Daily #F1 News and Comment: Monday 16th September 2013

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India gone forever? (10:20)

Rush: How good is it really? (11:15)

Todt fights back – with a wet fish (11:39)

Andretti would run a ‘customer car’ team (12:03)

Massa to McLaren? (14:44)

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India gone forever?

Amusingly, Ecclestone denied anything to do with the draft calendar which was circulating during the last race weekend in Monza. When asked by Sky’s Martin Brundle aboiut the 2014 races her replied, “What calendar?”. Ecclestone went on to claim the schedule had not come from him and that in fact there were 22 races scheduled for 2014, not 21 as on the draft schedule.

This of course would mean that New Jersey will make it’s debut next year, though with nothing other than a conditional $100m credit facility from USB, the promoters as yet have no credible funding solution to stage the F1 event.

We were already aware prior to last weekend that India was taking a Sabbatical. They claimed they could not host a race in Autumn 2013 and again in spring 2014 due to scheduling matters, yet this is something it appears Korea is managing.

As always, these issues are about cash. The first Indian GP was in 2011, yet the agreement with FOM would have been finalised back in 2010. This includes how many tens of million US dollars the organisers will pay to FOM to host the race.

Sportsbusiness International reported this weekend Ecclestone stating, “The trouble in India is a simple one. The rupee has devalued an enormous amount so it is all very political. We won’t be there next year”.

So it’s not about scheduling, it’s about money. The Indian rupee exchanged at about 45 to the US dollar when Jaypee Sports signed the final deal with FOM in 2010. Today the rupee has fallen to around 62 to the dollar – around a 30% drop.

Ecclestone’s comments may suggest he will not enforce the terms of the Indian race contract and allow the organisers to default. The Organisers of the European GP in Valencia were allowed a similar exit with 2 years left to run on the street circuit’s contract until 2014.

There was indeed a proposal to save the GP in Valencia made by the regional president, Alberto Fabra to the mayor of the city of Valencia – Rita Barbera. She told El Pais, “He spoke of the possibility of involvement, but he spoke to me about Cheste, and I have an urban circuit,” She then insisted, “The budget of Valencia is for Valencians”

Cheste is where the Ricardo Tormo circuit is located – some 26 kilometres outside the Valencia city limits. It currently hosts a MotoGP event and has in past times been a winter test track used by the F1 teams. Clearly Mayor Barbera was not going to be persuaded to put Valencian tax payers cash into the Cheste administrative regional coffers.

Ecclestone in his Sky interview admitted that he only had agreement with the teams for 20 races in 2014, but a cunning smile crept across his lips when asked by Brundle how he would persuade the teams to change their minds.

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Rush: How good is it really?

Given the paucity of Hollywood F1 films over the years, to receive popular accolades as ‘the best ever F1 film’ was hardly a hurdle of  Olympian difficulty for the film Rush to clear. The reviews are generally pretty good, yet in some way expected.

I have been discussing ‘Rush’ with a number of colleagues who who lived through and even worked in F1 around the period when Lauda and Hunt raced. The best they’ll give me is qualified praise for the movie.

Yet younger F1 fans who were not born in that era appear to be ebullient and gushing over the film and receive support from Sir Jock, who comments “I think it [Rush] will do very well for Formula One … particularly in the United States, where Formula 1 isn’t really recognised.” (Tel;egraph).

Whilst at the Gooward Revivial this past weekend, the Scottish F1 champion praised the film and actor Daniel Brühl who plays Niki Lauda. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the actor who plays Niki Lauda actually gets nominated. Because he was more Niki Lauda than Niki Lauda.”

I would however be surprised were Daniel Brühl to win a prestigious award for his portrayal of Lauda – simply because Lauda wasn’t that interesting a person. So Bruhl delivers to us a Lauda… who is more like a version of Lauda created by somebody else… in other words, not actually Lauda…. but a Lauda who would have been more interesting than the Lauda who actually was….

Yet Bruhl’s portrayal along with some excellent action was what made the film bearable to watch.

Intrigue and dastardly deviousness is a primary tool in the hands of the Hollywood script writer as they craft a tale of suspense and surprise. Yet there was nigh on a complete absence of the plots and the politics surrounding the 1976 season – which were even in that era, particularly extra-ordinary. This is a missed opportunity for the movie.

