Ecclestone intervenes in Ferrari naval flag row, CVC appoint headhunters to find Ecclestone’s replacement, Mallya relieved at Forbes downgrade, German GP 2013 close to agreement

Ferrari won’t be drawn into their own controversy: Dominicali was asked at the team press conference about the political storm Ferrari have created by stating they will run the Italian military naval flag on their cars this weekend, he responded “”If you look behind in the past we have done a lot of initiatives, but there is nothing I want to get into specifically because this is not the place we should do it”. He was then asked whether the team would review their position he retorted, “”Honestly I don’t think it is a matter of this press conference to discuss this subject. If you have any questions, we have a press office.” Dominicali added, “”There is not any political intents or discussion – that is what is written.”

Indian news agencies quoted Syed Akbaruddin, an official spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs, as saying: “Using sporting events to promote cause which are not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports.”

14:16 GMT The padrino has now entered the fray. We have a statement from Ferrari company president Luca di Montezemolo reported by news agency ANSA saying, “We only want to make a small contribution, with great respect for the Indian authorities, so that a solution might be found through dialogue.”

Clearly as I suggested in “Ferrari in breach of FIA statue 1” (link) the team at times is barely capable of managing the politics of a mere racing car business, why on earth do they believe they have the defntess of touch to intervene (sorry contribute) in the delicacies of an international diplomatic dispute between two sovereign governments.

Italian foreign minister Guilo Terzi has complimented Ferrari, “This shows that the entire country stands behind the marines” said Terzi.

Bernie on Ferrari and the naval flag:

To be fair to the often maligned Mr. Ecclestone, he has recognised the political time bomb Ferrari have dropped and is quickly into damage limitation mode on first practice day in India. thejudge13 article last night, “Ferrari in breach of FIA statue 1” (link) outlined the issues around Ferrari’s decision to run naval military logos on its cars this weekend highlighting a political dispute between the Indian and Italian governments. The spectres raised from Italian history have not been lost on many. Ecclestone told Indian reporters today, “We [F1] are not a political organisation. What we can do is we can talk to the national sporting authority and let’s see what can be done. We’ll keep politics out of it” Bernie assured the media.

As I highlighted last night, it is the FIA who should be acting as the guardian of the federation’s constitution, but as yet we’ve heard nothing from Jean Todt. Bernie as CEO of the commercial rights holders of course has an interest in the image of the sport, but the matter of sanctions should Ferrari refuse to back down  sits firmly with the executive of the FIA.

12:41 GMT The official spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs Syed Akbaruddin has just said, “using sporting events to promote cause which are not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports.” (The Indian Express)

Friday Practice: Red Bull look absolutely dominant with Vettel fastest and Webber second. Despite Ferrari bringing a number of upgrades to India, Alonso was 3rd quickest nearly 0.6s slower than Vettel. This is a huge gap and whilst on Saturday it is likely to be smaller, the weekend already looks to be difficult for Ferrari. If Vettel has taken up the Alonso game of, ‘beat my nearest rival this week’ then he will sleep well tonight. In the longer run race simulations, Ferrari were closer with Alosno just 0.2s slower than Vettel with Kimi 3rd and Hamilton 4th.

BBC analyst and ex-car designer Gary Anderson said,  “But Red Bull know all about qualifying well. This new car spec is all about qualifying well, then you can get a good start, break the DRS gap in the first two laps and you’re home and dry.” If McLaren of Ferrari can’t stop the Red Bull’s qualifying 1-2 then Sunday may be a rather less interesting affair.

FOM appoints headhunters to replace Mr. Ecclestone: This is a story I heard only on the radio this morning and will update it as and when I can get more details. What is worthy of note is it was only yesterday the Bayern LB bank involved in the sale of F1 has indicated it will be pursuing Mr. Ecclestone for $400m they believe they were defrauded by Ecclestone and CVC. Is this a sign CVC are distancing themselves from the probable court case that will be soon heard in Munich?

Apparently, Egon Zehnder International an executive search company, have been instructed by CVC to produce a list of possible successors for Ecclestone. DPA news agency said one candidate for the top job might be Sauber shareholder and new team boss Monisha Kaltenborn who when asked insisted “The fact is I am very happy in my current job and still have very big targets for it. So there are no plans in that direction”.

