Posts Tagged ‘British Grand Prix’

Sebastian Vettel put in a peerless performance today to win the British Grand Prix, his second victory of the season and the third of his brief career. He turns 22 next week.

"We're on our way, son"
Red Bull Racing have made a big improvement to their car, but there is no doubt that the circuit and the conditions played to their strengths and Brawn’s weaknesses. The Brawn drivers were struggling, relatively speaking, Button had a tougher time than Barrichello, but it was interesting that none of the other cars was fast enough to beat the Brawn to the podium.

The question then is, will Red Bull be ahead in the second half of the season and make a championship of it? They were faster in Istanbul, but Vettel made a mistake on the opening lap.

Webber was unlucky this weekend. He looked to have the measure of Vettel in the run up to qualifying, there was nothing in it. Red Bull gave Webber the lighter fuel load for qualifying which meant he was supposed to get the pole, but they gave Vettel the better race strategy. They were meticulously fair with the drivers, who were told that they could race each other. People are suggesting that they should now favour Vettel and give him the best of everything as he has closed the gap on Button to 23 points, which is the kind of gap Kimi Raikkonen was able to close up on Lewis Hamilton in 2007.

So will Webber be the number two from now on? Given that the gap between them is only 4.5 points that would be harsh. It certainly looks like the Red Bull drivers will close the gap, whether they can make a championship of it we will know after the next two races.

Ferrari and Williams both had good days. Ferrari took Felipe Massa from 11th on the grid to fourth, while Williams converted a good qualifying performance by both cars into a solid four points for Nico Rosberg in fifth place. Their respective team mates both had days which started promisingly but ended in disappointment, Raikkonen running fifth in the early stages but finishing eighth and Nakajima a very positive fourth in the opening stint, but his early stop pit strategy dropped him down to 11th.

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The fuel weights have been published for the British Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel is in even better shape than he looked after qualifying. The Red Bull has taken a huge step forward this weekend and Vettel took the pole with four laps more fuel in the car than Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn. Vettel will stop on lap 23.

For once the luck was with him too, because his Red Bull team mate Mark Webber had set the fastest time after the first runs in qualifying, but hit traffic on his decisive lap in the form of Kimi Raikkonen, so the threat from him was neutralised.

Red Bull had two equally matched cars and drivers so they had to give one an advantage in qualifying and the other an advantage in the race. They have told the drivers that there are no orders at this stage, they are free to race. Webber was given the qualifying advantage by running three laps less fuel than Vettel, but he wasn’t able to convert that into his first F1 pole. This surely was his best chance of making that breakthrough, so no wonder he as so annoyed with Raikkonen.

Meanwhile Vettel’s main rival, Jenson Button suffered badly from not being able to get his tyres warmed up. Barrichello is more aggressive on the tyres and this hurts him relative to Button in the race (as we saw in Monaco) but is an advantage on cold days like today. Meanwhile it is clear that the Red Bull is able to warm its tyres up very quickly. We will see what that does to their longevity in the race tomorrow,

Vettel is in a position to dominate the race, from pole. The main areas of interest will whether Webber can get past Barrichello. He should do, he has the crucial extra lap advantage on the first stint which means if he is behind on the first stint, he can take on more fuel to leap Barrichello at the second round of stops. Button will be aiming for a podium, but might have to settle for fourth place, while the battle for points between Trulli, Nakajima and Rosberg, Glock and Raikkonen will be interesting. Nakajima looks the most vulnerable with only 17 laps of fuel in the car.

Pos Driver Weight (kg)
1. Sebastian Vettel 666.5 Lap 23
2. Rubens Barrichello 657.5 Lap 19
3. Mark Webber 659.5 Lap 20
4. Jarno Trulli 658.0 Lap 19/20
5. Kazuki Nakajima 652.5 Lap 17
6. Jenson Button 657.5 Lap 19
7. Nico Rosberg 661.5 Lap 21
8. Timo Glock 660.0 Lap 21
9. Kimi Raikkonen 654.0 Lap 18
10. Fernando Alonso 654.0 Lap 18
11. Felipe Massa 675.0 * Lap 27
12. Robert Kubica 689.5 * Lap 33
13. Heikki Kovalainen 695.5 * Lap 35
14. Nelson Piquet 682.5 * Lap 30
15. Nick Heidfeld 665.5 * Lap 23
16. Giancarlo Fisichella 668.0 * Lap 24
17. Sebastien Bourdais 687.5 * Lap 32
18. Adrian Sutil 692.0 * Lap 34
19. Lewis Hamilton 666.0 * Lap 23
20. Sebastien Buemi 672.5 * Lap 26

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Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that the British Grand Prix will disappear from the F1 calendar if Donington does not manage to put the race on next season.

Yesterday Simon Gillett’s Donington Ventures group, the promoter of the event at the Midlands circuit, suffered a major blow when legal proceedings were launched by the circuit’s owners, Wheatcroft and Son for £2.5 million in unpaid rent. The Wheatcrofts are also seeking forfeiture of the 150 year lease.