Kevin Eason of the Times sums it up best for me, “If you are an anorak-wearing, stopwatch-carrying F1 fan, then look away now because, inevitably, liberties have been taken with the facts and there is little of the black politics and chicanery that also marred that fateful 1976 season.”

Sir Jock may indeed be correct in that Rush will raise awareness in the USA for F1. I would suggest that of a much wider audience. Movie go-ers around the globe who are not F1 fans will in some way be attracted to the sport we love. For this, the movie should be applauded.

My personal sense is one of disappointment – predictable disappointment – for all the reasons which make incredible story lines from sport impossible to then be recreated in a script.

The truth is – reality is often infinitely greater than fiction; and it is certainly preferable in this example to the average re-telling and re-enaction of such a fabulous reality.

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Todt fights back – with a wet fish

Even prior to David Ward’s announcement that he will challenge Jean Todt in the imminent elections for the top job at the FIA, there had been a lot of politicking under way. Max Mosley and Gerhard Berger had been week on week quoted by a plethora of European publications calling for F1 budgetary controls.

Sit this against the backdrop of an unsigned Concorde agreement where both Ecclestone and Todt agree on the creation of a new F1 strategy group. This would be an 18-member think-tank made up of six votes from the FIA, six from the sport’s commercial rights holders and six from the teams, which will meet to discuss and vote on the future direction of the sport.

Having been accused of corruption and reported to the FIA ethics committee by his opponent Ward, Todt began a fight back this weekend. He was adamant that developing a strategy to cut costs would be one of the first topics on the agenda when the new Strategy Group meets.

He also made it clear that the FIA would not be afraid to use its six votes and together with support from F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone, they would push forward with tougher restrictions and ensure teams, like Red Bull, which have resisted such restrictions in the past, will be unable to block the changes.

“I have been reading a lot of things about cost-cutting and it is something that you cannot address with the teams. There have been a lot of discussions with the teams to talk about the RRA and all that, and the teams said we have never had a strong and clear approach about the proposal of cost cutting.

So where are we now? We have been implementing, when the Concorde is settled, a new governance, where there will be a strategy group. It will be on the agenda, at the first meeting when we are involved, to bring in cost cutting.

I can guarantee you the FIA will vote in favour of cost cutting. Then we will see.”

This may be music to many ears in F1, however, it’s a bit on the never – never. Nearly one year on from when the last Concorde agreement expired, we have no new contract in place. In fact during the past months, each of the tri-partitie camps at times finds no agreement beneficial to their own cause,

Then in fact, currently, there is no indication that the teams will agree and concede a 2/3rds majority power to the FIA combines with FOM/Ecclestone on matters such as this.

Hollow promises from a so far anonymous FIA President.

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Andretti would run a ‘customer car’ team

For a slow Monday, we’re stoking the fires of controversy and debate here. I await castigation for the views expressed on ‘Rush’ and now to introduce the thorny debate over customer cars…. This is more grandee politics and something the teams should consider when acceding 12 votes to the FIA/Ecclestone and only 6 for themselves on the new Strategy Group think tank.

Mario Andretti claims his son and failed F1 driver, Michael, would be interested in running an F1 team if he could purchase a chassis already complete. The 73 year old ex-world champion tells Zeitung newspaper, “I have already spoken with Bernie Ecclestone about it.

It would also be a way for new teams to be a part of formula one, even if they don’t have their own racing car factories. My son would be one of the first who would come in, if he could buy a car from one of the top manufacturers.”

Andretti Snr rather simplistically dismisses the viewpoint that customer cars would devalue the sport. “I find the idea of a blue Ferrari overtaking a red Ferrari very interesting. It would give Formula One a whole new appeal.”

Michael Andretti, whose F1 career was most brief, owns and Indycar team and Andretti Autosport will  be on the grid for the FIA’s Formula E series – for electric single seaters  – which begins in the Autumn of 2014.

There is a monumental gulf of difference between forcing teams teams to apply some form of resource restriction to the gazillions they spend on aerodynamic engineering and on the other hand allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry to be able to own and run a team in F1.

Blue F1 Ferrari’s? Is the man insane?????????????????? (Time for a Lapsang Souching).

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Massa to McLaren?

Okay, so we’ve previously discussed the possibility of Massa to Lotus, Sauber, Williams and Torro Rosso. Who is left?

