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Previously on The Judge 13:
OTD Lite 2006 – Ferrari legend killed in road traffic accident
There are many legends within Formula One. Many are multiple champions that defined an era. Others contributed to epic battles on track that live on to this day; and others are of nearly men that captured the imagination of a generation.
To my mind – Clay Regazzoni belongs to the last tier of drivers who became legends. With a name that was inconceivably fast he was never destined to be a bank teller and despite an often hard racers attitude on track, he was recognised as a true gentleman off of it. He took his first victory for Ferrari in only his fourth Grand Prix at Monza in 1970 and would add another four – including winning Williams’ first victory at Silverstone in 1979.
In 1980, at Long Beach, he had a crash which would leave him paralysed from the waist down. Yet in similar fashion to Alex Zanardi this proved no barrier to his work with disability organisations and even competing in events with hand controls, His death on this day a mere eight years ago occurred on the A1 mototrway near Parma, Italy when he collided with the rear of a lorry.
The Grumpy Jackal
Hamilton win BBC Sports Award finally
Third time lucky is an age old cliche in England; also known in America as ‘third time’s a charm’. Although the origins of the saying haven’t ever been truly discovered some will suggest it is the Holy Trinity, others claim it originates from the gallows and if the hangman’s noose failed to execute the prisoner – the death sentence would be commuted to a life sentence.
Of course, popular folklore will tell us it is about perseverance. “Try, try and try again” Three seems to be accepted as the right number, two is too few; whereas four is deemed too many!
So it proved when Lewis Hamilton finally received the UK’s recognition by winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year 2014 Award.
Each year, the British broadcaster holds an awards ceremony that recognises outstanding sporting achievement and the public will phone on respective numbers to show their support for their favoured athlete.
In his debut season in 2007, he was runner-up to boxer Joe Calzaghe and in 2008 – despite winning the title – was once again the bridesmaid to eventual winner Sir Chris Hoy – the Olympian.
This year he garnered 209,920 votes from the 620,932 total and beat golfer Rory McIlroy and athlete Jo Pavey to the trophy.
“I am so speechless. Firstly I really want to say a huge congratulations to all the champions, I’m so proud and honoured to be amongst such great British sporting talent.”
“I want to say a huge thank you to all the people who called in. I really wasn’t expecting it – McIlroy was having such an amazing year.”
“Tonight has been a huge reminder of how many great sportsmen we have here. I never thought I’d be standing up here. It’s just a dream.”
“Thank you to all the fans. I always feel we win and lose together because I feel your love when you come to all the races.”
“I’m proud to carry the Union Jack and I hope I can continue to make you proud.”
And one thing is for certain – critics of SPOTY often bemoan that the winner is lacking in the ‘P’ for Personality department.
Surely whether they love him or not – F1 fans across the spectrum can agree Lewis delivers on that score. #HeartOnSleeve
Schumacher losing sponsorship because of injury
The debate about whether F1 is a sport or not does the rounds time and again. Famously, Frank Williams stated that F1 is a business – the sport is the two hours on a Sunday afternoon every fortnight or so.
One of the defining moments in the sport vs business evolution, was when the Lotus 49 was unveiled and seen resplendent with its Gold Leaf sponsorship. Up to that point, F1 had been the playground of the rich and sponsors were entrants or suppliers to the teams. Tobacco funds changed the sport for good.
Before the 1977 F1 season began, Niki Lauda was callously told by his personal sponsor – Romerquelle – that he would only be paid half the promised sponsorship for the season because he only had ‘half a face left’. In similar fashion over last weekend – reports emerged that Michael Schumacher was losing sponsorship contracts for what appear equally callous reasoning.
Big sponsors are withdrawing their ties from the stricken German legend as doubts remain over his recovery. Whilst Mercedes and DVAG have promised to stand by Schumi in his hour of need, many are publicly severing their ties.
Phillipe Gaydouis, owner of fashion firms Navyboot and Jet Set is one such and the report carried on the Swiss Bluewin website claims: “It’s not easy for Schumacher’s sponsors: paying out millions of Swiss francs per year and receiving nothing back since the crash.”
The moral question is – of course – should these companies be visibly distancing themselves from a world famous athlete who has suffered a severe accident which left him a coma?
“It’s a balancing act. On the one hand the sponsors must pursue economic objectives which point towards a parting. On the other hand it will not be well received in public if you are turning your back on Schumacher at a difficult time.”
Gaydoul’s spokeswoman confirmed the decision and the termination of a £4 million a year contract – and German mineral water company ‘Rosbacher” also annulled their contract with him earlier this year.
It is worth bearing in mind though, that Schumi’s affairs were always looked after by Willy Webber – the infamous 20% man. News outlets may be reporting just part of the story, because it is most unlikely that shrewd Willy would have allowed them to relinquish their contractual duties, with consummate ease.
Villeneuve – typical forthright views on Mclaren and Ferrari
At the recent Bologna Motor Show, Jacques Villeneuve offered his opinion on the signings of the Mclaren drivers and was unequivocal in the decision made. Having partnered Jenson Button for a number of seasons at BAR and was team-mate to Fernando Alonso at the tail-end of 2004 with Renault – he probably has a unique point of view on the new Woking partnership.
