Ecclestone – “Senile & Incompetant”, McLaren profits are up, FIA annual conference Istanbul, Support Kamui, Alonso – “Sore Loser”, Formula E – 20% the way there, Luca threatens F1,

The weekend: I’m afraid this weekend will be typical of a number of others to come over the next 9 weeks or so until Jerez testing (or possibly the unveiling of cars a few days before).

Ecclestone: The paddock is a strange place. There are times when you hear conflicting stories from different sources. At other times there is just a range of stories from different people, and then there are rare occasions where in unison akin to a great Welsh Male voice choir – everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.

I heard during the Brazilian weekend from a friend that Bernie was in fact retiring. This would be no surprise as we have been reporting the imminent court cases in Munich and New York he is facing, together with the fact that CVC have instructed headhunters to produce a shortlist for Bernie’s successor.

What was surprising, is that I heard the same story several times – and then the story became the fact that everyone was saying the same thing. Then a well known journalist referred to an incident after returning to Europe where he encountered Bernie in Brazil, and apparently the F1 supremo jested he was retiring.

thejudge13 has said for some time there is a tipping point coming for Mr. E and it is imminent if not upon us. Many find this hard to believe because F1 without Bernie is a reality most living F1 people have not known. A team principal earlier this year described Ecclestone’s influence to me this way. “We were racing in fields and living in 2nd hand caravans before Bernie”, he added, “and there are many people around here worth millions because of him”.

There was another moment that suggests the tipping point is upon us this weekend that was reported in La Gazzetta dello Sport. In response to comments made by Mr. E last week about flag-gate and Ferrari’s involvement being ‘a joke’, it appears Il Padrino, the other F1 Super Heavyweight has taken exception.

He mocks Ecclestone in a way I have to say I don’t remember hearing before. One British newspaper described it as “astonishing”. When asked about Bernie and what he’d said his response was, “”Ecclestone? I suppose we must have respect for the very elderly, especially when they get to a point where they can no longer control their words. Of course, seniority is often incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities.”

Of course if you know your F1 political history, Luca and Bernie have locked horns before, most famously when the Ferrari boss threatened a breakaway series. Yet these comments are belittling of the highest order. I’ve left them as close to the literal translation as possible, but when you get behind them prim facie the sentiment is even more shocking.

This is a direct challenge over Mr. E’s competency. It would be one thing to make comments about his age and memory, but this is a rapier like attack which cast aspersions on Ecclestone being in full control of his faculties and an immediate implication of consequential incompetency.

As I’ve already suggested, LdM is no stranger to confrontation with Bernie, but if someone else joins the chorus and supports Il Padrino’s viewpoint – that would be a demonstrable tipping point where the hoards begin to pile over the barricades – and the game is up.

The FIA are meeting this weekend in Istanbul and the 2013 calendar is on the agenda. It could be the issue of Bahrain that invites the next assault on Mr. E’s authority, particularly because many people were not happy with his handling of  the Bahraini problem this year. Ask Bob Fearnley.

Kamui Support: 148,984,267 yen – around $1,820,585

Alonso ‘sore loser’: German media has taken up Vettel’s call and criticised Ferrari’s Spaniard for reverting to ‘dirty tricks’ to psychologically unsettle his adversary. Then there were rumours that Alonso was firmly involved in the escalation of the ‘yellow flag’ saga over Vettel’s allegedly illegal overtake in Brazil, and that earned Fernando fresh rebukes from within Germany.

Helmut Marko – never shy to have his say thinks – “He seems to have problems if he (Alosno) doesn’t win. When he doesn’t win, then he develops incredible political skills,” Marko added at a celebratory event in Graz, Austria.

“Frankly, I’m not that interested in what the opinion is of me in Germany or elsewhere,” Alonso said at Ferrari’s end of season event at Valencia at the weekend. “What I know is that people who see me in the streets hug me and call me gladiator or samurai. What matters to me are the 1200 people in the Ferrari family who gave me a standing ovation at a dinner.”

