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Previously on TheJudge13:
#TJ13 #F1 Courtroom Podcast: You can prove anything with facts!!
An open invitation to all members of the TJ13 community – “What do YOU want to know about our podcast crew?
Please use the comments section to ask an opening question for our podcast regulars to answer. Remember, the best answers are often given if the opening question is not F1 related. (Ed’s Note: What have we started!)
OTD Lite – 1991: The best F1 livery ever
There are days when I struggle to find any inspiration from what actually happened on a given day. Surely nobody cares that a road was named after Michael Schumacher some years back in mid-Feb? Or that French industrialist Louis Renault was born on this day 138 years ago?
So today, for a slight change to the format, I want to write about one of the most gorgeous cars ever to race in anger. The BBC’s Irish pundit founded Eddie Jordan Racing in 1979 and would compete in different categories until their debut F1 season in 1991.
The EJ191 was introduced for the 1991 season and after having been tested by John Watson in bare carbon-fibre with yellow lettering entered its debut season sporting the sponsorship of the drink 7-UP.
The car ran a standard Ford V8 engine and had been designed by Gary Anderson and a team of three in support. At the time, the small teams had to pre-qualify early on a Friday morning but such was the quality of the car that this never troubled the Silverstone based team.
It was this car that started the Schumacher legend in Belgium that season and after having qualified seventh on the grid was absconded by the Benetton team – much to Eddie’s annoyance. The rest as they is history but what a history for this most exquisite car.
Mercedes designer confirms what rest of F1 world fears
It is a widely held belief within Formula One that Mercedes showed very little of their potential in Jerez during the recent tests. Of course with the drivers running the equivalent of eight Grand Prix distances over the four days – fast lap times were never the aim of the team. Perhaps more chilling for the opposition is the words of the quietly spoken Aldo Costa.
As chief designer of the Mercedes W05 and W06 – Costa has never been one to seek the limelight or indulge in idle chatter. Even last year when he was modestly speaking of his previous tenure at Ferrari – he was neither out-spoken or derogatory against his former employer.
In an interview with the Gazzetta dell Sport he explained that the Brackley based team had not been chasing any performance figures throughout the test.
“We have shown very little of our potential but again I believe that applies to the others too. Realistically it will only be in Melbourne where we see where we all stand but it’s possible not even there. It could take 4 or 5 races.”
“The car may look like a development from last years but I assure you it is very different under the skin. The improvements over the 2014 car have been in line with what we were expecting but we tested in Spain to check out all the systems and run reliability tests.”
“But despite the mileage we achieved we are still not 100% happy because a few issues emerged. So there is still things we have to improve.”
“At the first Barcelona test we will have a number of mechanical solutions we want to test but it will be at the last test when we apply our aerodynamic updates, something that I believe our competitors will be also be working around”
Williams certain of competitive 2015 car
Ferrari topped the time sheets in Jerez on three out of the four days. It looks very likely that the Italian squad have made a step forward from where their level was last year. But times can be misleading.
Mercedes almost certainly ran only race simulations throughout. But Williams have been doing some comparison simulations and believe that the new FW37 is on the same performance level of the new SF15-T.
Williams ran throughout with full tanks whilst testing their standard control systems and aerodynamic measurements. Pat Symonds was also encouraged that unlike the works Mercedes team – the Grove outfit suffered no reliability issues throughout the four day of running.
With sophisticated software models that analyse performance from a wide variety of parameters Willaims were able to calculate that Mercedes is still in front of everyone – hardly a surprise – but that second place was a contest between Ferrari and themselves.
It is seemingly far harder to predict Red Bull’s current performance level as Symonds acknowledged: “It’s difficult to assess what they are doing because they had so little significant running. We are were we wanted to be but obviously we have no influence on our competition. The data gives us a general idea but it is a trend.”
“However it appears that Mercedes have been running with the handbrake applied but Ferrari have made a big step forward.”
The guess work following Jerez is fascinating to see as the teams try to work out where they are in the pecking order. That said, AHJ’s article “Are Red Bull in real trouble?” reported that the team from Milton Keynes appear to have taken a step backwards in 2015, which is in line with Symonds assessment of Ferrari and Williams contesting 2nd place.
