The latest rumours from the F1 world suggest that Giedo Van der Garde is about to be named as the Caterham F1 Team test driver, unless Vitaly Petrov comes up with money to take over Jarno Trulli’s drive. The word is that there was a deal between Petrov and Caterham, but that the promised money has yet to arrive from Russia. It is said that one of the reasons that Petrov lost his job at Lotus F1 Team (the old Renault F1) was that his money took a long time to appear.
There is also talk that the Enstone team has landed a major sponsorship deal. One source has suggested that this might be from the Unilever consumer goods company, which has a wide-ranging portfolio of products in the food, beverage, personal care and cleaning sectors, including such brand names as Ben & Jerry, Dove, Flora, Hellman’s, Knorr, Lipton, Lux, Omo, Surf, Rexona, Sure and many others. It is not clear whether any of these are a good fit with F1, although a hair care product might work with Kimi Raikkonen. Unilever is the world’s third-largest consumer goods company after Procter & Gamble and Nestlé, but none of them has had a big presence in the sport. It will be interesting to see if the stories are true.
The team has just announcDe a management reshuffle with Luxembourg-born Patrick Louis moving from his role as Chief Operating Officer to CEO, with Switzerland’s Thomas Mayer being appointed COO.
“Thomas comes to us with over 15 years’ professional experience,” says team boss Gerard Lopez. “He has an in-depth knowledge of running large operations incorporating production, logistics and organisational structuring. Our efforts are concerted behind our objective to be a contender once more for the 2015-16 championships, to continue the proud heritage of the 1994-95 and 2005-6 world championship titles achieved by Enstone.”
Elsewhere there have been whispers that Sauber is short on its 2012 budget and is hoping that its Mexican backers – basically the Slim Family – will be able to come up with more cash for the future.
Meanwhile in Spain, the word is that HRT has lost its head of production Simon Shinkins and that former HRT technical director Jacky Eeckelaert is also leaving as his contract finishes at the end of January.
On the subject of the Spanish team, a story has appeared in the German publication Kolner Express which claims to explain the strange behaviour of the HRT team in recent months. The newspaper says that it is all to do with the Catholic organisation known as Opus Dei. The story claims that Banco Popular took over the team after the Carabante Family failed to pay its debts and passed the team on Thesan Capital, a bunch of young bankers. The goal was to make some money by selling the team to Mexican Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, who is currently providing funding for Sauber (see above). The middle man in this process is supposed to be Alejandro Agag, the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who is well-connected in F1 circles. The story says that one of the founders of Banco Popular, Luis Valls-Taberner was also an early member of Opus Dei, having joined the organisation in 1945 when he met its founder, a priest called Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer. Luis Perez Sala is Valls-Taberner’s grandson.
It all sounds wonderfully unlikely and mysterious and I am not even going to comment on the story as lots of Spaniards will get upset and start being rude. As I said before, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.