Ferrari chief and his vision of Formula 1

 

 

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has renewed calls for a cheaper Formula 1 with more testing and less reliance on aerodynamics – plus perhaps consideration given to shorter races.
 
Salone dell' Auto di Francoforte 2007 Image by schumachergirl1956 via Flickr

On a weekend where there has been a renewed focus on cost control in F1, di Montezemolo argued that the time was ripe for a big rethink about the future of the sport.

“We want an F1 with less cost,” he said at Monza. “Tell me why we have to spend a huge amount of cost to spend 24 hours in the windtunnel to do a small wing flap that for the public [the interest] is zero, for the television is zero, and for me as a road-car manufacturer it is less than zero because we will never use this for the road car?”

He added: “Ferrari has been in F1 for more than 60 years. The success in F1 is crucial. Ferrari will remain in F1 if F1 is F1 and not a race for electric cars or games. It is innovation and technology and, if you have to spend money, you spend it for the advanced research and not for something that is nothing to do with competition.”

Di Montezemolo met with FIA president Jean Todt and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone for talks at Maranello on Friday to discuss the future of grand prix racing – and said he believed important steps needed to be taken.

“I want to have rules that permit us to spend less, because I don't think if you say, this is [area] limited to spend [on], how can you control this?” he explained. “I think in the recent past, somebody cheated on this.

“So I prefer to have clear rules that allow [teams] to spend less, particularly in something that is not crucial for the spectators or the competition.”

Speaking about potential changes to the format of race weekends, di Montezemolo said: “Looking at young people, it [the length of races] is too long.

“Maybe I'm wrong but I think we have to look very carefully what we can do to improve the show of F1. I give you one example, one and a half hours is a long time for young people; maybe it is good instead to have the race in two parts.

“Maybe it is a mistake, but we have to think of something, we cannot stay always the same.

“We have to be innovative without losing the F1 DNA, like technology and innovation. Now, the last 10 laps if you are in the lead, you take care of the tyres, because maybe you don't arrive at the end, you take care of your engine. This is not F1 extreme; it is something we have to look at. Maybe we maintain the race, maybe it is something we change for the future.”

He also suggested that F1 should be more flexible about when races take place.

“You can maybe give more room for technological research for the road cars and also to improve the show, because this is another problem,” he said. “I don't think it's good to race in July and August at 2pm when the people are in the sea or on vacation. Soccer plays at 6, 7, 8 o'clock.”

Formula 1 Midseason Report: Felipe Massa

 

By 

t) on August 22, 2012

Before the start of the season, I highlighted six drivers who had a lot to prove going into 2012. The article can be found here.

The mid-season break is as good a time as any to revisit those men to see how they're progressing. First, let's take a look at Felipe Massa.

Felipe Massa's Ferrari F10 in the Senna Corner (Montreal) Image by Gregory Moine via Flickr

Background

Massa entered 2012 on very thin ice. He could—and probably should—have been dropped at the end of last year following an extremely disappointing 2011.

The Ferrari was the third-best car, occasionally the second-best, but Felipe's best finishing position in any race was fifth.

The year before hadn't been much better. While teammate Fernando Alonso battled for (and probably should have won) the title, Massa was a distant sixth place overall.

Since returning from the injuries he sustained at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Massa had started 38 races, won none (though he gifted the 2010 German Grand Prix to Alonso) and scored just five podiums.

His performances were far from good enough.


2012

The Ferrari was a very poor car at the start of the season. While Alonso managed to drag it around the track at a reasonable speed, Massa simply couldn't handle it.

This was somewhat expected; only the very best drivers can take a bad car and make it respectable.

But in a field with mere tenths separating the front-runners and the midfield, the size of the gap was just too big. After just two races, the knives were out, and lists of potential replacements were already being compiled.

After five, it seemed almost certain that he'd lose the seat at the end of the year—and possibly sooner.

Then Massa enjoyed a mini-revival at the sixth race, Monaco. He pretty much matched Alonso lap-for-lap most of the weekend, and finished close behind his teammate. That's exactly where Ferrari want him.

