By Berthold Bouman
McLaren’s Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh believes Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was a mistake, as he wouldn’t recommend any driver to leave the McLaren team. Yesterday it was announced the 2008 World Champion sealed a three-year deal with Mercedes, believed to be worth £62 million.
“Mercedes-Benz is a great partner of ours and they are a great team,” said Whitmarsh. “But anyone leaving McLaren, who wants to win, I think that’s a mistake because I have faith and belief in this team. “Whether you measure it over the last four races, four years or 40 years, we’re a fantastic team. I wouldn’t advise anyone to leave McLaren if they want to win. But I’ve got to respect Lewis’s decision and really wish him well.”
It wasn’t a question of money Whitmarsh admitted, and he also admitted his mission to keep Hamilton in the team has failed. “I know we made a very, very big financial offer, bigger than I believe any Formula One driver is enjoying today.
We went a long way to make a good offer to Lewis. But ultimately it takes two to get a signature. We clearly didn’t agree terms and we’ve moved in a different direction.”
Asked whether Hamilton’s management, XIX Entertainment, was the culprit Whitmarsh said to Sky Sports, “The fact is Lewis is a great racing driver, he’s got to make decisions in his life. So we had lots of discussions with XIX, we went in to lots of details, we drew up very complex contracts, we negotiated lots of detail, lots of freedom within those and it was a very commercial offer that we made.”
Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn also denied the move was all about money. “Lewis didn’t come here because we offered more money, because we didn’t,” he said. And he added, “I think for Lewis, the attraction was being part of that building structure — the creation of the team. Not walking into a ready-formed, successful package; it was being part of the process of building that package.”
And it must be said, although McLaren is one of the three top teams in Formula One, when a driver doesn’t feel at home anymore and the motivation is gone, then there is not much one can do. Hamilton didn’t want to go to Ferrari because of his arch-enemy Fernando Alonso, and at Red Bull both drivers already had a contract for 2013, and thus Hamilton opted for the next best team: Mercedes.
It won’t be easy for Hamilton in 2013, hopefully Mercedes will soon make a huge leap forwards, only then Hamilton will have chance to fight for the title for Mercedes next season.
By Berthold Bouman
By now it has become clear the recent postponement of the Formula One floatation on the Singapore Stock Exchange has everything to do with Bernie Ecclestone’s involvement in the bribery of former BayernLB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who recently has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for several crimes, including bribery.
During the court case German State Prosecutor Christoph Rodler already hinted Ecclestone might have to stand trial for his part in the affair and at the time said, “Ecclestone was not a victim of blackmail, but a fellow participant in bribery.” Ecclestone’s financial affairs are already under investigation by the British tax authorities, the HRMC, but the 81-year old Formula One boss still claims he paid the German banker because he was blackmailed.
Gribkowsky, a former BayernLB risk officer, received £28million from Ecclestone during the sale of the German bank’s stake in Formula One to CVC Capital Partners in 2005. CVC has always maintained they had nothing to do with the bribery and have been silent ever since the case became world news.
As said, now Ecclestone himself could face trial, because the Briton has in the past mockingly and publicly labelled Gribkowsky as a ‘civil servant’, and the German prosecutor has now interpreted those words in such a way, that he concluded Ecclestone therefore was ‘knowingly bribing a public official (civil servant)’.
The sting is always in the tail and this time it seems Ecclestone’s joke mocking Gribkowsky could also be the start of his own demise. Perhaps Ecclestone suspected something was going on, because he didn’t show up for the German Grand Prix, three weeks after Gribkowsky’s sentence was announced.
Which brings us to the floatation again, and although Ecclestone always has denied speculations that the Gribkowsky case has had its impact on the floatation, CVC, now Formula One’s biggest shareholder, has until today failed to make the so-called Initial Public Offering (or IPO, basically a prospectus with prices and a minimum number of shares one has to buy, expected profits, and without a doubt a colourful story about why one should buy F1 shares). Initially it had to be published in June, but at the time CVC mentioned ‘volatile markets and continuing problems in the eurozone’ had postponed publication of the IPO until October.
