Over the past few weekends, the lights went out and away we went on the 2021 Formula One and MotoGP seasons as well as the brand-new series Extreme E, a landmark moment as motorsport returned for what will be one of its most eagerly anticipated years yet.
In Bahrain as F1 began, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton locked horns before the Brit emerged victorious, with Max then getting the upperhand in Imola. After the success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive and a host of engineering changes, 2021 is already shaping up to be one of the more hotly contested – and widely watched – series in a decade.
German Sebastian Vettel now finds himself with Aston Martin Cognizant, Carlos Sainz replaces him at Ferrari, while Daniel Riccardo will take the wheel with McLaren.
Couple this with a string of rookie drivers emerging in the sport, and the starting grid looks very markedly different to how it has in previous years – adding to the intrigue.
But what’s often forgotten is that change brings risk.
“As the race series are ever evolving and driver’s requirements change at a rapid rate, the insurance policy we offer has to be flexible to meet these needs. Each risk is assessed and structured based on its own merits,” says Lisa Skinner, VP Accident and Health Underwriter at Sompo International.
Over the course of the last season or so, we have witnessed drivers having accidents and needing medical treatment, therefore the drivers’ policy has to be quick to respond - flexibility is critical, particularly with recovery periods.
Driver contracts can be complex and it’s likely that there are options that can be triggered to allow a continuation into 2022 – and potentially beyond if both parties agree – but nevertheless it can leave both parties exposed should a driver suffer an accident or illness.
At Miller, we ensure all policies are tailored to the exact requirements of the driver, ensuring that the risk they face – whether under team contract or not – is covered now and in the future. If a team were looking at a new driver, or if a driver was injured as the season closes, our policies are bespoke and designed to ensure both parties remain financially protected.
Over in MotoGP, meanwhile, the story is increasingly similar. After the uncertainty of COVID, teams have pushed for the flexibility of short-term deals, and a number of riders have been left potentially exposed to loss of earnings.
Six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez called for a contract freeze until the end of 2021 to ensure that drivers who missed out on the opportunity to compete in 2020 wouldn’t be left stranded by their teams.
We saw throughout that 2020 season - the shortest in history - with all races taking place in Europe, how little time was left for rest or recuperation. If an injured rider can’t bounce back quickly, his future is at risk, and it’s highlighting the critical importance of policies like those we provide, that deliver specialist and urgent medical treatment, with speed as a priority.
Last year, we once again saw the importance of coverage flexibility as Formula E pivoted rapidly to multiple races in Berlin, adding an extra layer of logistical complexity and future fallibility, and the series will be looking for a resumption to normal as soon as possible.
However, among them all, few motorsport series have been as widely anticipated, or enquired about, than Extreme E.
The brand-new series will see electric sport utility vehicles compete in extreme environments around the world. Described as a “radical sport and entertainment concept,” Extreme E aims to play a key role in raising global awareness of the specific issue each environment faces, with races in the Gobi Desert, across glaciers in the Artic, and through the Amazon rainforest.
Starting in April in Saudi Arabia, the series has been pitched as ‘fan free’ – ideal for our COVID times – and relies on the RMS St Helena as a carbon neutral ‘floating paddock’, ferrying all equipment, including cars, to each location.
But while the motorsport world is awash with anticipation for the series, there remains a number of risks that it still faces.
“The logistics involved in putting on an event of the magnitude and ambition of Extreme E are immense,” said Allianz Global’s Motorsport Underwriter Tim Skilton.
“Add to that the fact they are trying to minimise air transport, heading out to remote locations, and that everything is still untried and untested, and it becomes a risky proposition.”
By relying on the RMS St Helena, Extreme E are positioning the entire series at the behest of sea travel – and as we’ve seen in the last few weeks in the Suez Canal, the slightest hiccup can cause major disruption.
Similarly, they’ve chosen locations admirably to highlight important environmental and sustainability issues, but remote sites bring their own pitfalls.
With no fans, the series will rely heavily on broadcast technology and as they head to the furthest reaches of the world, the risk of disruption increases.
“It’ll be fascinating to see how things go first time around,” continued Skilton. “We’ll be able to build a better picture of how to value the insurable risks once it kicks off – it still remains such an unknown.”
Despite this, though, the series must be applauded. Extreme E are changing the face of motorsport at a time when it’s much needed, and Miller is certainly embracing these challenges and working with its insurers to meet them head on. They are placing emphasis on gender equality at the heart of their series, as well as highlighting environmental issues and embracing new technology; all initiatives that Miller have long shared.
What the next year in motorsport holds for us on the track remains to be seen, but it’s certain that off it, we’re in for a rollercoaster. At Miller, we’re proud to be along for the journey, working with some of the most competitive and high-profile organisations, drivers and riders from global to grassroots levels. Our motorsport clients have achieved over 800 F1 starts and more than 100 race wins, and our specialism spans multiple decades – contact the team to find out how we can help.