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OTD Lite 2006 – Ferrari: Twas ever thus
“If I don’t have the chance to win races and challenge for the title, I don’t think I’ll be very keen to extend my career. If we at Ferrari want to progress we need more staff. In F1 you cannot afford to stand still.”
It would be nice to suggest that these words were uttered by a certain Spaniard over the last five season and at the current rate that Sergio Marchionne is culling the Maranello staff it could even be words that Sebastien Vettel will be heard to utter over the next few years.
But on this day, nine years ago – it was Vettel’s hero – Michael Schumacher who made his thoughts clear as attention turned to the forthcoming title campaign. It would seem that the boss is not a huge fan of history as he seemingly learns nothing from the team’s previous mistakes but Schumi’s words may well appear prophetic.
As to the season, Schumi fought Alonso all season long, then took the inconceivable decision to retire as Kimi Raikkonen was announced for 2007. If body language was a science, the multiple champion’s revealed huge disappointment whilst watching Kimi and Felipe Massa fight for the following two titles. Imagine, Schumacher – nine time champion…
The Grumpy Jackal
Mclaren to run sponsorless once again – Boullier
Towards the close of the 2013 season, Eric Boullier had been promising considerable funding for the beleaguered Lotus team, following advanced and extended talks with ‘investor’ Mansoor Ijaz.
Then in December, Ron Dennis regained control of the rudderless Woking team from Martin Whitmarsh and his first signing was Eric Boullier as Race Director. That said, Eric has referreed to himself on a number of occasions inadvertently as team principal.
The Frenchman’s original remit was to rebuild the race team, however Eric was wheeled out to present McLaren’s corporate line on a number of occasions and made evasive but promising statements regarding potential ‘big’ sponsors being imminent.
Of course, no big sponsor or title sponsor was announced by McLaren in 2014.
As the teams prepare for the 2015 season, once again murmurs began emanating from the MTC is that Macca could run without a title backer once again, and Eric Boullier reiterates the words of Ron Dennis when he claims: “People want to know dates, but we don’t need to say. It sounds arrogant, but I promise you it’s not, we can afford to run without a title sponsor; that’s a privilege. We want it because it’s another step we can go and we have many projects we would like to do, but to be honest, today, we can afford to run without.”
“I’m not saying we don’t want one, we want one and we still have some stuff to do. Let’s have the right one at the right moment. We will not go like other teams, let’s say, and go cheap.”
“It is because people who do their due diligence know how serious McLaren is and how serious Honda is. Everybody knows that and there will be enough resources and everything in place for it to be successful.”
Of course, in a more buoyant economic climate, Mclaren would be in an enviable position to cherry pick their partner – and of course having secured Honda’s backing, this delivers funds unavailable to the Woking team when they were merely a Mercedes customer.
But with Eric’s 2014 comments still ringing in the fans ears and with Honda’s recent record in F1 hardly worthy of praise, it may be Mclaren fans will join their European brothers – the Tifosi – in reminiscing about the good old days.
Lotus struggling for finances again
Italians are renowned as an excitable bunch and for a few days now sources in Italy have maintained an air of shock that an asterisk appears beside the FIA 2015 F1 entry list beside the Lotus name.
Having abandoned the asymmetrical details of the E22, lead designer Nick Chester has returned to more traditional solutions after the problems encountered with last years design.
Of course the change from the Renault powerplant to the new-for-2015 Mercedes PU will bring about considerable performance improvements but the team remains in a hazardous state faring little better than the Caterham and Marussia teams that have entered administration.
Some concern was raised initially that Enstone did not have the registration fee but seemingly it was just late in arriving.
There is now the possibility of a change of name on the horizon for the Enstone based team, however, this will have to be agreed by the other competitors and the FIA.
The name change may be enforced due to a dispute with the Proton owned Lotus Cars, who appear to be unhappy Genii are using their brand name for the Formula One team. Once again,
However, the change may be voluntary, as Gerard Lopez is again seeking new ‘investors’ to take over the Genii Capital commitment.
The thinking behind the renaming the team is that the new investors would be attracted by having their chosen name as the title of a Formula One team, but as recent seasons have proven – F1 is not a sport for the faint-hearted or for anybody not willing to invest $250m a year; as Bernie suggests.
Hamilton contract “will” happen
Toto Wolff revealed last week that there were some negotiating difficulties surrounding a new contract for Lewis Hamilton.
His comments that either Alonso or Bottas would replace Hamilton if agreement could not be reached are at best an indication Mercedes are playing hard ball with Lewis over the numbers; at worst they indicate there is some distance between the negotiating parties and Wolff’s declaration was intended as a final ‘reality check’ to Hamilton and his negotiates.
Of course there are those who believe this is all juts anti-Lewis propaganda, yet Vettel and Alonso had a number of contract extensions announced during the respective times at Red Bull and Ferrari – and without prior comment in the public domain from either side of the table.