His pace was decent in Canada too, but an error early in the race put him into a spin and he fell from fifth to 11th, losing any chance of a podium finish. He'd demonstrated good pace at two very different circuits.

He wasn't especially poor at Valencia, either. The results say he finished a lap down while Alonso won, but on this occasion, Felipe was blameless. It was a combination oftrack debris, Kamui Kobayashi and a badly-timed (for him) safety car which left Massa a distant 16th.

And in the British Grand Prix, Massa qualified well in the rain and came home in fourth place, his best result of the season. In fact, it was his best result since 2010.

But one decent finish didn't prove a great deal. Felipe needed two good races before the summer break (a point at which a team may, if they haven't already, make a decision about their driver lineup for the next year).

In Germany, a first-lap accident dropped Massa to the rear of the field and he could only fight back to finish 12th. And in Hungary, a poor start from seventh left the Brazilian ninth after the first lap.

A race distance later, that was where he finished.


Has he proved a point?

The improvements in pace Massa has shown as the season has progressed won't harm his cause. In terms of pure pace, he appears to be largely within the window Ferrari want him operating in—within a few tenths of Alonso, with occasional blips.

Trouble is, he just isn't getting it done in the races. The pace he has means nothing if he can't convert it to good finishes.

It's true that he's had some poor luck here and there—Valencia, for example—but in Formula 1, a driver makes a lot of his own luck. If someone runs into trouble, it's usually because he put himself in trouble's way.

It doesn't matter that Felipe can point to a timesheet and say he was only 0.143-seconds slower than his teammate over the course of a lap.

What matters is the fact that, since he became able to drive the car at a half-decent pace (Monaco onwards), Massa has scored 23 points.

Alonso has scored 103.

I don't think he's done enough—and if he's still in F1 next year, it'll be a huge surprise.

 

Follow me on Twitter if you wish, @JamesNeilsen

 

Halfway Through the 2012 F1 Season That Has Never Failed to Thrill

By BRAD SPURGEON via IHT, nytimes.com

F1 Drivers Parade: Fernando Alonso in an Austin Healey Image by Gregory Moine via Flickr

HOCKENHEIM, Germany — We have now arrived at the halfway point of the longest Formula One season in history — 20 races, ending at the end of November — and I think it is safe to say that there has not yet been a boring race.

Formula One
Formula One

A view from the paddock with Brad Spurgeon.

The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on Sunday began looking as if it might end up a boring affair as Fernando Alonso scored pole position during a superb qualifying in treacherous, wet conditions and the Spaniard in the Ferrari looked set to hold onto the lead to the end. But with 25 laps left in the 67-lap race, a sudden teasing game began when Jenson Button in a McLaren managed to pass Sebastian Vettel in a Red Bull and take second position after starting sixth.

Button looked like he would capitalize on Alonso’s Ferrari’s frequent weakness: its tires’ performance at the end of races. As the British driver — who has not won since the first race of the season in Australia in March — pressured Alonso, at about a second behind him for many laps, the race became a scenario of suspense and guessing.

But guessing that this time it would be the McLaren that wore out its tires seemed unthinkable. Yet, suddenly, it was Button who became the prey to the rapidly attacking Vettel, who passed Button with less than three laps left and finished second.

Then, two hours after the race, there was more excitement as it was announced that Vettel had illegally passed Button by driving off the edge of the track at the hairpin to get past the McLaren driver, gaining an unfair advantage. Vettel was penalized, with 20 seconds added to his race time. He dropped to fifth in the race classification, which raised Kimi Raikkonen of the Lotus team to third place, and Button to second.

None of this changed the winner: Alonso claimed his third victory of the season — the only driver who can make that boast — proving once that again that he can capitalize on every opportunity that presents itself. He extended his lead in the series to 154 points. Mark Webber, in the other Red Bull, has only 120 points, while Vettel has 110.

But the race had the added benefit of showing what happens when the series’ five German drivers compete in their home race. Vettel, who has never won a race in July — and therefore never won his home Grand Prix — once again failed, with victory looking like it was teasing him, so close yet so far.

Michael Schumacher started third on the grid and finished seventh in a strong race which had the German driver outperforming his teammate — Nico Rosberg, another German, who finished 10th — for the third race in a row. And Nico Hulkenberg in a Force India, finished ninth.

