Daily #F1 News and Comment: Thursday 10th April 2014


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Previously on TheJudge13

On This Day in #F1: 10th April

#F1 Victims of Circumstance: 2014 #BahrainGP

Paid F1 ‘app’ to debut in June – Ecclestone (GMM)

F1 return still ‘impossible’ for now – Kubica(GMM)

Grosjean frustrated by lack of Renault progress

Giancarlo Minardi – BMW ready to return to F1

Helmut Marko attacks the rules once again

No ‘harakiri’ between Mercedes teammates – Wolff(GMM)

Mercedes explain their PU

The Usher introduces – Giancarlo ‘The Mouth’ Minardi

Paid F1 ‘app’ to debut in June – Ecclestone (GMM)

Bernie Ecclestone has agreed to race formula one into the digital age. Early this week, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali urged the F1 chief executive to embrace the internet, as the “young generation” does not want “to see an entire race for one and a half hours”. A report by the Bloomberg news agency said the official F1 website is only the 39th most popular among rival sports, worryingly outpaced by the likes of Egyptian soccer and American entertainment wrestling.

The report said chief executive Ecclestone has until now resisted embracing the internet to protect the huge revenue stream of exclusive television rights. Now, Bloomberg reports that F1’s media strategy will get a modern facelift as quickly as June of this year. The report said the sport will have a new website and ‘app’ that offers subscription-only video options, improving on the current three minute race highlights edit put to music.

“We’re planning a new app; it’s a decent-size project,” Ecclestone confirmed. “It’s something that we are working to get right.”

The 83-year-old warned, however, that television will continue to be the “mainstay” of F1 coverage. And he said fans will be charged for the new ‘app’.

“We don’t do things for free,”
said Briton Ecclestone.


F1 return still ‘impossible’ for now – Kubica (GMM)

Robert Kubica has revealed his physical limitations are still standing in the way of his return to formula one. The Pole, now 29, was regarded as one of the most talented drivers in F1 ahead of his sixth season. But in the 2011 pre-season, he was almost fatally wounded in a rally crash that has left him with only limited mobility in his right arm and hand.

Kubica now drives competitively in the world rally championship, and he has dabbled with circuit racing with a highly-competitive DTM test, and regular stints at the wheel of Mercedes’ sophisticated F1 simulator. But there are also things he can no longer do. Germany’s Welt newspaper reports that, once right-handed, Kubica has had to learn to write with his left hand since the crash. He even prefers to drink a cup of coffee with his left hand nowadays.

“The limitations have made my life more difficult,” Kubica admitted. The most difficult of all, he said, is that a return to F1 is currently “impossible”.

“Not now. With my limitations, it is impossible, but maybe one day I will be there again.”

The only problem, he said, is that the small F1 cockpits make it difficult for him to turn the steering wheel in the way he needs to — with his elbow and shoulder rather than his forearm and wrist.

“Some tracks are not a problem,” Kubica explained, “like Montreal and Barcelona. But the hairpin in Monaco, with my hand, is not easy.”


Grosjean frustrated by lack of Renault progress

Inadvertently, Renault’s failure with it’s engine design has forced Red Bull to expose the truth behind their method of working. With Toro Rosso using the same engines they also highlight any changes made to the Red Bull-Renault power-unit.

Without question the Renault power units in the Red Bull – and their sister team – have significantly better performance than those supplied to Lotus and Caterham. It appears that whatever the engineers from Red Bull have done as a quick fix has certainly helped the reigning champions. It’s also proving frustrating to the other Renault users who have not got access to these updates which give better reliability and improved dynamics.

In Bahrain testing, Pastor Maldonado completed 16 laps throughout day one but stopped having developed problems with the Renault “power-unit”. On the second day Romain Grosjean was limited to just 16 laps with once again – “power-unit problems.”

“I have to say that these two days have been quite tough on all of us, we were hoping for more, but again they say China or Barcelona will be a good step forward. Let’s see. We just have to believe that Renault will be capable of bringing better performance and reliability because today was just not acceptable.” he offered.

“I think we are already quite a long way behind.” Grosjean stated with frustrated understatement; the Frenchman’s best time for the day, a 1:43.732, was almost 10 seconds behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton

It would probably be close to the truth to suggest that a corporation like Renault has pay structures in place for software engineers whilst a money-no-object outfit such as Red Bull can pay whatever for the best experts in their field. The software engineers employed by Red Bull appear to be of a higher standard ( or just better paid ) than those employed by Renault which in itself brings into question all the engine maps that Renault ‘developed’ for their number one customer over the years.

It seems highly unlikely that RBR would have allowed Renault any access to their programming for exhaust blown diffusers and ‘supposed’ traction control either – which could possibly explain the Infiniti naming rights on the car rather than Renault and Marko’s arrogant attacks upon Renault.


