The main man at one of Formula One’s premier teams in possibly the world’s most lucrative sport, Nick Fry is obviously a very busy guy. He achieved his first victory as manager/chief executive of a F1 team when Jenson Button took the chequered flag at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, and has watched Honda threaten the heavyweights of the sport without capitalising on their early promise. His team is based in Brackley, UK, and uses the facilities of former British American Racing, which Honda fully acquired in 2005. The team switched to a livery dubbed the “Earth Car” last year, with minimal corporate advertising that depicts images of the planet earth on the side of the car instead. Fry was in Dubai this week to speak at the Global Travel and Tourism Summit.
What do you make of the motorsports scene in the UAE?
I’ve been here several times before and obviously the whole motor sports arena in the region is thriving. And not just in Dubai where it’s a very nice circuit, but with the track being built down the road in Abu Dhabi, the passion and enthusiasm behind it is fantastic.
Why is it doing so well here?
I think the centre of gravity of world trade is shifting East. Historically it’s been in North America and Europe but I think now the Middle East, India and the Far East are becoming the hubs. And I think that’s a great thing. So I believe there’s room for two or maybe three Grand Prix in the Middle East. We have a Grand Prix in England; we have one in France, one in Germany, one or more in Italy, so they’re all within a relatively small geographical area. I don’t see why there shouldn’t be more in this area. It’s a large population that’s clearly enthusiastic for motor sports.
Dubai International Capital were reported to have been interested in investing in Formula One, with the flagging Super Aguri team. Why would they consider joining F1?
I think it would be very positive indeed, because the upside potential of Formula One is huge. Currently we have approximately 600 million people that watch us, but it has all the ingredients for something that could be bigger. We are the Olympics or the World Cup, but we take place every two weeks.
That’s the beauty of F1. You couldn’t write a better movie script. It’s high technology, which people are very enthusiastic about; it’s sport; it’s dramatic; it’s fast; it’s dangerous; it’s glamorous; and we go to some of the most wonderful and exciting places in the world. So the ability of Grand Prix racing to promote a place such as Bahrain or businesses here in Dubai is simply unparalleled.
So it wouldn’t surprise you if they went ahead with their plans to get involved in the sport?
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least because it will be a good investment. Formula One teams are very expensive to run, but nothing gives you the degree of exposure that this sport does. If a company or an investment fund has something to promote – be it a location or a series of businesses – being in F1 makes very good business sense.
What’s your view on the Max Moseley scandal rocking the sport?
I think Max Moseley has done a huge number of good things in promoting motor sports in a variety of new places around the world. It’s one of those things that needed attention, as are the initiatives on safety and the initiatives on environment. And Max has been very supportive of everything we’ve done. That side of it is extremely positive.
How has it affected you in your role within the sport?
It’s a very unfortunate series of circumstances. It leaves us all in a very difficult situation because when you go into a business meeting, all people want to talk about is Max and those events, rather than the business we should be doing, and that makes life quite difficult.
Does the scandal make his position as FIA President untenable?
When something as unfortunate as this has happened, it’s very difficult for someone to retain the level of respect and integrity you need as a leader. People need to be able to look you in the face and have a lot of trust about what you’re doing and what you’re saying. I think it makes his position very very difficult to maintain, but the FIA World Council will decide that at the beginning of June and we’ll see what happens.
PROFILE: Nick Fry, CEO and Team Principal of Honda Racing F1 Team
Nick Fry, 51, began his career in motoring with the Ford Motor Company in 1977, as a graduate trainee from the University of Wales with a degree in Economics.
There is room in Mideast for three Grand Prix: Fry