Ecclestone's F1 title to focus on glamour and celebs

LONDON - Formula 1 entrepreneur Bernie Ecclestone's motor racing title Formula 1 Magazine is relaunching for the start of the F1 season with a shift in focus under new editor Matt Franey.

According to a report in the Press Gazette, F1 Magazine is moving away from analysing the backroom politics of F1's pit and paddock and will concentrate more on the glamorous image of the sport. To this end, Franey has hired R&B and music photographer Mark Okoh, who has photographed musicians such as Goldie and Alicia Keyes, to shoot the title's front cover.

The refocus will also include more coverage of fashion, travel, music and celebrities. The magazine's pagination will be increased, new typefaces will be used and the cover will feature a new tagline, "The Official Formula 1 Magazine".

"There will be more lifestyle stuff and it will be far more glamorous," Franey told the Press Gazette. The magazine will relaunch in time for the start of the 2003 Formula 1 season, which kicks off in Melbourne on March 9.

Formula 1 launched in 2001 and claims to be selling 100,000 copies a month. It is due to report its debut ABC in August. Its main rival and market leader F1 Racing, published by Brand Republic owner Haymarket, recorded a UK ABC for the July to December 2002 period of 78,251, a year-on-year drop of 20.2%, reflecting the bad year that the sport has undergone.

F1 had a terrible year in 2002, with the overwhelming dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari hitting TV ratings hard. The sport is also going through financial difficulties. At the start of the 2002 season, the Prost team went bankrupt, while the Arrows team was booted out of the 2003 season after missing most of the second half of the last season and losing title sponsor Orange. It has since gone into liquidation.

In November, Jordan Grand Prix announced that it had lost £16m of sponsorship funds when DHL and Deutsche Post pulled out as title sponsors. It is running in the 2003 season with a reduced number of sponsors, with Benson & Hedges the main contributor. It is not understood to have substantially increased its sponsorship, despite the presence of a Anglo-Irish driver, Ralph Firman, in the driver's cockpit. F1 minnow European Minardi is also understood to be short of sponsorship.

However, recent changes to the sports rules brought in by the sport's governing body the FIA, such as the banning of traction control, new refuelling regulations and one-shot qualifying, are hoped to rebuild the sport's appeal and TV audiences.

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