The Williams Formula 1 team launched its new FW35 at the start of the second pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona this morning. The car is a development of the FW34 that won the Spanish GP last year. The team’s technical director Mike Coughlan said that he is happy with gains that have been made over the winter and says that it is “a better, more refined car than the FW34”. The work includes a new gearbox new rear suspension, new radiators, a new floor, new exhausts, new bodywork, a new nose and a significant amount of weight-saving.
The team has done a great deal of dyno testing work to ensure reliability and there is a plan for continual upgrades all through the season ahead. The cars will be raced this year by Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas and there are high hopes that Maldonado will mature and that Bottas will show top class talent. The team also has a significant new sponsorship from Experian, a global information services company which is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The firm collects information on people, businesses, motor vehicles and insurance and provides credit information. Its primary area of operation is the United States, but it has 17,000 employees around the world.
Ferrari has announced a new sponsorship deal with the logistics company UPS. The deal also extends to the activities of the racing activities run by Ferrari’s Corse Clienti operation and will provide freight services for the company around the world.
McLaren is also in the news having announced that it has signed up 20-year-old Belgian racing driver Stoffel Vandoorne, the reigning Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Champion, as a new member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme.
Elsewhere, there is much propaganda being spouted about an attempt to revive the flotation of the Formula One shares in the autumn.
One might suggest that it is entirely logical that CVC Capital Partners would want to get rid of its Formula One shares as quickly as possible given the bad publicity that it has had since the start of the Gribkowsky Affair, which is exactly what private equity companies do not want. Its wild rush to get to a Singapore flotation last year featured acceleration and and then braking that would have rivalled the average F1 car and left the impression that the company had suddenly realised that its trousers were on fire. Explaining what the Financial Times at the time called “a Byzantine structure which few are likely to fully grasp” took 487 pages in the official prospectus, including a daunting 19 pages of risk factors. There was also a highly complex system of “stapled shares”. The decision to stop the float was blamed on the state of the economy, but there is little doubt that the Gribkowsky Affair and the subsequent legal troubles also played a role. Things have not improved in this respect although the Bavarian state prosecution service is taking such a long time deciding what to do that one gets the impression that the whole business may end up being shovelled under a carpet. Elsewhere however there is plenty of work for Formula One lawyers as there are a number of civil law suits relating to what happened. The Princes Gate-controlled press has been trying to make out that Bernie Ecclestone will have a bit of a laugh in the High Court, but I have a vague suspicion that this is largely bravado, reported on by the simpering hacks who dare not question the story, lest he stops buying them lunch. There is also a rather nasty looking lawsuit in New York where an American private equity firm called Bluewaters has filed a $650 million claim against Ecclestone, CVC, Gerhard Gribkowsky, BayernLB, Alpha Prema UK, Alpha Topco and Delta Topco, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all alleging that there was a criminal conspiracy and demanding material and punitive damages. It says that he was willing to pay $1 billion to purchase a 47.2-percent stake in the business, which was in the end sold to CVC for $839 million. Ecclestone has filed an affidavit claiming that a US court does not jurisdiction in the case but there is clearly some argument that has been put forward to warrant such a response. One might suggest that perhaps the US will get involved because money that was secretly paid to Gribkowsky passed through banks in New York. If the lawsuit is accepted as being under US jurisdiction, one can imagine that that the US government might sniff the opportunity to collect some fines as well as it has a very stringent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which prohibits the payment of bribes to foreign officials anywhere in the world. This has been increasingly used in recent years in case that have a US connection of any kind. For the moment, however, the chat is all about jurisdiction but this is not a case that looks like it will be going away quickly.