#F1 Daily News and Comment: Monday 17th November 2014

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Previously on The Judge 13:

#TJ13 #F1 Courtroom Podcast: I can Shoot People in South Africa

Judges Chamber: The day, the #F1 music died

#F1 Forensics: An interview with Kolles Snr

The Top-20 #F1 Constructors who Failed to win a Championship – 4th: Honda


OTD Lite: 2003 – McLaren confirms signature of the Columbian nutter

Caterham announce a driver (UPDATE 12:53)

Vettel takes matters into his own hands

Wolff eyeing Hamilton contract talks on Monday

Teams’ response to Ecclestone

McLaren driver reshuffle may favour Jenson Button 

FIA got yellow flag regulation for 2014 wrong.

Is Fernandes complicit with employment irregularities?


OTD Lite: 2003 – McLaren confirms signature of the Columbian nutter

On this day eleventy years ago, staid, shades of grey (in a boring way ) Mclaren announced that they would be signing the exuberant, colourfully lingo’d Colombian – Juan Pablo Montoya to their squad. Not for the 2004 season, you understand dear reader, but for their 2005 campaign.

Of course, towards the end of 2005 they followed the same protocol and actually signed the Spanish Samurai to the grey confines for the 2007 season.

In a break with tradition, Mclaren this year have seemingly decided to do things in reverse and have yet to announce any signatories for their up-coming season – although there is no truth they will announce a package of drivers and main sponsors around the time of Abu Dhabi 2015.

Of course history would prove that JPM was unbalanced in any of his public dealings and began his season with Ron’s team having fractured his shoulder whilst playing tennis… and riding a moto-cross bike….

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Caterham announce a driver

1MRT have announced the redundancy of the remaining 230 employees of the Caterham F1 team. TJ13 reported last week that whilst 1MRT, owned by Tony Fernandes, was not under the Administration process being managed by Finbar O’Connell.

Having met the staff of 1MRT to provide them with information regarding the crowdfunding project, O’Conell penned a memo in which he requested the staff be informed of the following content.

“There is an understandable groundswell of desire for 1MRT to make you, its employees, redundant as soon after 14th November as possible. On this basis the employees will be able to begin to make their claims to the Redundancy Payments Office (RPO) which deals with all statutory claims including redundancy and arrears of wages. I am informed that it is very likely that all of the 1MRT employees will be made redundant on or before 14th November and this claims process can commence”.

“If a purchaser buys the Team after this date I have no doubt that the purchaser will make an approach to people about re-employing them.

Formal redundancy will not affect the position of the Project Team. Clearly, their objective is to try and save the Race Team and they too would hope to be re-employed by any future purchaser.

I hope that this update assists people in understanding the current position. Again, as I am only advising 1MRT with regard to its financial position and am not formally appointed over it, although I expect to be in the future, my comments here are made from the information currently available to me”.

For the staff to make the redundancy claims from the UK statutory body, the RPO, this required Fernandes to place 1MRT into Administration. Until that point, the company and Fernandes were liable for the payments of these claims.

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The employees were informed of their redundancy status on Friday.

The staff are angry that they are owed 7 weeks pay and that Fernandes appears to be hiding behind the lack of funds in what is in effect a shell type company and they are now forced to enter a process which may take some time for them to receives their dues from a statutory UK body.

Fernandes has escaped much of the criticism for the treatment of his staff since he ‘loaned’ the business to Colin Kolles. It is just inconceivable that the share transfer and consideration due for payment would be allowed to drag on as long as Fernandes allowed the alleged ‘negotiations’ to last with the ‘Swiss based Arab Investors’.

What is highly unusual is that someone would lend another person their business to be run by an agent for such an extended period of time. The potential damage to the asset base whilst these lengthy negotiations take place is too great a risk.

The fact that Fernandes did this, suggests he had no interest in concluding the affairs of his company and his staff properly and with propriety, and merely ducked out waiting for the inevitable to occur.

It appears to have been a convenient mechanism for Tony to distance himself from the Caterham operation, which ensures he does not have to properly fund the payment of the people he employed.

Once again the mainstream media care not to report this fact, so TJ13 again gives the shoddily treated workers from Leafield a voice.

However, the team is taking two cars, a skeleton race crew of around 40 people and limited parts to Abu Dhabi. Having used three race drivers this year and with Ericsson having cancelled his contract with the team – Caterham could employ one new driver and either Andre Lotterer or Kamui Kobayashi.

With Lotterer rejecting the team’s offer to drive in Abu Dhabi, this left Caterham with no choice but to confirm late last night that Kamui will be the race driver from this years pool of drivers previously employed, who would be driving for Caterham in Abu Dhabi.

