Mercedes caution Lewis ambitions, Lauda needs a new sponsor, Niki Lauda compliments Marko, F1 USA broadcaster NBC criticised, Marko criticises Webber, RB9 may not make Jerez, COTA helped by fiscal cliff, Dennis: we could have retained Hamitlon

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Where exactly are Mercedes up to? According to Schumacher, money was “a factor” in Mercedes’ F1 team’s failure to succeed during his three year comeback to F1. It is clear to the world that the ‘Silver Arrows’ team spends about 100m euro’s less than Red Bull each year and at least the same less than Ferrari.

Schumacher tells Auto Motor und Sport: “It’s a factor. Over the years Red Bull built an infrastructure and has a budget giving them the possibility to respond to anything in the best possible way. This is nothing less than what we had at Ferrari”.

Mercedes, have never been higher than fourth in the constructors’ championship since the Brawn buyout in 2010 and their Chairman has strongly denied they will now pump in more funding for 2013 and beyond. Of course Lewis Hamilton has signed for the team and claims he wants to help turn them into a title winning outfit.

Ross Brawn issues a word of caution over expectations, “I know that deep in his heart he [Lewis] wants to win all the time,but he must also understand the course of development we are on at the moment.” Niki Lauda echoes this saying, “I prefer a sober analysis of the situation rather than promising something we cannot deliver.”

But Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg insists that, although car development appeared to stall in the second half of 2012, Mercedes is making progress. “If you walked through the factory today, you would see a massive improvement compared to three years ago,” said the German driver, who is six months younger than Hamilton.

It would seem that unless Mercedes unlock the Geni from their clever suspension system, it could be a bleak year for Lewis, with all hopes pinned on the big rule changes for 2014.

Ecclestone claims Schumacher should have sought guarantees from Mercedes: F1’s for now supremo wished Michael Schumacher a happy birthday and whimsically added his comeback would have been successful at the wheel of a top F1 car.

“If he had had a Red Bull or a Ferrari, Michael would have won again,” Ecclestone tells Corriere della Sera. “He should have demanded more guarantees, because it was his (Mercedes) car (to blame) and now his reputation has been tainted,” added Ecclestone.

In a new interview with Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Schumacher, who turned 44 on Thursday, didn’t want to say he would have definitely won races in a Red Bull. The seven time World Champion said: “I would agree that if I was in a car like that, I would be running with those (top) guys. Whether I would win races in the current Red Bull or McLaren is a good question,” said 91 times race winner.

Perhaps more interestingly he observed, “You don’t just get in a car and win immediately. Could I go as fast in a custom Vettel car as I could in a custom Schumacher car? Probably not,” he admitted.

Italian media Autosprint is reporting Ecclestone tried to buy Scuderia Ferrari 25 years ago on the death of Enzo, but apparently it was not for sale.

F1 seriousness: At times I bemoan the fact that the reporting of F1 is a bit anal and very serious. JOJ made me laugh the other day when he commented that lower revving 2014 engines might mean more girls to talk to at a race. Hey – fair point. Whilst the red top tabloids are not my prefered source of news, they do bring a levity to sport which at times is worth a giggle.

In the UK the tabloids don’t really bother much with F1, and when they do they call Grosjean – ‘Sebastian’ amidst other comical errors from lack of familiarity. Yet maybe Football (Soccer) isn’t quite so dominant in Germany because they have 2 tabloid publications which regularly make me smile with F1 stories and features.

This is a short article from Auto Motor und Sport when the F1 news has been thin.

“The Formula 1 season is over. It’s time for the hottest of the year review. We have collected for you the hottest grid girls from the 20 Grand Prix races in a picture gallery. The Formula 1 season 2012 has kept us all happy fans. Exciting races, many different winners, spectacular overtaking maneuvers and a title-thriller to the last lap. But off-piste there was also a lot on offer – especially for the male fans. (LINK)

Lauda Watch: Following their disastrous exit from owning 9% of Daimler Benz shares and around 40% of the F1 AMG team, I believe Aabar may be concluding their relationship with Niki Lauda in 2013. His previous cap sponsor conned him out of 500,000 euro’s ‘investment’ as well as failing to come up with the 500,000 euro fee Lauda is believed to charge a year for the privilege of having a logo on his head.

