Mar 29 2015

Formula One 2015: Sepang

It’s not so bad, it could be raining.  Oh wait, it is.

Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One empire is hanging by a thread and really the best thing he could do for the sport right now is pack up his office (under the scrutiny of a Security Officer of course) and head for the parking lot.

Don’t let the door hit you.

First of all Germany is off.  Nürburgring is having financial trouble and can’t meet Bernie’s fees.  Hockenheimring is unwilling to do so because Formula One is unprofitable for them and only drew 52,000 spectators last year (of a potential 120,000).  Bernie is tearing up the contract for the German Grand Prix (or wants to, we’ll see) and ominously threatens that Monza is next.

There goes his vaunted 20 race season, just like his 20 car field, but don’t worry- Bernie is sure it will all pass over.  I’m sure he’ll find another Petro-Emirate with more bucks than brains to fill in.

What it does mean is that Formula One’s reservoir of goodwill in Europe, its traditional heartland and the base of all of its teams, is thin indeed and Bernie’s senile delusions of challenging Football (the kind you play with your feet) are just that.  And, since it would be irresponsible not to speculate, what will it mean for the Fiat (Ferrari) commitment to Formula One going forward to lose its home track or for that matter Mercedes (which has lost it) without whom most cars would be nothing but sculptures?

The Red Bull/Renault dispute continues.  Red Bull’s Team Manager has had some very unflattering things to say and thoughts being bandied about include Red Bull buying out Renault (at least the Formula One Engine part), Renault buying out Red Bull in whole or in part (Toro Rosso), or Red Bull and/or Renault leaving Formula One entirely.

I give the money edge to Renault, They are after all a multi-Billion dollar automotive firm and Red Bull?  Well, it’s a soft drink company.

Why is this important to Bernie?  Because Red Bull puts 4 cars on the track- 20% of the entire field.  Without them you start the math at 16 when counting down to Bernie’s minimum contractual obligation of 14.  Oh, and don’t think Australia isn’t pissed he could only track 18 and finish 11 at Albert Part.

And what about Sauber?  Giedo van der Garde has settled out of court after winning in it, but he got a pot of money for doing so-

There has been a lot of speculation in the media over the past week, so I want to set out clearly that my sponsors paid the sponsorship fee related to the 2015 season in its entirety to Sauber in the first half of 2014.

This was simply in good faith and to help the team deal with its cash problems at the time. Effectively, it was my sponsor’s advanced payments that helped the team survive in 2014.

Sauber’s financial decision-making in this case is bizarre and makes no sense to me. I am not at liberty to discuss details, but Sauber paid significant compensation to avoid honouring the contract they had with me. Only in that respect can I be satisfied that my rights have finally been recognised and that at least some justice has been done.

Monisha Kaltenborn is making the same kind of ‘move along, nothing to see here’ noises Bernie does, but Sauber was a team on the edge financially last year and “there is continued speculation that Colin Kolles, the former principal of Caterham and HRT, wants to take over the team.”

Supposedly ChemChina’s takeover of Pirelli leaves their Formula One commitment “unchanged”, but in this case “unchanged” means that they have a contract through 2016 that they intend to honor and no longer term deal has been reached yet.

Oh BTW, Hards and Mediums.  Three stop strategy unless it rains.  Did I mention rain?  Caused a half hour delay in Qualifying.

Speaking of contracts, Hamilton is looking to ink a long term one with Mercedes.

Speaking of Drivers, Alonso is back but he didn’t get to Q3 by a long shot and doesn’t look the same.  Also he’s in a big dispute with McLaren over whether a ‘gust of wind’ caused his accident or his steering failed.

Speaking of mechanical failure, Hamilton missed two practice sessions because his engine telemetry failed (there may be more to it than that).

All in all it’s shaping up to be another fine season in Formula One because everything is always fine in Formula One.

John Watson: ‘F1 has a major problem but is putting its head in the sand’

by Paul Weaver, The Guardian

Tuesday 24 March 2015 10.01 EDT

“Formula One has a major problem but the sport is putting its head in the sand,” he said. “Two thirds of the grid are struggling, and barely able to make it to the race. Right now F1 needs to have a good look at itself and decide what it is trying to achieve. The product is in need of a massive kickstart.

“What’s going on? Bernie Ecclestone has done a phenomenal job for [owners] CVC but somebody needs to step in because of the dire state the middle and bottom of the grid is in. You can’t have a race with just four big teams. I’m unhappy with the governance from the FIA.”

“And then, in the race, there were so many cars and drivers missing. Australia values what the race brings to Melbourne and Victoria. They love their sport there but they will make their views known about that event, and it was not a good grand prix.”

Watson says F1’s efforts to cut costs have created problems of their own. “The regulations do not allow you to produce an entirely new engine this year, so the teams have to make the most of their development token. But that means that Mercedes, who have got everything spot on, are now enjoying complete domination. Another problem has been the reduction in testing time, again to cut costs. And this season teams have only four engines instead of five. So no one wants to do mileage because of the meagre engine allowance. Yet these hybrid engines are so complicated that everybody needs track time. Half the problem is bloody procedures. It’s nuts, total nuts.”

Watson, like many people in Formula One, wants CVC to readdress the amount of money it is taking out of a sport with an annual turnover of £1.5bn, while the majority of the teams struggle for survival. “That’s an area that must be revisited to keep the sport worthy of the money people are paying to watch it, either at the track or on TV.”

Watson also took a sideswipe at Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, who in Australia was outspokenly critical of the Renault engine. “What Christian said about Renault was outrageous,” Watson said. “Has the bloke lost the plot? There were some unnecessarily blunt comments about the Renault power unit. You should keep those remarks for meetings behind closed doors.

“Renault are spending a fortune supporting the technology and the hardware to enable Red Bull to continue the success they have enjoyed. If I was Renault I would feel pissed off that Christian has bit off the hand that’s feeding him. The relationship seems to be disintegrating very rapidly. The public sniping is inappropriate and counterproductive.”

Watson, 68, was also critical of McLaren when he said: “They’ve had two bad years with the Mercedes engine. It’s hard to understand why they didn’t do better when you see how well Williams, Force India and of course Mercedes themselves did.”

And finally, because Bernie is always sooo ready to pamper his pets-

Bernie Ecclestone backs Red Bull’s call to rein in Mercedes’s F1 dominance


Monday 16 March 2015 09.07 EDT

Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has backed Red Bull’s call for action to rein in Mercedes’s engine advantage and make races more competitive after a one-sided start to the season.

“They are absolutely 100% right,” Ecclestone said when asked about the Red Bull principal Christian Horner’s statement that the FIA should apply an “equalisation mechanism” to narrow the gap.

Ecclestone said it was not a case of doing everything possible to stop Mercedes but simply to allow other manufacturers more flexibility.

“What we should have done was frozen the Mercedes engine and leave everybody else to do what they want so they could have caught up,” he said. “We should support the FIA to make changes.”

And you think Professional Wrestling is fixed.

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