You can read, if you can be bothered, that the Formula One company says that it is going to go ahead with its planned flotation, despite the fact that there is no contract that binds all the players in the F1 circus together, and despite the possibility that the CEO of the company – the man who has been the motor of progress for the sport for more than 25 years – could theoretically be arrested within a matter of days.
These are the realities. People may say that a Concorde Agreement is coming soon; and that Bernie Ecclestone will not have to worry about the German justice system, but they have been saying that for more than a year and neither situation has really changed.
I am a great believer in Bernie Ecclestone and I like to think that Formula 1 people are smart enough not to destroy what is a very sound business if he is no longer there, but if I did not understand the sport and was looking in from the outside I would probably conclude that there are more than a few risk factors involved. And if my job was to invest other people’s money in businesses, I think I would choose other alternatives at the moment on the basis that if the whole thing does go horribly wrong I would have no credibility left.
Let us not forget that the FIA, which owns the rights to the Formula One World Championship is not happy with the money that is being made from its asset. The federation has only itself to blame for agreeing to such a deal 13 years ago, but there is nothing to stop the new generation in power trying to find a better solution if the opportunity arises. That is another risk factor that people seem to ignore. What happens if the contract between the FIA and the Formula One group includes a clause that allows the deal to be broken if there are criminal activities proven?
The bottom line in all of this is that CVC Capital Partners, which owns the Formula One business at the moment does not give a damn about the sport beyond it having been a great cash cow for them. They would drop it like a stone if they cannot sell it. The sport deserves better than that. What it does not want is to be a cash cow for another group of faceless people who don’t care.
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Mercedes AMG Petronas has confirmed Paddy Lowe as Executive Director (Technical). He will work alongside Executive Director (Business) Toto Wolff and Team Principal Ross Brawn. He will start work on June 3, six months after leaving McLaren.
“I am excited to become part of a highly talented and capable technical organisation,” Lowe said. “The team has already produced probably the fastest car of the 2013 season while the technical challenges of the new regulations for 2014 will give us the opportunity to maximise the synergies available to a works manufacturer. That is a challenge I am relishing. I have worked closely with Mercedes-Benz for almost 20 years and deeply admire the company’s phenomenal commitment to Formula One. I look forward to much success together in the years ahead.”
Ross Brawn said: “I am delighted to welcome Paddy to the team and to begin working together. He has an excellent record of success in the sport and would be an asset to any of our rivals in the pit lane. It is no secret that every team is facing a significant balancing act between this year and next. But it is perhaps less obvious that we will also see major changes for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, as development progresses with the new generation of car design and Power Unit. To deliver in these circumstances, a successful team needs strength in depth. Paddy’s arrival will further strengthen our organisation and puts us in a strong position for the future.”
It remains to be seen whether the management structure remains as it is in the longer term.
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The decision by Pirelli to change the tyre compounds later this season is bound to end up causing controversy. The cars were built with the new tyres in mind and going back to earlier constructions means that the balance of the competition could be changed by the decision. The fact that this has been deemed necessary because of one race in which there were four pit stops for many of the cars is slightly worrying.
Yes, perhaps the same might happen again in races to come, but so what? In the history of the sport there have been plenty of occasions when drivers have made four pit stops and still won. Back in 1993 Senna famously won in Donington Park after a race with four stops, while Prost finished third having made seven!
And just to make sure you understand just how dubious this decision is, let us not forget that in Spain two years ago Sebastian Vettel (and six other drivers) stopped four times, while most of the field stopped three times. In Turkey that year 14 drivers stopped four times and the rest did three. There was none of the fuss.
The fact that change was deemed to be necessary can only be put down to the noise made by the media (or at least elements of it), egged on by inflammatory statements by Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz. It is a shame he never says such things when his team is the one winning.
My view is that if the commentators cannot keep up with the action, then they should not be commentators. In the media centre those of use who have been doing this for a few years had no problem keeping track of it all. It takes concentration, but we were in discussion about whether Alonso or Raikkonen would win until the last few laps, when it finally became clear that Kimi had nothing left to give and Fernando had done enough. Understanding it all, of course, adds to the enjoyment and so it is not surprising that those who were not able to keep up felt a little helpless and did not like it. And hence they came out against it.
In my opinion, Pirelli would have held out against such demands for change were it not for the fact that they do not want the public to think that their tyres were simply not working properly and if that was the impression that was given then the commentators must again take the blame. The tyres were doing what they were designed to do. Perhaps that was a little too aggressive for an abrasive track like Barcelona, but that does not mean that, in effect, the rules should be changed mid-season.
No wonder some of the teams who do understand the tyres are upset. Playing politics is always a part of the game in F1, but that does not mean it does not stink.
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As you may know the FIA Formula 1 medical rescue coordinator is now Dr Ian Roberts. He took over the role this year from Dr Gary Hartstein, an associate professor of anesthesia and emergency medicine at the University of Liège Hospital in Belgium, who was previously the FIA Medical Delegate for the Formula One World Championship after the retirement of Professor Sid Watkins. Hartstein was involved in F1 safety, working alongside Watkins from 1990 onwards and the two became great friends. In 1997 he was asked to attend all the races and for seven years he and Watkins worked side-by-side, looking after all medical matters in F1. In January 2005 Watkins retired and Hartstein succeeded him.
