Latest F1 news in brief – Friday

  • Red Bull to launch at Jerez, Pirelli staying until 2016
  • Nascar team owner aims for F1 in 2015
  • Ecclestone steps down from F1 board
  • Dennis returns, Whitmarsh future in doubt
  • Can Bernie Ecclestone survive latest blow to his F1 rule?
  • Lotus E22 passes FIA homologation tests
  • Q&A: John Watson on what Ron Dennis' return means for McLaren

Red Bull to launch at Jerez, Pirelli staying until 2016
(GMM) World champion team Red Bull will unveil its title-defending RB10 car on the first morning of the opening test at Jerez.

There had been some uncertainty designer Adrian Newey, who runs famously close to deadlines, would be ready for the start of the winter period late this month.

It was also announced late on Thursday that F1's controversial tire supplier since 2011, Pirelli, has definitively secured a new three-year tenure through 2016.

"Pirelli will continue to determine the specification of the tires and to manage all aspects of their development, in close consultation with the FIA and the teams," the Italian company said in a statement.

Nascar team owner aims for F1 in 2015
(GMM) An American team is bidding to enter formula one in 2015.

Bernie Ecclestone revealed on Thursday that he is in talks with two parties interested in the FIA's invitation to fill the final spot in pitlane.

It emerges that one of them is Gene Haas, a Nascar team owner.

"We have responded to the FIA's 'call for expression of interest'," he said, "and will share more details in the coming weeks."

Haas co-owns the Stewart-Haas team, and reports said he has an estimated net worth of $740 million.

It is claimed his team would be based in Charlotte.

Ecclestone steps down from F1 board
(GMM) Bernie Ecclestone's demise may now have begun, as the F1 chief executive stepped down from the sport's board.

The news on Thursday followed hot on the heels of confirmation that Munich prosecutors are indeed sending the 83-year-old Briton's involvement in the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery scandal to trial this year.

So the F1 holding company, Delta Topco, announced that Ecclestone "will step down as a director with immediate effect" until "the case has been resolved".

The statement said Ecclestone will continue to run F1 "on a day to day basis", but only "subject to increased monitoring and control by the board".

"Mr. Ecclestone has agreed to these arrangements," it added.

Germany's SID news agency said the trial will begin in late April, but Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko said it would not be unusual if a verdict is not known for "three or four years".

Dennis returns, Whitmarsh future in doubt
(GMM) McLaren is going back to the future with Ron Dennis, casting major doubt on the ongoing role of boss Martin Whitmarsh.

Whitmarsh took control after former long-time supremo Dennis' stepped down at the end of the 'spy' and 'lie' scandals five years ago.

But the British team announced on Thursday that Dennis is back as chief executive of the F1 division. The statement, making no mention of Whitmarsh, said further changes are looming.

Many have linked former Mercedes chief Ross Brawn with the Woking based team, who will switch to works Honda power for 2015 and beyond.

"Over the coming weeks I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimizing every aspect of our existing operations," Dennis said on Thursday.

Dennis' return follows McLaren's dire 2013 season, and means Whitmarsh never succeeded in delivering a title as chief executive.

Can Bernie Ecclestone survive latest blow to his F1 rule?
The decision by a German court to pursue Bernie Ecclestone over an alleged bribe represents the most serious threat yet to his control of Formula One. Following the announcement in Munich that he must stand trial, Ecclestone stepped down from the Formula One board but he continues to operate the sport's day-to-day running pending the hearing.

Q. So what is it all about and how will this development impact on the sport?

A. Ecclestone denies wrongdoing. The Munich prosecutor begs to differ. Here's why: Ecclestone paid £27m to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, engaged to manage the sale in 2005 of a 47 per cent stake in Formula One owned by a number of banks, of which his employer, Bayern Landesbank, was one. For his part in the affair Gribkowsky is serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence after being convicted in 2012 of receiving corrupt payments, non-payment of tax and breach of trust. Ecclestone admits to paying the £27m but claims he was being "shaken down" by Gribkowsky, who, according to Ecclestone, threatened to approach HM Revenue & Customs with "false evidence" about his financial affairs.

Q. Are there any other legal consequences?

A. Ecclestone is already awaiting the outcome of a High Court action at the end of last year in which the German media company Constantin Medien, former owners of Formula One, sued for £117m in damages, claiming the 2005 deal that took the business to CVC Capital partners undervalued the commercial rights to avoid triggering bonus payments that would have been owed to them.

Q. So what happens now?

A. A trial date is expected for April. Ecclestone will step down from the board but will continue to manage things on the ground. Though uncomfortable with the legal proceedings against him, CVC, whose shareholding has shrunk from 63 to 36 per cent, is prepared to allow Ecclestone to continue as chief executive, subject to increased monitoring and control by the board, until a judgment is passed down in Munich. The CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie said last November: "If it is proven that Mr. Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong, we would fire him."

Q. What next if Ecclestone is convicted?

A. The jailing of Gribkowsky and subsequent pursuit of Ecclestone was the trigger for the key players to consider their options. Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari and the sport's most influential figure after Ecclestone, has said governance must be reformed. The end of the one-man show is nigh, Di Montezemolo declared in his end-of-season address last month while announcing his intention to convene a meeting this month at Maranello attended by all the teams to discuss the future post-Ecclestone.