Ecclestone stated at the time, “We haven’t got a date set yet, but with all the problems in the eurozone and the markets, we will be waiting until things have settled a little. Who would want to try and list now. This year, for sure, we are going to go through to market. I don’t think there’s a big rush, but we plan to get it done by the end of the year.”
But earlier this week Ecclestone again announced the floatation would be postponed, again the economic situation would be the culprit, as Ecclestone said, “The float won’t happen this year, but next year it will if the markets change.” To the UK Telegraph he said, “No IPOs have gone through, only [football club] Manchester United. I was surprised that they let it go through at the price.”
Others blame the new Concorde Agreement as it hasn’t yet been signed by all Formula One teams. The Concorde Agreement is an agreement between the Formula One teams, the governing body the FIA, and the commercial rights holder CVC, which among other things rules on the distribution of television revenues and prize monies until 2020.
It is also understood teams want more control over the future technical regulations, although Ecclestone recently said signing is just a formality, “We are just talking to the lawyers — ‘why have you used this word, that word’. Typical lawyers but everything’s fine. Commercially it’s done,” he said.
If Ecclestone has to stand trial for bribery, it will have an impact on the current commercial value of Formula One, whether he likes it or not, and he will need a whole army of lawyers, and a whole lot more money than he paid Gribkowsky, or — to use his own words — he will indeed also be ‘done’ …
By Berthold Bouman
Mercedes have confirmed Lewis Hamilton has signed a three-year deal with the German Silver Arrows outfit. It was no secret Hamilton was no longer happy at his previous employer, McLaren, and now has finally made the decision to leave.
Hamilton was very happy with his move and is already looking forward to the new challenge that faces him at Mercedes. “It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter racing for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which I share,” said the Briton.
But above all, Hamilton is hoping to win many races for his new team, “Together, we can grow and rise to this new challenge. I believe that I can help steer the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning the world championships.”
Nico Rosberg will stay at Mercedes, but has not yet given his comments, but he knows Hamilton very well, as they were team mates at TeamMBM.com in Formula A karting.
Team Principal Ross Brawn was of course happy to have Hamilton in his team. “Looking ahead to 2013, I am delighted to welcome Lewis Hamilton to our team. The arrival of a driver of Lewis’ calibre is a testament to the standing of Mercedes-Benz in Formula One and I am proud that Lewis shares our vision and ambition for the success of the Silver Arrows,” he said.
Hamilton and Rosberg will be a great combination as Brawn commented, “I believe that the combination of Lewis and Nico will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year, and I am looking forward to what we can achieve together.”
And he added, “Over the past three years, we have been putting in place the foundations and building blocks that are needed to compete regularly for the world championship. The potential is now there to match any other team on the grid, which is the minimum standard for a Mercedes-Benz works team. Our task is now to translate that potential into on-track performance for next season and beyond.”
Hamilton will replace seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher, who is now facing an uncertain future in Formula One. Brawn thanked the German for his contribution to the team, “I would like to thank Michael Schumacher for the important contribution he has made to the growth of our team over the past three seasons.
“His energy and commitment have never wavered, even when results have not matched our own expectations, and we are determined to finish the 2012 season together on a high. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with Michael.”
By Berthold Bouman
The double DRS system as it has been used by Mercedes this season, will be banned in 2013. The Mercedes system provides an extra performance boost when the ‘normal’ DRS is active. Although the idea is actually quite simple, in practice it is a complicated system to integrate into an existing car, the reason why other teams have problems emulating it.
Mercedes has integrated the system in the chassis, when DRS is deployed an opening in the rear wing endplate is exposed, air is led through a system of pipes all the way to the front of the car where it stalls the front wing, while the air that is led away from the rear wing also gives an extra boost on top of the boost of the normal DRS, hence the name double DRS, or as some call it very appropriately: the double whammy DRS.
