Making your own breaks

Plus: going Dutch with Max Verstappen

The Qualifier is a weekly newsletter that breaks down motorsport's business, money, and culture (mainly Formula 1). Subscribers include investors, decision-makers, and casual fans. So if you are not a subscriber, sign up and join 40,000+ others who receive it directly in their inbox each week — it’s free.

Hi Friends,

Do you know what this week is?

It’s officially the start of the Formula 1 season!

That’s right, testing begins in Sakhir on Thursday the 23rd and continues until Saturday the 25th.

Not only do we get testing this week, but Drive to Survive drops on Friday the 24th, making this an action-packed weekend for all you Formula 1 fans.

Will you be tuning in? Drop a reply with what you’re most excited about to begin the season 👇

Ranking the car launches

The hype around livery launches grows yearly; this year was no disappointment.

Some highlights of this launch season:

  • Red Bull doing a season launch for more than just F1 at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan, New York. Additionally, they announced that Red Bull Ford will provide the power units for both the Oracle Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri teams from 2026 to at least 2030.

  • AlphaTauri also launching in New York City a week later than Red Bull at New York Fashion Week.

  • Scuderia Ferrari had arguably the best launch we’ve seen as they put the car on the track live at Fiorano for a few laps.

  • Mercedes showed us they might be listening to the fans (or just wanted to reduce weight) and unveiled a car that would make the Batmobile envious.

As for my rankings, here’s how I saw the best and worst launches:

  1. Ferrari. Not only did they release the best-looking car on the grid, but they also put it on the track. Live. With hundreds of thousands of people watching online and hundreds more in Maranello. That takes guts.

  2. Alpine. I like the pink Alpine and might be in the minority, but it’s different. Alpine’s pop-of-pink and all-pink car will stand out with so little color on the grid. As for the launch itself, I give them major points for spending nearly a third of their launch on their Rac(H)er program, which recently signed Sophia Floersch and Abbi Pulling to the F1 Academy as well as the reveal of a new all-female Alpine karting program that will focus on young female karters aged between 10 and 13. Oh, and Zinedine Zidane, who I have utter disdain for (2006 World Cup), but still pretty cool to see a footballing legend on that stage.

  3. Aston Martin. We saw a genuine car, and the launch show was very well-produced. Hosted by Rachel Brookes, we also heard from the team owner, both drivers and technical director Dan Fallows.

  4. Mercedes. This launch felt like a team on a mission. No-frills, simple, and to the point. Car, drivers, and key personnel. You can feel the revenge tour in 2023.

  5. Williams. Short, sweet, and transparent. We knew we wouldn’t get a real car, and the new team boss, James Vowles, wasn’t yet officially team boss, so he wasn’t there. The Gulf logo is now on the car (exciting!), and the Duracell battery airbox shows up again this year. It is pretty damn cool.

  6. McLaren. Not impressive, not bad either. McLaren has set a high bar for itself, so the absence of technical director James Key was felt. We got some lovely images, and for those that saw it in person, the stage was dark and limited viewing was available.

  7. Alfa Romeo. I’d rank this one lower if it weren’t for how bad I feel the ones below it were. The new car debuted five minutes into the broadcast via some strange and casual appearing virtual banners in the middle of the technical director being interviewed. Was it a mistake? Was it planned? I don’t know, but it felt sloppy. I like the car, however, so that makes up for the lame launch.

  8. Haas. There was no launch, just a tweet with the new livery. A shakedown of the car with some interviews came a week later.

  9. AlphaTauri. This one was strange. Expectations didn’t meet reality, and we got a video (that was pretty cool) that ended abruptly. The launch itself was a Fashion Week party with guests. European Twitter didn’t seem too pleased to wait until night just to be let down.

  10. Red Bull. Not sure where to even start with this one. Subscribers of this newsletter knew the big news a week ahead of time. Viewers had to wait an hour for a car that looked nothing like what will show up in Bahrain this weekend. Daniel Riccardo, who is essentially on a marketing contract and is a massive draw in the United States, didn’t show up for nearly a half hour into the program. Online viewership at that point had dropped over 50%. The interviews with non-F1 Red Bull athletes felt utterly disconnected. The athletes didn’t even seem to want to be there. And the confusion over whether F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali was there or not goes to show how poorly planned the launch was.

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Verstappen becomes Heineken 0.0 Ambassador

Through Heineken’s ‘When You Drive, Never Drink’ campaign, Max Verstappen will promote responsible consumption and participate in a new gaming initiative called Player 0.0.

Heineken has also officially announced a partnership with Oracle Red Bull Racing and Heineken 0.0 head of the start of the racing season.

Verstappen said of his new role: “Being from The Netherlands myself, it is something truly special to partner up with an iconic Dutch Brand like Heineken. People who know me know that I am very determined, and as a driver, I do not want to leave any room for error.

“That’s why I am excited to become a part of the ‘When You Drive, Never Drink’ campaign to help raise awareness for responsible consumption. And being an avid gamer and passionate Sim Racer myself, I’m thrilled to be playing a part in the new gaming initiative being developed called Player 0.0.”

Bram Westenbrink, global brand director of Heineken, called the Dutch Formula 1 star the “perfect ambassador” for Heineken 0.0. “His passion both on and off the track – in the Sim Racing community, will expand our message into the world of gaming with Player 0.0 and help in our push to encourage responsible consumption,” he said.

The VF1 Show

The VF1 Show is where VF Castro and I discuss the business, political, and logistical aspects of Formula 1. New episodes drop every Friday!

Here’s the latest episode where we discuss:

  • Liveries

  • Gatekeeping in F1

  • Las Vegas Grand Prix logistics

  • Drive to Survive fan retention

Williams flips the narrative

Late last week, I saw that Williams would be putting out their own short content series titled ‘Untold Story’ with a graphic similar to the Drive to Survive imagery.

The title and graphic put out by their social media team indicate to me that this will serve as a complementary piece to Drive to Survive. Considering the lack of Williams presence in DTS and F1 build-ups isn't new, the content team likely has been working on this for a while.

But it’s not just Drive to Survive where we see this disparity.

According to F1 Broadcasting, Red Bull boss Christian Horner got 33.7% of Sky Sports build-ups in 2022. This was more than 19 of the 20 drivers on the grid.

Toto Wolff got 18.2%

Guenther Steiner 7.9%

Ultimately, I love this direction for the Williams team. While Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, and Guenther Steiner get much attention across the F1 content being distributed, Williams needs to increase brand awareness and affinity amongst new fans.

For such a storied team, their best path forward is creating their buzz, which is a start.

I would love to hear what you think of this. Click on the Twitter thread below to join the conversation 👇🏻

The Qualifier is a weekly newsletter that breaks down motorsport's business, money, and culture (mainly Formula 1). Subscribers include investors, decision-makers, and casual fans. So if you are not a subscriber, sign up and join 40,000+ others who receive it directly in their inbox each week — it’s free.

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