Tittle-tattle from the F1 world

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.

84 thoughts on “Tittle-tattle from the F1 world

  1. Don’t Unilever still have Brooke Bond, former sponsor from the early 70s? Still if they wanted to tie in Kimi wouldn’t they use Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?

  2. Oh, wow. Ben and Jerry’s should be Lotus’ title sponsor. Could you imagine Kimi driving in a car with Cherry Garcia livery? Fantastic!

  3. What cracking stuff Joe!
    Will we see Tom Hanks and Amelie in the paddock? 🙂

    Elsewhere it was speculated that Bernie was trying to help in Petrov’s re-employment, as he is keen to have a foot in the Kremlin door whilst negotiating a Russian GP.

    Beware mysterious monks!

  4. How long before someone tries to make the Kimi Raikkonen and ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s) connection?
    Oh go on then, I might as well…

    1. Wuh? So what, indeed. How is it a slur then? I don’t think it was even intended to be. Schumacher promoted something similar; Raikkonen has a good head of hair (which has never struck me as “girly”, that’s come from you, not Joe) so I assumed Joe’s comment to be entirely genuine.

  5. So are Lotus digging up the old independent sponsor from Rob Walker – Brooke Bond, a rather British (not international) part of Unilever. Sadly I guess something more boring like Lynx may appear.

    Wonder what Unilever (as a marketing company) make of Bahar – Unilever would have 500 million tucked behind the sofa. Maybe Vaseline would be a better brand at the moment if it all goes wrong

  6. I really fail to see what Giedo van de Garde has to offer for F1, apart from his father-in-law’s wallet. I’d like to think that in terms of talent there are better offerings on the market.

  7. Good heavens. What’s next? Perhaps they’ll be relocating an old stone church from rural Scotland to a Spanish boatyard…

  8. Don’t know if has any special meaning but the fact is that Lotus F1 Team (Company No. 07869822) is a brand new company (reg. 02/12/2011) and not a new name for Lotus Renault (ex-Benetton, ex-Renault….) Company No. 01806337.
    It must have a meaning else why would they have done it this way ?

    1. Don’t know. The original company must be a holding company, otherwise they would have no Concorde Agreement rights

  9. Definetively, you have no idea about you´re talking about, no idea about what Opus Dei is and no idea about HRT; really do you think that this story that “which claims to explain the strange behaviour of the HRT team in recent months” is related to Opus Dei?, oh my god! you have to investigate about Escrivà de Balaguer and you can talk.

    Which is the next step? say that the people oh HRT are linked to Franco?.

    I know just one think:

    2010 11th Hispania
    12th Virgin
    2011 11th HRT
    12Th Virgin

    I´m so sorry for you, there´s no more calls!!!

    1. If you read the story carefully you will see that I am merely saying that this is what is being reported in Germany. I made no comment about it beyond saying it was weird. So back off and leave me alone.

      1. “what is being reported in Germany …” Pathetic, unprofessional.

        In Spain it is being reported that you have an irrational hatred HRT…

        1. Pathetic and unprofessional? Irrational hatred? Pots and kettles spring to mind all of a sudden.

          We come to this blog to get the news that other websites don’t cover because they either don’t have the insight or the connections. What was written above regarding HRT was simply an observation of someone else’s opinion. Why are people getting so hot-headed about it.

          Besides, I’m sure Spain must have plenty of other things that would qualify as for the national pride more than a struggling and apparently terribly mismanaged F1 team that has yet to prove it can do anything other than make up the numbers.

          1. I’m sure Joe will apologise when HRT win their first constructors championship. Or indeed race. Or indeed point.

    2. There you see Hispania 11th – Virgin 12th.

      They are receiving ‘help’ and this is spooky.

      It’s lucky that GP’s are on Sunday – the one day of the week that their main sponsor works.

    3. Of course Joe has no idea what he’s talking about,it’s not as if he goes to every GP, has been writing about the sport for decades and knows a huge number of the people involved. If you think that all is well at HRT then good luck with that!

  10. Hi Joe

    What is the logic behind Sim sponsoring Sauber before buying them if that is his intention? As a sponsorship he is effectively renting the team rather than investing and buying it outright, gaining control and an asset in the team. Yes he gets the exposure, but in the same way that the money Mateschitz put into Sauber yielded no asset and when he bought Jaguar and so he effectively started from scratch.

    The only thing I can think of is his plan to give the team just enough money to survive, but then get so desperate as they have no other options, so he would get to buy the team for next to nothing?

