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The scene in Monaco
Posted By:   |  22 May 2009   |  11:38 am GMT  |  49 comments

While we wait for the grands fromages to have their meetings and decide what kind of spectacle we are going to see next year and beyond in Formula 1, I thought a brief colour post might be in order.

For the first time in years I’m not staying in Monaco this year. I’m in Villefranche, which is 20 minutes west by train. They have a fantastic train service here with double decker trains whizzing you along the coastline. Monaco railway station is a 10 minute walk from the paddock and the media centre.

On my way in I passed a series of posters on the wall which stopped me in my tracks; they are Marlboro adverts. You get so used to not seeing any kind of tobacco advertising any more that so see these bold posters of a tattoed Kimi Raikkonen with his car really grab you. This is Monaco, a law unto itself.

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I stopped at the market this morning on the way in. Chatting to locals it seems that everything is 20% down this year; ticket sales, hotel bookings, restaurants etc. I’d say that extends to boats in the harbour. There are some nice ones out there, but not the megas we have seen in recent years. I think part of it is the ‘being seen to do the right thing’ aspect. A lot of sponsors take big boats here normally, but in the current climate they don’t want to be seen to be living it up.

IMG_0030
Ironically the team bosses have their boats here, like Flavio Briatore, who’s Force Blue is playing host to Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Alesi this weekend. It is available for weekly charter the rest of the year for a fee slightly north of £200,000. This afternoon it is also the venue for the FOTA team owners meeting at 2pm. They will have to cover a lot of ground quickly as they are due at the Royal Automobile Club at 4pm to meet Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone. It’s a good ten minutes from Flav’s boat to the club.

One of my Swiss colleagues has pointed out to me that Ferrari has been in F1 for 60 years, but in that time it has not taken part in every race. Apparently they have missed 27 races mostly due to strikes and industrial action in the 1960s. But the funniest bit is that they missed the first ever race, the 1950 British Grand Prix, because they weren’t happy with the start money! So in a way nothing has really changed.

Bernie Ecclestone has come out today to say that Ferrari cannot pull out before 2012 because of the binding agreement they signed in 2005, part of which was the celebrated right of veto. The French court agreed with Ferrari that this was still in place and the flip side of that is that Ferrari is committed to stay for three more seasons.

“We would always respect our contracts,” Ecclestone said. “And all the teams that have signed contracts with us would expect us to respect them, and we would expect the same from Ferrari. They are saying they are going to walk, we are saying we hope they respect their contract.”

As you know, I work now for RAI, the Italian TV station and I was interested to see that the boss of RAI sport, Massimo De Luca, told La Gazzetta dello Sport that if Ferrari wasn’t in the game they would want to review their contract with Ecclestone: “If Ferrari leaves F1, along with other major manufacturers, then I can guarantee you that RAI, along with all the main TV companies, would take legal action to review our contract.”

Meanwhile a spat has broken out between Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella. The pair got into a bit of a spat on the track yesterday and afterwards Massa criticised Fisi, comparing his unhelpful approach to a footballer who never passes the ball. Fisi replied, “He’s wrong. He ruined my lap on new tyres, he doesn’t own the circuit.”

So you can see, it’s happy families all round here in Monaco.

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49 Comments
  1. monktonnik says:

    Interesting piece James, it didn’t occur to me that Ferrari would be under contract until 2012.

    On the subject of Massa/Fisichella, I thought I saw Massa being blue flagged on the replay, and Fisi overtaking him. I know that emotions run high on the track, but I did think that Massa was in the wrong on that one.

  2. Neil says:

    James I am very interested to hear you’re not staying in Monaco. One day I’d love to visit the grand prix and I have been to the area during the summer when the race is not on.

    However, I’m worried that the trains will be overcrowded on the Sunday and that it could be possible to miss the action. It would be interesting if you could update us on your experience with transport etc once the race is over.

  3. rpaco says:

    Shirley the infamous Concorde agreement (The agreement agreement) ran out in 2008 and Bernie is living on an extended promise ATM.
    To reinforce this view, look a at the new regs for 2010 which have had reference to the said agreement as the source of their authority, removed.

