Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Apologies for not forewarning you before the weekend, but we have moved the blog to a new installation and done some upgrades to it.

Please log in to to http://www.jamesallenonf1.com to find my latest content. All the usual features will be there and you will be able to reset your RSS feeds.

This wordpress.com installation will not be used in future.

Picture 5

Read Full Post »

Max Mosley has fired off another letter to the members of the FIA World motor sport council, in the wake of negative comments from FOTA members over the deal struck on Wednesday.

Mosley wrote to FOTA president Luca di Montezemolo yesterday demanding an apology for the ‘misleading’ statements he and other FOTA team bosses had made. No apology was made at the FOTA press conference, however Montezemolo did write back to Mosley yesterday saying that he had read Mosley’s comments with amazement and pointed out how his observations had been misunderstood. Montezemolo went on to reaffirm respect for all the agreements made with the FIA.

If Mosley was unhappy with Montezemolo’s jibe about the sport not needing another ‘dictator’, he was incandescent with Toyota boss John Howett’s assertion that the FIA needed to elect someone ‘independent’ as the next FIA president. Howett meant someone with no previous links to an F1 team, in other words, not Jean Todt.

In today’s letter Mosley again encourages the FIA members to see the threat to the FIA’s standing and livelihood behind FOTA’s behaviour. To him, they want to take over.

“It is disappointing that Montezemolo did not keep his part of the bargain we made last Wednesday. I had anyway decided not to offer myself for re-election next October and, given what I have had to contend with during the last 12 months, I needed a peaceful summer before starting a more leisurely existence.

“The compromise we found was therefore acceptable to me personally and seemed in the overall interests of Formula 1. But when FOTA falsely claimed that they had ousted me and imposed their will on the FIA, the situation became intolerable. No doubt we face a difficult period. This may well result in short-term problems in Formula 1. It is possible that FOTA will set up an independent series. That is their right, provided they do so under the International Sporting Code.

“But the Formula 1 World Championship will continue to be run by the FIA as it has been for 60 years. The Championship has had difficult times in the past and no doubt will again in the future but that is no reason to hand control to an outside body, still less one with little or no understanding of sporting ethics and under the control of an industry we have constantly to monitor.

“Member clubs of the FIA from all over the world have made it clear that they will never allow the car industry to decide who may and who may not be president of the FIA,” he said.

“This has nothing to do with me as an individual, it is about the independence of the FIA and its member clubs as defenders of the motorist and arbiters of international motor sport.”

Picture 38
There has been some suggestion that some of these FIA world council members might step into the limelght to have their say on the matter, presumably backing up what Mosley is saying.

Meanwhile there has been some speculation that this change of heart by Mosley may lead to the breakaway being back on, but I think we should be cautious before reaching that conclusion. Firstly I don’t detect that FOTA is too concerned with today’s developments; they are pressing ahead with shaping the 2010 rules and know that Mosley is leaving office in October. The agreement achieved on Wednesday has been voted through by the world council in any case. They see this as MM trying to create artificial tension, while arguing that the FIA needs a ‘strong’ president who is experienced in F1 – ie Jean Todt. I get the impression that not even Ferrari want him to be the president. But as Mosley points out, FOTA has no say in that vote.

We will see what exactly he means by ‘short-term problems’ in the coming weeks, I guess.

It appears that nothing has been signed yet, but the drivers which moved the situation forwards to the solution agreed on Wednesday are just as valid now as they were then. And they are largely commercial.

CVC has a big investment in Formula 1 and its options for making an exit are limited, but all roads would appear to lead to an IPO at some stage in the future. Wednesday’s agreement lays out a path for that and it’s hard to see a return to the uncertainty which threatened F1.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore touched on CVC’s role yesterday when he said of the contract with the commercial rights holder,

“It runs to 2012 but we would be interested in extending it. We need to increase the number of viewers and balance what the teams spend with what they take in. F1 should be a profit centre. Actors don’t pay to appear in films, spending more than they take in, like the Blues Brothers.”

Read Full Post »

We are currently waiting for the FOTA dossier, which was promised last week, detailing all the ways in which F1 is going wrong under the current FIA administration. It now sounds like we might get two dossiers, the other from the FIA itself detailing its dealings with FOTA and what it describes as ‘hardliners’, looking to scupper the process.

It’s strange because you hear from both sides that there is a detailed process of meetings going on behind the scenes and yet above the surface the mudslinging is in full flow.

The FIA issued a statement on Monday morning saying that it felt progress was being made towards a solution of the 2010 entry crisis, which is threatening to rip the sport in two. Last week at a meeting, four team principals and FIA president Max Mosley discussed help for new teams, budget levels, governance and financial controls.

There is another meeting today with the finance people looking at ‘resource restriction.’ This is the new buzzword for the process by which spending is controlled. Manufacturers, especially Ferrari, find it impossible to contemplate a budget cap because of the way its internal resourcing is done with cross linking across the road and racing divisions.

However FOTA is proposing ‘resource restriction’ as a way of achieving the same result. It sounds like the two sides are not too far apart on money levels either. Another meeting is planned for this week to look at governance and the Concorde Agreement.

What is interesting about today’s FIA statement is that it accuses a faction within FOTA of being ‘handliners’, who are determined to sabotage any deal to solve the crisis. This is part of Mosley’s heavy artillery I wrote about last week. I’m hearing that it is Toyota and Renault who are in the cross hairs. The Renault president Carlos Ghosn is also the head of the European Manufacturers’ Association which got involved in the row last week, calling for the FIA to review its current administration.

Read Full Post »

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo made a high-profile visit to the Le Mans 24 hours today and was the official starter of the event.

His visit had been planned for some time and was highly symbolic; the Le Mans 24 hours is not sanctioned by the FIA and with the fall out over Formula 1 entries for 2010 Montezemolo was keen to show that there is life beyond the current set up in F1.

FOTA has made it clear in the last 24 hours that it wants to see reform of the way in the FIA is run and is urging the body to act against it’s president Max Mosley. Failing that, he made it clear that a breakaway remains an option.

“Everybody sees what is happening in Formula 1. I do not understand the reason,” he said. “Anyway I think our conditions are constructive, are very clear: governance, stable rules – the people don’t understand any more rules that change every six months, one day it’s KERS, another day it’s standard engines – and looking ahead to have a balance between cost and revenues, to let new commerce enter.

“I’m very pleased to have new teams, and when I say teams I mean Formula 1 not Formula 3.

“I don’t think it is possible to compete at the maximum level, I mean to try to win in too many series. I think there is Formula 1, there is racing like Le Mans, and racing in the United States which is extremely challenging – as I mentioned before, Indy or something like this.

“Our intention is to continue to participate in Formula 1 if there are the conditions. If not, as I say to our tifosi all around the world who have been in touch with us on our internet in an unbelievable way, the DNA of Ferrari is competition. If we stop in F1 we will do something else, and for sure Le Mans will be one of our first priorities.”

“There is a historical connection between Ferrari and the 24 Hours and I am glad to be here to start one of the races of which I admire the spirit of competition you can feel here,” Montezemolo said. “We have many things in common; for example the connection to the terroir: I can see the people living here and they are happy and proud to host this great event and collaborate to set it up, just like it happens at Maranello. It’s true that many years have passed since the last overall win of a Ferrari in this race and I have a dream, which is also a wish, to see sooner or later an official car starting in the race.”

Read Full Post »

Before the Turkey weekend I flagged up that I was interested in Toyota’s performance after their alarming slump in Monaco and to some extent, Spain.

Well Jarno Trulli had a great weekend, qualifying 5th and racing strongly against Nico Rosberg to finish fourth. Toyota are looking pretty good in third place in the championship, although you can see them possibly dropping one place to fourth when Ferrari get motoring in the second half of the season. What was hugely encouraging for Toyota in Istanbul, though, was that they kept the Ferraris behind them all weekend, despite the massive gains the Scuderia has made of late.

Here’s Trulli’s view, “We are back on track and it was good to be fighting at the front of the grid again. To return to the top five immediately after what happened in Monaco is great and it is a credit to the team, who have worked really hard to improve our performance. We were not far away from the fastest car; there is still a small gap which we will work to close but we are moving in the right direction.

“Basically it has been achieved through a lot of hard work after Monaco, by everyone in the team. Monaco is a one-off race and we felt sure our problems would not be repeated in Turkey but we didn’t leave this to chance. We had a few upgrades, with changes to the front and rear wings, which brought additional performance. Overall we improved in many areas, including the start which was fantastic for me on Sunday. Timo and I have worked together with the team to understand where we can improve and the result we had in Turkey was a nice reward for our effort. ”

Read Full Post »

Details of the 2009 motorsport business forums have been announced.

There will be three events this year, the traditional event in Monaco in December, the Middle East event in the days before the Abu Dhabi GP in October and a US event in Orlando in December.

The forums have evolved over the past five years into the leading event for discussion and debate on the major issues around the world of motorsport business. The wide ranging programme covers every area of commercial activity in the sport from sponsorship acquisition and exploitation to championship management.

