This page will be updated throughout the day
FIA Press Conference attendees (local times)
|Thursday, April 18||1500 hrs||Jenson Button (McLaren)Paul Di Resta (Force India)Felipe Massa (Ferrari)Pastor Maldonado (Williams)Charles Pic (Caterham)Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)———————————–|
|Friday, April 19||1600 hrs||Eric Boullier (Lotus)Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari)Paul Hembery (Pirelli)Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber)Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren)|
Struggling to find anything interesting to suggest we’ll hear from the drivers. Hembery is likely to be under pressure to explain the U-Turn on tyres and maybe Monisha will talk about the RRA and resources in general.
Stefano will probably merely glory in Ferrari – and rightly so after the magnificent win in China and Martin will bumble on about an upgrade for Barcelona and how the championships are not over yet. Eric – well who knows?
Stewards for the weekend
DR GERD ENNSER
MEMBER OF THE DMSB’S EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE FOR AUTOMOBILE SPORT; FORMULA ONE AND DTM STEWARD
Dr Gerd Ennser has successfully combined his formal education in law with his passion for motor racing, to become a motor sport official. He began helping manage a local motor sport club while still active as a racing driver and since 2006 he has been a permanent steward at every round of Germany’s DTM series. Since 2011 he has also worked as a Formula One steward at Grands Prix. Dr Ennser, who has worked as a judge, a prosecutor and in the legal department of an automotive-industry company, has also been a member of the steering committee of German motor sport body, the DMSB, since spring 2010, where he is responsible for automobile sport. In addition, Dr Ennser is a board member of the South Bavaria Section of Germany’s biggest auto club, the ADAC.
PRESIDENT OF THE SPORTING COMMISSION OF THE AUTOMOBILE AND TOURING CLUB OF VENEZUELA
Italian-born Vincenzo Spano grew up in Venezuela, where he went on to study at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, becoming an attorney-at-law. Spano has wide-ranging experience in motor sport, from national to international level. He has worked for the Touring y Automóvil Club de Venezuela since 1991, and served as President of the Sporting Commission since 2001. He was president for two terms and now sits as a member of the Board of the Nacam-FIA zone. Since 1995 Spano has been a licenced steward and obtained his FIA steward superlicence in 2003.Spano has been involved with the FIA and FIA Institute in various roles since 2001: a member of the World Motor Sport Council, the FIA Committee, and the executive committee of the FIA Institute.
FORMER F1 DRIVER
In a racing career now into its third decade, Mika Salo competed in over one hundred Grands Prix between 1994-2002. After junior success in Britain and Japan, Salo made his Formula One debut for Lotus at the last two rounds of the 1994 season. Over the next eight years the Finn drove for Tyrrell, Arrows, BAR, Ferrari, Sauber and Toyota. He twice finished on the podium for Ferrari and scored points for Toyota in the Japanese manufacturer’s debut race. Since he drew time on his F1 career, Salo has competed predominantly in sports cars, most notably racing in GT classes. He has GT2 victories at both Le Mans and Sebring, and in 2007 won the GT class in ALMS. He has also tried his hand in CART and Australian V8s. Salo is still a familiar face in the Formula One paddock, working extensively for Finnish TV.
Todt: He speaks!
I wish Todt and Ecclestone had just kept their mouths shut to be honest as I don’t want to be writing about the politics of Bahrain – but they insist on bringing it up.
yet sometimes in life you have to say what you believe to be true. I write this knowing that the majority of F1 fans just believe we should race – avoid politics and that F1 in Bahrain is fine. Indeed a nations politics should never be overtly involving F1, yet we have to be careful who we believe to be the ones who are in fact making political capital out of the Bahrain situation.
Jean Todt, El Presidente of the FIA, has broken his silence on the Bahrain matter for the first time in 2013. In a letter to local NGOs concerning the upcoming Grand Prix he says, “It is our firm belief that sport, and the F1 grand prix, can have a positive and healing effect in situations where conflict, social unrest and tensions are causing distress.”
Say what????? So now F1 is presenting as a political force for good in strife torn regions of the world. I’m confounded and speechless. If this is so, why did F1 pull out of South Africa as Mr. E claimed this week was way back then in fact his moral decision?
