Latest F1 news in brief – Saturday

  • With Ghosn in jail, just how long will the Renault F1 program really be safe/
    With Ghosn in jail, just how long will the Renault F1 program really be safe?

    Renault team safe amid Carlos Ghosn scandal

  • Wolff wants Lauda 'back at full speed'
  • Wolff denies 2020 seat guaranteed for Ocon
  • Kubica could attract top team attention – Wolff
  • Stroll-Force India announcement due in 'hours'
  • Alonso could test McLaren in 2019 – Brown
  • Alonso 'character' caused F1 exit – Trulli
  • Mercedes to finally use controversial wheels
  • Force India protest about 'equality' – Steiner
  • Stewards dismiss Haas's protest against Force India

Renault team safe amid Carlos Ghosn scandal

(GMM) Cyril Abiteboul has played down suggestions Renault's F1 project could be affected by the Carlos Ghosn affair.

Ghosn, the CEO of the major car manufacturer Renault, is currently in prison in Tokyo.

Asked what impact the scandal will have on the F1 team, boss Abiteboul said in Abu Dhabi: "It's fair to say that Carlos Ghosn was instrumental in the decision to return in late 2015, but obviously it's not just one man's decision.

"It was debated at length in executive committee, at board level, and that was the decision of the company," he added.

Abiteboul said Renault has been in F1 for decades, and is currently in the middle of a serious project to eventually take on Ferrari and Mercedes for the title.

"We have no information that there will be any impact," he said, referring again to the Ghosn saga.

Wolff wants Lauda 'back at full speed'

Niki Lauda
Niki Lauda

(GMM) Niki Lauda has told Mercedes he will be back at the F1 tracks "soon".

The team chairman and F1 legend actually wanted to come to Abu Dhabi, but according to Austrian radio O3, that plan was vetoed by doctors.

"He didn't lose the race to come to Abu Dhabi, he won it because he is smart," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Bild newspaper.

"I prefer Niki to be back at full speed."

Lauda, 69, has made his first appearance since his lung transplant, telling Mercedes' race team in Abu Dhabi by video message that he will be back soon.

"This was the Niki we know," Wolff said. "He said the pressure will soon be greater because he will soon be back."

Wolff added of the one minute video: "It was a cool thing and everyone was happy."

Wolff denies 2020 seat guaranteed for Ocon

Wollf and Ocon
Wolff and Ocon

(GMM) Toto Wolff has slammed suggestions he has already guaranteed Esteban Ocon the race seat at Mercedes for 2020.

Furious about Ocon's clash with Max Verstappen in Brazil a fortnight ago, Red Bull official Dr Helmut Marko said the Dutchman had been taken out by "a driver who already has a Mercedes deal for 2020".

"It's a waste of time to comment even for one second on what Dr Marko says," Mercedes team boss Wolff told the Finnish newspaper C More.

Finn Valtteri Bottas currently drives for Mercedes, so when asked if there is any truth whatsoever to Marko's claim, Wolff insisted: "No, it's not true."

Wolff announced in Abu Dhabi that Frenchman Ocon will be Mercedes' reserve driver in 2019.

That is because with Lance Stroll taking his seat at Force India, the last available cockpit for 2019, at Williams, has now been filled by Robert Kubica.

"We knew that Williams had financial problems and that they had to find a certain budget," Ocon told France's L'Equipe.

"But it's not the end of the world. I will still be always in the paddock, still working in formula one, with my goal to return in 2020," he added.

Kubica could attract top team attention – Wolff

Kubica was slow in preseason testing and again in Practice 1 Friday. He brought a large check, so he has a seat for 2019
Kubica was slow in preseason testing and again in Practice 1 Friday. He brought a large check, so he has a seat for 2019

(GMM) Robert Kubica could return to the front of the grid in formula one.

That is the view of Toto Wolff, after the Williams team announced that the Pole will make his F1 racing return with the struggling British team in 2019.

Kubica, now 33, has a permanent arm injury, but Mercedes team boss Wolff says it is possible the former BMW and Renault driver could return to the top teams' radars.

"If he blows George Russell away in every session and suddenly Williams is in eighth position rather than eighteenth, then I assure you that every big team will look at Robert again," he told Eleven Sports.

Wolff said Kubica will also help to move Williams forwards in 2019, after the once-great team hit rock bottom this year.

"Paddy Lowe and his people started working on the new car very early. I think next year's Williams will be much faster than this year's," he said.