Giancarlo Minardi – BMW ready to return to F1

Giancarlo Minardi may never have achieved much success with his Formula One outfit but he has developed quite a stir with his comments in recent months.

He was the first to mention a form of traction control being used by Red Bull in Singapore last year which – although it was never substantiated how it worked – led to many observers believing that it was the use of KERS that Red Bull had developed legally to provide an advantage. Vettel was right with his assertions that the others would never work out how they had gained an advantage..

MInardi’s measured comments last week about the development of Formula One, the provocative subject of the noise and his stance against the over-bearing ‘nanny’ rules punishing drivers for infringements which in previous years would have resulted in memories won him new fans.

This week – he wrote on Minardi.it about a possible return of the German giant – BMW.

“Rumours from Germany have suggested a top-level board meeting will take place in May with the subject of a return to Formula One in 2015. Dr. Steven F. Althaus. Director of Brand Management, BMW and Marketing Services, BMW Group is promoting the idea to the board and confirmation of this interest has been fuelled by the presence of BMW engineers at the pre-season tests and and the first races gathering important information.”

“The arrival of the German manufacturer would bring a breath of fresh air to Formula 1, both from the technical and financial backing it can bring to a team that is currently suffering. If a manufacturer like BMW is confirmed, it would validate the new technical rules and confirm that F1 is still relevant as the foremost global motor-sport event.”

Peugeot has recently denied they have spoken to Christian Horner about developing a hybrid unit – derived from their Le Mans 908 racer for F1 – but there are many who believe that BMW may well be the best long term partner due to Renault failing to conquer the new rules adequately.

Considering that Mercedes have been working on their power unit for around three years and Honda is entering the competition next year after a significant amount of development time, the likelihood of BMW being prepared within six months is very unlikely.


Helmut Marko attacks the rules once again

It goes without saying that Formula One teams pursue their own agendas without concern for the sport as a whole.

Irrespective of the team – every piece of propaganda presented to the media, and therefore the public, is used to gain an advantage beyond the normal on-track competition.

Once again Dr Helmut Marko is petitioning the FIA by raising concerns about different aspects of the current Formula One regulations. Coincidentally things that appear to be punishing the Red Bull concern.

Speaking to Red Bull owned Servus TV, Marko claimed that Jean Todt has vowed to ‘think about‘ their criticisms.

Speaking about Daniel Ricciardo’s 10 place grid penalty for an unsafe release he insisted: “There was no danger. As Daniel drove out he said ‘Hello, my wheel is loose,’ so we pushed him back. In my eyes it was not even an unsafe release.”

Obviously Dr Marko wasn’t present when Red Bull released Mark Webber’s car last year and a tyre knocked down a camera-man, thankfully without serious injury or fatality.

Mr Mateschitz ‘s mouthpiece continued by bringing up the new low noses that have appeared this season; mentioning the collision between Massa and Kobayashi in Australia and contrary to TV replays showing contact between the wheels – claimed that the collision between Maldonado and Gutierrez was caused by the unsightly noses.

“You can see that the nose is so low that it can go underneath the other car, lift it up and roll it over,” he said. “Unfortunately we cannot change it during the season because it is about the chassis, but we need to respond as quickly as possible for next season,”

It’s interesting that as we near 65 years of Formula One, high noses and their benefits to the aerodynamic loadings for a Formula One car have been part of the sport for just over twenty years. The only people who desire the high noses – irrespective of driver safety – are the designers.

Ultimately the majority of incidents in which cars have been launched or rolled over are when the tyres of two cars come into contact. Some recent examples are Mark Webber flying over Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus when his front tyre hit the rear tyre of the Lotus, Nico Rosberg launching over the top of a HRT in the same fashion and Grosjean was launched over the top of Alonso in Belgium 2012 when his wheels interlocked with Lewis Hamilton’s car.


No ‘harakiri’ between Mercedes teammates – Wolff (GMM)

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have been told the ‘rules’ for their future wheel-to-wheel battles. The Mercedes pair thrilled the F1 world last Sunday with their duel for victory in Bahrain, despite bosses urging them to “bring both cars home”.

It was rumoured that the team denied the drivers ignored team orders for appearance only, and would quietly curb that sort of behaviour behind the scenes ahead of future races. The fight in Bahrain was also timely for F1’s ‘show’, in the wake of hefty criticism of the controversial new rules.

“I am so happy the race was so well received by the fans,” said German Rosberg, “because the welfare of the sport is very important to me. In my eyes, the criticism of the new regulations was very unfair, especially so early on, and the negativity was getting louder and louder. For me, there was no better way to silence it than to deliver one of the most exciting races in the history of formula one.”

But team director Toto Wolff insists Bahrain was not simply a one-off. “They can fight against each other,” he told Sport Bild magazine, “so long as there are no harakiri-manoeuvres. So you’re not driving with the same aggressiveness against your own teammate as you would against the others,” Wolff explained.

