Daily #F1 News and Comment: Monday 28th April 2014

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Previously on TJ13:

#F1 History: Montjuic – 27th April 1975

The Top-20 GP Constructors who Failed to win a Championship


Ron Dennis interested in Vettel

Ecclestone senses ‘vultures circling’ (GMM)

Simona de Silvestro completes two days of testing at Fiorano

EU concerned over the legality of F1 governance

Senna wanted to drive for Minardi claims Gazzetta dello Sport


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.

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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.”

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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.

article-2613992-1D5F1D2500000578-920_634x409Details 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.’

article-2613992-1D5F205100000578-276_634x435The 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..

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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?

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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.

What might have been..

What might have been..

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’…

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44 responses to “Daily #F1 News and Comment: Monday 28th April 2014

  1. i think the senna comparision is taking it a bit too far. unlike senna, vettel has never been the undisputed best driver of his generation and after the first four races, he is far from performing senna in 93 like miracles in an underpowered car.

    • Silly comments by Dennis which shows how desperate he is (probably due to pressure from Honda) to sign a driver. First we had comments about Lewis that the door is open, then about Alonso and never say never, and now all this about Vettel. Merc has delivered a car so Lewis is unilkely to go back. Alonso is not convinced that McLaren will have a winning car and working with Dennis until this happens is not appealing to him. Vettel? Who knows?

      • If they don’t get the car together Jenson will be out if Ron can get another WDC in the door. He needs someone to blame besides himself.

        Personally I also think the road car division start up has hurt them as well, but that’s just my opinion.

      • Given how much money McLaren are giving away to Whitmarsh and Button this year (as severance and salary), they might as well just run Magnussen & Vandoorne, and use the money saved on car development, with Honda providing the rest to keep them as a top team or at least in the top four. I’m sure Honda want a WDC, but only Button fits that category..

        I agree Matt that they seem to go south when the focus is taken away from the F1 team.

      • unquestionably in 1988, however, unlike vettel, he wasn’t the undisputed number one driver in his team that year, and had a former wdc as his teammate. in 1990 and 1991 i’m not so sure the mclaren was a dominating car. anyways, sennas legend mainly stems from dragging cars where they didn’t belong before he joined mclaren and after the team was no longer dominating.

        • Yet he vetoed Derek Warwick from joining Lotus…..so he could have two of the greatest drivers of the day as teammates, Johnny Dumfries and Satoru Nakajima

          • True, he got the focus of the Lotus team on him, to basically make a one car top team and a second one to fulfil obligations. But it would have been nice to see him partner Derek Warwick.

          • This would make it ironic if Vettel had ‘veto’d’ Raikkonen for Ricciardo 🙂 Although I’m sure Marko won out.. there’d be no point to his RB Juniors scheme if they brought in Kimi.

            Speaking of that, Sainz looks impressive in FR 3.5 this year, with Gasly on his tail.. Vergne is definitely out the door in 2015. Losing time (and thus the points) to Kvyat from his car being overweight doesn’t bode well either for his reputation..

          • Oh silly man! You know that is perhaps the stupidest thing I have ever seen you write cav.

            Stop re-writing history. Lotus was not a powerhouse when he joined them. They had won a single race in the previous six seasons and suddenly they were front runners. Senna won in every year whilst he was there and when he left the team they fell to the back of the grid with that other eighties giant Piquet who demanded number 1 status and got blown away by Mansell.

            Nakajima was brought in by Honda and if you check back to my OTD for the 23rd Feb,

            http://thejudge13.com/2014/02/23/on-this-day-in-f1-23rd-february/

            you may get an idea of what Senna really meant to Lotus. He understood, and Warwick also agreed, that Lotus did not have the budget or infrastructure to run two number 1 cars and he didn’t want the team divided.

            As to the greatest drivers… I believe Prost as a double World Champion was quite a driver when Senna joined Mclaren. I don’t remember anyone ever saying otherwise.