And if that happens, Wolff thinks Kubica will be an interesting prospect for top teams.

"If Robert drives at the highest level, develops the Williams and accelerates the team, I think the big teams could be interested again no matter what is the situation with his arm," he said.

Stroll-Force India announcement due in 'hours'

Lance Stroll's switch to Daddy's Team imminent
Lance Stroll's switch to Daddy's Team imminent

(GMM) Lance Stroll's switch from Williams to Force India will finally be announced in the coming hours.

With Robert Kubica now completing Williams' 2019 lineup, it remains an open secret that Stroll is moving to Force India which has been bought by his billionaire father.

"You can count the hours to find out," Lance Stroll is quoted by Le Journal de Montreal, amid a rumor that Abu Dhabi will be the scene of the official announcement.

"I cannot wait to turn the page and move on to another chapter of my career," he added.

Stroll, 20, does not hide that Force India will be his 2019 destination.

"It will be a privilege to work with my dad," he said.

"I owe him everything. He is demanding, but he has learned to succeed in all his projects. He does not accept half measures and I will do everything to demonstrate that he was right to trust me."

Stroll even hinted that he will get his first taste of life at Force India next week, in the post-race test.

"That's the plan," he said. "I do not plan to leave Abu Dhabi on Sunday night."

Alonso could test McLaren in 2019 – Brown

Brown tries to placate Alonso
Brown tries to placate Alonso

(GMM) Zak Brown says Fernando Alonso is free to drive McLaren's 2019 car next year.

As he races in F1 for the final time for now, Alonso's car in Abu Dhabi features the words 'Hasta Luego', meaning something like 'See you later'.

That next appearance in F1 could be for a test, McLaren boss Brown said.

"I would not exclude it. If Fernando wants to test the car, we are open to getting his feedback. He would only have to call us," Brown said.

Alonso confirmed: "Zak wants me to stay in touch with the team.

"I will have to see my availability, my desire, and if I can help McLaren, Carlos (Sainz) and the conditions interest me, I will accept.

"If not, I will try to rest at home," the Spaniard smiled.

"I want to be free to choose what I want to do, without a calendar so strict that I know what I'm going to do from January to December."

Alonso 'character' caused F1 exit – Trulli

Alonso was his own worse enemy
Alonso was his own worst enemy

(GMM) Fernando Alonso is leaving F1 because of his "strong character".

That is the view of the Spaniard's former Renault teammate, Jarno Trulli.

Alonso, 37, is quitting F1 to race at the Indy 500, Le Mans and some other "iconic" races in 2019, but is not ruling out a return for 2020.

"Alonso was a great teammate, but he had a strong character," Italian Trulli told Omnisport.

"In the team it was not easy to manage, not only as a driver but as a person. That has been demonstrated during his career," he added.

"Unfortunately, his character led him to a situation in which he had no opportunity, despite being one of the best.

"He did not have a competitive car to stay in formula one, so he has been obliged to retire, even though that time does come for everyone," Trulli said.

Mercedes to finally use controversial wheels

New wheels on left
New wheels on left

(GMM) Mercedes looks set to use its controversial wheel rim design this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

In the past few races, Ferrari has argued to the FIA that the holes in the rims contravened the rules about moveable aerodynamic parts.

Mercedes, therefore, kept filling the holes with silicone.

"We tested them on Friday and now we will decide if we will use them in qualifying and the race and in what form — opening the holes or not," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said in Abu Dhabi.

"We wanted to avoid disputes over this during the season," he explained.

"Ferrari did not like the design, and although we received permission from the FIA, we did not want the fate of the championship to be decided in a courtroom.

"Now that everything in the championships is decided, we can argue about this after the race without it affecting the results of the championship," Wolff declared.

Force India protest about 'equality' – Steiner

Anti-American Haas boss Gunther Steiner
Anti-American Haas boss Gunther Steiner

(GMM) Haas is merely seeking "equal treatment" in deciding to protest against the legality of Force India's cars.

That is the view of Haas boss Gunther Steiner, after the American team lodged a formal protest to the stewards in Abu Dhabi.

Haas is claiming that, as a brand new entrant, 'Racing Point Force India' is illegally using cars that were not technically designed by the new team.

The dispute comes after Liberty Media agreed to pay Force India $60 million in the form of its so-called 'Column 1' payments under the Concorde Agreement.

A 'new' team like Haas is not normally entitled to Column 1 money for two years.

"We are just looking for equal treatment for all the teams," Steiner is quoted by Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

"We are not trying to get more, but just what teams in the future know what they are entitled to," he added.