“I am happy to be racing with the team in Abu Dhabi,” said Kobayashi. “It hasn’t been an easy last few weeks, so it will be nice to be back to in the car and work together with the Caterham F1 team members. I would like to thank the fans for supporting the team like they have. This team is working hard and never gives up. We deserve to be racing in Abu Dhabi and I am very glad we can race again thanks to the crowdfunding Project.”

TJ13 has been informed, that the two seats for the test event following the Grand Prix weekend have been sold, though to whom is as yet unknown.

The second driver for the race weekend in Abu Dhabi is still currently being negotiated. Initially Joylon Palmer was believed to be the favourite as his father Jonathan had visited the factory several times prior to the first day the staff were locked out of Leafield by the Administrator. Palmer is believed to be very interested in acquiring the operation, though as yet O’Connell has merely confirmed there are a number of interested parties who came forward following the crowd funding initiative.

Also on the list of possible drivers for the Abu Dhabi race is Will Stephens, though the latest word is the Max Chilton fans are set to a surprise return of their favourite hairstyle to the grid, though this time in a green and not a red car.

UPDATE: TJ13 believes Joylon Palmer has now ruled himself out of driving for Caterham this weekend end Abu Dhabi. So its down to Max or Will.

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Vettel takes matters into his own hands

Filling in a fun questionnaire in Brazil, provided by Sky Italia, Vettel answered the question, “Sebastian Vettel is?”, by writing, “a driver for Scuderia Ferrari”.

Whether Vettel is just fed up with the delay, unsettled by Ferrari’s silence or even doing the bidding of Maranello, he was quoted on Sunday in the German publication Bild as stating, “I see myself getting along with Kimi just fine.”

The ‘Ice Man’ and Sebastian are known to be good friends and Vettel added, “He’s always straight and direct, so on the human side I expect absolutely no problems in the future.”

By doing this, Vettel is letting the world know that his understanding of Ferrari’s position is that Alonso is leaving the team. Sebastian pointedly remarked of his new team mate, “He (Raikkonen) has – thank god – zero interest in the politics of a team.”

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Wolff eyeing Hamilton contract talks on Monday

Mercedes has scheduled urgent contractual talks with Lewis Hamilton, as the team looks to keep its dominant pairing together beyond 2015. Currently, the pair are set to race together once again next year, despite clashing on and off track at times as the intensity of their championship fight heated up.

Earlier this year, Mercedes extended its deal with Nico Rosberg, while teammate Hamilton’s contract is still currently set to expire at the end of 2015. Asked why only Rosberg’s deal was extended, team boss Toto Wolff told the Austrian broadcaster ORF: “We didn’t want to be in a situation where in a year’s time there is the possibility we have to be filling not one but two places. Nico is an important part of the team, he fits in well and his performance is good so we wanted to extend at an early stage,” he said during the Sport am Sonntag programme.”

“With Lewis,” Wolff continued, “the contract runs for another year anyway and in the summer we started to discuss (extending) it (beyond 2015). We have agreed that we want to continue and Lewis has said the same but at some point we decided that it was not the right time to do it. The duel was so intense so we thought it was a good idea to talk after Abu Dhabi.

“Now we have agreed that we get together on Monday in Abu Dhabi to talk about it,” said Wolff.

If confirmed, the news looks set to lock Fernando Alonso out of Mercedes for now, following speculation the Spaniard wanted to find a stop-gap solution for 2015 in order to target Hamilton’s place in silver for 2016. But it appears Mercedes is happy with Hamilton and Rosberg, despite their run-ins this season.

Wolff was asked if he even sees the “fire” between the team’s current pairing as essential to continue Mercedes’ dominance into 2015 and beyond.

“I don’t know if fire is important,” he said. “The only thing the two are interested in is that they have the fastest race car possible. So I would say at the moment that we have a good situation. Clearly there are many others who would like to have this cockpit, but I hope our two see it that way as well and we can go on with this driver combination.”

Before the future arrives, however, the eyes of the world will be on Hamilton and Rosberg this weekend in Abu Dhabi as their 2014 championship battle reaches its conclusion.

Asked who the favourite is, Wolff told ORF: “I have been asked this question time and time again in the past days. Mathematically, the numbers are on Lewis’ side, but we (Mercedes) want to behave neutrally. Lewis is in the lead and a second place will be enough to be world champion, so Nico has to hope for a third place or worse (for Hamilton).”

“If you look on the basis of the last few races, then everything points to another one-two,” he admitted.

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Teams’ response to Ecclestone

Following Mr. E’s incoherent psycobabble about F1 not needing young fans – whilst at the same time suggesting the tobacco companies were an excellent model marketeer. Here’s what McLaren think.

