Marussia – miss media opportunity, Grosjean wins ROC and a seat at Lotus, Mercedes knives appear, Sutil legal matters? Horner would’ve dirched Massa, Lewis been to Mercedes, Ex-F1 doctor rants on twitter, Williams and Gillan seperate

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thejudge13 archive: Here’s an article I wrote after trawling the southern US media prior to the inaugural Austin GP. To this date, I have not heard this reported anywhere else, yet you would think the sale of nearly 10% of F1 for $900m to the pensioners of North America might be of Interest to someone (LINK).

Marrusia – missed media opportunity: If you look on Marussiaf1team.com today, you’ll see a Christmas wish from Timo and John says, “”We are very proud of what we achieved in 2012 and we take away so many highlights, all of which point towards a development path we can have great confidence in. Thank you for sharing some fantastic experiences with us. Wishing you the very best of Christmases.”

No announcement of Timo’s partner for 2013, yet over the weekend, there have been some rumours emanating from Russian reporters. Joe Saward has some interesting insights on the Marussia car company today, “Marussia is a funny company. It took over a controlling interest in the Virgin F1 team around a year ago, but since then there has been virtually no word about the progress of the Marussia road cars”.

“In May the company announced that it had done a deal with Finland’s Valmet Automotive, headquartered in the remote town of Uusikaupunki, to manufacture the sports cars. Valmet is best known as a sub-contractor for Saab, Talbot, Opel and Renault, but more recently as the manufacturer of Porsche Boxster and Cayman models to help the Stuttgart firm cope with the demand. It is also producing the Fisker Karma and will soon begin work on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class” (LINK to full article).

So Marussia appear to be a great outsourcer of car production but not particularly loaded with cash – one reason why they appear disinterested in developing their own range. So I’m sure a number of you will have heard over the weekend that President of the car manufacturer, Nikolai Fomenko, told in confidence reporters that Max Chilton would be joining Timo for 2013. It is believed he brings about $15m and we may well see American insurance giant Aon  on the car as title sponsor.

Unfortunately Nikolai also inferred the team had very little money as a result of failing to beat Caterham to 10th place in the WCC. He did reject the numbers banded around that suggest the team is not in debt to the tune of $125m – how much we do not know, but it is less than that apparently. Nikolai ‘hopes’ the team will survive until the Sochi race in 2014.

We do know Marussia spent a lot of money on developing the team and their facilities in 2011 which resulted in a loss of $80m and this appears to have shown through in the development of the 2012 car. Joe Seward also suggests that Chilton’s dad Graeme will probably take a stake in the team as this has been normative course of action for each of the teams both Max and his brother Tom have raced for.

Many who watch F1 are disinterested in the likes of Marrusia, Caterham and our recently departed brothers at HRT. Yet the much of the heritage of F1 was based upon clever engineers working on their own cars in small garages and with only a handful of people taking on the might of the manufacturers works cars.

I am fascinated to see how Marussia do next year. I think they have some very good people, a good basic platform and with KERS to come in 2013 – I believe they will successfully challenge the less organised Caterham.

Winners : Check your emails today if you voted for thejudge13 in the Silverstone Media Awards – and let us know if anyone won.

Romain Grosjean : Romain Grosjean last night won the Race of Champions in Bankok, beating previously undefeated drivers – Vettel (Quarter final) and Schumacher (Semi-final) before taking on last years finalist – Le Mans 24 hour veteran Tom Kristensen. Following his victory, Lotus tweeted the following, “Not a bad way for rgrosjean to end his season: #ROC2012 Champion of Champions! http://instagr.am/p/TTowQaLkzw/“.

To be honest I found that a little underwhelming when compared to the stage-managed but pretty effusive praise from Horner to his driver, “Sebastian – YOU – HAVE – DONE – IT – You’re the YOUNGEST – EVER – F1 TRIPLE WORLD CHAMPION”.

Okay, I’d moist people have never heard of the ROC even though it has been running since 1988 and I indeed struggled with the Motor’s TV coverage that was too long winded. Use of the FF button on SKY+ minimised this irritation – unlike the constant  errors and meanderings of some Geordie bloke who didn’t know who was who and kept calling the action incorrectly. His sidekick would have been worse, but it felt like he couldn’t get a word in edgeways so for the most was silent.