Indeed, many in the paddock believe Alonso has improved even since his title winning days at Renault mid last decade, and would have been a more deserving 2012 champion. “Before,” Alonso agreed, “the people had a more or less good opinion of me, but now I notice a whole different level of respect, which I did not have when I won in 2005 and 2006.

“And then, to be one of the greats of Formula One, it’s not enough to win titles, you must also tackle seasons like the one just ended.” Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport quotes him adding: “I don’t have as many titles as Fangio or Schumacher, but I’m one of the best.

“Senna won three and is considered the best, even though others have more. When I retire, I will have the titles I have and I hope I am considered the best,” he is quoted by the AS sports daily.

Well Fernando, bold words indeed. We thejudge13 readers are considering the criteria for what makes a great F1 driver – not a list of best downwards – just what makes a great F1 driver and then who fits the profile and why. To join the discussion follow this LINK.

Ferrari defensive: Maranello, 3 December (Ferrari.com) – One thing is certain. Last week, if anyone thought Ferrari did not know how to lose, then yesterday, they got an unequivocal answer from Valencia. What Luca di Montezemolo said at the Finali Mondiali is worth repeating. “Congratulations go to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull because they won and we are happy to congratulate winners, hoping and wishing that next year we are on the receiving end of these compliments. As for the yellow flag saga, we took the simplest and most linear route, by asking the Federation to look into it, making it clear that we would accept their decision and that’s what we did.”

If anyone still had their doubts, they have now had their answer. Ferrari appear defensive here to me and together with the story above about Alonso I can understand why. Yet I didn’t see Ferrari as the villans in flag-gate. To me the furore that was hurtling around the internet needed some official recognition. Only Ferrari did this and caused the FIA to also then officially comment which put the matter to bed.

The shambles we have discussed at length over race management lights, flags, stewards with one or other or both was the real story – and Vettel remains the deserved winner of the WDC 2012.

McLaren profits rise: The daily express reports today that PRE-tax profits at the McLaren Formula One team accelerated 38 per cent to £22.9 million in 2011. Even though McLaren won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix they finished third in the championship behind Red Bull and eventually Ferrari, costing the team at least $10m

The team’s profit was driven by a 15.9 per cent rise in revenue to £172.3 million. Its top line was boosted by higher prize money received by all the F1 teams and the renewal of several sponsorship agreements, including its deal with Vodafone. The telecoms company is believed to have increased its annual spending on the team from £40.5 million to an estimated £46.8 million.

McLaren used its profit to pay a dividend of £20 million to its parent the McLaren Group which is 50 per cent owned by Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat with the remainder split between the Saudi TAG Group and McLaren executive chairman Ron Dennis. In turn the group used the money to fund construction of a supercar factory in Surrey which was sold for £50.1 million to its sister company McLaren Automotive.

The results highlight the gulf in funding between F1’s top performers and those at the back of the grid. McLaren finished in second place in the constructor’s championship last year with a profit which was only slightly lower than the entire annual revenue of the last-placed Marussia team.

Formula E: This weekend we had the announcement that a 2nd venue Rome has been added to the list of host cities for the FIA backed series. Rio de Janeiro has already signed for the 2014 inaugural series and 8 more cities are required. I think its going to be a challenge to get this series off the ground for 2014, but we’ll see.

James Allen reports there will be ten teams entered, with 20 drivers and 40 cars between them. I’m guessing there’s no time for a recharge and the drivers will have to change cars during the race then?

The cars will accelerate from 0-100km/h in under three seconds and will have a top speed of 220km/h.

A prototype of the Formula E car was on display; the series will launch with cars supplied to Formula E, by Frederic Vasseur’s Spark Technology with power trains from McLaren. But the intention is to have teams designing and building their own cars and drive-trains so that the competition will drive development of the technology. Formula E will provide the platform for innovation in this emerging area of motorsports technology.

“Urban mobility and sustainability are a priority for our Championship,” said Agag. “And Formula E wants to become a showcase for these advances through an entertaining and all-inclusive spectacle.” (James AllenonF1)

Autosport awards: In what Jake Humphrey, outgoing BBC F1 anchor described on twitter last night as, “the world’s longest awards ceremony – 4 hours and counting”, the RB8 was unsurprisingly voted as car of the year with Vettel driver of the year. Slightly surprising was Jenson Button voted as best British driver of the year, even though he finished behind team mate Lewis Hamilton.

