Team Suzuki Press Office – December 19.
Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Press Officer Federico Tondelli gives an insight into the work involved behind the scenes, along with the highs, lows and special moments of the 2016 MotoGP™ season.
“As the Team’s Press Officer, basically I am responsible for two main tasks; to manage the riders’ (and other team members’) agenda for what concerns the media and marketing activities – and to also provide content to media and fans. The difficulty of the first task depends much on the rider performances: the media’s attention follows a priority order which is directly linked to the race classification, as the better you perform, the more they ask you for. This also influences the second task: Our priority is to give the most visibility to our Team and it is much easier when you win. But quantity is not the only driving factor; as a Factory – and relatively new team in MotoGP™ – we strongly believe in giving quality to our content to be sure that the media get the right message and the fans feel involved in our project.
“Fans are very important to us because we know that there is a lot of affection to the Suzuki brand, also a real personal emotional engagement with the brand, and we really try to pay attention and care to this aspect. Of course, we have another target in our communication activities, which is to give the best support to our Suzuki network in the marketing activities, as well as to give our partners the support they deserve as part of our MotoGP project.
“Concerning my job, things have changed a lot since the first year. Not only has my experience increased, but also the kind of work requested for the Team’s awareness and strong change of strategies. If last year Team SUZUKI ECSTAR was the Cinderella of MotoGP, right after the 2016 winter tests it was clear that our role in the paddock would have changed. Especially with the increased-performance of the GSX-RR and the growing talents of our riders Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales, the attention of the media came right away.
“If in 2015 the main job was to push the visibility of Team SUZUKI ECSTAR across media, in 2016 we had to change the role and dedicated ourselves to create more quality than quantity in our content. Then, Maverick’s first podium at Le Mans – and the first Victory at Silverstone – finally set us as top contenders in every race; meaning a strong change of perception of our Team in the global media’s opinion. This meant also a big increase in the requests for interviews, thus making the riders and Davide Brivio’s agenda more complicated to manage. The main task was still to provide the deserved attention and space to all media, but also to keep the average quality of the content at the top.”
What is your own ‘High’ of the season – and why? “It’s easy to say, in only three words: ‘Winning is Addictive!’ When I started the MotoGP project in 2015 I was used to competition, even the strongest one, but haven’t lived a real victory before. I didn’t even know what to expect in case of a victory, I tried to learn from my team-mates, and especially from my Team Manager Davide Brivio, who were all a lot more ‘experienced’ than me in terms of podiums, but honestly, it’s not even comparable to the emotion of the victory when you live it. You will see long-experienced people cry and hear their broken voice, you’ll see a young man on the top of the podium with a light in his eyes that is not comparable with any other brightness, you will see strong men jump and laugh and hug just like they were kids on Christmas morning. For me, as a Press Officer, the work starts when the race ends: Interviews with TV, press conferences, press releases, pictures… I’d say I couldn’t have time to realise what was happening for real. And then it comes the Monday after, when I got back home and got the press review of International media coverage, when I got calls from everywhere in the world to ask for interviews or even to simply give me congratulations to report to the Team, is when I realised that that was for real; that Maverick got the Suzuki on the top of the MotoGP podium. Team Suzuki in these two years has become a real family, we all feel as a family. Also with the people at the Suzuki Factory in Japan, and all our network, it was living a victory in a Family as it is a victory of all the people with whom you speak with every day, with whom you share 18 races in a year and spend days, weeks, months all around the world. And then the first victory changes your perspective, it gives you a new hunger. A kind of hunger you don’t know until you taste it for the first time. If last year a sixth place was a success, after the first victory you really feel you can do it and you can’t wait to live again that adrenaline, that emotion, that excitement. You can’t wait to be able to climb the pit wall again at the chequered flag and scream happiness to the rider while he crosses the line.”
You’ve worked with both riders. How was Maverick to work with? How was Aleix to work with? “I can’t say if one is better of the other, because both Aleix and Maverick are excellent people and to me it would be like to choose the best of my two ‘sons’ if I had to pick my favourite. For sure they are very different; and, they have changed a lot in these two years. Unfortunately, Aleix went through a difficult season in 2016, as he struggled to find effectiveness with the machine and incurred some crashes. Despite this hard situation, he proved to be a solid and reliable rider, deserving his role of factory rider. He kept on, never gave up; and helped the engineers to develop the machine. To me he was a perfect example of reliability, consistency and strength. Maverick impressed me – and many others in the team – when he arrived in Sepang for the first test of 2016. It was clear that he was not the rookie any longer and he introduced himself as strongly motivated and fit. He was in perfect shape, but also his mentality increased a huge amount during winter. It was already clear that with a competitive bike he would achieve the desired results in the season. This was impressive to me; at only 21 years old he was already a grown-up rider and man. This had implications also in his work with media as his attitude became stronger, wiser and he was more focused.”
What is your best moment – or most emotional – this year at Team SUZUKI ECSTAR? “More than the funniest thing, I will always remember one of the most emotional things we did as a team. When the riders came in to the pit after the last race in Valencia, they found the whole team waiting for them outside the garage, in the pit lane. It wasn’t planned, the idea came right in that moment to our Team Co-ordinator Roberto Brivio and simply we all felt we wanted to get outside and welcome them like a big hug. We went out and created a corridor into two wings of people where they arrived with the machines and we all shared the sadness of the goodbye, but also the satisfaction with the successes achieved in the season. This is what makes us a real family; the best moments come without any planning, we just felt we were acting as if were one.”
What’s your saddest moment or memory of 2016 – and why? “Needless to say, the saddest moment was when we knew about Maverick’s decision to leave Team SUZUKI ECSTAR in 2017. Not only because we had big expectations of him with Suzuki, but also because that meant finishing an era and that we had to rebuild a team, changing both riders. Of course, we are all happy for the new riders, Iannone and Rins, but it took me some time to set myself and reorganise the program and the planning.”