“They took the right drivers, simply by keeping Button. I think the two will work well together. Jenson develops the car well; as does Fernando so for the sake of the team it was the best choice. Now we just have to see what Honda brings to the party.”
“Of course, if things go well, then it will be fantastic” but he warned “if things go wrong, inevitably after six months things will fall apart. That is his character.”
Being in Italy, it was not long before Sky Italia turned Jacques thoughts to the matter of the Ferrari pairing and the Canadian was brusque in response.
“Kimi is not right there. The Mclaren team has two drivers who will work. Ferrari have Vettel but like when Alonso was there – he will feel a little ‘alone’. Team spirit will not get Kimi winning again, and Vettel is not there to help Kimi.”
“Seb is there to win. Kimi is useless. The results will only come through in 2016. Next year they will replace everything and the drivers will work, developing the car, fitting in with the new personnel but forget 2015 as a year of success – it’s a year to rebuild.”
Oh well Jacques… why not just tell us what you really think – for a change
Marchionne – Ferrari to embrace a future of “attack”
He may be a Mclaren driver from January 1st 2015, but Fernando Alonso was still on duty with Ferrari in one of his final engagements for the Scuderia. He was in attendance at Maranello with Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene spoke at the teams Christmas event.
Marchionne: “In this room, there are many very talented people. I am here to get you working at your best and to give you the necessary resources, which when combined with your ability will put our fantastic driver pairing in a position to fight for the front row.”
“I have full confidence in Maurizio. He has known this world for a long time and has the ability to steer the Scuderia in what is a difficult period for it and for Formula 1 in general. Do not fear change, be proactive and have the courage to come up with ideas”
Arrivabene also spoke at the event which was something that hadn’t been afforded Marco Mattiacci – Stefano Domenicali successor – when he first arrived at Maranello. Il Padrino habitually taking the stand in front of the worlds press and effectively muffling Marchionne’s choice of team principal.
MA: “I am very proud to work for this company, which is the best there is. A company is its people and in this case, they are very special people. Now we look forward to Christmas, but as from January, I want to see you not on the defensive but on the attack, because the aim is to get the Scuderia back where it should be.”
So it seems that Ferrari has gone back to the future. After the founders death in August 1988, Ferrari was run by faceless corporate Fiat executives who had no experience of a racing team. It took three years before the charismatic Luca parachuted into the team and turned its fortunes around.
With Luca offered to the lions, we have the return of some impressive corporate giants but who amongst them has no front-line competition experience.
Italians are not holding their breath..
Williams strengthen management team
Williams have again strengthened their management structure by recruiting Steve Neilson as their Sporting Manager from Toro Rosso. Neilson has nearly 30 years’ experience in Formula One, most notably his time with Pat Symonds at Enstone – during their title winning seasons.
“I’m delighted to be joining a team of Williams’ history and stature in what is a very exciting time for everyone at Grove after a very impressive 2014 season,” said Nielsen. “In this role I will be able to help ensure that our operations at the race track are maintaining the highest standards and that we are maximising our performance at the race track from a sporting perspective. Williams’ has a very talented team of people and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Steve first entered F1 as a truck driver for Lotus, though he has become a recognised Sporting Director, having performed this role for Renault, Lotus, Caterham and Toro Rosso over 14 years.
Pat Symonds said, “Steve brings a wealth of experience of the sporting side of Formula One and will help us as a team as we aim to climb further up the Championship table. He has won World Championships in the past and knows what needs to be done on a sporting level for Williams to do this again. We have a talented and ever improving race team and with Steve on board we are well placed to make further operational gains next season.”
Hamilton fails to impress the British public voters
The BBC flagship annual sports review programme and the top prize of “Sports Personality of the Year” (SPOTY) again came under fire from the British public. The age old criticism of this ‘competition’ for the top slot is based upon the use of the word ‘personality’ as often the victor is perceived somewhat lacking in this department.
Suggestions that it should be renamed to something more like “Sporting Achievement of the year” again surfaced on social media. Yet when comparing this year’s winner to previous incumbents, Hamilton surely does meet the personality criteria even if only from a controversial perspective.
@mackay129 “Shocked by #SportsPersonality, Lewis is great sports man but makes Andy Murray look fun!!”
Ex-BBC Formula One anchor man was also surprised at the decision. Minutes earlier he posted on twitter, “I have a sneaky suspicion I’m sitting behind the winner of
#SportsPersonality RT if you agree…” and posted a picture of Rory McIlroy.
Lewis is indeed a character, and the British media would find their column inches vastly reduced were he not a leading contender in the sport of F1. This was epitomised by an appearance from Bling adorned Roscoe on the red carpet with Lewis as he arrived at the award ceremony. Though Hamilton’s other dog Coco was conspicuous by its absence.
SPOTY then attracts the usual debate over whose achievement is greater than others. Clearly in Formula One, the race to the drivers’ title was a two horse race, where only Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton would become the champion.