"We entered formula one under certain conditions, and we do not feel that this has happened on this occasion with Force India.

"So we want equality, or least an explanation as to why that has not happened," Steiner said.

The stewards are set to rule on the protest on Saturday.

Steiner said: "Initially we tried to find a friendly solution, but we have not received any answer. At some point you have to act."

Stewards dismiss Haas's protest against Force India

Steiner was seen with the official F1 Crying Towel afterward
Steiner was seen with the official F1 Crying Towel afterward

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix stewards have dismissed Haas’s protest against Force India.

Haas had protested both Force India cars on the grounds the team “is not a ‘constructor’ within the meaning of such terms as set out in Article 6.3 and Appendix 6 of the 2018 Formula One Sporting Regulations and accordingly asserted that FIM is not eligible to enter such cars in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship."

“The stewards decided that the Racing Point Force India F1 Team satisfied, from August 23, 2018, the definition of a ‘Constructor’ under the 2018 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations."

The decision by the stewards reiterated the view that Racing Point Force India was considered a new team which replaced the previous entry.

“Racing Point Force India F1 Team became a Competitor on 23 Aug 2018 when its Super License was signed and issued by the FIA," the decision notes.

“The Racing Point Force India F1 Team was recognized by the FIA as an F1 Constructor on 23 Aug 2018 when its F1 Entry Form was accepted, resulting in the issuance of its Super License, and when on the same day it signed the Bilateral Settlement Agreement with the FIA."

