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Previously on TJ13:
Where Fernandes’ heart is
In January Catherham boss Tony Fernandes warned he will leave Formula 1 should his team not improve their performance. At the time he was quoted as saying “My message to the 250 people here [at the factory] is we have to go for it this year. This is it – the final chance.”
Since Caterham joined the sport in 2010, Fernandes and his co-owners have invested an estimated $219.5 million (£132 million) into the team, giving them the dubious honour of investing more money in an F1 team – without scoring a single point – than anyone else in the history of the sport. In January Fernandes argued that the team had been given the best infrastructure and the best drivers (potentially) but now it is down to them to do it.
But is Fernandes missing something? This week an investigation by the UK paper the Guardian revealed that Fernandes’ football team Queens Park Rangers had a higher wage bill last season than Champions League finalists Atlético Madrid, coming in at a whopping £72m compared to the £54m at Atlético Madrid.
Accounts for 2012-2013 shows Fernandes and partners had invested (loaned) the club £166m. This leaves the club with a total net debt of £177m, the fourth highest in the Premier League.
Looking at where Fernandes spends his money one has to wonder if his heart is really in the Formula 1 project. If he is able get access to £166m surely he can afford to spend money on getting the best available drivers (not potential best drivers) and buy in the best engineers to make his team successful.
On reflection, what chances does Haas have to join Formula 1 and be successful? How long will Haas be willing to have his team as back-markers or, as TJ13 has suggested, is there an ulterior motive with Haas’ entry into F1 and with talks of standardised parts to bring costs down, has Haas entered the sport on the basis of having a customer Ferrari car?
Ecclestone ‘blackmail’ defence argument like pudding (GMM)
Bernie Ecclestone’s blackmail defence came under attack on Friday, as the F1 chief executive returned to court in Munich. Ecclestone has claimed he made the disputed $44 million payment to Gerhard Gribkoswky only because the jailed F1 banker was threatening to release information to the British tax authorities.
Prosecutors, however, allege 83-year-old Ecclestone bribed Gribkowsky in order to influence the sale of the sport’s commercial rights and remain in charge. On the witness stand on Friday was an investigator who interviewed Ecclestone during the Gribkowsky affair three years ago.
Public prosecutor Martin Bauer suggested Ecclestone’s explanation of blackmail lacked detail. “It was never really clear what form this threat (from Gribkowsky) could have taken,” he is quoted by the Telegraph newspaper.
“(It was) like a vanilla pudding that you can’t nail to the wall,” he added.
Nigel Stepney killed on British motorway in early morning accident
Nigel Stepney was killed yesterday morning by a lorry which hit him on the M20 motorway near Ashford, Kent in the UK.
The 56 year old Stepney was hit by an HGV after having stepped from his van which had stopped on the hard shoulder of the London bound carriageway between Junctions 10 and 9. A police investigation is underway as to why he walked on to the road implying that the lorry didn’t lose control and veer on to the hard shoulder. Emergency crews were called to the scene at 1.28am
PC Glen Braidwood, of the Kent Police serious collision investigation unit, said: “A silver VW caddy van, driven by a 56 year-old man from the Essex area, had stopped on the hard shoulder of the M20 London-bound carriageway at Ashford. For reasons yet to be established, the man appears to have entered the carriageway and was then in collision with an articulated goods vehicle. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.”
Police left the scene at 6.40am when Highways Agency crews began to clear the road for re-opening at 9.30.
Stepney began his motorsport career with Broadspeed Racing, a team that was based close to where he lived, which ran touring cars in various championships. When the team experienced financial difficulties, Stepney found a position with Shadows in Northampton as a mechanic and worked with Elio De Angelis before following him to Lotus in 1980 where he remained his mechanic until De Angelis departed to Brabham in 1986.
Stepney took over the running of Senna’s Lotus for the following two seasons before moving to Benetton to engineer Nelson Piquet. A period with Piquet Racing was not successful but he was taken on by John Barnard for the 1992 season to work in Maranello as team co-ordinator. It was around this time that Stepney met MIke Coughlan who was employed with the Barnard design company working on the Ferrari chassis design.
Stepney maintained this role when Jean Todt arrived followed by Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and MIchael Schumacher. His work was recognised in turning Ferrari’s questionable reliability into one of their dominant strengths. In 2001 he was promoted to Racing Manager.
When Brawn left Stepney expected further promotion but became disenchanted when he was not even considered for the post and began looking to move on to Honda or Toyota with a huge dossier of confidential Ferrari information that he had shared with Coughlan as they seeked new positions.
The scandal that enveloped Stepney led to his being fired in July 2007 and in 2010 an Italian court sentenced Stepney to a 20 month jail term but a plea bargain meant he didn’t serve any time.
The FIA took no formal action against Stepney but recommended that teams should have no professional ties with him for two years.
He never worked in Formula One again and in 2010 joined JRM, a Northamptonshire based Nissan GT team. In 2011 they won the FIA GT1 World Championship.
James Rumsey, the owner of JRM, paid tribute to Nigel on the JRM website. He said: “From the moment Nigel joined JRM in 2010, he was a vitally important member of the team and brought a level of engineering experience to us that was unrivalled.
“A man that engineered Ayrton Senna at Lotus and helped to guide Michael Schumacher to five Formula One world championships with Ferrari was the perfect candidate to establish JRM as a serious team in circuit – based motorsport and the role that he played in achieving that standard will never be underestimated or forgotten.
“Nigel was an intense and fierce competitor and always strived for excellence in our racing. We certainly could not have achieved our level of success without his leadership and experience. Away from the track, he was a focused, driven and passionate member of the JRM Group, and a loving father to his family.“
The rest of the engineering and race team here at JRM learned an unimaginable amount from Nigel in the four short years he was with us and his death this morning has shocked everyone to the core.
Today, the motorsport world has lost one of its greatest characters and competitors.He will be sorely missed and we send our sincere condolences to his family and the many friends he leaves behind. Our prayers and thoughts are with Ash and Sabine.”
It’s inestimable how much his engineering processes contributed to Ferrari; bringing consistency in reliability, pit-stop operations and structure to what was traditionally a chaotic organisation. It’s probably fair to say that his legacy at Ferrari is still observed in their excellent and consistent team-work.
Sadly his legacy in Formula One will remain over-shadowed by the cliched ‘gate’ ever more.