Daily #F1 News and Comment: Monday 29th July 2013
This page will be updated throughout the day.
Please press the twitter button at the bottom of the post if you are on twitter.
Pirelli and the future (11:12) updated (17:10)
The F1 2014 calendar (11:51)
Heartache the key for Lewis (14:51)
Ferrari announce Alison (15:30)
Montezemolo: “This Ferrari does not sit well with me” (17:37) UPDATE 1 (18:55) UPDATE 2 (19:23)
Pirelli and the future
It was not just Dominicali who was conspicuous by his absence from contact with the media yesterday. The genial – even though at times obviously under pressure – Paul Hembery did not feature in either of the British TV feeds before of after the race. Rumours again were in abundance around the paddock that Michelin were close to making an announcement.
Much of this began with a report from Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport that the French supplier, could imminently announce its interest in bidding for an F1 tender. Of course Jean Todt has in the past been known to favour Michelin, particularly during the last bidding process, which in the end saw Ecclestone’s preferred choice – Pirelli – win the day.
Pirelli claim they have long contracts in place with the commercial rights holder and with a number of the teams, and so it appears it is the FIA who are delaying matters even though September the 1st is they day Pirelli should provide the teams with the new tyre specification for 2014.
Pirelli are now suggesting they need to make the rear tyres wider to deliver a sufficient contact patch between the car and the track due to the new higher torque turbo V6′s. Pirelli’s Barcelona testing partner Mercedes have indicated their numbers agree with the Italian manufacturer, however Ferrari and Red Bull are determined to retain the same tyre dimensions as are currently used.
UPDATE: Pirelli is calling for tyres which are 20mm wider and 30mm taller than those currently used on the rear of the car and this will have a huge impact on mechanical (gearbox\suspension) and aero design for 2014 which is another reason for deciding upon who will supply F1 tyres in 2014.
Hembery tells AMuS that in the end, “We will decide alone, no matter what the teams want. They just need to give us their data.”
However, variations of the Michelin return to F1 story persist. Another being that they are happy to be 1 or 2 tyre suppliers as used to be the case when they were last involved in 2006. Hembery points out, “We have a contract with the teams, but the rules do not allow competition between tyre manufacturers. If the rules change, we will be told about it”.
TJ13 spoke with Pirelli who from their experience when they entered the sport believe it is too late for another manufacturer to be ready to provide the tyres for 2014, plus the risk of failing to find the right balance between exploding or boring tyres is at its highest for a long time due to the extreme change within the rules. No new manufacturer is likely to want such bad publicity.
One new suggestion on the matter is that the FIA are pressing that Pirelli get only a 1 year contract and then the bidding process is re-opened to allow Michelin an opportunity. Paul Hembery dismisses this saying, “We want clarity this year. Our contracts with the rights holder and some of the teams are for the next five years. If we are confronted with a tender for 2015, we’ll be gone.”
So once again, Le Presidente appears to be fiddling whilst Paris is on a long lunch.
The F1 2014 calendar
Dread fills my every fibre as I begin to pen this new story because it may be one we revisit regularly until March 2014. I remember when TJ13 was first launched, one of the first pieces suggested there would be big problems with the 2013 calendar, and 2 weeks before F1 went racing in Australia Bernie Ecclestone confirmed the calendar would only be finalised after the start of the season.
We now know that the Nurburgring organisers held a gun to the head of F1 for weeks and the deal was only signed some 8 weeks before the race was held. Gratis.. no hosting fee. TJ13 also wrote a feature called Ecclestone, Korea and the Emperor’s new clothes, highlighting the mis-selling of races by FOM’s lawyers as a means to unlimited riches and as the genesis of a region where the result of agreeing to host and F1 race would ensure that milk and honey flow to the immediate community with abundance.
Clearly, Bernie would not be human were the pending charges in Munich and his very future in F1 be somewhat on his mind. However, he is behaving in a rather unusual manner for the time of year. It is around this time and early September when questions arise over the viability of certain races for the following year. Ecclestone’s initial response is usually to shore up the ship and deny there is a problem. Last year he was on record suggesting that in fact no races would be lost and the additional races in the pipeline could result in 23 races being possible in 2013. Mark Webber was publically dismissive of the idea.
The expansion into the Asian markets – Korea builder of cars, India home to a billion potential F1 fans was - trumpeted by Ecclestone as part of his huge achievement in making F1 truly global, yet in a short time it appears these two venues will disappear.
Speaking to Reuters Bernie is asked whether India will happen in 2014. He replies, “Probably not.” Asked what the problem was with the race at near New Delhi, Mr. E curtly replied, “Very political.”
