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Ecclestone – F1 not damaged, “I don’t remember” and ‘how about a new GP venue’? (06:30) Updated (10:10)
Salo watch (09:49)
Kubica and F1 (11:30)
Nurburgring bid for 100m euros (15:59)
Hulkenberg rejects Lotus’ offer (17:06) UPDATE (GMT 19:22)
Ecclestone – F1 not damaged by court case
Formula One Supremo Bernie Ecclestone has gone on record to say that the sport has not and is not being damaged by his high profile court case. The German media group Constantin Medien are seeking damages of $100 million.
The Australian Herald quoted Ecclestone as saying the case “lacks any merit”, which would seem to be the same old resilient Bernie we are all used to. TJ13 reported at the end of last season how he had looked to be losing his way, with challenges coming against his authority, most notably from Il Padrino.
When asked directly whether he thought the case had damaged Formula One Ecclestone replied, “I don’t think so. It’s good because a lot of facts come out of it.”
Ecclestone’s defence to date has been based upon two main themes. para. “I sign loads of stuff, I couldn’t do my job if I read everything” and “I don’t remember that – I’ve been very busy you know”. This was typified when he said yesterday,
“I signed on the weekend I think eight contracts between the head of state in Abu Dhabi and our company. I didn’t read any of them. I relied on the lawyers preparing them properly. And he, as the head of state for Abu Dhabi, I’m quite sure didn’t read any of his contracts. And he signed them. We both signed actually about 15 minutes before the preceding part of the race started in Abu Dhabi. So I sign more or less relying on my lawyers or accountants. Because I don’t have time to do anything else.” (Autoweek)
The Guardian reports an Ecclestone admission of forgetfulness, “At one point Philip Marshall QC, representing Constantin Medien, asked a question about Bambino Holdings, Ecclestone’s family trust, which referred to 2002. Ecclestone replied: ‘I’m learning a lot, for which I thank you, because this was 12 [sic] years ago. I have a bit of difficulty to remember what happened last week.'”
Earlier, when asked about CVC’s purchase of Formula One in 2005, a hesitant Ecclestone replied: “By the look of this I – dates – I’m sorry, I can’t keep up with these days.”
Bernie was asked about another meeting he had last year around the time of Gibrowsky’s jailing. He was flustered when he said, “I don’t remember what the meeting was for but, if you – I don’t remember the meeting but, if you said – I have hundreds of meetings a month but, if you said there was a meeting, there obviously was a meeting but I don’t remember what it was for.”
All of this was summed up when Ecclestone had to thank to prosecuting counsel for assisting his memory on another meeting he attended. “I’m learning a lot, for which I thank you, because this was 12 [sic] years ago. I have a bit of difficulty to remember what happened last week.”
With a case that is set to run on for several weeks there could be many more facts – forgotten or remembered – still to come.
In the meantime Ecclestone – never one to miss a chance for self promotion – let it slip that he’d just done a new deal for another Grand Prix.
During Ecclestone’s testimony, the prosecuting counsel produced minutes of a Formula One board meeting in 2004 where Bernie asks for a press release to be distributed confirming that the sport’s majority owners, a consortium of banks, would not dismiss him.
When asked to explain this, Ecclestone responded, “I travel the world making business on a hand shake. And all of a sudden I’m no longer in any position to do anything, so who would want to accept my signature on a contract? I’ve just signed a contract now for 600 million-odd with people over the weekend. I can’t do that if people think I’m going to be fired in the morning.”
Without going into speculation overdrive, one would imagine this would be for Mexico or New Jersey (again). However, the number appears large for either venture. $600m tends to be the cost of a circuit build (c. $2-300m) and the hosting fees for the initial contractual period.
Mexico and New Jersey are not likely to have that kind of spend as there are only partial circuit builds to be done.
The mouthpiece of FOM and Bernie, Christian Sylt, gives us a clue into what Ecclestone wants us to believe. He writes today, “Ecclestone was pictured with the King of Morocco over the [Abu Dhabi} weekend and late last year he confirmed that talks have taken place about holding a race in Morocco”.
Pitpass reported back in December 2012 Ecclestone stating, “I met the king of Morocco a couple of years ago and talked about F1”, He added however, “what reason would it be good for us? The manufacturers are not selling anything there. How many people would come?”
Pitpass was dismissive of the idea of a return to Casablanca stating “F1 already has a lengthy pipeline of countries which want races. Argentina, Hong Kong, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Thailand and even cash-strapped Greece”.
