Saturday, 25 October 2014

Money Talking

Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsport, the example to all that follow of how it should be done, however F1 is doing a great job of making itself look rather foolish with Caterham's fate now at the hands of administrators and Marussia who cannot afford to go to the USGP. This leaves the grid at 18 cars for the first time since 2005 when BAR had a two race ban for using fuel as ballast.

Looking slightly further up the grid too, Sauber's troubles are well publicised, as are Lotus's struggles which left Kimi without wages last year and the floodgates of talent leaving Enstone.

But of course all of this could have been avoided. When the "new teams" signed up to join F1 they signed up to Max Mosley's budget cap idea. An idea that would create a 2 tier formula. Tier one, spend as much as you like and stick to the 'stricter' rules. Tier two, spend only $40m and you get unlimited use of your windtunnel and can bring as many upgrades as you like etc.

The teams cried that this was unfair and decided that a breakaway series would be the answer, however this was soon averted by negotiations by Mr Ecclestone who instead got the teams to agree to a resource restriction agreement (RRA) that would start lightly and slowly ramp up to provide real cost savings. This was however NOT in the rules and was a gentleman's agreement.By then the new teams were way to committed to be able to change their plans and had to just do their best under these new circumstances.

Since those days the 'new teams' have been unable to make any real inroads into the rest of the grid and have had lowly everyday struggles just to race around at the back of the grid, the fight to finish tenth in the Constructors World Championship was every bit as hard fought as the fight to win it.

Of course the RRA failed as teams decided it was pointless as not enforced and the whole thing unfolded. With teams spending a fortune just to try and keep up in the arms race that is F1. Queue the biggest changes of rules in the sports history in 2014 and the spending again had to ramp up, with engine costs on their own easily doubling for customer teams. It was clear smaller teams would struggle and thus here we are with two teams unsure if they will ever race again.

But think this, not just are the drivers not allowed to race next weekend (who have paid to be there), The team staff are unsure if they are going to get paid at the end of the month and their families planning for christmas potentially looking for new jobs. Its kids without Christmas presents etc etc etc.

Back in 2013 the World Motorsport Council enshrined in the regulations that a cost cap in Formula one would be discussed and put into action, again through discussions between the teams nothing was agreed or decided, in fact the topic of those meetings now involved un-freezing engines and this increasing development costs!

F1 needs to take a long hard look at itself, because a budget cap, correctly policed would allow the teams to race, perhaps even run at a profit (enticing more teams to join) It would allow teams to budget and forecast for their own futures and would mean that the spend per year of every team is the same. The team that uses that money the best each year will be world champions. Remember this, the fans in the grandstands do not care how many updates are on the cars every weekend, or if the engine tokens have been spent on upgrades, or even who makes the internal components. They care about seeing cars at their limit racing each other, Fans don't want to see 6 teams running three cars. Fans care about racing... and racing would be fairer for all under a budget cap.  Simple really isn't it?

UPDATE: I've had a tweet from Tony Fernandes this evening who confirmed that it would have been a very different story for Caterham had a sensible budget cap been introduced. 





Friday, 3 October 2014

Vettel leaves red bull - official press release

Saturday 4 October, 2014
 
NEW TEAM DRIVER LINE UP FOR 2015 
 
Sebastian Vettel has advised us that he will be leaving Infiniti Red Bull Racing at the end of the 2014 season.
 
We want to warmly thank Sebastian for the incredible role he has played at Infiniti Red Bull Racing for the last six years. 
 
Since joining the team in 2009, Sebastian, together with Infiniti Red Bull Racing, has scored 38 wins, 44 poles and eight World Championships, including four Drivers’ titles and four Constructors’.  If you include Sebastian’s success at Red Bull’s second team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Red Bull total increases to 39 wins and 45 poles. 
 
As we wish Sebastian well in the next stage of his career, we also look to the future with excitement, as the vacancy makes way for the next generation of Red Bull racers. 
 
The Red Bull Junior Programme has developed some proven talents in recent times, including Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, who has excelled in the RB10 and become a three-time Formula One race winner in his first season with the team. 
 
