Daily #F1 News and Comment: Tuesday 26th November 2013

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Coulthard gatecrashes McLaren party

Red Bull Ring applies for permission to hold an F1 race

Maldonado cocks it up again

Caterham not finished

The Horse Whisper


Coulthard gatecrashes McLaren party

A certain young German has been smashing records recently left right and centre, but almost overlooked was a record from the nation who have delivered more F1 champions than any other. Concluding his 14th season in Formula 1, Jenson Button racked up his 247th start on Sunday, a record for a British driver.

The previous holder of the record was a Scotsman – who according to one of TJ13’s contributors is holding together the desperate coverage provided by the BBC – David Coulthard. As a former McLaren driver himself, Coulthard was recruited by the team to give Jenson a little surprise on Saturday following qualifying.

He gatecrashed the McLaren Saturday media event, grabbed a microphone and started a slightly unusual Q&A.

DC: “I’ll be frank with you Jenson, I’m a bit pissed off, because you are about to enter your 247th Grand Prix, and I thought at least I would keep the record of 246 starts, the most of a British driver. You’ve got a World Championship, you’ve got more wins than me, and you’re stealing that from me as well.”

JB: “But you’ve still got your looks!”

DC: “That’s a good line that, thanks very much. But in my defence there’s a couple of records that you’re still behind in, but you’re going to do those as well.”

JB: “Let’s not mention them here…”  [general amusement from assembled F1 writers].

DC: “You haven’t got the results on the track this year that we know that McLaren can deliver, but I’m sure that you’re going to have those in the future. I just wanted to congratulate you on being on the cusp of being the most experienced British driver on the race track. You’re still a little bit behind in other areas. But well done, congratulations. How do you feel, that’s the first question?”

JB: “Really good right now… What a way to do it! I’ve been through a lot, DC knows that in a career that spans 13-14 years you go through a lot of ups and downs. You experience great times, a lot of special occasions, winning a world championship, being a driver here for the last four years [at this point a team member offered JB a glass]. Champagne, thank you… You see I thought today was shit, but it’s not! This is the best day… Lots of ups and downs, but the good thing is I feel I’ve had more ups than downs. An enjoyable career so far. It’s scary how fast it goes by though, isn’t it DC? I’m enjoying myself. This year has been very difficult for us, but I’m still loving racing, and I’ll be loving the fight this winter to take us back to the front, hopefully. So thank you for that DC.”

A cake decorated with “247” written in Smarties then appeared and in true McLaren corporate style – the cake remained on the plate and was eaten in a civil manner – rather than being plastered over Jenson and Martin’s freshly pressed lovely white… soon to be binned Vodafone McLaren shirts.

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Red Bull Ring applies for permission to hold an F1 race

The Österreichring track was originally built in 1969 to replace the bland and bumpy Zeltweg Airfield circuit, It was situated in the Styrian mountains and it was a spectacular, scenic and unique circuit. It was a very fast layout and the slowest of all the corners was taken in 4th gear in a 6 speed gearbox (3rd in a 5 speed gearbox).

During practice for the 1987 GP, McLaren’s Stefan Johansson narrowly avoided serious injury when he collided at over 150mph with a deer that had wandered onto the circuit. The race itself had to be re-started twice, due to accidents on the narrow pit straight start finish line.

The safety concerns and increasing speeds at the Österreichring meant a circuit redesign was required with the resulting commission being given to Mr. Herman Tilke. In 1995-96 the circuit was rebuilt, the sweeping corners were transformed into sharp ‘right handers’ and since the construction was paid for by mobile phone company A1 – the circuit was similarly renamed.

Seven further Austrian F1 GP’s were hosted at this stunning location, before the pit buildings and grandstands were demolished in 2004. The Red Bull company began a €70m renovation of the facility in 2008 and it re-opened in 2011 hosting a round of the DTM and Formula 2 championships during that year.

The planning consent for the reconstructed facility limited the number of spectators and the amount of noise which is allowable – both of which are prohibitive for an F1 weekend. This week the 100 page document requesting a change in the Red Bull Ring’s noise level and crowd capacity restrictions has been filed with the local authorities.