Common sense would suggest that even whilst facing prosecution, Ecclestone is merely throwing a bone to the pack for his own amusement.
Interesting though, the last race in Casablanca was in 1958 and saw the accident which killed British driver Stuart Lewis-Evans. The engine of his Vanwall is understood to have seized up which sent him speeding into barriers and set his car alight. Lewis-Evans was managed by Ecclestone and the two were understood to be close.
Sylt, who is close to FOM, concludes in his piece today, “Races in Mexico and New Jersey are planned but the latter seems unlikely to get off the grid due to lack of funding. Signing a deal with a new location would compensate for this and allow F1 to follow its growth plans”.
Is this a final and tacit admission from Ecclestone that New Jersey is finally over and out?
Since the team clinched their 4th consecutive pair of F1 titles, Herr Marko has been remarkably placid. This despite all the free Red Bull he can drink, though rumours have it the vodka in the mix has been a little higher this past couple of weeks.
Anyway, a certain rather average and forgettable Finnish ex-F1 driver has been making a lot of noise recently, so the TJ13 investigative teams focus will shift for a while.
Having dropped his mate Kimi right in it by suggesting the atmosphere and everything else at Lotus has tipped Raikkonen into taking early surgery, Salo is hoping to help the Lotus tea out once again.
Scenario: Raikkonen ‘buggers off’ for the last 2 races of the season, who do Lotus replace him with? Of course Davide Valsecchi, 2012 GP2 winner, appears favourite. Yet Mika has ruminated on this matter for some time. “I have thought about this for a while,” he tells Finnish broadcaster MTV3, “and I think getting Heikki would be a smart idea.”
Clearly this will not be enough to persuade the powers that be so Salo has further lines of persuasion. “Valsecchi will hardly be able to do anything on a completely new track to him, but Heikki has raced in Austin”. Ok, so Enstone are briefly considering matters for a few seconds now.
Not wishing to lose the momentum, Salo hurries on with another relevant synergy as to why his Finnish compatriot should get the drive. “Caterham also has a Renault engine. Heikki has been waiting for something like this, and if I was a team boss, I would take him rather than Valsecchi. That’s nothing against Valsecchi, but simply about Lotus needing to score points.”
Having visited the artic circle region of the Scandinavian countries, I’ve seen the amount of Vodka consumed on a Monday night – so for now, we’ll leave Mika slumped in the trailer of the snowmobile parked outside the bar and move on to a more rational discussion.
The smart move for Lotus is to get it’s 2014 line-up together early yet claims are being made for the available drivers already by others. However, a Sauber spokesperson tells Speedweek, “Nico will do the last two races for us, just as he did the other 17.” Nico’s manager, Werner Heinz, refused to comment on the matter.
Pastor Maldonado is in the running for a permanent drive with the team, though it would be unlikely he could extract himself from the Williams team for the last 2 races without some fairly steep financial penalty.
Sergio Perez will certainly race for McLaren in Austin, in the vain hope he will have one last chance to convince the team management to keep him.
“For me, this will be the most important weekend of my year”, Segio says in the McLaren GP preview. “I’ll be especially keen for a strong result to send my fans back home with a smile on their faces. I think we’ve shown some solid improvement and greater understanding of our car over the past few races, yet, frustratingly, both Jenson and I have had few opportunities to really demonstrate what the car is capable of.
“I’d love another chance of a race like India, where I was able to push throughout the entire race and get some strong points for the team.”
For Austin, if someone could cough up a few million maybe Alexander Rossi wouldn’t be a bad idea to attract local media (being continental) interest.
So who is left?….. Valsecchi……. err…… mmmm……. Petrov?…… err……. best with someone whose driven a 2013 car I guess……
….. anyone thought of Kovaleinan?
Hey, not such a bad idea after all…………………. Drag that man out of the trailer and give him another vodka – bottle that is…..
Kubica and F1
I’m not sure this is ‘new’ news, but F1 fans favourite Robert Kubica has again spoken about the likelihood of an F1 return.
“I would be able to drive an F1 car on one or two circuits for testing. But it doesn’t make sense to test for a day if I cannot race,” Kubica tells BBC sport. “I think there is only one person who can judge what I can do behind the steering wheel – and that’s myself. It’s a dream, a target, but for now, it’s very difficult – I would say nearly impossible. I will never take the opportunity if I don’t feel 100% ready. If one day things improve, for sure we will see. For now, I am concentrating on rallying.”