Aabar entered into an arrangement following the 2011 Italian GP on September 9th where Niki Lauda was announced as their brand ambassador around the world. The statement from Aabar stated,”With this partnership, Aabar highlights its commitment to Formula One. Since 2009, Aabar has been a major shareholder in Mercedes Grand Prix, the Formula One team of Daimler AG. Aabar is also a shareholder in Daimler AG, holding a 9% share”.

I’m sure Niki has a few months before he needs to replace the infamous red cap – as his deals usually run for a calendar year.

Also, on the day Lauda announced he was stepping down from Air Berlin board of director’s to focus on Mercedes AMG F1 business, he told Austrian TV Servus he admired Helmut Marko of Red Bull. To suggest he views him as a role model would be a bridge too far, but he draws the comparison between Marko’s role as the link between the main Red Bull company and the Formula 1 team, as similar to his own.

“He’s the tough dog,holding everything together and ensuring no one works against the other. When you have this harmonious effect from the smallest mechanic to the head designer all pulling together, you can have this kind of outstanding results,” Lauda said referring to Red Bull’s three-year domination of the sport. He concludes, “This applies to many companies in the world, if everyone worked as Red Bull do in F1, then they would all be much more successful.”

Marko Watch: After all the lovely things Niki just said about how Helmut gets the Red Bull team all pulling in the same direction, Helmut shows him how its really done. Speaking to MotorSport Total he lambasts Webber for not being a team player. Webber refuses to ‘do a Massa’ and for the most part we hear Christian Horner at least paying lip service to the fact that Red Bull allow their drivers to race.

Of course, Silverstone 2010 was a watershed moment when they took Mark Webber’s wing and gave it to Vettel. Webber was then given instructions during the race, but went on to win – famously telling the world know over the car to pit radio, “Not bad for a number 2 driver”.

Helmut is not impressed with how Webber made Vettel’s life difficult at the start of the race in Brazil. Apparently, had Mark behaved himself, Sebastian would never have been involved with Senna in turn 4 which put at serious risk the WDC title. It seems the Australian is taking some serious flak for this and this will be his last year at Red Bull.

Marko criticises Webber’s drive in Abu Dhabi telling Motorsport Total, “he could not have made more mistakes if he’d tried”. He then diminishes Mark’s contribution this year by pointing out the points difference between Vettel and the Australian (281-179) suggesting, “the statistics speak for themselves”. Marko is then dismissive of Webber for 2013 when he states, “There’s no reason for me to accept that there will be change the balance of power [in the Red Bull team],” and warns Webber, “Mark knows what we expect of him.”

In response to the comments from various sources about it being Newey’s car not Vettel that’s winning, Helmut says, “We have 2 Newey cars on the grid, yet its always Sebastian winning”.

Marko reminds us that Hulkenberg tested for Red Bull and points our he has always been on the teams radar. Apparently the reason they have not moved sooner for the German driver is because Hulkenberg was frustrated by the wishes of the sponsor Dekra.

First shock of the year, Force India and Caterham haven’t decided who their line up for 2013 is, and Marko’s all but firing one of his driver’s for 2014.

NBCSN criticised: It appears the brave new world of F1 viewing in the USA may not be all that everyone hopes. Ex Indycar CEO, Randy Bernard, has openly criticised the network on twitter. He re-tweeted a sarcastic comment from Sports Business Journal writer John Ourand noting that “NBCSN’s top show for the week [of December 17-23] was Hunt for Big Fish, which drew 177K on Sunday morning.”

Further, Bernard was asked whether it was he who had signed the 10 year deal for NBCSN to televise Indycar and he responded “No Sir”. NBCSN have apparently failed to deliver bigger audiences for the sport, and in fact the viewing figures are on the decline.

