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Time up for Martin Whitmarsh (00:01)
Ecclestone finished (00:01)
Haas an FIA stalking horse? (10:07)
Reader Poll (11:57)
Marko Watch (12:00)
Caterham’s nice little earner (12:05)
Time up for Martin Whitmarsh
Back in December, the British prime minister took a trade delegation to China. The party was extensive, flying out by a privately chartered aircraft. On that delegation was a certain Ron Dennis.
TJ13 reported at the time that Dennis had privately intimated during that trip that he intended to once again acquire a controlling stake in the McLaren group. We also reported that Dennis said he would be taking control of the racing team again – though there were those who doubted our sources.
Tonight, Ron Dennis has been re-appointed as the CEO of the McLaren. This was a role he voluntarily relinquished in 2012 and Martin Whitmarsh was appointed by agreement between Dennis (25% shareholder) Mumtalakat (50% shareholder) and Mansour Ojjeh (25% shareholder).
There are those reporting tonight that the replacement of Whitmarsh by Dennis is a coup. However, this is not the case. The decision to appoint Whitmarsh had Dennis’ blessing, and TJ13 believes that the decision to re-appoint Dennis was unanimous and unopposed among the shareholders.
With McLaren producing their first supercar since the Gordon Murray designed F1, Dennis felt it was important this should be his sole focus. However, the last of the planned P1’s was sold in December and Ron now believes he is the best person to run the entire McLaren empire.
There was a gathering of the McLaren family in Woking today, as Big Ron spoke for some 20 minutes. In a rousing speech he assured the assembled troops “there will be change” and also that “we will win again”.
“My fellow shareholders have mandated me to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren, beginning by improving our on-track and off-track performance,” said Dennis. “Over the coming weeks I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimising every aspect of our existing operations, whilst identifying new areas of growth that capitalise on our technologies, and where appropriate further investing in them.
During February, I will articulate a new Group strategy and implement the organisational structure best suited to achieving it. I am excited by the prospect of returning to the role of Group Chief Executive Officer and working with my many colleagues and fellow shareholders to fulfil our objective – which is to win at whatever we do.”
At the end of his inspiring discourse, Mr. McLaren was received with an extended ovation.
There was no mention of Whitmarsh during the entire proceedings, and neither was the F1 team principal present. Martin Whitmarsh’s suceeded Dennis as team principal 5 years ago to the day but his remaining time as McLaren team principal is short..
McLaren fans who would love to see big Ron once again upon the pit wall will be disappointed as Ross Brawn will be appointed as F1 team principal over the coming months.
McLaren allowed Paddy Lowe to join Mercedes before his contractual period of garden leave had expired, and they will demand a reciprocal arrangement for Brawn. Should Mercedes refuse, they may well find themselves on the wrong end of a legal dispute – where the precedent for Brawn joining McLaren early will actually be cited to have been set by Mercedes themselves.
The fracture in the relationship between Dennis and Whitmarsh began over a disagreement over Lewis Hamilton. Dennis wanted to allow Hamilton to leave at the end of his contract in 2012 having become exasperated with the McLaren protege’s behaviour.
Dennis is a stickler for how he believes his drivers should behave and famously told the Times following Hamilton’s departure, “You cut yourself, you bleed McLaren. We’re about winning, we care about how we win . . . We want to win with the right principles, the right values”.
Whitmarsh argued before the board that the team should retain their only world champion driver for 10 years. There were last minute bids to retain Hamilton, though his advisors had seen the writing was on the wall with Dennis.
Whitmarsh was responsible for the recommendation to appoint Sergio Perez as Lewis’ replacement and declared the deal to be ‘multi year’ as the team honed the young Mexican’s skills.
The influence of Dennis on driver selection remained strong within the board and Whitmarsh’s failure to secure an F1 drive for Kevin Magnussen saw him having to dismiss Perez. His public admission that he had been attempting to secure Sergio another drive clearly indicated he was perturbed with the decision to oust the Mexican.
Whitmarsh demonstrated he was becoming further from the decision making process when he announced the team had decided to delay the announcement of their new title sponsor planned for the 2nd December. When asked whether the new sponsor would be revealed at the launch of the new car, Whitmarsh told SKY, “No. I think it will be a separate one and it will likely be beyond the end of the season because obviously we’re respectful of the partnerships we have at the moment.” Whitmarsh added that he felt the new sponsor deserved an event separate to the car launch
A week later Whitmarsh was forced to do a U-Turn when asked about the 2nd December announcement again. “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 2 December.”
