Posted on February 28, 2009


Honda F1 team looks like it has been saved by a management buyout headed by Ross Brawn and now it needs to be renamed and rebranded. So what shall it be called? If we had a bit more time we could propose to the BBC that they do a reality game show to find a name, along the lines of the ones where they find a lead actor for Oliver or Sound of Music. Graham Norton could come flouncing on to our screens on a Saturday night to host it, with Bernie and Max as the gnarly old judges. It’s More…

Posted on February 28, 2009


Following the news that Niall Sloane, executive producer of F1, has quit the BBC, I saw on the Guardian media website that the BBC has appointed Ben Gallop as head of F1. I’ve asked around and apparently he comes from the online side of the media business rather than TV and has no F1 background. Mark Wilkin, who is the editor of the F1 programme will report to him. Mark does have a strong F1 background and is also a very experienced producer/director. He held the same role when the BBC last had F1 in 1996. There seems to be More…

Posted on February 27, 2009


I was sad to see in Charlie Sale’s column in the Daily Mail today that Niall Sloane, the executive producer of the BBC’s F1 coverage has quit. Sloane is a football man, a former player in fact, who took charge of the F1 brief when the BBC won back the rights last March. He spent most of 2008 setting up the presentation team and the coverage schedule, which was announced earlier this week. According to Sale, Sloane lost out on the job of BBC Head of Sport to his colleague Barbara Slater and is leaving the corporation after 27 years.

Posted on February 27, 2009


I’ve written extensively about the moves afoot to bring down costs in Formula 1 over the last couple of months and talked about how the FIA intended to produce a set of rules for 2010 based on areas of non-compete on the cars to reduce costs for everyone. The key proposal is for the big teams, who choose to spend money on a technology, to be made to sell that technology to a smaller team at a capped price. Today the FIA put out a statement which shows that it is going for this sooner rather than later, in an More…

Posted on February 26, 2009


Just had a very enjoyable day at Williams HQ in Grove where a few of us were treated to a series of briefings by the team. The drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima were there, we had a talk around the car by technical director Sam Michael and then a briefing on the team’s health, FOTA and other general F1 matters from Sir Frank Williams and team CEO Adam Parr. They even threw in some lunch, all very trendy, with small tapas-sized portions and lots of them. Being Williams though it was roast beef and fish and chips in the More…

Posted on February 26, 2009


With its first head-to-head testing clash with McLaren due next week at Jerez (1st to 5th), the Ferrari F60 is undergoing a major metamorphosis, according to today’s Gazzetta dello Sport. The wings and exhausts are being revised as part of a long list of scheduled updates. This is normal and most teams will have extensive updates planned before Melbourne, but after the Bahrain test, Ferrari is under no illusions that they do not have three tenths of a second in their pocket over the field. It looks tight and they need to find more performance to get their nose in More…

Posted on February 25, 2009


Williams CEO Adam Parr has just done a conference call with the media on the news that RBS is to pull out of F1 at the end of 2010. “It isn’t good news for the sport for a sponsor like RBS to announce it’s withdrawing. We’ve suspected for some time that there wasn’t much chance of the sponsorship continuing beyond its term, ” he said. “In the latter part of last year we lost two or three significant partners, Lenovo, Baugar and Petrobras. But we also had 10 of our partners renew and four of the partners who renewed were More…

Posted on February 25, 2009


Williams has just announced that RBS will stay with the team this season and next, but that the sponsorship will finish at the end of 2010. RBS is conducting a review of all its sponsorships in light of the critical situation in the banking sector and the huge corporate losses shortly to be announced. The partnership with Williams began in 2005 and was renewed in 2007 for three seasons. RBS points out that sponsorship costs have been reduced by 25% for this year and 50% in 2010 while hospitality has been cut by 90%. RBS has made further cuts by More…

Posted on February 25, 2009


Martin Whitmarsh, who on Sunday will take over as McLaren team principal, has welcomed the USF1 initiative of broadcaster Peter Windsor and former Ligier engineer Ken Anderson. In a spirit of togetherness and encouragement which sums up the mood of the times at the moment with all teams sticking together and backing each other, Whitmarsh said that the USF1 team could only be a good thing for F1 because the sport must have a race and a presence in America, as the world’s No 1 marketplace. “A United States-based Formula One team, ideally fielding at least one United States-born driver, More…