He said Mercedes’ attitude to ‘team orders’ is important, given that both Hamilton and Rosberg are conferred equal status inside the Brackley based team, whose W05 car is currently utterly dominant. “We are here to race,” said Wolff, “we have two really good drivers who can win races and deserve to be world champion.”

Christian Danner, a former driver turned commentator, says Mercedes’ “approach will be welcomed by many. Mercedes is very dominant,” he told German television n-tv, “but in contrast to what we have seen over the years with Ferrari and Red Bull, Rosberg and Hamilton can race freely. This is not only a very brave decision, but also the right decision for the sport,” he applauded.


Mercedes explain their PU


The Usher introduces – Giancarlo ‘The Mouth’ Minardi

Often we hear comment from Giancarlo and for some time now been part of the F1 rumour circus. In tribute to this fact the Usher would like to introduce ‘the mouth’ Minardi. Aways got something to shout about!

Minardi The Mouth


56 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Thursday 10th April 2014

  1. For a sport that is supposedly cutting edge and technologically advanced, they sure are slow at embracing new forms of media, as it applies to the general public. Hopefully that’ll change once BE steps aside. You get the impression that he still thinks that the internet is a fad and they can go back to producing those VHS season review tapes soon….

    • Ecclestone makes it pretty clear why this is (to protect value of TV rights), and it’s more understandable when considered in the context of the failed F1 Digital+ (also known as just F1 Digital) enhanced world feed for Formula One coverage between mid 1996-2002 that, iirc, produced a $100 million loss for Ecclestone.

      The service offered additional features to the normal television feed of the sport, which broadcasters had the option of taking up (at a higher price than the standard television feed, which often necessitated the broadcasters charging viewers for), such as channels dedicated to onboard cameras, cameras in the pit area and live timing data. The programmes were also broadcast commercial-free.

      Take-up for the service in UK, charged at £12 per race, was low with as little as 9,000 viewers subscribing to see some races, compared with audiences of 3 million viewers for some Formula One races on UK free-to-air television that season.

      The following was excerpted from…yes, Wikipedia. And while it’s not a direct comparison, it’s useful to understand Bernie’s resistance to projects outside of the bread and butter TV, at least according to a guy who worked for the production company and used to post a lot in the comments at F1 fanatic. He had some fascinating stories about the F1 “tapes vault” which had all of the F1 footage ever (since Bernie’s ascension, I guess) but was like some strange medieval library or something – and yet they could get you any video clip you wanted, as long as you (commercial broadcaster or other licensee) were willing to pay through the nose for it.

      I think I might have archived a column by Rencken on new media not trending in F1. If I can find it, I’ll post the whole thing at the bottom of the comments.

  2. “We don’t do things for free,” said Briton Ecclestone.

    Thats alright Bernie, and I don’t pay for things that are A) too expensive, and B) don’t meet my requirements. I can’t possibly forsee a problem here…. sigh :-I

    • That’s the “money” quote. Guarantees it will cost too much AND suck relative to what it might be.

      And then they’ll sit around and complain that no one uses it. 😀

    • “We don’t do things for free,”
      …just expects everyone else to do so – at best. Often they get to pay for the privilege.

    • agreed 100%. does anyone use the current app with the paid option? I bought it and there is an option in the setting to select “team radio” but I never get any audio. hmmm

      • It’s fine for you guys to get all self-righteous about it, but – keep in mind – Bernie isn’t depending on your use of what’s been available thus far to make him a mint! That’s his whole point!

        And why SHOULD he give it away for free? lol… Man’s in business to make money for himself and his investors, which he reliably does – unlike how many countless Web 1.0, Web 2.0, media, and New Media companies that gave stuff away for free (including the kitchen sink) and never figured out how to turn a profit (costing their investors billions in lost market cap., nevermind never-realized revenue…).

        • Not self righteous, but Mr E is definitely missing a trick or two. Especially by pulling down short YouTube clips.

          As far as F1 goes, they are robbing Peter to pay Paul as it were, the failure to grow future audience through digital means now simply makes more problems in the future. Given the number of cord cutters, not having a reasonable and affordable way to access F1 when all sorts of other racing is already available live streamed, often times ad supported and free to the end user is simply shortsighted.

          Messy contracts aside, what they fail to grasp is that this should be considered an investment in long term growth. Of course, given that they are focused on extremely short term gains it’s not entirely surprising, but the health of the sport overall needs to be a consideration well.

          • Not self righteous, but Mr E is definitely missing a trick or two. Especially by pulling down short YouTube clips.

            Yup, definitely agree w/r/t YouTube – although I think they are not pursuing CRVios like before. Anyone else notice this? One used to find footage and then it would be gone in a day, if not only a few hrs, w/ a copyvio claim notice, but I haven’t seen one of those in forever.

