Archive for the ‘F1 Drivers’ Category

Malay15coverJust when we thought it was all over and Formula 1 was degenerating into more whinging and griping about the future, the World Championship lit up in Malaysia as Ferrari came from the shadows and beat Mercedes fair and square. It was all down to temperature and how the tyres worked on the different cars, but there was no disputing the fact that Ferrari got it right and Sebastian Vettel drove to an emotional first victory with Ferrari, lapping his old team’s cars a few laps from the finish. It was a terrific race, filled with excitement and interest and produced a totally unexpected result. And Max Verstappen blew the record for the youngest ever points scorer into little pieces, taking more than two years off the mark set last year by Daniil Kvyat…

In GP+ this week…

– We talk to Bernie Ecclestone about what F1 needs
– We wonder if there are better options
– We look at the demise of the German GP
– Niki Lauda tells it as it is
– Fernando Alonso doesn’t…
– DT tells the F1 losers to stop whinging
– JS looks at F1’s love affair with Malaysia
– …and The Hack tours Australia
– Peter Nygaard was busy snapping on track and in the paddock.

GP+ is the fastest magazine in the Formula 1 world. It is published as the mechanics are still wiping down the cars after each and every race. It appears in PDF format so that you can read it on your computer, your tablet and even on your smartphone, but it’s an old style racing magazine in a modern format. It goes right to the heart of the sport, inside the F1 Paddock. We are there at every race and we get to the people that matter. We are also passionate about the history of the sport and love to share it with our readers.

GP+ is an amazing bargain. You get 21 issues for £29.99, covering the entire 2015 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to http://www.grandprixplus.com.

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A good relationship is based on trust and so the stories suggesting that Renault is accusing Red Bull’s Adrian Newey of lying is a pretty good illustration of where that relationship is currently headed. Or to put it another way. This is a disaster. Considering that the two parties shared four consecutive World Championships between 2010 and 2013, one has to say that this smacks of fair weather friends turning on one another when the storm clouds gather. And I’m not sure I see how they are going to live happily ever after again.

Renault is working hard on its engine but seems to be planning a future with its own team to get more coverage. At the same time Red Bull is rumoured to be working with Ilmor Engineering to try to improve the existing Renault power units. It all sounds like a divorce in the making with Red Bull heading off to pastures new. But where? And how? The only way one can see the team getting a new manufacturer engine deal at the moment would be to build an engine itself and then convince a car company to badge it, a trick that Roger Penske pulled off years ago with the original Ilmor when he wanted to get GM into IndyCar racing with the Chevrolet brand. Give a car company a cheap deal to get into F1 and you may end up with a suitable partner, willing to pay in the future. It will be interesting to watch…

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Alonso to return

Good news for all the Star Trek fans out there, Fernando Alonso is back from his period of being a hostage with the Evil Empire (or whatever else caused his recent crash in Barcelona) and will be driving for McLaren in Sepang. Thus, it is safe to say that most of the stories written about him and his condition after the incident were in fact utter tosh.

According to the team, “since his Barcelona testing accident, Fernando has followed a rigorous, specialised training programme, designed and closely monitored by leading sports scientists, to ensure his safe and timely return to racing. Fernando met with his engineers and drove the simulator, to bring him up to date with the latest developments on the MP4-30 chassis and power unit. As part of that process he spent time with senior engineers, discussing the accident and reviewing the comprehensive data and analysis, all of which has been shared with the FIA. While there was nothing evident in the extensive car telemetry data, nor anything abnormal in the subsequent reconstructions and laboratory tests, Fernando recalls a sense of “heavy” steering prior to the accident. Consequently, the team has fitted an additional sensor to the car, to increase the data capture.

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Looking for fixes

The post-Melbourne stories have focussed on how F1 can be fixed. This, of course, assumes that it is broken, which is an interesting discussion. My view is that the sport is OK in terms of its ability to deliver messages to the world, but it is playing with fire by heading towards pay-TV only. The other point is that it needs to rethink how it deals with its followers.