NBC can comfort itself with the fact that F1 fans outside of Europe tend to be hardy souls. They will record or stay up all night to watch F1 coverage and so it should be easier for NBC to hit the ground running with their new F1 broadcasting rights starting in 2013. Maybe those of you in the USA can give us some perspective on this.

First ever driver’s eye view: I missed this last year…so for any of you like me…here it is.

McLaren through the ages: For those of you who are McLaren fans or just want to see every car they’ve produced since the 1966 BRM M2B, here’s a link to some die hard’s web page. I can’t publish here as it’s too big (LINK). I think the least pretty is the 1977 collaboration with Ford.

Best ever pit stop: You think it was McLaren?

 

Red Bull: Newey has just said that the RB9 programme has been compromised by the chase for the 2012 title – and may not appear at the first test in Jerez. It seems some people have been getting hysterical on twitter about this and No Red Bull on track the first week of February.

I hear from my friendly RB sources what they are considering is testing the new tyres on the old platform (RB8) for a day or 2 so they can understand the like for like characteristics. The new car would then appear as ‘just finished’ to complete the test in Jerez. McLaren did this 2 years ago with not particularly fabulous results.

USA fiscal cliff & COTA: We’ve heard a lot about this in the general news, however thestatesman reports today that COTA will benefit from a tax break extended in the recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

A provision that detractors have nicknamed the “NASCAR loophole” allows auto race tracks to accelerate their depreciation schedule and possibly pay lower federal taxes as a result. The recent legislation extends the benefit to tracks placed in service after Dec. 31, 2011. The Austin circuit held its first auto race, the United States Formula One Grand Prix, in November.

“We are pleased with the extension of the tax provision which applies to the motorsports industry,” circuit spokeswoman Ali Putnam said. “This provision allows racetrack facilities to receive a small tax benefit through accelerated depreciation. The extender permits a quicker depreciation of capital asset investments in seven years, as opposed to a longer period, for motorsports facilities.”

Putnam added, “COTA will be a beneficiary, but we did not actively pursue this extension. The (Automobile Competition Committee for the United States), of which we are not a member but work with for our world championship series, actively lobbied for this extension and kept us apprised of the progress.”

Lewis was pushed: One of thejudge13’s articles was entitled @Lewis was pushed’ for which I took some stick. However, today  Ron Dennis tells CBI Magazine, “I think it’s wrong to portray that Lewis left this team. At the end of the day, you end up with a situation where you’re going to separate if the circumstances aren’t right. Life isn’t about one person deciding anything. It’s never that way. It’s about circumstances.”

“Everybody says: ‘Am I bitterly this or bitterly that?’ What? I’m a realist. Did we have the ability to create a situation where we could have stayed together? Categorically, yes. Would that have been the right thing to do? We didn’t think so.”

“Whatever people choose to do at the end of a contractual period, the professional thing to do is to be supportive of the other side,” said Dennis, who left his Formula 1 role in 2009. “We don’t wish him every success at Mercedes – that’s understandable, as he’s obviously going to be a competitor – but we don’t wish him anything negative.”

I could comment extensively, but I think Ron has said it all. The team were getting tired of the ‘pantomime’ of life that had started to follow Lewis and whilst Whitmarsh did desperately wish to retain him – It was Big Ron who called the shots  – and that is why Lewis is with the team no more.

A no new news announcement: Force India have just released a statement that they have signed a multi-year deal with 3D systems – Who are they and what do they do?

“3D Systems is a leading provider of 3D content-to-print solutions including 3D printers, print materials and on-demand custom parts services for professionals and consumers alike. The company also provides creative content development, design productivity tools and curation services and downloads. It’s expertly integrated solutions replace, displace and complement traditional methods and reduce the time and cost of designing new products by printing real parts directly from digital input.

These solutions are used to rapidly design, communicate, prototype and produce functional parts, empowering its customers to create with confidence. The partnership with 3D Systems allows Sahara Force India to take full advantage of their wind tunnel testing capacity and pioneer new full-scale manufacturing opportunities using 3D Systems additive manufacturing technology.”

