Todt defends engine choice
Jean Todt is standing by the controversial 2013 F1 turbo rules, despite opposition from Bernie Ecclestone and most of the teams.
Ecclestone has said that the new four-cylinder engines won’t sound impressive enough, while the teams are concerned about a cost escalation, and in Ferrari’s case claim that the engine does not project the right image for F1.
Todt has stressed that both Ecclestone and vocal turbo opponent Ferrari had backed the change at the World Motor Sport Council.
“Before I was elected at the FIA [as president] it had been decided to freeze the V8 2.4-litre engine until 2011,” said Todt. “Then it was decided that it was going to be postponed to 2013. In the meantime the engine working group — the FIA technical people, one representative of each engine supplier from the present time and from potential participants in the future — they all came out with the proposal of engine rules for 2013, which was presented to me.
“I made some comments, and they unanimously proposed that. The next step was to have that voted through the WMSC. It was unanimously voted through.
“Who is part of the World Council?” he added. “We have 26 members and among those members you have two representatives of the F1 world, one of which is the oldest team representative, Ferrari, and the other one which is the representative of the commercial rights, Bernie Ecclestone. I repeat, it was unanimously agreed. So therefore in 2013 we will have the introduction of the new engine.”
News Corp bid for F1 sparks unrest
The battle to control the future of Formula 1 took another twist when Luca di Montezemolo suggested that the teams could consider an alternative path when the current Concorde Agreement expires at the end of 2012.
The Ferrari president’s comments came shortly after News Corporation and the Exor Group — the Agnelli family investment company that owns 30 per cent of Fiat — confirmed they were putting together a consortium with a view to exploring a buyout of the sport.
That was followed by denials from both CVC and Bernie Ecclestone that it was up for sale, and a put-down from a sceptical Jean Todt, who on behalf of the FIA has a veto on any such deal.
Montezemolo’s comments were made on the eve of a meeting with top McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull representatives in Stuttgart, where the future of Formula 1 was discussed.
“At the end of 2012 the contracts of every single team with the investment fund of CVC will expire,” the Italian told CNN. “So we have in front of us three alternatives. Either we renew with CVC, or we theoretically — as basketball teams in America did with great success — create our own company like the NBA, just to run the races, the TV rights and so on. And third, to find a different man, or partner.
“Ecclestone did a very good job. Having said that, he’s already sold out the business three times, so he doesn’t own the business any more. So it’s not Ecclestone who will sell, it’s CVC.”
The Ferrari boss was clearly reminding Ecclestone and CVC that they don’t have much to sell unless the teams renew the Concorde Agreement.
Many remain sceptical about the News Corp/Exor collaboration, pointing out that it is very easy to publicly suggest a vague interest, and to do so without first having a proper dialogue with the potential seller was an odd way of doing business.
“I feel it’s strange [for someone] to say we want to buy before we know it’s for sale,” said Todt. “I think the first action would be for whoever is keen to take over the commercial rights to find out with CVC what the situation is. Maybe CocaCola wants to take over. First CVC must be willing to sell.”
Ecclestone has known News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch (left) for decades, and has dealt with his company on TV rights for various territories. But at every opportunity he has downplayed the chances of a proper bid materialising. He has also been quick to allay fans’ fears that F1 would disappear from terrestrial TV.
However, Exor’s backing adds another dimension to the deal, given its Ferrari and Agnelli connections. Meanwhile US merchant bank Raine — which has some high-profile ‘dotcom’ billionaire investors and is part-owned by Abu Dhabi — has also been linked with the bid.
“I think we have to be respectful of our current partners,” FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh told Motor Sport, “but at the same time open and willing to see if other people want to join in. They can join in as partners of CVC, they can buy from CVC, they can compete with CVC.
“It would be natural for them to talk to CVC and the FIA, it would be natural for them to talk to the teams.”
Williams looks ahead after tech boss quits
Williams technical director Sam Michael is not short of job offers after handing in his resignation.
Although the news was not confirmed for some weeks, Michael (left) handed in his notice after the Malaysian Grand Prix in the wake of the team’s troubled start to the season.
The Aussie, who joined Williams from Jordan at the end of 1999, will remain on board until the end of this year. He will have two months of ‘gardening leave’ before he’s free to join another team from March 1, 2012. The timing of his availability will be perfect, as teams will be in the early stages of research and development for the 2013 turbo engine rules package.
Michael is highly thought of in the paddock, where the consensus is that the blame for Williams’ relatively poor form in recent seasons cannot be laid at his feet. He is keen to see the team improve in 2011 so he can leave on a high note. “The most important thing for me is to leave respectfully and professionally,” said Michael. “That’s the thing you live with for the rest of your life.”
Head of aerodynamics Jon Tomlinson has also resigned as Williams sets about creating a new technical structure. The team is searching for new recruits and has already signed Mike Coughlan, the man at the centre of the McLaren `Spygate’ row in 2007. He has been hired as chief engineer, but it’s not yet been decided whether he will eventually inherit the technical director job title.
Team Lotus buys Caterham
The takeover of Caterham Cars by Team Lotus Enterprises has given Tony Fernandes the road car involvement he desired — and possibly an alternative identity for his F1 team should he lose the battle to hold on to the Lotus name.
After buying the company from previous owner Corven, Fernandes (above, second from left) announced the deal with a car painted in the green and yellow livery of Team Lotus, and said more details of the commercial tieup between the niche sports car maker and the race team would emerge in the summer.
Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes says he wants to create “innovative products and greater global brand exposure”, and it’s already clear that he plans to increase Caterham’s profile in markets such as Asia.
“Caterham has a unique place at the heart of the motoring world,” he said. “As well as being proudly and staunchly British, it has an enviable and unblemished reputation in the industry for performance, handling and engineering excellence.
“It has remained faithful to Colin Chapman’s philosophy of ‘less is more’, and the DNA of the original Seven can still be traced to new additions to Caterham’s product offering.”
Current Caterham CEO Ansar Ali will continue to run the operation from its base in Dartford.
New Ferrari film planned
Senna screenwriter and executive producer Manish Pandey’s next motor racing project will be an account of Scuderia Ferrari in the late 1950s.
Unlike the current film, Figlio will be a drama rather than a documentary. It will focus on Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins (above), and will include Luigi Musso, Eugenio Castellotti and Alfonso de Portago. All five drivers lost their lives between March 1957 and January ’59, and the story will revolve around their relationships with Enzo Ferrari. Pandey is writing the script with fellow doctor Tim Nuthall.
“It’s about those amazing years when Mike and Peter drove for Ferrari,” said Pandey. “It’s told from Mike’s point of view, but really it’s a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the Emilio-Romagna. At the end of the film they’ll all be gone, every one of those five.
“Enzo Ferrari is a misunderstood character. The subtlety of the story is that we try to get behind the myth of Enzo. What made him so complicated? Did he care? Did he not care? From my experience it’s better not to make that person the central character, but to make them more peripheral and reactive.”
Pandey says support from Ferrari will be essential for the project to succeed, and he has sent the initial six-page treatment to Enzo’s son, Piero.
Elsewhere, Niki Lauda has given his approval to a planned film about his Ferrari days and the aftermath of his Narburgring accident.