By Berthold Bouman
Pedro de la Rosa is currently unemployed, as his HRT team didn’t find a buyer in time, and, although there has not been an official statement, it seems the Spanish adventure in Formula One is over for good. “It is time to turn the page, and look to the future,” de la Rosa told the Spanish Marca magazine.
“But,” he admitted, “It is true, I am a realist and everything that has happened [lately] has been very unpleasant for everyone who works at HRT.” Asked whether it is really over for the Spanish outfit de la Rosa said, “I don’t know, I’m just the driver, and there has not been an official notification, but the feeling we all have is that the project will not continue and I’m already looking for a job for the coming year.”
About his time with HRT he said, “I have given it everything. If I hadn’t given it the full one hundred percent I’d probably feel guilty, or have sleepless nights, but that is not the case.”
Being the star driver of the team, does he feel cheated by the final outcome of the whole endeavour? “No, it was an ambitious project, I’m not a quitter, we all worked very hard, but in the end we are all responsible for this failure.”
De la Rosa thinks it was a missed opportunity for his native Spain. “That’s another sad thing about this project, we will never have a Spanish Formula One team again,” he said, and he explained, “I don’t think we’ll see another Spanish team, when we started the conditions were exactly right, with a driver like Fernando Alonso there was a great national interest in the sport. I don’t think we’ll find the same conditions again on a short or medium term, it will be very difficult.”
He also blamed the economic recession for the demise of the team, “It has affected Formula One and has especially affected Spanish companies, but that is something that we can not choose, who would have thought that the crisis would turn out to be so sour and so deep? It is very difficult to enter Formula One supporting a Spanish team when the situation in your company and your country is so bad.”
But de la Rosa has no regrets, “I have seen all kinds of teams and people, very small, medium and large teams, and this year has been very enriching for me, I’ve seen how one suffers, how one struggles to survive with one-tenth of the budget of most other teams. However, it has been a very nice experience.”
Could he return to McLaren to take up his previous position as test and reserve driver again? “I already left the team twice, so the door won’t be wide open for me. I have been unfaithful and so, I start from zero and it is normal. I am confident that I will continue in Formula One as a test or reserve driver; I will continue with a steering wheel in my hands, but there are no guarantees.”
Therefore it seems it is definitely over for the Spanish team, who never scored a point in Formula One, but they did have the drive, the people, and the passion for the sport. It is also a fact the other two newcomers in Formula One, Marussia and Caterham, didn’t score a single point in their three-year existence either, and as Caterham’s Tom Webb said on Twitter, “Many friends from HRT are now looking for jobs & you couldn’t find more dedicated, passionate, hard-working people. Buena suerte mi amigos!”
And last but not least: HRT has actually become the victim of the bigger teams and the failing FIA policy regarding the spending of teams. The teams have not been very cooperative when it comes to the infamous budget cap, initially endorsed by ex-FIA President Max Mosley, but shelved by current FIA President Jean Todt. Today, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull still spend at least ten times more than the smaller teams and the budget cap seems further away than ever.
There is an old saying in Formula One: Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?
All photos: HRT
By Berthold Bouman
FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone admitted he could be forced out of office by the Gribkowsky bribery scandal, the Formula One boss allegedly paid the German banker a $44 million bribe for the sale of the BayernLB bank’s Formula One shares to investment company CVC in 2005.
Gerhard Gribkowsky was arrested in January 2011 and in June of this year he was sentenced to eight and a half-year imprisonment for tax evasion, bribery and breach of trust.
Ecclestone has admitted he paid the German banker, but stated in court that Gribkowsky was blackmailing him as he threatened to reveal his tax affairs to the HRMC. He therefore paid the $44 million to the German who was the former Chief Risk Officer of the BayerLB bank.
There have been speculations Ecclestone could be charged with bribery as well, but the Germans are still investigating the matter. If that happens, according to Ecclestone, the investment company CVC ‘will probably be forced to get rid of me if the Germans come after me. It’s pretty obvious, if I’m locked up’.
Earlier this year plans for a $10 billion floatation of Formula One were shelved by CVC as they were afraid the bribery case could have a negative effect on the floatation.
During the annual Christmas dinner with the press, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo already hinted that Ecclestone should leave, “If Bernie is accused under process, I think he will be the first to give a step back in the interests of Formula One.”
