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Previously on The Judge 13:
“Podium like a win”
After a third placed finish at the Brazilian GP, a jubilant Felipe Massa said the podium finish had felt more like a win. An odd statement at the best of times, but even more strange when one analyses the context which Felipe talks in.
Having won the race in 2008 and 2006, you would be surprised that the winning in Brazil brings back good memories for Massa given that on both occasions the title ended up going to a different driver (2006 – Alonso took the title and 2008 – Hamilton claimed the title). A win at Interlagos surely cannot bring back happy recollections.
Furthermore, in 2007 and 2012 Massa was forced to yield to Raikkonen and Alonso respectively to aid their title bids. 2012 being infamous for the tears that flowed following one of the most intense title fights for years, after Massa had made such a remarkable comeback from his head injury he suffered in 2009.
Yesterday he said, “I’m very emotional after everything that happened here today. It was like a victory because I didn’t have a car competitive enough to beat the Mercedes. I think the fans understood that and that’s why they celebrated as they did.”
He continued, “Maybe I’ll be back here next year fighting for the championship again, and hopefully this positive energy will be here again to help me.”
Felipe demonstrated this weekend how much of a confidence driver he really is, despite mistakes he had the measure of the non Mercedes AMG field and his team mate in Brazil. The put downs he suffered at Ferrari during his tenure as Alonso’s number 2, clearly dented this confidence,
Yet in 2015 a World Championship challenge is surely beyond the realms of possibility despite the Williams car designs upward curve. Would really allow themselves to be beaten by a customer team?
What’s in a signature?
Finding your mojo as a Formula One driver is essential to ensuring grade A performances out on the black stuff; but what drives that? Well, the answer, naturally, is going to be different for all drivers – since they are all human.
Confidence is a factor for all the F1 drivers and the highly rated Nico Hulkenberg is no exception. As TJ13 recalled last week, Interlagos is a place of fond memories for the Hulk following his 2010 pole position and his stint during the 2012 race as leader for quite some time.
Given the recent confirmation by Force India that Nico will be driving for them next year, Hulkenberg appeared much more relaxed in Brazil than in recent F1 events.
The German had this to say following the race, “It was quite a cool race and very satisfying to finish in eighth. With a three-stop race you are always pushing, but my race was not too complicated and I was on my own for a large part of the afternoon. I also had a few nice battles and it was good fun. The car felt a bit better today compared to earlier in the weekend so I was more comfortable and really able to push.”
Finally back in the points and looking consistent, the Hulk continued, “The team made the right calls on the strategy and we maximised our performance with the tyres in these very hot conditions. I finished just behind the two Ferraris and maybe with one or two more laps I could have finished sixth instead of eighth, but that’s racing.”
With another 10kg set to be added to the minimum car and driver combined weight for 2015, there is great potential for future success for the German. That said, there are those who may be begin to question how long can Hulkenberg be considered an upcoming driver and not just an also ran like Sutil or Di Resta – whose careers slowly petered out?
If Nico’s re-discovered confidence is rooted in him putting pen to paper for 2015, then the results now come. At 27 years of age, Hulkenberg is now an experienced F1 pro, so 2015 must be the season where he must show his mettle.
Though with the recent U-Turn by Ecclestone over funding the smaller teams better, Force India are once again going to be relying on Mallya’s Millions – which appear to have all but dried up.
Force India on the brink again
TJ13 has been writing since the inception of the website that Force India is ‘in trouble’ and that at some point the house of cards will come a tumbling down.
In fact a non-regular TJ13 commentator recently cited the team’s continued existence as evidence that TJ13 ‘knows nothing’. Yet in Formula One – just as in other aspects of life – whilst the inevitable is coming, mankind is often delusional.
In the UK, companies are required to file their previous year’s accounts, 9 months following the conclusion of their financial year. Failure to do this will see penalties levied by the taxation authorities.
However, these penalties at times are deemed worth suffering – so that a company can hide for longer a set of financial results they wish not to make public.
Uk companies can elect to run their financial year beginning in any month on the calendar, though many retain 1st Jan – 31st Dec as their annual financial reporting periods.
Force India’s latest numbers reveal as TJ13 has been reporting an unsustainable future for the Northamptonshire-based team.
Its latest set of accounts reveal a £38.5m in the year to December 31, which is to be added to the £33.4m loss from the previous year.
In the notes to the annual report, it is clear that Force India Formula One Team Ltd received £17m during the year from its parent company, Luxembourg-registered Orange India Holdings Sarl.
The Force India team is jointly owned by Vijay Mallya and Subrata Roy, together with Dutch entrepreneur Michiel Mol, through their Sahara Adventure Sports and Watson investment vehicle which also owns the majority of Orange India Holdings.
Auditors Grant Thornton highlighted the funding Force India received from Orange India Holdings as a cause for concern. “These conditions indicate to us that the continued support of the company’s parent, Orange India Holdings… is necessary if the business is to continue as a going concern.