    I think Bernie is bluffing but will not cave in. ‘ Thing about bluffing is it only works if you don’t give in. Fortunately Ferrari are pig headed and self important enough to pay up and see him. (probably in court)

    What is Fisi’s argument? Everybody knows that Ferrari DO indeed own all the tracks!

  4. RB says:

    I was contemplating a spur of the moment trip this year and found tickets still available on the ACM site earlier this week and a few unaffordable in-town hotel venues had space.

    If Ferrari wants to leave, but is contractually stuck, one has to wonder how powerful that veto option is going to be for all manner of other things Max may put on the table in the future.

  5. Antoine says:

    I luv this blog, makes me feel like I was there…[paddock],
    Question: does the contract says Ferrari cannot leave before 2012 not matter what rules…?

  6. Christian Stewart says:

    James – I wonder if Bernie’s contract stipulates which colour Ferrari must paint their cars? The 1964 USGP comes to mind. Might we see something similar – even this season?

  7. Joe says:

    Hi James, nice post once again! Just wondered whether you could give us a glimpse of what actually goes on in the pit lane and paddock on a friday at monaco? Obviously there is the big meeting on Flavio’s boat at 2pm but apart from that what’s going on? Do all the journalists turn up to the media centre and get lots of work done, do the drivers turn up? All the team members? Even though there is no F1 action, do the teams still work on the car or work flat out one way or another or is everyone pretty chilled out? I imagine for the TV companies like the BBC it’s great news because they have an extra day to prepare for the weekend making the VTs for the qualifying and race show! If you could give us a glimpse on how busy or chilled out friday is there that would be interesting to hear. Cheers.

  8. Stevie P says:

    Does Massa have a magnet in his car, that only attracts Force India cars? However, it makes a change for Felipe (Babeee!) and a Force India car to “clash” on track… they normally leave to it to the pit-lane for their squabbles ;-)

  9. Peter says:

    Hi James. Interesting to see you work for RAI. Are you a commentator, and if not how does it differ with your job on ITV the last few years?

  10. Raz says:

    James, a question about sponsorship.. do you reckon that if all the tobacco companies hadn’t pulled out of f1 most teams would be on a fairly – excuse the pun, healthy budget?

  11. Kevin M says:

    I noticed on Autosport that Jacques Villeneuve is in Monaco. Have you had a chance to have a chat with him? I really think he deserved a better career in F1. So it’s interesting to hear that he would consider a possible F1 comeback. A driver like him could be an asset to a new start up team.

  12. BahnStormer says:

    Amazingly , I think Bernie has really sorted out F1 this year (I can scarcely believe I’m saying this !!)

    It’s great to see’privateer’ teams back in the game, and maybe, just maybe F1 WON’T collapse without Ferrari, and a lot of Privateer teams will take over.

    It’d be like going back in time to Jim Clark’s era !!

  13. Dominic J says:

    What is Felipe’s defense in the argument with Fisi. Alonso and Schumacher got 1 and 2 second penalties for their qualifying laps, for similar transgressions in practise in Hungary, 2006.
    Is Felipe’s mind not where it should be? Or, is that overstating things?

  14. iceman says:

    I can’t believe Massa is complaining about that incident. He was going slowly and having the blue flags shown to him. It sounds quite arrogant of him to complain about Fisi, who had been on a fast lap up to that point, having the temerity to overtake him.

  15. Great article James, really looking forward to the race weekend – as opposed to all the recent politics!

  16. Tom says:

    James didn’t know you were now working for RAI. Do you appear on screen over the weekend – if so how is your Italian?

  17. ngr says:

    I’m sure I saw massa getting flagged to let GF through (was watching online and working at the same time, so I could be wrong). Massa seems to have picked up a hefty chunk of a certain German’s arrogance , dare I say it somewhat without justification..

  18. Grabyrdy says:

    So let me get this straight. Ferrari have an agreement which they have to honour till 2012. The agreement has a veto over all new regs.

    So they can’t leave. But they can veto.

    So where is the problem ?

  19. Grabyrdy says:

    Allied to that, if they are obliged to take part, why do they have to sign up for 2010 ?