Yet it gets better – in fact it doesn’t. It gets even more outrageous.
These NGO’s have written to Bernie Ecclestone explaining that a law has been passed recently which restricts any Bahraini citizen from criticising King Hamad and that they face 5 years imprisonment should they do so. Further they claim the race “will be taking place in a country whose government continues to commit gross human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests to torture.”
According to Metro, Ecclestone has responded in what could be described as a capricious manner, “‘It is a great shame this was not brought to me before September 2012 when the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar was formed and it is now too late to make any changes to the calendar”.
The utter lies, duplicity and hustling for an advantageous position on this most political of matters is becoming beyond more than absurd and incredibly sad. Whether you oppose F1 going to Bahrain or not surely the disingenuity of the suggestion from Mr. E that this information is new to him; and had he known what he now does this may have affected the 2013 calendar wreaks of putrid bile.
Does F1 need this? Let’s be honest, the Bahrain circuit has delivered up some of the most boring races in the past decade. We have been repeatedly told by Ecclestone there are countries queuing up to embrace the economic riches and prestige of hosting a Formula 1 weekend so why do we persist with this annual debacle?
Coffee shop Joe and his ‘silent majority’ argue that it is the media who are to blame because they hype this out of all proportion, yet this explanation has a hollow ring to it.
Do the media create a North Korean leader threatening thermonuclear war when in fact Kim is in actuality a descendent of Mother Teresa and has been made a maligned western media caricature of his real self? Were the IRA peaceful separatists fighting for freedom from an oppressive regime? I could go on – and of course all examples are subject to unique circumstances that make comparisons impossible.
Yet do we really believe that the evil media have genuinely managed to make the world believe a handful of people in a nation of 1.2 million are in reality an army of suppressed protestors wreaking havoc on the ‘silent majority’?
The answer I guess to all scenarios we can cite is that there is no smoke without fire. The media do not completely fabricate a total non-event and present it to the world as a revolution. Yet again I ask why is Bahrain such a toxic and divisive issue amongst the people in F1?
I believe from conversations I’ve had it is nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of either parties in the Bahraini disputes per se.
It may just be that the media are divided because they are close to certain high-profile individuals in the sport who do not wish to race in Bahrain. So were it to be the case that team representatives were gagged and threatened by FOM and are forced to comply against their will, maybe it is because they cannot speak their minds openly – they know that others can.
It is not possible for team representatives to express their in-built repulsion at having to metaphorically kiss the hand of the plethora of Al-Khalifia’s and their associates who are forced upon them as part of their contractual duty to the race sponsors. Imagine how this must feel if you believe (rightly or wrongly) associating with the law makers and enforcers of this gulf state to be morally wrong.
One response to this moral trap is simple – in the cold light of day – its just tough, get on with it. Under Concorde this is the way it is and the teams just have to get on with it. So if you deal with the devil, then one day he will come calling for his dues.
I said in my first post on this matter that I can’t wait for Monday when this desperate and divisive event is over and everyone heads off home.
So there are those in F1 who would say this is not about the rights and wrongs of Bahrain, it is in fact about the dictatorial nature of FOM who have made ruthless threats that should the F1 party line be breached, wrath will ensue. Invisible Force India’s are just one example that we the masses do in fact know were a threat that was carried out but how many more potential consequences for dissent are there that we know nothing of?
Interestingly the debate from both sides has now shifted from arguing that 1 side of the division is right and the other plain wrong to one where there are accepted faults on both sides.
Fantastic – if that is the consensus let’s get the hell out of there after this years race and let these people resolve their differences properly and conclusively. F1 can return when this has been done. After all Bernie now has ‘new’ information he infers will affect the F1 calendar for 2014.
Jenson needs protection
Some may believe the timing of this is indeed apt, however I heard it was late in 2012 when Jenson decided upon this particular piece of body art – around the time Hugo Chavez cheque arrived at Williams providing Pastor with another 19 races. Protection was required indeed.