            I also agree my choice of “self-righteous” was not appropriate, as it absolutely wasn’t representative of what I wanted to convey (which was a much more collegial, banter-like sentiment.

            I’ll note this for anyone else who replied to my comment so they also know that I regret that word-choice.

            btw: did you guys read this (below, I think/hope)?

            Taking Montoya’s crash as example, footage of the incident is freely available on Youtube in no less than ten postings, whereas Formula One Management employs a team which demands that Youtube remove FOM material on copyright grounds.

            While it is universally accepted that Formula 1 commercial rights holder FOM, which was effectively gifted the lease to exploit the sport’s intellectual property for over a century, holds the radio/TV concession, it is less known that the CRH, fronted by Bernie Ecclestone, who sold the rights to capital venture house CVC in a complex deal, controls the full electronic media rights to F1 grands prix in terms of an agreement struck in the mid-nineties between CRH and governing body FIA.

        • i was just saying that I PAID for the season pass and there is a feature that says “team radio” but there is never any audio. that SHOULD WORK IF IM PAYING.

          • that SHOULD WORK IF IM PAYING

            Yup, definitely agree.

            I also agree my choice of “self-righteous” was not appropriate, as it absolutely wasn’t representative of what I wanted to convey (which was a much more collegial, banter-like sentiment.

            I’ll note this for anyone else who replied to my comment so they also know that I regret that word-choice.

        • I don’t see any comment here having an issue with paying, I’m happy to pay, thats not what this is about. My issue is that, as with most things related to F1, if they decide to produce a sub-par product and charge a premium for it, then I, and probably others, will not buy it. I’m not buying a shit cap for £40-50. Zak Browns interview on ‘The Racers Edge’ podcast was music to my ears on this subject, I so hope that guy gets some involvement in the long term running of F1, but I doubt it.

          This happens so many times in the industry I work in, where folks do a half arsed job, charge to much, then use that to argue there is not a market for it.

          • My issue is that, as with most things related to F1, if they decide to produce a sub-par product and charge a premium for it, then I, and probably others, will not buy it. I’m not buying a shit cap for £40-50. Zak Browns interview on ‘The Racers Edge’ podcast was music to my ears on this subject, I so hope that guy gets some involvement in the long term running of F1, but I doubt it.

            I agree w/ you, too, Adam.

            Can you link to Zak Brown-featuring podcast? He’s an interesting guy, iirc.

            Also wanted to note that my choice of “self-righteous” was not appropriate, as it absolutely wasn’t representative of what I wanted to convey (which was a much more collegial, banter-like sentiment.


  3. IIRC, RB’s Renault Contract runs out at the end of 2015. It might be that they ride it out, giving BMW one and a half year. RB obviously by now have some intricate knowledge about the PU’s, which could help BMW in development.
    On top of that – for added speculation – Vettel’s contract runs out at the end of 2015, too. Last time he extended by only a single year, making it possible he had some plans for 2016. The prospect of BMW returning, who are the ones, who gave him his debut, could perhaps be a means that RB try to use to convince him to stay.
    Just speculation, though.

    • FH – This was my thinking exactly but you got to it first. I thought it odd a few months ago when the Infiniti extension wasn’t finalized with the reason given of ‘technology transfer’ considerations. This was, I believe, prior pre-season testing. Odd because of the sponsorship money involved and the free or discounted Renault engines.

      Twitter just announced that BMW will make a statement regarding F1 in May. Vettel still got the use of a complimentary personal BMW even in his early STR/Red Bull days IIRC. Vettel’s incentive laced pay last year was probably only second to Alonso’s. Wonder if BMW will pick up that tab too. This deal, and engine development, may have been in the works longer than evident. Very curious.

  4. ‘Marathon training dressed as a hippo’. – Article in today’s Guardian.

    Oh, Fat One, is this you?!?

  5. Just goes to show how short sighted BMW and Honda where when they withdrew. Admittedly there could have been little if any foresight into the new rules and technology now adopted, however even a fool (BE?) would have thought things would remain unchanged for too much longer

    • Honda withdrew because they were spending $600M+ a year on the team, which in the economic environment of the time wasn’t sustainable. As was also the case with Toyota.

      I seriously doubt with phased homologation of the engines that anyone now will now look at F1 as viable development strategy as an engine supplier. Other avenues exist which offer much better return.

      • Right! Check out this article…I’ll post just a bit of it, you guys go find the rest if you want..

        Why Formula 1 did not make sense for Porsche

        Porsche has ruled out returning to Formula 1 and instead has focused its racing efforts on sportscars. Dieter Rencken explains why the German manufacturer’s philosophy is at odds with that of F1

        “The only surprise about Porsche’s admission to XXXX’s sister publication XXXX that the company had decided on LMP1 rather than Formula 1 after weighing up its motorsport options, was that it invoked any surprise at all.