Anyway, the 16 drivers from Indy, Rally, Sports cars and F1 competed in a track in a stadium using everything from a dune buggy, hot hatch, US style stock car through to and Audi R9 and Lamborgina Gallardo. This format has been the same for a number of years and the most difficult vehicles for new drivers are the buggy and the Cross bow.

Schumacher and Vettel have been racing these vehicles for a number of years and on Saturday won the nations cup for Germany undefeated in some 16 races between them. Having never driven these vehicles previously, Grosjean adapted quickly, beating both the German F1 stars on the way to taking the title.

I railed against a lot of the unfair criticism of Grosjean this year, clearly his is skillful driver and has an enormous level of aptitude – Lotus would be fools not to sign him up.

UPDATE: Romain tells L’Equipe re: a second year’s contract, “Things are on track, I hope everything goes well and that I am able to put into practice what I learned this year,” he added. “I hope to be stronger next season. Normally, we say that the first year is learning, but F1 is a little different. Went through ups and downs this season, but I learned a thousand things. Had a good start, dropping in third in Australia, but then went through difficult times. Ultimately, the team allowed me to grow and I became a better driver. learning I hope to continue next year, “he said.

Mercedes knives appear : Hans-Joachim Stuck, president of the German sport’s engine federation has lambasted Ross Brawn following the departure of Norbert Haug as head of Mercedes motorsport. “The failures in the F1 team can only be blamed Brawn,” says the 61-year old. “The car was not fast enough as it is, but McLaren with their Mercedes engine clearly demonstrated this was possible. Even a small team like Force India running with the Mercedes engines had great successes”.

“The departure of Norbert Haug is a huge loss for motorsports,” continues Stuck: “He was not ultimately the one who designed the car and or any of the parts. The car was Ross Brawn’s responsibility… and he should have made it better”. Stuck  praises Haug’s achievements, “Without Haug Mercedes would never have been in Formula 1, would never entered the DTM. He was the one who has for decades made Mercedes Motorsport respectable again”.

This appears to be the first chink in the ‘mutual agreement’ pronouncement made by both the Daimler board and Haug last week. Stuck knows Norbert Haug well and has worked with him for many years. Fair enough, pay a tribute to him – but by attacking Brawn he suggests that Haug has somehow become a scapegoat for the Mercedes AMG F1 team’s dismal failure to date.

UPDATE: Norbert Haug fell on his sword due to Mercedes’ failure to succeed in its first three years in F1, Niki Lauda has confirmed. Following last week’s shock news, many sensed the new non-executive chairman Lauda’s influence when it was announced that Haug is stepping down after 22 years in charge at the German Motorsport Operation.

“On Tuesday I was at the board meeting in Stuttgart for the first time in my new role,” Lauda reveals to Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “At the end of the meeting, it was an absolute surprise when Haug gave his resignation. I took my cap off to him, because he said essentially he feels responsible for the poor performance this year, and had drawn the appropriate conclusion.

“To be honest, there are very few managers in top positions who do such things. Personally, I’m very sorry about it. I would love to still have worked with him.” Asked if he tried to convince Haug to stay, Lauda insisted: “No. If a person makes such a decision, you have to respect it.”

Maybe this was the reason, or maybe Norbert knew Ross was in for some stick from Daimler and Lauda and jumped first. It certainly isn’t Haug’s repsonsibility that the F1 programme has not been a sucess. Whose next, Ross or Nikki?

Sutil can race everywhere: Sutil is cited in many publications as claiming he will have no visa problems with any of the F1 host countries following his conviction in Germany for GBH. This may or not be the case, but if I was recruiting someone to do a lot of international travel for my business, I’d want to have direct and absolute confirmation their criminal conviction would not prevent them from visiting any countries where my clients were – and that may be difficult to get.

Horner would’ve ditched Massa: F1Fanatic is reporting team principal Christian Horner says he would not have made Ferrari’s decision to retain Felipe Massa for 2012. “Unfortunately, it’s a tough business, and results-based. You’ve got to look at what the guy in the other car, which we must assume is equal equipment, is achieving.”

