Latest F1 news in brief - Friday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
|Adrian Sutil back in F1 car?|
- Sutil could test Force India in Barcelona
- Mallya's troubles don't affect Force India - Fernley
- F1 continues trend for pay-channel TV deals
- Sauber gets environmentally friendly New
- Whitmarsh: Majority of teams struggling New
- Maldonado gets first test day in new FW35 New
- Williams launches new website New
- McLaren wins environmental award New
- Toto Wolff Q&A - I'll do everything to make Mercedes successful New
Sutil could test Force India in Barcelona
(GMM) Adrian Sutil has re-emerged as a front runner for the last spot on the 2013 grid, with news he had a custom seat fitted at Force India's Silverstone factory this week.
It was thought the Ferrari-linked Jules Bianchi, who tested the team's new VM06 at Jerez recently, was now the favorite, but Sutil's manager Manfred Zimmermann insisted this week he is "convinced" the German's push to return to F1 will work out.
Media reports now say former Force India racer Sutil, 30, had a seat fitting for the VJM06 this week.
A team spokesman confirmed the reports, adding: "At this stage the test driving schedule for the Barcelona test is not finalized but there is a possibility Adrian could be involved.
"The driving schedule will be communicated on Monday next week."
Mallya's troubles don't affect Force India - Fernley
(GMM) Boss and co-owner Vijay Mallya's financial problems do not affect Force India, deputy team principal Bob Fernley insists.
This week, it emerged that lenders to Mallya's failing airline Kingfisher are set to sell the billionaire's collateral assets as they recall the loans.
And the very latest reports are that Force India's title sponsor Subrata Roy, of the Indian giant Sahara, has had 100 of his and the conglomerate's bank accounts frozen by the Securities and Exchange Board of India over failing to repay investors.
Referring on Thursday to team supremo Mallya's troubles, Force India's Bob Fernley said: "There is a disconnect between what happens in Vijay's business and what Vijay is doing on the F1 team.
"Whether Kingfisher or United Spirits is doing well or not doesn't affect the team, and it's very difficult for us to get that message across, although we have been trying for several years," he is quoted by the Guardian newspaper.
F1 continues trend for pay-channel TV deals
(GMM) More countries have followed Britain's lead in seeing their exclusive free-to-air television coverage of formula one end.
The first bombshell was last year, when the split arrangement between pay-channel Sky and the BBC began for the British audience.
Sky's German arm has shared coverage with free-to-air RTL for years.
But on the heels of the British deal, the next was in Italy, where Sky Italia acquired the exclusive live rights for 2013 and beyond, sharing half the season with an unidentified free-to-air broadcaster.
Earlier in February, it emerged that pay broadcaster Sport1 has taken over the F1 rights in the Netherlands, ending free-to-air RTL7's long association with the sport.
Now, France is following suit, with reports TF1 - the country's F1 broadcaster since 1992 - has lost its exclusive coverage of formula one to Canal+.
Canal+, a pay-channel, has inked a three-year deal with F1, featuring only a Sunday magazine program for the free-to-air audience.
French media source RMC Sport said Canal+ is paying EUR 29 million per year for the deal.
The sports daily L'Equipe said the French broadcasting news is a "small earthquake in the world of formula one".
TF1's communications chief Frederic Ivernel suggested to the French news agency AFP that it lost the deal simply because it was outbid by Canal+.
"We cannot invest money in extravagant sports rights without it being profitable," he said.
Sauber gets environmentally friendly
Active protection of the environment has long been an important item on the Sauber F1 Team’s agenda. In 2011, with the aim of coordinating all activities in this area and providing an effective management tool, the team developed an ISO 14001-based environmental management system, which was subsequently certified.
The ISO 14001 standard stipulates that the executive committee assesses the environmental management system at regular intervals. The team does this by drawing up an annual report recording its environmental performance. Also available to the public, this report contains statements on the team’s environmental targets, measures and projects carried out in the past year, a summary of the most important environmental controlling results, and a list of key targets for the current year.
“The past year was a very gratifying one for us from an environmental point of view as well, not least because environmental awareness became more firmly anchored within our company,” notes Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO of the Sauber F1 Team. “Our employees are sensitized, alert and creative – as witnessed in the suggestion scheme and the environmental workshop we conducted. This gave rise to more than 40 proposals for improvement, most of which have been ticked off already.”
