Low flying in KL

The last couple of days have been much-needed down time between the Malaysian and Chinese GPs. It seems like it has been flat out for months with the build up to the season and then the early races. There has been a lot of chat about the penalties in KL and a few other bits and pieces of note, such as the announcement of the name “Circuit of the Americas” for the track in Austin, Texas. There has been a certain amount of speculation about the Hispania Racing Team doing a financial deal with the Formula One group for a pile of money each year as Bernie Ecclestone continues to try to split up the alliance of the teams. No doubt some will be tempted to jump ship if Colin Kolles does get a $35 million a year deal, which is three and a half times what he is getting now. That would secure the future of the team but it would not make Kolles popular with the other team owners, many of whom consider that politically-speaking HRT is an irrelevance. If others break way and sign up with Ecclestone then this will undermine FOTA. It is a risk for Kolles but he seems to be of the opinion that Ecclestone will get what he wants in the future and that it is wise to the the first to break away, rather than holding out and being the last. The down side of this argument is if Ecclestone does not win, HRT may find out that it is not very welcome in the sport. As it is not Kolles’s team it is probably worth the gamble.

The other thing that one needs to look out for in the next couple of months is the appearance of any new engine manufacturers for the 2013 season. The rules are already set and while Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault are committed to the World Championship, they want to make sure that they will only need to provide engines for three teams apiece. This means that they need a fourth manufacturer. Cosworth says that it will be there and will develop a suitable engine at a fraction of the cost of the big teams, but there are some who think that it is already too late for such a project to begin. The Formula 1 rules have featured normally-aspirated engines since 1989 when turbocharged 1.5-litre units were banned and the FIA mandated 3.5-litre engines. Honda and Renault chose V10s, Ferrari went for a V12, while Ford stayed with a V8. There were also V8s from Judd and Yamaha and a Lamborghini V12. In the years that followed new contenders included a hopeless W12 from Life Racing Engines, a flat-12 Subaru, built by Italy’s Motori Moderni, an Ilmor V10 which would eventually become a Mercedes-Benz and a Porsche V12, which failed badly. Peugeot followed in 1994, while the engine rules were changed to 3-litres for 1995, after Ayrton Senna’s accident. In 1996 Ferrari decided to downsize to a V10 and in 2000 BMW joined the party and Toyota followed in 2002. By 2006 the FIA decided that the engines needed to be downsized again with 2.4-litre V8s mandated and after that engine specifications were frozen to keep down development costs. The lessons learned is that a change of engine spec provides opportunities for new players to enter the sport… So one can expect some action, particularly as many engine manufacturers are interested by the new green technologies that the rules will allow in 2013. While there is some whingeing about costs, it is clear that F1 remains an impressively cost-effective form of advertising, with the kind of associations that manufacturers want to have.

It will be fun to see what happens.

For the last couple of days we have been sitting in a wet Malaysia, getting lost in obscure corners of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (which is a city that is so Gothic in design that it could be used for filming Batman movies, dodging the local drivers, who are really rather scary, and very hot chillis which are not much fun. We had a fun night out in KL listening to our F1 colleague Brad Spurgeon of the International Herald Tribune singing in a local club. Brad is one of F1’s more remarkable characters, his talents including an ability to juggle, to ride a unicycle, not to mention ventriloquism, singing and writing a book about philosopher Colin Wilson. The evening was enlivened by the unexpected arrival of Alex Yoong, the country’s first F1 driver, who is now involved in the Team Lotus Driver Development programme.

Today my GP+ partner David Tremayne and I went to visit Tony Fernandes’s AirAsia, to talk about cross-promotional ideas and Tony took some time out to show us around his operation. What we learned is that Tony seems to know all his 12,000 employees by name (truly extraordinary) and they all seem to love him. He then left us at the AirAsia Academy, where they train his pilots and insisted that we try out one of his simulators. So we ended up “flying” an Airbus A320. Taking off is easy enough when all the thousands of buttons are in the right places but the landings were rather more adventurous and I have to say that mine would have been rather uncomfortable for the passengers if I had really been a pilot, as they would have been wearing the overhead luggage racks as head-dresses. DT’s was rather less effective but we would have been out of our misery much faster – although the airport would have needed to put up at least one new building…

Ladies and genetlemen, please take you seats - and say your prayers.