At the start of 2008 he was replaced as Permanent F1 Medical Delegate by France’s Jean-Charles Piette but remained as the medical rescue coordinator in F1 until the end of last season.
Hartstein has decided to tell the story about his time in F1, but rather than write a book, he has chosen to do so on film.
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There are reports in Germany that two charges against Bernie Ecclestone have been made by the Bavarian public prosecution service. It is alleged that the F1 boss bribed banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, deemed by the prosecutors to be a public official, as he was working for the Bavarian State Bank at the time, and of inciting a fiduciary breach of trust, by allegedly talking Gribkowsky into the deal.
The first phase of the legal process is thus completed and it seems that the prosecutors believe that there are grounds for a formal indictment. The case will thus be transferred to a regional court where the presiding judge will look at the evidence put before him and will decide then whether it warrants a trial. Once that decision is made the accused will be arrested and the judge will rule whether it is necessary for a pre-trial confinement. Usually this is decided upon by the seriousness of the crime and the risk of flight.
German law requires a prompt trial. The defense counsel may ask for a postponement in order to prepare for the case. The trial will then be open to the public. There are no trials by jury in Germany. In minor cases one judge decides what happens but in serious cases there are likely to be five judges: three professionals and two Schöffen – the German word for lay magistrates. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. There are no formal pleas in Germany so an accused party cannot plea bargain in the traditional sense of the term, but deals can be struck. Hearsay evidence can be admitted as evidence. If found guilty the accused has the right to appeal.
The important moment for Ecclestone is likely to be the point at which the judge decides whether there should be a formal indictment. He himself has admitted that he will probably have to resign from his position if he is formally indicted. For the moment the prosecution service is not making any comment about the charges but it is reported that the charges have been translated and either have been or will be delivered to Ecclestone in the UK. The prosecutors say that it could be a month before there are any official statements.
Ecclestone has maintained his innocence since the start of the investigation, almost a year ago.
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The news that Honda is coming back to Formula 1 in 2015 is the best news that Formula 1 has had for a number of years. The key point is that it confirms that the new regulations that were pushed through by the FIA are attractive to other automobile companies beyond the three that are involved in F1 today. The boss of Honda said as much during the announcement in Tokyo and that means that it must also be attractive for a number of other car companies. The entire industry is chasing after hybrid technology and a cool image and so there must be other companies out there that could make the same decision as Honda. It is only logical. This is great news for the Formula 1 teams and those with a little gumption should be out there trying to sell themselves to the car companies. This will mean not only free engines for the smart ones, but also sponsorship to support the programme. If I were an F1 team boss right now I’d be banging on doors all over the world looking for a deal. It is true that not all the manufacturers in F1 can win races, but if they have faith in their own abilities then even a small company can make a big splash. Manufacturers bring money with them, not just their own cash, but also money from suppliers who are squeezed into funding F1 sponsorships as part of their deals with the car firms. Can I name names? I could but it would just be guessing. What I will be doing is looking out very carefully in the months ahead to see if I can spot any automobile executives taking a look at F1…
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McLaren will be racing with Honda engines from 2015, as has been rumoured for some time. The previous McLaren-Honda partnership was one of the most successful in Formula 1 history, back in the 1980s and 1990s. Honda then tried to be successful with its own team but failed and quit F1 six years ago. Honda says it is developing its all-new 1.6-litre V6 engine at the company’s R&D facility at Tochigi in Japan.
This is great news for Formula 1 as Honda will be the first new manufacturer to come into the sport for many years and the first to embrace the new rules. It will also mean that other teams will have the option of using Honda engines in 2015 as engine companies are forced by the rules to supply more than one team, if called upon to do. Best of all, however, it indicates that the new rules have a value for automobile manufacturers beyond the existing three and that is is quite possible that we will see others following Honda’s lead in the years ahead. This could ultimately mean that the price of engines will reduce as some teams will get free engines and sponsorship from manufacturers and the availability of engines will push down the prices.
“Ever since its establishment, Honda has been a company which grows by taking on challenges in racing,” said Takanobu Ito, President and CEO of Honda Motor Co. “Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world’s most prestigious automobile racing series. The new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in F1. We have the greatest respect for the FIA’s decision to introduce these new regulations that are both highly challenging but also attractive to manufacturers that pursue environmental technologies and to Formula One Group, which has developed F1 into a high value, top car racing category supported by enthusiastic fans. The corporate slogan of Honda is ‘The Power of Dreams’. This slogan represents our strong desire to pursue and realize our dreams together with our customers and fans. Together with McLaren, one of the most distinguished F1 constructors, Honda will mark a new beginning in our challenges in F1.”
The McLaren package for the future is beginning to come together with reports in recent days that Claro will be a sponsor of the team in 2014. As I understand it, Claro will not be the title sponsor but rather one of the associate backers. The main sponsorship deal will be announced in December and I am now reliably informed that it is not going to be GlaxoSmithKline, although it is possible the firm will be an associate sponsor as well.
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