Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Maldonado

    Maldonado denies F1 future clouded

  • Todt back on pole to stay FIA president
  • Legal action bubbles around new F1 body
  • Toro Rosso seat 'for sale' – Razia
  • Toro Rosso bemoans mid-year tire switch
  • Barrichello admits F1 return in 2014 unlikely
  • What is happening at Team Willy?
  • Lloyds gave £10m loan to Formula One’s worst performer before sale
  • RAC launches an appropriately cultured clash with Formula One partners

Maldonado denies F1 future clouded
(GMM) Pastor Maldonado has hit back at rumors suggesting his future in formula one is clouded.

The rumors late last week said the Venezuelan's management had been in complex talks with Williams, apparently because a move to Lotus might be on the cards.

Maldonado, however, is strongly backed by the state-owned oil company PDVSA, who are under contract to Williams for the next two seasons.

But the latest news from Caracas is that government officials have frozen payments to Venezuelan car and motorcycle racers as they investigate a corruption scandal.

Indeed, the PDVSA-backed IndyCar driver EJ Viso missed the Fontana finale at the weekend, but he Tweeted a photo from his hospital bed to prove he was in fact "ill".

Maldonado, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter on Sunday: "I will be in F1 next season proudly representing Venezuela. Hopefully good news soon."

He also denied suggestions of a growing rift between himself and Williams, who have struggled for competitiveness in 2013.

"There is a good relationship (between) driver and team, we have been working day and night to improve our performance and results," said Maldonado.

Todt back on pole to stay FIA president
(GMM) Jean Todt has raced back into pole position to remain president of the FIA.

Earlier, it was rumored his only challenger David Ward could give up his bid in order to back Mohammad Bin Sulayem, whose chances of dethroning Todt were considered far greater.

But Daily Mail correspondent Jonathan McEvoy now reports that Bin Sulayem, the high-ranking Middle Eastern official, has pulled out of the race.

It means Todt has "effectively won re-election", McEvoy claimed, because Ward "is struggling to enlist the 26 nominations he requires by the deadline of November 15".

Bin Sulayem confirmed: "Following careful consideration, I can confirm that I have accepted Jean Todt's invitation to support his re-election and to stand (instead) for a second term as FIA vice president for sport".

Legal action bubbles around new F1 body
(GMM) A political storm is brewing ahead of Monday's London meeting of the new F1 rule-making Strategy Group.

The new body has effectively replaced the old sporting and technical working groups, but it includes only the most powerful and historic F1 teams — Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams and Lotus.

According to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, on the agenda for Monday's meeting is what constitutes a 'customer car'.

If the definition is softened, some of F1's smaller constructors could be endangered as the big teams look to sell their cars to potentially more competitive rival teams.

Force India's Bob Fernley, whose Silverstone based team has 62 points in 2013 compared to Williams' 1, told the Telegraph that the new body is "unethical and undemocratic".

Auto Motor und Sport said the FIA is, however, comfortable with the Strategy Group, because rule-changes would still need to be approved by the F1 Commission.

But one paddock voice said F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has indeed maneuvered an unfair advantage, because the big teams are generally on his side.

Other rumors suggest the Strategy Group might not even pass the scrutiny of the EU's competition laws.

"Perhaps," former FIA president Max Mosley is quoted as saying.

"To my knowledge, Mercedes has sought legal advice and the answer was that it (the group) is contestable."

Toro Rosso seat 'for sale' – Razia
(GMM) Toro Rosso's second race seat is for sale, according to Luiz Razia.

Brazilian Razia was all set to make his debut for Marussia this year until he struck sponsor trouble.

He wrote on Twitter in Portuguese: "It is rumored that the second seat at Toro Rosso is for sale.

"It's been like that for years! Any other news?" the mischievous Razia added.

It was believed Toro Rosso, Red Bull's junior team, was set to simply promote its leading development driver – Antonio Felix da Costa – to replace Daniel Ricciardo in 2014.