Pay-TV is probably inevitable given the economics of the sports industry, but there are different ways to switch over. Going for premium pricing is not smart and cheaper bundling deals might be wiser. But the financial people don’t care about anything but short-term gain so the sport is stuck. What is also required with pay-TV is an active and integrated social media programme to attract new viewers, but F1 is still in the Neolithic Age when it comes to electronic media and – more importantly – the art of engagement. That latest Stone Age act is to switch much of the f1.com content to pay-per-view, which I fear will result in some disappointment at Princes Gate when the numbers start coming in… 

The sport needs to understand how to make its fans feel loved, which assuredly it does not do at the moment. The problem, of course, is the philosophy of screwing every buck from every possible source. The suits may be happy, but the fans assuredly are not and with pay-TV now the big thing, they are truly fed up. The big  teams are squared away and not troublesome because they have had some whacking great pay-offs. However, this has created a situation in which the have-nots are skating on very thin ice, not only because of the unfair distribution of prize money but also because of unsustainable engine bills. This is the primary problem in F1 today. The engine suppliers must be forced to lower their prices. This is essential for the health of the sport. The manufacturers could afford to do it, but no one has the oomph to tell them that this must be done, in case they walk away. The only people likely to quit are the losers, as the sport is too valuable for the winners. It would be useful now to have a Cosworth-like company to provide solid cost-effective power units if the big players will not play ball.

If the teams had cheaper engines, the budgetary problems would ease. The secondary step would be a different distribution of prize money, but that is not going to be an easy fight.

The other thing that would really help the sport is to become more user-friendly. The teams are struggling more than ever with tougher pass restrictions which are aimed, it seems, on driving sponsors into VIP hospitality. But the actual result seems to be that more sponsors are responding by having off-car deals and hosting their own events away from the Grands Prix, which allows them freedom to do what they want to do, which is not the case at races.

In terms of spending, the teams have pretty basic fixed costs, which can be reduced with some gentle weeding of the regulations. If the engine problem is gone the budgets are much more manageable. The big teams spend vast amounts on research and development in technology that has no great value outside F1. This makes no sense. The idea of banning wind tunnels is an interesting approach as it would put the emphasis on CFD and better simulation tools, which might be more useful technology as it can be applied in other fields beyond racing.

The decision-making structures as they are today make it hard to get anything done but there are still some questions about whether it not the current arrangements are in line with competition rules. It would be good for this to be sorted out quickly. In truth, it would have been much smarter for the racing authorities to have asked about the arrangements before they were put in place and then all would be clear. As they chose not do this, then they must face any challenges if they come. That will make it harder for the finance people to sell the business but that might be a good thing. There may be worse jackals out there…

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A great deal has been written in recent days about Giedo Van der Garde and Sauber, with considerable emphasis being on what the courts in Australia were saying. The matter has now been resolved out of court with, as expected, Van der Garde saying that he has been paid “significant compensation”.There is speculation about how much money is involved but nothing official. It was inevitable from the start that this was going to be the outcome. A court cannot force a company to employ someone it does not want to employ if a settlement can be found. If no solution is possible then there can be contempt of court questions, but the reality is that legal action is really only part of a negotiation process to find a settlement.

Given that we knew this back in the autumn one has to ask about the motivations behind the various cases. Sauber might have settled earlier but perhaps Van der Garde wanted more than Sauber was willing to give. What has been achieved in all of this is that Sauber has taken a lot of flak for deciding to change its drivers, but the team has said virtually nothing. In the PR battle, Sauber is the loser, because Van der Garde has been talking a great deal and the reporting has reflected that. Facts have been rather thin on the ground, but this has not stopped a lot of people having opinions. The facts are as follows. Van der Garde’s management company Giedo Van Der Garde BV signed a services agreement with Sauber on January 20 2014. Van der Garde says that “my sponsors paid the sponsorship fee related to the 2015 season in its entirety to Sauber in the first half of 2014. This was simply in good faith and to help the team deal with its cash problems at the time”. Speculation suggests that this was a sum of $8 million. More may have been paid when the option in the agreement was taken up to allow Van der Garde to race for the team in 2015. That was done on June 28, although it was not admitted at the time because of confidentiality agreements. These normally state that parties shall not make any oral, written or other statement to anyone (and in particular to the press, television, radio or any other media) liable to harm in any way the reputation, renown or brand image the other party.

