Seldom has a Formula One weekend been so packed with rumours and stories of such a wide-ranging and diverse nature. Further, seldom have such grave issues been at the forefront of F1 and the various participants speak so openly and freely about them.
I, and the TJ13 site have been advocating what is now called ‘the virtual safety car’ from almost since the website’s inception. I personally, along with a few others in a group, took this matter up with ‘the horses mouth’ earlier this year.
The conversation was lengthy, and I presented the fact that double waved yellows were meant to be an immediate extreme caution to isolate a dangerous section of the circuit where the safety car could not be present in an instant.
A number of other scenarios were discussed, but were dismissed out of hand because we were told, “the safety car is currently the highest and best intervention we have studied and settled upon”.
In addition the comment was made that the end of the safety car would be bad for the show and that Bernd would lose his job.
So it’s good to see in Austin, finally, the virtual safety car being tried for the first time, though with a mixed response from the drivers. Grosjean complained he found managing the delta times “vey very difficult”, whilst Maldonado commented, “it’s very easy.”
Formula One drivers eh?
Despite Whiting’s rhetoric in Sochi, this solution does not “take it out of the drivers’ hands” how fast they drive, but merely replaces the previous FIA reduction in speed the divers were compelled to deliver – of 0.5 seconds for a double waved yellow cautioned mini sector. A ridiculous regulation which breaches the FIA’s own Sporting Code.
We shall see whether the FIA admits they were wrong in their F1 interpretation of the WMSC Sporting Code regulation, which requires all motor sports competitors to “Slow down… and be prepared to stop” – in whatever category of racing they are competing.
One lighter moment which has occurred this weekend is the renewal of Ted Kravitz’s, Sky presenter, spat with Christian Horner. I hear Kravitz said live on air to the Red Bull supremo (of sorts) “I’ve been trying to catch up with you all day; what’s going on?”
Horner replied, “Friday’s a busy day Ted, you should know that”. Kravitz compulsively quipped, “It is… for the rest of us”.
What followed was the furry faced Christian Horner explaining what would happen with Sebastian Vettel during qualifying in Austin. Predictably this included stabs at “fragile engine units” and “silly rules” which apparently Red Bull never complained about though have been in existence all year.
Horner’s lament invoked the plight of the fans, apparently all desperate to see four times world champion compete properly in the qualifying event. However, Christian revealed that Sebastian would complete merely one lap in Q1 to ensure he was not thrown out of the race under the 107% rule.
This suggests Red Bull have been leaned on by the FIA over their proposal to ‘not bother’ sending Seb out at all in qualifying, as previously other drivers have not competent in qualifying, but demonstrated in the free practice sessions they are competent to race.
Bernie Ecclestone has been holding one on one meetings with all the ‘larger’ team principals here in Austin and from his publicity stunt on SKY with Ted Kravitz, you have to assume he is pushing an agenda for less teams, B teams and the death of the current smaller competitors in F1.
In defiance of the FIA’s agreement with the commercial rights holder, Mr. E declared that if 2015 saw just 14 competitors in F1, that’s the way it would be – and life would continue as normal.
This seems to be in response to a threat made by Force India, Sauber and Lotus to boycott Sunday’s race in Austin. Though Lotus later tweeted a denial they were refusing to race, stating,”That’s kinda why we’re here.”
Bob Fernley though claims there is an agenda from the bigger teams to driver the rest out of the sport.“CVC and the teams they have empowered have got some form of programme in place because nobody (otherwise) would have teams going out of business.There is a (financial) split that is inequitable.”
If you listen to Toto Wolff’s arrogant and dismissive attitude in the FIA press conference, its easy to see where Fernley is coming from.
Further, Ecclestone stiff armed Bobby Epstein – promoter of the COTA event – to tell SKY viewers F1 was not the same without the noise of the old V8 engines. Ecclestone then empathetically added that it was not fair on the promoters, because they had signed contracts for ‘a product’, which wa now not being delivered
I have been asked several times this weekend, what I believe to be Ecclestone’s agenda, and the answer is simple: to create as much chaos and uncertainty amongst the F1 participants that like headless chickens they fall prey to the lurking fox.
It could be that Bernie is calling out the FIA in defiance of the 100 year commercial rights agreement, whilst all along he has GP1 trademarks, agreements with circuit owners and Ferrari in his pocket to set up a new series.
He and CVC do own GP2 and GP3 which would be an attractive offer to race promoters as a package to travel the globe to each GP1 race event.
There have been a number of rumours this year about Ecclestone showing an interest in ex-F1 engine manufacturer – Cosworth, though none confirmed. Still, its not a leap of unbelievable proportions to envisage a GP1 series being proposed with Ferrari and Cosworth engines available for all series competitors, whilst the simultaneous call is made to Mercedes and Renault being “join us if you like”.
Of course for the Scuderia to split from the F1 brand with which they have become synonymous, would be truly astonishing. And whether the new Ferrari management are prepared to get in bed with Ecclestone he way Il Padrino used to do is up for question.
All this just points to the kind of threats and pressure various F1 participants are likely to face in the coming days and there will be huge choices for them to make which could see a split in the global premier racing series similar to that which occurred in North American single seater racing over a decade ago.