Love him or otherwise, you have to feel when Bernie is gone, something of the simplicity and the origins of F1 will be lost forever. It is as though from all the manipulation and behind the scenes deals he has orchestrated over the years, Bernie has developed a menu of stock phrases – each of which can be selected for a pre-prescribed range of topics. This one is for matters to do with the calendar.
Political is the word for the week because the organisers of the Indian GP – Jaypee Sports International – have been very unhappy with these rumours. They responded last month stating such suggestions were, “totally baseless and malicious”.
Now Ecclestone has given them credence, they appear to be taking a softer approach stating, “”We are keen that Formula One races take place in India at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) till our contract is in operation that is 2015″. Further, as to any changes in the contract or plans they add, “We have not got anything in writing from the Formula One management regarding the status of the 2014 Indian Grand Prix,”
The team’s are apparently moaning because they have to pay some tax to the Indian government. The Indian born principal of Sauber (for now) observes, “It would be a pity if for these (tax) reasons we don’t go there. India is an important market for partners who are already in Formula One or who could get into Formula One because of that market so it really would be a pity if we would not manage to sort out these problems.”
Apparently, the uncertainty has arisen due to FOM demanding the Indian promoters hold the 2014 race late in the year, and then wish to schedule their 2015 race early on the calendar. 2015 race in March 2015. Indian motorsport federation boss Vicky Chandhok tells the BBC today, “To have it in October 2014 and again in March or April 2015 would be impossible for us in terms of finances and resources,”
Shifting the race date could be merely be to destabilise the Indian promoters and cause them to excercise influence over the tax concerns the teams are expressing. Chandhook adds, “Much as some people complain about all the negatives to do with F1, the race has done for India what nothing else has done. We keep talking about ourselves as a high-tech country and this event proves it.
It shows India is capable of holding an event of this magnitude, so it would be a shame if it was off the calendar. I hope whatever issues there are between the Jaypee Group and F1 are resolved soon.”
So what next, will it be be the turn of Korea shortly, because the teams detest going all the way to the industrial port town of Mokpo, in the souther most region of South Korea.
Bernie’s hopeful 23 races for 2013 became just 19 following the loss of Valencia. Sochi is looking likely to come on stream, though now the Russian President – Vladimir Putin – is involved behind the scenes with the Sauber deal – were that to collapse who knows what may happen to the Russian GPO.
So if we are to lose India and Korea, who will replace them. Some dive community in Thailand has been suggested though a region has not even been properly identified never mind an actual location. There is no time for anyone to build a new circuit, and the street race in New Jersey is far from certain as bureaucracy and a lack of cash continues to frustrate the promoters.
Austria is now mooted to be a possibility, though their limited capacity of around 25,000 spectators as regulated by the region’s authorities is still a problem.
Interestingly, in recent weeks Monza has been inferred to be at risk by Ecclestone himself. During the Hungarian GP, Bernie had a meeting with Angelo Sticchi Damiani (president of ACI/CSAI-Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana, but also vice president for sport with the FIA) and TJ13 is informed Sticchi Damiani was told that Monza is safe until 2016, but nothing could be guaranteed after then.
Mr. E has gone on record more than once saying the European leg of the F1 calendar will be reduced by 2 or 3 – due to a lack of cash to pay the FOM hosting fees, but who is lined up in replacement. Cape Town told Ecclestone where to go and Mexico are a strong possibility to host a race but in 2015. Yet the familiar long line of rich and respectable people with their truckloads of cash at the ready, to buy themselves some F1 favour is now strangely thin.
Could it be Bernie knows he is off, and the shambles of an F1 calendar for 2015 will be proof of how invaluable he has been to the sport. Surely he is not so churlish – or maybe it is the case that his energy and faculties are waning as suggested by Il Padrino in November last year.
Some say in life only two things which are certain – I suggest there are 3. This matter will rumble on for months as the political twists and turns unfold.
McLaren take the rest of the season off
Here’s a piece from the amusing but at times quite rude boys and girls from Sniff Petrol
After another disappointing showing in this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, McLaren has announced that it will ‘sit out’ the rest of the 2013 season.
‘Jenson is ninth in the drivers’ table, Checo is 12th and in the constructors’ league we’re behind Force bloody India,’ sighed a spokesman for the British team. ‘I mean really, what’s the point? So sod it, we’re going to save ourselves a load of bother by taking the rest of the season off.’
