Three things define Formula One—speed, precision and the roar of engines. In sport, F1 is often hailed as the pinnacle of tech advancements. With lightning-fast cars and precision engineering to boast of, it’s hard to one-up the high-tech wizardry at display here. Yet, when it comes to the trophies awarded to its champions, tradition has often trumped innovation—until now.
For years, the winner’s F1 trophy has remained relatively static and passive—an opportunity that title partner Lenovo wanted to jump on to mirror the ethos of innovation that both the Chinese tech giant and the sports are synonymous with.
The result is nothing short of remarkable. An oddly interactive “kiss-activated trophy” that lights up to display the flag of the winning driver’s country.
“F1 has an extraordinary base of fans; it engages more than 500 million people around the world and is the most technologically advanced sport. We wanted to use this power of tech to transform the winning experience for the driver with this opportunity. It was an exciting prospect for us as innovation has always been in our DNA. It’s why we really come to work, it’s how we think, act and feel,” says Lenovo’s global VP and CMO, Emily Ketchen, in an exclusive interview to Campaign.
In addition to the prize, points and popularity that follows the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix winner this year, they also get to take home this unusually innovative trophy that celebrates their nationality but only after the famous winner's kiss.
“Why should a trophy be a piece of cold metal designed to be held in the winner’s hands? Why did it have to be a passive participant on the podium? We had this burning question and the design elements flowed from there,” reveals Lenovo’s ECD of corporate marketing, Philip Marchington.
In F1, where speed is king, Ketchen adds that the trophy symbolises a different kind of victory—a victory, not just of race craft, but of innovation, design and the delightful marriage of tradition and technology.
So, how does the “kiss” function work?
Marchington painstakingly explains the tech that is designed to mimic the air intake of an F1 car—a symbol of velocity and power. Deep within the structure, a tiny microswitch, intricately connected to a network of over a thousand LED lights, guides the winner to the precise spot where they must kiss to engineer the spectacle—a colourful display of the winner’s flag.
The design is sleek and simple. It’s not just a piece of silverware, but a bold statement. The design deviates from the traditional, but celebrates the remarkable achievement of the winning nation. Great design with that kind of effect—easy on the eye—packs visual impression, and is a true labour of love. It takes focus, top talent and a little bit of magic to weave an unforgettable impact. Lenovo’s Marchington credits the creatives at Italian design firm Pininfarina for the visual impact and the piece of history they’ve jointly created.
“We were going for radical, modern, but rooted in tradition," says Marchington.
"We had we had a couple of other design ideas too. But the insight was to do something around the emotions the drivers were going through in the race. We pondered if there was a way for us to transmit that back into a trophy design and somehow to take that data and create something out of it? The kiss-activated trophy was the strongest of the lot,” he adds.
From scratch to finish, the final product took six months. The team at F1 immediately took a liking to the “fresh take on tradition and a symbol of triumph,” as Lenovo's CMO Emily Ketchen calls it.
“F1 is about pushing the envelope on innovation and spectacle. This trophy immediately elevates the trophy from a bystander to a hero on the podium and adds to that spectacle while staying true to brand values,” she adds.
Each trophy is powered with rechargeable batteries to ensure that once activated and displayed, the vibrance and colours of the national flag stand the test of time, much like the sporting legends themselves. As for their ability to withstand a sudden fall, let's just say if Lando Norris were to put that to the test, F1 management might need to brush up on their trophy-catching skills.
Lenovo has released the making of the 'kiss-activated' trophy. Watch here: