Latest F1 news in brief – Thursday (Update)

UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

02/20/14

  • Hamilton in the fast Mercedes in Bahrain

    No 'quick fix' to Red Bull crisis – Vettel

  • Vettel opposed to double points despite Red Bull crisis
  • Formula E to make 'few quid' then collapse – Ecclestone
  • Even small teams driving up F1 costs – Louis
  • Berger 'not surprised' by Mercedes' fast start
  • No Martini livery launch for Williams in Bahrain
  • Massa hid Williams talks from manager
  • Lopez tips new Lotus to 'go like hell'
  • Verdict expected in Ecclestone case
  • Lotus finally confirms 2014 Renault deal
  • Ecclestone wins Formula 1 sale case, but judge calls deal corrupt New

No quick fix to the Red Bull design flaws

No 'quick fix' to Red Bull crisis – Vettel
(GMM) Red Bull's early-season crisis has raced from Jerez into Bahrain, as the second of just three pre-season tests began in the island Kingdom.

"Obviously we're not happy with where we are now and we have a long way ahead of us," said world champion Sebastian Vettel, after completing just 14 laps in the troubled Renault-powered RB10 on Wednesday.

The German warned that the problems – different to the overheating and Renault-related issues that almost completely wrote off the Jerez test – will not have "a quick fix".

"Very often you fix one problem and another pops up, which is what happened," said Vettel.

Team figures Adrian Newey and Dr Helmut Marko admitted recently that the main Red Bull problem at Jerez was overheating.

And that also seemed a problem in Bahrain, with Guardian correspondent Paul Weaver reporting an obvious "smell of scorching" from the Red Bull garage.

Vettel, meanwhile, was seen snatching a fire extinguisher from a hesitant marshal after breaking down on track.

"Our guys are getting very little sleep right now – one to three hours maximum," the 26-year-old driver told reporters.

Vettel said it would be wrong to "separate" Red Bull's problems from troubled partner Renault's, and there were concerned faces all round when Renault president Jean-Michel Jalinier met on Wednesday with Marko and Christian Horner.

Lotus also struggled to run its Renault-powered E22 on Wednesday, but Renault's engineering chief Remi Taffin sounded happier in the island Kingdom.

"To be honest I don't think we are that bad now," Italiaracing quotes the Frenchman as saying.

"Today we were able to use our power unit as we wanted. Certainly, we are not at the ideal level, but at least we have a good basis.

"Generally, the problems are not as severe as they were at the start, but we still have to solve all of them. We are on the road to recovery," Taffin insisted.

He said even the looming FIA homologation date, February 28, is not a huge concern.

"If I told you everything is in place today I'd be lying," said Taffin, "but I'm confident that eventually we will have an engine which we will be fully satisfied in taking to Melbourne."

Toro Rosso also had major problems on Wednesday, but the Renault-powered Caterham collected a healthy tally of laps.

"There were cars in the garage because there were problems related to the engine," Taffin admitted, "but if you look at Caterham, they drove 60 or 70 laps.

"So we are satisfied with the basis of today. We don't yet understand all of the problems, but we will."

Vettel opposed to double points despite Red Bull crisis
(GMM) Despite Red Bull's early season technical crisis, Sebastian Vettel is still opposed to the new 'double points' innovation.

It is widely believed that, having seen viewership numbers decline amid Vettel's utter dominance late last season, Bernie Ecclestone pushed hard for the controversial double-points concept for the 2014 title finale.

Unsurprisingly, Vettel – having won the last 9 races of 2013 on the trot – was not supportive.

"This is nonsense, and punishes those who have worked hard for the rest of the season," he said at the time.

But those comments were made before Red Bull and Renault struck serious technical trouble with the team's new RB10 car.

As the crisis entered a second test week in Bahrain, German Vettel was asked on Wednesday if he is now suddenly supportive of double points, given he might eventually need a boost to catch the runaway 2014 title leaders.

"I think it's February, yes the season starts in four weeks, but I think that's not fair, that's a bit too harsh," Vettel answered.

"No matter which way I'm not a big fan of the double points because I don't understand the reason for it, but yeah, I hope that up to that point we have had lots of good races," he added.

"I don't see any reason to panic — I know that everyone is working flat out to find a solution."

Formula E to make 'few quid' then collapse – Ecclestone
(GMM) Organizers of the new Formula E series expect to make some quick money and then see the concept collapse.

That is the view of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who despite the involvement of several well-known figures, teams and drivers, thinks the FIA category involving near-silent electric-powered single seaters racing in cities including Los Angeles, Berlin and London is ultimately doomed to fail.

"For them (the organizers) it's a commercial thing," Ecclestone told Zone One Radio.