    1. I suspect you are endowing a group of exuberant city-boy-types with more insight into F1 than perhaps they should have had.

      1. If you had the money, would you keep renting your house when you know it is up for sale and property prices are low…

        You don’t need insight into F1, to be a city boy or anything else to be able to see that.

  11. Talking of tittle-tattle Joe, with the news in the Sunday Times last week, seems we will have another LOTUS v LOTUS battle in F1 2012 with Bahar v Genii competing aagainst each other for a buyout from Proton – will you be doing a write-up of your views at all?

  12. Regards Vitaly Petrov sponsors. Seems to be very true, and russian sponsors still unable to understand how good can turn for them appearance in F1 even in Caterham F1 Team. All that they want it’s to have revenue right away, next day…
    Sorry for Petrov, but I still have a hope he will be in Caterham F1 team

    1. Yeah I liked Petrov, and would like to see him back in the sport. Certainly he showed the occasional flashes of great driving (but will never be a great in the sport, if we’re being honest). Sounds like, though, BAU in Russia IceMemory. Short-termism at its best.

      Joe, you mentioned in an earlier blog reply comment that there was an identifiable return on investment for companies sponsoring F1 teams. Has this been quantified (given the limits traditional advertising has)? For example, have TAG reported increases in sale of the TAG Carreras endorsed by Lewis and Jenson? Do Pepe Jeans find that having their name on the RB7 chassis and team overalls has increased brand awareness to the point of increasing sales? Is there a ramp up period before the brand awareness translates into sales?

      Would be keen to know what level of ROI these companies are seeing, if only for interest’s sake.

      1. I cannot agree with you about Petrov talant.. He won ALL races in Lada Cup (34 races) and it’s just shows his talant. He needs some time do adopt, and I’m sure he is not short-termist. He started his career only at 16 y.o., and he showed great results.. just read his biography 🙂

        1. With the nicest will in the world, F1 bosses do not look to the Lada Cup for the hot young talent. Petrov did a good job on 2010, but failed to impress in 2011. This he needs money to survive on F1 this year.

          1. Yep.. I agree.. bosses won’t look for Lada Cup:)
            But, in my eyes Petrov did very good job in 2011. Don’t forget that in was no progress in car itself from summer.. And Lotus-renault management agreed that all “new stuff” didn’t worked out, and they had to stop modernization of R31. With all tactical problems and car problem, Petrov did great…

            A problem is in my opinion, what Bouler didn’t want to see Petrov in 2012.
            He (Bouler) played well his manager’s card, and invited Kimi to the team, so Grojan will have great chance to beat Champion, and became in near future pilot N1 in Lotus F1.
            Whey “suck” money out of Heifeld and Petrov first.. after it from Senna, and all that money probably was spent for building up new E20 🙂 plus french Pilot in F1, plus more money from Genii and/or Total… and good commissions from Grojan Contract.

            I don’t think they gonna fail with tactics in 2012 as they did in 2011, and not because they got more experienced (they just wanted to flush out pilots).

    2. Unfortunately this is standard practise.

      I’ve worked in Russia.

      Small advance payment, then problems with the second installment when you’re part way through the job. It finally arrives just as you’re finishing up – to make sure everyone is sweet at the airport.

      The final installment of course never arrives.

      (And I never go back)

  13. To quote Alan Partridge “the proof is in the pudding, and the pudding in this case, is an F1 car!” well, to misquote anyway…

  14. I’d believe the opus dei thing before I’d believe that HRT actually have management capable of bringing it to race.

    I think its now one of those penance things.
    You know during that festival when guys run through the streets stopping occasionally to beat their legs with broken glass to show their repentance for sin?
    Well, I think with HRT we are witnessing a very expensive/sophisticated/F1 way of doing the same thing. You take control of a (slow but) running F1 team, and then with great skill, persistence and presence of mind, you slowly but very publically drain away all credibility and value until you’re left with nothing.

    You then sit in a dark, quiet but empty warehouse looking at each, before issuing a press release saying that you’ll be missing the first test.

    This last act achieves the required level of humiliation that in turn proves that you are a worthy person and truly repentant of all previous sin, as you are prepared to lose everything in a most public way.

    If it wasn’t so bloody sad it would be hilarious

  15. Speaking of Tittle-tattle from the F1 world…..

    Any idea why the article featuring the opinions of Mclaren Applied Technologies managing director Geoff McGrath, that appeared in many Formula One websites, suddenly disappeared? He claims the Mclaren Team is readying for a legality fight over their car.
    Does Matt Bishop have the power to make us “un-see” what we already saw in the British Motorsports Media? Any comment at all on the matter ’cause you had to at least hear about it?