Over the weekend, Felipe has spiced things up a little telling Brazilian media ‘Golobo’ that, “We’re negotiating with Lotus and it’s going well. They have a competitive car, which is what I want”. Massa adds, “We are also in contact with McLaren, but this is more difficult to judge,”

So let’s unpick that coded message. McLaren have not said no to Massa, but they are not as forward or advanced as are Lotus. Surely Jenson should not have cause for concern and surely McLaren wouldn’t be discussing 2015 with Massa without doing a deal for 2014 – hence the discussions must be serious and for 2014.

Massa also tells Globo that we may be able to look forward to some action between him and Alonso for the final 7 races of this season. No longer will we see Felipe as a submissive number 2. “No, I won’t be doing that. I’m going to attack,” Massa promised.

That’s all very well and good Felipe ‘baby’, so long as the team don’t accidentally break the seal on an engine or gearbox – as happened in Austin. Then there could be a Webber-esque missing wheel pity stop…. not enough fuel to race flat out…. a tweak on the rev limiter… so many possibilities…

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43 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Monday 16th September 2013

  1. The paragraph about “Rush” – was that written in Swahili and then translated through Babelfish?? What language is it supposed to be in?

    • Excellent.

      It represents ‘Rush’ pretty well then. A re-hashing of history … which is not historically translated accurately and with woeful artistic license at times..

      Then we fascinating character portrayals of someone else’s translation/interpretation of the original individual – who is still alive and widely known.

      It’s not onomatopoeia….. but…. the style of the review appears to fit the conclusions of the reviewer.

      • I went to see Rush on Friday with my wife. She loved it, the 70’s fashion and music and the story of the rivals.
        As a F1 fan, it left me cold and somewhat angered at the revision to history.
        It was great to hear these cars in surround sound, to see them looking larger than life, but there were so many obvious faults wiht the filming of the actual action that I found myself looking for faults.

        Since when has Monza had significant hills and descents on the circuit. Or a corner like the left hander after the Dingle Dell chicane?
        When has the Nurburgring been christened “The Graveyard” rather than Green Hell?

        There were so many other anomalies.

        Lauda being called the German by an ignorant Hesketh F3 team and the underlying theme throughout the film was Hunt and Lauda’s animosity towards each other. Yet, if I remember correctly, Lauda and Hunt shared a flat in London for about 18 months.

        Lauda turns up at BRM and is such a technical genius, he could tell them by looking at the car how to improve it by 2 seconds?

        Enzo Ferrari sitting beside the race track reading a paper as the cars passed by at his feet was frankly comical.

        Or his losing places in the Monza race after his qualifying near the front of the grid? He in fact out-qualified his team-mates Reutemann and Regazzoni at Monza and finished 4th.

        Probably the most grating part of the whole film was his stop for tyres at the Nurburgring. It shows Lauda getting angrier as he is delayed by mechanics and a Lotus that stopped blocking his path, then we have a wheel-spinning Ferrari exiting the pits in a rage and to compound it all, the cinematic failure of a suspension bolt.

        The cause of the accident has never been fully uncovered, just suppositions but perhaps more tellingly, we have spent over an hour being shown how cold and calculating Lauda truly was/ is.
        Yet the screen writer expects us, for just this one occasion, to believe that he had lost his temper and was driving the car faster than it would circulate normally?

        It’s a great cinematic experience for someone that doesn’t follow F1 or know of it’s history, and I fully understand why the story was developed in the way it was, rivalry is more believable if the 2 protagonists do not like each other.

        It’s just a shame that at no stage was there the legend;

        “Based on a true story”

        At least that way, we could allow for artistic license.

  2. A blue Ferrari? Hmm..i will forgive him because of his 82′ guest appearance in a Ferrari at Monza, pole position and 3rd place at 42 years old.
    But don’t ever say that again Mario, it hurts just thinking about it.

  3. We already have quazi customer cars. The Italian bulls. And to a lesser degree VJ’s low flying planes (sometimes his only flying planes!).

    Personally i would have no problem with customer cars. Its a red herring to think that its a bad idea due to possible on track messing between teams. We already have that.

    Between team orders, and engine contracts and the bulls we already have plenty of cuteness going on under our eyes.