The system also gives more stability as both wings are stalled. But the system has been banned as Article 3.18 (Driver adjustable bodywork) now states: “It cannot be used to change the geometry of any duct, either directly or indirectly, other than the change to the distance between adjacent sections permitted by Article 3.10.2.” The latter article refers to the dimensions of the DRS wing flap.
Lotus’ Double DRS
But the 2013 regulations do not apply to the double DRS as developed by Lotus, as it is a passive system and its working does not depend upon activation of the DRS system, so the name double DRS is very misleading. The Lotus design actually goes one step further into the unknown, as it is designed to stall the rear wing at high speeds.
It is understood Lotus has designed a system of two ducts situated at both sides of the engine air intake behind the driver’s head, the air flows through a channel to the rear where it should stall the rear wing. The air should only stall the wing at high speeds, and not at low speeds. How Lotus regulates the air flowing through the channels is still a mystery, as the regulations say no mechanical aerodynamic devices, such as spring-operated valves or flexible parts that do the same, are prohibited.
The new regulations also allow teams to cover the stepped nose, a concept that received a lot of negative feedback from the Formula One fans, and although one by now should be used to it, it still looks very ‘unnatural’ and the FIA has confirmed teams are allowed to cover the ‘step’ with a ‘modesty panel’, purely for cosmetic reasons.
Article 3.7.9 now states: “With the exception of an optional, single piece, non-structural fairing of prescribed laminate (whose precise lay-up may be found in the Appendix to the regulations) which may not be more than 625mm above the reference plane at any point, …”
By Berthold Bouman
Formula One is a global sport, but with just six of the 20 races on European soil, the 2013 calendar is certainly bad news for the European Formula One fans. The fact FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone goes wherever the money goes, is not really something new, but Formula One should never forget its roots, and those roots are certainly not just there where the money is.
Primarily for commercial reasons Formula One was very eager to stage two Grands Prix on American soil, but the latest news is that the Grand Prix of America, round eight on the 2013 calendar to be held in New Jersey on June 16, could already be off the calendar, as Ecclestone recently stated the organisers of the race have “not complied with the terms and conditions of the contract which is now gone anyway,” according to Formula One Grand Prix broker Ecclestone.
“They don’t have a contract,” Ecclestone told the UK Guardian. “We are pretty close to the final deadline. We have got a World Council meeting coming up. I think if someone got behind them it could happen in 2013 because they have come a long way with the circuit.”
Luckily for the fans in the United States, the race in Austin is still on for ten seasons to come, as the Circuit of the Americas have sealed a ten-year contract with Ecclestone, and the FIA on Tuesday confirmed the circuit has officially acquired the Grade 1 status, needed to host a Formula One race.
But France, who were hoping to stage a Formula One race again, cannot fill the gap if New Jersey fails to meet the deadline, as the French Autosport Federation (FFSA) confirmed French Minister of Sports Valerie Fourneyron said the state will not grant any financial help to the French Grand Prix, to be held at Magny Cours or Le Castellet.
A big setback for the organisers, but the FFSA hasn’t given up yet and President Nicolas Deschaux said, “I will put a question to the two bidders in the coming days to contemplate with them the conditions in which they could carry on with their candidacies.” Which in plain English means they have to find the money somewhere else or there isn’t going to be a French Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, the organisers of the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne, want to renew their contract, but with a reduced race fee. The current contract expires in 2015 and the Australians would love negotiate a new deal, but according to Louise Asher, Australia’s Minister of Tourism, the current agreement is too expensive for the tax payers.
“I’d love to have the race beyond the 2015 contract, but the contract that we discuss has to present value for taxpayers and I’m not comfortable with this level of subsidy,” she said. “The Brumby Labor government signed off on a contract that is too expensive for the taxpayer in my opinion. This is a very, very expensive race and I personally am not happy with this level of subsidy.”
