Exclusive Interview: Nick Fry - Former CEO Of Mercedes F1
A veteran of motorsports engineering and product design, Nick Fry is the former CEO of the Mercedes Formula 1 team - the fastest and arguably most successful racing team of the past decade. Extending his expertise to virtual racing, Fry is also Head of Commercial Strategy at the esports organisation, Fnatic.
Drawing on his vast experience at the helm of both actual and computerised motorsports, at conferences and virtual workshops Fry often discusses the type of mental resilience needed to handle the many pressures encountered in the motorsports industry and the drive and determination needed to succeed at the highest level.
In this interview with Champions' Director, Jack Hayes, Nick gives invaluable advice to aspiring Formula 1 drivers, he describes his favourite Formula 1 circuits and he talks about the challenge to traditional motorsports that the emergence of the esports industry presents.
Q: How Do You Get Into F1?
"You have to be realistic: to break into Formula 1 is really difficult. So, the first piece of advice I’d give to any young person is get a good education, because you know, you may well need it and it’s a good thing to have under your belt. I would not put all your eggs in one basket of becoming a Formula 1 driver. So number 1 is work hard at school because even if you don’t become a Formula 1 driver, there’s lots of other jobs in motorsport that you could do and you’re going to need that education.
"Secondly, I would say just suck up as much advice as you can possibly get. A young driver can learn as much by sitting in the engineering briefings or debriefings as they can driving the car on the circuit, so actually, going through the data with the drivers that are driving the car, listening to what the engineers have to say, understanding how the car goes together, spending time at the factory.
"Just learning as much as you possibly can because frankly, driving the car is just one part of the skills required. You know, you need to be able to present yourself properly, you need to be able to stand up in front of people and give an eloquent speech, you have to be able to relate to sponsors and shake a lot of hands and do the commercial side of the business. So there’s lots and lots of things that you can learn when you’re not sitting behind the steering wheel."
Q: Will Ferrari leave the sport?
"I think it’s unlikely that Ferrari are going to leave the sport for really a couple of reasons. Number one is their whole history is based around Formula 1 and car racing. They are, whether Mercedes and the others like it or not, they are the most important team in Formula 1.
"They add more to the show and as a result of that they get more money, so they are very well funded; they get more money than any other team, so for them it costs them less and I think their brand is more reliant on it, so I think out of the car companies probably they are the least likely to go."
Q: What's Your Favourite Circuit?
"I think I have a number of favourite circuits. If you want a real, purist Formula 1 circuit, it has to be Spa in Belgium. I mean it’s an immensely fast circuit through the Arden Forest, the weather is usually not very kind, you really see Formula 1 drivers at their best.
"They come down through a series of swooping curves, down a very steep hill, and when you see that even though you may have seen Formula 1 cars dozens of times before, it really shows that the drivers earn their money, especially in bad weather conditions. So Spa in Belgium is very special for a Formula 1 fan.
"At the other end of the scale, ironically Singapore, which is a circuit around the town centre there is another one where you really get close to the Formula 1 cars. It’s a night race, the cars are under the lights, so it looks very dramatic and it’s still quite fast, not as fast as somewhere like Spa, but they are very, very close to the barriers and the drivers need to take a lot of risk. So Singapore is a great favourite."
Q: What Do You Think About The Move Into Esports?
"We’re here at Fnatic which is the biggest European esports team. We have 12 different teams playing games like ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Fortnite’ and ‘Fifa Football’ and they’re based around the world and this is becoming the thing that 18-32 year olds do. People are doing this more and more.
"There are about half a billion people who play competitive esports on a frequent basis. So that’s becoming a huge challenge to the traditional sports. I’m not saying that traditional sports are going to disappear, but what I am saying is that the thing that younger people are doing is playing these types of games.
"So, I think it’s a tremendous challenge for traditional sports and they really need to be clear that there’s a new wave of sports coming along, whether it be drone racing, whether it be on computers or mobile phones. That’s what younger people do and unless they respond to that then they could be losing audience hand over fist."
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