36 thoughts on “Low flying in KL

  1. Be a bit ironic for Bernie to do a deal with HRT because I thought it was the little back-end teams he disliked the most 😀

  2. At the last negotiations I seem to recall that Williams broke ranks and Ferrari also got extra money pretty early on. Bernie’s a good businessman. It’ll be tricky because the teams have at long last that if they got a fair split their lives would be a great deal easier financially.

    No doubt Bernie has already thought long and hard about who to target and when and he won’t hesitate …

  3. Any chance that a manufacturer might commission Cosworth to build their engine for the new rules and then put their badge on it?

  4. Wonderful Joe – this is the sort of ‘colour’ that makes your blog such extraordinary value. Keep up painting the picture of what happens between races (sort of like what good old Denis Jenkinson used to do for Motor Sport – anyone reading this should try to get hold of his book ‘A Passion for Motorsport’.

  5. Judging by the horizon in the picture it looks like a pretty vomit inducing ride for your virtual passengers Joe!

    Maybe Kolles is reading “No Angel” by Tom Bower as I am, and has decided arguing with Bernie is a pointless strategy.

    Do we know if Vitally Petrov’s audition for the Russian language version of “The Dukes of Hazzard” was successful?

  6. I heard a rumour that Jaguar through parent company TATA are looking at the 2013 engine.

    As for FOTA Hispania are better out of it, so would a few other teams be, especially after the special treatment under the new schedule 10 agreement, that gives one team in particular an extra payment equivalent to nearly double Hispania’s total budget.

    I think Hispania came out and said what many already knew, that FOTA are for the sharp end of the grid only, that’s why budgets have increased by 9% under the RRA, and while ‘certain’ teams can run 2 wind tunnels due to ‘creative sub-contracting’, Virgin are under pressure not to over-use their CFD.

  7. Nice to see you had some time to enjoy yourself as well Joe. Interesting rumour about HRT, doesn’t supprise me actually, the thought crossed my mind when they dropped out of FOTA last year.

    As for engine manufacturers, I guess VW/Porsche should be still considered a candidate, and possibly Hyundai/Kia or maybe even Honda coming back in.
    Even someone like Tata Motors or something like that entering could be an option, if they get the engine built in cooperation with an experienced workshop.

  8. I cannot wait to see which new engine manufactures come in. Hopefully at least one brand from the VW-Porsche mega-group, and I would love to see the Mercedes-BMW rivalry joined with the Bavarians coming back…unlikely though I am sure.

    On the other hand, I am not looking forward to the re-negotiation of the concorde agreement, I know that Bernie is going to work his devlish magic and I will feel slightly sick…there will be reports of the sport breaking apart and teams fighting, ferrari will claim that they own F1 and will threaten to start their own series…its going to be tiresome and a shame for the sport. Why does it have to be like this? Someone fire Bernie, please.

  9. Joe, I know that you adamantly keep on about how the future engine rules are cast in stone, but across the web I keep getting a sense that BE and the Scuderia are still balking. In your opinion, how much of this is ill informed reporting vs. BE using smoke and mirrors to drive a wedge into FOTA vs. an actual viable campaign to keep the engine rules relatively the same?

    1. I am just telling you the realities. If you want to believe all the tosh out there on the web then that is up to you.

  10. Joe, didn’t you post a few days back about how good it is to finally be off the porch and back to work?

  11. So Austin has named its track “Circuit of the Americas.” I wonder if the promoter is already worried about a competing GP in Mexico?

  12. How exciting for you! That is awesome. Also thanks for the tip on the Colin Wilson book. I would have never known and will keep an eye out for it.

  13. As soon as I saw Tata I thought “Jaguar…”

    Trying to think of whether another manufacturer has re-entered the scene while it’s previous incarnation was still on the grid (in this case, Redbull nee Jaguar nee Stewart).

    Renault went away and came back but so far as I know their original operation was fully and totally shut down in 198? rather than sold-on.