When asked about the likelihood of the application being approved, a most helpful spokesperson told Austrian broadcaster ORF, “It will either be judged positively or negatively,” adding, “If everything is positive, the decision could come before Christmas.”

The request is for 40,000 audience capacity on Friday, and for 80,000 each day for Saturday and the race day, Sunday.

Meanwhile, over the weekend tickets were put on sale for the Austrain GP event, scheduled for 22nd June 2014. Such was the demand that the computer system crashed. The Red Bull Ring were apologetic. “We would like to apologize for last night, We had calculated demand and prepared together with our ticket partner for this ticket sales launch. But the onslaught of ticket requests, we honestly did not expect. The good news is that most categories are still available, and the ordering system today is running without any problems.”

Who says everything in F1 is done arse about tit….

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Maldonado cocks it up again

Both Pastor Maldonado and his father were seen talking to both Eric Boullier and Monisha Kaltenborn at the weekend. In Austin Texas, Nico Hulkenberg all but ruled himself out of the running for the race to replace Raikkonen claiming he was ‘sceptical’ over the Enstone team’s finances.

Maldonado appears to have formulated a similar opinion to Hulkenberg according to ‘confidants’ with whom he was speaking at the weekend. He has attempted to convince PDVSA to allow him to sign for Sauber, but the Venezuelan oil company refused because they have already agreed collaboration between the current Lotus partner – Total.

TJ13 reported yesterday on the flimsy state of the finances in Enstone, and the pressure on Lopez from Genii investors to see the returns they were promised. The absence of a quantum of cash will soon become doubly problematic, as it is believed the deal between PDVSA and Lotus is conditional on the completion of the 35% sale of the team. The Venezuelan’s are rightly cautious that they don’t pour their funds into a black and gold hole, which may yet fail to make the starting grid in Australia.

Meanwhile, Crashtor Maldonado will have hardly endeared himself to his new team, now it is public knowledge he really wanted to go to Sauber.

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Caterham not finished

TJ13 reported yesterday that whilst Marussia were not big winners from the 10th place battle, Caterham were indeed big losers. Had Caterham come 10th, they would have received almost $50m due to the rules regarding consecutive years finishing in the top 10. Unless new provisions have been made under the bi-lateral agreements between FOM and the teams, Caterham get nothing.

This must be particularly disheartening for Caterham, because for most of the season they have dominated Marussia, at times by almost a second per lap. Yet the rules ranking teams in the WCC who score no points are clear, and in the second race of the year, Jules Bianchi’s 13th place is the reason Marussia are classified ahead of Catherham.

Following the race, Cyril Abiteboul was putting a brave face on matters. “It’s obviously disappointing to finish the season like this and to end in 11th place in the championship. We started with last year’s car which was slower than our rivals for the first three races and it was in the second race in Malaysia that we lost the tenth place that we then ended up chasing all year.

It’s particularly frustrating because our development strategy paid dividends in terms of outright pace from Bahrain onwards, but we had to balance our 2013 campaign against the need to focus on 2014 and that was always going to be a challenge. Despite the position we ended up in I want to thank the drivers and the whole team for the work they put in this year.

We have experienced people in every department and a lot of young talent throughout the team, on track and at Leafield, and everyone in the team needs to be thanked for their hard work throughout 2013.

Our shareholders and our partners have continued to support us unequivocally and the investments they continue to make, in infrastructure, resources and, most importantly, people, put us in a good position for the future. Now we’ll regroup, recharge and come back fighting in 2014 in an all new Formula 1.”

This begs the question whether Caterham should have had 50 million reasons to continue the 2013 car development for longer and to hell with 2014. Tony Fernandes blew some $100m (depending on how you count) on English Premier League football club in 2012, let’s hope he and his partners have deep pockets to fund the missed opportunity of the 2013 F1 season.

That said, whispers began again in Austin of a merger this winter between Marussia and Caterham….

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The Horse Whisper

Something died within many Top Gear fans when the first Stig launched himself into the ocean from an aircraft carrier. The feeling was the Stig was gone and things would never be the same.

Of course the Stig was then regenerated – Doctor Who style – and after a while Stig 2 became an acceptable replacement. This recreation was not particularly difficult or unbelievable because Stig never speaks and is in effect a bloke in a racing suit with a helmet and dark visor.