The only German driver who did not finish in the top 10 was Timo Glock, in the inferior Marussia car that has not scored a point so far in its two and a half seasons in the series.

In the end, there was plenty to watch and dream about here, just as there has been at every race so far this year, and as the tight season no doubt promises for the next 10 races.

 

Not everyone is backing the latest Olympic F1 proposal

 

 Canadian gold rush - Proud to be Canadian. Vancouver trash bins during the 2010 Games (Image by Carson Ting via Flickr)

Olympic Park no place for F1 race, says Porritt

LONDON | Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:35am EDT

The possibility, however slim, of a Formula One race one day being held in the London Olympic Park left Green campaigner and environmentalist Jonathan Porritt boggling at the ironies of life on Wednesday.

Organisers of the Games, which open next week, are proud of their efforts to make the Olympics in east London as car-free as possible through an array of rail and bus links and secure bicycle parking.

At the same time, the London Legacy Development Corporation announced on Tuesday that one of the four bids to take over the Olympic stadium after the Games was from a little-known company acting in association with Formula One.

Premier League West Ham United remain the favourites to become tenants but F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who denies any direct involvement in the bid, has spoken in the past about his interest in hosting a race in London.

“Our life is full of irony isn't it,” smiled Olympic 'Sustainability Ambassador' Porritt, whose father Arthur was a bronze medallist for New Zealand in the 'Chariots of Fire' 100 metre race at the 1924 Paris Games.

“I find the whole story about F1 racing and sustainability quite difficult,” added the man whose focus has been on the sustainable design of Olympic venues and an environmentally-friendly legacy.

“F1 racing is a celebration of crazy, unsustainable use of cars in many ways and I would much rather that we would see more use of the park for cycling and all of those kind of things,” added the environmental activist and former director of the Friends of the Earth campaigning group.

The gas-guzzling sport of Formula One is trying to burnish its green credentials, with teams and factories offsetting their carbon footprint and the sport declaring itself carbon neutral.

Technical rules have been changed to make engines last longer, with bio-fuel and fuel efficiency set to be an increasingly important factor, while manufacturers are also keen to establish a link between racing and 'greener' road cars.

Organisers have pushed urban street circuits, such as Singapore or Montreal where spectators do not have to drive to grands prix, and compared the sport favourably to the Tour de France cycle race which is followed daily by a long caravan of vehicles.

The sport, however, depends on criss-crossing the globe, and teams fly cars in jumbo jets to circuits from Brazil to Australia to Singapore.

SOCHI PLANS

While the Formula One-angled bid for the London stadium looks a long-shot, the 2014 Winter Games in the Russian resort of Sochi has a grand prix as part of its legacy planning.

The first race there is scheduled for the months after the Games, using some of the same facilities built for the Olympics.

“One is bound to say that these things just sound dissonant,” said Porritt.

“Motor car racing just doesn't fit in that stable for me.

“To me it's extraordinary that anyone could think this could be on the side of the angels when it comes to sustainability but there we go,” he told Reuters.

Despite London's best efforts to limit car usage, something also pushed by fears of gridlock on narrow congested roads at Games time, VIP guests and Olympic officials will be whisked around town in a fleet of BMWs.

“They will be very noticeable to people living in central London because they will be whizzing up and down those specially designated lanes and probably making people a bit angry on that score,” conceded Porritt.

“Who knows, in 20 years time, maybe there will be no cars at all even for members of the IOC.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ossian Shine)

 

Ecclestone – no fear of Hockenheim arrest

 

Bernie Ecclestone has denied suggestions he will not risk travelling to Germany next month.

Bernie Ecclestone inspecting the Paddock Club Image by Nick J Webb via Flickr

Bild newspaper indicated recently the F1 chief executive might skip the race after this weekend's British grand prix for risk of arrest.

Speculation is ramping up that Ecclestone, 81, will be charged for bribery, after former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was convicted and jailed last week for receiving the payments from the Briton.

“The only thing I did wrong is that I personally paid him ten million pounds”, Ecclestone told the German newsmagazine Focus, explaining the money was paid because Gribkowsky was threatening to cause trouble with his British tax affairs.