Posted on February 25, 2009


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otA5sriGr_s] What will the BBC use as their theme tune? Well, in case you have been wondering about the trailer that Ben G was referring to in his earlier comment … Here it is: a YouTube mash-up that uses The Chain as inspiration.  There are links to all sorts of would-be BBC intros at the end of the clip, including one with a Cardigans track. And until an official version is formally unveiled, these will have to do. By the way, keep on voting for your favourite F1 soundtrack in our mini-poll (right). So far it seems that a remix More…

Posted on February 25, 2009


Just listened to the Chris Moyles show on Radio 1 and they had Lewis Hamilton on, talking about the new season, doing a human beatbox impression which was actually pretty impressive and pledging £10k if the rotund Moyles can climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, a task he has set himself to raise money for the Children in Need campaign. [ See the video - the beatbox bit is around 4m20s ] I mention this because as I listened to it, I could sense Hamilton’s unease at trying to guess what level to pitch his donation at. If you More…

Posted on February 25, 2009


Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson did a press conference on the US racing channel Speed TV last night with details of their USF1 project. On the face of it, this is an crazy time to try to get a US based F1 team off the ground, with a credit crunch, which is biting savagely in America, no US Grand Prix, and the eternal problem of logistics with most of the races being based in Europe and all points East. Also, whisper it, it’s not very green to fly racing cars back and forth across the Atlantic, when you could just More…

Posted on February 25, 2009


Interesting response to the BBC package announced yesterday. Quite a few people think “The Chain” is a retrograde step. Andrew Baker in the Telegraph is positively evangelistic about it, reckons it’s the greatest theme music ever in a proud BBC tradition of theme tunes. I quite liked the tune to Horse of the Year show, but that’s by the by… Quite a few of you are wondering about the use of archive footage. The standard deal is that you can use anything up to 10 years previous as part of the package. Anything before that and you have to pay More…

Posted on February 24, 2009


The BBC today announced exactly how it plans to cover F1 this season, its first year as the UK rights holder after 12 years of ITV coverage. They are certainly going for it – it’s a pretty comprehensive schedule and there are some interesting and innovative touches. By using TV, radio and the online service they provide what is called in the industry ’360 degree’ coverage. The first point to make is that all the qualifying and race shows will be on BBC1, which means that they are going for the big audience numbers. They have to justify the huge More…

Posted on February 24, 2009


Not a serious posting with any great insight into the Honda negotiations, but just a photo someone sent me with an advert for Virgin Trains, which I absolutely love! It shows that Branson has a great sense of humour. We could do with a bit more of this kind of thing in F1.

Posted on February 23, 2009


I didn’t think that anything could top last season, with the championship decided in the final corners and many races where most of the field was separated by a second, but talking to the teams, the feeling is that it’s going to be very close again this year, despite the massive rule changes, which normally spread the field out. The recent Bahrain test showed that Toyota and BMW are closer that expected to Ferrari at this stage of the game and the Toyota looks to be pretty reliable as well as fast. Meanwhile Ferrari and McLaren have also been paying More…

Posted on February 23, 2009


In the last hour or so I’ve read the story on the Real Honda F1 site about an imminent announcement of a management buyout and had an urgent message from one of my regular readers, saying the same thing. Real Honda clearly have some solid sources within the team, because they have broken a fair bit of news about the team in recent years. Meanwhile I don’t know what insights Finn has but he is most specific about an imminent announcement (see his comment at the bottom of the Bernie/Honda post). I’ve checked this afternoon with a party who would More…

Posted on February 22, 2009


Interesting tale in the News of the World today, where Ian Gordon has managed to get an exclusive with Bernie Ecclestone on how the Honda management team turned down his offer of financial help with their buyout of the team. Bernie has done a series of ‘exclusives’ lately; with the FT, the Telegraph, the Express and now the NoW. The Times has been his channel of choice for years, but he now seems to be spreading it around a bit more. This story is interesting because in it Bernie reveals that he proposed putting up some of the money to More…