Q. Who are the favorites to assume Ecclestone's chief executive role?

A. Ecclestone's preferred choice is Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, who has overseen the rise of Sebastian Vettel and the team financed by Austrian soft drinks magnate Dieter Mateschitz to the pinnacle of the sport. The commercial deal with CVC runs until 2020. After that Di Montezemolo has floated the idea of the teams taking ownership and control of the sport.

Lotus E22 passes FIA homologation tests
Lotus has revealed that its E22 chassis has passed the FIA's mandatory homologation tests.

The new machine will not make its on-track debut until the pair of Bahrain tests in February and March, with the Enstone-based team choosing to skip the opening Jerez gathering to increase overall development time.

Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado form the outfit's 2014 line-up, sporting numbers eight and 13.

Q&A: John Watson on what Ron Dennis' return means for McLaren
Former McLaren driver John Watson discusses with Sky Sports Online what Ron Dennis' return to the role of CEO means for the team and the future of Martin Whitmarsh.

You worked with Ron Dennis during your time at McLaren, what difference do you think his return to the role of CEO will make to the team?
John Watson: "Well first of all I think it is a shock to everybody that Ron has masterminded this return to not specifically being the Formula 1 Team Principal in the way he would have been previously, but he is now in the role within the group of companies of which the F1 is a part, he is now in charge, that is his responsibility. So in effect Martin Whitmarsh who was the Team Principal will no longer be the Formula 1 team boss – Ron Dennis is now that person.

"If I think back to when Ron came into F1 at the beginning of 1981 and his dreams his, his aspirations, his ambitions of what he wanted this team to become and scroll forward to 2014, it is difficult to imagine what he can in the short-term to elevate the level of performance of the McLaren team, which certainly in 2013 was its worse season in terms of results since back in 1980 which is an awful thought, but those are the facts.

"I think what Ron will try to do is reintroduce his principal philosophy of how a Formula 1 team is constructed and run and a part of that may well involve changes in personnel – certainly I would imagine changes within every level of the company from the very bottom to the very top and that would also include engineers, technicians, drivers, everybody. So it has got the potential to be a massive change in direction now that Ron has got control of the Formula 1 team.

"Looking further forward – remember Honda is going to become the official engine partner of McLaren from 2015 thereafter – and I think the fact that Ron Dennis has now been put back into this very important position within the Formula 1 team structure is not coincidental when Honda is going to join the team in 2015 as the engine manufacturer."

Do you think that McLaren lacked the authoritative figure that Ron Dennis was – some of the newspapers have speculated that perhaps Martin Whitmarsh's management style wasn't intense enough for what the team were used to?
: "Individual management styles are individual styles and Martin brought a slightly different, maybe more relaxed style and attitude to McLaren. But that doesn't mean that you are not going to successful – many races were won in the period that Martin was Team Principal and in 2012 they were right at the very point of winning the World Championship with Lewis Hamilton, but through unreliability they lost that opportunity and it was because of that unreliability and other elements as well that saw Lewis then chose to leave McLaren at the end of 2012.

"So I think those two issues in particular would have rankled with Ron Dennis very deeply indeed. Remember that Ron was the person that brought Lewis Hamilton into the McLaren family when he was only a 12-year-old boy and fostered his talent all the way through to 2008 when he won a World Championship and to see that talent go to a competitor is not what Ron would like to have seen happen. And of course losing a potential World Championship in 2012 was a serious loss also, not least of all because in a team like McLaren where they are looking for commercial partnerships, they work on a long-term bases – their partnerships are all existing partnerships over many, many years, or certainly if they come in as a new partner they are coming in on a three, but probably a minimum five-year term – and that is the kind of relationship that the company likes to build with these sponsors or partners as McLaren calls them.

"So when you fail to have success in 2012, compounded by what happened in 2013 when they didn't win a single grand prix, or even get a single podium, something needed to be done and the remedial cure appears to be from the holding board of the group of companies of which Ron is a member, Ron has been given a mandate by that board to take control of the Formula 1 team."

What do you think it means for the future of Martin Whitmarsh?
: "Martin has a lot of talents as an individual, he is an exceptionally clever man, he has a different style to Ron and in fact this is not the first time that there has been an attempt to oust Martin from his position – one occurred about three years ago. But in relationship to whether he might stay or go that is an issue for Martin and the company to determine.

"Because Ron Dennis is saying he is not planning on becoming the Team Principal, he is effectively above that within the company – he is the boss, but is not going to be de facto day-to-day Team Principal – it is possible that Martin Whitmarsh could continue in that role, but it probably would be unlikely. I think Martin may choose either to find another position within the group of companies or maybe think of taking a leave of absence or moving elsewhere, but that will be an issue that will be discussed by the parties involved and Martin in particular."

Could you see Ross Brawn coming out of retirement to takeover?
: "In terms of bringing someone in in the short-term, as far as I am aware Ross Brawn wouldn't be available because of whatever the terms are of his break between Mercedes and himself.

"Ross is effectively on holiday and I know he has a lot of fishing booked for the next number of months, so I don't think he is looking to jump back into the mainstream of Formula 1 in the short-term, but what happens beyond that is unknown.

"On a personal level, whilst the future package of McLaren and Honda is a very attractive one, if you think back to the heady days of McLaren in '98, '99 and then Ferrari winning 2000 through to 2004, there was a lot of not good feeling between the two teams and particularly at the top of the teams. So whether that can be put behind and the two parties can come together and work as one, it would be an interesting scenario to see. Probably in my view it would be unlikely." Sky Sports

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