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) recently developed by the Williams F1 team based in Grove, Oxfordshire.

    This uses an innovative flywheel system to re-use the energy generated from braking and has applications in public transport systems worldwide. The technical director of the London Underground has given it rave reviews and said he will seriously consider whether it can be implemented on the network.

    So, when answering your question, it is necessary to think a bit more widely than just about cars going round a track.

  • But guys – you save petrol by not bothering with this inane past-time!
    As for technological developments- we need to move away from internal combustion engines – I’ve not heard about Formula 1 working on electric cars!!
    Get real – this is just rich people’s playtimes: leave it to the Tories!

  • Ah regenerative braking – what a cutting edge technology!

    How does it differ from what was being done on the Manchester-Sheffield railway in … er … the 1950s?

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