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Emilio Botin

Emilio Botin, the chairman of Santander, has died at the age of 79. Botin was the motive force behind the company’s massive involvement in F1 and his death may mean some serious changes in the years ahead, particularly if his replacements do not share his belief that F1 is good for a business. It is anticipated that his daughter Ana Botin will replace him.

Botin was born into banking. His grandfather Emilio Botín y López, was the first Santander chairman in 1920. His father Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y López took over in 1950 and he in turn took over from his father as bank chairman in 1986, although he joined the board as early as 1960, after he had completed his studies in law and economics. He became the CEO of the bank in 1967 and CEO in the 1970s. Under his leadership, Santander grew by acquisition, buying a string of banks around the world in the 1990s and 2000s. The group now has a market capitalisation of nearly $120 billion. Along the way he was able to build up his personal wealth to around $1 billion. He used F1, and particularly the association with Fernando Alonso to build up the bank’s branding.

Montezemolo departs…

People in F1 sometimes come to me and ask me why I don’t report some of the things that they say. This happens with people I do not trust because when you have been lied to before, you are a fool if you let yourself be lied to again. Some people say that they have to tell lies because they cannot let out secrets but this is why the expression “No comment” was invented. Obviously with time “no comment” has come to mean confirmation of the question, but I still prefer the more civilised “I cannot tell you” rather than a bald-faced lie. Tell a lie once and you have told the journalist that you will always tell another lie and you get filed under “untrustworthy”. It is as simple as that. This is why I did not report Luca Montezemolo’s statements last weekend that he was at Ferrari to stay. A few days later, here we are, writing pieces summing up Montezemolo’s achievements at Ferrari. He is gone. This is what he had to say today. One hopes that some of it is true.

“Ferrari will have an important role to play within the FCA Group in the upcoming flotation on Wall Street. This will open up a new and different phase which I feel should be spearheaded by the CEO of the Group,” he said.

“This is the end of an era and so I have decided to leave my position as chairman after almost 23 marvellous and unforgettable years in addition to those spent at Enzo Ferrari’s side in the 1970s. My thanks, first and foremost, to the exceptional Ferrari women and men from the factory, the offices, the race tracks and the markets across the world. They were the real architects of the company’s spectacular growth, its many unforgettable victories and its transformation into one of the world’s strongest brands. A warm farewell and my thanks also to all of our technical and commercial partners, our dealers across the globe and, most particularly, the clients and collectors whose passion I so wholeheartedly share. But my thoughts go also to our fans who have always supported us with great enthusiasm especially through the Scuderia’s most difficult moments. Ferrari is the most wonderful company in the world. It has been a great privilege and honour to have been its leader. I devoted all of my enthusiasm and commitment to it over the years. Together with my family, it was, and continues to be, the most important thing in my life.

“I wish the shareholders, particularly Piero Ferrari who has always been by my side, and everyone in the company the many more years of success that Ferrari deserves.”

The driver market

In recent months the F1 driver market has appeared to be dominated, or rather held back by, Fernando Alonso and his decision to either leave Ferrari or stay there. This is the normal way of things in the F1 jungle. Fernando is, to quote The Sherman Brothers, “king of the swingers, the jungle VIP”. He’s reached the top and he’s had to stop at Ferrari and he is now wondering where to go, given that the team has performed few miracles in five years and time waits for no man. Fernando’s career is slipping away, day by day, week by week. The signs of progress in the red corner are not exactly tangible. There is a plan to put in place the structure to allow Ferrari to win again, but it’s a three- to five-year project and probably needs a younger man to drive it forwards. So, if you are Ferrari and you are faced with the best driver in F1 not wanting to be part of the team, your best course of action today would be to look for a proven winner who is much younger than Fernando. Until you get him, you are going to hold on to Alonso as the fallback plan, a bizarre thought given FA’s ability. So it seems that the dominos will not start falling until this replacement decides what to do and extracts himself from his commitments. Money solves all problems in F1 (which is how Lotus will soon announce a Mercedes engine deal) and so we must wait to see if Ferrari’s Alonso replacement is willing to fight his way out of his current contract. The question you are all asking is who? The answer is Sebastian Vettel. He’s a four-time World Champion at the age of 27. He’s six years younger than Alonso and even if he’s having a poor year, he’s still a class act. Some say that his star is waning because of Dan Ricciardo, while others talk of Sebastian being tired, not liking his car and needing a change. On a different level, he also knows that as long as he stays at Red Bull there will always be accusations that the car was the star, so he needs to move on and show he can do it in more than one team, à la Fernando, à la the all-time greats.