The Horse Whisperer is Maranello’s legendary ethereal disembodied voice, which speaks rarely, but with authority of the highest echelons in Ferrari-land. His message is often a disparaging and dismissive correction of some journalistic notion being propounded at that time.

Since the removal of the pit bull Ferrari head of communications – Luca Colajanni – last year. TJ13 has continually asserted that the Horse Whisper has changed. However, unlike the good Doctor Who and Stig, this regeneration has not been announced to the world.

Granted, at times some of the pronouncements were always rather stilted when translated into English, but there was eloquence and artistic flow to the edicts and the alliterations used therein which seems to have gone forever.

The final utterance from Horse Whisper 1 was made in November last year, when speculation over Massa’s future was rife. It concluded, “Now coming into bloom are a whole list of possible and potential replacements, with a list of names from A to Z, something Ferrari is well used to. In truth, one letter, the “Z,” seems yet to be uncovered, or quite possibly it’s Zorro…unmasked”.

Today the Horse Whisper has spoken for the first time since August 30th whe in a piece entitled, “One swallow doesn’t make a summer” it was vehemently denied that any announcement would be made by Ferrari at the Italian GP over its future driver line-up.

The problem for Ferrari was the cat was already out of the bag, and whilst the party line was maintained – just about- and no announcement was made on race day 8th September. Yet the sheer volume of stories around the world about Kimi’s return to Maranello did force Massa to declare he was to leave the team 2 days later.

This cost the Horse Whisper some authority.

Today the Horse Whisperer has spoken again in, “Slow on the uptake with summer blunders”.

“When the championship finishes, the moment arrives to take stock. If it’s enough in sport to look at the points standings, in business some trust in summer valuations, even if they are carried out under a parasol.

For that reason, months later, a reconstruction of the budgets of Formula 1 teams developed by an Autosport colleague has transformed itself into journalistic fact. It’s a pity that the cited figures are largely fantasy and they can draw even distinguished newspapers into conclusions that are wildly erroneous.

It would be easy to deny the figures with facts but the truth about business matters has to stay confidential: this too, like technology, is a crucial factor in competition”.

This comment refers to an article by Autosport on “The true cost of Formula 1”. In that piece there is a section for each team and the following on Ferrari maintains it is the team with the biggest budget.

“SCUDERIA FERRARI

Budget: £250m (inc engines)
Income: £260m
Profit: £10m (group) 2012
Income breakdown:
£160m sponsors, inc FIAT/Ferrari
£20m customers
£80m FOM earnings 2012

Ferrari, already on preferential FOM terms through heritage, is the only F1 team producing an entire car in one location, doing so by sharing mainframe facilities with the road car division, which supports the Gestione Sportiva racing department in lieu of global advertising.

Engines are supplied to two customer operations, enabling costs to be further defrayed; these have been extracted to provide a purified base. Reduction programmes, both within and without Ferrari, enabled the sporting division to report an internal profit for the first time in 2011.

However, the company’s corporate structure and internal accounting policies make it impossible to split revenues/profits, although all 2012 financial parameters improved over the previous year by an average of 10 per cent – with similar growth expected for 2013.

The Scuderia subscribes to the RRA, but reporting is complicated by the fact that Italy does not provide a ready-made cottage industry as per the UK – hence the vast proportion of components are manufactured internally, boosting headcount, with allocations for engine manufacture further compounding matters.

Ferrari’s brand provides a powerful commercial pedestal, but the signs are tobacco company Philip Morris could reduce below-the-line activities – it has already called time on its pre-season Wrooom programme – leaving a hole of up to £60m. Whether Ferrari will dip into profits in that case or find a replacement is the burning question. CCB status adds an annual £30m to heritage payments”.

Why the Horse Whisperer finds it important to refute this seemingly innocuous piece written back in July, we can only speculate, but Autosport journalists may find getting Ferrari interviews next year more tricky.

What we do know is that it is a big deal to some big wig inside the Ferrari family and repercussions will follow.

