Formula One racing's newest team boss reveals all
A new face in the Formula One paddock is always a source of excitement and curiosity, but Michiel Mol is not the newcomer many might think. He has been involved in the sport for many years. The difference now is that he has stepped into the spotlight of team ownership, as Spykers Director of Formula One Racing. We caught up with him in China to ask about the change, and about what the future holds for the new Spyker MF1 team
Q: Obviously you were the driving force behind the consortium that took over MF1 Racing. What is your Formula One background?
Michiel Mol: I started as a sponsor for Jos Verstappen at Arrows eight or nine years ago. That lasted three years because in the fourth year of my involvement they went bankrupt. Then I took interests in Christijan Albers career - mainly to find him an F1 drive. All in all you could say Ive been around for almost a decade.
Q: But theres a big difference between being a sponsor and a team owner
MM: Yeah, for sure. But the longer I have been involved in F1 the more the ambitions grew. And with the new regulations coming and the re-shifting of TV money, that suddenly opened the door for a sound future for a smaller team. That chance we took.
Q: But then why name it Spyker? True, its a car manufacturing company, but one that produces for a niche market. Why use the global awareness Formula One racing generates to promote a niche-market product?
MM: Spyker is indeed hardly known - we are aware of that. Last year they produced 40 cars, this year they doubled, but, yes, compared to other manufacturers it is marginal. But I know that they have the ability to produce in larger quantities. For a start we want to have posters over the beds of countless young boys saying, I want a Spyker car - and that wish then grows up with them till they are old enough to be a consumer. And I know that F1 can get us there - to re-animate the brand.
Q: Formula One racing is a high-investment sport. What is the core financial basis of the team? It cannot be Spyker or any other sponsor that is on the car right now
MM: Thats obvious. And for the next year we will rely on a combination of TV money, driver financial income and sponsor income. The first two were pretty secure at Midland, but sponsoring was hardly there. But we already see that with the new livery and image of the team, lots of potential big sponsors show their interest and I am very confident that we will get better every year.
Q: The team takeover was a lengthy process, the negotiations seemingly on and off for months. Why did it take so long?
MM: Firstly, my experience has shown that you cannot buy a company in a week. Secondly: Formula One is a special business because it is a sport that creates high emotions and one where you immediately draw the attention of the media, which can trigger turbulences. It sometimes was a real rollercoaster ride. At one moment we were sure to do the deal and then 24 hours later we almost were at the point of stepping out. Even on the day we announced the deal in the morning we were not sure if it would materialize. But I have to say that my relationship with (Midlands) Alex Shnaider was good during all that negotiation process. And we finally did it. Thats what matters.
Q: The teams livery has changed, but the management stays the same. Will it remain that way?
MM: Yes - because for now we dont want to rock the boat. Over the winter we will make an audit to see for 07 where changes are needed and what will remain. Very likely we will add a financial expert to the team.
Q: For the last four years this team seems to have been surrounded by an air of financial uncertaintly. Will that change from now on?
MM: Yes. We already have a budget for next year secured, so we know that we can run the team without any financial issues and if we get additional key sponsors on board we can do even better. But the base line is there.
Q: The team just has announced a 2007 contract extension with Christijan Albers, but the second cockpit is still open. Will you be basing your line-up on the concept that drivers bring money and / or sponsors?
MM: For next year we have to. Maybe if we get a title sponsor that might change. Sure, we are looking to get into the position in the future to select our driver line-up based on talent, but for now we have to look both ways.
Q: The signing of an engine deal with Ferrari was another big moment in the early history of Spyker MF1
MM: I am very proud of the co-operation with Ferrari, because if means a big step forward and it shows our clear intention to succeed. The engine will run under the Ferrari name and the team very likely will be running next year as Spyker-Ferrari. With the signing of Mike Gascoyne, Christijan Albers and now Ferrari we clearly put the team on an upward path.
Q: It was a British team under the Jordan brand, then a Russian one under Midland, and now a Dutch one, complete with orange livery. What would you say the team stands for?
MM: We do not necessarily want to be a Dutch team, but rather an international team with a Dutch flavour. In the future we want to have the best of everything - drivers, engineers, mechanics - from wherever they might come. The colour for now is predominantly orange, but if we get a title sponsor who wants it green then its green tomorrow. We are still running with a Russian license for the moment, and have to see over the winter how we can change that too.
Q: And what has changed for you personally, now being one of the key players in the sport?
MM: Emotionally nothing. But I have walked the paddock for years almost unnoticed and suddenly people are interested in me. People want to talk to me, shake my hand, so I realized there is a change - and it is nice.