"One or two of them are going to make a few quid and that will be the end of it," the 83-year-old Briton told interviewer Matthew Layton at the recent Zoom photographic charity auction.

"I can't see it ever working. I know how much it costs to put a street race together," Ecclestone said.

Even small teams driving up F1 costs – Louis
(GMM) Even the smaller teams are guilty of worsening F1's growing financial crisis.

That is the view of the departing Lotus chief executive Patrick Louis, who admitted the Enstone team baulked at signing Nico Hulkenberg for 2014 purely for financial reasons.

"The (financial) situation in formula one is clear and if there is no response, the sport will eventually decay by a shrinking field of starters," he told the German-language website motorsport-magazin.com.

He said even the smaller, struggling teams are spending big in order to create the impression of financial health "that is not true".

For example, Louis said small teams use five-star hotels, which "From a business perspective is absolute nonsense".

The same teams, he added, are driving up salaries.

"A person who was strategically very important for us and was in the salary range of 90-100 thousand a year was lured from us with 180,000 pounds," said Louis.

Even a worker in the factory, earning in the mid-30,000 pounds range, was lured from Lotus with a higher salary "from teams that were far behind us in the championship standings".

Louis said those teams then complain about escalating costs "That they themselves have driven".

"For me, it's economic suicide," he added.

And it's the rising costs, Louis revealed, that led to the decision to overlook the obvious preferred choice Hulkenberg in favor of Pastor Maldonado, who brings millions to the team in the form of PDVSA backing.

"At some point you have to make a decision and accept that as a team you need to get a budget together," he explained.

"For me, Hulkenberg is an excellent driver. One of the few talents there are.

"I'm not saying that we made compromises, but we decided to invest more time in a driver (Maldonado) who to a large extent is comparable with where Romain Grosjean was with us in 2012.

"He (Grosjean) was criticized, we were called completely crazy to keep him, and now the same people are saying he's a great driver," Louis said.

Berger 'not surprised' by Mercedes' fast start
(GMM) Gerhard Berger, who is famously close to Red Bull's inner circle, has admitted Mercedes is heading into the 2014 season as the favorite.

World champions Red Bull, powered by Renault, are in the midst of a technical crisis with the new RB10 car, while Mercedes has got off to a flying start in the revolutionary new V6 era.

"I am not surprised that Mercedes has built the best engine," former F1 driver and Austrian Berger, who last decade co-owned the Toro Rosso team with Red Bull, told Germany's Sport Bild.

He predicted 2014 would ultimately be a "struggle between the genius of Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel against Mercedes technology".

However, Berger sees a glimmer of hope for Red Bull.

"In 1989 at Ferrari we managed three laps in the pre-season but my teammate Nigel Mansell won the first race," he said.

But as far as Lewis Hamilton is concerned, Mercedes' pre-season is going smoothly.

"It's very difficult to know where we are in terms of performance," the Briton said in Bahrain on Wednesday, "but in terms of reliability we are in front."

When asked about Mercedes' apparent dominance in 2014 so far, however, Renault Sport's engineering chief Remi Taffin did not want to comment.

"It would be a waste of time to be looking at what they're doing (now)," he is quoted by Italiaracing.

"If we are in a position to beat them, then we will look at them," he added.

No Martini livery launch for Williams in Bahrain
(GMM) Williams will not reveal its new Martini livery in Bahrain.

Earlier this week, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the official wraps would come off the highly-anticipated partnership in the second week of testing in the island Kingdom.

But that is not the case, Speed Week correspondent Mathias Brunner insists.

"The speculation was a bit short-sighted," he said. "Alcohol advertising is frowned upon in Arab countries."

For instance, Sauber has removed the name of its tequila sponsor for this week's running, replacing it with a 'hot sauce' brand within the same Mexican stable.

So the Martini deal will be revealed in Melbourne in grand prix week, probably the Wednesday or Thursday, Brunner said.

It also emerges that Williams will revamp its usual 'S' logo tribute to mark the twentieth anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna.

Ever since the great Brazilian was killed at the wheel of a Williams in 1994, the British team has carried his familiar logo on the front wing supports.

"Together with the Senna family, we're creating a new logo to use on our car this year," Brazil's Globo quotes deputy team boss Claire Williams as saying.

Massa hid Williams talks from manager
(GMM) Felipe Massa kept his talks with Williams last year secret even from his own manager.

The former Ferrari driver said that when he initially made contact with the British team, Williams asked him not to involve his manager Nicolas Todt.

That is because Todt, the son of FIA president Jean Todt, doubles as Pastor Maldonado's manager, whose Williams split – and that of his lucrative sponsor PDVSA – was already in full swing.

"Williams preferred to speak directly with me, because Nicolas was already dealing with the departure of Maldonado, who did not want to continue," Massa is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.

