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Previously on The Judge 13:
No unleashing of Nico and Lewis yet (Updated 14:21 GMT)
OTD Lite: 1999 – Hakkinen wins in Japan and clinches his second title
We stay in Japan! On this day in 1999 Mika Hakkinen won the Japanese Grand Prix and in doing so secured his second consecutive World Drivers Championship. Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine completed the podium to give Ferrari their first constructors championship in 16 years!
How closed did Irvine really get to becoming Ferrari’s first world champion since Jody Scheckter in 1979?
“We told you so” and the plight of the lesser
Known for being the quiet ruler within the FIA it has not stopped Mr Todt to do a “I told you so”.
The FIA has released a statement saying they have been ‘informed’ of the financial difficulties being faced by Caterham and Marussia and the uncertainty surrounding their participation in the final races of the 2014 championship.
However, understanding that the might of the FIA is better applied to smaller teams, our leaders at the Place de la Concorde has now stated that it is the responsibility of the FIA Stewards to determine whether or not a team has failed to fulfil its regulatory obligation to take part in all events on the calendar and to take whatever action they deem appropriate.
In an attempt to show how considerate they are the FIA states they have “every confidence that the Stewards are fully aware of the financial situation of the teams concerned and these matters are always assessed with extreme care and due regard for the circumstances involved“.
The FIA also want to assure all other teams that things will get better.
“Looking beyond the end of the 2014 season, these failings once again acutely raise the question of the economic balance of the FIA Formula One Championship and justify the position, expressed many times by the FIA, in favour of any initiative that will help reduce costs in order to ensure the survival of the existing grid or attract potential new entrants.
As such, the FIA, in close cooperation with FOM and the different stakeholders in F1, will continue to work towards maintaining the attraction of the championship and the equitable participation of the teams in it in the years to come.“
One can only wonder what new initiative the FIA will introduce to ensure more ‘equitable participation of teams’. One thing is certain though, unless true leadership emerges from the FIA – little will change.
Ecclestone Model Not Just Bad for Small Teams
When it comes to financial difficulties, in Formula One it’s not just the teams that are at risk. An ongoing tax dispute between Circuit of the Americas and Travis County Assessment District who appraise the track reveal the desperate economics behind the circuit owners.
Originally thought to have cost between $300-$450 million to construct, the last appraisal set the value of the property at $271 million dollars, with a tax bill due in the region of $7 million dollars. COTA on the other hand, believes that the property has dropped to roughly $100 million dollars and therefore should owe no more than $3 million, give or take a few pennies, a depreciation worthy of a brand new Mercedes just driven off the lot.
COTA president Jason Dial said that the larger tax bill would add roughly $50 to every ticket sold.
Despite the rosy report recently touted by circuit chairman, Bobby Epstein, focused on the positive economic impact on Austin and the surrounding area, the fact remains that the track itself continues to lose money, at least by their reckoning. That’s not difficult to believe, as FOM not only keep revenue from trackside advertising, but from TV rights and corporate hospitality as well.
One has only to look at the recent events with the Nurburgring and Silverstone to see how hard it is to make money at a circuit and how quickly the value disappears.
And for those who felt the numbers in the Greyhill Advisors report seemed a bit ambitious, an interview on kut.org with Ben Loftsgaarden of the firm sheds light on the source of those numbers. The report factored in all the activities at the circuit for the year not just Formula One (more than 200, including a music venue), as well as indirect effects. Looked at more narrowly, the direct impact of all activities on the track for the year was $515 million dollars, with less than two hundred people employed by the track.
Still, as the race weekend gets underway COTA are currently $4.6 million dollars in arrears to authorities, with an additional $830,000 in penalties awaiting the outcome of the court case this spring. According to Epstein, “The venue cannot afford that kind of tax bill. If it creates an upside down company, I could see the property — without the race contracts — going up for sale.”
Forza Rossa still waiting for FIA approval GMM
Forza Rossa, a Romanian project targeting a debut in formula one, has played down reports it has already been granted an entry by the FIA. Reports this week suggested that with Caterham now close to collapse, advisor Colin Kolles is set to return his immediate attention to Forza Rossa.
But a statement attributed to Forza Rossa, published by the respected Romanian outlet prosport.ro, insisted: “For the moment there is no official engagement between Mr Colin Kolles and Forza Rossa F1 Team.”
The statement clarified that Caterham was never “related” to Kolles’ involvement at Caterham, contrary to recent speculation.
Manfredi Ravetto, until recently the boss at Caterham, also denied the reported links between the failing Leafield based team and Forza Rossa.
“The investors involved (in Forza Rossa) should have met with Bernie Ecclestone at Monza, but I didn’t see them,” he is quoted by Italy’s Omnicorse.
“I do not think there is a future for that idea.”
But the reports earlier this week had quoted court documents as suggesting Forza Rossa has been granted approval to make its F1 debut either next year or in 2016.
But the Forza Rossa media statement said: “We would like to inform you that we don’t yet have an official and public confirmation from the FIA regarding our participation in the formula one world championship.
