Getting into the Slipstream

September 2, 2014

Pastor Maldonado did it in his home town in Venezuela and crashed. Max Verstappen, the soon-to-be youngest F1 driver did it in his home country and crashed. Even experienced drivers like Kamui Kobayashi have been humbled by the wall or sidewalk of a street circuit during a friendly roadshow, but yet when Marlon Stockinger does it twice without touching anything but the hearts of tens of thousands of Filipinos, somehow, he is the only one who hasn’t got an F1 seat.

Last Sunday marked the second Globe-powered, Lotus F1 Roadshow the Philippines has had the pleasure of hosting. This time, it was a 3.5-liter V8 World Series car, driven once again by Marlon Stockinger through the moneyed streets of Bonifacio Global City in an attempt to draw some support for Marlon’s European campaign as well as to announce Globe’s 100% 3G coverage nationwide. And it taught us a few things.

Firstly, the Philippines is able to stage a world class event. Roadshows are no easy task, but Globe and BGC nailed it. As did Marlon. Figuratively. Not Verstappenly.

Secondly, Marlon is already up there. He is just as ready as any number of rookies that have entered F1 recently. However, he, just like all those before him, need a tremendous amount of support if we’re going to make it happen. Not just from companies, either. Because if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a country to raise an F1 driver.

Globe have given him that support. But as generous as it is, if we’re at all serious about taking the next step, it is not enough. It’s like having the support of just one parent. If we want to make our mark on the world stage, we, as a nation, need to get behind this kid and support him as a country.

The government may argue that they have far more pressing problems to address, but that is why they invented budgets. Nobody is asking them to sell off classrooms to help Marlon, we just want to see a healthy portion of the money earmarked for Philippine athletes go to actually helping one that has already gotten himself this far through the support of his family and one major sponsor.

Because the scariest part is, as it is now, with no government support, there’s nobody in the pipeline to fill Marlon’s boots. And with the incubation process of F1 being anywhere from 10-15 years, Marlon is literally our only hope. If we miss this boat, the next one won’t sail for at least 10-15 years at least.

Venezuela did it with Maldonado; Russia did it for Petrov; Mexico did it for Perez and Malaysia did it for Alex Yoong. It is now time the Philippines does it for Marlon.

Some government officials I floated this idea to have argued that motor sports is elitist. And I always say, great! Or are we supposed to not aspire to sit at the grown-ups table? Just because there’s poverty in our country, are we meant to turn our back on a Filipino who has already stood on the top step on the royalty-studded streets of Monaco simply because it is not a working-class sport. If we carried on with an attitude like that, just think where our athletes would be right...err, um, actually, scratch that. Bad example.

So how much are we looking at?

Although nobody will give you an exact figure, you just need to look at precedents up and down the pit lane to know that the approximate cost of getting Marlon a seat in F1 is somewhere between 5-15 million Euros, depending of course on which team. If the Philippine government went halves with the private sector, we could have an embassy on wheels that visits 18-20 countries with a global television reach of over half a billion people for a fraction of the amount we already spend on the junkets of politicians who travel abroad on ‘official business’ to represent the Philippines.

All you need to ask yourself is: who would you rather have representing us?

Photo Credit: Randolph De Leon

About the Author

James Deakin
James Deakin is a multi-awarded automotive journalist located in Manila, Philippines. He has a weekly column in the Philippine STAR's motoring section, is a motoring corespondent for CNN Philippines and is the host of the Philippine motoring television show Drive, which airs every Sunday night at 10pm on CNN Philippines.