Force India have been working with this organisation for some years – so what’s the big deal? Your guess is as good as mine.

UPDATE: Apparently someone from FI informs me – instead of them paying 3D Sys for work done – 3D sys are going to pay them for advertising/sponsorship

 

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

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19 responses to “Mercedes caution Lewis ambitions, Lauda needs a new sponsor, Niki Lauda compliments Marko, F1 USA broadcaster NBC criticised, Marko criticises Webber, RB9 may not make Jerez, COTA helped by fiscal cliff, Dennis: we could have retained Hamitlon

  1. Great piece but thought I’d point out an error as Webber won Silverstone in 2010, not 2011. 2011 was Alonso’s year 🙂

  2. I’m not at all surprised by Mr Webber’s present situation, and perhaps he isn’t either, but it seems sad that he only has this to look forward to all year. Imagine being fired with 10-months’ notice…
    I also remember, when he came close to winning the championship in 2010, but blew it in (I think) the penultimate race, his countryman, Jack Brabham, stated Mark would never get another chance like that.

    A few months back, when Vettel was being tipped for Ferrari in 2014, but was unlikely to join Alonzo, I suggested Mark might well move with him – with Alonzo moving to Red Bull… Now I’m wondering if Mark might join up with Hamilton… at Merc. Depends how Nico reacts to Lewis perhaps…

    Last summer I suggested it was absurd to allow free DRS use during qualifying – though fine for practise – because it made the grid unrepresentative of race performance. I don’t imagine anyone listened to me but the rule has been changed… although absurdly, for practise as well…

    • Marko can whinge all he wants to but I’d sooner have an out of control “does as he pleases” Webber as a number 2 driver than Massa. Marko likes to talk about statistics and all this other nonsense, but by around the midpoint of the season Webber was arguably in a better position to take the WDC than Vettel was. Was anybody supporting Webber’s championship effort? nope they were all focused on the golden child Vettel.

      I’m hopeful that Webber stays into F1 beyond 2013, McLaren seems like the best place for him if Perez doesn’t work out. Their culture seems to be much more inline with Webber’s attitudes, its too bad they weren’t able to sign him for 2013.

      • I was gutted Webber didn’t win WDC in 2010. Love his ‘I don’t care what people think’ attitude. Also he was one of the few aware enough to realise Bahrain was a silly idea and said so. Plus, he’s always suffering from the RB attitude that develops the car towards Vettel’s needs more than his.

    • Keep in mind that Webber does his contract negotiations directly with Mateschitz not Marko. Marko doesn’t have a say in the matter and this is probably what irks him so much and makes him such a Webber detractor. Also apparently Newey values Webber more as a development driver than Vettel. In 2010 Webber was ahead in the championship and Marko/Horner refused to back him – I think this is why Webber refuses to play a Massa-type role now. I, too, wished he hadn’t re-signed with them so early last year – he might have found himself in a Macca this year otherwise.

  3. Happy New Year! Very revealing comments from Ron backing up the Lewis was pushed hypothesis. When considered along with Lewis’s comments that he worked for Martin, not Ron, it shows where Lewis may have made a strategic error in not appreciating who still pulls the purse strings. Your posts in September last year crystalised what I was starting to suspect and you can’t help but think that Spa was a tipping point for Lewis & McLaren.

    Good luck with the office move – we are also moving office later this month and while it will be good to get more space it really is a tricky undertaking when it comes to telecoms, servers etc!

  4. My take on the Ron Dennis/Lewis Hamilton story: I don’t read it as Lewis was pushed, just that McLaren weren’t willing to pull out all the stops to retain him. That’s not the same as being pushed in my view.