“Until the FIA official statement any information on our participation in F1 is pure speculation.”
The Spanish news agency EFE is reporting similarly, quoting a man by the name of Bogdan Sonea, who is apparently the marketing director or Forza Rossa Ferrari, the official dealer of Ferrari road cars within Romania.
The latest paddock whisper is that Forza Rossa may now be distancing itself from Caterham because it sees buying the similarly failing backmarker Marussia – already powered by customer Ferrari engines – as a better option.
Also rumoured in the Romanian press is that Forza Rossa will be based in Germany, with cars powered by Renault.
“We’re still awaiting official confirmation from the FIA to enter formula one,” Sonea said.
He added that the project is purely privately funded, without the rumoured involvement of the Romanian government.
Caterham’s Ericsson set for Sauber switch GMM
Marcus Ericsson looks set to keep his formula one career alive by signing with Sauber for 2015.
Said to carry some $18 million in personal sponsorship, the Swedish rookie is trackside in Austin this weekend despite the absence of his failing existing team, Caterham.
“I had the ticket anyway,” he told Speed Week, “but I came here because I want to maintain contact with the sport.
“I’m sad that I cannot drive but it’s important for me to meet with some people,” the 24-year-old added.
Roger Benoit, the veteran correspondent for the Swiss newspaper Blick, claims Ericsson will replace either Adrian Sutil or Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber next year.
The news came as the Swiss team’s boss and co-owner Monisha Kaltenborn slammed the financial situation in F1, as the struggling privateers begin to collapse.
“I think I’m beyond the stage of frustration,” she said.
“It’s one thing to always talk about this terrible scenario that some teams are not going to be there, but that the sport and the people responsible for the sport have let it come that far is extremely disturbing,” Kaltenborn added.
“I think the worst part is that we’re damaging the sport with this so much that I think the owners of the product of the sport should think what they’re doing here.”
The Spanish sports daily Marca said one struggling team, perhaps Sauber, has illustrated the point by leaking the precise minimum cost of putting two cars on the grid for the entire season — EUR 94.4 million.
So with Ericsson’s millions said to be arriving in 2015, attention now turns to who – the strongly Mexican-backed Gutierrez or German Sutil – will have to make way.
Sutil doesn’t think it will be him, insisting on Thursday there is “no change” in his contractual partnership with Sauber, which continues through 2015.
Gutierrez, meanwhile, said: “I think in the next three weeks we will know what will happen with me. Nothing in life is guaranteed — and that goes even more so for formula one.”
No unleashing of Nico and Lewis yet
Translation of a German language interview in Der Spiegel
Mr. Wolff, under your leadership Mercedes won the constructor championship for the first time. How hard did you party?
It was all rather tame. After all, the season isn’t over yet and we want to win the other title that F1 has to offer as well. On Sunday in Austin we want to make the next step in that direction.
The Mercedes cars have been utterly superior this year. When were you sure that you will win the constructors title?
After the race in Suzuka, in October
Come on! At the time your team was already 190 points ahead of Red Bull. You only needed 25 of the 215 theoretically attainable points. There was all but a theoretical chance.
I’m pessimistic on principle in that regard. Before you have reached the goal with undeniable certainty, you must not sit back. There is always something that can go wrong. I call that the necessary element of paranoia.
Pardon, the what?
The necessary element of paranoia. It’s important, because you must be gripped by the fear of losing every day. This fear doesn’t make your life particularly pleasant, but it spurs you on, makes sure you never stop.
Okay, let’s approach this differently: Which stages of the season do you think were the most decisive?
The start with six wins in a row was important, and it was equally important that we didn’t slow down after the summer break. Instead we won four of five races. In the years before we were always put in our place after the summer. This year we proved that we can not only defend our advantage, but actually extend it.
The first race after the summer break at Spa did not exactly go well. Nico hit Lewis’s car and the upheaval was enormous.
That surely was a disastrous Sunday for us. We had pulled all stops to make the cars even better over the summer and for that we had brought a substantial upgrade for Spa. To throw away the race needlessly when running 1 and 2 was a bad hit. At this point we had the impression that not everybody respects how much effort the team has been investing into our success.
You are talking about Nico Rosberg, the culprit.
I talk about the fact that it was necessary to meet and muck out the stable. We dealt with it behind closed doors and since then there’s quiet.
In Spa you said, something like that must not happen again to not endanger the constructors title. Well that one’s obviously settled. Will the drivers now be allowed to run free of team orders?
No, definitely not. There is still the drivers title, which is much more relevant as far as media coverage is concerned. It’s the drivers title the viewers are really interested in. The gap of Lewis and Nico is not yet big enough to unleash both of them.
Ricciardo is 92 points behind championship leader Hamilton and there are only 100 points still up for grabs.
Necessary element of paranoia, remember? Frankly, I’m not interested going to that 50-points race in Abu Dhabi while Ricciardo can still theoretically steal the title. I want that decided beforehand. And when we have the luxury of our drivers being safe, even in theory, then we might consider letting them run freely.
