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Another poor day of testing for Red Bull, and everybody’s favourite outspoken Aussie struggled to hide his disappointment.
Taki Inoue even weighed in for Webbuary…
Problems for Pastor
A mixed first day of testing for Lotus is, of course, a cause for great concern. The R&D that will be required to develop the 2014 car will be extremely expensive without having to play catch up to the rest of the field. 8 laps were managed on the first day in the desert with the radical design.
With a brain drain having occurred at Enstone last year the situation is not one to rejoice over with the Team Principal Eric Boullier jumping ship to rivals McLaren. The one saving grace can be the money from the PDVSA, the Venezuelan oil company, can be relied upon – or so it seemed until recently.
The ongoing political unrest in the South American country has been well documented for all to see, however, in the past week the unrest has come to a point where something has to give. With various reports giving different numbers of deaths in the riots all over the country, it is hard to get an exact figure of how dire the situation is.
This problem has been worsened by the fact the government have shut down Twitter there, which until it was done proved to be the most effective method of communication of the struggle the people are going through. The opposition leader this morning has handed himself in to the government to answer charges against him of inciting violence and protest. Many reporters around the world expect an angry back lash to happen.
If Nicolas Maduro’s government remains intact then all will seemingly be well for Pastor and his Petrodollars. 3 US diplomas have already been expelled from the country as turbulent times are ahead. This all comes as the last bit of news Lotus needed as they look to develop their 2014 challenger and regain some security as far as the balance sheets are concerned. It really begs the question of whether Williams had had enough of dealing with the National oil company and the lack of reassurance they offered to payments? They might have pulled off a master stroke taking on Massa to replace Pastor Maldonado.
If Maduro’s government were to be overthrown then Maldonado’s place within F1, let alone Lotus, could be looking in danger. With crime and inflation said to be the main grievances of the opposition groups, with a lack of a democratic government to implement laws, it would be highly unlikely they would continue to sponsor a driver to be in Formula One.
Questions would be asked as to how much does it actually benefit the country to support a driver in a sport where the benefit to the country is questionable at best. There is the possibility the problem will “solve itself” in the not too distant future, although as history would suggest social unrest like this has a habit to resurface at some point in the near future.
As most would agree, Maldonado is unlikely to be the top of most team principal’s driver wish list so he faces an uncertain future which, ultimately, is completely out of his control. Problems for Lotus and Pastor will continue to rumble on as on track problems also do so. All this comes as the social media team has had the reins put on it after tweeting in polemic fashion in support of gay athletes competing in Sochi after a Russian company has signed as a Lotus partner. The back of house power struggle continues to rumble on and a month after Gerard Lopez was forced to play down rumours of the team being on the verge of collapse.
It’s safe to say these are troubled times for Lotus; with the on track problems being a relatively minor issue in comparison to the rest. Who said the off-season was boring?
Comment of the day
Yesterday, commenter Don_Quixote said, “Imagine Caterham finishing in front of Red Bull in Melbourne 😉 .”
This conjured up all kinds of interesting scenarios to consider if the Reanult teams don’t sort their act out before the Australian GP. At the moment, the prospect of them even finishing the race is unlikely.
F1 racing give their views on day 1
Editor of F1 Racing magazine, Anthony Rowlinson, gives his views of what happened on day 1 of testing. Do you agree with him? And, if so, what does this mean for the season ahead?
Vettel opposed to double points despite Red Bull crisis (GMM)
Despite Red Bull’s early season technical crisis, Sebastian Vettel is still opposed to the new ‘double points’ innovation. It is widely believed that, having seen viewership numbers decline amid Vettel’s utter dominance late last season, Bernie Ecclestone pushed hard for the controversial double-points concept for the 2014 title finale.
Unsurprisingly, Vettel – having won the last 9 races of 2013 on the trot – was not supportive. “This is nonsense, and punishes those who have worked hard for the rest of the season,” he said at the time.
But those comments were made before Red Bull and Renault struck serious technical trouble with the team’s new RB10 car. As the crisis entered a second test week in Bahrain, German Vettel was asked on Wednesday if he is now suddenly supportive of double points, given he might eventually need a boost to catch the runaway 2014 title leaders.
“I think it’s February, yes the season starts in four weeks, but I think that’s not fair, that’s a bit too harsh,” Vettel answered.
“No matter which way I’m not a big fan of the double points because I don’t understand the reason for it, but yeah, I hope that up to that point we have had lots of good races,” he added.
“I don’t see any reason to panic — I know that everyone is working flat out to find a solution.”
Formula E to make ‘few quid’ then collapse (GMM)
Organisers of the new Formula E series expect to make some quick money and then see the concept collapse.
That is the view of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who despite the involvement of several well-known figures, teams and drivers, thinks the FIA category involving near-silent electric-powered single seaters racing in cities including Los Angeles, Berlin and London is ultimately doomed to fail.