And he added, “The era of the one-man show cannot continue. We are slowly approaching the end of a period characterised by the style of one man who has done significant things.”
In a report in the UK Telegraph, Ecclestone admitted CVC is searching for a replacement, “They said they had hired a head-hunter to find somebody in the event that I was not going to be there — if I was going to die or something. It is the normal thing they do to keep people happy.”
By Berthold Bouman
The 2012 season saw the return of the Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen, who had been lured out of retirement by the Lotus F1 team, who made the Finn an offer he could not refuse.
Raikkonen retired in 2009 after his last season with Ferrari and made way for Fernando Alonso, and at the time many already thought his retirement came about too soon. Raikkonen spent two seasons in the Rally World Championship with Citroen, had his successes, but also crashed many times in true Raikkonen style.
His fans were elated with his return to Formula One, and being a man of few words, Raikkonen let the racing do the talking. The 33-year old driver had a slow start in the season, he qualified in 17th place for the Australian Grand Prix, but finished in seventh place, grabbing the first 6 points of the season.
After the Malaysian and Chinese Grand Prix, where he finished fifth and 14th respectively, the Finn was ready for a podium place, and in Bahrain the Iceman finished in second place, just 3.3 seconds behind winner Vettel.
“Of course I wanted to win and would have been much happier in myself if I had won, but nevertheless the team deserved what they got and hopefully we can put ourselves in this position more often,” Raikkonen said after the race, adding, “We had the car already in the first three races to be up there, but we made some small mistakes and it cost us too much. Today wasn’t far away.”
To prove it wasn’t just a lucky strike, he took third place at the Circuit de Cataluya, the scene of the Spanish Grand Prix, surprisingly won by Williams driver Pastor Maldonado. Next was Monaco, wearing a replica of James Hunt’s helmet, he finished ninth, as he was struggling to get his tyres at the right temperature.
Kimi Raikkonen wins the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP
Another problem the Finn encountered was the steering system, but Lotus soon improved it and when it was more to the liking of Raikkonen he started to score podium places again. He was second during the European Grand Prix, third in Germany, second again in Hungary, and third at Spa-Francorchamps.
By then, Raikkonen was in third place of the Drivers’ Championship, and a race win was imminent. “Twice now we’ve come close and I’m sure we can make that last step. Unfortunately you’re not always going to be able to challenge for the win, and if you get the chance you have to take it because it’s not every race that you will have the opportunity to go for it,” Raikkonen said.
After the Italian Grand Prix came the so-called fly-away races, Singapore, Japan, Korea, India and Abu Dhabi. But it was in Abu Dhabi where Raikkonen gave Lotus the much desired win, the last win Lotus scored was in 1986, with Ayrton Senna behind the wheel. It was a somewhat chaotic race at the famous Yas Marina circuit, but Raikkonen made good use of the two Safety Car periods and won the race.
“I’m very happy for the team, and for myself also. You never know what’s going to happen during the race; the safety cars made it quite tricky, but I’ve had similar races many, many times this year. Perhaps we were not the fastest at the end, but we were quick enough and consistent enough to win so it’s great for the team,” said the happy winner.
But sadly, despite his win, Raikkonen was by then no longer in contention for the 2012 Formula One crown, and during the next two races in Austin and Interlagos he scored sixth and tenth place and he finished the season in third place with 207 points in the bag, and his Lotus team took fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier said about the 2012 season, “The conclusion of the championship is good; fourth was our target and we’ve achieved that by a considerable margin. On top of that we’ve been fighting with the leading teams right to the end of the year. For Kimi to take third in the Drivers’ Championship is a really great achievement after being away for two years and a testament not only to the car we gave him, but to the team for their support.”
And he further commented, “We scored our first win with the Lotus name and achieved a good number of podiums over the year, so overall it’s been a very good season. I can only thank everyone at Enstone and everyone at Renault; I’m very proud to be a part of this effort. Our progress is very promising for next year. With the continuity and stability we have I’m sure we’ll be fighting for podiums again in 2013.”
In 2012 Raikkonen once again confirmed he’s a very special driver, his return was a huge success, he made name and fame again with his messages on the team radio. One of the greatest in Formula One, not very talkative, but that makes Raikkonen the man he is, and the fans love him for it.