Moreover, in the case of Alonso, he never arrived to race for Maranello in the final year of a contract. Further, his deal extensions were for eye watering sums of money which demonstrated the worth Ferrari placed on their driver.
By this measure, Mercedes are not demonstrating they place a similar value on Lewis.
In a way, all public comment on the matter inflates the issue to one of particular note and possible intrigue, and the shy and retiring – Mr. Niki Lauda – does not disappoint us when he wades in with his two penneth worth.
“I’m not worried, both sides want to renew, so it will happen”, Niki told SID adding, “We are in no hurry.”
Now then…..who is represented by the term ‘we‘?…… Mmm…. 😉
Belgium government gives green for a Spa F1 GP, but on its terms
The Belgium GP is loved by Formula One fans, as the Spa Francorchamps circuit is venerated as one of the few historic great racing circuits from the halcyon days of Formula One.
Yet the relationship between the promoters and Bernie Ecclestone has not always been one that has run a smooth course. The Belgium GP was cancelled in 2006, as Ecclestone and the FIA demanded major upgrades and then after lengthy negotiations, a 5 year deal was done (2007-11) which would see the hosting fee be set at 6 million euro’s a year.
In 2009, Ecclestone threatened to rotate a Grand Prix between Belgium and the Nurburgring bi-annually, as both circuits were paying miniscule hosting fees when compared with the new Grand Prix’s in the Middle East and Asia.
The 2012 Belgium GP was saved from a different proposed rotation with a French GP which was achieved in part by a concerted effort to pressurise Bernie Ecclestone.
Michael Schumacher, the sport’s most successful driver with seven world championships, began his career in Belgium and he lent his weight to the cause whilst the negotiations were taking place during the running of the 2011 event.
“The fact of the matter is that if you go along the paddock, everybody wants to come back here. It has so much tradition, so much atmosphere and we all love this track. If our word counts, you’re going to have it. But unfortunately it’s not up to us.”
The new world champion, Sebastian Vettel added his measured opinion on the matter stating that Spa deserved to remain on the calendar for “a longer time than all of us may be racing in Formula One”
Ecclestone did a deal with the promoters in Spa for 2012, which saw them pay around 22.5 million euros to host the race. This led to huge losses, and once again the Belgium GP was in jeopardy for 2013.
With the race promoter threatening to pull out and the Belgium government refusing to underwrite the hosting fee, Spa was once again in crisis.
A new deal was eventually brokered for 2013-15 which saw a reduction from the level of the 2012 fee paid to Ecclestone, though rumour had it that Bernie and FOM would also be receiving the gate receipts.
Further,the regional government now contribute around 7 million euro’s toward the cost of running the race. yet they accept the economic benefits merit this expenditure. Belgium Economy Minister Jean-Claude Marcourt stated yesterday, “The even is itself not profitable, but the positive economic impact on the region justifies it.”
Yesterday, the Belgium government gave the green light that they would continue to contribute toward the running of the F1 event in Spa, up to and including 2018.
Yet, most of the headlines stated that the deal for the race in Spa Francorchamps is done – this is not the case.
Agreement has not been reached with Ecclestone, but by making this announcement, the Belgium government have stolen the high ground. TJ13 has been informed that FOM and Bernie are looking for an uplift on what has been paid over the past 3 years – but the Belgium’s have not yet agreed to this.
Porsche AGAIN rule out Formula One
Rumours persists that VW will one day – somehow – enter a Formula One team.
Stefano Domenicali’s appointment by Audi following his departure from Ferrari in 2014 was the latest reason to spur the speculation on. Then there are the perennial whispers that Porsche are considering joining the F1 circus
However, with the enormous spend on the new engines by Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and presumably Honda, the average Joe may reasonably ask – why would VW do this?
Once again a senior figure from Porsche confirms the German marque has no interest in joining Formula One. Chief designer Wolfgang Hatz is direct and succinct. “Formula 1 is not a topic for us and it will not be one,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.
“Le Mans [WEC], on the other hand, is increasingly becoming a more attractive environment. More and more rivals are coming in and we learn more for our consumer line.”
Porsche returned to the WEC in 2014 and signed high profile ex-F1 driver Mark Webber and have lined up current Formula One driver, Nico Hulkenberg, to drive a third LMP1 Porsche car for 2 rounds of the championship in 2015.
With costs in Formula One spiralling out of control, the budget required for a works manufacturer to enter a team would be into the $ billions – and even then with no guarantee of success.
Any manufacturer worth their salt would wish to be part of the regulation discussions for the year they intend to compete in F1. And with the 2016 regulations to be finalised in less than three months, no new names are on the horizon.
Notably, Honda’s return to the sport was as an engine supplier only and it appears until the lunatics running the asylum are restrained – they will be the last automotive manufacturer to do so for quite some time.