Martin Whitmarsh is a McLaren ‘lifer’ and loyalty is highly respected by Dennis. So a role will be found for him within the Group should he want it. Though maybe Whitmarsh will decide he’s been there seen it and bought the T-Shirt and its time for some fishing with Ross.
Ah… but Ross may well be unavailable.
It gets tiresome when the same mantra is presented time and again. Every time Ecclestone says something stupid or forgets that the weekend he is advocating for a revised French Grand Prix is already allocated to Le Mansr, “Without Bernie, we’d all be no where”… “Bernie took us from racing in fields to where we are today”… “Bernie transformed the sport of F1”….
I’ve heard these sentiments from team bosses far too often, and it just goes to prove, great F1 leaders of teams are not necessarily the smartest business people, though Ross Brawn turned $1 into $100m in just one year.
Ecclestone is a one trick pony, a second hand car salesman who capitalized on a moment in time when the Eurpoean TV Union broke down and he was able to begin hiving off the broadcasting rights in an auction that was never possible previously.
The teams as always were too busy arguing over some widget and the regulations, and missed the economic opportunities all together.
The vertically challenged son of Suffolk has proved that highly intelligent individuals can be lured into irrational decisions when presented with a choice which includes ‘self interest’ verses the demise of the sport in which they are employed and compete.
The cold hard facts are that Ecclestone and CVC have made countless billions out of F1, whilst seducing others to follow their lead – and their reward for servitude may have been some tens and maybe the odd hundreds of million or so.
Yet something changed yesterday. Ok on the glass half full side, Ecclestone is still in charge of F1 on a day to day basis, however, the power to enter into contracts has been removed from him.
When negotiating, it’s better to say, “I’m not signing unless….”, now Ecclestone must defer this process to the board of CVC. He has been castrated, made impotent in his ability to threaten and bully because he is no longer the man with the decisive red pen.
The manner in which the prosecutors in Munich announced the fact that Ecclestone will face trial, demonstrates a level of confidence that they believe they can get a conviction. Further, the trial and subsequent appeals according to some legal experts could take up to 4 years to resolve, during which Ecclestone can only operate at half cock.
Yet for some time now, CVC have been concerned that criminal and corruption convictions against Ecclestone may give the FIA an excuse to declare their acquisition of the F1 commercial rights as null and void. This is why CVC have sold around 50% of their shareholding over the past 18 months.
CVC have also loaded even more debt on the F1 brand they control, the loans are now estimated at some $4bn.
Ecclestone tonight claims, “The minute the court case is over then I’ll be back on the board again.” Though as history suggests, once a dictator has lost ultimate control, there is rarely a way back to the place they occupied before.
If F1 was in trouble before today, then Ecclestone’s demotion could bring about complete chaos, with the likes of Daimler Benz refusing to participate in the sport unless the son of a trawler man is completely removed from all operational activities until the Munich case has been resolved.
Just as Manchester United without Fergie have lost their air of invincibility, so it will be with FOM/CVC and Ecclestone. Those cliched tributes of how Ecclestone has served the sport well, will soon be forgotten as old grudges surface and retribution begins to become a believable prospect.
Haas an FIA stalking horse?
Back in December as we were all busy rushing around trying to buy presents for loved ones and ensure that we had every kind of vegetable and sauce for Christmas dinner that was imaginable, the FIA almost unnoticed issued a statement, inviting new teams to express a format interest in joining the F1 circus.
For this privilege they would have to cough up about $5,000 and produce a business plan which would demonstrate the capital and logistical requirements to set up and F1 team, and the ongoing funding required to attend and compete at each and every race on the calendar.
TJ13 commented at the time this appeared to be most bizarre, as this kind of planning takes months and months. The conclusion was that there was a team out there ready to go, which in effect had been pre-approved (which would be illegal) by the FIA.
Gene is no mug though, he owns the largest tooling company on planet earth (well in the USA definitely) and he developed the Windshear wind tunnel facility in Concord, North Carolina, whose first customer was an F1 team.
Haas wealth is estimated at some $760m – which of course is not all liquid – and to most of us this is pretty rich. However, Red Bull spend this in under 2 years on their F1 programme alone.
TJ13 understands that at this stage of the process, the FIA have not approved Haas or his business plan, though alarm bells should be sounding loudly at his plan to base the team in Charlotte USA. This fact alone would suggest Haas hasn’t got a clue as to what is required to set up and develop a Formula 1 team that can survive – never mind be successful.
There are 2 other expressions of interest, though the FIA is being rather secretive about it all. Maybe good old Gene is just a stalking horse after all.
