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Taking Care Of Business

FEATURE BY MAT COCH
30/01/2013

Adam Parr, one of the most outspoken people in the Formula One paddock, has left the sport as he came in. From a mining background, working for Rio Tinto in Australia, he was head hunted by Frank Williams at the end of 2006. Originally chairman and ultimately CEO, Parr's tenure in Formula One was as fleeting as it was vocal.

A businessman without the motor sport grounding many of his peers within the paddock had enjoyed, Parr caused a stir among his contemporaries, providing the media with regular sound bites. "When I spoke during my five years in Formula One I didn't speak because I wanted to express an opinion, I spoke because I needed to represent the interests of my team," he says.

However, his views are contradictory. On the one hand he claims he spoke on behalf of the team, arguing for its best interests, but in the next breath he suggests the sport needs to pull together for the greater good.

"What is important is that people participating in the sport have the ability to look at the interests of the sport and that should be the criteria by which the decisions are made," he responded when asked if Formula One had too many vested interests.

Formula One must pull together for the greater interests of the sport, so long as they were in Williams best interests, it seems.

He defends his stance by citing weight of numbers, implying his efforts were for the benefit of the sport as a whole. "Let me go back to the simple example, customer cars," he began. "If there was a move afoot in the sport to introduce customer cars, and that is patently not in the interest of quite a few of the teams, by the way, then I think you have a duty to try and stop it.

"That involves putting forward the arguments and so forth," he continued. "When I spoke at a team principals meeting, a FOTA meeting, about customer cars, it wasn't because I think my opinion is important or even needed to express it, it is because the interests of Williams were very clearly defined and they were very different to the intentions of other people.

"It's not about opinions, it's about policy," he continued. "It's about clarifying what the policy of your team is and ensuring that that is fractured in to a decision making process."

Parr is an interesting character; he appeared vulnerable when dealing with the political infighting within Formula One while his outspokenness seemed to put him at odds with some established players, despite his claims otherwise.

"It's just horses for courses," he claimed. "You form alliances with people with similar views on a particular issue, but you may disagree with them very profoundly ten minutes later on a different issue."

To his credit he stands by the decisions he made while at the helm of Williams, rightly or wrongly.

"There were very few issues over the five years where I was, or Williams was, alone," he insists. "On budget caps, on the introduction of DRS which we advocated, the decision to go with Pirelli, we always had other teams with us. If I use the example of Pirelli the two people who fought most fiercely with us on Pirelli were Christian Horner and Bernie Ecclestone."

Ecclestone and Parr locked horns several times over issues ranging from television deals to the teams' share of Formula One's profits. Now Parr seems to hold Ecclestone with some regard, especially for his accomplishments in developing Formula One, and is more subtle in his criticism of the sport's billionaire boss.

"I regard Bernie Ecclestone as a very, very effective businessman," he said when asked if Ecclestone is the best person to run Formula One.
"(Bernie is) someone who's created, not by himself, but has created a tremendous sport and a very large part of it does reflect his vision and his way of doing things. The attention to detail, the exquisite presentation of the sport, the control of access, the sense that it is something special, all those things are driven by Bernie."

Yet in this acknowledgement there is a caveat, Parr believing there are opportunities the sport has not harnessed or exploited to their full. In June 2011 he lamented the fact Formula One extracts only $500million in television revenue, while "by comparison (American football) is $4.2 billion and Turkish soccer is a little bit more than us."

Ecclestone's response spoke volumes about his opinion for the then Williams boss. "Adam is a genius the way he runs his team," snarled the F1 supremo. "There's no room on that car for any more sponsors…"

Parr claims all he wanted was equality and a better deal for the teams, appearing to try and paint himself as a Formula One martyr. He didn't like the shape the sport was beginning to take, suggesting it was becoming exclusive and elitist to the detriment of those further down the pecking order.

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