We’re pleased to announce that Daniel will be joined in the team for 2015 by another rising star from the Junior Programme, Daniil Kvyat. 
 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

#SillySeason

They call it silly season for a reason! but the rumours hitting F1 this year seem to be much more frantic than usual. The key to this is Fernando Alonso.

Fernando is reportedly fed up at Ferrari's inability to build a championship winning car, They certainly haven't built a car worthy of his ability since he joined and he is worried that his career clock is ticking down.

However a lot of changes are happening at Ferrari that they believe will bring them closer to the top, but can Fernando afford to wait?

So what are his options?

If he wants a championship winning car, he'll need to to move to Red Bull or Mercedes, neither of which have a vacancy, unless of course Vettel wants to go to Ferrari? which has been rumoured for a long time, and of course if Red Bull want to break from their current system of promoting drivers from Toro Rosso and their young driver programme,

His other option is really McLaren who have made no secret of wanting a star such as Alonso to lead their challenge ASAP along with their new engine partner Honda. But after McLaren and Alonso parted on such acrimonious terms could that even be possible? And who knows if the Honda engine will even be as good as the Ferrari? It would really be an incredible blind leap of faith.

It seems in the last 24 hours a third option has emerged, With potential Sauber investor Lawrence Stroll now looking at buying Lotus instead and apparently willing to pay for the Mercedes engine deal, Could this deal see Fernando 'come home' to Enstone and a revitalised Lotus? This is the latest rumour and is probably the most unlikely as so many blocks would need to fit into place to make this work!

So after Fernando, what else could happen?

Is Jenson Button seeing out his last year as a McLaren driver? (Probably not if they don't get a marquee signing,)

Can Lewis and Nico continue as Mercedes team mates after falling out this year?

Could three cars really arrive and change the landscape of F1 and the driver market?

Has Vettel really lost faith in the team that bought him 4 consecutive world titles?

Only time will tell, and only one big name needs to move to start the carouselle, until then the speculation will continue!


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

2015 F1 Calendar - 20 Races and a return to Mexico!

The 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is confirmed as follows:

15 March                    Grand Prix of Australia

29 March                    Grand Prix of Malaysia

5 April                        Grand Prix of Bahrain

19 April                      Grand Prix of China

10 May                      Grand Prix of Spain

24 May                      Grand Prix of Monaco

7 June                       Grand Prix of Canada

21 June                     Grand Prix of Austria

5 July                        Grand Prix of Great Britain

19 July                      Grand Prix of Germany

26 July                      Grand Prix of Hungary

23 August                  Grand Prix of Belgium

6 September              Grand Prix of Italy

20 September            Grand Prix of Singapore

27 September            Grand Prix of Japan

11 October                 Grand Prix of Russia (Sochi)

25 October                Grand Prix of USA (Austin)

1 November               Grand Prix of Mexico

15 November             Grand Prix of Brazil

29 November             Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

Pascal Wehrlein becomes MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS reserve driver

The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team is delighted to announce the appointment of Pascal Wehrlein to the position of reserve driver.

After a successful early career in go-karts, Pascal (19, Sigmaringen, Germany) won the 2011 ADAC Formel Masters before graduating to Formula 3 in 2012. In his maiden season, he secured second place in the F3 Euroseries championship and claimed the title of best rookie.

For 2013, DTM with Mercedes-Benz beckoned and 18-year-old Pascal became the youngest driver in series history, continuing the long-standing Mercedes-Benz tradition of developing young driver talent.

Yesterday at the Lausitzring, he took a commanding debut victory from pole position, leading every lap but one in wet-dry conditions on his way to becoming the youngest race winner in DTM history at just 19 years of age.

In addition to his DTM duties, Pascal has played an integral role in the Formula One team’s race support operations during the 2014 season.

In total, he has completed more than 30 days in the simulator this season, covering over 12,000 km in the virtual F1 W05 Hybrid.

Pascal reached another important milestone in his career development last Thursday 11 September, when he drove a Formula One car for the first time at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve in Portimao.

As part of a Young Driver Evaluation test conducted by the team, Pascal took the wheel of the team’s 2012 challenger, the F1 W03. Running a programme designed to familiarise him with the car, Pascal achieved a total of 500 km on the day, completing 109 laps and impressing the team with his progress and feedback.