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Yes it is a fake….. just like the Ferrari invoice for services rendered to Mark Webber. Ironically, Lotus used the #F1, which Bob and Mary back at Bernie’s base are battling to understand at present.

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McLaren driver reshuffle may favour Jenson Button 

McLaren have dispensed with the services of their test driver Gary Paffett today. It is probable that because Paffett remains part of the German DTM programme with Mercedes. Having developed high end Mercedes sports cars together and Mercedes holding some 40% of McLaren for some time – the final divorce settlement between the parties includes in the detail, the services of the team’s test driver who joined them in 2006.

“I’ve loved working for McLaren”, said the 33 year old British driver, “and hope my feedback and input over the years has been beneficial.

“The engineers I’ve worked with have been kind enough to say that it has.

“I have many friends at McLaren, and I wish all of them the very best of luck for the future. Fingers crossed for a McLaren grand prix win or two next year!”

Acting CEO for the Woking team commented that, “Gary has been an excellent member of the McLaren team for the best part of a decade, and his technical input, on test track and in simulator alike, has been hugely important to us. Just as important, he’s a great guy. We wish him well.”

Oliver Turvey, the team’s other test drive, took a prototype of the 2015 and the new Honda engine for a spin during a filming day on Friday at Silverstone.

There is speculation that Kevin Magnussen may now make way for Fernando Alonso and return to testing duties alongside Turvey for a season, with Jenson Button retaining his race seat after all.

Jenson recently reduced significantly his remuneration demands, in a bid to retain his drive with McLaren as they move into the new Honda engine partnership era.

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FIA got yellow flag regulation for 2014 wrong.

Without admitting culpability, the virtual safety is set to replace the ill-fated yellow and double yellow flag regulation brought into Formula One for 2014. Drivers were to reduce their speed by 0.2 seconds for a yellow flag and 0.5 seconds for a double waved yellow, which on average through one of the circuits mini 20 sectors represented a reduction in speed for DOUBLE waved yellow flags of  15%.

For some unknown reason, the FIA is suggesting it cannot confirm whether the new virtual safety car system will be finalised and ready for Melbourne 2015.

Drivers are finding it difficult to drive through such short sectors to a delta time. When the safety car is deployed, the drivers must drive to a delta time over a much longer distance and can adjusts their speed based upon the + or – timings they are presented with across each mini timing sector.

It would surely make more sense for the drivers to be given a fixed speed limiter type device to press on entering the affected section of the circuit, along with an audio countdown of beeps – from say 5 to 1 to indicate the start of the speed restricted area.

What is important is that the delta times the drivers are now being given for what would have been waved yellow flags. This is currently set at a 35% speed reduction – though it is likely this will be slowed down further.

TJ13 quickly identified following the race in Germany, that the current regulation was inadequate to bring about the effect of “slow down and be prepared to stop” for double waved yellows – as per the World Motor Sport Council’s regulation.

Clearly the 0.2s and 0.5s (15% speed reduction) regulations for 2014, were woefully inadequate, though the FIA will decide upon the final appropriate reduction in speed following the report on December 3rd from the ‘panel of special advisors’ investigating the Jules Bianchi crash.

TJ13 believes, the FIA have not yet considered regulating that all the cars must pass through the “virtual safety car zone” an equal number of times yet. This is surely something which must happen, to ensure the drivers feel the speed reduction instructions are fair and apply equally to all the competitors.

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Is Fernandes complicit with employment irregularities?

Previously we reported from a memo sent by Finbar O’Connell, the Administrator of Caterham Sports Ltd, that he was of the opinion the majority of the staff were pushing to be made redundant so they could complete their RPO forms for statutory remuneration from the appropriate UK government body.

The staff are owed 7 weeks pay, and feel Fernandes has ducked his responsibility to them (see article above).

However, TJ13 has been contacted by Caterham staff who bitterly complain this is a misrepresentation of the truth.

“There was no vote of any kind amongst the staff from which to judge what the majority opinion might be. Instead there was a small and vocal group agitating for the redundancies. There was an even smaller and less vocal group of 20 or so people who were against it. Those against the redundancies were given short shrift”.

Staff who had found other employment may have been keen for this arrangement to occur, however, it is not in the general interest of those hoping for a buyer for the team or as yet without alternative employment.

One employee commented to TJ13, “I find it odd that the administrator would move to make the most valuable part of the business, the employees, redundant if a sale is, as he claims, imminent. A new owner will be under no obligation to reemploy staff nor offer similar positions or terms. Might this be the real reason for the administrator’s keenness to make people redundant?”