Robert recently won the WRC2 category and is lining himself up for a WRC drive at this weekend’s Wales Rally GB.
“I focus on my recovery – and rallying is helping me a lot in this. I can see a lot of improvement behind the wheel in a rally car. Driving on gravel is very demanding. There are lots of movements on the steering wheel which put a lot of stress on my arm and my hand.
But I know this does not help my biggest limitation, which is driving a single-seater. I do not have the power to take control of it but I will try my best.”
Kubica isn’t the first and won’t be the last F1 driver to participate in dangerous ‘vacation time’ activities. Yet the risk of ruining an F1 career should be plain to all from Kubica’s story – though this will not stop the likes of the Iceman racing during the winter in competitive snowmobile races.
Lopez defends Lotus integrity as they resist Quantum interference
TJ13 reported following the weekend, that there are those in the Lotus/Genii hierarchy who are highly concerned about the deal with Quantum Motorsports. We suggested Mansoor Ijaz’s interference in the Kimi Raikkonen saga had soured relationships between the potential investor and the team and contrary to most other F1 written reports – TJ13 stated that a deal was most definitely NOT DONE.
Gerard Lopex reveals today to German Publication ‘The World’, the reaon why this is the case. When asked, “How is the driver pairing for 2014 coming along”, Lopez issued a coded repsponse. “There are 4 possible candidates. These include Nico Hulkneberg and Pastor Maldonado and I will say nothing of the other 2.”
The reporter then enquires as to the role of potential investor’s Quantum in driver decisions. Lopez is direct, “They also have a driver, they like to have their own ideas. If a deal is concluded, they will have their say. This is exactly why we have not decided yet”.
Yet Quantum have previously come out publically in favour of Nico Hulkenberg, whom Boullier has also recommended to the Genii board. During the Abu Dhabi GP Mansoor Ijaz said, “We as incoming owners and shareholders have made it very clear what our preference is. I wish the transition had been smoother between Kimi and the next driver, who we believe will be Nico Hulkenberg, but sometimes in life things don’t happen so clearly and as nicely as you would like them to.”
So what is the problem? Lopez infers driver wrangling between Genii/Lotus and Quantum are delaying matters – yet both appear to favour Hulkenberg as the replacement for Kimi.
The 2 unnamed drivers are key to this conundrum. TJ13 believes Quantum are not supporting the retention of Romain Grosjean – even though Eric Boullier has declared him as a driver for the team in 2014.
Lopez is again direct on who will decide the 2014 drivers. “Basically, we decide, and not just me. Eric Boullier and his people are a very important part of this. In the past, others would have made the decision that Romain Grosjean would no longer drive for the team. So it is best we decide what is right for us. All the difficulty over this, is external and not from us.”
Gerard makes an interesting addition as he concludes on this matter. “We will not put someone in our car who merely has an F1 drivers’ superlicense. No matter what the means”.
The question is whether Genii really needs the 35% inward investment on offer from Quantum, or whether this is just a convenient juncture for them to share the risk of running an F1 team with other partners.
Lotus stock is high at present, and there is no certainty they will again be challenging for race wins and a top 3 finish in the constructor’s title in 2014. This is particularly prevalent when considering the loss of key personnel such as James Allison and their world champion driver Raikkonen.
Hence the Genii investor’s must decide whether to roll the dice and continue alone – hoping for a better investment deal in the future – or to get into bed with partner’s whose ambitions are clear. Ijaz was most revealing when commenting on the deal being offered by Quantum to Genii. “We have options – I won’t go into the details of those options – but the options do allow us in a fixed amount of time to take control of the team later on. We will do that in a way that is very co-ordinated with our partners at Genii.”
It could be that Genii will in fact hold out on Quantum as Lopez makes the case that the Enstone project for them was not just an opportunity to buy and sell and F1 team at a profit. Gerard is upset by all the negative publicity the team have received over Kimi and finance and he admits Raikkonen leaving for Ferrari hurts, “very much”.
Its suggested to Lopez that Raikkonen’s decision to leave the team was exactly because of the continuing headlines reporting Lotus to be having financial difficulties. Lopez retorts passionately, “Firstly, and this should be clear; the salaries in the company are and have been always paid. Secondly, we do not have the debt that other teams have.
Third, the money appears as a liability to us. We have advanced 80 percent of the money the team has required. Fourth, the greatest risk for Lotus – and also for a number of other teams that are privately financed – is that the private owners simply are forced to shut down the team. This could happen to a number of teams when F1 continues to make the big teams richer and forgets the others
We read again and again negative headlines, yet no one seems to care that we decided to save a company and about 500 employees jobs. We could decide at any time to be a team that spends less money, but 300 or more families would be out on the road.
