There are two big stories this weekend, actually they’re kind of interelated and the biggest one has 2 parts.
First of all there is pretty much general agreement that Bernie Ecclestone is a greedy asshole who’s been sucking the money out of the sport for years and bribing his favorite teams- Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, and McLaren with pitiful (considering the magnitude of his theft) kickbacks to to sabotage the council of team organizations (in whatever form that’s taken) and back him in votes of the Formula One Board and the FIA.
This year has been particularly tough for the littles who’ve had to totally redesign their chassis, braking system, and electronics to work with the new powerplants that are (with the exception of Mercedes, and not always them either) anemic and unreliable. I’ll talk more about the engines later.
Marussia of Bianchi misfortune and Caterham, the littlest of the littles, are in receivership administered by Formula One and will not race in Austin or at Interlagos and whether they will make an appearance in Abu Dhabi is questionable. La, la, la, la, la, says Bernie, everything is fine, very unfortunate but nothing to see here.
Then, during the practice sessions came rumors of a boycott by all the littles- Lotus, Force India, and Sauber. The concept was they’d all race a lap to satisfy their contractual obligations and avoid fines, and then park with “mechanical difficulties”. “Forget all that crap. I promise you they will be racing. They will be racing, I give you an absolute guarantee.”
La, la, la, la, la.
Of course Lotus and the rest of the teams are denying anything was discussed at all.
Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley suggested there was an agenda at play, however, and said more teams risked folding unless something was done.
“Two teams have now gone and I think the commercial rights holder is comfortable to thinking there might be 14 cars next year. How many do they want to lose?,” he told Reuters.
“He (commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone) thinks there could be 14 cars next year. So the question is, if we are driving teams out of the business to what agenda is it? And what’s the game?”
The Times quoted Ecclestone as saying there was a risk of two more teams falling by the wayside.
“If we lose another two teams that is what will happen,” he said. “We need (them) if they are going to be there performing properly and not moving around with begging buckets.”
Fernley spoke after a news conference that went on for nearly an hour and that also spoke volumes about the crisis engulfing the sport.
The Sauber, Lotus and Force India bosses all sat on the back row while in front of them, emphasizing the division in the paddock, sat McLaren’s Racing Director Eric Boullier and Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.
The calls of the back row for a revision of how the revenues were divided, in a sport with turnover in excess of $1.5 billion a year but where the big teams get far more than the less successful ones, seemed to fall largely on deaf ears.
Of course, if Bernie shows up with less than 16 cars in Abu Dhabi he’ll be in contract violation and there are steep financial penalties.
Bernie Ecclestone admits F1 is in deep crisis and needs help
Paul Weaver, The Guardian
Saturday 1 November 2014 19.56 EDT
Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that Formula One is in crisis and he does not know how to fix it. “We should tear all of the current contracts up,” he said. “Tear them all up and start again.”
Ecclestone, looking every one of his 84 years, also conceded that the three teams who were said to be considering a boycott of Sunday’s United States Grand Prix – Force India, Sauber and Lotus – may not be racing next year. But he also insisted that he had averted the immediate threat of a boycott.
Ecclestone, F1’s supremo, said: “We have to decide the best way to sort this whole thing out. Frankly, I know what’s wrong but don’t know how to fix it. No one is prepared to do anything about it because they can’t. The regulations have tied us up. The trouble with lots of regulations and lots of contracts is that we don’t think long-term.”
He admitted that he had been at fault. “The problem is there is too much money probably being distributed badly – probably my fault. But like lots of agreements people make, they seemed a good idea at the time. Why not just bypass team bosses and go to heads of board? I think it’s probably what will have to happen.”
However, hours after Ecclestone had spoken the teams involved in the dispute were still discussing whether or not to withdraw from the race.
“We have to open the eyes of those people in a position to turn the lights on and off,” Ecclestone said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I was too strong and Formula One disappears and someone says it is because of you it disappeared.”
The Lotus owner, Gérard Lopez, said: “The distribution model of revenues is completely wrong. When you get teams that receive more money just for showing up than teams spend in a whole season then something is entirely wrong with the whole system, and so that cannot be allowed to happen.”
Sauber’s principal, Monisha Kaltenborn, said: “If we don’t act now together then you have to ask yourself what else needs to still happen? You look simply at the facts: we are sport here, in my view still one of the best global sporting platforms, we have turnovers of billions of dollars and the sport as such, together with the stakeholders, are not in a position to actually maintain 11 teams.”
Ecclestone had discussions with Kaltenborn in the afternoon in an attempt to get the smaller teams to race. He said: “I’m not happy. And we’ll have to do something about it. I think the situation is such that if enough people want it resolved, we can resolve it.” But he dismissed the idea of teams running three cars. “Forget third cars. Nobody can afford two cars,” he said.
Now remember what I said about related developments and how we’d get back to the crappy engine story? A big problem this year has been all the money that’s had to be put into completely new cars because of the engine change and only one of the 3 engines available (Mercedes, Renault, Ferarri) is worth a damn. Ferrari is slow and Renault breaks down all the time.
There are 3 drivers who are going to get penalized for unauthorized drive train replacements- Button and Kvyat who are getting dinged a 5 Grid penalty for replacement gearboxes, but the big name is Vettel who replaced everything and as a consequence is starting from the pit. In a “controverisial” decision (controversial because it makes Bernie look bad and disappoints the customers), Vettel stayed out in Qualifying just long enough to lay down a lap that that avoided the 107% non-competitive cut rule. Makes perfect sense to me, if you’re not going to start any higher than last anyway why bother? Even Hamilton and Rosberg have had gearbox and braking problems (braking is integrated into the KERS and the electronic engine controls so it’s not a seperate system anymore).
On offer are the Mediums and Softs. It’s theoretically possible I suppose that some will attempt a 1 Pit strategy (vettel for instance) but I expect most will go 2 Pits, Soft, Medium, Soft.
Hamilton is unhappy about double points in Abu Dhabi and leading the Driver’s Championship by only 17 you can understand why. Rosberg leads the front row, but it’s notable that Williams has locked down the second. That puts Massa infront of Alonso for the first time in a long time with Red Bull Ricciardo spliting the third row with Alonso.
Pretty tables below.