Last year also saw the implementation of several major environmental projects, such as the activation of the solar park and the offsetting of greenhouse gases generated by the team, which was partly achieved with support from partners. The environmental controlling figures also paint a pleasingly clear picture: there has been a significant cut in greenhouse gas emissions along with energy and water consumption. This means the company has achieved its targets and can rest assured that the measures it has introduced are delivering the desired results.
For the complete environmental report, please click on the following link: Environmental Report
Whitmarsh: Majority of teams struggling
Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone explained earlier this week that every team involved in the sport is financially stable and 'richer than God', but according to McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, the opposite is the case.
With the economic crisis still hanging over the Formula 1 paddock, Whitmarsh says most teams will find it challenging to "have a viable business model for a few years."
"It's tough," Whitmarsh explained to BBC Sport. "We're in the world of advertising and you only have to see how advertising is worldwide. The rate card is down. We have taken some measures, but I think it's going to be tough for some."
Whitmarsh believes the teams are suffering from the aftermath of the global financial crisis, with a number of sponsorship deals concluding at this time. In addition, the 54-year-old has described the way in which Formula 1's profits are shared between the teams is 'deeply frustrating', but admits it is up to each outfit to fight for itself.
"Bernie has done a fantastic job for the owners," he said. "We can criticize him but he's doing a better job than we are. He's keeping the money on behalf of his employers. That money whistles out of the sport and that's deeply frustrating for some of us, but that's exactly what he should be trying to do. If the teams aren't cohesive enough to work together to secure a larger share, they have to blame themselves."
The new Concorde Agreement, which has not yet been signed, will see the teams share 63 percent of the sport's overall profits, as opposed to 43 percent in the past.
Maldonado gets first test day in new FW35
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado will complete the first full test day in the FW35 at the Circuit de Catalunya, the Grove-based squad confirmed on Friday. The team will be the last to reveal its new design in Barcelona, having tested with its 2012 car at Jerez.
Following Maldonado's run on Tuesday, new team-mate Valtteri Bottas will get behind the wheel for the second day. The pair will then alternate for the final two days of running, equally sharing the morning and afternoon sessions on Thursday and Friday.
Williams development driver Susie Wolff is scheduled to shakedown the FW35 at the Idiada motorsport complex, to the north of Barcelona, before the test gets underway.
Williams launches new website
Williams is delighted to announce the launch of its new website, williamsf1.com, designed to progress the company’s communication, interaction and engagement with users.
The new website fulfils a number of objectives; enhancing the user experience with a clean and modern interface, whilst also placing an increased emphasis on social integration. The site also improves usability through its responsive design, enabling content optimization and visibility across any platform whether desktop, tablet or mobile.
Developed in conjunction with brand and digital agency Rufus Leonard, williamsf1.com consolidates the previous Williams web-estate. It brings together the varying aspects of Williams, including the Williams F1 Team, Williams Advanced Engineering, Williams Hybrid Power and the Williams Conference Centre, unifying and projecting the Williams brand. The simplified design enables fans, investors, partners, press, event organizers, new business and potential employees to experience what Williams has to offer.
Claire Williams, Director of Marketing and Communications, said; “We’re delighted to launch our new website. It provides a single platform that brings together all aspects of our business and digital communications.
“Williams has been synonymous with Formula One for over 30 years but it has expanded and diversified as a business and we required an online presence that befitted that. Our previous web estate consisted of a number websites, so to bring them all together in this manner, as well as building a new CMS and Email Distribution System is something that will enhance the experience for all users.”
To view the new website, visit: www.williamsf1.com
McLaren wins environmental award
McLaren have won the first award presented by the FIA in recognition of their efforts in becoming more environmentally sustainable.
The Environmental Award for the Achievement of Excellence is part of an initiative established by the governing body which aims to evaluate and reduce the environmental impact of motor sport.
It is also the highest level attainable within the FIA Institute's Sustainability Program, which helps motor sport stakeholders measure and improve their environmental performance.
"McLaren's award is an important step in the recognition by motor sport of the social responsibility our community must acknowledge if our championships are to remain in tune with the key environmental debates we are all a part of," said FIA President Jean Todt.
"The FIA and the FIA Institute are researching the environmental impact of motor sports across all our world championships."
The Sustainability Program is an accreditation scheme that enables stakeholders such as National Sporting Authorities, teams, circuits, manufacturers and event organizers to achieve higher standards.
Environmental performance is measured and improvements suggested. McLaren signed up for the scheme shortly after it was announced in June 2012 and Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said they are "delighted" to receive the award.