Of course, the Formula 1 is not a charitable organization, but the huge differences with which the teams are financially supported by the Formula 1, is the real issue. It is not that the others have more money to invest, but the fact that they simply get more money – and not because they are better, but because they are apparently more important”.
Lopez concludes, “We begin our 100 metre race 200 metres from the finish – and still we make it to the podium.”
Food for thought.
As F1 fans we hate the money men and recently the private equity investment companies ruining our sport. Yet money men of some sort have been stealing from F1 since time began – and it is the teams’ stupidity and divisions that allow this.
Genii appear to be trying to do something which isn’t merely about buying and selling an F1 team and making the most money from the transaction, or the Quantum deal would now be done.
So maybe as F1 fans and even supporters of Kimi – we should cut the owners of the Enstone team a little slack.
McLaren fuel speculation as they delay sponsor announcement
McLaren were scheduled to make their biggest announcement of the year on December 2nd – the new title sponsor for the team. Yet Martin Whitmarsh in a teleconference interview appears to be suggesting this date will now be set back.
“There will be some new sponsors, but I think probably – and I don’t know because I haven’t talked to our PR function – there will be more of a fanfare at the car launch rather than an announcement on December 2.”
Hot on the heels of the last minute Magnussen withdrawal from GP2 testing and the ‘sources’ cited by Andrew Benson at the BBC who say Perez McLaren career is finished, this of course is about to shift the media focus from Enstone to Woking.
Whitmarsh adds, “My own view is that [by announcing Vodafone’s replacement on December 2] we would be taking away from what I hope will be an exciting car launch next year, but we will see,”
Of course testing starts a week earlier this year, since the teams agreed to ask the FIA to revoke the ban on January winter testing. Tuesday January 28th will see the new F1 V6 Turbo engines fired up together in Jerez for the first time.
This of course means car launches will need to be scheduled earlier, and having stolen the show of all the 2013 launches, McLaren will be looking to put on a good event for sponsors and fans alike. Add a big title sponsor into the mix – and it could indeed be a heady affair.
Since McLaren’s first title sponsor in 1972, there have only ever been 4 such partners in some 42 years, and the Yardley relationship lasted for just the first 2 years exclusively before Philip Morris and Marlboro entered the fray.
The current Vodafone deal is worth $75m a year and was initially agreed to include the 2014 season. Vodafone’s inability to remove its logo’s from the cars during the 2012 Bahrain GP against the backdrop of the race being run during a civil uprising and protests against the event.
There may be much written about who McLaren will partner with next, yet one thing is certain this relationship will not be short term and most likely will run until the next Concorde agreement is due in 2020.
Unlike Lotus who are embroiled in driver selection matters with sponsors and investors, the McLaren sponsorship will be completely un-related to driver selection. Many believe Telmex as the natural successor to Vodafone – probably because they are both mobile communications companies – yet even if this were the case, Sergio Perez or any Mexican driver will not be part of the deal.
Favourites are Gillette, who like Red Bull are merely an international brand marketing operation for a low cost high margin limited product range. Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) are in the mix as existing partners with McLaren, though whether a single brand can be found that would become the ‘title’ name of the sponsor is dubious.
Then of course there is Telmex, though their global market reach is predominantly restricted at present to the Americas.
Though, don’t be surprised if a dark horse appears at seemingly the last minute.
Silverstone to be sold for just over £10m
Whichever way you look at this, this deal looks a bargain for the new, but as yet undisclosed owners of the historic Northamptonshire circuit. In August it was announced the Blaenau Gwent council had given the final go ahead for a £280m new Motorsport facility to be developed and which will be known as the ‘Circuit of Wales’.
It appears that the British Racing Drivers’ Club who acquired the lease for the land in 1952, has finally admitted there are better people to run motor racing circuits than a group of ex-racing drivers.
Having spent around £30m developing the facilities to ensure the new 17 year F1 contract from Ecclestone, the BRDC mitigated this cost when they did a deal with MEPC property group earlier this year to lease them the 280 acres surrounding the circuit for 999 years for £32m.
In a letter to BRDC members, the outgoing chairman Stuart Rolt said: “The revised value reflects the commercial value of the amounts offered for the business including upfront payments and the present value of future rental income.”