Sauber’s plans changed after Jules Bianchi’s accident in Japan last year. And it became clear that he would not be able to drive for the team in 2015. As a result additional financial support was required and Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr were offering large sums of money. Sauber was pragmatic, figuring that one package was better than the other. The team said in court that it informed Van der Garde that it was going to terminate the agreement and contracts were signed with Ericsson and Nasr. Van der Garde chose to challenge the decision to terminate.

Most modern F1 contracts allow for arbitration to take place if there are disputes. Arbitration got underway in December. According to court papers, Sauber did not legally terminate the contract until February 6. It informed the Contract Recognition Board of the change on March 4. The CRB exists to protect the teams, not the drivers, and it does not rule unless there are conflicts to be resolved between the teams regarding the contracts that it holds. Thus the CRB was not involved in this dispute. In the court in Australia, it was revealed that Sauber acted in February because it felt Van der Garde had breached confidentiality by talking to the media.

The arbitration hearing took place in London under the Swiss Rules of International Arbitration. This granted Van der Garde an injunction on March 2. As no settlement was found (it is not clear if it was even discussed) Van der Garde applied to the Victorian Supreme Court in Australia. Sauber argued that the Swiss decision should not be enforced for various reasons, none of them very convincing – and appealed the decision from Justice Croft. The legal actions escalated but as it was clear that Van der Garde did not have a Superlicence, it was largely irrelevant.

On Saturday morning a deal was done for an amicable settlement. Amicable is not really the word I would use, as both sides were clearly left aggrieved. Yesterday Van der Garde announced that his contract had been terminated but was critical of Sauber. Sauber said it was surprised by Van der Garde’s criticisms but would not respond because it was contractually bound to say nothing and that it was better to concentrate on the racing. Sauber said that it has very good answers to Van der Garde’s statements and accusations, but is not going to respond as it is not keen to get involved in mud-slinging.

Formula 1 has always been a tricky world when it comes to contracts. Some believe that all contracts should be respected, but there is a parallel argument that if things change, there needs to be pragmatic flexibility. That can mean some tough decisions. The conclusions one can draw from all this are largely subjective. Yes, Van der Garde feels hard done by. But Sauber did it because it felt it was in the best interests of the team.

As to the public mess, it could have been avoided.

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GP+162-OZ15 coverLewis Hamilton dominated the Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne. Nico Rosberg could stay close but was never in a position the challenge the World Champion, while Sebastian Vettel gave Ferrari fans a thrill with third place, although he was more than half a minute behind the winning Mercedes. The race provided some interesting battles but in some ways was it was a low point for Formula 1. There were only 15 cars on the grid, as a result of various troubles and the field was reduced to 13 when the Lotus F1 Team disappeared in the course of the first lap.

In GP+ this week…

– We talk to Toto Wolff about managing Lewis and Nico
– …and find out what Adrian Newey has to think on a wide range of subjects
– We remember Willy Grover, a real Grand Prix hero
– DT has strong views about the Sauber-Van der Garde mess
– JS believes that the sport is missing out on potential revenues
– …and The Hack rants and raves about public servants
– Peter and Lise Nygaard capture the action in pictures

GP+ is the fastest magazine in the Formula 1 world. It is published as the mechanics are still wiping down the cars after each and every race. It appears in PDF format so that you can read it on your computer, your tablet and even on your smartphone, but it’s an old style racing magazine in a modern format. It goes right to the heart of the sport, inside the F1 Paddock. We are there at every race and we get to the people that matter. We are also passionate about the history of the sport and love to share it with our readers.

GP+ is an amazing bargain. You get 22 issues for £29.99, covering the entire 2015 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to http://www.grandprixplus.com.

Read Full Post »

Just out…

The Sauber F1 Team can confirm it has been able to agree with Mr. Giedo Van der Garde that he refrains from driving in the Australian Formula One Grand Prix so it can keep its original planning. The Sauber F1 Team, Mr. Van der Garde and his management will continue to have constructive talks in order to find a mutually acceptable solution. The Sauber F1 Team is here to race in the Australian Formula One Grand Prix and that is what the team is now focusing on. In the course of next week we will be able to give more information.

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