Today in Barcelona…

Lewis Hamilton set the pace on the first day of testing in 2017 with 51 laps in the afternoon session in his Mercedes, with a best lap of 1m21.765s. Pole position last year was a 1m22.000s so it is clear that the new cars are going to be significantly quicker when they start to do serious times. Hamilton’s best was more than two-tenths clear of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, which completed 100 laps with a best of 1m 21.878s. The third fastest time went to the Williams-Mercedes of Felipe Massa, who did a total of 86 laps with a best of 1m 22.076s, which was 0.311s off the pace of the Mercedes. Fourth fastest was Kevin Magnussen in the Haas-Ferrari. He had a spin and hit the wall but still managed 51 laps, but set a best of 1m22.894s. He was ahead of Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, although the Australia did 50 laps. His best was a 1m22.926s. Next up was Valtteri Bottas had his first lap in the Mercedes in the morning, completing 79 laps and a best lap of 1m23.169s. Sergio Perez was next with a 1m 23.709s, although he did only 39 laps in his Force India-Mercedes, while Carlos Sainz was seventh overall in the Toro Rosso with a best lap of 1m24.494s, after only 51 laps, with what the team called “first day glitches”. Nico Hulkenberg was next with 57 laps with a best of 1m24.784s, while Fernando Alonso finished the day with his  McLaren-Honda, having done just 29 laps and a best lap of 1m24.852s. At the back was Marcus Ericsson’s  Sauber-Ferrari did 72 laps with a best of 1m 26.841s.


Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, has informed British MEP Anneliese Dodds that the Commission will not be investigating the sale of Formula One, which was completed in January, any further. There have been concerted attempts, condemned by the FIA as being “inaccurately informed or made maliciously” to try to disrupt the process, which Vestager was obviously keen to put a stop to it.

The Commissioner has ruled out their ability to investigate/authorise the transfer of ownership, she has not ruled out an investigation into the sport. The complaints submitted by the two F1 teams are still in play.

“In a response to a letter from me, the European Commission have clarified their inability to rule on the takeover of Formula One by Liberty Media,” Dodds said. “Nonetheless, there are still serious questions to be answered about the unfair allocation of prize money in the sport. The current system severely disadvantages the smallest teams and gives a lion’s share of the money to the biggest teams regardless of where they finish on the grid. I will continue to raise my competition concerns with the European Commission and keep pushing for a full follow-up of the complaints submitted to the Commission by Sauber and Force India. We have seen three instances of teams in my constituency struggling due to what they see as unfair competition in the Sport, with Manor Racing the latest team to fold. If we do not act now, more may follow. This could have a very worrying impact on highly-skilled engineering jobs in my constituency and in the Midlands.”

This problem will likely be sorted out by Liberty Media, as it changes the way things are done in Formula 1.

Dodds says that the European Commission is investigating the tax ruling which appears to have been agreed between HM Revenue and Customs and Formula One’s former owners.

“Any sweetheart deal that reduces the tax burden of only one company is state aid and must be taken seriously,” she says. “If such a deal breaks competition rules, I expect any unpaid tax to be duly collected by the British Government.”

If this were to happen, the money owed would presumably be owed by the previous owners and not the new ones. It is also not perhaps the best thing to do for Britain because if there is no tax deal on offer, the Formula One group could easily relocate to offshore locations, which would cost Britain jobs.


A better view of the RB13


Fascinating F1 Fact:82

British American Tobacco (BAT) is well known for having been a motor racing sponsor. The cigarette firm bought the Tyrrell team at the end of 1997 as the company’s then CEO Martin Broughton was keen to use F1 to promote the sales of Lucky Strike, which it had acquired in 1993 from American Tobacco, and the 555 brand, which BAT was keen to grow in Asia. The purchase of Tyrrell was basically to acquire its entry and a completely new team was put together in Brackley by Craig Pollock and Adrian Reynard. The team raced as Tyrrell in 1998 but was then launched as BAR in 1999, with a bizarre two-sided colour scheme with Lucky Strike on one side of the car and 555 on the other. This was the result of the team ignoring the rulebook and trying to run its cars in two different liveries.

The team continued under BAT ownership until the end of 2005 when it was sold to Honda, BAT by then having come under new leadership. The team would later transform into Brawn GP and more recently in to Mercedes AMG Petronas.

But this was not the first time that BAT had been in F1. In the 1980s it had funded several teams, trying to promote the European sales of its low-tar Barclay brand, which was manufactured by its US subsidiary Brown & Williamson. The sponsorship was largely related to Belgian driver Thierry Boutsen and sponsored him at Arrows in 1984, 1985 and 1986. Boutsen then moved to Benetton and the sponsorship went to Williams, but the two were back together in 1989 and 1990 when Thierry joined Williams. The sponsorship moved on to Jordan in 1992 and 1993 and Boutsen turned up there too.

But even this was not BAT’s first foray into Formula 1 because back in the early 1970s, the company was a big F1 sponsor – but not with a tobacco brand.