LdM criticises Schumacher: Following his attack on Ecclestone, Luca decides to have a rather pointless pop at retiring Michael Schumacher when he suggested he moved over too easily for his fellow countryman Vettel in Interlagos. “I was expecting a slightly different final race on the part of Michael Schumacher because he is a driver with links to Ferrari through some extraordinary moments and with whom we feel very close,” said Montezemolo.

Maybe if Schumacher had not been so unceremoniously booted out of the Italian team to make room for Kimi – after restoring Ferrari pride following years in the F1 wilderness – he may have made it a little more difficult. That said, it was inevitable Vettel was coming through, and Schumacher recognised that and acted accordingly.

FIA annual conference: It begins today in Istanbul and runs until Friday. Here is the business agenda (Link) more interestingly is the ‘spouse alternative activities’ (Link). As previously reported, thejudge13 expects the FIA to announce a race in Istanbul for the 2013 calendar at least.

LdM criticises F1 regs: This is not a new story, back on 17th Sept in “F1: Breeding ground for road car technology – No chance” we looked at this issue as Luca was ranting about it way back then. Interestingly, Alonso was leading the title chase by 40 points at that time.

Luca has upped the anti – there is a veiled threat, “But our patience has run out so someone needs to think about whether they want Formula 1 still to have companies that invest and consider it the most advanced research bench for its own cars – as Ferrari has always done since 1950.

“We are constructors, not sponsors: I’m no longer happy that we can’t do testing on tarmac and that you can’t give any chance for young drivers to emerge – since some people have used the expression ‘It’s a joke’ in recent days, I would like to say that this is the real ‘joke’.”

So what Luca? Ferrari pull out of F1? Of course not – one of Mr. E’s little control mechanisms as we discussed last week is the premium payment Ferrari receive of 2.5% of all the sports revenue for being continuously in F1 since its inception.

Of course Ferrari have their own test track in Maranello and so testing for them is much less expensive than for other teams. Further, Ferrari together with Mercedes has probably suffered the most this year from development parts in the wind tunnel suggesting one thing and doing another in FP1 and FP2 when tested on track.

The resolution for Ferrari’s problems is not to get in season testing back – just as much as it’s not to return to expensive V12 engines. The solution is to drag themselves into the 21st century and get a modern wind tunnel and fluid dynamic analysis specialists working well in the design.

It is surely not good for Ferrari to have an image that suggests they are incompetent with modern technology and can ony build their cars the old fashioned way.

F1 Season and races: One of the good things about running polls is that over the years you can see patterns emerging. F1Fanatic has published its final results for how all the races were rated this year and how that compares to the past 5 years.

Interestingly 2012 is rated the best year of the past 5 years in terms of the average score of all the races. Korea and India were the worst to races of the year scoring just over 5/10 each.

So from some 90 races (5 years) Germany 2010 was rated the worst closely followed by Valencia 2008/10. Then there was China 2008 and Bahrain 2010 with Barcelona 2008/10 not faring much better – all scoring less than 5/10. On a bright note the Brazilian GP 2012 was voted the best race in the past 5 years – scoring 9.45 – must have been pretty good to eclipse 2008 which I would have rated higher.

Entrance Fee’s for 2013: Along with confirmed partners and drivers

Stable Engine Pilot Pilot Commitment fees
Red Bull Racing Renault Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber $3.26 million
Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari Fernando Alonso Felipe Massa $2.50 million
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Mercedes Jenson Button Sergio Perez $2.39 million
Lotus F1 Team Renault Kimi Raikkonen $2.02 million
Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team Mercedes Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton $1.21 million
Sauber F1 Team Ferrari Nico Hulkenberg Esteban Gutierrez $1.13 million
Sahara Force India F1 Team Mercedes $1.05 million
Williams F1 Team Renault Pastor Maldonado Valtteri Bottas $0.88 million
Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari Jean-Eric Vergne Daniel Ricciardo $0.63 million
Caterham F1 Racing Renault Pic $0.50 million
Marussia F1 Team Cosworth Timo Glock $0.50 million