Photos: Lotus F1
By Berthold Bouman
Ex-Formula One driver Robert Kubica has recently been successful in rally sport, but at the start of 2011 it was the same passion for the rally sport that almost killed the Pole. During the Ronde di Andora rally in Italy his Skoda Fabia was impaled by a large piece of guard rail. His right arm, hand and leg were almost severed and doctors at the scene even considered to amputate his arm while he was still trapped in his car.
It took almost an hour before rescue services had freed him from the wreckage and Kubica was airlifted to the Pietra Ligure Hospital were he underwent numerous operations and spent months recovering from his terrible injuries. Now, almost two years later, Kubica is back in the car, and recently won the Ronde Gomitolo Di Lana in Italy, a miracle to say the least.
“I have limited functionality of the hand and the fingers but this is something I am convinced will come back slowly because the nerves need a lot of time,” the 28-year old driver told the UK Daily Express. “There has been slow progress this year. That is life. I will not gain anything by being frustrated. It is very simple. There is no other option than to keep pushing, keep working,” he added.
Kubica’s horrible accident was by far one of the saddest racing stories of 2011, but he has never given up his hopes to one day return behind the wheel of a Formula One car. Being the star driver for BMW Sauber and later in 2010 for Lotus Renault, now Lotus F1, Kubica had everything a Formula One driver could ask for, including a maiden win in 2008 on the same circuit where he crashed heavily in 2007: the Canadian Gilles Villeneuve circuit.
Kubica’s car was impaled by a guard rail during the Ronde di Andora in 2011
About regaining strength in his injured arm he said, “Of course the strength, the power in the arm is not as good as it was, but if this was the only problem then two months of treatment and that would be gone. Unfortunately, there are bigger problems which you need to concentrate on solving than the power.”
Asked if he could return to Formula One he answered, “If this [his arm and hand] is fixed, if I get 80 per cent, then yes. It would be very simple for me to come back if I was able to operate the steering wheel properly and for that 80 per cent of flexibility would be enough.”
He still misses Formula One and said, “I find it difficult to watch Formula One races, I miss racing, that is the biggest problem I suffer. After the race, when I am at home, I think I am living a boring and monotonous life. When I am driving, thanks to concentrating, the limitations are not really affecting me a lot. I am grateful for what I have.”
Photos: Lotus F1
By Berthold Bouman
During the annual Christmas press meeting in Maranello, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo defended his choice to keep Felipe Massa for 2013. “The Brazilian improved a great deal in the second half: in fact in the first part, it seemed he’d gone on a round the world holiday,” Montezemolo said jokingly.
But he added, “Joking apart, I think the decision to reconfirm his position was the right one: if we had changed, then one would need to take on someone who would make a difference and I can’t say I noticed many drivers around who would be quicker than Felipe.” And he is of course right, it would probably take months for another driver to get used to the famous Scuderia Ferrari, and Montezemolo indeed did not have any alternatives.
But, of course, there’s more to it, as Ferrari firmly believes in team spirit, and the Ferrari boss therefore said, “Also, we did not want to change the balance and the good atmosphere within the team. Domenicali and I told ourselves it was best to wait and I think that the facts proved us right. Towards the end, when Felipe was even faster than Fernando a couple of times, the points he scored played a vital part in securing our place in the Constructors’ Championship.”
Felipe Massa played a vital role in the Constructors’ Championship
About championship runner-up Fernando Alonso Montezemolo said, “The Spaniard is a mix of Lauda and Schumacher: like the former, he has the ability to drive every race lap as though it was qualifying, like the latter, he has the intelligence to know when it’s time to push and when it’s time to look after the car.”
But he lamented Alonso’s bad luck, “Fernando went on holiday at the start of the summer break with a 40 point lead over his closest challenger and because, when it came to collisions we were forced to retire, while others kept going as if nothing had happened.” But he also admitted the car was just not fast enough, “The biggest regret is that we did not have a car that was quick enough to win the World Championship.”
And indeed, Ferrari finished second in both championships this year, but they are no quitters, “Once again this season we were contenders. We must start from this positive point,” concluded Montezemolo. “If we succeed and improve our performance then we can be winners!”
By Berthold Bouman
Briton Max Chilton will make his Formula One debut next year as he signed a contract with Marussia to race alongside Timo Glock. The 21-year old will be the fourth Briton in Formula One next year, as Jenson Button will race for McLaren, Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes and Paul di Resta, although not yet officially confirmed, will race for Force India.