The current Red Bull has not been a winner with him at the wheel and has not apparently been given a nickname (like Sweaty Betty) as his previous cars were. There is no affection, I guess.

The Red Bull folk will tell you that he’s under contract until… Blah, blah, blah. We all know that contracts are negotiable in the F1 world unless there is a necessary reason for it not to happen, so we need not waste time with this. The question is what does he want? If the answer is a new challenge then Red Horse rather than Red Bull is the logical choice. It is certainly a challenge and the team is the most famous chapter in the F1 jungle book. Every driver wants to be in the red. It’s what great drivers do… Red Bull may not want that to happen because they know his value, but at the same time when a driver reaches a certain level, it is he who is reported upon, not the car he drives. Red Bull is not in F1 to sell Sebastian Vettels, it is there to sell fizzy pop and there are some who would argue that the gawky Russky Daniil Kvyat would be a better marketing bet than the reclusive Vettel, and the perfect new partner for Toothy Dan from ‘stralia.
I think it is clear to say that Fernando does not have a get-out clause at Ferrari, as is widely believed, and they will hold on to him if they need to, but if they get Vettel, then they can let Alonso hop off to his new challenge down Woking way, a move that would set the markets moving. It may be that Vettel decides not to move, and that Alonso too will stay where he is, in which case McLaren will probably be unchanged, leaving the likes of Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg with no place to go. So the line-up at the front of F1 in 2015 will be very similar to this year – and the sort out will come in 12 months from now.

We will see.

Enjoying the real world

After the excitement of Lewis Hamilton’s brilliant victory on Sunday, life was busy yesterday. Much of Sunday night night and Monday morning was spent writing in my pokey hotel room and then, after minimal snoozing, a typically unsatisfying Italian breakfast (they are famous for exquisite pasta and pizzas but their breakfasts probably explain why the the British were able to build a bigger empire in colonial days). Then after a suitable number of “ciao” “arrivederci” and “L’anno prossimo”, I was on the road, heading north as the Milan commuters came at me in ever-increasing numbers, heading south. At the border in Como no one paid anyone any intention and I was in Switzerland and heading up to Lugano and the St Gotthard. It wasn’t long before the sleepless night began to take its toll and so there were a series of power nap pit stops before I even reached the tunnel. The biggest cause of deaths on Europe’s motorways is people falling asleep at the wheel and I prefer to live a nice long life and not go out buried in the crash barriers on an autostrada… I hit the French border (not literally) with all the planets aligned; the tank was empty, I needed food and it was lunchtime. I had a picnic in a rest area somewhere in Peugeot Land and made Paris by dinner time, which was perfect. It was a lovely day across France and Switzerland and it does the soul good to appreciate the beauty of the earth from time to time.

I pondered many things as one does on a long trip on your own and marvelled at those who had tried to believe that Nico Rosberg overshooting the chicane twice was some kind of conspiracy. It was irrelevant. The way Lewis Hamilton drove on Sunday he would have won no matter what. The only response to Rosberg’s behaviour at Spa was a good thrashing, just to remind him that more often than not, natural talent trumps cynicism in the game of life.
Another subject upon which I ruminated was Luca Montezemolo (the di by the way is only used with the full family name “Cordero di Montezemolo”). The F1 world is all a-twitter over his future and many are confused about the story. The answer, I believe, lies in the oft-overlooked fact that F1 is not the most important thing in the world. There is a Ferrari board meeting coming up in the next few days and this is likely to shed a more realistic light on the future of the Maranello company. It is extremely unlikely that things will remain unchanged, not because Ferrari is doing anything wrong (except perhaps its Formula 1 programme) but simply because it is a part of a bigger entity and the strategy of the group as a whole may differ considerably to the path that Ferrari wants to take. Once Montezemolo did have the power to sway Fiat policy, but in recent times things have changed. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has worked wonders to try to turn Fiat into a real global player in the automotive industry, capable of battling with GM, Volkswagen, Toyota and Ford. To achieve this, he grabbed control of Chrysler. It was a good deal but it left Fiat with a lot debt, which is not what it needs. What is required now is money to use to expand into new markets. Six weeks ago Fiat’s shareholders agreed to move The company’s headquarters from Turin to Amsterdam, although for tax purposes the company will be based in London and its primary stock market listing will be on the New York Stock Exchange. This has been done in order to give Fiat Chrysler the easiest possible access to capital. Ten years ago, for example, Fiat had 125,000 employees in Italy, working in nearly 70 different factories. Today, after the merger, there are 220,000 FCA employees around the world, but only 60,000 of them are in Italy and there are just six assembly plants left, these are running at only 40 percent capacity and Fiat is again talking about getting tough with the Italian unions in order to free the business of its troublesome Italian roots, while at the same time expanding rapidly in the vital international markets. Marchionne is the boss and the firm does what he wants it to do. And this has meant a certain amount of friction with Montezemolo, the modern father of Ferrari, who wants Ferrari to do what he wants, not what a higher authority tells it to do. It is harder too because once Montezemolo was Marchionne’s boss and is no longer.