"It's great that the sport is encouraging those within it to improve their environmental performance and we are thrilled to be the first to achieve the highest level," he said.
Toto Wolff Q&A - I'll do everything to make Mercedes successful
He’s only been in the job a few weeks, but already Toto Wolff - recently appointed as Mercedes’ new head of motorsport - has focused his sights on improving the fortunes of the car manufacturer's Formula One team.
Last week, Wolff was in Jerez as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took the covers off Mercedes’ 2013 challenger, the F1 W04. After a mixed first test - which included two days of mechanical issues followed by two days of productive running - the 41-year-old Austrian spoke exclusively about how he landed one of the biggest roles in the paddock, his plans for the coming season, and the all-important chain of command at the team…
Q: Toto, your Mercedes appointment came as a bit of a surprise to many. You were part of the hierarchy at Williams and then suddenly you’re with Mercedes. How did it come about?
Toto Wolff: Actually it all went very quickly - within a couple of weeks. From let’s say informal discussions it developed into serious talking. I can only concentrate on one thing properly and I was fully committed to Williams. But then - when the Mercedes opportunity came up - it meant not only being involved with the Formula One team and running it, but also - on the motorsport side - taking over Norbert Haug’s legacy of 22 years as a motorsport director. I said to myself ‘Toto, this is an opportunity that only comes along every 20 years.’ It also meant going back to my roots a bit as I have been with Mercedes since 2005. So Mercedes is not new to me. I am involved in (Mercedes-affiliated DTM team) HWA so half of the things I have to do are almost business as usual. I know the guys and trust them and the commitment of the Mercedes board is there to do Formula One, so overall it is an exciting opportunity for me.
Q: When did it all really start to happen with Mercedes then?
TW: Just before Christmas. There was some talk over coffee earlier on, but nothing serious. But (it happened) in a matter of a couple of weeks. It was extremely efficient as the guys at Daimler knew what they wanted and I fitted the job description, so over the Christmas holidays I figured it out and here I am! (laughs)
Q: Did you immediately fall for the idea of working for Mercedes or did they have to woo you?
TW: I fell for the idea immediately because it is such a fantastic opportunity, being involved on the worldwide motorsport side and on the Formula One side, because I think that I can bring some added value. What was a real problem was the guys at Williams. I was there for three years and in various operational roles in the last year and people started to trust me. I was named as the successor. In reality there will never be a successor to Frank Williams, but I was meant to run the team. How was I going to tell Frank? That was really hard. I gave myself one week to see how I felt and after the third day I almost decided to stay at Williams. I like the people there so much - everybody, from the race team, to the marketing department to Frank himself. They all have been somewhat part of my family and to tell them that I was leaving was very hard. But then the opportunity is so huge. I spoke to the board and there was not one bad feeling - they all wished me luck and my relationship with them is completely intact. Frank’s first comment was ‘that’s interesting. I would do the same if such an opportunity came my way!’ So here we are!
Q: What do you bring to the table? It is a delicate job - Formula One racing wants Mercedes in the sport for the long haul, but this might depend on success...
TW: The commitment from Mercedes is there. Formula One needs patience. When you look back in history it shows that you cannot turn around a team within a couple of years. But then, where are we right now? Ross (Brawn) has worked hard with his team over the winter and there are some brilliant people there. I have met all of them in the last two weeks. That seems short, but you have an instant feeling if you get along with somebody or not and my gut feeling is positive. We will see where we are in a couple of weeks - actually Saturday March 16 at 5.00pm in Melbourne! By then I will develop a better picture of the structure of the team and see where input is needed.
Q: Why do you think Mercedes offered you the job?
TW: Mercedes had decided some years ago to come into Formula One with their own team and that was an important decision for them - to change their role from just being an engine supplier to having a team. Mercedes run a company with 200,000 employees and a turnover of 100 billion Euros, so running a tiny Formula One activity - but one which is in the media spotlight - is something very different. They wanted to come to a situation where they had somebody who was their partner, which makes me very proud. Who can claim he’s a partner of Mercedes? But they not only wanted a partner, but a partner who was a co-shareholder with an understanding of motorsport. We’ve known each other for quite a while so there was a certain trust - and vice versa. All these reasons add up to why I fitted the job profile.
Q: Right now there is a belief that Mercedes are confident that they are on an upward curve because you invested in the team, and the fear of losing money seems to be one of the hallmarks of a successful investor. Is that so?