This should be a reduction in fee’s for Torro Ross, Marussia and Caterham as the split baseline fee level previously was around $700,000

Vote for thejudge13 at the Silverstone Media Awards: “Best F1 Blogger” category. Here’s where to vote, Facebook www.facebook.com/SilverstoneCircuits. Voting closes 12:00 hrs on 11 December, 2012. To vote not from Facebook ie direct to Silverstone site visit (Link)

On this day in F1, Dec 3rd

 1997
It was announced Bernie Ecclestone had struck a deal with Hollywood film star Sylvester Stallone that would lead to the first US-based grand prix for almost a decade. “Stallone will film shots of practice sessions and the race itself, which will then be incorporated into film he is making based on F1,” a spokesman said. It was planned to stage the race in 1999 in Las Vegas. In the event the deal failed and it wasn’t until 2000 that a US Grand Prix was held.

Writing in The Times, Kevin Eason said: “The plan seemed to be working well and Stallone had become a fixture around the Formula One paddock as he carried out his deep research – or at least as he strode around the paddock a lot with his entourage of burly chums, who all looked like extras from Goodfellas. Trouble was that Sly, as we lovingly came to know him, eventually became such a nuisance that his celebrity appeal waned quite dramatically and it was not long before mechanics did not even look up when he burst into their garages.

The fact that Sly also looked about as much like a Formula One driver as Les Dawson and that Americans in the sport are as common as a train arriving on time seemed mere detail. But Bernie, not a man noted for his artistic temperament, had become distinctly nervous about the whole business and politely told Sly that Formula One was not interested in becoming a film star. Not with him, anyway.”

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6 responses to “Ecclestone – “Senile & Incompetant”, McLaren profits are up, FIA annual conference Istanbul, Support Kamui, Alonso – “Sore Loser”, Formula E – 20% the way there, Luca threatens F1,

  1. Alonso will go down in history as one of the greats, no shadow of a doubt in that, but also as one that many people disliked. Although I recognise his abilities as a driver, I just cannot get myself to like the man (and the team he drives for).

      • Agree with the 2 comments. I was actually beginning to like Alonso for a while but all this “the car is rubbish and I’m great” is getting a bit old.

        Autosport has shown itself to be a bit of a joke with them awards. Last year they gave Di Resta rookie of the year award and this year Button is chosen over Hamilton who soundly trashed him the entire year.

        Button is one of my favorite drivers and Hamilton is easily my least favorite but how anyone can rank Button better this year is bizzare.

  2. Alonso hasn’t won a single championship without the help of his teammate. Even now he needs his team mate to do all the dirty work, move over if he is in front whether it is qualifying or race, and is not allowed to overtake. Alonso thinks this year was the best. Oh yeah, we all know. He is second on the championship all thanks to his team mate and for other cars in front falling over the road side due to technical issues. How can such a person become one of the greatest? He should be using his own skills to win (if he has any skills).

    The sad thing is we don’t have a great British driver on the grid. So the British media is portraying Alonso as the best. Why do they hate Vettel? We all know the reason. The same reason they hated Schumacher. For me, Alonso will never be one of the greatest.

    • “The sad thing is we don’t have a great British driver on the grid.”
      Are you serious? So Hamilton is not a great British driver? He’s the best driver this country had since Mansell. The fact British media slander him as soon as they find an opportunity is a different matter. Just like when you had Senna, Prost and Mansell (yes, I purposedly ignire Piquet) in the 80s, you have Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel now.
      Thankfully the dark years of Schumacher’s dominance and mediocre drivers (bar Schuey and Mika) are gone.

      • I don’t rate Hamilton a ‘great’ driver. He has been exciting in the past because the moment he gets into the car, he drives it as if he has stolen it. He has had a few pole positions when the car was fast. There is nothing exceptional about him. Again people like Button, Hamilton and some of the past British drivers are hailed as greats not because of what they have done or achieved, but all that hype is created by our great British media.

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