Ferrari is an amazingly successful business. It is so successful in fact that the board has taken the decision not to produce more cars but rather to restrict production and allow the prices to rise because of increased demand and limited supply. Ferrari is now turning over something in the region of $2.6 billion a year, with a pre-tax profit in the region of $490 million. The company also has cash reserves of $1.8 billion. Based on these numbers, it is clear that an IPO of Ferrari, with Fiat remaining in control, could raise a large chunk of the money required by Fiat to repay the current debt. Montezemolo has long been opposed to an IPO because he does not want to weaken Ferrari and so if there is to be a stock market flotation, then his wishes must be overruled, even if he is still a respected figure. Removing him requires the right kind of handling, making it appear that he is moving onward and upward. Keeping him at Ferrari is not an option because that would be a humiliation within the industry. So if Ferrari IPOs, Montezemolo by definition must depart. The chairman role at Alitalia is a perfect vehicle for Luca to drive away from Ferrari in. Ferrari will likely be listed with Fiat in New York and if one is dealing with US investors, who better to lead the firm than a man they know: the former head of Ferrari North America. A Mr Mattiacci. This would explain the illogical decision to put him in charge of the F1 team a few months ago…

Marco is currently formulating plans to return Ferrari to winning ways in F1 in the future, but he could quite easily move up into the CEO role.

So the big question in the F1 parish is who is the next boss of Gestione Sportiva because Mattiacci may not be much longer in the job.

“Pronto, pronto. Can I speak to Ross please?”

Italy CoverLewis Hamilton delivered the perfect response to Nico Rosberg in Monza, beating the World Championship leader, fair and square, overcoming a dreadful start that meant that he had to fight his way back from fourth. He was second by lap 10 and took the lead when Rosberg, under pressure, went straight on at the first chicane on lap 29. It was an exemplary performance and the best way to put Nico in his place. Winning fairly and squarely on the race track is the way to do it.

Fernando Alonso failed to score a point and Williams took third place in the Constructors’ Championship from the home team – Ferrari.

- We talk to rising star Stoffel Vandoorne
– The Red Bull Young Engineer programme
– Robert Benoist, a hero on and off the track
– JS wonders why F1 does not use the cinema properly
– The Hack looks back at th Spa crash
– DT recalls the day Team Lotus really died
– We remember Eoin Young, Len Terry, Jonathan Williams and Philippe Gurdjian
– Peter Nygaard and his team capture Monza in all his glory

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You get 22 issues for £29.99, covering the entire 2014 Formula 1 season.
It’s the bargain available in Formula 1

For more information, go to http://www.grandprixplus.com.

Eoin Young 1939 – 2014

Eoin Young has died at the age of 75. Young was a trendsetter in many respects, as a founder member of the McLaren team, as a journalist and PR man and as a trader in motoring memorabilia.