The good doctor has been lying low for some time. He clearly misses Mark Webber, because he hasn’t got anyone to slag off anymore. This may mean we see a whole new Helmut in 2014, and the Marko watch team may be forced to disband.
For now though, Dr. Marko has decided to add his two penneth into the Ecclestone debate. His lap dog Christian reckons despite the bribery charges, “Bernie is absolutely the best and only guy to do what he does, to take Formula One to the global reach that the sport has achieved … it’s in all our interests that he’s around as long as possible.’
This viewpoint is hardly surprising considering the very public ‘bromance’ that has been developing between Mr. E and Christian. When asked about a possible successor last month, Ecclestone positively gushed. “Christian would be ideal for my job,’ he said. ‘I would be happy to hold his hand. We could have a transitional period.
It needs someone who knows the sport. If someone comes in from outside, a corporate type, I don’t think I could work with them. It wouldn’t last five minutes. People deal with me because they know me. I’ve known them for a long time and they trust me. They know I’m straight with them. That’s how it is with Christian. I hope we can do it.”
Red Bull clearly have a ‘special relationship’ with Bernie and FOM and Dr Marko begins by stating the obvious about Ecclestone’s predicament. “He is at present innocent. It could take 3-4 years for a verdict… and until then he remains part of F1”.
However, Marko’s second statement is fantastical and mere wishful thinking. It didn’t take 3-4 years from the commencement of Gribkowsky’s trial for a verdict to be declared. Further, the German courts have declared one party to the $44m transfer guilty, and at risk of being simplistic and clichéd, a bribe requires ‘two to tango’.
Were Ecclestone to be found guilty and appeal. His position whilst awaiting the appeal would be untenable – even for the day to day tasks of making coffee for the FOM lawyers.
Ecclestone’s replacement will most likely be a non-F1 individual who is respected internationally for their commercial dealings and someone that CVC can trust to take F1’s commercials into the 21st century.
Caterham’s nice little earner
Of course no official statement has been made by Caterham F1, but some tea leaf reading and whispers in TJ13’s ear leads us to conclude that the final driver announcement will net the Leafield team around 30m euro’s.
Giedo va der Garde has managed to assemble a 15m euro war chest, and his drives toward the latter part of the season have won him favour with Tony Fernandes.
Marcus Ericsson has a huge 13m euros of sponsorship and has been cited confidently by most as a shoe in to drive for the green team in 2014. However, behind the scenes Mr. E has been weaving his magic and promoting the fact that F1 needs a Japanese driver and Sweden is a far less commercially attractive proposition to Mr. E.
This means Kamui Kobayashi’s 9m euros will trump Ericsson’s 13m euros… add that to the 6m euros Robin Frijns has gathered together and hey presto – Caterham have another 30m euros in the 2014 budget.
Charles Pic who famously ‘won’ second place for |Caterham in 2012 whilst driving for Marussia, is being talked about as a test driver for Lotus – facilitated by Renault. He will get 8 FP1’s and 2 test sessions for the team in black and gold.
Giedo and Kamui should get on like a house on fire as they are old acquaintances from way back in 2006 when they jointly led in the Formula 3 team ASM.
Of course this is all speculation 😉
Give us your cash and we’ll buy and run an F1 team for you
My keyboard is rebelling as I type the word ‘Quantum’ and despite Gerard Lopez assuring us this week that the deal with Quantum Motorsports is dead – this may not in fact be the case. Mansoor Ijaz may yet be wandering the paddock with gay abandon, attempting to fill our TV screens with post race interviews on how well Lotus is progressing.
The multi headed beast that is Lotus has another spokesperson in addition to Gerard Lopez following the recent investment from Andrew Ruhan and today he tells Autosport that the team “maintain discussions with Mansoor [Ijaz] and still believe it is possible that a deal on a similar basis can be concluded.”
Ijaz explains that in effect the people who were going to invest in Quantum who would then invest in Lotus – were in fact pretty dodgy and so he’s got some new people to give him/Quantum money to buy an F1 team. “The original configuration of the Quantum deal is indeed no longer being pursued by us,” said Ijaz. “That was my decision internally, and I conveyed that to Lotus and Genii before the Christmas break. During the break, we brought the appropriate professional assistance on board, and we conveyed our results on Wednesday to the team, and it was agreed that we proceed to conclusion.”
What was that old nursery rhyme grandma Judge used to sing?
“The merry-go-round goes ’round and ’round,
The children laughed and laughed and laughed,
So many were going ’round and ’round,
That the merry-go-round collapsed”.