  20. Alexis says:

    “As you know, I work now for RAI, the Italian TV station”

    Did we? :-)

    Can’t find any mention of you on http://www.rai.it

  21. Joe says:

    James, I have another question for you related to this piece, i suppose, in that it is about next year which is being discussed, I understand, by the teams on Flavio’s boat at the moment: what is going to happen with qualifying next year in that, of course, refuelling in the race will be banned? Of course, it’s not going to be the case where the drivers outside of the top 10 can start the race with whatever fuel they want unlike the top 10 who have to decide before Q3, because they will all have to start with the same amount – the amount they need to last the race!! Thanks.

    [ Just a quick note to let everyone know that JA is now off to get on with his "day job", so answers to direct questions may have to wait a while - Moderator ]

  22. blueninjasix says:

    Surely the contract would be un-enforceable. Given that you can lead horse to water but you can’t make it drink, Ferrari could produce a car, paint it any colour other than red and fail to qualify for each race (do we still have the 107% rule?) or run around at the back in protest before early retirement.

  23. David T says:

    James, re. your comment concerning Marlboro and Ferrari.

    I have raised the following before but without it being resolved. Marlboro still pile money into Ferrari but cannot, in the main, take advantage by nomal advertising and promotion because of the tobacco advertising laws. So a clever suit at Marlboro decides to place a slab of black and white barcode on the wing of the Ferrari, all over the race suits and anywhere else they can think of. Soon people are asking, what’s the barcode all about?

    Answer, it’s because Marlboro can’t advertise. Soon everybody knows , so a slab of barcode becomes the new Marlboro logo!

    How do they get away with it? Same happens in Moto GP.

    If Williams turned up with *unhil* all down the side of the car I guess they wouldn’t get away with it, but we are of course talking about Ferrari.

    Can you or anyone else well informed explain why this is allowed?

  24. Loti says:

    In the interest of balance, Bernie told the Times that he would sue Ferrari for breach of contract. Ferrai told the Telegraph that the contract is void as the new regulations were issued without going through the proper channel, ie the F1 Commission. Most of the news we are getting seem to be very one sided.

  25. David S says:

    James: Interesting observation with the Marlboro promotion…

    On this subject and Ferrari am I right in thinking back in 2001, ALL F1 teams had a ‘gentlemen’s’ agreement to withdraw tobacco sponsorship from their teams … the date this was due to be signed/come into effect was … 11th September 2001 … only ONE team refused to sign … that was Ferrari.

    This was ‘forgotten’ and scarcely reported due to the magnitude of events that unfolded on that fateful day…..

    Another ‘agreement’ Ferrari conveniently ignored……

  26. redmist says:

    Under Italian law Ferrari are allowed to be sponsored by Marlboro, although they cant advertise it in most countries. Most of the other teams falls under the British tobacco laws, and they are not allowed to be sponsored by a tobacco company. So the fact that Ferrari still has Marlboro as a sponsor is totally legitimate for them.

  27. Fausto Cunha says:

    “posters of a tattoed Kimi Raikkonen with his car really grab you”

    It´s a great poster , it really catch’s the eye.

    Great piece James as usual.

  28. phil c says:

    James

    The interesting part of this is what you said about RAI, and other tv rights holders in relation to the big manufactures leaving the sport. Does this imply that the money paid to Bernie for TV rights has reqiurements in relation to viewing numbers, and or certain teams. If this is the case, wouldn’t you think Bernie would have had a good off the record chat with Max and said, look, the teams will destroy both of us, negotiate or we stuffed.

    I couldn’t estimate a figure for televising f1, but i would suspect a good amount of revenue for bernie would be from tv rights, maybe in excess of billion dollars a year, world wide. If RAI, BBC, the french, spanish and German networks had voided contract, significant mones would be owed to them i would have thought. Do you agree??

    This would make starting a new series for the teams very plausable. They could sell the rights to the teams for half the cost, had have tracks like silverstone which have been rejected by bernie, for cheaper $$. Inturn i would suspect the teams could be earning anywhere between $50 and $100 million each just from revenue within one year. At 50million, This is already more then the budget cap.

  29. David T says:

    Redmist, thanks for your comment. I understood that the laws concerning tobacco ads were EU wide and issued from Brussels. Last time I checked Italy were still a member, but maybe Maranello has some special status?