Posted on February 20, 2009


As the momentum gathers behind a Virgin takeover of the Honda team, with Bernie Ecclestone throwing his weight behind the idea, I’ve been looking into how a deal might be structured and how that might compare with a management buyout, to see which is more likely and which Honda might prefer. I should stress at the outset that this is just a look at how these deals are done, I don’t have any of the precise numbers or inside information, but these kinds of deals are not that hard to analyse from the outside if you know the right people More…

Posted on February 18, 2009


I’ve just been invited to a press conference in Geneva on March 5th, where FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo will outline what the members of the Formula One Teams’ Association have been discussing lately. It’s been very intense behind the scenes, with all the teams heavily involved in discussions covering all areas of the sport. The invite says, “Luca di Montzemolo, the FOTA president, will make a speech in which he will unveil FOTA’s plans for the future of Formula 1. These plans are the result of a series of meetings held over the past few weeks and months, all More…

Posted on February 18, 2009


Kimi Raikkonen wound up his Bahrain test yesterday with a mixed day in which he set a competitive time, stopped for four hours with a KERS problem and then talked about the new Ferrari. This is an important car in Kimi’s career story because he really has to get on well with it if he is to stay with Ferrari in future. It’s no secret that he didn’t get on well with last year’s car and at times it left him scratching his head about whether he had lost his ‘gift’. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali stressed at the end More…

Posted on February 18, 2009


Multiple motorbike champion Valentino Rossi turned 30 on Monday, an event which was greeted with congratulations and tributes from a wide variety of people, including actors Daniel Day Lewis and Tom Cruise. Day Lewis saw Rossi racing at Laguna Seca in California and praised his ‘death or glory’ attitude. “It was an honour to shake your hand,’ said the Oscar winner. I’ve always loved watching Rossi race. He has sublime balance and technique, an incredible desire to race and to win and he always makes things happen. He has that star quality which any sport really needs and yet which More…

Posted on February 18, 2009


I suggested on Monday that Virgin might be the ones negotiating with Honda and I see now that Honda has confirmed it. Already there have been some good jokes, like “I hope they are faster than their broadband!” But there is no doubt that Virgin would be a huge asset to F1 if it happened. The backstory here appears to involve Adrian Reynard, who knows Sir Richard Branson well, apparently and who set the BAR Honda team up in the first place before being eased out of the picture. Like David Richards, who also ran the team, he has some More…

Posted on February 17, 2009


Several F1 drivers took part in a televised poker tournament, broadcast here in Italy the other day, with Nico Rosberg emerging as the guy who knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. He won the tournament ahead of Robert Kubica and Giancarlo Fisichella. Poker has become a craze for F1 drivers in the last couple of seasons, started by Fisi and Kubica, with a regular game going on the table in the Force India motorhome, featuring Fernando Alonso, Bernie Ecclestone, Vijay Mallya and Rubens Barrichello as regulars. The TV tournament was also contested by Eddie Irvine (who More…

Posted on February 16, 2009


I’ve seen a fair bit of negativity around Williams lately in the media. I guess you can see why on one level, when you look at some of their sponsors; Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 70% owned by the British government, Baugar the Icelandic investment vehicle which was hammered by the credit crunch and Phillips, which recently announced thousands of redundancies. They also burned through a fair bit of cash in the last few years trying to keep up with the front-runners. So on the face of it, they seem to be a target, a team which must be More…

Posted on February 16, 2009


Time is short with the first Grand Prix of 2009 just six weeks away. The former Honda team is in a race against time to be ready with Honda still paying the bills to keep the team a going concern in case a deal can be done to save them. Honda has a strong desire to see this happen as does Bernie Ecclestone. Behind the scenes work goes on; the team has had a Mercedes engine and gearbox for some time to get the installation worked out in case the deal to save the team comes off. The problem is More…

