F1 Winter Break
The scene in Monaco
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.

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.

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.

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

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?



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.


“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.


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.


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……


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.


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?


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.


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 ]


“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


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


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 ?


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..


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


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


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.


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?


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 !!


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.


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?


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?


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 😉


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.

Christian Stewart

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?


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…?

Top Tags