Were a certain Romanian company keen to buy 1MRT, then making the staff redundant would be most beneficial to this potential suitor, who will recruit their own staff in another country – and not have to deal with the liability of the current employees outstanding remuneration.

The Administrator for Caterham Sports Ltd, Finbar O’Connell, is reportedly meeting a “serious buyer” during the Abu Dhabi weekend – so watch out for ether Kolles or faithful sidekick…. “Hi know nothing” Manfredi…. knocking about in the desert paddock.

The excuse for making the staff redundant – that they could quickly and easily apply for a statutory payment from the UK government – appears to have also been a misrepresentation of the truth. One employee divulged, “There are now 200ish people trying to fill in redundancy forms, where even something as simple “What is your employers address”, is almost impossible to fill in”.

Caterham Sports Limited who are being managed by Finbar O’Connell, do not employ the staff, as TJ13 reported weeks ago – since Kolles and Manfredi forced the employees to transfer their contracts to 1MRT.

The address of 1MRT another employee observed – “appears to be a warehouse somewhere in Malaysia”.

TJ13 reported in October – around the time of the staff employment transfer from Caterham Sports Ltd to 1MRT, that it was unclear whether staff employed by a Malaysian based company would qualify for UK statutory redundancy, which will become evident shortly.

Should ‘the Romanians’ acquire the team – then this employment transfer must be questioned by the UK authorities. Further, this transaction must have Fernandes approval, since he never relinquished control of the 1MRT. Either that, or he may have been negligent by allowing his agents, Kolles et al, to undertake such a transaction without proper scrutiny.

Tony Fernandes is unavailable for comment.
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38 responses to “#F1 Daily News and Comment: Monday 17th November 2014

  1. It seems Fernandes is responsible for Caterham’s plight and not Kolles.
    The article Joe Saward published over the weekend had an excerpt of a letter written by an aggrieved redundant staff who directed his frustration at 1MRT.

      • Was that contract signed after the Lotterer drive at Spa? Merhi’s first FP1 was at Monza. I guess whoever has the most money will drive (Merhi, Chilton, Stevens). At this point, Stevens hasn’t used his, as Marussia were not allowed to run him in FP1.

        Maybe they badly needed that money.. good old FIA helping out the small teams.. oh wait. Maybe they want them gone too.. to force Bernie’s hand.

    • Adding to that….

      Alonso was spotted in race control during the WEC race this weekend in Bahrain. Was he finalising his contract to join Audi’s WEC team? 😉

      Back to bed, man flu makes one starts to hallucinate alittle 😉 🙂

      • Don’t give me hope! Just don’t! Although he’s the class of the field along with Lewis I just don’t want him at Macca.

      • Big Lols.

        Bernie has an agenda. James Allen responded to questions on an article he had written re: Eclestone as follows.

        “It’s to simplistic to merely say ‘he’s lost it’, it’s a more sophisticated game than that. Why so much chaff being fired up into the air as the bombers circulate, to use a WWII metaphor?”

        Not that this is a rocket science piece of analysis from Allen. Ecclestone’s confuse/divide/conquer strategy is a well trodden path.

        Though worthy of note, as I identified in the Judges Chamber piece at the weekend, the division between himself and CVC does appear genuine.

        • Noted. Warhol’s deployed all the usual flash-bombs and smoke, but it seems different, more desperate, this time. He hasn’t got the back-up of Max ‘The Enforcer’ Mosley, ‘Grand Wizard’ Whiting has spent too much time in his ivory (race control) tower, and CVC have cut several of the threads in his web. He may have avoided jail in Germany, but his image of complete control was fatally wounded in the process.
          To paraphrase somebody famous, the more he tightens his grip, the more F1 will slip through his fingers. (I wish)

  2. Re: Double Yellow flags.

    As ever, with regs. for many many years, the virtual-safety-car is another that will have to be modified and altered constantly because as it stands it’s a stupid reg.
    If it’s for brief periods, to save bringing out the safety car, why cannot it still be for the entire lap…?
    For drivers to be racing here, and cruising there, must be confusing – and potentially also dangerous.
    Have a button on the wheel to select the desired speed for the entire lap, just like in the pits. It’s simple, affects everybody equally, and should be difficult to over-ride or mis-use.

    For god’s sake get some simplicity back in these banal detail regs…!

    • As a short term solution, I agree, this is better than prevarication.

      However, as I’ve argued since 2012, the advantage of a virtual safety car is that the cars can run as normal – keeping brake and tyre temps up on the none affected sectors – which is safer than trundling around behind Bernd in his Merc road car.

