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2010 CANADA RACE BLOG

2010 CANADA RACE BLOG

Victoria Johnson, Account Manager

Sunday, Race Week

During one of the Paddock Club pit lane walks today, we arranged for Michael and Nico to meet our VIP guests from Autonomy and MIG. The guests were very excited to meet the drivers at the front of the garage and have the opportunity to ask them a few questions and have their photos taken. We are very lucky to have polite and friendly drivers who are always charming to our sponsors!

The Autonomy CEO then met with Simon Cole, our Chief Engineer, and James Vowles, our Chief Strategist, to learn about the software programmes used during the races and how this data helps to make critical decisions on tyres and pit stops. This fits very nicely with Autonomy as they are a software company specialising in meaning based computing.

We are always trying to capture exciting images of the race weekend therefore for this race our photographer attached a camera to the top of the gantry used at our pit stops. Our photographer goes out around the track during the race so he left me in charge and equipped with a remote control to press when the car entered the pits! As the car is only in the pits for about 3.5 seconds for a stop I had to be quick but luckily we had a total of five pit stops this race so there was plenty of opportunities to get it right. I’ve seen the pics and there is some great imagery for PETRONAS, MIG and Deutsche Post who have logos on the top of the chassis and nose.

The race started at midday today which felt really early compared to the usual 2pm start time. We were at the track for 8am and the drivers were into their first engineering meeting at 8.15am so it was a bright and early start for everyone. It felt strange seeing the drivers go off to the Drivers Parade at 10.15am!

It was a very exciting race to watch and both our drivers did a really good job although Michael had some bad luck with a puncture when he was in a good position. You can read all about the race in our report so I won’t go into all the details here! After the race we brought our MIG guests into the paddock to show them around the garage and soak up the atmosphere in the hospitality area.

And now it is time to pack away and fly home to the UK…

Saturday, Race Week

The sun finally came out at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve today although it was a disappointing day for the team with our drivers qualifying only in tenth and thirteenth positions.

We entertained guests from Autonomy today who are a relatively new sponsor to our team. My main role therefore was to educate the US CEO of Autonomy and his VIP guests on Formula One. We started with a tour of the garage and reviewed the Autonomy branding on the car and garage panelling. We then discussed the rules and regulations of Formula One which can be a little confusing for newcomers to the sport. The guests had lunch with Nick Fry, our CEO, and a qualifying debrief with Nick Heidfeld to complete their induction to Formula One.

For this weekend’s blog, I had to have my photo taken which I had managed to avoid for two days. The photographer finally managed to catch me yesterday evening and unfortunately whilst I was having my photo taken by the rowing lake which our hospitality overlooks, Michael appeared. He kept trying to make me laugh and ended up in the back of the photo! You would think he would be fed up with having photos taken by now!

Whatever the result today, the team remains focused and upbeat for the race tomorrow as you just never know what can happen.

Friday, Race Week

Friday is the longest and busiest day for the race team by far with two 1.5 hour practice sessions during the day. Lots of track action gives our sponsors a great opportunity to see the cars but generally Fridays are a little quieter with most sponsors only attending on Saturdays and Sundays.

This morning, I went up to Paddock Club to check our sponsors had been given good tables right next to the window and overlooking the pits. After speaking with guests from MIG, one of our sponsors, I then returned to the paddock to conduct a garage tour.

You really have to vary your garage tours depending on your audience. We get a real variety of guests visiting the race weekends… some are Formula One fans and others know very little about the sport. Some people want to know every detail including what the drivers had for breakfast whilst others like to know how the gearbox has been designed. That’s when my knowledge limit is exceeded and I hand over to someone more technical who happens to be in the garage at that time!

During both practice sessions today, we had Autonomy and Ray-Ban guests in our VIP Viewing Area which is a specially-designed ‘box’ in the garage where our guests can watch the action on TV, listen to the team radio and see what’s going on in the garage. Usually the box is on Nico’s side of the garage for design reasons but here it is on Michael’s side.

The pit lane is open at set times over the race weekend to allow the Paddock Club guests to wander up and down and look into the garages. I normally stand out the front of our garage keeping an eye out for our guests so I can let them into our garage for photos with the car. You really do forget sometimes how amazed people are seeing a Formula One car up close for the first time or getting a glimpse of Michael or Nico.

Thursday, Race Week

My name is Victoria Johnson and I am an Account Manager working within the Marketing Department at MERCEDES GP PETRONAS. An Account Manager in Formula One means that you work within Partner Services and look after the team’s sponsors. My role covers many aspects of marketing, hospitality and events and includes travelling to the circuits to take care of the team’s sponsors and VIP guests over the race weekends.

This week we are back in Montreal for the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix and it is currently pouring with rain…

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is really popular with Formula One teams, drivers and guests. The circuit was off the calendar last year but thankfully has been revived for the 2010 season. Montreal really comes to life when F1 is in town and the streets, shops, restaurants and bars are packed with people.

So having found our way to the circuit this morning in the pouring rain and managing to hitch a lift on the back of a golf cart to the paddock to avoid getting wet, we reached the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS garage and hospitality area.

My first job on reaching the circuit is to check that our hospitality area looks nice, has the correct branding and is welcoming for our VIP guests over the race weekend. All the facilities at the Montreal circuit are temporary and each team is given two portacabins for offices and driver rooms and a giant plastic tent for catering. Not your typical glamorous Formula One environment. However with a few strategically placed pot plants and parasols, you can make anything look VIP!

Moving on to the next important job which is to make sure that our branding is correct which basically means checking the logos on the garage, hospitality, car, driver suits and helmets to make sure that they match our guidelines. Throughout the season, the team’s branding evolves as more sponsors are added to the car, thanks to our great commercial team bringing in fantastic sponsors so there are often ‘last minute’ changes.

This weekend we have 40 guests in Paddock Club which is the official Formula One corporate hospitality area situated above the pits and we have 20 VIP guests in the paddock itself. We are entertaining guests from our team sponsors Autonomy, MIG, Monster and Mercedes-Benz Canada this weekend.

All of our guests require tickets and passes to enter the circuit over the weekend therefore my final job today was to collect the tickets, sort them out and then deliver them to various hotels around the circuit. One of the perks of working for Mercedes is definitely being given a lovely brand-new Mercedes-Benz E Class to drive this weekend and thankfully it had great satellite navigation which came in useful this afternoon for the ticket deliveries.

Finally at the end of the day, my colleague Nicola and I have just run or should I say jogged around the race circuit, all 4.361 km of it, in aid of the Race for Life Cancer Research charity. We completed the lap in 29 minutes which we thought was a fairly respectable time. Unfortunately it continued to pour with rain the whole way round!

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