Posted on February 13, 2009


I put a post out yesterday comparing the salaries of F1 drivers and footballers and it got a really good response and some very interesting comments. Several of the comments made the point that the investment required to get to F1 for an individual and his family is far greater than for a footballer. Valid point and this gives rise to a little theory about drivers I picked up through conversations with some senior engineers in the sport recently. So to move the discussion on a little I thought I would share it with you. When interviewing Ross Brawn for More…

Posted on February 12, 2009


Felipe Massa, like all the drivers at Sakhir, has had a frustrating time with testing interrupted by sandstorms. He got some miles in on Tuesday but did not run the KERS system in the Ferrari car. The plan was to run it on Wednesday, but the sandstorm intervened. Ferrari are not making too many noises at the moment about how well things are going. The car has been faster so far than the BMW and the Toyota and apparently it’s looking quite consistent, which has been the hallmark of Ferraris in recent years. But is it fast enough? Because there More…

Posted on February 12, 2009


This is a question I have noticed that lot of my readers have been asking on search engines which have led them here, so I thought I’d do a quick post with the answer. I had a word with a mate of mine who is an agent representing premiership footballers and I looked through my files on drivers and through the estimated figures in Formula Money, which has some good research into the financial side of the sport. The answer is that the top drivers earn far more than the top premiership stars, but of course there are far more More…

Posted on February 11, 2009


Donington CEO Simon Gillett went on a charm offensive today, responding to what he sees as a barrage of negativity about Donington’s claims to host the GP in 2010. It’s been quite an emotional day, what with Grandprix.com’s Joe Saward making a passionate defence of the project this morning. Gillett had been well coached in what line to take today. He went for the ‘I’m just an honest guy trying to make a buck’ approach, and reminded everyone that so far, everything he said he would do he has done. The problem for him is that from relative obscurity he More…

Posted on February 11, 2009


Credit crunch, what credit crunch? Ferrari has just reported a record year for sales, with 6,587 new cars sold in 2008, up 2% on the previous year, according to Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper in Italy. The company turned over €1.9 billion last year. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said, “To get unparalleled results is the best proof of our strategy based on exclusivity, innovation and personal attention.” The USA again led the way as the No.1 market for Ferrari, with 1700 cars sold there, while China was up 22% at 212 cars. It remains to be seen whether those figures More…

Posted on February 11, 2009


I posted last month on Donington, which is due to host the British Grand Prix in July 2010, seventeen months from now. I gave details of a conversation I’d had with Simon Gillett at the Motorsport Business Forum in December. But now some worrying noises are coming out on this story, regarding the circuit’s financial position The story has run this week in the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph. It refers to the accounts for the year 2007, which were filed at Companies House on 21st January this year, three weeks ago. They refer to the eye-catching figures of More…

Posted on February 11, 2009


Interested to note that overnight Ron Dennis has made some comments which show that the top teams are shifting their view of the severity of the situation in F1 and the need for drastic action. Up to now they have been very resistant to the idea of talking percentages or numbers in terms of how much budgets might be brought down. But last night Ron said, “I think the top teams will manage to reduce their costs from between 10 and 50 per cent. But for the smaller teams it will be more dramatic, to the order of 30 to More…

Posted on February 10, 2009


Today we had all but one of the current F1 teams in action on the race track and over the next few days the mists will start to clear and we will start to see who’s quick and also how much slower the 2009 cars are compared with last year’s cars. Renault, Williams, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Red Bull were in action at Jerez in Spain, while Toyota, Ferrari and BMW were in Bahrain. I’ve not seen the full set of timings for the test, only the headline laptimes and you have to be very careful reading too much into More…

Posted on February 10, 2009


There were some interesting quotes from Max Mosley in the second media lunch last week (I went to the first one), which took the discussion about KERS and the challenge of designing F1 cars a bit further than the discussion of which I was part. Here’s what he said, “It is a little bit sad in Formula One and it is, in a way, our fault with the regulations. They have constricted the areas in which the teams can work, to keep the car speeds under control and also to keep costs under control, to the point where you get More…