Full Press Release

Haas F1 Team Protest – Decisions
1. The Stewards received two protests from Haas F1 Team (“Haas"), one against Car 31 (Driver Esteban Ocon) and one against Car 11 (Driver Sergio Perez) of the Racing Point Force India F1 Team.
2. The identical protests alleged that “Force India Mercedes" (“FIM") (Racing Point Force India F1 Team or “RPFI") is not a “constructor" within the meaning of such terms as set out in Article 6.3 and Appendix 6 of the 2018 Formula One Sporting Regulations and accordingly asserted that FIM is not eligible to enter such cars in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship.
3. Haas and FIM representatives were summoned to a hearing of the Stewards which commenced at 1100 hrs (UAE time) Friday November 23. The FIA was also invited to be represented.
4. Haas and FIM representatives included their respective legal counsel. Due to the significance of the matters to be discussed, the stewards gave their advance approval for such representation and extended the same courtesy to the FIA, which accepted the offer to also be represented by counsel.
5. Present at the hearing were
• Mr. Peter Crolla (Team Manager Haas F1 Team)
• Mr. Gunther Steiner (Team Principal Haas F1 Team)
• Mr. Jeremy Courtenay"Stamp (Legal Representative Haas F1 Team) " via teleconference
• Ms. Leslie Ross (General Counsel FIM)
• Mr. Andy Stevenson (Sporting Director FIM)
• Mr. Mark Gay (Legal Representative FIM)
• Mr. Charlie Whiting (FIA Formula One Director)
• Mr. Pierre Ketterer (FIA Head of Governance, Integrity and Regulatory Affairs) – via teleconference
6. The Stewards declared that the protests had been lodged within the applicable time limit as specified in the International Sporting Code (“the Code"), accompanied by the required fee, and hence decided to proceed to hear the two protests concurrently.
7. The parties were advised that the Stewards wished to make an audio recording of the proceedings and were asked if there were any objections. No objections were raised.
8. In advance of the hearing, and during it, the parties submitted numerous documents. These are listed in Appendix A to this Decision.
Background
9. On July 28, 2018, Sahara Force India Formula One Team went into Administration.
10. On August 16, 2018, Racing Point UK Limited entered into a sale agreement with Force India Formula One Limited (in Administration) and Geoff Rowley and Jason Baker as administrators of Force India, for the acquisition by Racing Point of the business and assets of Force India. (This was evidenced by reference to the Deed of Novation and Amendment and was not disputed by any of the represented parties).
11. On August 21, 2018 Mr. Otmar Szafnauer signed an entry form on behalf of Racing Point UK Limited for RPFI to enter two cars with a “Force India" chassis in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship.
12. On August 23, 2018 the FIA issued a Super License for Racing Point Force India F1 Team
13. During the period prior to August 23, numerous agreements were entered into and these are included in the documents listed in Appendix A.
14. The “new" team RPFI competed at its first Formula One Grand Prix in Spa, Belgium, commencing with scrutineering on August 23.
The Hearing
15. The hearing commenced at 1100hrs (UAE time) and was suspended at 1204hrs to allow Haas and the FIA representatives time to examine documents that were tabled during the hearing. The hearing reconvened at 1545hrs and concluded at 1651hrs.
16. Mr. Courtenay"Stamp (for Haas) submitted that the Championship is only for eligible “constructors" and that the cars presented by RPFI do not comply with the definition of “constructor" in Article 6.3 and Appendix 6 of the 2018 F1 Sporting Regulations. 17. Art 1 of Appendix 6 of the 2018 F1 Sporting Regulations states that a competitor “shall in respect of the Listed Parts to be used in its cars in Formula One, only use Listed Parts which are designed by it.
18. He noted also that Art 2 of Appendix 6 allowed for the “outsourcing" of the “design and/or manufacture" of any Listed Part to a “third party".
19. However, such outsourcing has several provisos including (b) which states that the third party shall not be a “competitor".
20. Mr. Courtenay"Stamp argued that RPFI did not design the Listed Parts and alternatively did not outsource them.
21. The protest also asserted that the definition of “competitor" should be construed to include previous, existing or excluded competitors.
22. Mr. Courtenay"Stamp asserted that the FIA cannot exercise its sole discretion to accept an entry in the championship (under Art 8.5 of the 2018 F1 Sporting Regulations) if that party is not a “constructor" in accordance with the definition in Art 6.3 and Appendix 6 of those regulations.
23. Mr. Gay (for RPFI) summarized the chronology of events from the date when Sahara Force India went into Administration. He explained that normally in these situations a new potential owner of an F1 team would purchase the shares in the company from the Administrators; however, in this case because of the situation of the two major shareholders this was not possible.
24. Mr. Gay noted that the Bilateral Settlement Agreement of August 23 acknowledged that the sale of assets of the Sahara Force India team in Administration, was effective August 16, 2018.
25. He also noted Clause 2.5 of the Bilateral Settlement Agreement which acknowledged that the (new) Force India team was a constructor and that Clause 2.8 prescribed a significant penalty if the team ceased to be a constructor during the Term of the agreement.
26. Mr. Gay questioned under what provision Haas had any right to protest. He argued that the FIA had “absolute discretion" (as noted under 22 above) to accept RPFI as a constructor. He suggested that the matter should in any case not be heard by the Stewards but by the International Court (sic).
27. Mr. Gay also questioned the validity of the protest on a “timely" basis, stating that there had been eight events conducted since RPFI obtained its Super License and that any protest should have been lodged before the first event in which RPFI participated.
28. He further argued that the so"called “Budapest Agreement" to which Haas is a party, was, in effect, a waiver to any right to object to or protest the new arrangement.
29. In response, Mr. Courtenay"Stamp submitted that it had taken a long time for all the information to be available to Haas; indeed some was only made available on November 1 and more was made available during the hearing, so Haas did not have a full understanding of the arrangements in place until the time of this hearing.
30. He further argued Haas had the right to protest against decisions and, in particular, if it believed the regulations had not been complied with, including by the FIA, in taking the decision to admit a team to the Championship.
31. In response Mr. Gay argued that Article 1.2.3 of the Code gave the FIA the right to determine what was “safe, fair or orderly" and that this was not the responsibility of the Stewards.
32. The Stewards Chairman referred Mr. Gay to Articles 11.9.1 and 11.9.2a of the Code which the Stewards believed gave them the right and responsibility to hear the protest and make a determination on the matter.
33. For the FIA, Mr. Ketterer firstly declared the FIA had no objection to the disclosure of the documents referred to herein, for the purposes of this hearing only.
34. He stated the FIA was concerned with regulatory matters and not commercial ones in relation to this matter.
35. He noted that the Sahara Force India F1 Team had been excluded from the championship and that the FIA’s position was that RPFI is a new and different Team. He noted it held a new Super License dated 23 August 2018.
36. He further noted that the FIA is not a party to the Budapest Agreement and therefore it is not relevant from a regulatory perspective.
37. In particular he referred to the definition of Outsourcing in paragraph 9 of Appendix 6 of the 2018 F1 Sporting Regulations.
38. He noted that RPFI made a contract on August 16 2018 and in doing so obtained the rights to use all the parts previously owned by Sahara Force India F1 Team, and that as of that date, all assets were disposed of. Therefore, the former team had, as of that, date forfeited its rights.
39. Mr. Ketterer then noted that at no time did either the former team or RPFI design Listed Parts for any other competitor.
40. He strongly argued that using Listed Parts from a former team does not breach any FIA regulation and therefore the use, by RPFI of parts from the former team complied with the definition of Outsourcing.
41. In response, Mr. Courtenay"Stamp (for Haas) repeated that the Championship is only open to a competitor who is a constructor, that RPFI sourced Listed Parts from a past competitor, and that it did not design the Listed Parts.
42. Mr. Gay in summary argued that the FIA had acted properly and that this was an argument of “form over substance".
43. It was noted that neither Haas nor RPFI responded to the invitation from the Chairman of the Stewards to make a submission or comment on the definition of “Competitor" as it appears in the Code.

