These last weeks have not been great for F1 with dodgy dealings, mud and accidents not helping the sport's rather grubby image. In India it is not helped by having a team owner who plays with his racing cars, while employees in one of his companies demonstrate outside the headquarters because they have not been paid for months.
Vijay Mallya may have money to show off but he's not a Ron Dennis. Formula 1 is a way to be famous, not a passion. Ron's vision goes far beyond other team bosses in Formula 1 and it is all the more impressive because he was not born rich and is self-taught.
He was a mechanic in his teens and did not have the opportunity to get MBAs and such things. He just went out there and did it - and he did it well. Ron's latest adventure is the launch of McLaren Animation - a film company.
In its desire to make more money, the Formula One group has not been paying enough attention to its audience. The average F1 fan is a middle-aged man with some money to spend. The kids of today are not interested because F1 has made no effort to capture their imaginations and they have clicked their way into wonderful virtual worlds, where they can fight wars in space, design their own cities, or whatever they want to do. F1 is something that their dads or grandfathers are interested in.
Round in circles…
The launch of McLaren Animation is an attempt to stop that and to inspire the kids of today to get into motor racing, by way of engineering. To do that, one must light a spark in a youngster as a pretty early age. Get pre-schoolers into racing cars and you have a pretty good chance that they will stay interested for life.
McLaren Animation's goal is to do exactly that, using computer-generated imagery to create cartoon characters of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and their interactions with a character called "Professor M".
McLaren Animation is a joint venture launched in partnership with the Oscar-winning visual effects and animation studio Framestore, which is scripting, directing and creating high-end CGI for 12 three-minute episodes of "Tooned". Each uses the celebrated camaraderie between Button and Hamilton to create a series of amusing adventures that test the patience of Professor M.
It gets the corporate message across, and creates an environment in which money can be made by way of merchandising. Disney’s "Cars" franchise is a clear example of the potential that exists. There have been two films, which have made about $1 billion at the box office… and $12 billion in merchandising.
McLaren gave Framestore, its partner in the business, an open brief to create content based on Button and Hamilton. The only stipulations were that the end result must be comical, must allow for space for additional branding from McLaren's sponsor-partners, must be adaptable for worldwide territories and must have potential to run on a long-term basis.
The writer has covered every Grand Prix for the last 25 years