The boss of one of Britain’s leading Formula One racing teams has pulled out of a world exclusive with Bernie Ecclestone’s F1 Magazine after branding its recent coverage of events "tasteless".
A David Bailey photo-shoot featuring racing driver David Coulthard was due to take place in Paris last week but was cancelled following an outburst from Ron Dennis, boss of the West McLaren Mercedes team, against the magazine, whose publisher is Tom Rubython.
Speaking at a press briefing at the recent Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, Dennis said: "I’m not against the media and freedom of speech, but both myself and several team owners are unhappy over different issues." He cited the magazine’s coverage of engine builder Paul Morgan’s death in an air crash and the reporting of a court case involving McLaren technical director Adrian Newey.
Dennis is also believed to have been angered by the graphic pictures of Mika Hakkinen’s accident in 1995, which F1 Magazine published ahead of this year’s Australian Grand Prix.
"It is in my opinion tasteless, often inaccurate and not a positive reflection on Formula One," he said of the magazine. "We all live from Formula One and there is a way to say things and tell the truth. In my opinion their way is the wrong way." Rubython suggested Dennis’s outburst had more to do with the extensive coverage given to the court case after Jaguar Racing tried to poach Newey from McLaren. Rubython said he sent five journalists and two photographers to the court and it was the first time the magazine had not featured a racing driver on its cover. Sales of the issue went up 20 per cent, he claimed.
Rubython played down the row but admitted there was "a bit of a tussle" at the Nurburgring. "We had a forceful 45-minute argument that weekend and we agreed to disagree.
"I think he over-reacted a little bit. I think Ron’s a bit naive, he’s not used to the proper reporting of things." In a statement released at the French Grand Prix on Saturday, McLaren and Jaguar Racing jointly expressed their "great frustration at inaccurate and misleading reporting" of the Newey afair in F1 Magazine. The statement also said that a column by Niki Lauda had carried a comment stating, "There have been many incorrect descriptions of the affair in other publications but as always you can read the real situation in F1 Magazine", which was added without his approval.
A Grand Prix racing team source said: "The irony is that Foruma One is owned by Bernie Ecclestone and you don’t sue Bernie. It would be like someone from The Sun trying to sue Rupert Murdoch.
"The magazine has offended most teams but at least it has the guts to stand up to advertisers."
Henry Hope-Frost, deputy editor of F1 Magazine, left this week to pursue other interests.
By Ruth Addicott