Chilton, who was already Marussia’s reserve driver, said in a team statement, “It’s hard to put into words how I’m feeling today, with the announcement that I will be racing for the Marussia F1 Team in 2013. I am very fortunate to have spent the last six races with the Marussia F1 Team as reserve driver, which means that instead of a standing start, I am already up to speed and at ease with the people, the culture, the systems and of course, the 2012 package.”
Chilton is now focussing on preparing himself for the 2013 season,” Pre-season testing is just a few weeks away, so my focus now is to continue my physical preparation whilst spending as much time as possible working with the technical team to help develop the car I will drive in my debut F1 season.”
Team Principal John Boot already had an eye on the young Briton and praised him for his recent achievements, “We felt confident enough in his ability and potential to appoint him to the role of reserve driver in September and since that time his development has been rapid in all aspects.”
And he explained, “First and foremost, he has shown himself to be extremely capable in the car. Most recently, in Abu Dhabi, he was put to the test in a competitive environment which included providing him with an opportunity to demonstrate his outright pace and consistency over a single lap. We saw just how much he has progressed even since the Silverstone test in the summer and through the succession of GP2 races thereafter, when he achieved two pole positions and two race wins.”
And Boot added, “Not only that, Max very quickly embedded himself within the team, thanks in no small part to the fact that he is a lively and affable character who we’ve enjoyed having around. Having been integral to our race weekend engineering environment for the past three months already – as well as having undertaken a significant part of our simulator programme — Max has already found his feet.”
As most young drivers Chilton started his career in karting but moved on to the British Formula Three Championship in which he participated from 2007 to 2009. In 2010 he made the switch to the prestigious GP2 feeder series, and this year finished in fourth place for the Marussia Carlin GP2 team.
By Berthold Bouman
Ex-Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi has given up his attempts to conquer a seat for the 2013 season, he reported on his website. The Japanese driver lost his seat to Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, but was still hoping to find a competitive team for next year. Thanks to his fans he gathered 8 million Euro to support his bid, but apparently ran out of options.
“I was in the position to bring a budget of €8 million at least,” said Kobayashi on his website. “If you could imagine the time I had, it was an overwhelming reaction and it shows there still is a great potential from Japanese companies.”
And he added, “Unfortunately, the time was still short and I am not able to secure the seat with a competitive F1 team for 2013. I have to admit that it is very sad and [I] feel sorry for [the] fans and Japanese companies who supported me. But I am still confident to make it happen in 2014.”
Kobayashi has stopped his donation program for now, and he will use the money to get a seat for the 2014 season. “I would like to stop the donation for now and while I will save all the money for 2014, I start to look what is the best option for 2013 and also 2014. My main priority is to secure the competitive F1 seat in 2014,” he told his fans.
“I have no interests to race any other categories. I will make an announcement as soon as I make a decision for 2013. So, please wait and really looking forward your support for coming year, too.”
Kobayashi finished in 12th place in the 2012 Drivers’ Championship, as he earned 60 points. He celebrated his biggest success in his native Japan, where he took third place for Sauber in front of a home-crowd.
They only options left for a drive in 2013 were Caterham, Marussia and Force India, but somehow it didn’t work out for Kobayashi, who made name and fame with his aggressive, but fair driving style, and his daring overtaking manoeuvres.
Kamui Kobayashi says goodbye to Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn
By Berthold Bouman
Romain Grosjean has something else to celebrate after winning on Sunday the title Champion of Champions during the annual Race Of Champions (ROC) in Bangkok, as Lotus today announced they have retained the services of the young Frenchman for 2013.
Grosjean will race alongside his 2012 team mate Kimi Raikkonen who recently also signed for another year with Lotus. Team Principal Eric Boullier said, “Romain is a great talent and we are pleased that he is continuing with us for a second season. With the continuity of two exceptional drivers like Romain and Kimi we are well placed to build on our strong 2012 with even better results in the year ahead.”
Boullier of course hopes for an even stronger season next year and added, “Both drivers worked very well together in their first year as team mates, and I think there is the potential of even better things from the season ahead. We were regular visitors to podiums in 2012 and we certainly intend to continue with this trend in 2013.”