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Ferrari talking it up

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28 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Tuesday 26th November 2013

  1. Tell me all about it, it took me 2hours and 14minutes to get my tickets for the RedBullRing (sales opened at 22h on Sunday), from what I can see most of the tickets that are available under the current restrictions are now gone. Never seen such a quick (almost) sellout!

    • …nice one BDP – awesome venue..

      …point is though, under current restrictions, they they can’t run at all unless they get an agreement on an increase in the noise levels they can produce…

      • Think the application is for 30,000 audience on Friday, and it’s not so much noise but overall sequence of events, safety, traffic plan and permanent and temporary (grandstands) construction works that needs to be approved. Anyway, seems that the event organizers haven’t waited for the application to be granted as can be seen on their FB page…:-)

        https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=490556444376580&set=a.490554027710155.1073741844.123241681108060&type=1&theater

        • Someone did some research for me when Austria was first mentioned earlier this year – and I’m pretty sure there were also prescribed decibel levels which would prohibit an F1 weekend.

          No matter though, you are correct that all the other logistical reasons which may be prohibitive are equally as challenging.

          • Earlier this year Dr. Helmut himself has hinted that a separate permit for the F1 decibels might be required but nothing on that in the current application that was filed yesterday.

            For this year’s DTM race at the RedBullRing a maximum of dB 84 was allowed. F1 will probably be somewhat more noisy, but then again: can anyone at this point in time know what noise level the V6 Turbo’s will reach, left alone ask a permit for it?

          • I bet if someone asked on of the engine manufacturers, a fairly simple extrapolation could be calculated from the benchmark V8’s to the new V6.

            My hunch is whilst not so high pitched, the noise levels will be similar… any sound engineers out there who can assist?

      • Re Red Bull Ring, “It will either be judged positively or negatively,” is Mr Horner in on this quote?

    • How to apply pressure on your local decision makers. ‘Will you tell 100.000 people they cannot visit our beautiful country?’

          • Latest rumour is Gutierrez to Marussia, along with Vandoorne and Ericsson aiming at Caterham, presumably alongside VDG or Kovalainen/Rossi. Second Sauber seat seems to be up for grabs. Sutil’s wife Jennifer indeed seen drinking champagne with Monisha!

            Pic and Chilton out of F1 – I thought they had good backing too… maybe the 2014 cars actually being harder to drive has made some team bosses sit up and listen.. Quite a few WCC places could be up for grabs with 2 good drivers, which could be worth more than a guaranteed £10m backmarker. The smaller teams have to be aiming for 6th in the championship under the current prize money structure and Williams failing to score it regularly.

          • I’m hearing a lot of rumours that Petrov could be the peace-maker between Sauber and their Russian investors…#anotherRenaultoutcastontherebound?

          • Yeah I heard some of that a while back, and then it all went quiet. Gazprom is the one said to back Petrov.. you never know if there is any backing or a lot of backing. But if Petrov has already had 3 years in F1 he must have had some backing back then, right?

          • That plus the fact that it now appears that in 2014 we will have a Russian GP but no Mexican GP so 2 Russian drivers and 1 Mexican driver looks more logic (or should that be Bernie-engineered) than the other way around…

          • @Iestyn. That Caterham mob are following their F1 model that began with grab a well recognised name, continued with grab a better powertrain package, topped off now with grab an upcoming driver.
            And all for last bloody place on the seasons payola. Last season they finished third last, they’ve bettered that this time. Seems fitting somehow…..;-)
            Wonder how Rossi’s feeling with Ericsson’s name being bandied around?

          • True, but running Kovalainen and Trulli instead of pay drivers all the time must have cost them a good few million, even if it did guarantee the first £30m for being 10th place in 2010 and 2011 and so on.

            Must be exasperating, but I think if he gets another year of GP2 out of it (chance of a title shot/top 5 finish), with the team doing better than midfield runners, he has a chance for 2015, or can move towards Caterham sportscars (A shame for those wanting an American driver in F1 should that happen), perhaps keeping up his Austin FP1 appearances.

            Should Caterham and Marussia combine, they could theoretically be up to the high midfield level, although all staff would be doubled up.. budget and staff numbers would put them similar to Lotus.