I have been asked to host the Monaco and Abu Dhabi events and I’m proud to do so. Sponsorship finder par excellence Zak Brown is hosting the US event.

The line ups are being put together, but championship promoters, F1 teams, global sponsors and circuits have confirmed participation.

There are some exciting speakers from the world of F1 business including team members like Brawn CEO Nick Fry and Bobby Rahal as well as representatives of major sponsors like Hilton, UPS and LG.

Read Full Post »

Following on from my earlier post, Frank Williams said some very interesting things on Saturday afternoon, so here they are in more detail.

He covers the current 2010 entry crisis, explains Max Mosley’s motivation, looks at the problem of engine supply if there is a split and talks about possibly housing one of the new teams on his site.
Picture 23

What is the situation with FOTA, you are suspended, will you go back?

“We are out of FOTA, expelled. Normally when you are expelled, you don’t go back to school or not that one, anyway. In or out, that’s fine. If we were invited back then that would be different.”

So you are committed to the FIA?

“If there are two championships we would want to be in the FIA F1 championship.”

Don’t you want to beat the best of the best?
“Depends on who the best of the best are at any one time doesn’t it? If the manufacturers start their own championship? It’s tough s**t

“It’s not a war, there are two positions, one is the FIA (with Bernie) and the other is a group which is mainly engine manufacturers and if they don’t agree with Max they may well go and form another championship.”

What do you think of the calibre of some of the new teams making entries?
“I started at the bottom and I guess some of these teams would be starting [there] given that there is quite a big gap presently between the teams in terms of know-how and technology.”

What will you do for an engine if there is a split?
“The key feature in all of this is the supply of engines. At the last meeting before the removal of Williams from FOTA it was not lost on me that the engines on the grid today are brilliant pieces of engineering and they almost never go wrong and they last three or four times longer than Cosworth 30 years ago.”

How is the relationship with Toyota since you were expelled from FOTA?
“Tested it a little bit for the first ten minutes then it settled back to normal. We have a contract (for next year) and we would wish to continue. I don’t think the damage goes that deep. I’m very happy with an up to date modern engine. The problem with the Cosworth is that it was fine in 2006 but there’s a lot of catching up to do.”

Do you think the situation can be resolved? What will Ferrari do?
“Ferrari is a key point. The curious thing is that Ferrari is not part of the FIA camp. I don’t think anyone is going to die about this. Max doesn’t want this to turn to pooh, spread all over the papers for the next six months, what damage [people] did to F1. I think there is a will to let’s be human for a change and talk to each other.

“Max isn’t looking for a fight, he just wants to avoid having teams leave, smaller ones in particular because they cannot afford to continue. I would say that he shouldn’t worry if he has six or eight or ten entries, it doesn’t sound like hard times out there, now some of them are hoping to attract the money, but there’s one or two will turn up.”

Williams has a big workforce and state of the art equipment, how will you get the company under a £40 million budget cap?
“That’s an emotional question, because Patrick Head and I have spent quite a few years building up the business. We’ve made money, lost money.

“The next time around, after the budget cap it would make us easier to make profits and remain a healthy viable, saleable business eventually. So one part of me says it would be handy; we could do with a financial breather. But the other part of me says to dismantle Williams to get down to the £40milion I don’t know. It will mean further cuts.”

Do you see some of the new teams being taken onto the factory site of the existing teams to share facilities and so on?
“That is going to happen. We are looking closely at doing that. With a young team which has enough money to do a serious job for a couple of years. Max encouraging teams to help those teams. Normally we’d say [no]. But it’s a case of having enough good teams in case other teams do disappear and it helps us spread our costs and in the case of the budget cap we could offset some of the costs and charges onto the second team. It’s book-keeping and it’s someone else’s problem.”

HQ at Grove: Room for a small one?

HQ at Grove: Room for a small one?

How does your budget now compare with the last year when you won the world title?
“We are spending around £90 to £100 million this year. In 1997 I think we never spent more than £40 million, but we had a free engine.’

Read Full Post »

Sebastian Vettel was fastest in all three qualifying sessions today at Istanbul and picked up his second pole position of the season for Red Bull.

Picture 11

Pole position changed hands three times in the final moments of a terrific session. First Mark Webber grabbed it, then Jenson Button went faster, but Vettel got the lap which mattered.

Jenson Button again had a quiet build up, with various set up issues to be resolved in practice, but delievered a big lap at the end to start alongside Vettel on the front row. But the early indications are that the Brawn may have a lap or two more fuel onboard, which could count in their favour tactically in the race.