Lotus decided to keep the Frenchman, who has been under fire due to his first lap crashes this season, but Grosjean has recently shown that he’s a very fast driver and a winner, who took eighth place in the 2012 Drivers’ Championhip and scored two podium places in his first full Formula One season.
Romain Grosjean to stay another year with Lotus
“It’s fantastic for me to be continuing with Lotus F1 Team for 2013. It’s superb to have the support of everyone at Enstone. I’m really looking forward to rewarding their faith when we take to the track in Australia,” said Grosjean.
About the problems he had this season he said, “I learnt a lot in my first full season in Formula One and my aim is to put these lessons into practice with stronger and more consistent performance on track next year.”
He’s also confident Lotus will again have a fast car in 2013, “There are a lot of exciting developments occurring behind the scenes at Enstone and I am very excited with the prospect of the E21. I’ve already had my seat fitting and spoken with all the personnel involved with the build of the new car; I just can’t wait to get behind the wheel.”
Listen to what Grosjean has to say about his new Lotus contract below
By Mikko Jalonen
Romain Grosjean, whose Formula One future is in doubt for the past few months, won the 2012 Champion of Champions crown after two thrilling battles in the final against the eight-time Le Mans winner and the true ROC legend, Tom Kristensen, at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Grosjean, after finishing as a runner-up on Saturday in the ROC Nations Cup representing Team France together with last year’s Champion of Champions Sebastien Ogier, was in a very impressive form on Sunday night at the Rajamangala Stadium. After progressing from the group stage behind Formula One legend Michael Schumacher, who was the only one able to beat Grosjean, the 26-year old Frenchman had his revenge on the German in the Nations Cup yesterday, defeating him on route to the final.
In the quarterfinal Grosjean knocked the defending Formula One champion, Red Bull Racing driver, Sebastian Vettel out of the competition in a KTM X-Bow after Vettel made a big mistake, he touched the barrier and broke the suspension of his KTM. In the semi-final it was time for Schumacher to say goodbye to his hopes of winning the “Champion of Champions“ title, a title Schumacher surprisingly has yet to win, as Grosjean was faster in the KTM X-Bow. For both Vettel and Schumacher losing to Grosjean were their only defeats in the whole ROC competition.
In the final, Grosjean had to face the eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen. On his route to the final, Kristensen came second in his group after had a shock defeat in an Audi R8 LMS from Chinese driver Ho Pin Tung. Therefore in the quarter-final, Kristensen had to face the defending champion Ogier, who indeed was the driver who had defeated Kristensen at the 2011 ROC final in Düsseldorf.
This time though, Kristensen got his revenge in an Audi R8 LMS, and as Scottish ace and ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard had already beaten Ho Pin Tung during a previous heat, the fight for the one of two places in the final was ready to take place; Kristensen defeated Coulthard in the Audi R8 LMS and advanced to the final.
Winner Romain Grosjean and second-placed Tom Kristensen on the ROC podium in Bangkok
In the first final heat Grosjean was faster than Kristensen with the ROC Buggy and as Grosjean had also defeated Kristensen in the second heat in the KTM X-Bow, he earned himself the victory and was crowned the 2012 Champion of Champions, just in his second attempt at the fierce and well-known ROC competition. Grosjean was especially delighted with his win and hopes to be back at the ROC in the future.
“That’s what I’d call a crazy day! It got a bit tough in the group stages but I managed to make it through. Then I had to face Sebastian Vettel in the quarter-final before Michael Schumacher in the semi-final — the two Germans who beat us in yesterday’s ROC Nations Cup final,” said Grosjean.
And the Frenchman added, “Then I had the final with Tom. We’ve had a good history at this event and I’ve raced him before so it was good to face him in the final. I got a bit of extra luck to be in the right car at the right time but it felt good. It’s been a tough end to the Formula One season but I finally got back on the podium yesterday, and now this! It’s great to get this win before I head off for a holiday. Thanks to everyone in Thailand because the welcome has been fantastic.”
For Kristensen the loss was bitter as the Dane has been hunting a win in this event for twelve years, he had already participated in his first ROC in the days that the event took place on Gran Canaria, and when the event was more known as a season-end for the rally drivers, but he had to admit Grosjean was better this time and he also wants to come back in the future.