  14. Formula One deals with many and varied problems regularly. Currently two of these are the politics within the sport and green issues.

    Electric and hybrid engines are with us today. Formula One needs to be the research and development arena for this new technology as they are doing with KERS and artificial rubber tyres.

    As for the politics? Well, put two people together and you have a relationship, make it three people and you get politics…

  15. Thanks for the article on HRT in GP+ it changes my opinion of them completely.

    Also the article on the use of carbon fibre, but it has now got me worried because while I understand “laid up wet” vey well I do not understand how they use the newer stuff. Does anyone have any useful links please?

  16. “The other thing that one needs to look out for in the next couple of months is the appearance of any new engine manufacturers for the 2013 season. The rules are already set …..”

    Just as Bernie was doing his divide and conquer routine re the forthcoming re-negotiation of the Concorde agreement, he was also rumoured to be asking all team managers/principles individually to support a move to get the FIA commission to stop the new engine for 2013. Now were it anyone else but Bernie, there would be not a snowball’s chance in Malaysia, but he is a master of leverage and playing people off one against the other, he apparently thinks that the sound of the new engines will be a let down at trackside and on tv in particular and that this will affect his earnings from track advertising sponsors and the tv networks.

  17. Joe,

    Yes I know HRT is not Williams. Not sure how you made that conclusion.

    But this amazing fact doesn’t change what happened during the last Concorde Agreement negotiations.

    My point is – Bernie will have worked out who is soft financially and will target them. Based on what was reported last time it seemed work so why not try it this time?

    If FOTA were smart (and I’m not saying they lack good business sense) they would make sure all current teams are not open to any “inducements”.

  18. Joe

    Any chance of an article/blog about the ‘marbles’ from the new tyres as both vettel and alonso have made reference to how dangerous these are in vettel’s case mentioning they were like rubber bullets

    Thanks

  19. Joe try landing at Princess Juliana Airport in the Dutch Antilles. Hong Kong (Kai Tak, the old airport) is a cinch in comparison on the A320 simulator

  20. Hope you love your stay in KL. Maybe you can explore other part of Malaysia in your next visit next year!

    Adam,
    KL

  21. It occurred to me that Mclaren could debut their in house engine by then and dropped Mercedes. Possible?

  22. rpaco,

    do you mean pre-preg CF lam, which is vacuum cured to reflow the resins?

    Joe,

    lovely story. TF sounds like a lot of fun. Picks up the third or fourth highest honor available to a non national, and a merest handful get more, and instead of getting up his own end, shows the boys a good time. Nice.

    If a few more team principles could loosen up like that, F1 would have no PR problem, maybe stop worrying about the succession. Oooh, leftfield candidate??!

    Wasn’t the Lambo V12 the result of the messy Ford ownership? (and another M’sia link there, hmmm, branding, back door with a cover story for VW?)

    . . . as for BE and Colles, my own take is that would suit Colles more than Bernie, so if Bernie hasn’t lost his smarts, that’ll be a long stick he’s holding the carrot with.

    Proper counter to the penalty shenanigans, thanks.

    – j

  23. p.s. i just had a thought, which is based on some current commercial grumblings in my life:

    Since everything’s in camera, naturally this is pure spec.

    but imagine the following, most of which we can deduce:

    ~

    – there exist no clear cut rights to naming

    – posturing is extreme

    – there exist really strong commercial incentives for a agreeable solution, despite the animosity, and bitter expense

    – but there simply lacks adequate differentiation between two treatments of what is potentially a generic name, or one which enjoys at best weak protection.

    – Cars attach their tradename to a existing team, Racing prepend “Team”. Sure, we know this, but it’s about that differentiation as much as posturing, just as it is little about history.

    – What if the question as to distinct identity could be solved?

    – Lotus Lamborghini, Renault Lotus

    – Now we have one name pair with greater racing affinity, and the other with (market broadly) road car affinity. (both arguments could be torn to shreds by anyone here, but i’m thinking marketing, not racing history)

    ~

    The posturing anyhow is normal, so both sides might come out claiming victory, of sorts. (but shame, David Hunt, you would have known about the in camera application as you shot your mouth off on the steps to court)

    Sure, i’m reaching a lot with this, and added longshot hypotheticals. But at some point, i feel there will have to be a Solomonic ruling, and both parties may dislike the extent of what could be a scathing finding, that possibility in itself motivation behind the rationale for in camera hearing.

