Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 17th July 2013

This page will be updated throughout the day GMT 11:55 12:06 12:32 12:40 13:29 (Ecclestone indictment to proceed updated) 14:04 14:36

Skepticism over Sauber deal appears justified

It appears the nature of the deal and parties involved with the Sauber rescue plan has caught the F1 media by surprise. TJ13 reported yesterday in the news the skepticism expressed by most of the Swiss sporting press and even well-known Russian F1 journalist, Alexei Popov, remarked “I had to read the press release several times before I could believe it.”

Mr. E tells Blick that he believes Russian involvement in F1 is positive, “I’m glad that Sauber and Marussia are continuing. On Monday, Monisha Kaltenborn phones me and told me about the new developments with the Sauber team”, adding that Russia “is very important for Formula 1 and an interesting market”. Bernie further reveals that the Russian president is very supportive of F1, “I was with him 3 times in Moscow. He listens to you carefully and then makes his opinion. It’s great that he stands behind the [Sochi] project. He is very enthusiastic and helpful which will benefit the whole of F1. “

untitledYet Bild is reporting that ‘not a cent’ has been received by Sauber yet and that the fine detail is in fact yet to be agreed. Aargauer Zeitung newspaper reports that a Swiss supplier to the team has still not been paid since December of last year. The writer adds, “A Swiss media source told us “Unfortunately, Sauber has to play the game (with the Russians), but it’s better than shutting up shop.”

TJ13 commented that the manner in which the news came out on Monday appeared at best – disorganised, and it is this which gives rise to suspicions that the announcement was made premature to head off at the pass certain Sauber creditors who were getting litigious with their claims for payment.

Swiss paper Basler Zeitung adds credence to this idea of ‘haste rather than completeness’ commenting, “On Monday, Peter Sauber and CEO Monisha Kaltenborn would only field questions from Swiss Radio and Television (SRF). Requests from other media were not refused. Newsnet made a request to the team for an interview, but the response was ‘We are not giving interviews’. When asked why the retort was, ‘We do not comment on our media strategy’.”

Of course the hackles were raised immediately for some when it became transparent that a relatively unproven 17 year old Russian driver is about to be forced upon the world of F1 as a full race driver in 2014. This despite the fact that his previous team boss suggests he takes a year in GP2 first.

Yet again it was the detail of this announcement which created more suspicion as TJ13 and a number of other F1 commentators questioned how the kid was going to drive for Sauber in FP1 – as was declared – when at present he does not have a super license.

There are mixed views on whether Sergey Sirotkin is good enough to enter F1 in 2014 even though Jaime Alguesuarie was only 1 year older when he debuted. Ex-F1 driver and German commentator Christian Danner says, “Unfortunately he is light years from the levels of a current formula one driver.” On the other hand we have the good dokter Marko stating, “Sergey is currently in the midfield [Renault World Series] and he has struck me as not bad. Better than Gutierrez, but he will have to show what he can do under pressure.”

However, in a bizarre twist of semantics, Sergey Sirotkin claims to Russian publication Championat that he “is not he is not a sponsored [pay] driver”. Sergey’s reasoning is that “this is a big project, including the creation of research centres for the students and in Switzerland and Russia. This is a very large program, not sponsorship”. Sergey is expecting to test extensively in a 2 year old car in August and to be given soon after the opportunity to drive during an F1 weekend.

Whether this is just a hasty announcement with the finer points of the deal to be completed – or some pie in the sky discussion which has little chance of coming to fruition only time will tell. It is likely there is a deal to be done, but it maybe in old fashioned Ecclestone style, the Russians will only make clear the entire demands at the 11th hour and 59th minute.

Ecclestone indictment to proceed

The timing of this news is almost delicious. There are those who believe Bernie gave the German nation a free Grand Prix in 2013 to ease the path of justice in Munich. Originally the Munich prosecuters prmised us a decision on whether their case would proceed to trial by June – which of course didn’t happen.

untitledThe legal system in Germany is different from the UK and the Munich prosecutors had to present evidence to the court’s judges for them to consider whether there was sufficient material to prosecute Ecclestone on charges of bribery.

The bribe was allegedly for Gribowsky – an official of the BayernLB bank who were holding shares as collateral against a loan to Constantin Medien – to undervalue shares of Formula One that were being sold to CVC. Constantin Medin, formerly EM.TV, owned 47 percent of F1.

The sale brokered by Grobowsky whist serving as chief risk officer at BayernLB went to CVC for $800m. Constantin Medien says that they lost at least $171 million on the sale, since they were contractually obligated to 10 percent of any sale of rights for more than $1 billion. Today they file a civil suit against Eccelestone for $171m.