Mclaren and Sauber confirm Barcelona running schedules
With the initial tests at Jerez fast fading into our memories the teams have continued to work and are in the midst of preparations of the upcoming – and crucial – tests at the Catalunya circuit.
With most teams having run multiple laps to check over the systems on the new challengers the serious performance work will begin in earnest.
After registering a mere 79 laps in Jerez, the Mclaren-Honda partnership will be aiming to have a far more productive test and actually stretch the legs of a car that finished seven seconds off of the pace on the final day.
Honda will be hoping they have isolated and fixed the numerous problems they endured and Mclaren have confirmed that Jenson Button will be driving for the first two days of the test before Fernando Alonso step into the car and continues the testing schedule.
In addition to the Woking announcement came confirmation from Hinwil that Felipe Nasr will be taking on the first days duties in Barcelona.
Following an encouraging start to the 2015 season, where the Sauber finished amongst the top two over all four days in Jerez – Barcelona will prove a fascinating insight into the quality of the car provided.
As such Marcus Ericsson will take over testing duties for the middle two days before his Brazilian team-mate finishes on the last day. Of course with both these new drivers dominating the running schedules, Sauber’s reserve driver Raffaele Marciello (a member of the Ferrari Academy) will have to wait for his first official appearance in the car.
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Force India car released for crash testing
Following TJ13’s exclusive re Force India’s car being holed up in Plymouth, whilst Formaplex await payment, we can reveal today that things are moving forward for the SIlverstone based team.
The VJM08 is being released and crash tested today.
However, it is not clear yet whether Formaplex have been paid and whether chassis number two – the one which will not be crumpled by the FIA tests – has been released to the team for preparation.
The Silverstone team’s 2014 car has been readied with the 2015 livery and the trucks are almost ready to roll for the first Barcelona test which begins a week today. This means there is still a small chance the team can prepare the VJM08 for the final winter test which begins on March 29th.
However, teams failing to run proper winter test programmes, mostly fail during the racing season.
Formula One TV audiences collapsing
Formula One audiences are growing rapidly in the USA, though this is little to do with FOM and Ecclestone marketing the sport any better.
NBC are reporting year on year 85% audience increases on average for each race they televised in 2014. There were 12.6 million viewers during last season who watched Formula One in the USA.
Meanwhile in the rest of the world, the numbers are depressing.
Since 2008, the global TV audience for F1 has fallen from 600m to 425m in 2014. Clearly the steady migration towards pay-per-TV in markets where fans are used to having F1 on free to air is taking it’s toll.
The problem for F1 is that their fans have a different profile to those of more tribal team sports. There are only 19 events a year, unlike the English Premier League’s hundred plus televised matches.
This means that the cost for subscription TV as a ratio to the number of events available is substantially higher in Formula One than most other sports serialised on pay-TV.
Also throw into the mix, little tricks played by the platform hosts such as SKY, who do not provide Virgin customers with F1 as a mobile option – even though they are paying for the F1 channel on their TV in their subscription package.
The rapid shift in the way people consume TV broadcasting, particularly on mobile devices and on demand, has left F1 standing bemused and with no plan.
FOM in many cases have all encompassing national broadcasting rights agreements which run for several more years. These deals have not segmented the rights across different platforms, which is another way FOM could increase revenues.
However, one simple solution remains. Grow the F1 fan base – but to do this requires marketing – something Ecclestone and CVC have failed miserably to do.
Formula One is competing in an aggressive marketplace where many different sports are fighting for eyeballs, but appears clueless in how to promote itself.
This story is not new, just an update of the latest facts – and merely demonstrates the lack of long term interest venture capital investors will bring to a venture.
Title Sponsors a thing of the past for McLaren
Historically, a title sponsor would deliver no less than 40% of a Formula One team’s annual budget to develop a car and go racing. McLaren owner and team boss Ron Dennis has consistently stated he will not sell the team name sponsor cheaply – regardless of the current economic climate.
McLaren in their history have had just 4 title sponsors and since Vodafone withdrew from this role a year early in 2013, the Woking team have not included any other name on their official entry with the FIA, other than McLaren and the engine supplier.