Rubens Barrichello was third, but went his own way in Q3; whereas Vettel and Button went with the soft tyre, Barrichello did three consecutive laps on the hard tyre, the last of which gave him third place.

Mark Webber was very late going out in Q2 and managed to get through to Q3 with only one run in that session and never looked like he had the pace of his team mate. He was a tenth slower in Q1, four tenths in Q2 and three tenths in Q3.

Jarno Trulli did a good job to restore some pride to Toyota after a couple of tough weekends. He lines up 5th, but was second fastest in Q2 , whereas team mate Glock was eliminated in Q2 and lines up 13th on the grid tomorrow.

McLaren had a tough day, the car is clearly not confidence inspiring in fast corners. Hekki Kovalainen is 14th on the grid, while Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q1 for the second race in a row. He is enduring the kind of time that Jenson Button was having this time last year.

Fuel weights should be out around 3pm UK time and we will have a better idea then of how the race will unfold.
The Ferrari challenge was more blunt than anticipated. Felipe Massa, the winner at this track for the last three years, was a whisker behind his team mate, the Ferraris 6th and 7th.

Read Full Post »

There have been some interesting suggestions in your comments as to the line up we may see on the grid next year, some of you clearly have some time on your hands to theorise and put drivers in cars.

I’m not going to do that, but I am going to think about what the F1 grid might look like in terms of teams next year and take a snapshot of where we are with this delicate situation.

Picture 18
The starting point is the teams who are legally obliged to take part next year. Williams acknowledges that it is one and Force India has put in an unconditional entry, so both of them will run £40 million budget capped next year.

At the time when those teams signed up with FIA and FOM in 2005, Ferrari and the two Red Bull teams also signed up. My understanding is that all three of them are in the same boat legally as Williams and Force India, even though they currently stand with the FOTA teams in making only a conditional entry for next year.

I don’t know whether the law courts can force Ferrari to race in F1 next year if it does not want to, but it seems that the FIA and FOM would have grounds for a damages claim if they did not and quite a substantial one it would be too. Ferrari’s argument would be that the sport had subtantively changed from what they signed up to and it would be down to a judge to rule on which side was in the right.

This afternoon Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali put his side of the story,

“That is the position of Max of course. We had an agreement with the FIA but we felt that the obligations inside that agreement were breached, so the agreement is not valid anymore. We have put in our entry together with other competitors with the condition that we think is important to respect for the future of Formula One.”

This really is the key to it all, because if Ferrari are legally bound to be in F1 with the FIA and FOM, then the other FOTA teams have had it.

They will be forced to either quit the sport altogether or to capitulate and run under the £40 million budget cap. It would be pretty much impossible to run a rival series without Ferrari.

The confident way in which Max Mosley has conducted his campaign so far increasingly indicates that he feels the law is on his side. I think the court hearing in Paris where Ferrari were seeking an injunction, gave the FIA confidence that the agreement between them is binding, so they now to see Ferrari as a big fish, which is hooked on a line, albeit wriggling like mad.

So, after some more argument and maybe the odd lawsuit, that potentially gives you five of the existing teams on the grid next year; Williams, Ferrari, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India.

Of the new entrants, it is very hard to judge from the outside which are dreamers and which have a realistic chance of actually building a competitive car and I’m certainly not in a position to guess who’s who. Even the existing team bosses are finding it hard to work that one out. The FIA is doing due diligence on them as we speak.

The rules as I understand it allow for existing teams to help the new teams with technology up to a point, but that point stops well short of customer cars. You could easily imagine a team getting the kind of support Force India gets from McLaren Mercedes, for example.
Picture 19

Beyond proving that they have sufficient funds to make a go of it and not fail in their first year, this co-operation will be the key as to whether some of the new entrants make it or not. I personally think that it is far harder to build an F1 car, let alone a competitive one, than most of them realise, but we will see.

If three of them get through the entry process, that makes eight teams on the grid with five spaces left. Co-incidentally there would also be five teams left in FOTA; Brawn, McLaren, Toyota, BMW, Renault.

This is the key point that Mosley has to judge correctly when selecting new entrants. If five of the new entrants are granted a franchise, then that would mean two of the existing teams would be left without a slot. But the signs are still there that one or two of them are seriously thinking about making an exit at this point, so there may only be three FOTA teams left looking for spaces, depending on whether they were inclined to capitulate.

It’s really a question of whether there are enough credible new teams and whether any of the manufacturers are prepared to climb down. In that scenario I could perhaps see Renault pulling out and Flavio Briatore buying up the team and entering it as Briatore GP, or something similar.