  2. It seems like nobody wants to go to Lotus. Now I understand Maldonado’s comments separating himself from PDVSA and Grosjean’s apparent lack of confidence on his future.

    • I wouldn’t want to go to Lotus either, right now. Their entire budget has been trashed in the media and frankly nothing they have done has instilled the least bit of confidence in the business side of things. They have been fortunate to have supplied the test bed to Pirelli, I firmly believe this has been their biggest advantage in properly using the tires. Next year will be a different story since Pirelli should have more data from more teams (assuming their winter test is approved) and that should see fairer tires for all, negating part or all of what has enabled them to do so well the last 2 seasons.

      • Yeah, bad times for Lotus the switch in formula really as well. Their current car and engine combo is a killer one for this year’s 2012 tyres. Imagine how Kubica would have done in the Pirelli era with such a car!

        Without operational mistakes as well they could be in 2nd in the WCC, which would have given them an extra £17.5m (and a lot more confidence in their own budget). They have to hope Maldonado’s money just about keeps them in 5th place next year allied to a strong Grosjean, just ahead of Williams, Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso etc.

        This year RB, Mercedes, Ferrari and soon McLaren will all have done a Pirelli test, as the big 4 they can afford it. I wonder if this will give McLaren and Magnussen an advantage for 2014… most likely just help Kevin get up to speed a bit quicker than most rookie nowadays (only pre-season testing and super-licence/YDT running).

        • Yes, they clearly had their moments, certainly would have FINNished in front of Ferrari had they bothered to pay Kimi. I’m modestly curious whether they were being penny wise and pound foolish as I’m guessing the extra place in the WCC would have been worth more than whatever interest they would have had to pay to borrow the money for a few weeks to pay him.

          I’m sure whatever grow ups are left in that organization must be beating their heads against the wall at the moment given the way the end of their season went. Seems grim indeed.

    • I’ve wondered about PDVSA and Total, so it’s interesting news that PDVSA has worked out a deal to be at Lotus w/Total.

      I saw someone report that PDVSA was working to “fence” around their sponsorship so that they fund Lotus’ 2014 operating budget, and not Genii’s debts. Which would be a win for the Enstone team, but as The Judge points out, (yet another) loss for the team’s owners, Genii.

      The stated reason of Maldonado’s desires to go to Sauber (better financial stability) is interesting. It would appear just as likely, if not more so, that Sauber appears to be more attractive because he may receive greater support at Sauber.

      To race a Lotus in 2014 next to Grosjean may subject a driver to a Team Principle who is also the Manager of your team-mate, Grosjean. In addition, Grosjean now has a significant history at the team. The team has watch him mature from a problematic into a very good driver who can land on the podium at any given track. Grosjean and Boullier speak french as their first language. The development of the car is clearly oriented to Grosjean, (while Kimi was able to strong-arm the team to bring the swb car to Abu Dhabi, Maldonado may not be able to do so). To watch Kovalainen’s performance versus Grosjean’s is enough to give any driver pause before jumping in to that seat. Finally, engineers have feelings too, so some felt betrayed by their relationship with Kimi, and will gravitate in loyalty to Romain.

      So point being that while PDVSA is concerned about their money financing a successful F1 team (instead of a poorly managed investment entity), Maldonado may well be just as concerned, if not more so, about receiving the full support of the team to maximize his potential behind the wheel. Maldonado has stated clearly that he is in F1 to win.

  3. The Caterham story is interesting.

    Marussia celebrated after Brazil as if they’d won the WCC. The story here colors in why they celebrated, as they did.

    It’s hard to judge the talents at the back of the grid. But it’s noteworthy that Marussia were the only team saddled with a Cosworth engine this season, and were able to beat a Renault powered team.

    I’m looking forward to what Marussia does with Ferrari power next year.

    • Sometimes it isn’t that hard to judge if there is a real talent in the “badest” team. When alonso joined minardi you could see that it was special.

    • Agreed, will be great to see what might be achieved with Ferrari power.

      The downside will be if ever they get with Caterham and get dragged back.

      • I’d be surprised if the whispers of Caterham and Marussia joining together have any factual merit… (at least not for next 12 to 18 months). If there were facts underlying those whispers, the rumors would be much louder than they are.

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