“There is no evidence available to us to confirm that Orange India will receive the continued support it needs from its shareholders and in turn that that continued support will therefore be available to Force India Formula One Team.
This material uncertainty may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
Clearly, Subrata Roy has been otherwise engaged in his cell in New Dehli as he attempts to raise over $1bn for his bail alone.
What is clear is that Force India has been short funded by £33m and £38m in its past two financial reporting years and this state of affairs is unsustainable.
There was talk earlier this year of a Mexican consortium meeting with the Force India executive to discuss a buyout, though with the vultures circling, why would anyone buy a Formula One team by negotiating with the owners, when they can pick up the pieces at a fire sale – or last minute forced arrangement with the creditors to write down their debt substantially.
TJ13 recently revealed the letter sent to Jean Todt by the smaller teams earlier this year stated that the cost of keeping a mid-field team racing in Formula One is around £120m (£75m) a year.
Force India has been able via sponsors, money from FOM and finance provided via Orange India – the shareholders – to fall on average £35m short of this break even position for the past two seasons.
This state of affairs will not continue for ever.
F1 Morality laughable
During the Brazilian GP weekend, we saw the Administrator for Caterham F1 launch a crowd funding project to get the team to the Abu Dhabi race weekend.
On hearing of this project TJ13 tweeted, “The @brabsracer crowd fund is an altogether different proposition than crowd funding an #F1 team like @CaterhamF1 #TJ13 #HowToLoseYourShirt”
This is no long term funding plan any Formula One team could employ, however, through the sale of memorabilia, older Caterham F1 car parts and sponsorship to be displayed on the cars in Abu Dhabi car, the target of raising £2.35m is 46% complete.
This has bought some time for the Green Team whose debts of £16m are not exactly huge, particularly as around half of this are owed to Renault.
“Everyone involved is incredibly grateful and excited to have raised over £1m of support in less than 48 hours,” said Caterham Administrator, Finbarr O’Connell. “The Caterham F1 Team is almost half way to its funding target. I am not packing my toothbrush as yet though and there is still a lot of fundraising to be done by the team. However, it is clear that this campaign is becoming international and I have been contacted by media organisations from all over the world since Friday”.
The crow funding initiative attracted scorn and criticism from within the sport, in particular from Bernie Ecclestone and Christian Horner.
The F1 Supremo described this fund raising initiative as a disaster for the image of Formula One. “We don’t want begging bowls. If people can’t afford to be in Formula One, they have to find something else to do.”
Yet the man who many hold responsible for F1’s current financial plights was shocked when told 24 hours into the crow funding project that the team had already raised nearly £500m in the first 24 hours of the project.
“Really?” he said. “It’s up to the fans if that’s what they want to do.”
Outspoken NBC pit lane reporter, Will Buxton appeared furious at the crowd funding proposals. He tweeted, “If you’ve got some spare £,€ or $, there are amazing charities who could use your support. An F1 team is not a charity. It is a business. The $ given to Caterham so far could buy 100,000 meals for those in need via @mealsonwheels. Think about it. Thats 284 people fed for a year”.
It appears Buxton may now be spending some of his inordinate amount of relaxation time between Grand Prix helping our elder citizens – such is his obvious passion for “Meals on Wheels”, Further, the ‘Buxton Brief’ on how people should spend their money and a morality investment index will now be published as a monthly addendum to the financial times supplement.
From a Caterham staff perspective, “Everyone involved is incredibly grateful and excited to have raised over £1m of support in less than 48 hours,” O’Connell said. “The Caterham F1 Team is almost half way to its funding target. I am not packing my toothbrush as yet though and there is still a lot of fundraising to be done by the team. However, it is clear that this campaign is becoming international and I have been contacted by media organisations from all over the world since Friday.
Most importantly, a new financially sound interested party has entered the arena and is considering acquiring the team. This new interest is wholly due to this campaign. It will be a very novel moment in Abu Dhabi when the team’s supporters will be able to watch the race in the knowledge that they put the Caterham F1 car on the grid”.
Eddie Jordan threw his weight behind the initiative and has been commended by Finbarr O’Connell
“I have been very grateful for the support the project has had from F1 thought leaders like Eddie Jordan, a fellow Irishman. Whilst I am also incredibly grateful to Renault and Total for their support of what the team is doing I really want people to focus on the other human engine to this team, being 200 people in Leafield, in the Prime Minister’s constituency, who have been working without pay for the last 6 weeks in order to rescue this team. Without them there would be no team and they deserve everybody’s support.
We are working non-stop to get the Caterham F1 Team back racing and one of our most useful, innovative and effective options right now is Crowdfunding. We want to get as many sponsors and fans as possible involved this week and make our comeback something we can all be part of and proud of. This team deserves a future and I know that there are plenty of fans and companies out there that agree with us, so I can’t think of a better way to get us all together and show our support to the team than this one, the Caterham F1 Team #RefuelCaterhamF1 project.”