In the space of just over an hour, Toto Wolff appeared to make himself the pariah of all genuine Formula 1 fans. In the most compelling FIA press conference maybe ever, he propounded the view that Formula One was at the very “high end” of motor sport, and if you can’t afford to be in the sport, you should just bugger off.
He was clearly well briefed on the idea of a two tier Formula One which would see 5 big teams run 5 B teams as the sport begins to look more and more like DTM from a participants perspective.
Yet Jean Todt clearly had some influence on this panel of team bosses, as Gerard Lopez, Monisha Kaltenborn and Vijay Mallya (sporting the finest mullet seen since the days of Chris Waddle) were open and frank about the plight of the smaller teams.
The put to bed the argument the lie that the smaller teams just ‘spend what they can’t afford’ and explained how costs have been forced upon them without their consent. Further, that the funding they receive is a pittance when compared to the cost of designing a car, buying an engine and turning up to race at each event on the F1 calendar.
Further, even Eric the believable concurred that the distribution of the $900m funds to the teams should maybe examined again. Wolff as defiant, stating he would not support this proposition.
As someone who felt a wealth of goodwill towards Mercedes at the start of the year, I have to say Wolff is destroying any goodwill amongst passionate neutral Formula One fans, with his arrogant know it all attitude – all gleaned in the 2 minutes he has been part of the sport.
Stuttgart would do well to study the FIA press conference form today, and ask themselves some hard questions over the image one of their brand ambassadors is presenting to the world.
Today saw the staff of Caterham allowed back onto the Leafield premises for a meeting where their futures were outlined.
The staff are being forced to take 2 weeks unpaid leave whilst the Administrator deals with acquisition enquiries from between “6 and 12 interested parties.”
The administrator admitted he was finding it difficult to contact Colin Kolles as certain questions of impropriety require attention.
All the seized equipment from the various bailiff companies has also been returned to the jurisprudence of the Administrator including the simulator rig, the car and the other assorted parts and memorabilia which had been removed.
In a separate and bizarre turn of events, Romulas Kolles – ex director of Caterham Sports Ltd explained in an interview in Romanian that he had recruited ”spies” during his brief tenure as director. One of these was the man affectionately referred to as ‘Mario’ by the Leafield staff – the ex Romanian footballer cleaner come Romulas Kolles replacement as company director.
Other ‘spies’ presumably included a whole new set of race weekend drivers to ferry the race team around at each event. Though, TJ13 sources informed us they didn’t understand English and slept in the minibuses over night.
If you’re going to do something, at least make a vague effort do it properly.
In a separate interview, Mario (Cojocar John Constantine) now admits he was recruited to “design and build race cars for Caterham and Forza Rossa”. Cojocar also confirmed that despite their assertions to the contrary that Forza Rossa have “obtained confirmation of their permission to participate in the FIA Formula 1 2015 season”.
Romulas is ill in Germany and was contacted by ProSport – a Romanian publication. They extracted from Kolles father the fact his son is now ‘somewhere in America” and he was merely “a consultant to Caterham”.
Critically he revealed Kolles and Ecclestone have been ‘working together’ and that Mr. E had been using his influence to help Colin achieve FIA approval for a Formula One team entrant.
I am proud of the reporting TJ13 has delivered on this story, despite consistent ridicule from those in the established media. Our sources on the whole have been impeccable.
That said, in one or two cases certain individuals left Caterham preceding the Administrator’s takeover, joining other teams such as Lotus and Red Bull. These friends of TJ13 then stayed in touch with their colleagues back in Leafield, though information via them from their friends still at Caterham became a slower process, especially from the Caterham logistics team.
Yet facts such as Kolles using Caterham Sports Ltd resources to design LMP1 cars such as Lotus under the name CLM – became transparent pretty quickly – CLM, Caterham Le Mans? The car debuted in Austin in September, its origins shrouded in mystery.
What is clear is that Colin Kolles is a reprehensible individual, a liar and probably a thief. He has been assisted by his side-kick Mafredi Ravetto – who whilst maintaining a pretence of “Hi know nothing” becomes less believable by the day.
As has happened in other sports, it is imperative the FIA set up a process to identify “fit and proper” individuals who are licensed to own and run Formula One teams.
Amusingly this question was asked earlier this year in the House of Commons. ‘With the recent conviction of the former owner of Birmingham City for money laundering, the fraud convictions of the putative owner of Leeds United and the fact that we still don’t know the identity of the individuals that own Coventry City, will you agree with me that we need a proper fit and proper person test to be applied to the owners of football clubs, administered by the authorities and if necessary given the legal security of being underpinned by statute?”
These charges could all probably be laid at the door of a single individual and levied at his recent period of dalliance with the livelihoods of the Caterham staff and families.
None existent Swiss based Arab investors spring quickly to mind. Start a liar, end a liar.The FIA needs to act and act swiftly on a multiplicity of levels; so the time is ripe for Jean Todt the hero to emerge and save the sport, though understandably, many of us are not holding our breath.
Oh and by the way, there’s is apparently a race this weekend – somewhere in the US of A.