Sources in Woking say the entire team is now taking a leisurely drive back to the factory where Ron Dennis has already got a barbecue going on the lawn. ‘This whole decision to take the rest of 2013 off was actually Ron’s idea,’ explained an insider. ‘He called everyone in this morning and said, “Look, the car is shite and the weather is great. Screw it, let’s fire up the barbie, get in a bucket of cold ones and just chill the fuck out”. So that’s what we’re going to do. Ron’s sent everyone home to fetch their trunks so they can have a swim in the lake and when Martin Whitmarsh gets back he’s going to get his decks out and spin some mad tunes.’
‘Wait, what, I could have had the rest of the season off?’ wailed former McLaren Technical Director Paddy Lowe, who recently moved to Mercedes. ‘Oh God, that is so unfair. Please send help, Toto Wolff beats me with sticks…’
Questions over Force India finances again
It is not strange that the same F1 themes continue to rumble on month by month and year by year, and the reason for this is the failure to address certain problems. Ex-Billionaire Vijay Mallya has been suffering a cash squeeze in recent times and TJ13 covered his legal difficulties with the Indian authorities extensively in January.
The Silverstone based team recently decided to forgo building their own wind tunnel which has been in the planning for nearly 4 years and was a flagship project Mallya announced for the team. There are at present other plans for the team to have constructed a striking building opposite the main entrance to Silverstone which will be impressive and make a statement.
However, the matter of funding is still in question as the team is supported almost entirely by its prize money and Vijay’s benefactoral status. Vijay is looking to offload much of his liquor empire to Diageo to generate some much needed cash as some have suggested he may be scratching around in his last few million of liquid assets. This is unlikely – there should be a few ten’s of million left due to cost savings made this year following the cancellation of the Mallya annual BBQ extravaganza. This event takes place at his palatial residence in Goa but was deemed to be less than ideal for a celebration as it is currently being held as collateral against Mallya loans by a bank.
Further, Bloomberg reported in May that two helicopters, a building in Mumbai and shares in United Spirits have been used as collateral for loans as since November 2011, Namo Narain Meena, an Indian finance minister, added that, “that the total value of the guarantees, including furniture and fixtures worth 3.3 billion rupees ($61 million), was 52.4 billion rupees”.
The Diageo deal was announced around October last year and has been trundling through various Indian and international regulatory authorities since then. However, certain city analysts have suggested that Diegeo is not behaving like a buyer desperate to conclude the deal. The process has now been further frustrated as the UK Office of Fair Trading said last week it would investigate whether the deal signed between the Johnnie Walker owner and Indian tycoon will have a detrimental impact on the spirits market.
The focus is likely to be on United Spirits’ Whyte & Mackay business, owner of brands including Jura and Dalmore. Diageo, behind the likes of Buchanan’s and Lagavulin, is the world’s biggest Scotch whisky producer. The OFT will consider whether the combined company will have an excessively dominant position in the UK market.
A key issue in the competition decision will be whether Whyte & Mackay’s own-label whisky production is viewed as being in the same category as Diageo’s low-end Bell’s whisky brand. At the beginning of this month Diageo has spent £344 million to acquire another 14.98% stake in Vijay Mallya’s United Spirits business.
This took its stake to 25% after it earlier acquired a 10% stake in the Indian drinks giant through the issuing of new shares. With a voting agreement, Diageo has control of the business. It had intended to take a majority stake but this was stymied by a surge in United Spirits’ share price above Diageo’s open offer bid.
The Office of Fair Trading said any representations should be made by August 2. The OFT has 40 working days to come to a conclusion. It can opt to clear the merger or it could ask the companies to agree to sell offer certain brands or businesses.
If it regards neither of these options as being possible then it can opt to refer the merger to the Competition Commission for a more thorough investigation.
Mallya needs the deal to go through to pay debts and release assets such as his the villa built by his father to which he is known to be particularly emotionally attached. Further, the result of Vijay’s cash squeeze has been the delay of most of the $75m investment he promised to the team in September 2012 and it now appears the unlucky Nico Hulkenberg – who is not being paid by Sauber – is still owed money from his previous employer.
Blick is reporting that when asked whether his previously employer had paid him all his dues, Hulkenberg gave a knowing smile and responded, “Is that even in question?”, presumably inferring Mallya’s reputation is well known. He added more seriously, “As far as numbers or salaries go, I cannot say anything. There are contracts.”
Blick reporter, Roger Benoit adds that Hulkenberg then “laughed and said nothing” when it was suggested to him that he might be able to live comfortably for the rest of his life on the money Vijay owes him.
Heartache the key for Lewis
TJ13 reported a week before it was revealed by the Sun newspaper that Hamilton and Shirtzinger had split, that Lewis’ girlfriend was currently giving him an ultimatum which Lewis was not prepared to accede to. Nicole wants babies, but Lewis believes he is too young.