In Asia, Thailand is trying to open the door for Formula One, as they aim for a spot on the 2014 calendar with a race on the streets of Bangkok. It is understood they have struck a very basic deal, which was confirmed by Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand. Chulakasem said to the Bangkok Post, “It will be a city race like that in Singapore and Monaco, and it will be a night race like the Singapore Grand Prix.”
However, there is no official contract and all parties still have to agree about the sanctioning fee. Ecclestone nevertheless remained optimistic, “It’s difficult to know. The trouble is they’ve started something that’s so popular worldwide that I’m sure other people are going to want to do this.”
Below the provisional 2013 calendar, still to be approved by the FIA World Motorsport Council, during a meeting tomorrow.
2013 Formula One Calendar (Provisional)
March 17 Australia (Melbourne) March 24 Malaysia (Sepang) April 14 China (Shanghai) April 21 Bahrain (Sakhir) May 12 Spain (Barcelona) May 26 Monaco (Monte Carlo) June 9 Canada (Montreal) June 16 America (New Jersey) * June 30 Britain (Silverstone) July 21 Germany (Nurburgring) * July 28 Hungary (Hungaroring) September 1 Belgium (Spa) September 8 Italy (Monza) September 22 Singapore (Marina Bay) * October 6 Japan (Suzuka) October 13 Korea (Yeongam) * October 27 India (Buddh International Circuit) November 3 Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) November 17 United States (Austin) November 24 Brazil (Interlagos) *To be confirmed
By Berthold Bouman
Great news for the American Formula One fans, as FIA’s Safety Director Charlie Whiting has given the green light for the United States Grand Prix on November 18. Whiting has given the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) the FIA seal of approval after his latest inspection, and has given the circuit the Grade 1 status, the highest grade a circuit can get, which means it has been approved for Formula One racing.
Whiting was impressed with the progress that has been made. “Everything that I’ve seen so far has been absolutely first class, and the progress that’s been made since the last time that I was here is amazing,” Whiting said. “The guys have done an awesome job — it really is quite fantastic! It’s built to the highest quality, exactly as we expected, and I’ve got absolutely no complaints whatsoever.”
Whiting personally walked the complete now fully paved 3.4 mile circuit for a closer inspection. Everything was checked: the asphalt, kerbs, guard rails, safety barriers, run-off areas, debris fences and other safety measures. Whiting was especially happy with the layout of the circuit and its turns.
“There are 3-4 corners that are very likely to see overtaking,” said Whiting. “If you look at Turn 1, you’ll see that the turns have been designed so that they’re extremely wide and the apex is very short. It’s a very modern approach to slow corners where we hope overtaking will take place. So I’m very confident it will work well.”
And his favourite part of the circuit? “Turn 1 is awesome! It’s the only word I can think of to describe it, and I think drivers and teams coming here for the first time will say the same thing,” he said. Whiting also visited the pit and paddock facilities and the Race Control building, where Whiting and his team will be housed during the race.
Whiting will be back in Austin for the final approval on Monday, November 12, as the remaining landscaping and painting projects will be completed in a few weeks time. The COTA was designed by German Hermann Tilke, and is the first purpose-built Formula One circuit in the United States.
Bob Bondurant takes a lap around the Circuit of The Americas
Time lapse video of the construction of the Circuit of the Americas
By Berthold Bouman
Not a great weekend for Mark Webber during the Singapore Grand Prix, the Australian driver lost his tenth place because he had overtaken Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber while he was off-track, the FIA Stewards deemed he had gained an unfair advantage and he was stripped of tenth place and was classified as 11th.
The weekend started with a bad qualifying session on Saturday, Webber qualified in seventh position, not good enough for him as he commented, “It was a difficult weekend for me, it’s not easy to overtake at this track, so you’re making your life hard when you have a bad qualifying. You need a bit of luck to make progress and I didn’t have any!”