    I’d prefer to see decent drivers in customer cars than some very average drivers in Spanish f2 tat being mobile roadblocks. Or Russian or Malaysian tat for that matter.

    A good, and relatively cost effective, way to be in the mix would be to buy a decent car, put decent drivers into it and go racing. It would be much easier to gather sponsorship if you were peddling a customer red bull, Ferrari, lotus or Mclaren than building your own machine. Be it would be good for the bigger teams from a budget perspective.

    The only downside for me would be on the people front. There’d be less opportunity for engineers / aero guys to make a name for themselves in smaller teams. But the cream always finds a way to rise to the top.

    What are the downsides?

    Ps i do appreciate I’m using logic, and not emotion with this argument!

    • We would probably not have a team like Williams pioneering engineering solutions.

      Their design of a KERS flywheel system built for their F1 car is now revolutionising bus power trains.

      It is currently being adapted as a solution for national power grids.

      With ‘customer cars’ they wouldn’t bother engineering their own solutions.

      Plus, it has been suggested to me that you’d have many more Mallya’s and Fernandes’ who – ‘own’ F1 teams and are full of s#&% filling our TV screens.

      It’s one point of view I am told….

      • Serious (at least for me) question here. Do you happen to know what the largest fixed expense is for F1 teams? Todt seems to be implying it’s chassis development and manufacture. Although I would hate to see exact duplicates lining up on the grid like Indy Car, maybe it might make sense to let smaller teams pay the bigger teams to manufacture chassis for them and parts for them so they can devote resources to engineering etc.

        If it would cost the small teams less (a big IF, to be fair) and could be done in a functional way, it might be a interesting solution. After all, as bad as they were, HRT did outsource their chassis build to Dallara, so why not keep it more in the F1 house as it were. Although I could see protecting data as being a fairly large hurdle, we already have McLaren manufacturing ECU’s for all the teams and Pirelli doing tires so it’s not completely impossible.

        Ok, flame away. 🙂

      • Don’t disagree with this Judge, but on the other hand does it NEED to be Williams developing technology that has no basis in F1.

        It was a kers solution that didn’t work. But had other applications.

        If Williams are not focussed on F1 as their primary business then that solution is worthwhile to the company from a revenue perspective.

        But i always thought their primary objective was F1.

        Its no coincidence that as Frank has diversified their business, and started all of his jaunts to the middle east his team have rapidly gone backwards.

        • There have been plenty of failed F1 solutions where later iterations become successful for F1 and even appear on road cars.

          The danger is a Grand Turismo driving game like shop, where you as team owner pop in and get all the bits to build an F1 car from someone else and merely need to bolt them together.

          This has never really been the point of F1.

          • That was standard MO until the 70s, where you could buy a March chassis and an engine, bent a few bits to make it look different and went racing in F1.

          • Indeed, the teams relied on this to keep them afloat (Lotus, Brabham, March etc.) with extra income. Lotus would flog their old cars, then turn up with new cars and flog all the old cars they just sold 😀

          • At the risk of seeming to be debating for the sake of, I’d politely disagree with your assessment.

            The primary objective of F1 is to win. Period. That’s why we have had numerous IP related ‘thefts’ over the years. Its also why new designs get passed, then vetoed if deemed successful – usually under the guise of cost reductions.

            Winning sells more product or service. For the manufacturer, the sponsor, the driver, the engineers, Bernard etc.

            It also gets you more money by the way of placement winnings.

            A by-product of this is the engineering.

            Being fans we generally think of the sporting side of things, the romance of engineering, the human battles. That’s what we bond with. Its what helps to extract money from our pockets.

            I do believe in times part people got involved in the sport for fun, frolics and winning. Some got involved for the engineering challenge and winning.

            I would say that no team in the last 15 years got in for any reason other than making money either directly, or indirectly, from F1. Its part of the business plan.

            So team owners just care about the winning element, with a view to maximizing the money take, be they individuals or corporations. Mounting manufacturers need to build either engines, chassis or both for authenticity. But non manufacturers don’t have to. Logic would dictate buying a factory car would be bear more simple solution, and should be am option available to them – especially during the start up phase of the team. They could build slowly, if they wish, towards in house development as they progress up the grid.

            Surely this would be far better than the facial solution we current face where new teams have no hope of doing well initially.