But Italy's Italiaracing reports that a group of Russian sponsors have got together to push Daniil Kvyat, a 19-year-old and less experienced Red Bull youngster, to the front of the queue.

Toro Rosso bemoans mid-year tire switch
(GMM) Yet another team has claimed its competitiveness in 2013 was affected by Pirelli's mid-season tire construction switch.

Ferrari and Force India have also said the move from the steel-belted tires, that 'exploded' so spectacularly at Silverstone in June, hurt their form.

Toro Rosso technical boss James Key said: "The greater deformation of the tires was the main reason we completely changed our suspension concept from the STR7 to the STR8.

"But since we've gone back to the 2012 tires, the setup window has become smaller, and we can no longer use certain settings that were created specifically for this (2013) car," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

Key said the tire switch also had an aerodynamic effect, with the diffuser no longer "working as well as before".

Indeed, the move from steel to Kevlar internals preceded Toro Rosso dropping behind Sauber in the lucrative constructors' world championship.

Barrichello admits F1 return in 2014 unlikely
(GMM) Rubens Barrichello has admitted he is likely to stay in Brazil's stock car championship next year.

Amid rumors he had put together a sponsorship package for 2014, the former Ferrari and Williams driver had admitted he was keen to return to F1 after a two-year absence.

But Monisha Kaltenborn then strongly denied Barrichello, 41, could be paired with inexperienced Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin at Sauber next season.

And Barrichello is now hinting he will definitely stay in stock cars in 2014.

"With the team and the sponsors we are thinking of a renewal," he told Jovem Pan radio at the Curitiba race at the weekend.

"That is the nearest future: a renewal in stock car," Barrichello added.

He admitted, however, that he often misses racing in F1, after the longest grand prix career in the sport's history.

"But I am also a very happy person," said Barrichello.

"Now, when I finish the race, I go home at 5pm to my family. My quality of life has changed for the better, so what you lose in one hand, you gain in the other."

What is happening at Team Willy?
It has been clear for some time that things are happening at Williams F1. And the word is that Claire Williams and CEO Mike O’Driscoll have been in Venezuela in recent days, discussing the team’s sponsorship deal with the oil company Petr¢leos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA). The deal, which is rumored to be worth as much as $50 million a year, is now in the third year of a five year deal and things are not going very well. There was the one victory in 2012 in Spain but beyond that Maldonado has been pretty unsuccessful. He blames this on the team. The team, on the other hand, seems to be of the opinion that the Venezuelan driver can only win races when the stars are aligned in a most unusual fashion. There is no question that Pastor is quick, but he still does have a tendency to screw up too often. Money is not the issue. Despite the political problems since the death of President Hugo Chaves, PDVSA seems to be able and willing to fund Maldonado’s move to another team, but the contract with Williams is written in such a way as to force Venezuela to stop Pastor driving elsewhere without Williams being suitably compensated. Maldonado can move to another team if the Williams situation is sorted out and if he can find some who wants him. With money he is attractive. Without it, he is not.

Lotus are only really interested if the ongoing deal with Infinity Racing Partners (now Quantum) is not completed, in which case the team needs cash. If the Quantum money arrives, the Enstone team will choose Nico Hulkenberg as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement. He is being linked to Force India, but there is no explanation about why the German would consider this more attractive than Lotus.

From a Williams point of view the loss of Maldonado will mean that at least some money must be found from elsewhere. There is no shortage of space on the cars but results in recent years have been poor, despite the Spanish win, and the team is now strengthening its technical departments. If the replacement for Maldonado was Felipe Massa, then there is an additional asset to attract mew backers. Despite some rumors, Massa does not have much sponsorship behind him and is looking to see what can be done. There have been rumors for some time that Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) – a former Williams sponsor – wants to get back into F1 to back up its global expansion plans, but it only wants to get involved if it can make the fuel itself. There may be possible commercial deals on the back of that but Petrobras is not currently in a position to commit large sums of money to F1 sponsorship because it has unions striking for more money, although the dispute has been disguised as a protest against the state-run oil company auctioning some of its huge offshore oil fields.