Just after the start he had to fend off Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, and after a few position changes Webber left Grosjean behind him and stayed in seventh place. He then got stuck behind the Force India of Paul di Resta, he couldn’t get past and his team decided to change the strategy and called him in for an early pit stop.
“The pace of the car was good,” said Webber. “By the time of my second stop I’d climbed up to sixth and at this stage of the race I was hoping to give Paul [di Resta] a very hard fight for fourth, or maybe do even better. But the second Safety Car killed us.”
After the Safety Car had left the track again, Webber was in 15th place and had to fight his way back to the top ten. “The racing was good fun, but I’m not here to fight for 10th place and I need to break this little cycle of poor results that’s occurring,” said a disappointed Webber.
Webber is currently in fifth place of the Drivers’ Championship, 62 points behind leader Alonso, and there are just 150 points still on the table. “The championship is getting harder,” said Webber, “but I never give up and I’ll continue to take each race as it comes. The next race is at Suzuka, which is one of my favourite tracks. I’ve always gone pretty well there and I hope to get a good result.”
By Berthold Bouman
A busy weekend for the FIA Stewards present at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, this time ex-Formula One driver Allan McNish represented the drivers.
On Saturday Marussia driver Charles Pic, who overtook a car under red flags during the final free practice session, got a 20-second penalty to be added to the driver’s elapsed race time of the Japanese Grand Prix, in addition Pic and his team engineer have to ‘perform 1 day’s Community Service for FIA Action for Road Safety campaign at the instruction of the FIA President’.
Also on Saturday it was announced Pedro de la Rosa had incurred a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, Bruno Senna got the same penalty after qualifying for changing the gearbox after he had crashed into the wall.
Mark Webber was reprimanded for leaving the track twice at the end of Q3, according to the FIA Stewards Webber could not offer ‘a justifiable reason for deliberately leaving the track’. Not a good weekend for Webber as he also during qualifying was accused of impeding the Marussia of Timo Glock, but the FIA Stewards, after viewing the video and telemetry evidence, decided no impeding had occurred.
But on Sunday Webber lost the one point he had scored by finishing in tenth position, as the FIA Stewards concluded the Australian had left the track while overtaking the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi. Webber was handed a post-race drive-through penalty, which meant 20 seconds was added to his elapsed race time and thus the Red Bull driver lost his 10th place.
Michael Schumacher incurred a ten-place grid penalty for the collision with the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, both drivers had to retire. A FIA statement read, “The driver admitted the collision was his error due to the failure to anticipate the braking performance of the car with lower tyre grip following a safety car period.”
And last but not least, the numbers one and two in the race, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, were summoned to see the FIA Stewards after Button had complained about Vettel’s sudden braking after the first Safety Car period of the race.
In a statement the FIA Stewards concluded, “An examination of the telemetry overlay for throttle, steering and brake traces of both cars did not indicate any erratic driving behaviour on the part of the race leader.”
Vettel said his sudden braking was not intentional, “You try to warm up your tyres and also try to keep the brakes at the right temperature. So it was possible that he was looking at his steering wheel and I was braking a bit abruptly and then you almost meet at a spot where you both would not want to be.”
Button said after the race it wasn’t a brake test, “Sebastian is not a stupid driver, he knows if he brake tests me we are going to crash. I was not trying to get him penalised, I was just looking for clarification of where we are.”
By Berthold Bouman
Schumacher obviously needs a new pair of glasses, which design would you pick?
By Berthold Bouman
Seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher has been handed a ten-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit for causing a collision with the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne this evening at the Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore.
“It was obviously a very unfortunate ending to my race this evening when I ran into the car of Vergne who accepted my apology straight afterwards,” Schumacher said after the race.