  16. Joe, if Lopez has failed while trying to find money to buy Lotus Cars from the malaysian… What’s up with all this “Enstone” nonsense? They named the car E20 instead of calling it a more Lotus-ish name.

    And after all that discussion about who has the right to claim the old Lotus records, now they are talking about “Enstone’s” achievements, with the 94-95 and 2005-2006 titles.

    Maybe there’s something here or maybe I’m just reading too much out of it, but sounds like they are laying ground for a plan B, which would be calling the team Enstone.

    And now Group Lotus is dealing with Kolles…

    1. I don’t think the fight was over who could claim the old Lotus records, more about who could use the name Lotus in F1, in whatever guise required. This is a new Lotus, not Team Lotus. It has no ties to the team of old other than a similar name.

      They are branching out and away from Team Lotus, hoping to establish themselves, so that’s probably why the talk of the E20 and Enstone rather than something more Lotus like…

      Joe, a question if I may – has a team ever gone through more guises than some of those currently racing? I believe Lotus and Force India have had four, with Mercedes having five (Tyrrell, BAR, Honda, Brawn, Mercedes) – any teams to your knowledge changed hands more times that this?

      1. When Dany Bahar first became involved with the “Enstone” outfit, he claimed Team Lotus’ heritage, and that was a major issue even on this same blog a while ago.

        And while branching away from the Team Lotus moniker, something that was so sough after by Dany Bahar, they are as an effect creating a new identity for themselves. And that is precisely my point. Why create a new identity?

        My guess is, Lopez lost the race to buy Lotus Cars and now he might not be so sure of its future, so it’s time to establish themselves as an independent venture instead of a part of a group it actually does not belong to.

        Group Lotus, in the other hand, made a bold move partnering Colin Kowles. He has a F1 team ready to go. And although he doesn’t have a licence, I’m sure Kowles is waiting on the soon-to-be debacle of HRT to buy one. So there is a possibility that what now is called HRT will become another “new” Team Lotus, this time fully associated with Group Lotus.

        And an “Enstone F1” at the hands of Mr. Lopez.

  17. Maybe Unilever could come in by sponsoring a senior Lotus executive with one of their soap brands…….he could have it embroidered on the left breast of his shirt.

    Not that he’d bandy the word Omo around.

    1. If you’re implying what I think you’re implying, why on earth does it matter what he gets up to in private? This is 2012…

        1. Apologies Joe, I’ve only just seen this.

          I was addressing jonnowoody, not your good self, when I was talking about what may or may not be implied by an Omo-branded shirt.

          Anyway, congratulations on another scoop (the Unilever sponsorship)!

  18. The good thing about being a sponsor, not an owner, is that if it all turns Pete Tong, you can just cite performance or behaviour clauses and leave. Owning a team is a lot more complex to exit.

  19. Petrov’s never been short of people saying he’s got billions of dollars of sponsorship behind him. The trouble is, the billions of dollars are always a few months away.

  20. “…as lots of Spaniards will get upset and start being rude.”

    You know this is an unfair and gratuitous comment.

      1. But some of us who appreciate your blog and don’t behave as 15 year old schoolboys behind a pc might feel a bit disapointed by your words. I am aware of the feelings that anything concerning to HRT might produce to some spanish guys, but I would be very pleased if you could stop using this terms.
        I guess that the messenger is often mistakenly regarded as the guilty for bringing bad news, but this reference to the Spaniards is not fair, and it eases the way to the … HRT devotees (note that this might rise the amount of irony of your blog) to rampage against your information and your blog.

        1. The only point I have made is that a bunch of your fellow countrymen have been unpleasantly rude, simply because I have made the very obvious point that trying to run an F1 team on Spain is creating problems for oneself. It had got nothing to do with Spain really. I have written the same about Toyota’s decision to set up a team in Germany. The reality is the Marussia and Caterham have both moved WITHIN England because they felt outside the optimal region for F1. for reasons that are beyond me. Some HRT fans think this is some kind of attack on Spain. It is not, and it is very wearisome to have to put up with rude people, who do not understand that this is simply a fundamental reality in F1. Perhaps one day that will change. Perhaps not,

          1. Personally, I think HRT are an attack on Spain…

            I don’t think Joe meant ‘lots of spaniards’ as in everyone in Spain, I think he meant ‘more than one or two’ – which has happened in the comments section a lot. People seem to forget that he is not just a ”living room’ journalist, but someone who has been out there on the GP tour for years.