Jenson ponders all things tattoo thoughtfully to Sun newspaper. “I have a new tattoo on my arm. It’s a Polynesian tattoo. I had it done in Hawaii. The shape of it is a turtle shell, which is the sign of a shield and it also has four gods on it as well. I had it done by a guy who does traditional tattoos. He was trained in the Polynesian way, which is all about black tattoos. There is no shading like the new-style tattoos”.
It is very difficult to get an appointment with him but we eventually did and he did it freehand which is pretty cool. He told me his life story while he was doing it. I would go back to him again if I wanted to get another one. I have a dragon on my back and I have some Japanese symbols. They are for my love of Japan and the dragon is because it is courageous, strong, for wisdom and protection.
It’s funny tattoos are more acceptable these days. I like girls with tattoos if they are the right tattoos in the right place but I am not a big fan of colours in tattoos. People say to me, what’s it going to look like when I am 70 or 80, but I think it will look pretty cool and not going to look bad.
I would not have one on my chest, for example because that is going to stretch right out!”.
Jenson is asked about this weekend and the chances for him and the McLaren team in the race. He shakes himself from the dreamy Polynesian paradise and gets down to business. “It’s a place where the grip levels can be quite hard to anticipate, and where the wind direction can play quite an important part in determining the car’s balance.
The wind can affect top speed and cornering performance, so practice will be more important than ever in enabling us to take the best overall package into qualifying and the race.”
I suspect top speed of the MP4-28 is affected by a little more than wind if Jenson thinks about the big picture. McLaren have never won in 8 attempts at the Sakhir circuit even when they’ve had a car more competitive than the current iteration. So another long weekend for the fans of the Woking team I guess.
German Media war of words
There’s a spat going on between 2 of the popularist F1 publications in the Fatherland. AMuS published a story following the Vettel-gate events in Sepang suggesting that the Billionaire boss of the Red Bull drinks company was furious with the team and Sebastian too. In deliciously crafted prose AMuS says Dieter “threatened to chuck it all in unless his mercenaries followed proper marching orders in future”.
Motorsport-total have Marko on record saying this was not in fact the case. “This is utter nonsense,” says Helmut,“There’s nothing to it.” However Marko he does concede that something was indeed said and this is an ‘interpretive version’ of the truth but that when he said this Dieter was “absolutely joking”.
He also conceded that Mateshitz was not happy at all about the entire farce and described him as being “very pissed”.
I think we must assume this is an Austro-Americanism and does not mean Dieter had drunk too much of Vijay’s – soon to be sold Vladivar – with a few tinnies of his own get up and go potion.
Smoke and fire?
Important F1 ‘matters of state’ (or status maybe)
There is some giggling behind the hand over this one in F1 land. Bernie has been on a mission to mix up the order that the teams line up their motorhomes in the paddock. He apparently has managed to enforce this by stealth in Bahrain and now Lotus and Mercedes are at the top of the paddock not Red Bull Racing.
To be fair to the grey haired one, he claims this desire is to create greater interaction in the paddock and make it harder for the team players to dash out the back of the garage and into a motorhome.
There is no cause for concern that we will see more Lewis and Jenson style visits to the wrong pit box, because this does not apply to the order of the garages – merely where they can park the motorhomes and hospitality units which now will be not immediately behind the team’s pit lane position.
The German GP 2013
We the masses were of course told that everything was sorted for the 19 F1 races for 2013 weeks ago. It was announced yesterday in the German media the responsibility for the German GP has been awarded to AvD (who are apparently like the AA in the UK).
The AvD’s competitor the ADAC (I guess the RAC) had bid for Bernie’s piece of paper and were it appears largely expected to win. Cathrin von der Heide – spokesperson for the AVD confirmed yesterday, “Yes, we will be the sporting organizer of the GP. It was finalized in the last week.”
The timing of this is most surprising and there are Germany sources inferring that the AVD have been given the rights for 2013 for a fraction of the usual hosting fee.
This is indeed most probably when we consider what Heide had to say next. “”After that [this year] we have to see what happens. Either the GP of Deutschland will be at Hockenheim or the GP of Europe at Nürburgring. The contract is only for this year, because no ones knows what happens with the Nürburgring. Then we must see which venue it will be and who is then the organizer. To know that we have to have new talks. At the moment no one knows anything.”