Pascal will travel with the team from the Singapore Grand Prix onwards as part of his reserve driver duties.

Pascal Wehrlein:
“I was delighted when I learned that I would be completing a Formula One test for MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS in Portimao. It took me a few laps to get used to the incredible speed, the very hard brakes and the high cornering speeds – it’s in another league compared to the DTM. But I adapted quickly and was able to improve in each of my short and long runs. In total, I drove 500 km and didn’t want to head back into the pits! The test was simply the greatest experience I have had so far in motorsport. There weren’t any nerves, which surprised me – I just felt ready for it. The feedback from the team and from Toto was very encouraging and I think that I did a good job. It certainly helped that I have been working hard in the simulator since February. For me, it is a nice recognition of my efforts that I have been nominated as reserve driver for MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS. For me, it’s a dream come true to have completed this test and now to take on my new role. All my life, I have worked hard to get the opportunity to drive an F1 car. And it was always my goal to do it with Mercedes-Benz.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
“We are delighted to officially welcome Pascal to the team after his successful test last week in Portugal. He has worked hard behind the scenes this year in our simulator, playing a very important role in our pre-race preparations. Aside from Nico and Lewis, he is the driver most familiar with all the procedures of our F1 W05 Hybrid and therefore the right choice for the role of reserve driver. He took an important step last week when he drove a Formula One car for the first time – and we were pleased to see him deliver a composed and impressive test, in line with our expectations. This was followed by a fantastic win yesterday at the Lausitzring in the DTM, making the most of conditions where pure driving talent was able to shine. Pascal has a bright future ahead of him and we are excited to have him onboard for what will be an intense conclusion to the Formula One season.”

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Its Official - Di Montezemolo leaves FERRARI

As I predicted here quite a while ago, Di Montezemolo has now left Ferrari - Here is the statement and link to my original article

Just remember - you heard it here first :)



Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Teams in 2015

Sunday night in the Monza paddock as the teams were packing away the motor homes for the last time this season a big rumour was gathering storm on twitter regarding the future of some of the teams on the F1 grid.

Adam Parr (ex williams CEO) tweeted

As Adam is a guy with a lot of inside information and many contacts in the paddock I certainly don't doubt him and he must know of some serious financial issues with the current teams.

Clearly Caterham are struggling, they havent got the money to pay the bills and to pay for upgrades, their new team principal Albers has already quit after only 3 races in the hot seat so the post Tony Fernandes future of that team looks very bleak indeed

Marussia also look to be struggling, although if they keep 9th place in the championship they will earn a big payday. Although this might yet not be enough to keep the team a-float, especially if the Chilton cash fails to turn up on time again.

So who could be the third team struggling? Could it be Force India? With Vijay Mallya and Roy Sahara blacklisted in India for various dealings and up on numerous court charges relating to non payments of bills and tax etc, They really could be on the brink.

Could it be Sauber? Sauber had a failed Russian investor last year and have clearly struggled this year with a sub-par car and non impressive drivers. The word in the paddock though is that they do have a buyer / investor in Lawrence Stroll, the Canadian billionaire and 817th richest man in the world who made his fortune in the fashion industry. My sources in the paddock claim this to be a pretty much done deal and a very welcome one it will be too!

This then after some research and chatting to people in the know, leaves Lotus. Lotus are only really still here in F1 thanks to the cash from Venezuela courtesy of Pastor Maldonado. The team is struggling so badly it cannot afford the deposit on the Mercedes engines for next year. There is also mass discontent from staff who haven't been paid and are asking for resolution before the Russian GP or they will not attend. This is pretty serious stuff and one wonders if they will even make the finale in Abu Dhabi let alone the grid in Australia 2015.

So if we lose three teams, are third cars the way to go? Or should F1 do more to encourage new teams? Shouldn't it be easier for a GP2 squad to move up to F1 if they do well - yes they should but this all comes down to the ridiculous costs in F1. As always, if the money was distributed more evenly and a cost cap enforced, it could make F1 quite an attractive business model.