There is a notion that it would be one in the eye for the Formula One establishment were the fans and interested parties be able to fund the Caterham team for an outing in Abu Dhabi.
It may give the likes of Wolff, Horner and Mattiacci as principals of the biggest spending teams something to consider, as they plot and plan for their third cars to run and drive the midfield further back in 2015.
F1 engine spending war looms closer
For those who follow Formula One closely, the observation that the civil war of self-interest has escalated to all-time highs in the history of the sport – is hardly dramatic.
In Austin there is the promise of a fairer distribution of funds to recognise the escalating costs forced upon the mid-field and small teams. 1 week later, Ecclestone states this is no longer an option.
Further, the bitter row over the engine regulations has spiralled into grid-lock, as Mercedes refuse to agree to accept this late in the day, changes to the 2015 regulations which would allow an incremental unfreeze – over and above the 48% re-design freedom’s allowed.
The threat from Renault and Ferrari is that unless their proposals to alter the 2015 regulations are enacted, they together with Honda will by majority decision force a complete unfettered development war on engine development from 2016 onwards.
Having proposed such an idea, Christian Horner then interestingly observes what a disaster it would be for Formula One.
“I think that is the only option because, with a majority vote, the 2016/17/18 rules can be opened up,” states the Red Bull team principal. “So we will have to face the pain in 2015 to open it up in 2016/17/18, which is ridiculous.
We will all end up spending a lot more money over a longer period of time.
What should happen is that a window should be opened to allow Renault, Ferrari and Honda to try to close that gap.”
Its worthy of note that McLaren and Honda are not exactly jumping up and down on this matter at present, and Horner is assuming that Honda will agree to a complete unfreeze for 2016 in the engine development regulations by June 2015 – the deadline.
A Formula One engine has been deconstructed into 66 general ‘tokens’ and for 2015, 32 tokens can be completely altered and redesigned – which is just under 50% of the entire engine.
Mercedes’ have offered to allow rivals an incremental 5 tokens for their 2015 engine designs, though this has been rejected by Ferrari and Renault who were demanding and an additional 13 tokens.
Ferrari and Renault also requested engine homologation be pushed back from February to March, but Mercedes have rejected this.
The talks continue.
Whilst not an employee of Renault, Christian Horner has become the self-appointed voice for the French engine manufacturer and he claims, “It is all rather frustrating because we sit down and talk about things…. you leave the room and think you have agreed something and then it changes.
“It is a ridiculous situation that we cannot find a solution to, and I have no idea what the outcome will be.”
It may be stating the obvious, but there’s no guarantee for Mercedes that by agreeing to 13 tokens instead of 5 and an extra 4 weeks for the teams to homologate the 2015 engines, that prior to the 2016 regulations being agreed in June next year – Ferrari and Red Bull Renault together with Honda will merely push through an unlimited engine development war for 2016 regardless.
The F1 strategy Group has been a complete and utter disaster and the FIA need to regain control of these and other regulatory matters – and quick. Clearly allowing incremental power to the larger teams and FOM has created more chaos and will simply see F1 team spend rise exponentially until we have a DTM plus single-seater racing series costing astronomic amounts per annum.
As TJ13 reported on Friday before the race in Brazil, Ecclestone stated, “We’re going to try to get rid of these (V6) engines”.
Christian Horner paid lip service to the suggestion from the F1 Supremo that the V8’s could once again return to the sport. “No one likes to take a step backwards,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said, “but sometimes you have to realise when something has gone wrong.”
Yet, Niki Lauda was brief and to the point on the matter. “If V8 [engines] come back, Mercedes will be gone.”
Double points should make no difference
When asked after the race about Abu Dhabi and double points, Toto Wolff had this to say. “Hopefully double points will not make a difference. It would put a big shadow over the championship if it was turned by a technical issue.”
Given the complete dominance of the Mercedes AMG F1 cars in Brazil last weekend and the chance of rain in the desert being zero then barring any reliability problems a 1-2 in Abu Dhabi is a given.
This season has seen both Rosberg and Hamilton drive through the entire following misfortune and still manage the top or second step on the podium. Any non-terminal issue in qualifying or early in the race, would surely see either driver perform this feat once again.
So, under the non-double points system, with both cars finishing the final race, for Rosberg to win the title Hamilton would have to finish 7th place or lower in the final race and Rosberg win – along with a few other highly improbable scenarios
Under double points a Rosberg win in Abu Dhabi requires Hamilton to finish 3rd or lower for again the German to win the drivers’ title.
3rd or 7th are equally as unlikely given that the Mercedes AMG F1 cars suffer no mechanical issues during the race. Should the reliability gods strike one or other of the Mercedes drivers, then double points will be rendered meaningless anyway.
Then again, Lewis’ determination to win every race, could see him running second and put it into the wall as he tries to push too hard in a vain attempt to pass Rosberg.
But the expected Mercedes 1-2 – in any order – next weekend in the desert will give Hamilton his second drivers’ title.