“This was the 25th year of the race and Romain is a deserving winner,” said Kristensen. “He had a very good Sunday and I’m getting closer every year! It was a small gap between us in each of the heats and I made small mistakes but that’s the challenge of the Race Of Champions, to jump into different cars. Earlier I had a pretty fun run in the Audi against Ogier. I believe that was the fastest lap of the weekend so that’s what I’ll take away.”
And he added, “Even though I’m a bit more than 25 years old like Romain, it shows I’m still pretty fast if I’m in a good car. This has been the warmest Race Of Champions I have competed in — both literally and thanks to the people who welcomed us and enjoyed having us here. I’m still young so maybe one day I’ll get the chance to win it!”
For next year the event has been rumoured to return to Europe and in various number of motorsport news outlets, Great Britain and London has been named as a possible place where the event could take place. The last time that the event took place at the Wembley Stadium was in 2008. Then again, last year we saw that Great Britain, Czech Republic, Germany and other countries were given as possible hosts and Thailand came out as a surprise choice — so I would just await the news and would not get too hyped up if you’re a British fan.
Thanks to all for reading and I want to wish happy holidays for everybody!
By Berthold Bouman
Ex-Force India driver Adrian Sutil is working on a return to Formula One, after being ousted by the Indian team at the end of 2011. Sutil was dropped by his team after he had been accused of assaulting Lotus’ Eric Lux in a Shanghai nightclub during the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix.
After a court case, where the German was handed a suspended 18-month jail term and a 200,000 Euro fine, the 29-year old driver claims his problems have been solved now and he is free to travel to all countries on the 2013 calendar, including China.
Sutil was at the ROC event in Bangkok last weekend as commentator for German television and said, “We checked of course, me and my management; we checked all the countries and there’s no problem for me to travel, so that’s why I’m also here in Bangkok without any trouble!” And he added, “All the problems I had last winter are solved, it’s a new beginning.”
Sutil’s manager Manfred Zimmermann recently revealed he is in talks with Force India, and Sutil has pinned his hopes on returning to his old team, but also Jules Bianchi, Kamui Kobayashi, Jaime Alguersuari and Bruno Senna are interested to race alongside Paul di Resta in 2013.
Adrian Sutil was ousted by Force India in 2011 after a fight with Eric Lux
His career is in the hands of Force India team boss and team owner Vijay Mallya. “They know who I am, they know how to work with me so in the last five years we’ve got a lot of experience. There’s nothing too much to say, it’s all up to Vijay; it’s Vijay’s decision and hopefully he will make the right one so that I am in the car,” Sutil said in Bangkok.
And he further commented, “It’s hard, what can I do? Five years I was in this team so they know how good I am, they know my qualities, so I’m not the one who has gone to this team and said ‘please, please give me the drive’, I think they also should come to me and say “Yes, we want you” and that’s a good base.”
“So I want to drive for this team but they should also want me as a driver, so that’s why I’m quite relaxed. I know how to handle this situation; I did the maximum I could do at the moment and now it’s all up to them to decide if I’m in the seat or not.”
Sutil started his Formula One career with the Dutch Spyker Formula One team in 2007, he stayed when Mallya bought the team in 2008 but was ousted at the end of 2011 due to the Shanghai nightclub incident.
By Berthold Bouman
Formula One drivers Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher won the ROC Nations Cup for the sixth consecutive time this weekend in Bangkok. The German duo beat Team Australia’s Jamie Whincup and Mick Doohan in the semi-finals and later, during the grand final, beat Team France’s Romain Grosjean and Sebastien Ogier.
They raced a mix of cars — including the Audi R8 LMS, VW Scirocco, Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo and the Toyota GT86 — on a purpose-built parallel track at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.
Vettel and Schumacher, who together scored ten Formula One World Championships, won ten of the ten races in Bangkok and took their sixth ROC Nations Cup. Schumacher commented, “This is a historic day. It was already very special to win five times in a row but this new record just feels great. The Race Of Champions is a nice event with a nice set-up, there are great guys here and tough competition. We were pretty scared of the guys on Team France but in the end they lost time in the final heats so we were lucky to be consistent the whole way through.”
Vettel agreed and said, “Even Michael hasn’t managed six titles in a row before so this is something special. Six years is a long time and now we can look back and know we’ve won for the last six years. We all love coming here as it’s a special event. It’s a privilege and an honour to race with these guys. There’s one thing that connects us all, which is racing!”