Decisions

Decision 1
In relation to the Racing Point Force India F1 Team submission that the Haas Formula One Team has no jurisdiction to challenge the decision of the FIA to accept its entry in the Championship under Article 8.5 of the 2018 Formula One Sporting Regulations, the Stewards decide that the Haas Formula One Team does in fact have the right under Article 13.2.1 of the Code to protest this action by the FIA. This article states a competitor has the right to protest against “the Entry of a Competitor or Driver".

Decision 2
The Racing Point Force India F1 Team argued the protest was not timely. The Stewards decide that the protest is timely because a significant amount of information was only available to the Haas Formula One Team in very recent times and further, Article 13.3 of the Code allows a protest to be lodged against the entry of a Competitor or Driver at an event, within 2 hours of the closing time for Official Scrutineering and Haas complied with this requirement.

Decision 3
In relation to the “Budapest Agreement" the Stewards decide that the assertion that this document waives the right of the Haas Formula One Team to object to an entry is not consistent with the wording of that Agreement but in any case, as submitted by the FIA, because the FIA was not a party to the Agreement, it has no relevance in regulatory matters.

Decision 4
In relation to the submission by the Racing Point Force India F1 Team that it is not a new team, the Stewards decide that the Racing Point Force India F1 Team is indeed a new team. It is a separate and different legal entity to the Sahara Force India F1 Team and it holds a different ASN Competition License issued by the MSA of Great Britain and a different FIA Super License. Therefore, it cannot be considered as the “same team" as the former Force India.

Decision 5
In relation to the Racing Point Force India F1 Team procuring Listed Parts from the Sahara Force India F1 Team (in Administration) the Stewards decide that the former team was not a “competitor" within the meaning of Appendix 6 Article 2 b) of the 2018 F1 Sporting Regulations. The former team was no longer a competitor in the 2018 Formula One World Championship as it had as of August 16, forfeited all its rights and ability to field two cars at any further Grand Prix in 2018. The Force India Formula One Team ceased to meet the FIA definition of both a Competitor and a Constructor on 16 August 2018 when all of its assets were sold. At that point it no longer possessed the resources to meet its obligations as either a competitor or constructor.

Decision 6
The Stewards decide in relation to the definition of “Outsourcing" that there is no regulatory support for the argument that Outsourcing of Listed Parts cannot come from a former or excluded team and therefore the procurement, by the Racing Point Force India F1 Team of Listed Parts from the Administrator, was permitted under the wording of Appendix 6 of the 2018 F1 Sporting Regulations.

Decision 7
The Stewards therefore decide that the Racing Point Force India F1 Team satisfied, from August 23, 2018, the definition of a “Constructor" under the 2018 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations. The reasons for this are;

1. Racing Point Force India F1 Team became a Competitor on 23 Aug 2018 when its Super License was signed and issued by the FIA.

2. The Racing Point Force India F1 Team was recognized by the FIA as an F1 Constructor on 23 Aug 2018 when its F1 Entry Form was accepted, resulting in the issuance of its Super License, and when on the same day it signed the Bilateral Settlement Agreement with the FIA.

Decision 8
The Stewards decide that the entry of Racing Point Force India Formula One Team is a valid entry in the 2018 Formula One World Championship because the FIA, under Article 8.5 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations has absolute discretion to accept or reject an application to compete in the Championship and under Article 8.1 has the right to accept a late entry if a place is available.

Decision 9
The Stewards decide to dismiss the protests lodged by Haas Formula One Team against Car number 11 and car number 31.

The Steward note their belief that the protests were lodged in good faith considering that there was significant material that only came to the attention of the protesting party, in recent times. Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal the decisions of the Stewards (with the exception of those referred to in Article 12.2.4 of the FIA International Sporting Code), in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Article 9.1.1 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.

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