Asked if he was surprised Ferrari had decided to keep Massa, Horner replied: “Yes and no. “They obviously had a good look at other drivers – at least one of ours! – so they were obviously concerned about his form, but their options seemed to become limited.”

“They took their time over Perez who, at the early point of the year, seemed to be a shoe-in [sic] for that drive. He’d shown real progress, he was a member of their junior academy, and then McLaren announced him. Then Felipe obviously picked his form up in the last third of the year. They were obviously deliberating – the messages coming out of Maranello confirmed that – and probably when the music stopped they realised that the option they had was best for them.”

as.com reports Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo spoke about Massa during the team’s Christmas lunch last week, saying: “I don’t know where you went in the first part of the year but I am very pleased you came back, both because it meant we were able to finish ahead of major teams in the constructors’ classification, but also because it is important for next year.” It was just 12 months ago Il Padrino said Massa needed to “prove” himself in 2012 and the team expected “great things” of him.

Marko Watch: Helmut is claiming Red Bull has extended its contract with team boss Christian Horner. The news follows speculation at the weekend that, in the wake of Norbert Haug’s shock departure at Mercedes, that Daimler Benz had targeted Horner as a potential successor.

Bild newspaper claims Horner’s name was definitely discussed during Mercedes’ latest board meeting in Stuttgart last week. But Marko insisted: “Horner has extended his contract with us last week, by several years. “Mercedes is too late,” he smirked.

As I reported yesterday, Haug’s role will most likely be divided in two, with a German to run the DTM division and someone else taking over responsibility for Formula 1 at Brackley – oops we have that don’t we in ‘Lauda watch’.

Lewis started for Mercedes: The Sun reports today, “Lewis has already been in the factory to see the team and fulfil some duties after we found an agreement about that with McLaren,” said Mercedes’ departing head of motor sport, Norbert Haug.

Hamilton has played down his chances of immediately succeeding at Mercedes, saying he will not really be thinking about titles and wins until at least 2014. “That’s fine,” non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. I don’t really like when drivers say they are going to win every race. For me, a sober, pragmatic analysis of things is better, where you can positively surprise rather than promise something that can’t necessarily be achieved.”

Lauda admitted, however, that Mercedes must improve. “We have the best engine and the best drivers. Now we need to improve the car a lot before the season.” But he tipped reigning World Champions Red Bull to enter 2013 as the definite favourites.

“Yes, the rules for 2013 are a great advantage for Red Bull, who are already on a high level, to just go on. But in spite of the limited possibilities, we have to try to make two or three steps forward. I know one thing: the people in England are highly motivated and have completely understood their failures.”

And Lauda suggested that if Mercedes fails again, it will not be Hamilton’s fault, nor his 2013 team-mate Nico Rosberg’s. “For me, Hamilton-Rosberg is the strongest pairing compared to all the other teams. “Take a look at Red Bull and the gap between Vettel and Webber, or Alonso and Massa at Ferrari. Or, even worse, at McLaren and the gap between Button and Perez. Some teams have worlds between their two drivers.

“Another advantage of Hamilton is that he comes with experience of another team, and he can tell us exactly what are the strengths and weaknesses of our car,” added Lauda.

Mmm. This story started as a Lewis story and unded up as a Lauda story.

McLaren farewell Lewis video: 

Gary Hartstein – ex F1 doctor: Below is a sequence of quite extra-ordinary tweets from the American who was the FIA’s medical delegate until it was announced in Austin he would not be getting a renewed contract for 2013. GH is Gary and AN are different people talking with him.