I can also see why McLaren and Brawn would not want to be left without a slot. Both exist only to race and have a lot of infrastructure and personnel to consider.

And that’s it really, beyond making the point that some new blood in F1 would be a good thing, but like everything else there is a balance to be struck. We need F1 to be F1 and not GP1 and we need a good mixture of established names and new blood which has a genuine chance of succeeding.

There is no way that an F1 team should need to cost £100 million a year to run, but equally there is no way that the guardians of the sport should throw away a well established, thrilling entertainment based on brilliant drivers and technological marvel.

Read Full Post »

I’ve just been sent a press release from a German company, which owns the remnants of the Super Aguri team and also the Brabham brand. They have announced that they have entered next year’s world championship as Brabham.
Picture 8

This is a very strong deja vu for me. I started my professional career in Formula 1 in 1990 with the Brabham team. I was the team’s press officer for two seasons. Our drivers in 1990 were David Brabham and Stefano Modena, the team principal was Herbie Blash (now on the FIA race direction team with Charlie Whiting) and it was owned by a Japanese company, Middlebridge, who had bought the name after a very complicated transaction.

Middlebridge rather underestimated what F1 cost. They found to their horror that it was around £1 million a month. They weren’t very good at finding sponsors, but they did get a deal with Yamaha for engines for 1991. They also hired Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell, so that’s where my relationship with those two began. Brabham fizzled out in 1994.

So what about this new Brabham team? Well it is based on the old Super Aguri team in Leafield, as I said. The technical director is Mark Preston, a very talented Aussie, who used to work at McLaren. He was the brains behind Super Aguri. Of course that team used year old Hondas with Honda engines, so building their own car from scratch will be interesting, but I would say that Mark is definitely one of the more credible engineers out there working with new teams.

Mark Preston

Mark Preston

The boss is a guy called Franz Hilmer, whom I have not encountered before but he’s made his fortune in the machining and parts industry with a company called Formtech and has an F3 Euroseries team. As I say, I don’t know much about him. The press release says that the team has attracted investors and sponsors which cover 75% of the available space on the car, which is far better than Super Aguri ever did, if it’s true, and these sponsors are “prepared to free the money subject to the positive decision of the FIA to the new entry of Brabham Grand Prix as a cost cap team as of June 12th.”

Brabham’s press release says that the team is “convinced that the budget cap is a contemporary obligation and will effect a revitalisation of the Formula One World Championship.”

With the news that the grid is theoretically full without the FOTA teams, this is all starting to look like a real page turner of a moment. Of course many of the new applicants will not survive the due dilligence test the FIA is carrying out at the moment. The last thing F1 needs is a return to the days of F1 teams failing mid-season and going bust. The whole point of budget caps was to maintain strong healthy grids.

The nine FOTA teams have served F1 for many years, invested billions to go racing and been ‘the show’. You could argue that they have taken the benefit of F1’s huge global reach to their brands and their sponsors brands along the way and no-one owes them anything more. The FIA owns F1 and is offering them the chance to continue in the sport, but on revised terms and they aren’t happy with that.

The FOTA nine were not happy with the show, with their share of the revenues from participation, nor with the way the rules were being made, so they took a stand and now we have 8 days in which it will be decided if F1 can simply wash its hands of the teams we have come to know of late, like BMW Sauber, Toyota and Red Bull and embrace a raft of new teams, more in the spirit of the way racing was in the 1970s to 1990s, before the manufacturers came in and corporatised everything.

Ferrari have been the strongest on the FOTA side and to capitulate from here would be a hell of a climb down for them. But the FIA is certain that Ferrari is legally, contractually bound to race in 2010, as Williams is. Ferrari has to hold the FOTA coalition together over these eight days or the game will be totally lost.

I can see Brawn and Force India jumping ship and joining in the new F1, because they have everything to gain from that and given how close Dietrich Mateschitz is to Max Mosley, I can see him keeping Red Bull in F1 and perhaps selling Toro Rosso to one of the new entrants. McLaren will be very interesting. They have a lot to gain from staying in F1 and negotiating a special deal with FOM for revenue share based on their history, as Williams and Ferrari have done in the past. At the end of the day, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams are the three teams who provide a spine for F1, all the other teams have come and gone around them.

The point surely is that these new teams will be much easier for Max and Bernie to manage than a bunch of bolshie manufacturers. This moment has been coming ever since the manufacturers threatened a breakaway series in 2004. If neither side backs down then there is going to be one hell of a game of musical chairs next week.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »