New Colours

15 Apr, '07

Michael is out of it. So I suppose it’s high time I should be out of my sulking at his departure and get re-involved in the sport I love. Time to snap out of it!

I’ve been prevaricating as to who should gain my support henceforth, the Prancing Horse has always been my favourite since I got an interest in F1 simply because of the great strides they have had when Schumi joined the team all those years ago. I didn’t know anything about F1 before then, I didn’t have much interest in cars before then for that matter, I still don’t consider myself a “petrol head”, not by a long shot, but I do enjoy the roar of the engines and the intense competitiveness of every part of an F1 team and event, and that it is not simply the driver who makes the difference, but every single part of the team that does.

The teams, especially with the new rules of engine capacities and single-source tyres this season, have not much difference between them; however, there seems to be a resurgence and shuffling between the teams technically and through their personnel too. The team grabbing the headlines as the “best improved and promising” now seems to be McLaren. I would like to think that their improvement owes a little to Bahrain in owning 30% of that team!

Is that involvement just vanity, though? Or is it based on real business cases which might benefit the country? A report in the International Herald Tribune suggests that it might be a bit of both, with more emphasis on the latter:

“It is in the non-FOne aspects of McLaren that we saw the value,” said Mohammed. “In addition to that, of course, Formula One has incredible networking opportunities and we’re already talking to a lot of the McLaren partners on helping to grow their businesses within the region, and looking at opportunities, in whatever field.”

[…]

“Our goal strategically is to capture more value within the country, create high-skilled jobs for the people,” said Mohammed. “Through McLaren and others – and McLaren is one of the key partners – it provides us access to DaimlerChrysler or other manufacturers, where we can work with them to produce components for automobiles.

This is good. Once again “the young leadership” is demonstrating that it is thinking out of the box, unrestricted by old-world methods and practices, but charging ahead putting stakes in the ground with the vision that the return on investment will be reaped in multi-faceted ways and over both medium- and long-term periods. It’s not a hit-and-run affair, but these kinds of investments are being put in place with a strategy of dragging this country by its scruff of the neck into areas we have not thought of yet: manufacturing and its support services which requires a skilled, determined and well-educated workforce. Maybe none of which is present at this particular moment, but the longer-term perspective suggests that given a chance, this is where the country is being taken by the young leadership.

What concerns most people I think is not understanding that plan. That is a failing in communication that must be fixed by the very same young leadership. In order to translate this vision, and explain their very brave non-linear plan, it must be effectively communicated to Bahrain in order for us too to take ownership stakes into the new national plans and get the opportunity to play a part in their success stories.

Most people don’t appreciate non-linear methodologies, they need held by the hand and steps explained to them in defined linear, easy-to-follow steps for them to grasp the idea. Once they do, you will probably find that they get to be fully on-board with you. If you don’t grasp a concept, it is very easy to conclude that these disparate and seemingly disconnected projects are simply put their for elitist pleasures with no immediate or medium returns to the country. And, it shouldn’t be frustration that explains these things in easy to follow concepts, but should be an integral part of the marketing plan.

I think the recent interview with the crown prince certainly dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s:

Is it fair to calculate the cost of building this circuit based on its profitability? he said.

As an example, does Bahrain Airport take into account the cost of building its infrastructure while calculating its profits? he continued.

Is the value of the agreement of the promotion for this grand event calculated as part of the loss or the profit of the organisation? he said.

Our aim is promoting Bahrain at a time when our neighbours spend tens, hundreds and even thousands of millions to promote their countries, Shaikh Salman added.

Put this way, of course it is not fair to expect profitability from such an infrastructural project – I would prefer to call it an enabling project – but he more than anyone knows that even airports the world over are operated by private enterprise where they are not only expected to make profits, but required to. So maybe another way of thinking about this enabling project should be pursued. Or at least explain the non-linearity of this project to people in a simpler way. So far, not a lot of Bahrainis are “on board”. They don’t have ownership, they simply do not understand.

I think everyone agrees too that the circuit should be run in a much more transparent manner too, and that any management infractions should be dealt with by enabling them to do their jobs unhindered, but with enough over-sight built-in so that they know that it’s not a free for all.

The public face of the circuit has always been its indefatigable general manager Martin Whitaker who is doing an excellent job. But while I hold immense respect for the gentleman and require him to do even more, the board needs to seriously think of how to get the people of Bahrain invested in that project too. I don’t think having immense advertising budgets financing banners and road-side hoardings is enough, there are other things missing that must be identified and enacted.

Maybe the buying-in into McLaren is one. The building of industrial and theme parks around the circuit is another. But even those are missing the human perspective. Bahrainis need to be involved and involved fast.

Good luck to everyone this afternoon. I hope the race goes very well for all involved.

I for one will be watching, and this time will be switching my colours to McLaren, to support not only an emerging team, but my country too!

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Comments (3)

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  1. can we talk says:

    all i can say to you is a big THANK YOU.

  2. I says:

    And just look what the investment achieved. Lewis Hamilton, a rookie, made his third podium position in three debut races. Unheard of, and for McLaren Mercedes. Second in a hard fought race. Massa did very well winning the race, and Raikonnen showed consistancy throughout the weekend. Well done to Ferrari for the 1 & 3.
    What would be very interesting is if McLaren took on board a couple/few aspiring Bahraini students as apprentices. We’ve seen that RUF have been building a new assembly plant next to BIC to make high performance Porsches. I’m certain that they will start to bring Bahrainis into the workforce. This should have a knock on effect. Building up skilled technical workers required for businesses like RUF and McLaren could be a very useful way to motivate local people into the world of racing. We all know that the local tearaways like drag racing. Some of them like fast bikes, though many don’t know how to ride properly and ride too fast and injure themselves. I believe that there are probably a few talented Bahraini students who would jump at the chance of a scholarship with McLaren.
    I know of one person who is trying to establish a cylinder head factory in Bahrain to build high performance cylinder heads for the US market. Aluminium is readily available, his only problem seems to by finding qualified technical staff. This could be an opening for BTI. Train up the yooof and set them up in high tech motor industries.

    Now if we could also instill a work ethic at the same time . . .

  3. F says:

    This project will open many opportunities and will certainly
    add value to our country.

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