Ecclestone said that he had spoken to Gillett during the day and attacked the British Government for not investing in one of its largest annual sporting events.

“It’s a disgrace that the British Government don’t step in to help,” Ecclestone told the Telegraph. “They are throwing billions at the London Olympics. They could do what is needed to save the race by putting in a fraction of it, 0.002 per cent.

“If Donington can’t put on the British Grand Prix then that’s it. We will be leaving Britain. There is no question of us going back to Silverstone, they have had enough chances and have not delivered what they promised.

“I’ve been in talks with Simon [Gillett] today and we’ve been talking through the money situation. I’m trying to help him sort things out. What he really needs is an investor, that’s the best hope of saving the race.”

Gillett bought the British Grand Prix in a dawn raid last July. He planned to finance the venture with a debenture scheme, similar to the one used at Wembley Stadium. But the timing seems to have been bad, with the full awfulness of the credit crunch hitting home barely three months after the deal was signed. Gillett said that he would announce details of the debenture scheme at the end of March. So far no details have been forthcoming.

It has long been speculated in F1 circles that Ecclestone might step in and take over the event at Donington. Some even believe he may have some kind of plan to turn it into the world’s finest race track as part of his legacy.

But if Ecclestone cannot own the circuit, it’s not clear how or why he would do this. The track’s ownership lies with the Wheatcroft family, while Silverstone is owned by the British Racing Drivers Club and is ringfenced.

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I’ve just received the item below in my inbox. It relates to a law suit which veteran Donington circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft has filed against the Donington Ventures company of Simon Gillett, who has a contract to stage the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards.

“Wheatcroft & Son Limited, the owners of Donington Park motor racing circuit, have issued legal proceedings against Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, the operators of the circuit, seeking £2.47m in rent arrears and forfeiture of the circuit lease.

Lawyers at Browne Jacobson LLP, acting on behalf of their client Wheatcroft & Son Limited, issued the proceedings at Derby County Court earlier today (23rd April).

Wheatcroft & Son Limited awarded Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd a 150-year lease back in January 2007. Donington Park, has since been awarded a ten-year contract to host the British Grand Prix from 2010.

Kevin Wheatcroft of Wheatcroft & Son Limited said :
“It is with great reluctance that we have taken this decision. Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd owe us nearly £2.5m in rent dating back to September 2008. Despite receiving numerous reassurances over a number of months they have consistently failed to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease. We have held off taking legal action for as long as possible but have been left with no choice but to commence proceedings to recover the outstanding rent and forfeit the lease.”

I posted on the accounts of Donington Ventures earlier in the year. There have also been some problems with circuit licences.

Gillett was due to announce details of a debenture scheme for funding the works to bring the track up to F1 standard. This will add fresh material for the sceptics.

The timing of the issue of the press release was interesting as Donington Management and Lord Astor were begging for government support for the Grand Prix in the Houses of Parliament this afternoon..

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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 has done those things, but now he’s in the spotlight, everyone’s watching and he’s climbing up onto the tightrope. He’s into the really expensive phase of the project and no-one can see where the money is coming from. So he’s run into some negativity. Making an oblique reference to Damon Hill president of the BRDC which owns Silverstone, he said,

“I guess it would help if I was born into a racing family or I was an ex-driver – but I’m not. If you cut me open I don’t ooze petrol. Instead, I ooze business – and I think that’s frowned upon a little. I’m not one of the old guard, so people ask why I’ve got one of the crown jewels when they don’t think I’ve the right to have it.

“Remember, we didn’t steal the grand prix from Silverstone – it was dead. They refused to pick up the contract on the table, and there was no future for grand prix racing in Britain,” he added. “So we picked up the contract; we took the risk, are doing all the work – yet we’re still seen as the perceived threat to the British grand prix. Realistically, we’re the only lifeboat it has got.”

The reference to ‘picking up the contract’ is just that. There were contracts on a table in Bernie’s motorhome during the Grand Prix weekend last year and he did litterally pick it up.

There are plenty of people around the sport who like to play politics and the British Grand Prix is one of the favourite games, as Gillett is now finding. There’s no doubt that there is an element who are exactly as Gillett sees it, just out to get the knife in. But equally there are a lot of neutrals who don’t mind too much if it’s Silverstone or Donington as long as it happens and is a credit to the UK. I fall into that camp and so do many of the professionals in F1.

I posted a relatively positive piece earlier this year, when Gillett explained the debenture scheme to me, I was rather less positive once I’d seen the 2007 accounts. Now I’m waiting to hear exactly how he’s going to fund it and how much of the debenture scheme is already in the bag.

I was at Donington in 1993, working in the pit lane for ESPN TV of America and it is one of my most special racing memories; Prost pitting seven times for tyres, Rubens almost getting a podium before running out of fuel and Senna’s utterly majestic drive in the McLaren and a fascinating interview with him afterwards.

A Donington GP would be great. It has the history from pre-war days and a good brand to build on. But despite today’s pr offensive, the question remains, will it happen?

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