      • I’m not disputing there were lines in the sand. But to infer further that Lewis was pushed, those lines would have to be so derisory (from Hamilton’s perspective) that he would have no option but to not accept them. I suppose we won’t know if that’s true unless we actually saw the contract that was being offered to Lewis. But maybe we’re just quibbling over semantics here 🙂

        • Having headhunted and handled contract negotiations – I would say IMHO what Dennis said in public was exactly that – derisory if not insulting – plus the 1/3rd pay cut on offer…

          I’m not saying it was the right decision, but Ron does what he wants – look at the WDC’s he’s ‘sacked’ OR ‘allowed to move on’

  5. What has happened to F1 decision making all of a sudden?

    DRIVERS – 3 unannounced, one team with no official drivers yet (though di resta 99.9% certain), could have been 4 unannounced drivers had HRT not disappeared. Admittedly this happens nearly every year, but it is usually known by now a) that every team has at least one driver, and b) we usually have it narrowed down by now. FI – reportedly down to bianchi or sutil, but wouldn’t surprise me if someone else pops up at the last minute, considering the amount of drivers that have been considered. Same for the Caterham seat.

    CALENDAR – We still don’t know how many races we have this year – we don’t know which German track we will be going to, or where the other European race is (no news either for ages). Bahrain is still a bit iffy. God knows where we’re going in the future – races keep appearing out of nowhere, some get cancelled/ delayed for whatever reason.

    RULES – 1.6l engines were supposed to be here now, but delayed for a year. Budget cap etc – no one can decide what is best, each team wants something different, is going down to petty squabbling now with nothing being agreed – supposedly if budget cap was agreed, lower 3 (now 2) teams would be doing better, and is reason why they joined, and reason why no others are interested in joining F1 currently – they want stable, clear, agreed rules before they join.

    TESTING – If I’m right, the dates for the test in Feb are still unofficial [they were certainly up until recently, and I haven’t seen anything to officially confirm these]. Mid-season tests – teams still can’t decide when or where to do them (young driver tests ’12), or whether they are actually useful.

    I’ve probably missed a few off, but you get what I mean.

    Slightly off topic I know, but FI,Hulkenberg stuff reminded me, plus most of this has been discussed previously, and will be in the future as well.

  6. Re F1 on NBC-

    US F1 fan here very sad to adjust to the “winds of change”-  Speed provided great coverage and a very reliable product.  When Foxsport would pick up the 4 summer races- tape delay in some cases and jammed into exactly 2 hours means they cut out post race coverage and interviews and was a let down for me, so they could cut away to golf or something not really compatible with watching f1.

     

    I just checked to see if I even get the new channel and I do- just realized it is the former Versus network.  They did some good work on the Tour De France and third tier Olympic events so that is encouraginf- however, I have not seen one blip of advertising where F1’s new home is being promoted.  US is in the heaviest portion of the multiple levels of Football playoffs, but if they think they can flip a few commercials into the rotation a week before Melbourne, half the former Speed viewers won’t find them.  They would be well served to stick to the Speed F1 broadcast model (live coverage, pre-race show, weekly wrap up) format, they should be OK.  If they try to cram it into tape delay afternoon slots in the US market, I will reassess my viewing habits.

     

    FYI- I usually DVR the race, but stay off the computer and watch it within a couple hours of broadcast over morning coffee…  If I hear the result before I watch the race, my interest drops off sharply. 

    Dave in Chicago

    • Thanks for that contribution uselessdave – we in Europe don’t have that kind of insight into the way it is for our brothers/sisters in North America.

      Is it snowy in Chicago? Its just wet here…

    • Totally agree Dave, it really ruins it if you know the outcome.

      I was in Germany this year but couldn’t make it to the the GP, so I was going to watch it later. It’s what I usually do so I’m used to avoiding newspapers, internet/TV news etc.

      I was on the metro in Hamburg, just aimlessly staring, until the word “Alonso” popped into my head… I realised I was watching the news, they have TVs in the trains there! Nooooooooooooooooo…

  7. re Ron & Lewis: keep in mind that Lewis started talks with Mercedes in 2011, he had had enough of McLaren. His tweet at Spa was more or less to say he couldn’t give a toss about McLaren anymore. Ron made a mistake of trying to impose his white master attitude on Lewis, he also underestimated Mercedes-Benz

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