The following weekend, Shertzinger was absent from Silverstone. An emotional Hamilton spoke from the giant stage to the fans gathered in the village after the race suggesting he may consider proposing marriage. Since then both have bemoaned their loneliness and grief in the media.
Yet in Silverstone we saw a Lewis Hamilton driving like the kid of old an he was unfortunate to only achieve P5 having suffered a tyre blow out whilst leading the race comfortably. Again in Hungary, most F1 commentators were stunned by his skill and precision in qualifying and were even more impressed by his controlled aggression during the race – recognising at key moments who he must overtake immediately and at all costs.
An emotional Hamilton spoke to SKY afterwards and revealed he had been quite down throughout the weekend. Lewis devoted the win to his former girlfriend Nicole. “It’s been the toughest couple of months of my life,” Hamilton revealed in a breaking voice and he said that he had been so grateful for the many calls of support he had received from his family, his father in particular and friends alike.
Yet Lewis drove like Lewis of old. It was inspiring and breath taking to watch at times and we all remember the Lewis we knew before the bright red jet, celebrity management team and international ex-pole dancing celebrity girfriend – who sings songs about being dominated by men.
Lewis fans need to hope his close friends keep him on the straight and narrow – away from her; because if this is what he is like when feeling down but is able to focus on driving and not babies and nesting, this year’s title is not yet Vettel’s for sure.
Lauda compasionate as ever joked to Bild, “As long as he drives as he did in Hungary, long may his heartache live!”
And for once Niki – I agree with you.
TJ13 has just heard from a fairly reliable source, there will be a driver announcement in Monza that will resonate throughout F1 with the equivalent force as would an earth tremor which registers as a 9.0 on the Richter scale. I give this source a 7 out of 10 on the reliability scale.
Further, in my opinion and experience of F1, it will be tricky to keep this quiet beyond the weekend of Spa and the Belgium GP.
Ferrari announce Alison
TJ13 reported back on July 10th that the deal was completed with Ferrari to sign James Allison. Today Maranello reveal their hand. It was thought that for political reasons Allison work be seen to work with teams chief design engineer Nicholas Tombazis initially, yet he has been appointed as been slotted in alongside Pat Fry with the title, “chassis technical director’. No pressure there then.
When Pat Fry replaced the dismissed Aldo Costa, the role he took up was downgraded to ‘director of chassis’ from Costa’s ‘technical director’ position. Pat Fry also operates as Ferrari’s head strategist and is assisted in this by specialist Neil Martin – officially ‘head of operations research’.
As of today Fry is to receive a new position – that of ‘director of engineering’.
The other two ‘directors’ are Corrado Lanzone – ‘production director’ and Luca Marmorini – ‘electronics director’, though Luca often speaks on engine matters as well. The 3 engineering ‘directors’ operate on an equal footing within the team and all report directly to team boss Domenicali who assumed responsibility for circuit strategy and other functions previously assigned to the ‘technical director’.
So Ferrari are adopting the Mercedes hierarchical model of ‘many chiefs make car work better’. Some say….. McLaren’s Tim Goss is feeling as though he is being left to get on with things, and he too would like some engineering buddies with which to share the load. It was fine for one man to run the show when they employed the genius of Gordan Murray who was very much the role model for the manner in which Red Bull and ‘Newey’ operate.
There’ll be calls shortly for Ron to return following his BBQ, and at least then there will be 2 whilst Whitmarsh becomes more and more seemingly irrelevant except in his role of apologising to McLaren fans and telling the media their car is slowly improving.
Dubai favourite for a hot winter test
Further discussions took place this weekend over the new winter testing arrangements and following a meeting amongst the teams’ senior personnel, Dubai is the favoured location. Dubai publicatiopn, “The National newspaper” reports that Abu Dhabi is still in the running and that Pirelli do in fact favour Bahrain.
Paul Hembery of Pirelli comments, “We have agreed that some of the (winter) tests will be in the Middle East, in hot weather, which from our point of view is progress even though we are talking about before the start of the season, We have been there [Dubai] before, for many kinds of different races, but the problem is that the circuit is used rarely and there’s a lot of sand on the asphalt. I would regard Bahrain as the best option for testing.”
Testing venues are beyond the remit of F1 supremo Mr. E and there are senior members in a number of the teams who will be unlikely to agree to on Bahrain for a winter test.
