Recently, D’Marge was invited to spend the day with IWC Schaffhausen and the Mercedes Petronas AMG Formula 1 Team at the Australian Grand Prix. As a life long fan of the sport, they didn’t exactly have to twist my arm to get me along- Formula 1 has always been to me what AFL is to most Australian men. It’s the speed, technology and flashy shallow glamour of the sport which has always been an attraction.
IWC Schaffhausen have been a technology partner of Mercedes AMG since 2004, however their involvement in Formula 1 only began in 2012, with 2013 being the first official season of the brand’s working partnership. With the recent signing of ace Lewis Hamilton, IWC couldn’t have chosen a better time to take the next step in their relationship.
The few days prior to any Formula 1 weekend is a mixture of parties, PR events, dinners and general schmoozing where sponsors, drivers and teams get chummy with the likes of D’Marge to spread the good word of their impending success. D’Marge was lucky enough to not only spend time with Sam Bird (Mercedes AMG Petronas Reserve Driver) and Yan Lefort (#1 Sponsorship guy from IWC in Switzerland), but also Nick Fry, (then) CEO of the Mercedes Petronas AMG Forumula 1 Team. Nick’s career in motorsport began in 1977, where he started with the Ford Motor Company, and in 2002 he he was appointed Managing Director of BAR F1. Nick survived the following reincarnation of the BAR team into its Mercedes AMG Petronas form today.
Nick had just stepped off a plane from Los Angeles (with a fresh looking IWC Ingenieur on his wrist) before he spoke to us, so after an obscenely strong latte, we asked Nick about this year’s contender for the 2013 Formuala One World Championship. Like all teams, he wants his drivers to be on the front row each Sunday, and was positive about his team’s chances this year. “You have to also look at this sport as a series of scientific experiments, and one race is never really enough to establish exactly where you are. Also Melbourne is a unique race, in that it has a higher propensity for accidents, partly because of its design and partly because it’s first day back at school for the drivers.”
Overall his drivers seems very happy with this year’s design, a car that was being developed long before they signed Lewis Hamilton to the team. The design cycle of Formula 1 cars is about 7 to 8 months, which consists of a team of 600 delivering over 4,000 different parts. Nick tell us he’s not referring to the nuts and bolts, but the 4,000 unique parts within the car. And in just 7 months, where the likes of Ford, BMW or any other car manufacturer would take 4 to 5 years to develop a new model of customer car (i.e. 3 Series). To make things that little more complex, for 2014, Formula 1 are introducing a new set of very different regulations, in preparation for which Nick explains Mercedes’ parallel team working to meet the demands of the new 1.6 litre turbo engine and car’s design requirements. These new requirements are Formula 1’s effort to be more environmentally friendly.
Nick’s job is to identify and build relationships with the right companies and people who can move their team forward. When asked about partnerships with other brands, Nick’s response is frank: “Gone are the days where a brand enters the sport because the CEO likes Formula 1. Today it’s about creating partnerships that can help the team move forward”. If we look at the partnership between Mercedes and IWC, Nick says that watchmaking and Formula 1 share many similarities. Both companies use similar materials, they’re into efficiency, style and also what he calls packaging efficiency. “Getting as much technology efficiency into a Formula 1 car is much the same as designing a watch. You have limited space and require the best possible solution with that space.”
Nick expects that the relationship between IWC and Mercedes over the next few years will see IWC using more materials that are used in the Formula 1 cars. That means seeing more models like the IWC Ingenieur AMG Black Series, whose construction has been inspired by the high-performance ceramic disc brakes found in premium Mercedes AMG vehicles. You can see more of the IWC Ingenieur range here.
I have to admit, it’s difficult to understand what all the hubbub is about until you actually step inside one of the Formula 1 teams’ garages. The sheer scale, complexity and logistics of moving an entire sport from country to country for 20 rounds throughout a season is just mind boggling. The team, drivers, sponsors and support staff move effortlessly over the entire weekend, politely answering what are probably the dumbest questions from people like me. However they take it all in their stride and immediately move on, to the next country, ready to do it all again. Formula 1 is unlike any other sport on the planet; perhaps that’s why brands like IWC Schaffhausen see immense value in being part of such an amazing circus.