TW: Exactly - it is all about having your neck on the line! (laughs) As they know I have put my neck on the line they know that I have no room for failure. Not only have I taken a personal risk by leaving Williams - where I have enjoyed working - but there is also a financial and economic side to it. There is a huge amount of trust on both sides and I am very happy having joined.
Q: What is the chain of command? There is Niki Lauda, then there is Ross and then there is you…
TW: The command structure is actually very clear. I think things were made up by the media a couple of weeks ago suggesting that it is not so clear, but that is not the case. Niki is the non-executive chairman of the board which means that he heads the board in non-operational, non-executive functions. He is a triple world champion; he is a good negotiator and he has good relationships. He is very straightforward and direct and is somebody who will be looking after the team. He is chairing the board but it is less of an operational function. Then there is the executive board that is running the company and I am part of the executive board. My angle is more from the commercial side, but of course there are overlaps to the racing activities with Ross. Ross is the team principal who is in charge of the racing team. Nick Fry is still the CEO, and as my role is twofold - on one side I represent Mercedes-Benz as their head of motorsport, on the other side I am a shareholder within the team - I will fit in the senior management.
Q: The team is based in Brackley whilst Mercedes are based in Stuttgart. The suggestion is that this long-distance relationship hasn’t worked too smoothly over the last three years. Was this the reason you moved all operations to Brackley?
TW: Yes. You cannot run a Formula One operation in the UK out of Germany. It is not only a difference in mentality - there is definitely a difference (laughs) - but it is also about physically being there. Running a company from a distance never really works, so the question is either you run it full time or you don’t. And if you don’t, then you rely on management. In the past I have done that, but it was not the role Mercedes had envisioned for me. It was understood that part of the deal was that I’m based in the UK and that is what I am doing. In reality, most of the time I will be travelling with Formula One and the DTM.
Q: So will you be following a similar schedule to the one that your predecessor Norbert Haug had?
TW: No, I will not do Norbert’s ‘world tour’. You can’t do that. I will be going to all the F1 races and I will be going to the major DTM races.
Q: What objectives are on your ‘to-do list’ for 2013?
TW: Well, I could say as much as I like that I had no involvement in the 2013 car - which is actually the truth in terms of car performance - but that doesn’t count. I have been here for two weeks but nobody cares whether I’ve been here one year or one week. I have taken up the responsibility so it is important to get a feeling for the people, and I have a good feeling for most of them. If it is not going in the direction I want, I will implement the structure that I think will work.
Q: What power do you have to change things?
TW: Power is not the issue - understanding the structure and making the right decisions is the core. I don’t right now, but I am there to represent Mercedes, I am there as a shareholder and I will do everything it needs to make this team successful. First it is watch and listen, and then I will give my opinion and execute my opinion.
Q: What about your two drivers? At Williams you often dealt with drivers who were relatively new to Formula One racing. Now you are working with two ‘complete’ racers…
TW: Both of them are very experienced drivers. Lewis (Hamilton) was a world champion with McLaren. I think for him it is also a new experience - being out of a structure he has been used to for so many years. Nico (Rosberg) is a front-running driver. He has been a frontrunner and in first place whenever the car was there. I don’t know them much on a personal level - I’ve had nice discussions with Lewis over the last couple of days and I must say it’s no wonder he is where he is. He is intelligent, switched on and has a huge amount of social intelligence. He is incredibly talented from what I have witnessed as an observer. In fact, I have watched both from their early days because of my activities with driver management and Formula Three engines. Now I am really looking forward to establishing nice relationships with two personalities of the sport.
Q: Do you ever wake up in the night thinking ‘what have I done? I had such a smooth life before and now I’m sitting on the ejector seat’…
TW: I had a nice life being the investor in companies and could blame the guys when they were doing it wrong or could enjoy the fruits and merits when they did well. Now I’ve slid into a fully operational role sitting in - as you call it - the ejector seat. The good news is I have the trigger in my hand and I would have never have got involved in something that I believed I couldn’t do. I know that Mercedes’ standard is to be a top team and if it is not the case then obviously it is going to be difficult to justify what I do.
Q: But you won’t let that happen?
TW: No, I will not let that happen. No.
Q: What would be a good year for you?
TW: If the team finishes in the top four and is a regular frontrunner and we win the DTM.
Q: A lot of people would say that the likelihood of Mercedes winning the DTM is probably greater than Mercedes finishing in P4 in the constructors’ championship…
TW: Ha, you said that (not me). I am convinced that if we sit down in a couple of years we are going to laugh about the current discussions.