      What is interesting is the speed reduction will maybe 3 or more times slower than mandated at the start of 2014…

  3. I struggle to understand why there is so much opposition to the idea of a Speed Limiter from one “mini-sector” to the next, with all cars taking that speed limit an equal number of times.

    In any “proximity racing” situation, all cars would take the same disadvantage; and it would become another area of race-craft to improve on; i.e. push the tires harder on the previous mini-sector to make getting the tires back up to temperature after the speed limited section easier.

    Does the Judge know any particular opponents to the idea in the paddock?
    Also, maybe how much the Safety Car is “worth”? (Sponsorship/technical Partnership etc)

    • It’s unlikely the Safety Car would be entirely done away with. Aside from the race start, medical car deployments and any situation requiring the field to travel in a group to fix would still demand it’s deployment.

      It would reduce the use of the SC significantly and therefore it’s potential to be abused just to spice up the show.

  4. “There is speculation that Kevin Magnussen may now make way for Fernando Alonso and return to testing duties alongside Turvey for a season, with Jenson Button retaining his race seat after all.”….

    I suggested this would be the ideal situation for Mclaren a few weeks ago. Whatever we may think of Jenson’s abilities to develop a car (not like Alonso’s abilities is any better), having him alongside Alonso would be more advantageous to the McHonda partnership than a Kmag. Two WDC champions with over 25 years combined in the sport, should surely be able to use that experience to drive the project forward.

    • …its the way bigger teams used to do things as standard. 1 year rookies rarely got a look in. Senna did 4 seasons before getting the McLaren drive…

      • That’s true. It didn’t hurt Grosean when he went back to GP2 after having a horrible first run. Not that he hasn’t had the odd brain fade moment, but he came back a better and somewhat more mature driver.

        Putting Kmag on the sidelines for a season, won’t be that damaging, just as long as he’s given time in the car during the in season tests and is involved throughout the entire development programme.

        • True, but the problem now is that McLaren have both Magnussen and Vandoorne that could be racing in F1. Really, McLaren are in danger of ‘stacking up’ too many juniors – by this point, they need a ‘Toro Rosso’.. call it Mugen Honda!

          I hear Marussia are in need of being bought.. if only McLaren weren’t a midfield team with top team spending money.. they could focus on two efforts, not one.. but one is problematic enough for now.

  5. I trust that any new team showing up owned by Fernandes, Kolles, or unknown investors will get only cash-up-front deals from suppliers.

    • I’ve been round the Williams Factory, only had to pay a few quid as it was all for charity (part of a staff open day for family etc). Very interesting to see the different parts of the factory and getting to handle front and rear wings (heavier than you’d expect). The highlight was seeing a pummeled gearbox/exhaust system from Ralph Schumacher’s time. I must admit I had a few shivers go down my spine when I saw trophies with Senna’s name etched on them and they had a test car Senna drove in 94 on display in a very sombre setting.

  6. Yahoo have listed their top 10 last race deciders. I think we ought to do a poll here. Poor Nigel’s blown up tyre and Lewis’ last corner, last lap, last race overtake would be my top 2.

        • True, but on my Freeview box it is merely Channel 301.. If they want to cut a channel, could they not start with the obscure one, putting its features onto the main channels, and replacing endless repeats?

          • Not to mention, that they used BBC Three during the day for the Commonwealths, so it’s obvious that they can use 3 and 4 in the day if they so desired.. not that the Olympics received that treatment (unless it was, of course).

          • @ f1esty

            as Fortis said – it’s changed to 601 – maybe need to re-tune your Freeview box ?

            And I agree with you about using BBC 3 & 4

            I don’t know why they don’t – especially as they are also HD channels – and particularly since they abolished 302 which was the Red Button HD …….. 🙁

            Plus BBC 3 is getting axed in about a years time too

            🙁

          • Indeed.. if they do move it fully online, they need to update the iPlayer, I’ll say that. But why not have those 4 HD channels, and just downsize them to non-HD for non-HD viewers? Although a lot of BBC 4 content is stuff that would have been played on BBC 2 a few decades ago.. probably before it got filled with irrelevance.

  7. Re: yellow flags / Caterham administration

    I think you should also dig into Marussia. I don’t know, but I wonder if there’s a relation between Jules’ accident, liability and the administration. Does the administration part make them more attractive to prospective buyers, due to the liability disappearing with the old management?

    • Considering that Ferrari stacked the deck in their favour.. remember that Bianchi driving for Marussia is included in their engine deal. If Bianchi can’t drive from Suzuka onwards, it’s not hard to imagine Ferrari being the leading creditor all of a sudden, that would instantly pull the plug on the team.

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