        “The final decision was the only logical one. F1 was an alternative, but the road-car relevance is not there,” the iconic German sportscar maker’s research and development head Wolfgang Hatz told Autocar at the Shanghai Motor Show.

        Three years ago, Porsche – then firmly under the wing of the Volkswagen Group it audaciously attempted to commandeer before the roles were rapidly reversed – undertook a study: F1 or LMP1. The latter won through, and the Stuttgart company lines up at Le Mans in June 2014 aiming to extend its record-stretching 16-win roll-of-honour. (Remarkably, sister brand Audi lies second on 11 wins – more of which anon – with Ferrari’s nine victories leaving it third.)

        Porsche’s decision ranks among the most prescient taken during the company’s 65-year history, for so much has changed in F1 during the intervening 30-odd months that a ‘what-if?’ analysis makes for a fascinating exercise.

        Back in October 2010 this column analysed Porsche’s chances of ‘returning’ to F1 – it dabbled briefly in its own right in the early ’60s, winning a single grand prix, with its ultra-successful mid-’80s McLaren engine partnership being very much a customer programme paid for by Woking – after its then newly-appointed CEO Matthias Muller admitted to Autocar that it was considering its options.

        The column concluded:

        Porsche is targeting annual sales of 150,000 units (up 50 per cent from present levels) within five years, and a high-profile, successful F1 programme would certainly aid that quest, but the question is whether Porsche can afford the costs, particularly as engine suppliers do not share in the sport’s revenues. It is considered extremely unlikely that Porsche’s business model can support a full Ferrari-type F1 programme….”

  6. So. Red Bull BMW Cosworth then?
    Last week I could see them having Honda (and swapping Alonso for Vettel).
    But cosworth have said they want a manufactor partnering them.

  7. ” Peugeot has recently denied they have spoken to Christian Horner about developing a hybrid unit – derived from their Le Mans 908 racer for F1 ”

    I’m not sure that a –

    3.7 litre V8 DIESEL

    would be allowed ?

    Hmmm 😉

  8. Mercedes explain their PU video

    Interesting that it contradicts the rumours that the Mercedes engine has the compressor part of the turbo located at the front of the engine, and driven by a long shaft through the center vee of the engine.

    In the video – it is clearly shown BEHIND the exhaust turbine ( separated by the MGU-H ) at the BACK of the engine …..

    Curious ?

    • I thought the same thing. If you look at the Mercedes’ website they also show the turbo and compressor at the rear of the engine. So is (are) all the stories about the Mercedes’ compressor true or not? Sky reported during their pre-race show that all the Mercedes powered teams had the forward compressor engine; hasn’t anyone gotten a single picture of the engine with all these teams running it?

    • They are unlikely to show exactly how the PU is laid out in a video trumpting the technology for road car use 😉

      • But it’s also the same as the original pictures of the PU from Mercedes AMG HPP from months ago.

        Those pics had nothing to do with road cars.

        • Might it be that Mercedes are not showing the actual layout of the PU to make it harder for the likes of Ferrari and co to copy ?

      • @Joe Papp.

        A few errors at the end near 4.40+. He implies a constant load on the MGU H. No load ,means no mechanical energy taken, so the turbo would be able to spin faster.

        The original version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RlZF9j3NoE

        ps at Bahrain did anyone notice that the red lights were on at the back of the Mercs when they were accelerating down some of the straights. This light is supposed to warn drivers of energy recovery phase, and car slowing at the end of a straight. Recovering energy from mgu k whilst accelerating?

    • @manky SteveH

      Exactamundo! F1 people seem to speak different words from both sides of their mouths at the same time, and then communicate a third idea. I won’t believe anything more about the Merc unit until I see an independent photo. Would you really want a long shaft rotating at 100,000 rpm, or geared down multiple? More obfuscation like the CGI of the new engine. Have any photoshop experts on this site, examined the manufacturer supplied photos of the new engines. To me, they look like CAD transforms.

      • Totally agree with you Iain re long shaft rotating at 100,000 rpm ….

        especially as you can have a short one between the exhaust and inlet parts of the turbo to drive the MGU-H.

        and about seeing REAL pictures of the engines.

  9. Helmut Marko attacks the rules once again ….

    Your Honour,

    I think, in future he should only be referred to as –

    Dr Helmut Arsehole



    With Brad Keselowski’s on-board NASCAR tweeting trending on Twitter, Dieter Rencken asks if F1 is doing all it can to embrace the growing new media boom and looks at the positives and negatives of FOM’s new deal with Indian conglomerate Tata

    “No single event staged over the last ten years better illustrates the enormous disconnect existing between Formula 1 and new media than does Monday’s (night) Daytona 500, postponed by around 30 hours from Sunday due to inclement weather.

    While NASCAR regularly comes in for stick from the F1 fraternity on the basis that stock car drivers don’t race in rain (conveniently overlooking the fact that last June around 100,000 Canadians thought that of F1 pilots), that its technology is antiquated, running until this year on carburettors, (conveniently overlooking the fact that F1’s V8s are rooted in the last century, well beyond current NASCAR stock blockers) and that full yellows and course cars are deployed to ‘spice the show’ (!), there is no doubt NASCAR does an awful lot right when it comes to wooing (and, crucially, retaining) its fan base.

    Yes, bum-on-seat and eyeball numbers have dropped of late, while Detroit’s debt restructuring period briefly made the White House NASCAR’s biggest sponsor, yet the flagship round of this uniquely North American series still pulled an audience of 30m despite running on a workday evening and US time zones complicating matters. More impressively, NASCAR does so 40 weekends a year – double F1’s schedule.

    It was, though, an incident in the midst of the race which really drove home the difference between F1 and NASCAR.

    During the red flag period in the wake of a fire resulting from former F1 star Juan-Pablo Montoya’s wild ride (no surprise here) straight into the back of a highly visible, bright yellow track dryer truck, Brad Keselowski snapped pictures of the conflagration on his smartphone as he passed by.

    Then, during the subsequent red flag period the 28-year-old tweeted his driver’s eye view of the incident to followers across the world. Immediately the TV commentary team remarked about the Michigan driver’s tweet, having received it as followers, his circle soared by over 130,000!

    Given NASCAR’s obsession with safety – no bad thing, it must be said – and strident legislation against use of the use of such devices while behind a wheel, there were many present at the oval on a beach in Florida who believed fervently Keselowski would be relieved of his racing credentials for at least a year.

    But, no: NASCAR officials endorsed Keselowski’s antics, while fellow competitors just shook their heads, with second-placed driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, whose father died in this race 11 years ago, telling reporters, “That’s how Brad is. That’s what he makes, and what he enjoys. I thought it pretty funny.”

    Now, contrast that with a tweet from then-Lotus (reserve) third driver Luiz Razia, composed during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix Drivers’ Briefing. The Brazilian was severely reprimanded for daring to snap a pic of a snoring Michael Schumacher, then broadcast same to 4000-odd, mainly South American followers. Of course, Twitter allowing retweeting, the sight of a slumbering seven-time champion reached tens of thousands of users within mere seconds…

    However, the Keselowski case is just the tip of the new media iceberg, with other social networking sites further illustrating the depth of F1’s aversion to new media.

    Taking Montoya’s crash as example, footage of the incident is freely available on Youtube in no less than ten postings, whereas Formula One Management employs a team which demands that Youtube remove FOM material on copyright grounds.

    While it is universally accepted that Formula 1 commercial rights holder FOM, which was effectively gifted the lease to exploit the sport’s intellectual property for over a century, holds the radio/TV concession, it is less known that the CRH, fronted by Bernie Ecclestone, who sold the rights to capital venture house CVC in a complex deal, controls the full electronic media rights to F1 grands prix in terms of an agreement struck in the mid-nineties between CRH and governing body FIA.

    Thus the CRH has reason to believe that every single byte of data emanating from the paddock, whether photograph, race report, mobile call, text message or tweet, falls under its jurisdiction, and can therefore be controlled by it.

    However, SMS became an accepted form of communication well after the original FIA/FOM deal was signed, with Chad Hurley dreaming up Youtube as a means of distributing video footage of a private dinner party to five couples in his social circle ten years later.

    In fact, back in 1996 mobile phone users sent an average of 0.4 text messages per month; digital photography had not yet taken off; F1 media centres resounded to the clatter of Alpina typewriters; and the internet was a mythical ether-based ring used by college professors to swap exotic chemical formulae.

    In fact, even at the turn of the millennium it was not uncommon to see hacks heaving heavy laptops about telephone booths before sticking cords into said computers, invariably via some or other adapter.

    Thus it can be argued that radio/TV were the only electronic media channels included at the time of signing – movie footage was then shot in celluloid – and that the term excluded all other platforms simply as they, like Twitter and Youtube, were (at least) a decade away.

    Still, FOM has since done little to embrace new media, with, for example, search for ‘FOM’ on Twitter throwing up various accounts incorporating the acronym, but derived from such as ‘Friends of Mine’ and ‘Focussed Online Marketing’. Given that it cost FOM millions in legal battles and subsequent purchase consideration to acquire the domain formula1.com – which does have a Twitter ‘handle’ – and various F1 trademarks, it seems a strange oversight.

    However, even here the FOM-owned portal has hardly been over-active, having tweeted 3000 messages since the start versus, say, 9000 messages broadcast by CaterhamF1 in its short life. Clearly Formula One Management has some catching up/on to do.

