Posts Tagged ‘Ecclestone’

F1’s commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone isn’t here in Australia, he’s back in London doing deals.

One which broke cover this weekend was a deal he’s been working on for ages with Universal Music group, the biggest recorded music outfit in the world. They own dozens of the labels you grew up with like Polydor, Decca and A&M.

According to a joint statement the concept is called “F1 Rocks” and it is a series of multi-artist live music events from the Grands Prix. That part isn’t new, after all the Who are playing here tomorrow night and good old Status Quo have been getting repetitive strain injury at Silverstone for years.

What is new is the blending in of ‘stars of movies, sport and fashion’ with the rockers and the racers. The whole thing will be packaged into a digital content stream which fans can enjoy around the world.

The deal makes a lot of sense on both sides. F1 is desperate to get more ‘celebs’ to the races, bizarrely that kind of glamour is thin on the ground. Remember the hoopla when the Beckhams came to Silverstone with Honda, well they want that kind of buzz and energy all the time and this is the latest idea on how to achieve that. TV networks expect to see stars and glamour associated with F1 and it hasn’t really delivered on that in recent years.

And for Universal the attraction is clear. The only way to make money in music these days is live events and this will add a new revenue stream for the artists on Universal’s books.

Its shows how the web is changing F1 and the expectation of what is possible. Bernie has always been very suspicious of the internet, because he thinks it’s really hard to protect his rights in such and unregulated free-for-all. But this deal will, I’m sure, be the first of many as F1 looks to open up new revenue streams and drag its business model into the 21st century.

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Team boycott threatened in Oz?

I’m surprised more hasn’t been made of the stories in the last day or so about the meeting between Flavio Briatore, Ron Dennis and Bernie Ecclestone, where Flavio is supposed to have threatened a FOTA boycott of Melbourne if the teams were not paid some money they claim BE owes them under the terms of the extended Concorde Agreement.

According to Ecclestone in the Times, “Flavio said, ‘We’re not going to put our cars on the plane, we’re not going to Melbourne.’ He started it aided and abetted by Ron Dennis.”

The pair are reported to have backed down after Ecclestone called their bluff and rang the freight company to cancel the planes.

Bernie was left unimpressed that the pair had not followed through on their threats,
“If they come in here with a gun and hold it to my head they had better be sure they can pull the trigger, ” he said. “And they should make sure that it’s got bullets in it because if they miss they better look out.”

I’m in the lounge at Kuala Lumpur airport at the moment, half way to Melbourne and unable to ask the relevant people about this story, but I shall when I get to the paddock on Thursday morning.

It comes on the back of the fall out from the ‘winner takes all’ points fiasco last week, where the teams were being fingered for playing a disruptive role. FOTA boss Luca di Montezemolo keeps saying they want a calm atmosphere to move the sport forward, but instead the message is coming out that the aggro is being ramped up, with the teams portrayed as the agitators.

This is setting the tone for the season. I’ve a nasty feeling the racing is going to be incidental.

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Today could turn out to be a day, which will stand out in the history books of Formula 1. At the FIA World Council meeting in Monaco some huge decisions will be taken, which reflect a sea change in attitude within the F1 teams compared to recent years and which will herald the start of a move towards a totally new F1 concept, certainly as far as engines are concerned.

Following the surprise withdrawal of Honda a week ago, a fresh mood of realism has finally crept in and the remaining nine teams met with FIA president Max Mosley on Wednesday and presented a package of proposals to drastically cut costs. All parties described the meeting as a ‘breakthrough’ and we wait with baited breath to see what shape our sport will take in the future.

The cornerstone of the proposal is a standard engine and drivetrain. Currently the costs of developing and producing the engine and gearbox are considered to be roughly half a Formula One operating budget for some teams, or £30 million per year. The FIA wants to remove the drivetrain as an area in which teams compete with each other, thus eliminating the need to spend such sums on it.

Under the plans before the World Council today, the standard engine will be supplied by Cosworth and the gearbox by Xtrac/Ricardo, costing around £5 million per season. It remains to be seen how many teams will sign up for this in 2010. Teams have the option of building their own engine but it must be to the exact Cosworth design and therefore equivalent in performance. I fancy that many of the big names will do this, including Ferrari. However, I’m told that one of the breakthroughs at the meeting on Wednesday was that this option has been made ‘sexier’, hence why the top names were happy to agree to it. We’ll see what that entails later today.