Rolt went on to explain the surprisingly low valuation of the circuit which had been written down to £10.8m in the annual accounts. “The value of an asset that has a locked purpose as a business – in Silverstone’s case to be operated primarily as a motor racing circuit – is largely calculated from the profit that can be derived from it. Typically a multiple of annual profits will be used to generate a balance sheet value.” He added, “We made a net loss in the year … Our circuit assets value reflects this.”
The loss for the previous financial year was around £3.3m. In 2009 Silverstone signed a new 17 year deal with FOM that saw the race fee rise to £11.6m with a 5% annual compound increment payable meaning the cost of the race fee would eventually be around £20m by 2020. The fee for 2012 which generated the £3.3m loss was £13.43m.
Silverstone has been just one of 2 F1 venues that receives no subsidy from local or national government, and the other – Monza – has big financial troubles too. The appeals from the BDRC for some kind of national assistance has gone unheeded for years, and this transaction appears to demonstrate they are not prepared to perpetuate the annual fight to raise sufficient cash to fund Ecclestone’s F1 circus.
Austin Texas is set to receive around $30m from State Comptroller Susan Combs in return for the annual inward economic benefits their F1 race brings to the region. New Jersey will – if not has already – fold unless some public funds are provided.
One likely result will be that ticket prices for F1 and MotoGP will rise sharply, though the 2014 offering is as yet unaffected.
Nurburgring bid for 100m euros
Funny how the news breaks at times, but Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper is reporting today that the automobile club ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club) has submitted a non-binding offer to acquire the historic circuit.
The ADAC is kind of like the AA (for UK readers) and has connections with the other German circuit Hockenheim which hosts alternating F1 events. The club stepped in to ensure the German race went ahead this year at the Nurburgring – but were credited with playing Ecclestone well and negotiating a zero hosting fee.
Though some 300m euros in debt, the German venue including the infamous Nordschleife has been estimated at a value of around EUR 100 million. Though ADAC are being coy as a spokesperson suggested today, “With the non-binding offer, we hope to gain access to the numbers and then we will decide how to proceed.”
Mateschitz – delusions of grandeur
Deitrich Mateschitz is a fairly private individual, and although he owns the most successful F1 team in recent times he prefers to allow his views to be represented by his trusted General – Herr Marko. However, Marko’s attitudes and views, and at times apparent indifference blended with arrogance do not necessarily represent the nature of his boss – or do they?
Speaking on the return of the Austrian GP, Mateschitz has some interesting views. Whilst he accepts the return of the race to the Austrian region of Styria is a dream of his come true, he claims, “it is a lot to do with good will and less to do with sentiment”.
Mateschitz accepts that he will lose money on the event and is even coughing up the FOM race hosting fee out of his own pocket. The Ausrian believes, “If 80,000 people come, the investment will flow back not only to Styria, but the whole Country will benefit.”
Yet Dietricht may have other motivations – even delusions of grandeur – as he explains his rationale. “I probably have something like an Archduke Johann syndrome, mingled with a bit of a disturbance.”
Mmm. Mateschitz is alluding to the Habsburg field marshal of the 19th Century who is remembered as a great modernizer and became an important figure of identification for Styrians.
“His proximity to the people is given evidence to by his many contacts with the common man, by wearing the local Tracht, the Steireranzug, and by collecting and promoting the material and spiritual culture of the regiony” (Wiki).
Double Mmm…. Land der Berge, Land am Strome………
“Strongly feuded for, fiercely hard-fought for,
Thou liest in the middle of the continent
Like a strong heart,
Since the early days of the ancestors thou hast
Borne the burden of a high mission”.
Forgive me folks, is this a motor car race we’re talking about here???
Hulkenberg rejects Lotus’ offer
New is coming through from Austin Texas, that Lotus are attempting to engage the services of Nico Hulkenberg for the final 2 races of the season. Werner Heinz has verbally confirmed that negotiations are taking place today.
Update (GMT 19:15) Werner Heinz has confirmed that Hulkenberg had an offer from Lotus to drive for them in Austin and Brazil, but has declined it.
There have been several days of negotiations behind the scenes to make this happen – including a seat fitting at Enstone.
No coherent explanation has yet emerged from Heinz as to why they turned down the offer, however, Nico will now drive for Sauber until at least the end of 2013.
Lotus were clearly looking for an experienced driver to assist them in their push to overtake Ferrari or Mercedes for 3rd place in the championship. With 72 hours to go, the choice must be now between the experience of Kovalainen and the youth of their reserve driver Davide Valsecchi.