Frenchman Grosjean was happy with the result, and is aiming for the win next year, “We knew going up against Team Germany was the toughest moment of the evening. But we fought as well as we could with what we had in our hands. Last year we reached the semi-final, this year the final. Now the next step is to be on the top of the podium.”
Ogier, who won the individual ROC last year, said, “We tried our best but they were very strong. We will try to do better next time. First I will do my best to retain the individual Race Of Champions title on Sunday but I know it will be tough.”
By Berthold Bouman
After 22 years Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug will retire at the end of this year. The Mercedes-Benz company reported the 60-year old German will end his career ‘with mutual agreement’. Haug actually started his career as a motorsport journalist, not without success, as he in 1988 became deputy chief editor of the German Auto, Motor und Sport magazine, the German authority on motorsports worldwide.
Haug joined Mercedes in 1990 when he became head of the Motorsport Division; his task was to revive Mercedes’ credentials in motorsport as they had abandoned all motorsport activities after the 1955 Le Mans drama which cost Mercedes driver Frenchman Pierre Levegh and 80 spectators their life.
Haug made Mercedes successful again in Group C racing, DTM and several international touring car championships. Formula One was still on Mercedes’ to-do list and they started to supply engines built by Ilmore to the Sauber team in 1993. But at the end of 1994 Peter Sauber switched to the Ford Zetec engines, and in 1995 Mercedes became the engine supplier for the McLaren team, a relationship that still stands today.
In 2010 the mother company Daimler bought together, with investment company Aabar, the Brawn GP Formula One team, and turned it into the as yet not very successful Mercedes GP team. A few weeks ago Daimler purchased the remaining shares from Aabar and now fully owns the Mercedes Formula One team.
Nico Rosberg, Norbert Haug and Michael Schumacher
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars and CEO of Daimler AG praised Haug for his work at Mercedes. “For me, he put his stamp on a whole era and, as a highlight, he was responsible for the successful comeback of the Silver Arrows to Formula One. In the name of the Board of Management and the whole motorsport family, I would like to thank Norbert for his extraordinary commitment to the three-pointed star,” he said.
Haug commented on his leaving, “I would like to thank the best car company in the world for more than 22 years, which never had a single moment without passion for me. I particularly wish to thank the Board for the trust and freedom they have always given me with all my activities. Since 1991, we had tremendous achievements and wins, for which I want to thank all of my colleagues.”
About the lack of success of the Mercedes Formula One team Haug said, “Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula One works team in 2010, we couldn’t fulfil our own expectations. However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future. Our team and our drivers will do everything to achieve these goals.”
By Berthold Bouman
Runner-up in the 2012 championship, Fernando Alonso, thinks Sebastian Vettel deserved the title this year. “Vettel is a worthy champion: he scored more points than anyone else and that is clear for all to see,” the Spaniard said during a sponsor meeting in Madrid.
Red Bull were very strong this year, and will be just as strong in 2013 according to the Ferrari driver. “Red Bull will again be favourites next year, ending this season with seven or eight tenths in hand over us and that will be hard for us to make up over the winter. The McLaren was also quicker than us and, at the end, even Force India and Lotus were ahead of us,” Alonso said.
But although it will be difficult to perform even better than this season, he is still confident Ferrari will have a better car next season. “Sometimes you think you’ve done a good job and at others you feel something is lacking or that you would like to change or improve for the following year, but this time, I think this was a perfect year and I am very happy with my season.” And he added, “I remain confident, partly because we will be starting from a better base than this year.”
Alonso won the Malaysian, European and German Grands Prix, and looking back at this season he said, “It would be hard to start as badly as in 2012: in Jerez at the first test, we were two seconds and a half off the pace, in Australia one and a half seconds … There’s a lot of work to do but our objective is clear: to have two Ferraris ahead of the field, both on Saturday and Sunday.”
He again was asked about the yellow flag controversy in Brazil, but Alonso said the case was closed, “I can only repeat what I already said in Valencia: Ferrari was right to ask the FIA for a clarification in order to remove all doubt for the fans: the Federation replied that everything was in order and so the case is closed.”
Red Bull Racing won both 2012 championships
Although Ferrari didn’t have a really fast car this season and had problems getting the Pirelli tyres up to working temperature, they took second place in the Constructors’ Championship as well, albeit 60 points behind Red Bull.