          • senna vetoed warwick because lotus didn’t have the necessary resources for two competetive cars, not because he was afraid of being beaten. and even if he had, that doesn’t change the fact that he won the ’88 championship against an accomplished wdc driver in the same car and dragged crap cars to incredible wins against all odds. vettel managed neither the former nor the latter.

          • “Stop re-writing history” – So Senna didn’t veto Warwick joining Lotus? I never said Lotus was a powerhouse,I never claimed Lotus could have won with anyone else. I never mentioned Prost, Piquet or Mansell. So to get back to my one and only assertion – did Senna veto Warwick – yes or no?

          • Cav, I have read your stuff long enough to know you’re not stupid. Please don’t tar me with that brush either. If you have spent any time reading any feature I have written about Senna you will see me mention that he veto’d Warwick hence why the British press turned on him.

            But he done it with good reason not because he was scared of drivers as your original comment implied.

            Like I said, you’re above that sort of comment.

  2. The BBC investigation that is quoted is fairly old to be fair,
    GMM- tell us something new or don’t tell us at all.

    The sighting of Joe Seward as incorrect on the Forbes website I thought was far more news worthy, given his relationship with this page!

    • ” The BBC investigation that is quoted is fairly old to be fair ….. ”

      Is it ?

      Since the programme hasn’t been broadcast yet – how do you know ?

      • I read about the £10m payment to HMRC about 6months ago. The tax investigation was concluded in 2013. After running nearly 9years from 2004.

        • As did I CV.

          I don’t know the full details of the programme – only the clip advertising it and the info about it from BBC below.

          *****

          ” Bernie Ecclestone has dominated Formula One motor racing for forty years and made billions from the sport. But two courts say he paid a $44m bribe, a judge recently concluded that it was ‘impossible to regard him as a reliable or truthful witness’, and he may have avoided a billion pounds of UK tax. Panorama’s Darragh Macintyre investigates the truth about the boss of F1, Bernie Ecclestone, and asks why he is still in charge. ”

          *****

          Yet you dismissed it – and attacked GMM ( of whom I am not a fan ) without evidence …..

          I agree with you on the JS story – and cheers for the link, but surely we should wait and see what’s in the Panorama programme before castigating it ?

          • Attack, may be a bit strong, dismissed, yes, attack, narr.

            Looking forward to seeing the program myself. Bernie is such an enigma!

  3. You have to admire the Ecclestone tax dodge…
    Give all your (F1) assets to your wife who is resident overseas;
    she sells those assets free of CGT;
    divorce her;
    claim alimony of c.£100m pa…

    (& complicate matters via family trusts so you can obfuscate when asked awkward questions)

    Neat.

    • I read somewhere that it is possibly the biggest single (legal-ish) tax avoidance ever carried out by an individual in UK history.

  4. So… let me get this right… Bernie paid £44.M in order to save paying £17.M in taxes…? No, I must have got that wrong…

    • Capital gains on the sale of his F1 assets would have been a couple of orders of magnitude more than that.

  5. This girl looks like she may be the next piece in the puzzle after Ms.Wolff has tried but unfortunately fallen short. (please don’t think I’m kicking Wolff because I’m not)

      • For sure.. better than Danica in faster cars, whereas Danica looked impressive in smaller cars (Formula Ford?). I wonder if their differing builds account for this, as Danica looks light and Simona much stronger.

        She has good backing.. so I wonder if it’s pick 2 from Sutil, Gutierrez, Van der Garde and de Silvestro? Sirotkin will have to hope sanctions are lifted on SMP/Russia by 2015. VDG/de Silvestro would be an interesting line up, that’s for sure..

        • I can’t help but think it would have been better for Sutil to drive next year (702kg limit) and let Simona drive this year (692kg), as perhaps she can get the car nearer the weight limit, like Gutierrez, which is losing Sutil half a second a lap this year to his team-mate. Similarly for Ericsson and a little less for Vergne.