Because the AvD is the rights holder for the name ‘GP von Deutschland’, the race will be called the GP von Deutschland in 2013, but the Nurburgring is planned for sale later this year subject to permission from the EU commission.
Sakhir and the logistics
Since the BIC first opened it’s doors to F1 in 2004, there have been few modifications necessary. However, for the 2013 F1 race there is in evidence a new coat of paint most everywhere. Another little upgrade has been made since 2012 and ironicallythe circuit has now been adapted to fully utilise the electronic flag signals sent from race control.
The organisers have released information that makes clear the logistical endeavours required to host and run such an event. Over the weekend there will be 3200 people ensuring the ‘smooth running of the GP weekend’. These are comprised of 800 deployed as security forces, 700 specialists in engineering and purification, 700 catering and merchandising staff, 50 doctors and 800 marshals.
Conspiracry theories abound
This makes me laugh. I get accused of being a conspiracy theorist from time to time and hey, as they say – no publicity is bad publicity. Anyway I saw this photo a couple of days ago and thought – “I bet Flavio’s taking the picture” as he is the manager of both drivers. I didn’t publish it here or even think much more of it.
I’ll give you that there were slightly shifty circumstances around the publication of the picture. Alonso posted it to twitter and then later deleted it. In the meantime Mark had copied it and posted it as a tweet himself.
Apparently there has been a whole furore over this picture and a number of articles have now been written speculating what the the meeting and picture represent. One theory is that it is Webber making a statement to Vettel declaring his allegiance as wing man for his Spanish friend on the track.
Webber was questioned as to his motive and grinning he replied, “I have known Fernando for 13 years. I can give you lots of photos of me and Jenson together. Many drivers catch up socially. I think there is a little bit of paranoia coming. If that’s your biggest subject, about a dinner, then you have to work harder. Let me tell you.”
Fernando was asked separately how it would feel were he to see a picture of Massa on the internet having dinner with Sebastian Vettel. “Nothing,” he replied. “In Spain we say ‘The thief thinks everyone is a thief’. If I see a photo of someone having dinner I think he’s having dinner”.
Alonso volunteers the topic of his conversation with Webber. “We talked more about bicycles than Formula One…about his Tasmania race, his accident and how his leg is. But when I put it on Twitter, all the replies were about Vettel and stuff like that. Those are conspiracy theorists.”
MArk was asked who had paid for dinner and mischievously replied with a smile, “You need to ask Fernando.”
Sebastian Vettel was non-plussed by it all – at least publicaly – when the matter was brought to his attention he observed, “We all have to have dinner at some point and it’s quite boring to have it all on your own.”
Maybe Fernando deleted the original after they’d had a chuckle about what might now happen and he decided discretion was the better part of valour…. then again – maybe not.
TJ13 conspiracy theory
Having called the strange goings on in Sepang with Fernandes and the skull and cross boned cuff linked Kovaleinan, I’m now suggesting Monsieur Pic and VD Garde watch their backs closely. If Heikki nails FP1 on Friday – and I can’t wait to here from Dr. James how he sees his underlying pace – then it won’t be long before he’s back racing the green goddess.
When asked about this today Heikki said, “There are no plans to race for the moment. The plan at the moment is for me to drive on Fridays to help the team as much as I can. Of course, I want to race in the future and being here puts me in a better position if there was ever going to be a race drive available here or somewhere else, so that’s good for me.”
Interestingly Kovalainen reveals, “We [Fernandes and I] talked about this [reserve role] for the first time a long time ago but at the very beginning I wasn’t interested in this kind of role. But when you are sitting at home for a couple of months looking at other people driving, it makes you think you could have a go.
Just before Malaysia, I had a chat with Tony [Fernandes] and asked if he thought I could still do something for the team and he said ‘sure’. It came together relatively quickly.”
Funny how when complacency sets in people can be blind to the peril of their situation whilst others are not. Given some time outside the F1 bubble it appears Heikki is now prepared to accept scraps to drive an F1 car. He may even start wooing sponsors next – who knows.
It may be though Heikki’s return merely confirms that Fernandes’ team has a car that’s pants…