“For them (the organisers) it’s a commercial thing,” Ecclestone told Zone One Radio. “One or two of them are going to make a few quid and that will be the end of it,” the 83-year-old Briton told interviewer Matthew Layton at the recent Zoom photographic charity auction.
“I can’t see it ever working. I know how much it costs to put a street race together,” Ecclestone said.
Small teams driving up F1 costs (GMM)
Even the smaller teams are guilty of worsening F1’s growing financial crisis. That is the view of the departing Lotus chief executive Patrick Louis, who admitted the Enstone team baulked at signing Nico Hulkenberg for 2014 purely for financial reasons.
“The (financial) situation in formula one is clear and if there is no response, the sport will eventually decay by a shrinking field of starters,” he told the German-language website motorsport-magazin.com. He said even the smaller, struggling teams are spending big in order to create the impression of financial health “that is not true“.
For example, Louis said small teams use five-star hotels, which “From a business perspective is absolute nonsense“. The same teams, he added, are driving up salaries.
“A person who was strategically very important for us and was in the salary range of 90-100 thousand a year was lured from us with 180,000 pounds,” said Louis. Even a worker in the factory, earning in the mid-30,000 pounds range, was lured from Lotus with a higher salary “from teams that were far behind us in the championship standings“.
Louis said those teams then complain about escalating costs, “that they themselves have driven. For me, it’s economic suicide,” he added.
And it’s the rising costs, Louis revealed, that led to the decision to overlook the obvious preferred choice Hulkenberg in favour of Pastor Maldonado, who brings millions to the team in the form of PDVSA backing.
“At some point you have to make a decision and accept that as a team you need to get a budget together,” he explained.
“For me, Hulkenberg is an excellent driver. One of the few talents there are. I’m not saying that we made compromises, but we decided to invest more time in a driver (Maldonado) who to a large extent is comparable with where Romain Grosjean was with us in 2012.
“He (Grosjean) was criticised, we were called completely crazy to keep him, and now the same people are saying he’s a great driver,” Louis said.
Mercedes fast start not a surprise… really (GMM)
Gerhard Berger, who is famously close to Red Bull’s inner circle, has admitted Mercedes is heading into the 2014 season as the favourite. World champions Red Bull, powered by Renault, are in the midst of a technical crisis with the new RB10 car, while Mercedes has got off to a flying start in the revolutionary new V6 era.
“I am not surprised that Mercedes has built the best engine,” former F1 driver and Austrian Berger, who last decade co-owned the Toro Rosso team with Red Bull, told Germany’s Sport Bild. He predicted 2014 would ultimately be a “struggle between the genius of Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel against Mercedes technology“.
However, Berger sees a glimmer of hope for Red Bull. “In 1989 at Ferrari we managed three laps in the pre-season but my teammate Nigel Mansell won the first race,” he said.
But as far as Lewis Hamilton is concerned, Mercedes’ pre-season is going smoothly. “It’s very difficult to know where we are in terms of performance,” the Briton said in Bahrain on Wednesday, “but in terms of reliability we are in front.”
When asked about Mercedes’ apparent dominance in 2014 so far, however, Renault Sport’s engineering chief Remi Taffin did not want to comment.
“It would be a waste of time to be looking at what they’re doing (now),” he is quoted by Italiaracing. “If we are in a position to beat them, then we will look at them,” he added.
Massa hid Williams talks from manager (GMM)
Felipe Massa kept his talks with Williams last year secret even from his own manager. The former Ferrari driver said that when he initially made contact with the British team, Williams asked him not to involve his manager Nicolas Todt.
That is because Todt, the son of FIA president Jean Todt, doubles as Pastor Maldonado’s manager, whose Williams split – and that of his lucrative sponsor PDVSA – was already in full swing. “Williams preferred to speak directly with me, because Nicolas was already dealing with the departure of Maldonado, who did not want to continue,” Massa is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace.
“I started talking by myself from the race in Japan and we agreed very quickly. But it all depended on the departure of Pastor and so it took a while (to finalise),” he added.
Lopez sees new Lotus ‘go like hell’ – if they can get it working (GMM)
Acting team boss Gerard Lopez expects Lotus to be fully competitive in 2014. Amid rumours of financial strife, the Enstone team sat out the opening Jerez test, and when the E22 finally made its public debut in Bahrain on Wednesday, it clocked the slowest time and a mere 8 laps.
Team owner Lopez, however – acting as team boss while the McLaren-departed Eric Boullier’s successor is found – said Lotus was right to have voluntarily skipped Jerez.
“I predicted there would not be much to learn because of (technical) problems, so we saved a lot of money by staying home,” he told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. The E22 then seemed to have a promising rollout at Jerez in the week after the official test, but in Bahrain on Wednesday Lotus struck Renault-powered trouble.