A court spokesperson explains, “Detailed information about the content of the indictment can not be made public until the court has ruled on the question of the commencement of the tria. Currently, the accused’s defence have an opportunity to respond to the indictment until mid-August.” A decision from the criminal court over the date of the trials’s commencement “will probably not be expected before mid-September.”

The judges have given their verdict just over a week after the German GP. Charges will now formally be made and served upon Charles Bernard Ecclestone.

Alonso shows Maranello who is boss

Fernando Alonso is good for his word as he stated earlier this month, “I don’t work for Pirelli” and that he would not be attending the testing in Silverstone. Pirelli have argued consistently they need testing with current cars and drivers who know how to push them to the limit to produce the tyres to the specification they have been given.

untitledAlonso defends his decision today explains to La Repubblica, “Why do not I go to the test? Because I cannot test [car developments]. Instead I have an important job to do in the simulator.”

The well connected Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio, says, Alonso has “shown who is boss” at the Maranello based team.

As I predicted when it was open season on Lewis, Mallya and Red Bull, there is an annual F1 event to which we all anticipate with glee – the seasonal public arguments from Maranello. TJ13 reported last week the rather over the top publication in Ferrari.com which was gushing towards Felipe and offered un-wilting support from all his Ferrari brothers and sisters.

As I commented last night, if Fernando does not get a car that delivers in Hungary we may soon be observing el toro asesino… whirling his caped texting machine to tell the world how bad senior Frie and the aero team are – regardless of the imminent arrival of James Allison.

Ricciardo schedule changed, Webber dropped and Kimi not bothering

Daniel tweets today, “Hey guys bit of a change to my testing program this week. Drive my Toro Rosso tomorrow morning and the Red Bull tomorrow afternoon.” Mark Webber will now not test this week following a press release from Red Bull stating the change was made after a “clarification of the permitted programmes from Pirelli and the FIA for this week’s Silverstone test”.

untitledThere was an eagle-eyed TJ13 reader who commented upon the apparent anomaly of their being 1 1/2 days of testing for Red Bull with 2013 race drivers when 1 day per team was perceived to be the ruling. Yet even SKY reported the detail incorrectly when they wrote, “Teams agreed at the Nurburgring last week that race drivers would only be able to complete one day of running apiece across the test, ensuring that inexperienced drivers wouldn’t lose out on seat time altogether”.

Clearly this must be one day only for race drivers per team and Webber unsurprisingly is now out in the cold. Red Bull still think quickly on their feet and Ricciardo will have a unique opportunity to provide an immediate and direct comparison of how the STR8 and the RB9 cope with the same tyres.

Lotus have just confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen will not test on Friday either. A spokesperson has just said, “Once details of what race drivers were allowed to do here became apparent, we would have only been able to conduct a very limited programme with Kimi If we were to run him, it would compromise the other development work we want to do with the car here. By running Nico again we’ll be able to build on the work already carried out and hopefully be in the best position to develop the E21 ahead of Budapest, whilst also conducting the necessary tyre testing for Pirelli.”

It appears the value of testing tyres with Pirelli is not being seen as very helpful to teams. Far more important is the development of their cars even with rookie drivers for the next race in Hungary – so you could deduce this is in fact a real penalty for Mercedes.

A Wolff in sheep’s clothing

Bild is claiming to be in possession of a transcript of a recorded telephone conversation which has been used in an attempt to bribe Toto Wolff. During the conversation Wolff speaks negatively about both Ross Brawn and Daimler Benz chairman Dieter Zetsche.

Toto also alludes to the how it is  ‘complicated’ to gain the co-operation of Niki Lauda who is the chairman of Mercedes AMG F1. Lauda of course tried to do a backdoor deal settle the ‘testgate’ matter prior to the International Tribunal but Ross Brawn refused, ultimately being backed by Wolff. TJ13 commented at the time there were rumours of trouble brewing in the Mercedes management and it appears the shifting allegiances have caused others to suggest there is a persistent war being waged at the top of the team’s hierarchy.

Interestingly Wolff also discusses how he finds it a “difficult a balancing act” dealing with Williams – where he is still a shareholder – and Mercedes where is in effect commercial director as well as equity part owner. The FIA have again been remiss for not legislating as do other sport’s regulatory bodies to disallow an individual from having ownership in more than one team in the same competition.

Morning Test Times


Formula E inches forward

The announcement of Berlin last week as the final member of the 10 cities to host Formula E was an achievement indeed. Now the series needs to find competitors. Drayson Racing were the first to declare their hands and now the series has another 2 competitors.  China Racing led by Steven Lu and now leading IndyCar team, Andretti Autosport.