Born in the village of Cave, not far from the town of Timaru on New Zealand’s South Island, in the summer of 1939, he spent his early life in and around the town, becoming a teller in the ANZ bank for five years, while also writing for the Timaru Herald under the byline “Dipstick”. In 1961, at the age of 22, he travelled to Europe with Denny Hulme and spent his time travelling around with the Formula Junior series. He then joined forces with Bruce McLaren, working as his secretary. This led to him being one of the founders of McLaren in 1963. He stayed with the team until 1966 when he returned to journalism writing an insider’s column about F1 for Autocar and later for Road & Track in the United States. Autocar would run his column for the next 32 years. He also worked in PR with Elf, Gulf and Ford and then in 1979 diversified into a lucrative new business, collecting and selling race motor racing memorabilia to the über-enthusiasts around the world. If you wanted something, Eoin probably had it, or knew where to find it. While he had a reputation for charging top dollar, Eoin also had a heart of gold although acts of kindness were always prefaced with the quiet warning “don’t tell anyone I did this”. It was thanks to Eoin’s generous nature that I acquired an original programme from the Monaco GP prize giving in 1929 because he knew of my fascination with the driver “Williams”. Over the years he wrote a total of 12 racing books, including the story of James Hunt’s 1976 World Championship, called “Against All Odds” and biographies Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon. He wrote two autobiographical works “It Beats Working” and “It Still Beats Working”. He won the 1996 Guild of Motoring Writers Timo Makinen Trophy for his outstanding coverage of motorsport and was one of a very select group of journalists who have been granted membership of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.

Eoin returned to New Zealand in 2006 but continued to write for a variety of outlets around the world.

His true legacy, however, will be the multitude of fans whom he inspired with his stories from the F1 world and those whom he encouraged to follow their dreams and become F1 writers, who today continue that work of spreading the word about their passion for the sport.

To Monza

It has been a long day, during which I see that Kamui Kobayashi has found a way back into the Caterham team and McLaren has come up with some financial results. I will probably take a look at these later if I have time. They look pretty decent.

I spent the day driving from Paris to Monza. It will be last marathon drive of the season for me, as from here on in, it’s planes all the way and some daft routings as well, thanks to this year’s stupid calendar, which makes F1 more expensive for everyone. One can only presume it was done deliberately in an effort to convince teams that it would be wiser to have more races, rather than a string of stand-alone races across the globe. Anyway, as regular readers will know, I hate European air travel so much that I drive whenever possible. It may take longer but you are the master of your own destiny and not beholden to airlines that see their customers as cattle to get from A to B, taking as much money as possible at every turn. It is freedom from the office and offers the chance for little side trips if such things take your fancy.
I left Paris before dawn and headed down to Beaune, which was reached while the world was still breakfasting. The sun came out as I passed through Dole and on into the land of Peugeot, where every building seems to be owned by the car company and all the trucks say Gefco, a Peugeot subsidiary. I was tempted to stop at the Musée Peugeot in Sochaux, or to cruise the streets of Valentigney, where the Peugeot family started making machinery in 1810. Instead I pressed on to Mulhouse, where there is another Peugeot factory, not to mention the Musée National de l’Automobile, otherwise known as the Cité de l’Automobile or the Schlumpf Collection, which originally included 500 vehicles, including 120 Bugattis and no fewer than 65 other French marques. It is a place where every car fan should go at least once in their lifetime. North from Mulhouse one heads into Bugatti country but I was going south to Basel and cutting through the middle of Switzerland to end up at the St Gotthard tunnel. Those who might think this a bizarre route should be reminded that the wait to get into the Mont Blanc tunnel can be an hour and a half or more at this time of year, and that a section of road on the Italian side was closed for road works AND that this route forces one to get involved in Milan’s rush hour, which is a waste of time and energy. Going by way of Switzerland is more scenic and easier as one arrives in Monza from the north. The trip goes by way of the picturesque Lucerne and Lugano and the dramatic valley of Bellinzona. There are not many racing places on this route, although I’m sure that countless early motorists endured amazing adventures on the Alpine roads. Racing has been banned in Switzerland for more than half a century so there’s not much to report. Still, at the of the journey was Monza, the most storied race track of them all, although Americans might argue the case for Indianapolis… If there is one thing that puts Monza correctly in its rightful place, it is the closing scene of the movie Grand Prix with the late James Garner standing on the main straight the morning he has win his world title. Gone are the days when titles were decided at Monza in September. Today we must wait for Abu Dhabi in late November….

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