    At the moment, and we know it is FIA rules, moreso than respect for the court, Lotus Cars are getting diddly squat for their supposed fortunes in sponsorship.

    There’s precedent. Hilton Hotels, General Electric, come to mind.

    My company is not in so ambiguous a position, unless you read too much existential philosphy, wherefrom our name originates quite distinctly, but i have forced myself, basically out of boredom with litigation, (don’t get me wrong, there’s tantalising bloodlust to be enjoyed, but i’m learning a lot from Fernandes’s style lately – totally rate the guy) to explore friendly options as possible alternative to making a mess of a undercapitalised imposter who, ahh, spent too little on their trademark attorneys, ran before they could. . .etc.

    (just saying this is familiar territory for me)

    I’m in full agreement with Joe, the engine story is entirely overlooked, and is significant, even if little comes of it in new names.

    best to all!

    – j

  24. Adam R,

    maybe ref my above thoughts as to how genuine famous names go to extraordinary lengths not to tread on eachothers’ toes.

    McLaren F1 engine. Yes, but not yet.

    – j

  25. Tony G,

    not in cross winds, typhoon season, Heart Attack wasn’t! 🙂

    and it was way cooler before they gutted the walled city, raised the Tong Laus, and filled over the last sight of the old(er) waterfront, which of course originally Kai Tak was once the limit to.

    Sad they squared off the natural sweeping bay. But better than the landslides.

    – j

  26. Scott
    Lotus Group have just received confirmation of a whopping £270million loan from six Malaysian Banks, just hours after the Regional Growth Fund in the UK turned down their application for nearly £28 million in a loan that was going to be used to expand existing facilities in Hethel.
    Proton have cash reserves of RM900 million as of end of March compared to RM1.6 Billion at end of 2010, Proton say most of that went into Group Lotus.
    Bernama Malaysia report here : http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsbusiness.php?id=579328

  27. Hi, kaminski,

    nice catch for the news, thanks fella.

    but i cannot help being the Grinch here: as Einstein liked to say compound interest ought to be the 8th wonder of the world. Meanwhile, that sum sounds like a modest parts order for a Toyota plant, and those at a distance are getting mothballed right as of now, because they cannot get Sendai back up yet. OK, no panic, because big plants take years to commission, even a glitch looks worse than it really is.

    Still, how would you feel, raising a loan to company, 20% of which might be earmarked for an ad campaign which doesn’t even get you a mention?

    Oh, i’m being grumpy now, so please discount that bias. I just wouldn’t fancy the numbers myself.

    – j

  28. p.p. etc “ess”.

    Permit me if you will this grumpy, exhausted thought:

    We saw all the sudden putative livery dance, the stupid argument as to racing colors. Was it “Lotus Green” or whatever of their rainbow of historic garbs.

    Well, your last ditch, when you’ve no decent trademark to enforce is called “trade dress”. Which is about the distinct menas by which you identify to customers.

    Try to imagine, there is only one three letter computer company which has their initials in horizontal white on blue stripes. Want to do the same motif for totally different initials? OK, you’ll get hammered for similarity to a statute famous mark, but the basis for that is you are trying to appear like someone else, or similar to someone else, for your benefit, which is trade dress.

    My point is,

    para for emphasis 🙂

    which Justice will not look upon that harried charade of colors as but an ex post ante attempt to deceive the court?

    If you skimmed my above, you’ll realise i am angling to argue there will be a kind of settlement. But i’d not put a penny on any of my predictions. My view, which i doubt will be changed since evidence is unlikely to be forthcoming, is that is black marks all around. Then, then, you look at who started it.

    Bald attempt to approach one subtlety the kind of which i have noticed to turn other cases.

    But forget the law, or at least my hamfisted attempt at it. Who wins is who is smiling. I mean in the way other people want to smile back.

    – j

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