@raggy87 “How does Hamilton beat Rory? He beat one other driver, Rory beats top class opposition consistently #joke #SportsPersonality”
The world of golf rounded on the decision, as Lee Westwood a team mate of runner up Rory McIlroy cheekily tweeted, “Technology of the year goes to the silver and red dodgem!!! Just have to win all 4 next year @McIlroyRory!”
And Sir Nick Faldo, the last golfer to win SPOTY in 1989, simply retweeted a post from Ant and Dec, poking fun at the decision. “Rory obviously needs faster clubs. D #SPOTY“
Arguments then raged on twitter as to whether Hamilton’s victory was in fact an achievement of any magnitude when compared to the feats of second place McIlroy, Joe Pavey and partially a blind skier – Kelly Gallagher – who can merely see a blurred orange outline of her guide to follow as she careers down the mountain.
@AbbyFermont “Bit fed up that #jopavey didn’t win #SportsPersonality last night – thought her achievement outshone everyone else by miles.”
However, this year’s SPOTY appears not to have captured the attention of the British public as much as in previous years. Hamilton won with 209,920 votes (33% ). Whereas in 2013 the victor was Andy Murray with 55% of the vote (401,470) and in 2012 Sir Bradly Wiggins claimed the prize for winning the Tour de France with more than double the support of Hamilton (492,064).
Hamilton appears to divide opinion sharply, with the Hamfosi defending his every word, whilst others find Lewis unpalatable at times, and the criticism following him announced as the SPOTY winner was swift indeed.
Recent articles on British tax fugitives formed the basis of an immediate twitter response criticising Hamilton’s selection for SPOTY.
@CapLaryDarf “Non dom tax dodger of the year? #SportsPersonality #sportspersonalityoftheyear”
@AlexTalbot116 “Lewis Hamilton wins the BBC Sports Personality of the Year,> encourage him to pay some UK tax. Not holding my breath. #SportsPersonality”
@nick_moore added: ‘He pays no tax, has zero personality and doesn’t even have a tv licence. How does that work? @LewisHamilton #SportsPersonality #GetInspired’
Then English bad boy footballer Joey Barton joined the fray. @Joey7Barton “Tax exiles should be exempt from winning trophies paid and voted for by the tax/licence payer.”
Lewis attempted to head all this off at the pass when he gave an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine, stating “People moan and say, ‘He doesn’t live in the country, but he’s happy to raise the flag’.
It doesn’t matter what country you live in. I was born here, man,”
Hamilton remarked that he did pay some UK tax and claimed, “I am contributing to the country and, not only that, I help to keep a team of more than 1,000 people employed.” Though the fact that the Formula One team from Brackley pre-existed Lewis and will most likely be there when Hamilton has retired, will be used by critics to argue Lewis’ is again out of touch with reality.
Further, due to his ‘non domecile’ status, HMRC will be entitled to around 1/20th (assuming 20 F1 races and one in the UK) of Lewis race related income, however, sponsorship arrangements registered in Monaco will not be taxed.
It appears the tax fugitive label has well and truly stuck to Hamilton, though it will be interesting to see if this perception is extended to other British sport stars who choose to reside in tax havens.
A possible solution suggested on twitter when the matter of tax exiles and patriotism was raised during the Abu Dhabi weekend, would be for all the sports stars to step up to the plate and state their case honestly. If they disagree with the manner in which governments choose to fund the wheels of British society and that British sports starts are unfairly treated by the UK tax system, maybe they should come out and say so.
Amusingly, as Hamilton dashed to make the midnight deadline to be ‘out of the country’, he published a short video – thanking his fans for their support – from his private jet bound for Monaco.
Life after Formula One
First there was the Toro Rosso Massacre; then the Sauber Salughter, which saw both 2014 drivers evicted for the 2015 season.
However, for the ex-Sauber driver Estaban Gutuirrez, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
“While confirming our full confidence in a formidable race driver pairing, made up of four times World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, a past champion with Ferrari, I am pleased to welcome Esteban Gutierrez,” commented the Scuderia’s Director General and Team Principal, Maurizio Arrivabene. “We are pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to Esteban who, although young, has plenty of experience relating to the new generation of Formula 1 cars. I am sure that, with his experience, he will make an important contribution to the development work of the team in the simulator. Welcoming Esteban also means opening the gates of Ferrari to a driver from Mexico, a country where the Scuderia still has a lot of fans, just as was the case fifty years ago in the days of the Rodriguez brothers.”
Gutierrez responds, “It is an honour to become part of the Scuderia Ferrari family, a Team with such an exceptional history. It is for me the beginning of a new path for my future and I’m going to do my utmost to contribute to the achievement of the targets set by the Scuderia. I want to thank everybody for their belief in my potential; this will bring a great opportunity for me to develop further.”
Meanwhile, the latest victim of the Toro Rosso – Tost Toasting – Jean Eric Vergne, acquitted hiumself well during his first Formula E race in Uraguy. The Frenchman was second on the penultimate lap, with a fan boost of power to come – when his Virgin Racing car broke down – and ending his race long challenge.