“Title sponsorship doesn’t exist anymore as a concept,” says Dennis. “Where the budgets are [set at present] for a competitive team, no company will come in and give you that kind of money.
“Therefore what you do is you cut it up into bite-sized pieces, so you get a range of companies with similar philosophies to join you on the car.
McLaren have developed the technology side of their business which is now a source of revenue for the racing team. In 2014 Dennis declared that McLaren profits would be used in place of those a title sponsor would bring.
Ron Dennis has explained his thinking which he admits maybe flawed: “We haven’t given up on the idea of attracting larger sums of money to our car, but what we don’t want to do is put big brand names on at low levels of money.
“I feel a bit like Manchester United, which has had a run of crappy football games and gone down in the league. I still think we are Man Utd, I still think that we can come along and say ‘will you sponsor us? We are still Man Utd’.
“The last thing you should do is suddenly start doing deals that are last place in the league table. That is maybe flawed, but I don’t think so. That is the way I think.”
Further, even during the four consecutive years of domination of Formula One, Renault as the engine partner of Red Bull Racing consistently complained that Infiniti was getting better exposure than was the French engine manufacturer.
With the advent of the new works relationship with Honda, the Japanese manufacturer provide McLaren with engines, technical support, are funding the young driver programme along with a reported £40m in cash.
TJ13 predicted prior to the 2014 season that McLaren would not sign a title sponsor as these contracts historically have been significant deals over a considerable number of years. So with the imminent arrival of Honda and their package of support, there was never going to be a one year title sponsor to bridge the gap.
Of course, were another ‘Vodafone’ type opportunity to present itself to Dennis, this would merely strengthen McLaren’s hand in terms of upping the levels of support Honda are presently providing – in return for the continued exclusivity as the only official name along with McLaren as the recognised title of the team.
Race Promoters get more aggressive with Ecclestone
The Korean GP joined the calendar in 2010 and the hosting fee deal agreed with Ecclestonesaw was that the organisers would pay a 10% annual increment through to the end of the contract in 2016.
Prior to the 2012 event, the Korean’s refused to continue to pay FOM the fees as scheduled and the Korean Herald reported in March that $20m that year had been saved due to a renegotiation.
With the lack of support for the race the organisers were still losing money hand over fist and their representative Kang Hyo-seok stated: “With the successful negotiation, we’ll be able to save a significant amount of money this year. It’s a still difficult situation, but we’re trying hard to improve it.”
Currently Bernie Ecclestone is lining up a law suit against the South Jelloa regional government in Korea for breach of contract and damages north of $100m.
Prior to this, the organisers of the Chinese GP were also reported to have settled on a reduced hosting fee with FOM.
Since then, the Belgium GP has been awarded a more favourable contract following threats the historic circuit at SPA would retire from the F1 calendar. Nurburgring were in effect given a free race back in 2013 and are likely to be offered a bargain basement deal again for the German GP this year.
And so to Sepang. Last month, the Malaysian GP promoter, Razlan Razali travelled to London to discuss a new contract with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
He stated, “I am very confident this year’s F1 [event] won’t be the last.” However, almost a month later, no deal has been announced.
Yesterday, the Chairman of the Sepang promoters informed the Malasian national media that negotiations with FOM were ongoing.
“The talks are centred on an agreeable price for organising the prestigious race for the next three years,” Mokhzani Mahathir revealed.
“We also have to take into consideration the current economic volatility. For now we have not made any decision yet.”
Ecclestone will be keen to conclude a deal prior to the end of March when the final Malaysian GP of this contract is due to be run. Media talk of this being the last scheduled race in Malaysia will not be good PR for CVC or Ecclestone.
It appears F1 race promoters have learned how to play Bernie at his own game. By stringing out negotiations and low balling in their offers of payment, the time arrives when for Ecclestone the matter becomes critical and a deal must be done.
Despite each year there being talk of 21 or 22 races being possible for the following season, the fragility of the F1 promoter’s finances is not resulting in a stream of applicants desperate to join the money pit.
Currently at risk are the following Grand Prix: Nurburgring (bi-annually), Monza, Russia and COTA.
Yet we await with unbounded enthusiasm next year’s inaugural event in Baku and the promise of South Africa following reports Anthony Hamilton is assisting Ecclestone on this matter.