Martin Whitmarsh has been very quiet since he left McLaren two years ago. he has been working as the CEO of Ben Ainslie Racing, Britain’s challenger for the next America’s Cup. this week, however, he returned to the motorsport world, as a speaker at the FIA Sport Conference in Turin. This is designed to be a forum for motorsport figures to share ideas and discuss ways in which motorsport can develop and improve. the timing if the event was not brilliant because the major global series are now flat out, with F1 in the middle of a run of six races in eight weekends and the WEC having just finished Le Mans. Nonetheless, there are around 300 delegates st the event, which is being held at the former Fiat factory at Lingotto in Turin, famous for the test track built on its roof and a celebrated early example of a purpose-built factory with raw materials arriving at ground level and new cars arriving and being tested at the top. Today it is a shopping centre and conference venue.
Whitmarsh worked in F1 for 25 years and said that the change has been interesting, allowung him the chance to step back and look at the sport with a little more distance. He said that he was amazed by how the sailing world was to keen to learn from F1, and believes that F1 should be more open to ideas from outside.
“It’s such a vibrant environment but I think sometimes we could learn from other sectors and have a bit more humility and think about the integrity of racing. Sometimes, maybe, the clamour for money or other things in motor racing, means we lose that a little bit.”
Whitmarsh also believes that the world can learn a lot from F1, if the sport is more open.
“Speed is very important in life and in all sorts of different industrial environments. You don’t get speed without efficiency and I think that it is often overlooked just how efficient F1 cars are – how efficient they are at producing power, how efficient they are in creating grip. It is that drive for efficiency that is so relevant to all sorts of walks of life. Motor racing has evolved and developed analytical and simulation techniques that are iterating things quicker, making things better and I think that is certainly something that we are now learning in the America’s Cup. I think that can make a difference.”
The message is not really new, and it is doubtful that Whitmarsh’s words will make much difference with the powers that be in the sport. It is, however,an interesting reflection from a man who was at the very centre of the sport for so many years.
For more about the Sports Conference, watch the following videos: