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Previously on TJ13:
Ron Dennis interested in Vettel
As ever in the tumultuous world of Formula One, whenever a break is imposed on the teams and media, rumours begin to circulate to fill in the column inches.
In Italy whispers have emerged suggesting that Ron Dennis is targeting Sebastian Vettel as hopes of securing Fernando Alonso for the 2015 season are receding. Despite an offer having been made to the Spaniard the Woking team is not an attractive proposition currently as their 2014 challenger – the Mclaren MP4/29 – has shown that despite using what is generally accepted as the best power unit in F1 – it’s development has fallen behind the other Mercedes powerd teams.
Marco Mattiacci, the new Ferrari team principal, has made it clear that he intends to keep Alonso for the duration of his contract with the Scuderia and therefore Ron Dennis has begun to “sing” the praises of Vettel. Dennis respects the German considerably and is hoping to take advantage of the situation that has arisen recently – with Vettel forced to allow Daniel Ricciardo past a number of times this season.
He recently commented: “A team must overcome all obstacles if it wants to win. Whether these are technical, financial or human. I think Sebastian has demonstrated both discipline and sacrifice as Ayrton Senna himself used to. No one can say what would have happened if the two champions had raced in the same team and with the same car, but I can say they are the best drivers of their time. Sebastian is a very motivated driver even at this difficult stage and it shows to me how much he is willing to sacrifice. He is 100% dedicated to his career.”
Without doubt it appears that Jenson Button’s position is shaky. Dennis wants to partner Kevin Magnusssen with a top driver and speculation continues in regards to Alonso.
But despite his wish list also including Vettel, if Alonso is unlikely to leave Ferrari for a Mclaren team that is under-going a significant re-organisation – then it would seem almost absurd to believe the young champion would leave a Red Bull team that has performed miracles of engineering to recover from their disastrous pre-season tests.
In fact, Renault have also shown considerable resilience in overcoming their problems and having been at the cutting edge of engine design for the last two decades are less of a risk in the short to medium term than the incoming Japanese manufacturer that last tasted true success over two decades ago.
Ecclestone senses ‘vultures circling’ (GMM)
Bernie Ecclestone’s troubles are continuing.
According to F1 business journalist Christian Sylt in the Telegraph, court papers in Munich show that, since the F1 chief executive divorced from his wife Slavica, she has paid him an incredible $100 million per year. “The duration of the payments from the divorce decree is not known,” the indictment confirmed. Apart from demonstrating the 83-year-old’s incredible wealth and income, the news could tie in with other reports of a ‘secret’ deal with the British tax office.
BBC current affairs programme Panorama claims that HM Revenue and Customs ended a long investigation into Ecclestone’s tax affairs when the F1 supremo reached a $17 million settlement. Ecclestone has claimed that he paid the alleged $44 million bribe to jailed Gerhard Gribkowsky not to affect the sale of the sport, but to stop the ex-banker from revealing details about his tax affairs to British authorities.
Ecclestone told the Times: “It feels as though the vultures are circling. The trouble is that vultures are usually around for dead people and I am very much alive.” He insists there is nothing sinister about his British tax affairs. “I could control the business from anywhere I like,” said Ecclestone. “I could go to Monaco or Switzerland and still run F1 quite happily. I don’t.”
Simona de Silvestro completes two days of testing at Fiorano
The Sauber team ran their 2012 F1 car at Ferrari’s private test circuit, Fiorano, over the weekend to give their ‘affiliated’ driver Simona de Silvestro her first F1 outing in preparation for a possible F1 seat next season.
The plan is to complete enough testing this year to gain an FIA superlicense, allowing her to line up on the grid in 2015.
Details emerged from the test that the substantial funding for Sauber is coming from Simona’s long time financial backer, Imran Safiula, with the plan to do a further nine tests this year with the next one being at the Valencia circuit in Spain.
She completed 180 laps in the Sauber C31 which was liveried with a special white, green and blue colour scheme and the words ‘Clean Air Energy” and ‘Hybrid”.
Ironically, due to the FIA regulations not allowing any car from the last two seasons to be used, the car was a V8 powered example which despite the claim of hybrid technology was actually running without the KERS.
Safiulla is a wealthy industrialist who has supported de Silvestro’s racing efforts since 2006, including buying into the Indycar team KV. “It’s not the cheapest thing in the world,” said Safiulla, “but we can build something for the future.”
De Silvestro said ‘I was not too nervous in the morning…But after completing the installation lap I realized that this was my first lap in a Formula One car, and that this was something really special.’
The 25-year-old de Silvestro was confirmed as an affiliated driver with Sauber at the beginning of the year after four years in IndyCar. She earned her first career podium in October with a second-place finish at Houston. It was the first podium finish for a woman on a road course in IndyCar.