    Given this background it was somewhat of a surprise to hear suggestions by some that the Tata Communications/FOM partnership announced as last week’s column went to press (in the ether) as ‘The deal that changes Formula 1 forever’.

    Yes, the deal, using Tata’s Global Network, will change broadcasting of F1 worldwide, but only because the sport is still steeped in satellite broadcasting technology, which require signals to ‘bounce’ about 70,000 kilometres before returning to earth to hit TV stations. TGN will also host formula1.com.

    TGN will reduce costs at both ends through reduced freight of broadcast equipment, plus increase reliability of transmissions while creating savings during event overruns (such as last year’s four-hour Montreal marathon), when broadcasters purchased additional satellite time PDQ).

    Broadcast lag will be reduced, but will the second or saved really make a salient difference? At present TGN, a mixed network of (mainly) sub-marine cables comprising a mix of fibre optic and copper core stretching around the globe, has a delay of around 220 milliseconds –the speed of a striking cobra – on data transmission between, say, London and Tokyo.

    Thus ‘lag’ saved versus satellite transmissions makes as good as no difference in this application. After all, do Japanese fans really care that British viewers know the outcome in Silverstone a quarter of second earlier?

    During his launch speech Tata Communications CEO Vinod Kumar spoke of an audience reach by formula1.com of between four and seven million viewers during grands prix weekends, thus stressing the need for a reliable infrastructure. To put that into perspective, consider that last month Reuters disclosed that Youtube streams four billion videos every day – a three thousand-fold increase over F1’s best efforts (and rising), and that on a daily basis!

    So, yes, the TGN deal – officially termed ‘association’ not ‘sponsorship’ as alleged by self-styled analysts – will change the face of F1 broadcasting (but hardly forever), but the burning question is whether the partnership will change the deal for fans. Here the answer is: it has the potential to do so, but the benefits are unlikely to trickle down anytime soon. Much of F1’s business model would need to change dramatically for the full potential to be realised.

    Tata’s press blurb goes onto state: ‘This long-term deal with Tata Communications, providing fixed line connectivity, opens the door for endless possibilities, way beyond what satellites can do, including broadcasting F1 on the internet, for interactivity between audience and the broadcaster at the circuit.’

    At present F1 has three main revenue streams making up its billion dollar annual turnover – broadcasting income, race hosting fees and sundry, the latter mainly through licensing deals, hospitality, and trackside signage – with the streams having an approximate 42,5/42,5/15 split. First-named is further split 80/20 between TV/radio – with last-named being largely unaffected by the Tata deal, for stations predominantly transfer voice via commercial internet.

    Equally race hosting and sundry steams are unaffected, so the main concern here is 80% of 42.5% of that US$1bn (at present), namely around $340m in income, which is in any event split 50/50 (at present) with 12 teams, and likely to rise to 70/30 under the new Concorde Agreement which should bind F1’s three players (FIA/FOM/teams) from next January.

    At present FOM distributes race weekend footage to around 200 broadcasters globally, who in turn hold F1’s TV rights for their respective territories. Many of these are on long-term contracts and in turn hold long-term sponsor or broadcaster partner contracts, with punitive break clauses in both instances.

    In order to maximise that potential – and technically footage could be brought directly from the circuit to a computer or smart TV near you without hitch – FOM would first need to bypass its existing broadcast base.

    Thus FOM would need to create payment systems – no issue in these days of Paypal and such like – but incurring the wrath of his present customers could prove a risk too far. Forget not that at the turn of century Ecclestone’s six-channel digital pay-per-view TV system bombed spectacularly after fans steadfastly refused to shell out for premium transmissions – no doubt fuelling the octogenarian’s phobia towards new-fangled media…

    Then, one of the beauty of the current distribution system is its commentary format: not only do fans receive broadcasts (mainly) in their mother tongues, but German commentators add colour about their compatriots; the Britons about Lewis Hamilton/Jenson Button; the Japanese about Kamui Kobayashi; etc. To maintain (fee-paying) viewer interest FOM would need to offer at least the same service, if not better – adding considerably to the complexity.

    Finally, a primary financial attraction of the present platform for broadcasters is their ability to fund transmissions through the sale of commercial messages, whether during free2air or PPV transmission – which stream could prove difficult for FOM to replicate, certainly in the short term. Again, all a matter of time.

    In the final analysis, the Tata deal does have the potential to change the face of F1 broadcasting, but realising that potential will not only take years, but be riddled with commercial risks along the way – and here the question is whether 81-year-old Ecclestone and his capital vulture, er, sorry, venture partners will prove willing to risk when they already have an extremely comfortable little earner.