Sponsorship was just beginning in Formula 1 at the time and Imperial Tobacco, which owned some of BAT’s shares, had started the ball rolling in 1968 by supporting Team Lotus with its Gold Leaf brand. This would be switched to the black and gold of John Player Special in 1972. BAT was in the process of diversifying into non-tobacco businesses at the time, as a result of the new chairman Denzil Clarke believing that this was a good strategy. In 1967 BAT had acquired the venerable cosmetic, fragrance and toiletry company Yardley of Bond Street. It was the Swinging Sixties and under BAT ownership Yardley associated itself with the rising fashion stars of the era – notably Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy – and embraced the cultural revolution that was taking place.

Yardley was cool and, after Clarke handed over BAT to a new chairman, Richard Dobson, in 1970, he decided that motor racing was also cool and agreed a deal for Yardley to sponsor BRM, for the princely sum of £50,000. The drivers were Pedro Rodriguez, Jackie Oliver and George Eaton. The following year Rodriguez was joined by Jo Siffert and Howden Ganley in white BRMs, featuring black, brown and gold Yardley logos. It was a difficult time in F1 history and the Yardley BRM team suffered. Rodriguez was killed in a sports car race at the Norisring in July, but the team won in Austria (thanks to Siffert) and at Monza (thanks to Peter Gethin) and by the end of the year was running four cars with Gethin and Helmut Marko (now of Red Bull fame) alongside Siffert and Ganley. The season would end in tragedy, however, when Siffert crashed and died in a fire at the season-ending Victory Race at Brands Hatch. BRM boss Louis Stanley heard that Philip Morris wanted to promote Marlboro in F1 and so after attending Siffert’s funeral in Fribourg, he drove to Marlboro headquarters in Lausanne to present a sponsorship proposal to Scotsman Ronnie Thomson, the President of Philip Morris Europe. A two-year £100,000 contract was signed a month later.

Yardley seems to have been happy to see the back of BRM and agreed a new deal with McLaren, supporting Denny Hulme and Peter Revson (and his replacement in several events Brian Redman). The team expanded to a third car for Jody Scheckter for the US Grand Prix. Hulme won the South African GP and the non-championship Gold Cup at Oulton Park, but otherwise the team was winless. The sponsorship continued in 1973 with Hulme, Revson and Scheckter on occasion. Revson won twice, in Britain and Canada, while Hulme took victory in Sweden.

By the end of the season, however, McLaren was keen to sign with Marlboro, which had had enough of BRM by then. McLaren and Brabham were battling for the sponsorship, which would include Texaco sponsorship and Emerson Fittipaldi. Yardley threatened McLaren with legal action but the enterprising Teddy Mayer managed to find a solution with the team being split with two Marlboro cars for Fittipaldi and Hulme and a third car, run by McLaren’s joint managing director, Phil Kerr, for Mike Hailwood, in Yardley colours. Fittipaldi would win the title in 1974 while Hailwood’s season ended with a broken leg. He was replaced for two races by David Hobbs and then by Jochen Mass.

At the end of the year Yardley pulled out of F1.

The new Toro Rosso

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Scuderia Toro Rosso has launched its new 2017 car – complete with a new livery, not as light a blue as had been expected but much lighter than the traditional dark blue Red Bull blue. The team returns to Renault power in 2017 – which is useful in terms of cooperation with Red Bull Racing, but that has meant a lot of hard work for the team over the winter months.

“With driver continuity and a power unit which made a major step forward last year and which should be developing strongly this year, it just leaves the chassis as an unknown quantity,” said technical director James Key. “We always set ourselves ambitious targets and this year, we are taking a more long-term view over the 20 races, with a long list of planned in-season developments. I suspect it will be a very busy year with plenty of performance still to be found.”

The new Haas

The Haas VF-17 has been unveiled. The Ferrari-powered car is almost all new.

“I think the pedal box is the same, but all the rest is very different from last year’s car,” said Gunther Steiner, the Haas F1 Team Principal. “You always try to make a faster car, which is normally a lighter car. Now we can put on more ballast and get better weight distribution. The aero is completely new, as are the tyres, so we needed to have some built-in adjustability. The car has a more aggressive look. It’s lighter and more aerodynamically efficient. Everything we learned from our first car has been applied to our new car.”

The team boasts a new livery as well with more grey which is more closely linked to Haas Automation’s corporate colours.

“Being a Formula 1 participant brings a level of credibility that you just won’t get through traditional advertising,” says team owner Gene Haas. “People are kind of ‘show me’ people, like show me what you can do and then I’ll believe in you. That was the initial concept – to convince people of our ability to do things others can’t, and I think that translates into being a machine tool builder.




The RB13…

Red Bull released a sghort video about its new car – and very little else. The new RB13 is obviously designed to the new regulations, featuring the latest Renault engine, although the team has sold the engine name to TAG-Heuer. The car will be driven by Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen and no doubt more will be known about it in the days ahead.