Montezemolo: “This Ferrari does not sit well with me”
This is a statement just published by Ferrari with the above headline and subtitled, “A turning point to tackle with a knife between the teeth”
Maranello, 29 July – “The Ferrari I saw in yesterday’s race doesn’t sit well with me.” President Montezemolo was very clear when, early in the morning, he opened the meeting with Stefano Domenicali and the Scuderia engineers, the day after a disappointing Hungarian Grand Prix, especially on the performance front. The President asked for an immediate upping of the tempo, right from Spa, to start being a contender for victory again, as had been the case up to the Canadian Grand Prix.
As usual, Montezemolo did not mince his words when it came to asking the team to step up a gear. Each one of the engineers present received a “gift” of a knife, along with an invitation – metaphorical up to a point – to put it between their teeth when thinking how to tackle the second half of the season.
This is definitely not the time to start arguing over who was responsible for this or that decision, partly because everything is still possible with nine Grand Prix to go. The points are available and so is the potential to score enough of them to win. Montezemolo is doing his utmost to ensure that the team has all the support and resources it needs, starting with the announcement that James Allison, formerly with Lotus, will join the Maranello team, starting work already on 1st September. However, there is a need to close ranks, without giving in to rash outbursts that, while understandable in the immediate aftermath of a bad result, are no use to anyone.
That was a reference to the latest comments from Fernando Alonso, which did not go down well with Montezemolo, nor with anyone in the team. So, when Montezemolo called the Spaniard this morning to wish him a happy birthday, he also tweaked his ear, reminding him that, “all the great champions who have driven for Ferrari have always been asked to put the interests of the team above their own. This is the moment to stay calm, avoid polemics and show humility and determination in making one’s own contribution, standing alongside the team and its people both at the track and outside it.”
Montezemolo also attended the technical analysis, which went into every detail, leaving no stone unturned, including the subject of the introduction of the new tyres over the course of the last two races, a variable that definitely did not suit the Ferrari. Pirelli’s choice contributed to artificially altering the hierarchy in the field, something that has not pleased the President or the men of the Scuderia. This topic will be the subject of further debate in the near future.
TJ13 comment: Well knock me down with a fiddle stick, Having written up the Ferrari/Alonso/Red Bull report last evening I did predict a possible re-action from La Stampa or the Horse Whisper. This is from the horses own mouth – so to speak – and Alonso can be under no illusions he may be on thin ice – as was Alain Prost who famously described his Ferrari as no better than ‘a truck’. He was fired almost immediately.
We are hearing there was a Horse Whisper article being written ridiculing the idea of a rift between Alonso and the Il Padrino. I guess that will now never see the light of day. Happy Birthday indeed Fernando.
Alonso’s response to the mornings ructions was to tweet around 12:30, Gracias por todas las felicitaciones!! translated… Thank you for all the compliments.
UPDATE 1: Maybe Fernando doesn’t realise what Ferrari have put out. He just tweeted (18:56 GMT) Día fantástico de cumpleaños ! Gracias a todoooos!! Feliz!! ;))) Fantastic birthday!!! Thanks to all..!!!! Happy!!
UPDATE 2: The long knives are definitely out as the BBC is reporting “Sources close to Ferrari say the team are not entirely convinced Alonso always gets the best out the car in qualifying”. Yet analysts I’ve spoken with have been saying for a long time Fernando is dragging a lame duck of a car around the circuits and is extracting the most any one could from it.
There was a chill running down my spine and I broke out in goose pimples when I read this statement. Il Padrino is clearly apoplectic with rage. He has firmly taken over the reigns and “is leaving no stone unturned”. He has declared the FIA/Bernie instructions to Pirelli to change the tyres has had the result of “artificially altering the hierarchy in the field”, and is threatening repercussions of some enormity.
Maranello favours offered and secrets which have been kept hidden from times gone will now being wielded threateningly as the culprits are forced to stare into the piercing cold eyes of the Godfather.
Little Bernie in his hour of need may find himself on the wrong side a force majeure - who instead of giving him a character reference – will have his character assassinated.
Todt will be running around quickly gathering his collection of antique and precious metal forged garden gnomes – in case they are kidnapped tonight.
Stefano is in for long nights ahead as he sits and takes dictation on the plans which must be laid quickly and who must be contacted for the ‘pow wow’ where allegiances will be promised or withheld.
I did say last night that the Ferrari fun and games were about to begin – I just didn’t believe they would be of such – size and scope – veritably Olympic proportions.
(Hear frenzied orchestral sounds with frenetic and shrill hyperactive violin type music here)……………………..
……. However……. There is of course there is an alternative way……………..
Everyone else can ignore the latest in fighting in Maranello, tell Ferrari to s.d off, stop paying them the extra 2.5% of F1 revenue and crack on humiliating them on the track – where it matters.
Or should we be all be very afraid?
(If you missed TJ13′s predictions over this matter from last night – here is the link)