You mentioned Abu Dhabi where there will be double points. What do you think about this new rule?
From a sporting point of view, complete rubbish. It values one race higher than the other 18. I can understand that they want to keep the suspense up until the very end, but I hope that the only suspense at that time will be whether Hamilton or Rosberg will be crowned champion.
Can you guarantee that both of them will drive for Mercedes next year? After all, there seems to be some action on the driver market: Vettel will most likely go to Ferrari and it is rumoured that Alonso wants a Mercedes seat and Hamilton is named frequently in connection with McLaren.
Nothing in life is one hundred percent guaranteed, but the chance of Lewis and Nico driving for us next year is 99.9%. They both have valid contracts for 2015 after all. We want to continue working with both of them.
You must be quite excited about next year. The rules remain relatively stable and the history has shown that once a team has established a technological advantage, it dominates for years, like Ferrari between 2000 and 2004 or Red Bull from 2010 to 2013.
To quote baseball legend Babe Ruthe: ‘Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s game’. It must be our goal to improve even further and not sit back or the successful times could be gone quite soon.
Translation by Fat Hippo
So, what is Mr. Wolff saying? With 100 points on the table and Ricciardo being 75 points behind a Hamilton/Rosberg 1-2 in either order this weekend will then finish Ricciardo off.
We then can have proper racing in Brazil and Abu Dhabi?
This season for many will always have the stench of Mercedes AMG F1 management interfering in the only uncertainty around who will win what this year.
Further, Wolff forgets he did not deal with ‘the matter’ behind closed doors. One driver told the world that his team mate admitted driving into him deliberately and then the team announced Rosberg would be disciplined – without disclosing what this ‘discipline’ would be.
Wolff therefore is alone is responsible for the tidal wave of subsequent speculation that he, Lauda and Lowe have “managed a points transfer” amongst their drivers in recompense for the wring Lewis suffered in Spa.
This is a given since never in Formula One history has a team mate collision – treated as a racing incident by the stewards – EVER been escalated such that a public declaration of guilt and discipline has been pronounced on one of their drivers.
COTA FP1 Times
The results are in as the F1 circus starts are rolling again after three painfully slow weeks. Lewis Hamilton nailed his name to the top of the time sheets in FP1 and was closely followed by his team mate Rosberg.
Perhaps the surprise of the day (so far) is Button in the McLaren. The Frome Flyer got his silver arrow (not one of THE Silver Arrows) on top of the time sheets for quite a while however he had to settle for third behind the real Arrows (sliver ones that is). It is early days but for the McLaren to be 0,378s adrift in the hands of Button is a good result. Perhaps he has been promised a contract if he does well this weekend? The question remains though, with which of the many teams his manager are referring to…
Young Russian and soon to be Red Bull Racing driver Kvyat got his Toro Rosso into 4th (Soon to be ex RBR Vettel was down in 7th and his soon to be team mate Ricciardo was 17th, although the Aussie had some gremlins with his car). K-Mag slotted in at 5th, a whole second and a bit behind Hamilton. He was followed by Alonso in the Ferrari, Vettel, Nasr (standing in – or is that sitting in – Bottas’ Williams), Hulkenberg and Verstappen.
Verstappen taking another outing in his soon to be Toro Rosso Team car was just under a second slower than Kvyat.
With the session almost over the FIA decided to test their “Virtual Safety Car” and the drivers having to drive to a pre-set lap time from the FIA. This is a response to Jules Bianchi’s Suzuka crash as was decided that drivers need to slow more for yellow flags. Now does that differ for sectors or is it the whole lap that counts?
|4||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:40.887||0.946||33|
|7||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:41.463||1.522||20|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:41.722||1.781||24|
|10||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:41.785||1.844||32|
|15||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:42.359||2.418||23|
|17||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:42.598||2.657||5|
COTA FP2 Times
It seems weird publishing times with only 18 cars…. When was the last time we had only 18 cars in FP?
Back to the action then. Business as usual with Mercedes staying on top, Hamilton leading Rosberg. How many millimetres is in 0.003s?
Our Spanish Samurai is showing his hand in the Ferrari Truck in 3rd place. Kimi however is down in 6th, apparently not feeling the car… maybe less vodka Kimi, it may help your senses.
Ricciardo seem to have got his rodeo hat on and plonked is bull into 4th place. Would it not be great to see him on the podium on Sunday with a Pirelli Stetson? It would suit his beard.
Massa got his Williams into 5th… not much more to say about the little Brazillian’s FP2.
From highs to lows for our Russian, 7th is all he could get out of his junior bull.
K-Mag got one over Button as they take up 8th and 9th with Hulkenberg in the top ten again… in tenth.
And that is it folks, till tomorrow… let’s see which of our favorite Silver Arrow drivers gets poll.
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:40.390||1.305||30|
|7||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:40.631||1.546||34|
|10||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:40.800||1.715||25|
|13||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:41.110||2.025||36|
|14||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:41.123||2.038||35|
|18||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:43.980||4.895||19|