But what about the risk of arrest in Germany?

“Of course I'm going to Hockenheim,” Ecclestone insisted.

Time will tell what the next step will be, given the Munich court's depiction last week of Ecclestone as the “driving force” of Gribkowsky's corruption.

“The prosecutors' attitude has been quite aggressive in the last couple of days,” an unnamed person close to Ecclestone told the Financial Times.

Are charges likely?

“No idea,” Briton Ecclestone insisted.

The publication suggested Ecclestone may be suspended as F1's chief executive by owners CVC if he is charged.

“What we ought to do is wait and see, shouldn't we?” Ecclestone said.

CVC declined to comment.

(GMM)

Ecclestone ‘Co-Perpetrator’ In Bribery, Prosecutor Says

Via Bloomberg — By Oliver Suess – Jun 27, 2012 3:34 AM PT

Bernie Ecclestone Image by RyanBayona via Flickr

Formula One’s Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ecclestone said June 21 he doesn’t expect to be charged in a bribery case and that he was “not at all” concerned the case would disrupt Formula One’s planned initial public offering in Singapore. 

Bernie Ecclestone was a conspirator in a bribery scheme that sent $44 million to a Bayerische Landesbank executive to clear the 2005 sale of the lender’s stake in Formula One racing, prosecutors said.

Formula One Chief Executive Officer Ecclestone, “hasn’t been blackmailed, he is a co-perpetrator in a bribery case,” public prosecutor Christoph Rodler said in closing arguments at a Munich trial against former BayernLB Chief Risk Officer Gerhard Gribkowsky. The two men agreed they “would support a sale of BayernLB’s Formula One stake to Ecclestone’s benefit.” 

Ecclestone, who isn’t a defendant in the case and hasn’t been charged with the crime, is planning an initial public offering for Formula One in Singapore where shareholders intend to raise as much as $3 billion. Gribkowsky, on trial for accepting bribes, breach of trust and tax evasion, confessed last week to the charges and said Ecclestone bribed him  during the sale of the lender’s stake in the racing company to CVC Capital Partners Ltd.

Gribkowsky told the court the indictment against him was “in most parts” correct. In exchange for his confession, the judges informally agreed Gribkowsky would get a prison term ranging from 7 years and 10 months to 9 years. Rodler sought a longer sentence of 10 years and six months today.

“Gribkowsky’s confession came at a late stage on day 45 of the trial, but at least it was made,” Rodler said referring to payments made by Ecclestone to Gribkowsky. “Ecclestone doesn’t give away money, he generates it; that’s why bribery remains as the only explanation.”

Not Concerned

Ecclestone said June 21 he doesn’t expect to be charged and that he was “not at all” concerned the case would disrupt Formula One’s planned IPO in Singapore.

Ecclestone, who is being investigated by Munich prosecutors over the issue, told the court last year he was caught up in a sophisticated shakedown and paid Gribkowsky because he feared the banker might tell U.K. tax authorities about a family trust controlled by his then wife.

Prosecutors charged Gribkowsky, who managed Munich-based BayernLB’s interest in Formula One, with accepting bribes, breach of trust and tax evasion. They claim he received $44 million to steer the sale of the bank’s 47 percent stake in the racing circuit to CVC, a U.K.-based buyout firm, and also agreed to a sham contract under whichEcclestone received a kickback. Until last week, Gribkowsky denied the claims.

Vital Interest

“Ecclestone had a vital interest to get rid of the banks as he feared for his life’s work,” Rodler said. “He massively supported the sale with everything within his power.”

At the same time, “Gribkowsky was looking for an exit from the dusty state-owned bank and the sale of the Formula One stake was his last chance to play a role in the racing series,” Rodler added.

BayernLB acquired the Formula One stake after the 2002 bankruptcy of Leo Kirch’s media group. Gribkowsky clashed with Ecclestone and sued him in London over corporate-governance rules changed to limit the lender’s influence. Ecclestone wanted to push BayernLB out and saw a chance when CVC showed interest, prosecutors said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Suess in Munich at osuess@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@Bloomberg.net.