Formula E hopes to recruit 7 more teams, each with two drivers to compete in what is now being pitched as the ‘inaugural 2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship’. Clearly timescales have slipped a somewhat, but the scale of creating this global championship should not be underestimated.

Formula E says, “The remaining seven candidate teams will be announced later in 2013 with entries coming from a variety of top, global championships, as well as leaders in the field of electric vehicles and motorsport. It will be down to the individual teams to select their drivers but they’re expected to bring with them a high-profile international background gained from the likes of IndyCar, GP2 and Formula One.

For the inaugural season, each team will run four Spark-Renault SRT_01E single-seaters, two per driver, with the cars being transported to and from each race venue by Formula E. This, in addition to the cars being housed at a central workshop, is designed to reduce running costs along with measures such as restricting the number of team personnel, fixing the car’s gear ratios, and not having in-race tyre changes in order to reduce the need for expensive pit stop equipment.

Formula E is also an ‘open championship’ allowing teams to design and develop their own cars – in accordance to the technical specifications set out by the FIA – and showcasing their electrical energy innovations in a competitive, racing environment”.

18 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Wednesday 17th July 2013

  1. I think it’s obvious what Sauber are trying to do. Pressurise the Russians to pen the deal by also making public Sirotkin’s posible drive and get the creditors off their back at the same time. Time will tell whether the risk will pay off. They’ve got nothing to lose as things are…

    • I honestly think it was more about interrupting any possible immediate legal action on part of creditors.

      Sauber is in a super-desperate situation, way more so than most commentators appreciate, I think (although the Judge and his readers obviously get it).

      Just reading the initial quotes out of Russia, they were saying for chrissakes that it wasn’t even a sponsorship deal! So right away we knew no money was pouring into Sauber coffers.

      I think it will still probably work out but until CVC is somehow constrained, and the teams reunite on cost controls and to negotiate w/ a common voice, this kinda stuff will continue.

      Adam Parr … no wonder Bernie pushed so hard to get him out of F1. He could’ve revolutionized the sport and I feel people still don’t appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity that was lost with his forced departure. CVC is a vulture capital fund and they are raping F1 while paying just enough to Ferrari, McLaren and RBR and a few others to keep they from supporting the common interests of all the teams. Disgusting…

  2. Some typo there? Still talking about Bernie?

    “Bild is claiming to be in possession of a transcript of a recorded telephone conversation which Toto Wolff has been used in an attempt to bribe Toto Wolff. “

    • The sentence makes sense if changed to “… telephone conversation WITH Toto Wolff has been used in an attempt to BLACKMAIL … ” (words in CAP indicate changes to original)

  3. I’m baffled! Bernie paid that Gribowsky to avoid HMRC looking into his taxes and calm him down? Is that his defence?

    “Yes, my taxes are dodgy, but that’s a UK issue, you can’t get involved. That’s why I paid him, to calm him down, it’s not a bribe, it’s a soothening remedy, just an expensive one!”

    • “Entirely a coincidence that those shares were undervalued and F1 rights were sold to my company”

      “Nothing to see here, move along you Looky-Lou’s”

    • Grib K owsky eh? In that case your Honour, there is no case to answer to, I bribed…eh….donated to Mr Gribowsky.

  4. TJ13 – a suggestion to help me follow your blog.

    I like the times shown at the top indicating the latest update.

    Would it be too much to ask that you also timestamp the position where the text in the article has been updated?

    Thank you.

    • That’s a good idea. Since most changes are added paragraphs, we could have :

      (added 14:50)

      or something like that.

  5. CRAZY the allegations in Bild that Wolff was secretly recorded. Who could the ex-F1 team boss be? Briatore? If so, what a dick! Wonder what jurisdiction they were based in, since wiretapping someone is usually illegal, although in some states in USA you can secretly record a phone call as long as one of the two parties (you!) know they’re being recorded lol.

    Guess all those NSA stories by Greenwald have given people ideas!

    Toto’s got a strong brain but weak eyes! See if you can figure out what I mean there (Susie! hehe)!

  6. Alonso has “shown who is boss”…
    Phrases like this are all very well to get publicity but… ultimately… the boss is the one who hires & fires – and I don’t think any Ferrari driver has ever quite reached that level… 😉
    Maybe Alonso thinks he’s got nothing to lose – at the moment.

    • Yep! Although Schumacher tried, he blocked the arrival of Hakkinen at the Scuderia, when he tried to do the same with Kimi, LCDM sent him on an early retirement.

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