In the paddock at Interlagos there is a distinct end-of-term feeling with everyone looking forward to the final race, but also to the fact that come Monday the F1 season will be over and there will be some time off for many in the circus. The racing season has run for eight months, and the first tests began almost 10 months ago. There is now two-month break before the 2013 testing gets underway in the first week of February.
One thing that no-one is expecting to see next year is the HRT team. This is dead. The team is going through the motions this weekend in Brazil and there are even some fears about parts, but once the race is over there is no future. Most of the staff have already been laid off and while there is some talk about potential buyers there really is nothing to buy. The entry is worth nothing, the factory is leased, the intellectual property might have a value if someone wanted to buy the design and build it somewhere else, but that would require an existing company with the capacity to build F1 cars and that would still require a pile of money and there is no sign at all that Formula One Management wants more than 10 teams. From what I understand there is also an impending legal action against HRT from Toyota Motorsport GmbH, relating to a deal that was struck in 2010 for the German-based organisation to provide the Spanish team with chassis and other technical support for 2011. The deal is believed to be worth somewhere in the region of $25 million a year and Toyota started recruiting staff for the project before it was suspended when the Carabante Family, which then owned the team, failed to pay.
The driver market is now largely done. Romain Grosjean will be confirmed at Lotus, Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber and Valtteri Bottas at Williams. That means that the best drive available is at Force India, where the second drive is up for grabs. The team is looking for money and there is a long list of drivers who say that they have cash. One name that has popped up a lot is that of Adrian Sutil, but he a strange problem to consider, notably his ability to attend all of the 2013 races because of his criminal conviction from Germany. This is definitely a problem with Canada and could be a problem with both the United States and with China (where the crime occurred). The odd thing is that Sutil is supposed to have backing from Lenovo, which is a Chinese computer company, although the relationship with Sutil is with Medion computers, which was a European firm bought by Lenovo.
It is believed that Jules Bianchi and his supporters can raise around $4 million but Bruno Senna is probably able to raise $10-12 million and thus that would be better for the team, which should be OK financially thanks to TV money but may need some budget topping-up because of the lack of money available from Kingfisher Airlines. If Vijay Mallya is smart he will have included a sponsorship deal of some kind in his deal to sell United Spirits to Diagao, in order to keep the team running at the same sort of level. Mallya is talking about investing $80 million in capital expenditure on the team.
The option for Senna is to go to Caterham which is also looking for cash to make up for the TV money that will be lost if the team ends the year behind Marussia, as is currently the case. Senna would be a good fit with the team, but there are also talks going on with Charles Pic, Giedo Van Der Garde and with the two 2012 drivers. Marussia is going to keep Timo Glock and the signs are that Max Chilton could get the other seat although there might be pressure for the team to take a Russian if Vitaly Petrov does not stay at Caterham.
The F1 world is waiting to see the result of the alliance between Chelsea Football Club and Sauber, which was announced earlier this year. There has been speculation that this could be Chelsea’s shirt sponsor Samsung. A new deal between Samsung and Chelsea was a few weeks ago was for the 2014 and 2015 seasons and is believed to be worth in the region of $28 million a year. My sources at Sauber say that this is the not the deal that will be announced.
Elsewhere Force India is still flogging a dead horse with its legal action against Aerolab and Caterham. The cynics in F1 believe that this is simply an appeal that is designed to delay the payment of legal fees.
Elsewhere in court, it is worth keeping an eye on Renault. The Court of Appeal in Paris declared this week that it is not competent to judge on an action brought against the French State by the heirs of Louis Renault, the company founder. They are seeking compensation for the nationalization of the company in 1945. The firm was confiscated by the state three months after Renault’s death. He had been accused of collaboration with Nazi Germany. The heirs argue that the government had no legal right to take over the company and want money.
Elsewhere Luca di Montezmolo has finally launched a new centrist movement, with the aim being to create an electoral platform for Mario Monti to remain as Prime Minister in elections that are due early next year. Montezemolo believes that Monti is the best candidate to lead the national reconstruction, which is interesting. What it will do is give the party a platform that Montezemolo could use in the future.
Elsewhere engineers at New York’s Stony Brook University have won an award for their work on an innovative energy harvester that converts the irregular, oscillatory vibrations into regular, unidirectional motion, which can then be used to generate power. The system has been designed with trains in mind but could perhaps be used in road vehicles as well, creating a new kind of KERS.
Elsewhere, in Korea, the Grand Prix has announced a loss this year of $36.4 million. This is in addition to losses in the first two years of a similar and larger scale. The locals hope that the F1 event can produce benefits to offset the losses.