Nonetheless, Lopez is confident, dishing out high praise for the E22’s designers, who have penned a car not only with a two-pronged nose, but an unusual asymmetrical solution for the exhaust and rear wing support.
“We have a super car,” he said.
“The boys cannot believe the wind tunnel numbers. If we get those numbers on the track as well, the thing will go like hell. I can only hope we don’t end up with three championships based on (engine suppliers) Mercedes and Ferrari and Renault,” said Lopez.
Red Bull to lose title sponsor Infiniti (GMM)
Red Bull could be set to lose its major title sponsor Infiniti. Just as the world champion team is faltering on the pre-season test circuits, Germany’s Sport Bild reports that the luxury Nissan brand Infiniti does not intend to renew its Red Bull deal beyond 2015.
Reports estimate the value of the deal, involving team naming rights and a conspicuous purple presence on the Red Bull livery, at EUR 40 million per year. It is believed Infiniti is baulking because it wanted to move beyond being merely a financial partner to the top F1 team.
“We know that Infiniti had hopes for a greater technical cooperation,” Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko acknowledged.
Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger, a close confidante of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, commented: “If anyone can overcome the loss of a sponsor, it is Red Bull.”
Verdict expected in Ecclestone case (GMM)
The F1 world’s attention will shift from pre-season testing to a London courtroom on today.
A morning judgement is expected in the high-profile Bernie Ecclestone corruption affair, with Constantin Medien seeking a guilty verdict and $140 million in damages from the sport’s embattled chief executive.
Thursday’s news could also ramp up speculation the 83-year-old Briton’s long reign over formula one is over, with Justin King – who has resigned after ten years in charge of British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s – among the rumoured frontrunners to replace him.
But Ecclestone told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt this week there is “no truth at all” to the King rumours.
“All he knows about (motor sport) is looking for support for his kids,” Ecclestone, referring to King’s racing driver son Jordan who is controversially backed by a range of Sainsbury’s-linked names, told the Guardian.
52-year-old King has also been linked with the unfilled new role as McLaren’s F1 chief executive, but a spokesman for the British team said that rumour is “untrue“.
Lotus confirms 2014 Renault deal (GMM)
Today Lotus and Renault announced a new engine deal for 2014 “and beyond“.
The Enstone team had already begun winter testing with the French marque’s new turbo V6 ‘power unit’, but negotiations between the pair had been long and reportedly difficult.
“The relationship between Viry and Enstone has gone from strength to strength over the past few years,” said Renault Sport F1 president Jean-Michel Jalinier. “This is illustrated in no better way than the excellent and very close collaboration on the 2014 car, which is more technically complex than any previous designs.”
F1’s other Renault-powered teams are Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham.
Mr E wins the first round but not out of the woods yet
While Justice Newey said they money paid to Gribkowsky was a bribe for a corrupt agreement, Constantin’s claim failed because it [the purpose of the bribe] was not to sell the shares at an undervalued price. “No loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused by the corrupt arrangement with Dr Gribkowsky. That fact is fatal to the claim.”
He continued saying that although this has taken place a while ago and Ecclestone’s age may play a part in what he can remember he finds it “impossible to regard him [Ecclestone] as a reliable or truthful witness.”
Is the Judge accusing Mr E of perjury? hmmm… someone has been listening intently as Constantin Medien’s lawyer, Keith Oliver, indicated they will be appealing the decision.
How the German courts will see the acquittal is another matter. As Ecclestone is on trial for bribery which, according to Justice Newey, he did commit it may be an option to exercise his right to ‘negotiate’ his way out of standing trial.
Meanwhile, other Mr E news…..
(from the Usher this morning)
Charles Pic helping Lotus
Lotus announced today that Caterham refugee Charles Pic will be joining them as a test driver for the 2014 season.
Gushing with excitement on becoming a sponsor model and not driving the car Charles had this to say. “I am very excited to join a top team and Lotus F1 Team have certainly shown that they are a top team in this sport. It’s a great honour and I will be working hard to give my best to the team throughout 2014.
“Obviously, the big change is that I won’t be racing in Formula 1, but I will be at the races and workings in meetings which will help me develop and progress as a driver. At 24, I still have good potential for the future.”
It is obvious he has taken note of Davide Valsecchi’s situation at the Enstone team knowing the chances of him racing for the team is little to none. However, this move could be more significant. The Frenchman is rumoured to have close ties with Renault who may have been instrumental in getting him the ‘test’ role with Lotus F1.
Earlier today Lotus confirmed their renewed engine deal with Renault, rumoured to be until 2018. With Renault Sport F1 president Jean-Michel Jalinier saying the “relationship between Viry and Enstone has gone from strength to strength over the past few years,” and that this is illustrated by the “excellent and very close collaboration on the 2014 car”, are we seeing the beginning of Renault returning as a works team now that the relationship with Red Bull is turning sour?