"I started talking by myself from the race in Japan and we agreed very quickly. But it all depended on the departure of Pastor and so it took a while (to finalize)," he added.

Gerard Lopez

Lopez tips new Lotus to 'go like hell'
(GMM) Acting team boss Gerard Lopez expects Lotus to be fully competitive in 2014.

Amid rumors of financial strife, the Enstone team sat out the opening Jerez test, and when the E22 finally made its public debut in Bahrain on Wednesday, it clocked the slowest time and a mere 8 laps.

Team owner Lopez, however – acting as team boss while the McLaren-departed Eric Boullier's successor is found – said Lotus was right to have voluntarily skipped Jerez.

"I predicted there would not be much to learn because of (technical) problems, so we saved a lot of money by staying home," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Grosjean tests the Lotus E22 in Bahrain Wednesday

The E22 then seemed to have a promising rollout at Jerez in the week after the official test, but in Bahrain on Wednesday Lotus struck Renault-powered trouble.

Nonetheless, Lopez is confident, dishing out high praise for the E22's designers, who have penned a car not only with a two-pronged nose, but an unusual asymmetrical solution for the exhaust and rear wing support.

"We have a super car," he said.

"The boys cannot believe the wind tunnel numbers. If we get those numbers on the track as well, the thing will go like hell.

"I can only hope we don't end up with three championships based on (engine suppliers) Mercedes and Ferrari and Renault," said Lopez.

Verdict expected in Ecclestone case
(GMM) The F1 world's attention will shift from pre-season testing to a London courtroom on Thursday.

A morning judgment is expected in the high-profile Bernie Ecclestone corruption affair, with Constantin Medien seeking a guilty verdict and $140 million in damages from the sport's embattled chief executive.

Thursday's news could also ramp up speculation the 83-year-old Briton's long reign over formula one is over, with Justin King – who has resigned after ten years in charge of British supermarket chain Sainsbury's – among the rumored frontrunners to replace him.

But Ecclestone told F1 business journalist Christian Sylt this week there is "no truth at all" to the King rumors.

"All he knows about (motor sport) is looking for support for his kids," Ecclestone, referring to King's racing driver son Jordan who is controversially backed by a range of Sainsbury's-linked names, told the Guardian.

52-year-old King has also been linked with the unfilled new role as McLaren's F1 chief executive, but a spokesman for the British team said that rumor is "untrue".

Lotus finally confirms 2014 Renault deal
(GMM) Lotus and Renault on Thursday finally announced a new engine deal for 2014 "and beyond".

The Enstone team had already begun winter testing with the French marque's new turbo V6 'power unit', but negotiations between the pair had been long and reportedly difficult.

"The relationship between Viry and Enstone has gone from strength to strength over the past few years," said Renault Sport F1 president Jean-Michel Jalinier.

"This is illustrated in no better way than the excellent – and very close – collaboration on the 2014 car, which is more technically complex than any previous designs."

F1's other Renault-powered teams are Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham.

Ecclestone wins Formula 1 sale case, but judge calls deal corrupt
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone won a multimillion-dollar case at London's High Court relating to the sale of F1 in 2005 on Thursday but the judge nevertheless said it was a corrupt deal.

A former F1 shareholder, German media company Constantin Medien, had sued Ecclestone and other defendants for up to $144 million, claiming F1 was undervalued at the time of the sale to investment group CVC Capital Partners.

Ecclestone was accused of entering into a "corrupt agreement" with a banker to facilitate the sale of Formula One Group to a buyer chosen by him.

Britain's High Court ruled Thursday that the deal was corrupt, but said that Constantin Medien did not lose out as a result.

During the trial, which ran from October to December last year, Constantin Medien's lawyers said that payments totaling about 27 million pounds ($45 million) were made to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky at the instigation of Ecclestone.

Gribkowsky, who was in charge of selling German bank BayernLB's 47-per cent stake in F1 to CVC, has already been found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust and is serving a 8 1/2-year prison sentence. Ecclestone acknowledged during Gribkowsky's trial that he made the payment to avoid being reported by the banker to authorities over his tax affairs.

"The payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr. Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky in May 2005 under which Dr Gribkowsky was to be rewarded for facilitating the sale of BLB's shares in the Formula One group to a buyer acceptable to Mr. Ecclestone," judge Guy Newey said in his conclusions.

Ecclestone is also facing trial in Germany. The 83-year-old is charged with bribery and incitement to breach of trust connected with the payment to Gribkowsky. The trial will begin on April 24 and is set to run until Sept. 16.

Bribery convictions can result in prison sentences ranging from three months to 10 years in Germany. Ecclestone said earlier this month he is expecting the case to be thrown out before the trial starts.

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