            I read this blog for information. If I read something I don’t agree with, I might ask a question – why do you think this – or I would most likely just read on (as I have a couple of times). I wouldn’t just comment to say – you’re wrong, you’re bias etc etc. and launch into a verbal tirade.

            Don’t like it, then don’t read!

      2. And what is it that you think that comment accomplishes?

        If it describes your reality (or reality as you see it), you have good reason to avoid that sort of comment. We both know it is provocative.

        1. The goal was to tell people what is happening and what is being said in the F1 world. If that is not what you are looking for then I fear ypu have come to the wrong place.

  21. Not much information these days eh Joe, when all else fails some good old fashioned HRT bashing does the job. I’m sorry but when it’s on such a constant basis it does make you lose some credibility

  22. I don’t have too much time now, but I am sure that there is some strange, mysterious code in your article… oh wait, the first line is being cracked and is coming through with the words “ha, ha, ha”.

  23. Part of me does wonder whether or not we might see a number of teams hit serious financial trouble this year, much like Arrows, Prost and Minardi in 2000-01.

  24. Joe,
    With “Mubea Carbo Tech GmbH”(is it not Carbo Tech instead of Mubea???) having manufactured the monocoque and “Holzer” assembling all the parts together, would that also include the Williams; Gearbox ,Kers and perhaps suspension layout being assembled by Holzer too?
    I think i had posted this in another area but forgotten to ask you about Carbo Tech and it´s more relevant for me to ask you on this page than on the other one.

  25. Joe, take the slander with a pinch of salt and continue doing what you do and informing us mere mortals what is going on behind the scenes in our great sport. It’s the idiots that do not understand the context of your messages, posts (not articles) on your blog that tend to be the first to punch. This is a blog people, read the rules before you comment next time. What ever happened to freedom of speech anyway??

  26. Thanks Joe for the continual flow of interesting informed posts. Some of the comments today are quite amusing, some are idiotic. Keep going your own way.

  27. Joe, as you have found out the hard way, many of the Spanish have very thin skins and get amazingly nasty when they are not happy. Specifically wild paranoid theories, lots of “The big guys are screwing us over” fantasies and deranged plans for revenge.

    Frighteningly close to my own experiences dating a couple of Spanish ladies, no F1 cars involved.

    Barcelona and Valencia are trying to dump their boring races ASAP, Santander are in serious trouble which could well affect Alonso’s drive, Cepsa are upset as Alguesari got the boot from the team they just started sponsoring and to cap it all, the new McLaren looks good.

    Could well be a long year for you, Good Luck.

  28. The idea that Uniliver may enter F1 is a potentially great. They can change their decals from country to country depending on the market research. This would be similar to when Budweiser was a sponsor of the Williams and from time to time you’d see Seaworld on the car as opposed to Bud.

  29. You know, that express newspaper might have something there. I’ve been a bit curious lately what nature of man this Kolles is, sneaking around knocking out all sorts of projects, and yet somehow no-one seems to really know what makes him tick . .

    One thing to be said in real life of Opus Dei, is that their business school is very well considered. It’s SMOM you have to worry about. RC boy here, and i can say the latter with some names in mind, in skeptical good humor 🙂

    1. Lapsed-RC boy here.

      The nuns who taught me carried large copper rulers… better for whacking my 10-yr-old knuckles when I stepped out of line.

      On a more positive note, I certainly learned my three R’s… their position was that God was on their side, thus learning was non-negotiable…

      1. The rulers sounds about right!

        Thing is, The Selfish Gene was published, and since RC solely from my mother, a convent girl if ever there was one, a copy was furnished by my big step brother, Oh, dynamite! Should little boys even be given such books?! I think, yes. I almost look fondly on the firecracker arguments, i was always a literalist, spoke out of turn not knowing I was out of turn. I got sent then to a school which only a split second before required the C of E denomination. Where they had a wonderful chaplain, a true mensch. Getting confused here, with some reason, but I identify as RC, it’s a needed link to my mom.

        I agree with the strict education, though: get some arithmetic into the boy! Odd, how that works, since fuzzy learning as preached by the unlearned lately coincides with the abomination of supplicancy to ad-hoc artificial evanescant de jure scriptures which make a mockery of individual thought.

  30. Unilever have also been involved in F1 with other brands. The Denim sponsorship of Williams in the 80’s and Quest International was a sponsor of Pacific.

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