Getting Massa into Williams would be a great idea for Formula 1 as the sport wants to have a Brazilian driver to keep up interest in the sport in South America. Joe Saward

Lloyds gave £10m loan to Formula One’s worst performer before sale
State-backed Lloyds Banking Group gave a £10m loan to Formula One’s worst-performing team, Marussia, before selling its stake Taxpayer-owned Lloyds Banking Group gave a £10m loan to Formula One’s worst-performing team, Marussia, before selling its stake, according to recently released documents.

The Banbury-based team has never scored a point since joining F1 in 2010. Last year it finished bottom, in 11th place, and currently lies one spot higher. Lloyds’ private equity division, Lloyds Development Capital (LDC), had originally invested £10m in the team in 2009, to give it a 25.3pc stake.

In April, The Daily Telegraph revealed that LDC had sold its shares to Marussia, the Russian sports car maker after which the team is named. Despite the team’s poor performance on the track, the bank has confirmed that the sale enabled it “to recoup the full value of its investment in the business".

Accounts for the team’s parent company, Manor HoldCo, show that in the year to December 31, 2012, borrowings rose by £33m. LDC provided only a small portion of this but confirmed it has a residual loan, thought to be around £10m, with the business.

The debt was needed to keep the team ticking over in 2012, as it burned up a £59m net loss which widened by 27.4pc on the previous year. It was driven by an 8.7pc increase in costs to £76.1m, while revenue rose by only 2.9pc to £29.4m. Marussia’s performance outside F1 also spluttered, as the accounts show that its team in the sport’s feeder series, GP3, made a £178,000 net loss in 2012 on revenue of £1.2m.

Marussia F1’s chief executive, Andy Webb, says that the F1 marketplace “continues to exhibit some volatility in terms of sponsorship income which has come under pressure from the condition of the global economy".

In the 2011 accounts, Webb revealed that he was in “active discussions with potential new investors" and in the latest filing he says there are still “ongoing discussions with a number of interested parties".

The 2011 documents also stated that Marussia aimed for a podium finish in the inaugural Russian Grand Prix next year, but this target is noticeably absent from the latest accounts. Telegraph

RAC launches an appropriately cultured clash with Formula One partners
Britain’s oldest motoring organization, the RAC, has launched a stinging attack on Formula One’s governing body about an alleged lack of disclosure in its accounts It is a clash of two cultures. Britain’s oldest motoring organization, the Royal Automobile Club (headquarters Pall Mall, London), has launched a stinging attack on Formula One’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (headquarters Place de la Concorde, Paris), about an alleged lack of disclosure in its accounts.

The FIA in response has issued a strong denial and questioned the motivation behind the allegations which it claims was completely unexpected.

The RAC is a members’ club, separate from the breakdown service with the same name owned by the private-equity Carlyle Group.

The club was set up in 1897 and was a founding member of the FIA, which was established seven years later. In addition to governing F1, the FIA regulates the motor industry through its Euro NCAP crash-test program.

The FIA’s annual revenue is understood to be around €60m (£51m) and its biggest expenses are staff salaries and travel costs. It has an office in Geneva but its headquarters are in Paris, where it does not need to file publicly-available accounts, as it is a not-for-profit organization.

The accounts are approved by the federation’s 236 members at its annual general assembly and following the previous meeting, Tom Purves, the RAC chairman and former chief executive of Rolls-Royce, wrote to FIA president Jean Todt to demand further details about payments totaling €14.4m.

In a letter seen by The Sunday Telegraph and dated July 25, 2013, Mr. Purves states that “there is a lack of the narrative or detail in the FIA accounts that one would not expect of an international entity, or UK entity. This may be because they are prepared in a way that meets merely the minimum standards required of a French, not-for-profit organization." More at Telegraph

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