Lewis keeps Mercedes in F1
Now the dust is settling following the Hamilton announcement, there are a number of threads to tidy up, but we’ll start with some housekeeping.
Firstly, forgive me for some of the Tabloid headlines which are presently being used and are designed to attract attention, but we are a new blog and it is a good way of grabbing readers who have not heard of us. I will get to the headline of this article shortly.
Also, there has been a certain amount of cynicism over whether we do in fact have access to ‘inside’ information at times, but this is not actually that important except from the fact it is helpful when trying to work out what will be the next talking point.
More fundamental to the articles being written is that we’re trying to address the issues and the questions the headline writers and mainstream F1 travelling media circus miss by chasing the breaking news.
This will hopefully mean that we will call things before the headline writers do. Feathers in the cap so far, Jake Humphrey leaving the BBC a week before it was announced. Further, today a number of high profile media commentators who travel with the F1 circus have now begun looking at why Lewis has actually left McLaren.
One example is Martin Brundle who said on the F1 show on Sky TV that if McLaren had really wanted to keep Lewis they could have done quite a lot more. Without using the word “pushed” he acknowledged McLaren had been feeling the need to move on from Lewis as much as Lewis did from McLaren. Others you will have seen have been saying similar things in reflection a day after the big announcement.
So that’s 2 strong predictions in the first 2 weeks of the blog – not too bad – but a weekly statistic that will be impossible to live up to I suspect.
Housekeeping over. There have been a number of things going on that would ordinarily have attracted quite a lot of attention, but the speculation over Hamilton has firmly pushed them into the periphery. An article published here on Tuesday reported that the Munich prosecutors are close to issuing indictments against Mr. E for bribing a public official of a German bank. (link)
The thread that sits along side the indictment story began in the early part of this year. Mr. E was rounding up the troops to sign an 8 year Concorde agreement. Concorde agreements have been necessary to bind the teams to appear in all the F1 races on the calendar, this then gives confidence to those who are paying huge circuit fees, TV rights and F1 sponsorship to sign up with Mr. E’s FOM.
The reason for the length of this 7th Concorde agreement was primarily to allow CVC to float (sell) at big multiples much of their stake in F1. They are a speculative equity fund and have got some other speculative deals like Channel 9, an Australian media empire, that have gone very wrong and they need money.
Mr. E in his usual style hustled the teams into getting on board quickly as the float was due to happen in the summer – no Concorde agreement, no sale of the F1 commercial rights for CVC. Yet bubbling along in the background was a legal case in Germany where a German banker was being tried for receiving bribes from Mr. E. These bribes in effect gave Mr. E and CVC a clear run into acquiring the rights to all F1 revenues.
Of course if this case was proven, doubt would be cast on the validity of the claim to F1 revenues of Mr. E and CVC.
The main board of Mercedes, the car manufacturer, had reservations regarding all this and stalled in signing the Concorde agreement. The board expressed public concern about being involved in such a corrupt relationship and quietly believed the whole thing could unravel and a brand new F1 commercial arrangement may well occur – without Mr. E’s and CVC’s involvement. (This may yet be the case)
Mr. E took exception and tried to marginalise Mercedes by creating rules that rewarded teams that hadn’t changed their names in the last decade. Of course the Mercedes F1 team were Brawn in 2009, Honda before that and BAR before that.
Ecclestone further antagonised Mercedes by questioning their F1 heritage, dismissing it as marginal. Up until last week, it appears Mercedes were the only team holding out from signing Concorde 7.
And so we arrive at the final week of September. The FIA have an executive meeting in Canada over the 2013 calendar and the teams who will enter, the F1 teams have to register their applications to race in 2013, Concorde needs agreeing, and Mercedes Benz have a main board meeting to decide whether to continue funding their F1 team.
I have no knowledge of this, but it would be inconceivable that Lewis’ agents XIX would allow him to sign a 3 year deal for such large amounts of money without the assurance of the financial backing of Mercedes Benz the manufacturer.
The Brackley based team could survive without the agreement of the Mercedes board’s backing (just like they did when Honda pulled out in 2008), but there is surely no way they could have agreed to fund a driver contract with remuneration that is stratospheric compared to nearly all others on the grid at this time.
You may have missed this with all the Lewis media coverage, but in this frenetic week the Mercedes Benz board have in fact approved the continued funding of the F1 team and signed Concorde (according to Mr. E) and landed Hamilton – all in one fell swoop.
History may well confirm that the key event to Mercedes the manufacturer continuing in F1 team ownership was actually the signature of Lewis Hamilton to drive their car for the next 3 years.
(There is the issue of Martin Whitmarsh and his future as team principle of McLaren F1. I was going to address today, but time has run out and the kids and a Christening tomorrow may well mean this can only be penned on Monday)
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