When asked whether he should step aside from his role while this court case is pending for the good of F1, Ecclestone retorted “I’ve been under a cloud for three years,but there’s nothing to stop me running Formula 1.” Amusingly when the subject of a potential prison sentence was raised Bernie raised his eyebrows and mused, “”I hope not, I wouldn’t complain about German prisons, but I’d rather not be in one anywhere to be honest.”

Update: Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported today that Ecclestone has, through his lawyers, now offered to travel to Munich to give testimony to the German public prosecutor.

Team hotel infested with mosquitoes: The usual worry for western sports stars visiting India is the mysterious but highly debilitating ‘Delhi belly’. English cricket players have suffered from stomach disorders over the years, such that they now take their own supply of food for 6-8 week tours.  The McLaren a dn Williams hotel is particularly badly affected as The Times of India reports, “As you enter the hotel a swarm of mosquitoes greets you. On Wednesday, the MJcLaren team members could be seen constantly slapping their arms and scratching themselves even as the hotel staff – moving around with racquet shaped mosquito zappers – tried its best to ward off the buzzing evil.” Jenson during an interview swatted one exclaiming, “Oh I got that mozzie” which led to merriment among the gathered reporters.

Yet the risk of serious infection is no laughing matter as there have been over 720 reported cases of the vectorborne infection in the city recently. This may not sound like a lot for somewhere as densely populated as New Dehli but the response of the government indicates the level of concern is high as on Tuesday they instructed municipal bodies to carry out fogging exercise across the city and take urgent steps to contain mosquito breeding.

It appears the procurement departments of McLaren and Williams have done their due diligence poorly as their hotel is in a location where there is stagnant water – a highly fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes – right behind the complex.

German GP 2013: Are we seeing a change in attitude to how much European historic circuits should pay? A decision on the location of the German GP will be made shortly (SID News). It of course usually alternates between Hockenheim and Nurburgring. The Nurburgring promoters were reported bankrupt earlier this year and the response of Ecclestone was ‘then Hockenheim will host it”. At the time Hockenheim stated quite clearly they could not afford to have the race every year.

In a turn up for the books Nurburgring’s Jorg Lindner said “We are currently in very concrete negotiations for 2013. We just had contact with Mr. Ecclestone this week, and there was no indication that we should not be optimistic.” Clearly this must mean a revised deal on the hosting fee is on the cards otherwise they wouldn’t need a contract – they already have one.

Lindner suggests matters are close to conclusion, “Maybe there could be an agreement in place in Abu Dhabi,” he said, referring to the scene of next weekend’s Grand Prix.” Even more surprising is that he states “and we are planning a long term contract, not only for next year”. So either the regional government has come up with even more money than the 300m plus euros it has already lost (sorry invested) or are we seeing a rare moment of favour toward the historic European circuits who do not have huge funding behind them.

Lewis and Ron to make up: thejudge13 reported extensively on the Ron Dennis/Lewis Hamilton relationship prior to his announced departure to Mercedes. In the article, “Lewis had no choice: he was pushed (link) I reviewed some of the exchanges earlier in the year between the two of them.

Ron Dennis told Sky TV in Canada that Lewis would not be getting as lucrative contract as last time due to the world economic situation. He also said in another interview the week before the summer break, “…some people get the wrong idea…when I last looked at the contract – I was paying him. It’s a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around”.

Lewis when questioned about Dennis’ comments said, “it has nothing to do with me what he [Dennis] says, Martin is my boss“, when Ron is Martin’s boss it appeared a little churlish. Ron Dennis of course groomed Hamilton through the junior ranks and gave him his F1 debut in 2007. yet there have been media rumours that the pair have not spoken since Lewis’ announcement.

Hamilton returned to McLaren’s Woking headquarters this week after the recent Korean Grand Prix and today in India he told reporters “I spoke to Ron and, me and Ron, we’re planning to meet up I think it’s in Abu Dhabi.” There we go – a happy ending, or will it be for either party?
“We’ll go for dinner, have a good chat,” added Hamilton at a sponsor event on Wednesday.

Drivers Press Conference: I missed this particular Kimism yesterday because I was reading the text version of the interviews. Question: “Kimi are you a fan of Indian food?”. Kimi: “I am, if it’s the same as in Europe”. To be fair to Kimi he had just explained all he’d done was to arrive at 01:00 in the morning and only seen the Hotel, which was “nice”. But Kimi trust me, if you do try Indian food in India it is very very very different from the European Tikka Massala and Korma’s. Hopefully he will arrive on race day with fire in his belly for the competition – and not in his a!$e.