The idea behind the standard engine is simple – to calm down the excessive spending of recent times and get things under control. But the intention thereafter is to reintroduce competitive engines to a completely new design in 2013. These are likely to be turbocharged, probably V6 and the competition element will be reintroduced, probably based on fuel efficiency, rather than outright performance.

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Just arrived in a rainy and chilly Monaco for what will be a momentous couple of days for the sport.

It’s weirdly appropriate that this humbling of F1, the death knell of the era of decadence and excess, should happen in Monaco, which has long symbolised the wealth and glamour, with which F1 is synonymous.

This will be a strange journey for all of us, coming to terms with the new ‘austerity F1’, but here are a few notes at this early stage.

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F1 moves on

Amazing day today. Been flat out writing about the Honda withdrawal and where it leaves F1. Took part in the Max Mosley teleconference this afternoon and spoke to many figures within the sport. The main points I’ve come across are these:

Honda is very serious about selling the team but it will be a streamlined outfit they sell, with no more than 200 employees ( current figure is over 650) and capable of running on £40-50 million per year (current figure more like three times that)

There is no engine supply in the package because next year F1 moves to three race engines and Honda doesn’t have enough of these ready yet, so it is likely to be a customer supply of Ferraris and the car will have to be re-optimised around this, which will take a bit of work.

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The discussion about the medals system potentially coming into F1 has set fans buzzing again, since Bernie Ecclestone stated, “It will happen, ” on Wednesday.

We’ve had lots of intelligent and insightful feedback on this and I have to say that the antis outweigh the pros so far. I also noted Eddie Jordan’s comments, where he laid into the plan and virtually accused Bernie of being out of touch. This is clearly a foretaste of the kind of comment we can expect from dear old Eddie when he is unleashed as a pundit on BBC next year…what would he have said about the ruling on the Bourdais/Massa collision in Fuji, or even the penalising of Hamilton at Spa? He’ll have the stewards reaching for the smelling salts next year.

The teams I have spoken to give this initiative a cautious welcome, but with quite some reservations. They see it as a very big step that needs to be thought through and presented properly. No-one is in the mood to shoot ideas down at the moment, because we are in the ‘phoney war’ phase of the FOTA/FIA/ Bernie tussle, which will start to heat up more next week, when FOTA meets on Dec 4th and the FIA world council on the 12th.

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Just back from a press conference at the Landmark Hotel, London, where Bernie Ecclestone said more about the proposed “medals” scheme in F1 and announced that LG the consumer electronics group, will sponsor F1 next year. You as viewers will be very aware of this deal as you watch, because the timing graphics, which appear on screen every 20 seconds of so will be LG branded. I think they will also sponsor the rev counter graphic you see on screen. They will develop F1 branded telies and other products off the back of the deal.

The deal was put together by Just Marketing, who also pulled in Johnnie Walker, Hilton Hotels and Lenovo to F1. Interestingly the event was fronted by BBC’s new F1 anchor Jake Humphreys, with whom I had an enjoyable chat. He’s a decent bloke, from the looks of things and he’s followed the sport for a while, so he’s not without knowledge. And he must be a sharp operator as he got himself a nice little earner today before he’s even hosted an F1 show!

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There has been a lot of chat this week about Bernie Ecclestone’s idea of handing out gold medals to race winners and awarding the world championship to the man with the most at season’s end.

This is one of a number of ideas which will be discussed at the FIA World Council meeting on December 12th. The Formula One Teams Association has been working hard on dreaming up ideas for improving the show as well and Flavio Briatore has a plan for knockout qualifying, which seems to be gathering some momentum.

The idea is simple, instead of dividing qualifying up into three sessions and guessing fuel weights at the end, all cars go out with a fixed amount of fuel and after an out-lap they start setting times, the slowest car each lap will be eliminated until only six remain, at which point they put new tyres on and fight for pole. There is talk of incentives for pole including a cash prize and a single world championship point. Ferrari favours a more conservative approach, suggesting that a return to the points system pre-2004, with points down to 6th place and only 6 points for second, will provide the same incentive to win.

The final version will be hammered out at the FOTA meeting on December 4th, in time for the World Council.

Despite putting on one of the most exciting seasons of racing in living memory, which has brought back many fans disaffected by the Schumacher dominated years in the early 2000s, F1 is seeking spectacle and entertainment and it seems prepared to go through a mini-revolution to achieve it. What do you think, how far can they go before it becomes something other than F1?

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