  30. RB says:

    Trains are added for the weekend and run every few minutes during the peak times. The majority of the spectators travel this way. Getting there is easier as everyone arrives at different times. Getting out after the race is more of an ordeal as everyone is leaving at once and (in 2005) there is a huge que at the station entrance.

    We drove in 1981 and it wasn’t too bad, in 1986 it took over 2 hours to get out. The train is the only way to go.

  31. Ali says:

    I was at the previous 2 Monaco GPs and stayed in Nice (alos about a 25 minute journey to Monaco). As long as you bought your train tickets the day before and so avoided the huge ticket queue, getting there was okay – especially if you travel around 8am-ish.

    Last year the French train service had a whole bunch of strikes over the race weekend, which did throw a few spanners in the works. However, trains did run on race day, so it wasn’t completely messed up.

  32. vicweir says:

    Yes, I’ll second that, please, James

  33. Phil says:

    I think Ferarri signed a deal until 2012 if they agreed to come over to the other side of whatever argument it was that was raging in 2005 (there are so many one can hardly keep track). This is separate to the Concorde agreement.

  34. James Allen says:

    Yes I do, it’s good enough for the job..

  35. Joe says:

    Tom, James studied Italian (and French and English i believe) at Oxford! So as you’d expect, good enough for the job!

  36. Howard Hughes says:

    Really? Gosh, it’s never taken me less than an hour from Nice Central Station to Monaco… And that’s on normal days months away from the GP…

  37. Howard Hughes says:

    Good point – surely by signing up to the regs Honda also would have been obliged? What if a team cites economic reasons; obviously the sport can’t compel a lossmaking team to continue borrowing in order to compete…

    Throw in all kinds of EU restriction of trade clauses, just like an employee would avail of if a firm tried to force him to honour a contract, and I’d say BE would find it nigh on impossible to oblige any team to stay one lap longer than they wanted to…

  38. Graeme says:

    That’s THIS YEAR’S race strategy …

  39. rpaco says:

    Yes they could run the F1 equivalent of a second hand mota with worn pedal rubbers and an oil leak.

    I would be happy to drive it for them, this would show their true contempt for Bernie, the FIA etc.
    Ok I don’t have a super-license but the FIA can now just give them out willy nilly to people with no qualifications, (another 2010 rule change)

    Admittedly I have only driven a single seater once and that was a Formula Ford 20 years ago, (The gearstick is up here at shoulder height on the right) so it may be a bit of a white flag occasion. Going too slowly is of course a big problem with the tyres and brakes not warming up, however if I weave constantly …………and keep stabbing the brake pedal at random, this should eventually achieve the required temperature.

    I may not make the 107% but would have great fun during qualifying. ;-)

  40. The 107% rule was abolished in 2003 when single-lap qualifying came into force. The running-around-at-the-back would in theory lead to Ferrari being pursued under Article 151c (one of the things the Michelin teams was hauled up before the FIA for after US GP 2005 was supposedly staging an on-track protest) but in practise would be difficult to argue, even for the FIA.

  41. vicweir says:

    “run around at the back in protest before an early retirement”?

    I thought they’d already tried that.

    Got them no-where!

  42. Tom says:

    Would be great to see some clips of you in action on youtube!

  43. rpaco says:

    Va bene

  44. rpaco says:

    Yes now you have mentioned it he (Massa) was blue flagged, had it been the other way round there would have been stewards all over Fisi, protests, inquiries, a fine, prison probably.

    Not everyone will miss the arrogance of Ferrari.

  45. Rhys Xanthis says:

    They didn’t veto the change when they had the chance.

    They only have a small amount of time in which to act.

  46. Skies says:

    The loophole has been exploited by almost all F1 teams. McLaren used to replace the West logo with the names of their drivers, Mika and David.

    Jordan had “Buzzing Hornets” which was obviously Benson and Hedges. It’s no great scandal. It also happens in other sports too.

    The Welsh Rugby team circumvent a ban on alcohol ads in France with the word “Brawn” instead of “Brains”.

  47. jeremy says:

    tobacco hasn’t completely left F1.. Ferrari are still budgeted quite “healthy” via Marlboro. Hence the “barcode” livery and the picture James posted with Kimi on the Marlboro poster

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