He suspected a mechanical failure caused the crash, “I am not totally sure why it happened like this; I was braking but the deceleration was not as strong as it usually would be, and I could not avoid running into the car in front of me. We have to find out what has happened.”
Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn also didn’t know what happened, “It was an unusual set of circumstances so we will have a careful look at the data and work out what could have happened.”
Although Schumacher hinted he could have suffered from a mechanical failure, he apparently told the FIA Stewards he had misjudged his braking on cold tyres, as a FIA statement read, “The driver admitted the collision was his error due to the failure to anticipate the braking performance of the car with lower tyre grip following a safety car period. The penalty takes into account that this is the second similar offence by the driver this season.”
Vergne said about the crash, “I was focussing on catching Perez at that point, trying to brake late to catch him, so I am not too sure what happened exactly, but I assume Michael braked a bit too late and could not avoid running in to me.
“There is no sense in being angry about it, because these things happen in racing and even the most experienced driver on the grid can make mistakes! He said sorry and that’s the end of it.”
It was the second time this happened on the Marina Bay circuit, last year Schumacher slammed into the back of the Sauber of Sergio Perez in similar circumstances and was officially reprimanded by the FIA Stewards.
By Berthold Bouman
Bruno Senna will be demoted from 17th to 22nd place on the start grid for the Singapore Grand Prix, as his Williams team had to replace the gearbox of his car after he had crashed into the wall for the second time this weekend.
During the second free practice session on Friday the Brazilian had already crashed into the wall while exiting Turn 19, he caused a red flag and could not participate in the remainder of the practice session.
During qualifying yesterday he had already kissed the wall but not much later he crashed out of qualifying while exiting Turn 21, the right rear suspension was badly damaged and this meant Senna was out of qualifying altogether.
His mechanics later found the impact had damaged the gearbox as well, and it had to be replaced. Gearboxes are required to last five consecutive events according to the regulations, thus Senna will drop five places and start from 22nd spot on the grid.
“I was pushing very hard to get a good lap but I pushed a little over the edge. This place isn’t very forgiving so we broke the rear suspension. Unfortunately that brought an early end to qualifying but we now we need to focus on tomorrow,” Senna commented yesterday.
His team colleague Pastor Maldonado will start from the front row after a great qualifying lap in the third and last qualifying session yesterday.
By Berthold Bouman
Extraordinary rumours are circulating on the internet and social media: Robert Kubica could make a return to Formula One as Pirelli test driver. The rumours started after a remark of Pirelli test driver Jaime Alguersuari, who said he is very close to returning to Formula One after being ditched by his previous employer Toro Rosso.
This could open the door for Kubica who recently made his racing return by participating in the Ronde Gomitolo di Lana and the Rally San Martino di Castrozza, he won the first event after winning all four stages, but during the second event the Pole crashed two times and had to retire.
The 27-year old ex-BMW Sauber and Renault driver spent the major part of the 2011 recovering from his horrific accident in February 2011 during the Ronde di Andora in Italy, he sustained serious arm and hand injuries and still hasn’t regained all of his hand and arm functions.
Despite his limited mobility, Pirelli would offer him a test role, Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery disclosed. “We are more likely to work with Robert in rallying I guess, rather than F1, but we will see,’ said Hembery.
And he added, “I haven’t spoken to Robert for some time, but we are working on a few projects that might involve him, so it might be a possibility. I don’t know if he is able to do it at the moment.”
Hembery is confident Kubica can make a Formula One return, and is willing to help him, “He is that type of person if, physically, he could get back in, maybe doing a year with us would put him in a good situation to come back in 2014.
“It would be wonderful if we could do that. We want to continue our success level of helping drivers into F1, and after an F1 drive the Pirelli test deal has to be the best drive in the world.”
Pirelli is currently using a Renault Formula One car to test there tyres, the same car Kubica drove in 2010, so he is very familiar with the car and knows it inside-out. Kubica has not yet reacted on Hembery’s proposal to return as a test driver.