          No word on this from Marussia, unless their drivers bring them under or their car is OK. But it’s noticeable that it’s likely the slowest 4 teams struggling with the weight limit.

  6. Hmmmmm…… The question I have is if the sale of the rights is nullified, who becomes responsible for the debt borrowed against the rights. As the plan originally stood, the debt would have gone to the new owners, but will CVC still be on the hook for it, under those circumstances? Honestly have no idea, but it is an interesting question.

    • That will be a mess that will be in the courts for years. I doubt the FIA will be liable for the debts, they’ll just take back the rights and find a new buyer. But who knows if Todt has the balls to do that.

      • From what I’ve read, the reason Mosley sold the rights the way he did, (the valuation of those rights is an another matter) is that the FIA is structured as a not-for-profit entity. The money that the FIA got from the rights sale to Ecclestone was put into a trust, which the last I read about was largely still there, as they are very restricted as to what the money can be spent on.

        The FIA to this day cannot under the French laws they are incorporated under, be the ones that distribute the profit of F1 as that would make them a commercial entity, and liable for tax.

        Before the FIA attempts to get the rights back they need to change their own corporate structure.

  7. Can someone clarify for me why do Sky keep so quiet on any news on Bernie (trial or tax)?

    • I heard about the Jordan connection in Jordan’s autobiography.

      Before that Jordan had given Senna a run in his F3 car back in 1982. At the time Jordan was running James Weaver I believe and Senna tested the car, made some changes and beat the lap record. This was a guy that had never sat in an F3 car at that point, still competing in FF2000…

      Anyway, here’s the excerpt:

      The thought of having Senna join Jordan was not as daft as it seemed. Ayrton may have won three WDC and 30 GP’s with Mclaren but he was unsettled by Mclaren no longer having Honda engines. He may have bee with the team for 5 seasons but his relationship with Honda was very special and he was interested in any viable alternative.I had a plan that held Ayrton’s attention for long enough to have him slip across the road to see me after a Mclaren test session at Silverstone.

      I told Senna that I would give him 25 % of the team rising to 49% end of second year. Since I owned 100% I’d only have half my holding but with Senna on board the valuation of the team would have risen.Ayrton would have moulded the team around him taken Jordan to a new level. Felt certain Honda would have supplied him engines because of his influence.

      Ayrton thought long and hard about it. He made another visit to see us late at night. Even towards the end of 1992 when I was in Brazil with Rubens, Ayrton would secretly run me to the airport so that we could chat further…in the end nothing came of our discussions and he stayed with Mclaren.

      Hope that helps, as to Minardi, first time I’ve ever heard that one..

      • Imagine a line up of Senna and Barrichello! Now that would be something. In an alternate universe, even Senna and Schumi (staying at Jordan). Jordan struggled with Yamaha, then Hart until he came good, then Peugeot before finally getting to Mugen Honda/Honda, before being passed over for BAR to be the works/Honda team, treading water after 2002.

        Interesting to note parallels between Rubens and Hulkenberg. Rubens was mighty in the junior formulae, beating Coulthard straight up, then was impressive at Jordan, taking a pole in the wet and a podium in 1994, before being passed over for a Ferrari drive, before finally getting it and success after coming back with a new midfield team, Stewart. Lets hope Hulkenberg gets that chance eventually..

  8. Any truth about the rumor that Kovalainen is signing for Mercedes test driver?

    Merc I guess doesn’t have a young drivers program to bring new talent in. Or is this a favor from Lewis to a team mate who didn’t disturb his driving by challenging him.

    • Well they have Paul di Resta as a ready made replacement (who is driving for them in DTM), with juniors like Juncadella feeding in to Force India. To pick Heikki over him is tough for Paul (passed over by McLaren AND Mercedes, his employer), but perhaps they want a dedicated Reserve role (and will leave Davidson as sim-development driver.. his stature is perfect for 2014 F1), and Paul can follow Heikki once he retires.

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