Alonso not only won three races, he also took five second places, five third places and two pole positions this season, but also retired twice as he was eliminated by Romain Grosjean in Belgium, and Kimi Raikkonen ran into the back of Alonso’s Ferrari during the Japanese Grand Prix.
Pre-season testing will take place at Jerez from February 5-8 and in Barcelona from February 19-22 and February 28 – March 3.
By Berthold Bouman
FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone has rubbished rumours that the Austrian Red Bull Ring would be a candidate for the mystery Grand Prix scheduled for July 21 next year, he said to the Austrian “Kleine Zeitung.”
Recently the New Jersey Grand Prix in the United States has been postponed until 2014, and Formula One’s governing body the FIA and Ecclestone are trying to find a replacement race in Europe.
But it’s certainly not going to be the Red Bull Ring in Austria, Ecclestone today confirmed. Asked about the Austrian circuit he said, “Oh, really? Who says that? I haven’t spoken to anyone about it!”
Asked why Austria wasn’t on his list he answered, “Well, the hotel situation is still just a disaster. It was always a problem. I think it’s [Red Bull Ring] not suitable for today’s Formula One.
Ecclestone is still thinking about the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park, drivers and fans love the circuit with its famous Turn 8, and the Formula One boss said, “Right now I’m thinking about Istanbul.”
But the Turkish government has already stated they will not fund the race. Turkey’s sports minister Suat Kilic said, “There is nothing on the government’s agenda about the return of Formula One to Turkey. This is an issue that entirely concerns the private sector.”
And he added, “Our government paid $13.5m a year to the organisers for five years for the rights. In exchange for that, all the income went to the organisers, so the state did not get any benefit from it.”
But Ecclestone today warned the Turkish authorities, “I rather think that next year we will have only 19 Grands Prix. That would be no problem.” Ecclestone also stated the decision will be made ‘early next week’.
Ecclestone still aiming for Turkish GP at Istanbul Park
By Berthold Bouman
Formtech Composites, supplier of carbon fibre products, claims the financially stricken HRT team had already gone into liquidation early November. The Leafield-based company says in a statement the Spanish outfit owes them a ’substantial amount’ of money. According to the company HRT went into liquidation on November 12, the same day the Spanish Thesan Capital investment company put the team up for sale.
Formtech, who also supply carbon fibre products to other Formula One teams, accuses the Spanish outfit of ‘misleading information tactics’ over its ownership and believes that the team is now owned by a Luxembourg-based fund, and not by Thesan Capital. Formtech has started an investigation to find out who owns HRT, and then will take the necessary steps to get their money.
The full statement read:
“It has come to our knowledge that they owe a substantial amount of money to other suppliers in the motorsports industry. HRT decided by mid-November 2012 to stop the F1 racing activity. Formtech Composites is one of their suppliers, who supported them until the last race in Brazil.
“By 15th November a payment plan for all open invoices was jointly settled between HRT and Formtech Composites and 25% of the amount was paid according to the plan – leaving still substantial amount unpaid. One week later HRT changed the responsibility of their people involved in the case and stated the following:
• Liquidation procedures started on 12th November 2012 (so before payment plan was agreed)
• They are no longer in a position to pay 100% of the outstanding invoices
• The new offer is to pay 30p for every Euro owed across their entire creditor list, with no room for negotiation
• The owner of the HRT F1 is a Luxembourgian Fund (misleading Formtech Composites Ltd on the possibilities of finding a viable way to chase the debt further)
“According to Formtech Composites Ltd’s knowledge, the owner of HRT (which was formerly owned by Campos Meta 1 SL) is 100% Thesan Capital SL and no Luxembourgian Fund. Formtech Composites doesn’t accept this misleading information tactics. Formtech Composites is going to investigate further into the true shareholder ship of HRT and Thesan Capital SL.”
It looks like the HRT team, if they still actually exist , is in big financial problems. Earlier in November HRT had hoped to get sponsoring from Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua, but the management of the 24-year old Shanghai-born driver is now in talks with Caterham and Marussia.
Also HRT’s Technical Director Toni Cuquerella has hinted via Twitter that it’s all over for HRT. On December 1 he wrote, “Four years ago, I suggested to a friend to make a F1 team,” and “Today after three seasons the last page of HRT has been written.” One day later he wrote, “It was certainly an experience.”