            For such a progressive technological sport i sometimes think that the main decision makers are too close to things to take into account fresh possibilities.

            From the outside looking in it feels very much a world of ‘no because’ instead of ‘we can if’, due to be shackled to the sports past. And that’s a missed opportunity.

            The sport is far too conservative.

          • I agree with your general thinking, however HRT, Virgin and Caterham ( as they are now) did not enter F1 expecting to win… Maybe to make money by selling the team at some point was a more likely objective.

          • So team owners paragraph has two errors:
            * mounting should read motoring
            * bear should read a far

            previous apologies around my phone and its interactions with the site refer…

          • I think they all thought it was possible, just not immediately. Recall reading on JA’s site they all thought they’d be doing great in a pretty short space of time.

            None predicted winning early days – i think all new teams learned from BAR.

            And i need a proof reader….

            I

    • This was of course suggested before the financial crash, as Prodrive wanted to run a customer McLaren (year old one I suppose) and field Gary Paffett. But if this car then beat Sauber, Williams etc. it could put them out of business, with the resulting loss of 300 jobs each. Today, Caterham and Marussia are just about hanging on while scrapping over 10th place and some prize money.

      A solution could be to exclude customer teams from the constructor’s championship (as they aren’t manufacturing their car after all), only leaving them with competing for half of the available prize money (Concorde agreement negotiations with Bernie, and not CWC prize money). This is in line with not having all the team needed to design the car and reduced cost of buying it in. Force India and Marussia do this to some extent with McLaren, Caterham buy in Renault/Red Bull parts and so on. Toro Rosso would probably become a Red Bull satellite and fire half the team needed to design the cars (which seemed in danger of happening before 2009). People usually mention the customer cars having the junior drivers of the teams concerned driving them (e.g. Bianchi, Bird, Frijns, Alguersuari, Rossi, Magnussen and so on), but this is currently GP2’s space, so only Bernie would be losing out here (unlikely to happen!).

      But I think cost cutting is a more likely solution, so that everybody concerned makes profit (with no loss to the spectacle) and we have a sustainable 20-22 car grid. Those only running on Concorde money (atm Marussia) would make less losses under more cost cutting than they do at present. With profitable teams lower down the grid, there would be less need to run pay drivers as well, which would improve the spectacle.

      Customer cars have been run in the past (Rob Walker, successfully as above), but nowadays I think if you want to run customer cars, there is GP2 and GP3 for that very reason – a total driver’s championship on the ladder to the big time (F1) in every sense of the word. There are also a myriad of other series doing the same, Indycars, F3, Formula Renault….. F1 is the only place left where the teams make their own cars, really, and all the expertise involved that comes with that. Dallara are the last car manufacturer standing, after Reynard, Ralt, Lola etc. have all been busted trying to compete for series.

  4. I also think the teams should man up and accept some form of GE (even if it’s a mandated structure by the FIA), which will improve the wake behind the cars and allow closer racing. This would give less need for DRS and tyre deg to make it exciting. I read somewhere that they could have DRS open all the time and it would shut if the car lost the pressure of the GE!

    F1 seems to be heading back towards the 80s.. Fuel limits, V6 turbos, drive for efficiency, surely GE is next on the agenda. Surely a better investment than aero and more could be done with less. Would the drivers complain if we moved back towards wing cars?

  5. I almost got happy there… Massa to race Alonso 🙂 Now Smedley and Domenicali and LdM and… everyone just needs to show him some love and then we have a race on our hands…

    So the question is, when (if) Felipe is leading Alonso after the last pit stops (unlikely) and Vettel is about to win the race… will he comply to “Alonso is faster than you” or will he keep his foot on the floor? I know what I’d have done…

    Does this mean Alonso has even less of a chance for the WDC? Can we crown Vettel now and send him on holiday then the rest can race 🙂

  6. RE- Customer Cars

    Surely the point of F1 is that the cars are working prototypes, if you were to “buy” a car would you also be buying the difetent aero configurations required fir the different types of tracks or would you get a sold as seen and the rest is down to you.
    All I can see is more mobile chicanes if more slower cars were on track. I’d be happy with no Cateram or Mrussia as I don’t see what they contribute to the racing.

    So its a no to cutomer cars, you may as well run 2 chamiponshops in the same race which is just F1 to me.

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