GH: Btw, it’s taken a while, but I am righteously pissed off. I might launch a crusade (apologies to my Muslim followers, sensitive term!) . . .
AN: about what?!
GH: …to get some answers, or get my f**king job back, or let the world know what’s REALLY going on on the medical side of the FIA.
AN: The public and the drivers want answers too.x
GH: Understand this: I am NOT bitter or sad. I am seriously angry. And that’s bad
AN: The only thing that’s clear is that this has been handled very poorly by the FIA. You deserve much better.
AN: Mate, getting answers from the FIA is like getting blood from a stone. Now, you’re a doctor so you’re the expert on that..
GH: Ha! As long as it’s a stone with decent veins!
GH: Not sure how or when, but there’s dark clouds a-gatherin’. This is gonna be a fucking blast!
AN: French law is quite strict in such matters, it should be easy:)
GH: On that score they were cautious and played it properly. So we’ll be strategic, while paying close attention to tactics.
AN: Ok, seismographs are bouncing off the limiter right now 🙂
GH: Agree. Not doing anything now. This is Mount St. Helens just before.
AN: The whole F1 community want you back, but public venting might be counter-productive. Really hope it’s works out for you Gary.
AN: Go get ’em mate. Bernie wouldn’t have veins would he? Would imply he has circulation, which implies presence of a heart.
GH: Here’s the deal: Bernie is one of the most extraordinary people I’ve had the privilege of meeting.
GH: He has a rapier wit, is loyal, generous and straight up. I would (almost) take a bullet for him. Not quite, but almost.
AN: Love the insight!, All we get is his business acumen and the odd dry comment. Can I ask who the other end of the spectrum is?
GH: Pretty sure you can guess. Btw this was my opinion before getting sacked too. On both ends of te spectrum
 
Someone then informs all their followers:-
 
AN: Gary Hartstein has just exploded all over Twitter. No chance of getting that job back now. Can understand he’s angry, but cap it up
AN2: Still not sure what caused the recent outburst…
AN: very strange for someone usually so reserved and professional
GH: This is me a centimeter less than reserved. When I lose it, you’ll know.
 

Obviously a story there and it appears Mr. E is not the bad guy for once…maybe Monsieur T?

Lotus announce at last: thejudge13 was the first site to report the Honeywell linkup with Lotus – this may at last be confirmed today.

I would love it to be the fact that Romain kicked Vettel and Schumacher’s butts in the ROC to be the reason the vacillations of the Genii owned team have finally ceased, however, it is less exciting but most likely these 2 events are very closely linked. Informed insiders suggested the value may total some US$30 million annually, a huge boost to the finances of the Enstone-based team which finished fourth in this year’s constructors’ world championship.

The deal is being negotiated by The Partnership Practice, a London-based agency headed by Steve Silk, which has significant experience in global motorsport sponsorships. If confirmed, the deal would be the largest team sponsorship deal in Formula One for some time and the second team title sponsorship deal in a matter of weeks, following car manufacturer Infiniti’s step up at Red Bull Racing.

Anyway, we’ll shortly be in the season of ‘predictions’ and while Kimi managed 3rd and Romain 8th in the 2012 WDC – I can’t comment on the competitiveness of the 2013 car – but I will predict Grosjean will be closer to Raikkonen next year.

(Let’s hope they do finally announce today – I feel like a failed prophet of doom – well just prophet I guess)

UPDATE: Can’t confirm this but apparently the delay in Sponsor is because Admiral Insurance could be involved too. Come on guys its the week before Christmas – this is too fast paced!!!

Here’s what each loving party has to say about the other. “Romain is a great talent and we are pleased that he is continuing with us for a second season,” said team boss Eric Boullier. “With the continuity of two exceptional drivers like Romain and Kimi we are well placed to build on our strong 2012 with even better results in the year ahead. Both drivers worked very well together in their first year as team-mates, and I think there is the potential of even better things from the season ahead.”

Grosjean of course is exstatic, “It’s fantastic for me to be continuing with Lotus F1 Team for 2013,” he said. “It’s superb to have the support of everyone at Enstone. I’m really looking forward to rewarding their faith when we take to the track in Australia. I learnt a lot in my first full season in Formula 1 and my aim is to put these lessons into practice with stronger and more consistent performance on track next year. There are a lot of exciting developments occurring behind the scenes at Enstone and I am very excited with the prospect of the E21.”

Williams and Gillan part company: Again unconfirmed but Mark Gillan, chief operational engineer, is rumoured to have left Willaims for more ‘family time’. So Parr, Michael and Gillan who were all involved in the Williams turnaround have now gone. Is there a problem?

