Lewis Hamilton turned up in Miami yesterday to watch the final race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He visited specifically to be present at Jeff Gordon’s last race. Also there for the event was Mario Andretti and a number of Indycar drivers, wanting to see the fun. Gordon was in the running for the championship, but that went to Kyle Busch, an odd situation given that he missed a third of the races because of leg injuries he suffered in Daytona. The system is such that anyone who won a race gained entry to what is known as The Chase, a knockout competition that leaves four drivers fighting for the title. The man with the most wins this season – Joey Logano – was not one of them. It’s a different world over there… In London Sebastian Vettel was the winner of the Race of Champions, another knockout competition, while in Bahrain Mark Webber finally won a World Championship, along with this Porsche team-mates Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard. The top finished second in the closing round of the World Endurance Championship but that was enough to secure the title.
Over in India it was a bad weekend for Vijay Mallya with the State Bank of India finally declaring Mallya and his United Breweries Holdings (UBH) to be “wilful defaulters”. This means that Mallya is no longer able to borrow any money. At the same time the Enforcement Directorate is reportedly set to launch a money laundering probe into Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines, adding to the string of legal actions that he is fighting. This week there is expected to be further bad news as the Diageo-owned United Spirits Ltd is due to have an annual general meeting in order to decide how to deal with Makkya, who owns a small percentage of the business but refuses to resign as chairman, despite Diageo demanding he stand down. The word is that Mallya will settle with Diageo, rather than being removed from office. Diageo want to get rid of him as quickly as possible as there has been a string of problems since they took over the business from him. Most of his outstanding shares are pledged to banks but Disgeo might take them over and then find settlements with the banks in order to get control of the business. There is also speculation that Diageo could take control of the Force India F1 team because of money that Mallya owes them. If that happens the team could be rebadged as Aston Martin, with Diageo sponsoring the cars and the budget being topped up with other sponsorships and TV money. If Diageo does not sponsor the team next year, it may be be difficult for Mallya to keep it going. There is a lot of enthusiasm for the team being branded as Aston Martin, as it will add to the glitz of F1. If Diageo does take over the team it would largely be to recoup value because of a debt that was not repaid. The company already sponsors F1 in various ways so will likely build up the team and then sell it for maximum profit. The value of F1 teams is likely to soar in the next five years by which time the structure of the sport will most likely be changed and the franchises will have more value. Taking over the team might not cost anything which would make it a solid business move for the firm.