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Archive for the ‘Circuits’ Category

Three hours waiting in the Ferrari motorhome this evening, for a press conference which was all set up for a 5pm start, but then that slipped as the meeting between the teams, the FIA and FOM rolled on.

In the end we were told that the meeting was ‘constructive’ but inconclusive so there will be more meetings in the next couple of days.

This means that there is some hope. There have clearly been some concessions on both sides. The teams and the FIA stood on the brink and stared into the abyss and Bernie Ecclestone worked hard to make sure that neither pushed the other over the edge. I think the teams, after the first meeting on the boat, presented a united front, but in order to do that Ferrari may well have had to concede some things.

The feeling behind the scenes, incidentally, is that Toyota is shaping up to leave the sport anyway and that it is pursuing the line of disasgreement with the rules to give a credible reason for its exit. Time will tell. We’ve been hearing Toyota want out for a long time and they are still here..

The concessions made this afternoon will be financial, mainly, possibly a review of Ferrari’s share of revenues, possibly a review of FOM’s share of revenues. I also get the impression that the manufacturer teams have put forward some more far reaching cost saving ideas in order to try to head off the budget cap idea.

I’m afraid I can’t say much more that that, other than to show you the latest voting on the twitter poll we’ve been running on how important Ferrari is to F1. It’s a bit spooky, I hope someone else votes soon…
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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.

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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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I’ve been enjoying working with the leading F1 photographer Darren Heath this season.

He has a fantastic eye and always gets an original view on a Grand Prix weekend. We are experimenting with ways we can work together on content and this is a Flickr slideshow with my captions.

For maximum impact, expand it to full screen and click on “Show info” to get the captions. (You will need the latest Flash plug-in installed and your browsers might prefer to go directly to the JAF1 Flickr pages)
Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Here is something new, something I’ve been working on for a short while. I hope you like it.

I’ve joined forces with Darren Heath, in my view the number one photographer in F1. He and I started in F1 around the same time, 20 years ago and have been mates ever since.

This is an audio slideshow of the Malaysian GP, with Darren’s photos and my words.

Enjoy and Happy Easter!

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I have no wish to start scaremongering, but looking at Bernie Ecclestone’s comments in the Express that he wouldn’t rule out a ban of a few races for McLaren, makes me look through the F1 calendar at the races ahead with some nervousness.

The recent precedent was BAR, which received a ban over its fuel tank irregularities in May 2005. In that instance BAR was found guilty of ‘fraudulent conduct’ and the word ‘fraud’ was used again this week by Ecclestone in the McLaren case,

“It is about stealing a point and a place but those are worth money so basically it is fraud, although I am sure it started off more innocently without thought of the consequences,” he said.

Ecclestone also highlights the fact that McLaren will be back in front of the beak on similar charges to the ones they faced less than two years ago and it is never a good thing to show you haven’t mended your ways.

I’d be surprised if McLaren – and therefore Lewis Hamilton – missed races, but if he did, the timing might get a little uncomfortable for Silverstone. The hearing is April 29, very shortly before the Spanish GP. If handed a three race ban on April 29, it could be for Monaco, Turkey and British GP, the last at Silverstone, in June.

BAR were banned with immediate effect and forced to miss the next two races in the calendar after the decision, which were Spain and Monaco. They were also excluded from San Marino, the race where the illegal fuel collector system was discovered. Hamilton has already been excluded from Australia, where his offence occurred.

However BAR faced the international court of appeal, whereas McLaren face the World Motor Sport Council, who whacked them in 2007 over the spy story and who can issue more or less any punishment they see fit.

Exclusion from the constructors’ championship, or loss of constructors’ points again, as in 2007, remains the more likely option I believe, as that punishes the team and not the driver and carries a financial penalty as well, with loss of earnings from their share of the commercial revenues of the sport.

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I don’t know about you, but I need some light relief after all the heavy duty stuff about McLaren. Here’s a review of the week’s winners and losers.

 

Good Week for:

Nick Heidfeld – Gambled on only one pit stop in Malaysia and got a podium. Though short, he now stands above his highly-rated team mate in points table

Timo Glock – The gambler of Interlagos does it again, but this time it has no effect on the outcome of the championship. Glock shows he’s a canny racer.

Brawn GP – We now know just how fast this car is when pushed. Button’s fastest lap in Sepang was almost second faster than rivals. Get working, lads.

The English language – Eddie Jordan demonstrates its versatility on TV. Words can be put into any order, with or without verbs.

 

Bad Week for:

Evening race starts – F1’s sketchy understanding of geography shown up again as an evening monsoon, predictably, douses the Sepang track. Race abandoned.

Martin Whitmarsh – two races in to his dream job and it’s become Nightmare on Elm Street. Will he actually be garotted on April 29th, or merely flogged?

Ferrari – The team which seemed to have forgotten how to lose… has suddenly remembered again. Full wet tyres… on a dry track?

Honda – the boss who decided to quit F1 is now sitting in a bar, comparing notes with the man from Decca Records, who turned down the Beatles.

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It’s a shame that Jenson Button has yet to see the chequered flag at full racing speed at the end of a full race. Both his wins have been terrific, but this one today was really special and you have to pay tribute to the masterful way that the Brawn team, Button and his engineer Andrew Shovlin managed the changing conditions.

Others, like Glock and Heidfeld made greater gains by gambling on wet tyres, and Heidfeld gambled several times with the result that he made only one pit stop compared to Button’s four. But then Glock and Heidfeld had nothing to lose, while Button had everything to lose.

He said afterwards that the car wasn’t very well balanced on wet tyres, so it was a credit to him that he was able to keep his pace up in the wet conditions,
“The conditions we had today, it’s very unusual to drive the full wets in slightly greasy conditions, we had to go for that option because he thought it was going to rain and we were in the lead. It felt pretty terrible, the rear was always trying to break away. But that was more down to the conditions.

“When we put the intermediates on, the car felt pretty good I had a good balance for the car, because it was the right tyre for that condition, until it started bucketing it down and then no tyre was usable.”

So he did his bit. But the team did a brilliant job. If you compare his outcome with Nico Rosberg’s you’ll see what I mean, Rosberg had the early lead and was on a similar strategy to Button, just a couple of laps shorter on the first stop. He had the pace for a podium today. And yet he made stops on laps 27 and 30 and slipped from 2nd to 8th, with the fourth stop from inters to wets, a stop other cars didn’t make. This could have happened to Button, but he had kept the momentum going and at every stage the team stayed calm and did what was required.

Today’s other great revelation is that we got to see just how fast this Brawn car really is, when Jenson had to push hard in his two laps before his first stop, in order to leapfrog Rosberg and Trulli. He did a 1m 36.641, which is a second faster than the next non-Brawn car!!

That is quite some margin they have, greater than we imagined previously and it’s also impressive to note that that lap time was set at the end of a 16 lap stint on soft tyres, so the Brawn can be said to have fantastic tyre management ability.

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