    So, yes, the potential is there – but so, too, do Twitter and Youtube hold vast potential for F1. Either would be cheaper and easier to implement immediately, while better serving fans’ needs in the short terms. However, it is probably the latter that makes them unattractive to the powers-that-be…”

    ©Dieter Rencken (not Joe Papp)

      • There’s these new media things called hyperlinks…

        haha RogerD, very funny!

        CTP is right, tho!

        That column is paywalled, and while a copy of it does exist on the “free” side of the fence, it’s way over in scary China (joke) and so I figured why send people off-site and make them leave the Judge’s court just to go read a bootleg copy somewhere else when I could post it here and save them the effort.

        BTW: I loved this bit of snark from Rencken:

        “Thus ‘lag’ saved versus satellite transmissions makes as good as no difference in this application. After all, do Japanese fans really care that British viewers know the outcome in Silverstone a quarter of second earlier?”

        what a dick! lol.

  11. KUBICA

    I genuinely feel for the guy and can’t reproach him for risking – and almost losing – his life in that stupid rally MC.

    The alternative would be to live a restricted life, on someone else’s terms, which might feel suffocating most of the time.

    Of course, the upside would be not almost having your hand severed and possibly having won more than just 1 F1 GP…


    Hey, at least RK is still able to compete as a professional, albeit in WRC. No slouch.

    What do other people think? Are you critical of RK and think he was a massive idiot for doing rally (but keep in mind he had the team’s permission for this!), or he is to be pitied – or at least not criticized – for simply being unlucky?

    • Definitely NOT critical of Kubica. F1 is dangerous, WRC is dangerous and, as it turns out, skiing is dangerous. Hell, getting outside the house and crossing the street can leave you one limb less, given a suitably scheduled bus. So, you know, these things happen.

      In the end Kubica got slightly less movement on one arm, and should consider himself extremely lucky given that he had such an extreme accident. Others before him (Senna, etc.) were less fortunate.

    • I believe that he’s competed in 15 or 16 stages so far over the 3 rallies of the WRC 2014.

      He’s crashed or gone off in most of these stages and retired from all 3 rallies.

      He reminds me of Colin McRae ……..

      I wish him all the best.

    • many of us were gutted hard with RK’s rally injuries.
      being a hardcore racing fan since 1962, I never again wish to see the “dark days” when so many of our heros’ lives were snuffed out too early…
      BUT, just how did the heros become heros??

      only a handful such as Fangio, Moss, Senna and Shumi were virtuosos on a cheap one string guitar ever make that level of non-substantiated hero-worship…

      it was Jimmy, Graham, A,J., Parnelli, Jackie, Dan, Mario, John, Nigel, Alex and others who raced/won races/won championships in pretty much anything they ever sat their behind in.
      I place Bruce and Jack ahead of the “top 4” heros because they had such a great vision and engineering expertise to excel in multiple venues!

      I sooo long for the days when teams, sponsors and attorneys just shut the f**k up and we could readily see just who today’s TRUE heros are.

      so, NO, I am NOT in the slightest bit critical of RK’s decision to run a Rallye, nor of Kimi’s Rallyes or snowmobile racing, nor of Jensons triathalon (?) events.

      rather, I say: BRING IT ON, STUD!

      lets just see how good JJ, Dixie, Seb and Many others truly are!

      until then, it and they are all mere part-time and sometimes entertainment for this old fart…


      • great comment! hardcore perspective – no BS, eh?!

        thanks to you and the others who responded as well. great to read the support for RK’s way-of-living.

  12. Off topic, but just read on another site that rumours are circulating that Stefano Domenicali is on his way out, and Flavio Briatore is at Maranello for an emergency meeting, hope the two aren’t connected…..

      • Last year, Domenicali said on the record that, if asked/told to step aside for the good of the team, he would do so unhesitatingly.

        So one would expect him to continue w/in the Ferrari family if he was replaced, no?

        I thought bringing in James Allison was supposed to fix things (for 2015, at least, since he couldn’t influence 2014 car that much, could he?)?

    • Luca is certainly no lame duck lacky and his facial expressions and body language in Bahrain certainly told me everything except “who”…

      will likely be spun that Stefano is pursueing a new challange at the new Haas Ferrari Team B LOL.

    • Briatore at Ferrarin – can just as well bury them then. This man is responsible for the biggest sporting fraud F1 has ever seen. Why in the name of all that’s holy do they want to associate themselves with that despicable scumbag – he makes Symmonds and Marko look like Mahatma Ghandi!

      • Agreed, FH.

        Briatore gives the impression of being a dinosaur and NOT a team leader for the 2014+ years, let alone suitable to lead Ferrari.

        He may have had the legality of his ban overturned, but not even I would support his return to F1, unless it was at helm of totally new team that he found the sponsorship for (w/o denying that sponsorship to any other F1 team led by someone no less-ethical than Fav’).

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