Having now seen the TV recording of the drivers’ press conference it was a very muted affair. JEV, Bruno and Kovaleinen were sat at the back saying very little and at times nudging each other – behaving like naughty boys in school. Kimi was under pressure, middle of the front row, to look permanently engaged and not distracted.

It appeared like the regular travelling reporters hadn’t bothered to turn up and it was predominantly attended by the local Indian reporters who are not used to this kind of event – they asked fairly obvious and rather trite questions. Nico Hulkenberg was the most lively and gave quite an eloquent account of himself smiling but dodging questions about his future. When asked had the team seen Vijay, he replied “No we’ve not seen Vijay”.

Usually the MC has to control the demand for asking questions, and yet several times he had to practically cajole the assembled media into questioning the drivers… “Any more questions?…anyone else?….another question?….silence. Narain was asked about overtaking opportunities, he smiled and suggested they should ask the others as it was not something he expected to be doing much of.

Bruno Senna also gave a good account of himself, explaining patiently to the local media that overtaking in India was more about the state of the tyres…and some other stuff about traction zones. Why is he not even half as good as his uncle? If he was he’d be in F1 for some time and he really is a decent bloke and obviously knows his stuff. Maybe he just needs some local curry before racing.

Vijay Mallya: Forbes has downgraded Vijay Mallya from billionaire to only $800 millionaire, “The King of good times’ is having nothing but bad times lately,” his Forbes profile now says.Vijay has expressed relief for this,  “Thanks to the Almighty that Forbes has removed me from the so called billionaires list. Less jealousy, less frenzy and wrongful attacks” he tweeted to his nearly 1.5 million followers. The cigar-puffing Mallya, 56, has come under criticism for his flamboyant lifestyle in contrast to the struggles of his staff and will not be present at the team press conference today – even though it is the team’s home race.

(This page will update throughout the day with more stories – check back later)

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4 responses to “Ecclestone intervenes in Ferrari naval flag row, CVC appoint headhunters to find Ecclestone’s replacement, Mallya relieved at Forbes downgrade, German GP 2013 close to agreement

  1. Even being an italian, I am a McLaren fan.

    That said, i find the whole thing disgusting. First of all, Mr.E statement about “The spectres raised from Italian history (that)have not been lost on many. ” I would just remind Mr.E and whoever supports this position that you have sported Mr.Mosley as a moral reference for the sport itself (and no, i am not referring tho the spankgate, rather to what he and his family have meant to those same spectres). Second, whoever blames Ferrari for taking a position in this matter does clearly not know anything about Ferrari name: i mean, Italy to Enzo meant the whole world, and that’s one of the reasons for Ferrari being what it is; not just (as McLaren, for instance) a racing team but a whole nation behind a colour and a flag, give or take. Third, to be more specific, India has done something rather illegal in captivating those soldiers and trying them on something they have not any jurisdiction upon. Much harder to me to understand how can this spoil the tranquillity of F1 world: I mean, if F1 thinks to be able to live without Ferrari, just get rid of it, as Indians got rid of the english domination not so many years ago. Or ain’t those the spectres Mr.E is referring to?????

    • I couldn’t agree more Antonio. Max Mosley only came into F1 because he was frustrated at not being taken seriously by the British political establishment due to his fathers association with British facism.I visit Italy reguylarly and my Italian friends are very passionate about their country and its heritage. As a neutral I’m not sure Ferrari really help the situation. If the Indian government were acting illegaly then what is to stop them slowing matters down further following this publicity.

      The only sensible reason for Ferrari bringing this matter to the attention of the world would be to increse International pressure on India. This does not appear to have happened. F1 clearly doesn’t want to live without Ferrari and this is why it has a special place in the FIA arrangements over revenue. I do think the team would be better worrying about making a faster car and leaving politics to the politicians – and I would say the same if McLaren or Williams tried to highlight British socio political matters during an F1 weekend.

  2. Whoever is right or wrong they have to stamp this sort of thing out. I guess Ferrari wouldn’t have done it so quickly if Mosley was still there instead of Todt.

    It really is a shame with Bruno he ain’t better but it’s a minor miracle he made F1 at all after not being allowed to race all those years.

    As for the Hulk, his personality is the opposite of his teammate and I’ll say no more. Just wish their nationalities were opposite so we could listen to BBC interviewing Hulkenberg all the time instead of DiResta.

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