The rumours that she is related to Giancarlo Fisichella have proved unfounded until now..
EU concerned over the legality of F1 governance
CVC has been panic selling down its stake in F1 for the past two years. The international private gambling fund now has a mere 35% of the commercial rights to Formula 1.
Clearly, the conviction of BayernLB Bank’s director, Gribkowsky some 2 years ago set the risk boys into a frenzied finger punching of numbers into their solid platinum calculators. TJ13 in an exclusive revealed that 2 North American Pension funds had acquired stakes in F1 around the time of the inaugural Austin GP.
Formula 1 has in fact been run for decades like some high value pawnbroker, where deals are done with some and then back to backed with others. At times there appears to have been a complete disregard for the law and the jurisdictions in which the sport operates.
The recently formed F1 Strategy Group is an example of such unilateral decision making. It is comprised of the sport’s powerful 5 teams, and for historic reasons Williams.
The structure of the quorum is that there are 18 votes in play. 6 votes from the teams, 6 votes from the FIA and 6 votes from the commercial rights owners.
There are 5 teams now excluded from big decisions in the formation of the sporting regulations and certain senior individuals from four of these teams Force India, Sauber, Marussia and Caterham have been most vocal in questioning this sporting body’s legitimacy.
These four disenfranchised teams recently issued some joint correspondence described by Bild as “explosive”, in which they make the case that the Strategy Group could be contrary to European competition law.
One of Formula 1’s most senior correspondents, Kevin Eason of the Times, claims that following the disclosure of the above correspondence, EU officials are monitoring the situation closely. Eason also reveals, “two people close to the sport” have already met with EU officials who are believed to be “showing concern”.
A full investigation into Formula 1 would wreck the internally fixed share price for F1, and finish any last hope of a floatation on the stock market.
The EU are said to be ‘concerned’ about the role of the FIA, though it is unclear what in particular has hit their radar.
Such is the seriousness of the situation, Bob Fernley who has become the spokesperson for the disenfranchised teams has been offered a meeting this Thursday in London with Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone.
A criminal conviction for Ecclestone over the sale of the shares to CVC would be in contravention of FIA articles which pertain to such transactions. CVC are concerned they will declare the sale illegal and cancel the contract for the commercial rights.
Further, the EU may look again at the previous decision they were invited to make by then president Max Mosley, which insisted the FIA should not be involved in commercial matters. Should this be reversed, then a constitutional crisis will ensue and the teams’ will seek representation of some kind over matters relating to the income of the sport.
Will we finally see some legitimate and believable structures for F1’s governance and commercial revenue distribution which would result in a first for the sport by providing long term stability?
Senna wanted to drive for Minardi claims Gazzetta dello Sport
Italy is building up to the twentieth anniversary of Senna’s death at Imola and Italy’s leading national sports paper – La Gazzetta dell Sport – retells the story of Senna almost joining Ferrari but fate intervened to leave the Tifosi’s dreams unfulfilled. What’s more astonishing is the fact that Senna was looking to drive for Minardi for a season.
Senna first came to the attention of Enzo Ferrari following the 1984 Monaco GrandPrix and enquiries were made of his contract with Toleman. “What Senna has displayed is that he is a strong promising young man but I have no reason to complain of Arnoux.”
By 1986 his stance had changed and he revealed: ” Yes, Senna came to Maranello after the Belgian Grand Prix, but we have not managed to reach an agreement for 1987. This does not mean we won’t be able to succeed in the future. He is undoubtedly a great driver but he confuses me a bit.”
What Ferrari failed to mention was that Senna was not interested in a Ferrari that was falling behind the pace of the other teams.
In 1990, Cesare Fiorio had reached an agreement with the Brazilian to join the team for 1991-1992 with the full backing of the Ferrari board but the then Ferrari President, Piero Fusaro, over-ruled the board as he didn’t want to replace Prost who had challenged for the championship.
By the end of 1991, both Prost and Fusaro had been sacked with Luca di Montezemolo coming in to take over the ailing giant. Sadly the Brazilian was killed before he could ever join the Maranello concern.
Senna’s maternal grandmother originated from Naples and it was her name that would become legendary around the world. His previous contact with Italian motor-sport was with Angelo Parrilla – the boss of the DAP kart company – where Senna first learnt of international competition.
But in what seems a staggering twist of the famous story – he wanted to race for Minardi for one season, as a challenge to himself and because he and his father had a close friendship with Giancarlo Minardi. It would be easy to discount this as fevered speculation from an Italian hack if it were not for the fact that Senna had had secret talks about co-signing with Jordan in the early nineties to build a team together.
Although having witnessed Jordan as a TV pundit calling Sir Paul Mcartney – George Harrison, the mind truly boggles at this potential association’s ‘what if’…