On this day in F1, Dec 16th

1997

Concerns grew that F1 teams would boycott then 1997 Italian Grand Prix after manslaughter charges were brought against Frank Williams and five others over the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994. Benetton boss Flavio Briatore warned he would boycott the event were anyone to be convicted, explaining: “Fatality is part of the game.” Jordan’s commercial manager added “as things stand, we couldn’t risk racing in Italy” while FIA chief Max Mosley described it as “a uniquely Italian problem requiring a uniquely Italian solution”.

1979
Stunt co-ordinator Stan Barrett became the first man to exceed the speed of sound on land, albeit unofficially, when his rocket-powered three-wheel vehicle travelled at 739.666 (Mach 1.01). Powered by an hybrid liquid and solid-fuel engine, there was controversy over the claim (a radar recorded the speed at 38mph before it was discovered it had been trained on a nearby truck) and no sonic boom was heard.

2001
After one of the longest development processes in F1 history, Toyota finally launched their car. The Japanese team had an entry for the 2001 season but chose not to compete, instead spending the year setting up the team and testing the car. Ove Andersson, the president of Toyota Motorsport, said: “Success is not a matter of money. It is about a good team working well together and getting everything right.” In 140 grands prix between 2002 and 2009, when it finally called time, Toyota failed to win a race.

Toyota’s 18 month development entry for 2002 – lloked quite nice.

(This page will be updated through the day – as F1 news breaks)

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14 responses to “Marussia – miss media opportunity, Grosjean wins ROC and a seat at Lotus, Mercedes knives appear, Sutil legal matters? Horner would’ve dirched Massa, Lewis been to Mercedes, Ex-F1 doctor rants on twitter, Williams and Gillan seperate

  1. Interesting re. Marussia – haven’t they got an oligarch?

    Horner ought to work for Ferrari – he’s just as much a political animal.

    When you quote Joe Saward so frequently, you always spell his name

    wrong (it’s not Seward) Perhaps it’s done on purpose……….why?

  2. Chilton – looking forward to him, was a fan of his brother in BTCC, hopefully could go far if he is as good. Tom raced for Aon in BTCC, and currenty for WTCC, so wouldn’t be surprised to see it on Max’s car.

    Gary – I don’t have Twitter, but am looking forward to this.

  3. Towards the bottom of the page there is a display stating 2 months to the next GP. Should say 3 months (I think)

  4. Re: Williams

    I’ve been following F1 since ’99, and for the most part I’ve gone along with my friends in liking Williams as (during most of that time) the independent, plucky underdog with a small budget. Since the loss of BMW, that’s been the popular narrative we’ve been reminded of every race.

    In the past year, I’ve reevaluated things and decided I don’t really like Williams and I never have. I think they’re stuck at the back because of awful management and have no money because of incompetence. The team is ‘independent’ not by choice but because, like a middle-aged lady with 20 cats, they can’t find a willing partner. Every bit of good fortune that has happened to the team has been by accident.

    Looking back, it even seems to me that the team lured in (& kept for too long) talented drivers like Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg with a promise that the team secretly never had the capacity to deliver on.

    The headline triggered this rant more than the news of the recent shakeup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank & Co. drove the talent away, once again. Not sure what the sentiment in the UK is (I’m in America) but these are my few cents. My friends all think it’s blasphemy to hate Williams!

    • I will be having a chat to a couple of people when I go to Jerez – but I suspect all is not well. Following the news that Gillan was leaving I received a cryptic message from someone at Williams – “The sniper has been out today then”

      • Maybe their willingness to ditch title winning drivers extends deeper in to the team?

        They are a team you want to like but also seem to underperform and make some unusual decisions. I suspect all the other teams from the same era have moved on but they are stuck in the older ways of working which no longer get the results.

        • One was Senna’s race engineer which is understandable and the other a pit wall strategist. Just strange it all came out on the same day.

      • Judge – someone commented on this story on another website, suggesting he thinks it could be to do with disagreements on future directions of the team, maybe to do with driver lineup – what do you think of this suggestion?

        • I agree with that – it is a smoking gun definately and Coughlin is a controversial character after being dismissed by McLaren for his involvement in Spygate 2007.

          I don’t believe it is over drivers though from what I’ve heard – but don’t know exactly what

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