Posted on February 9, 2009


The new Red Bull hit the track today, for all of 14 laps before being halted by a gearbox problem. Uh-oh. The gearbox was the Achilles Heel in 2007. Let’s hope that this is just a small teething problem. The car looks pretty cool, I like the long think nose and the experts seem to think that there is a lot of tidy detail there, showing that the extra time in the wind-tunnel has been well spent. The fact that Adrian Newey has been pushed into the foreground on this launch is interesting and tells me two things; first that More…

Posted on February 7, 2009


Red Bull launches the new car on Monday in Jerez and they seem to be getting quite excited about it in the build up to the event. We’ve had Mark Webber saying that it’s the best looking of the 2009 cars so far and their website is pretty gushing about it. It talks about the car being a creation from the drawing board (literally because he still uses one) of Adrian Newey. He’s overdue a real winner of a car and this year is a pretty vital one for the team as they have to take a serious step closer More…

Posted on February 6, 2009


Sebastien Bourdais has been given the nod by Toro Rosso for next season, alongside Sebastien Buemi. That’s three Sebastien’s in two seasons for that team, they seem to have a production line. I liked the look of Bourdais at the start and end of last season, but he fell away in the middle when Toro Rosso got the new car in Monaco and once it got the power boost of the latest spec engines from Ferrari around Silverstone time, Vettel was able to do far more with it. Towards the end of the year, however, Bourdais got his act together More…

Posted on February 5, 2009


Despite Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali’s suggestion last month that Michael Schumacher’s experience with slick tyres could be very useful to the team as they prepare their challenge for 2009, I see that Michael Schumacher said recently that he will not be driving the new F60. Schumacher, who turned 40 last month, has been a consultant to Ferrari ever since his retirement as a driver in 2006. He has driven as a super-tester on several occasions since then, but with restrictions on testing so severe now, he has decided that the work should be left to the race drivers. Schuey, More…

Posted on February 4, 2009


Today I went along to a lunch thrown by Max Mosley for a small group of journalists at the Poissonerie de l’Avenue, in South Kensington, London. The talk was, predictably, about the need for urgent cost cuts, the medals system, prospects for the season ahead, the future of the British Grand Prix, evidence of who set him up in last year’s sex scandal and his own future. On this last point I got the clear impression that he intends to stay on for another term. He has to make his decision by June and as he explained, they have a More…

Posted on February 4, 2009


There is a deafening silence coming out of Honda at the moment. The initial deadline of 31st January has passed and now it seems that efforts are focussing on a management buyout. This, of course, requires capital funding, which is in very short supply in the world at this time. Honda likes the idea of a management buyout because it will turn out to be much cheaper for them than simply shutting the factory down and laying off all the workers. There is some interest in the assets of the team, should they be sold off. I’m told that one More…

Posted on February 3, 2009


No sooner did I mention in a post earlier today that Nigel Stepney, former chief mechanic at Ferrari and the man behind the McLaren/Ferrari spy scandal of 2007, was working for an engineering firm in Essex, but a picture of him pops up in a media mail out by Superleague Formula, the racing series based on football teams. As you can see, Nigel (on right) is working for Gigawave, who supply on board cameras to the series. The Superleague media people are having a bit of a laugh here because the photo above is prominent in their mail out, but More…

Posted on February 3, 2009


Last week a few of us were invited for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Chelsea by the heads of communication from both McLaren and Ferrari. It’s a shame the invitation was electronic, if it had been printed on card I would have framed it. It seemed as unlikely as Peter Mandelson being invited to join the cabinet by his arch enemy Gordon Brown…except that, as in that situation, needs must. The dinner was the public face of a private event that day, which showed how far relations have changed between F1′s two top teams. Ferrari’s Luca Colajanni had been More…

Posted on February 3, 2009


There is a story doing the rounds on the websites at the moment, based on an article in a German magazine called Focus, to the effect that Mercedes’ continued participation in F1 was the subject of a recent vote by the board of parent company Daimler and that the vote only just carried, by three votes to two. Sounds dramatic, another warning sign to F1 from the crumbling empire of motor manufacturing. Except that it isn’t true. I rang Mercedes to find out more about this and it turns out that the story is completely bogus. “There was no voting More…



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