Word on the beat

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It’s a rumour that comes around every so often but here it is again: Bernie Ecclestone is considering buying out CVC’s controlling interest in F1. Quite how that would move it past its governance stalemate is not clear, however. 

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Although Christian Horner suggested in China that the engine manufacturers were as far away as ever on meeting the criteria stipulated by the FIA in February re 2018 engines – namely a price reduction to 12 million euros (from 18-24), a guaranteed supply, power convergence and an increase in noise – Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, the man tasked with getting this agreement in place, was adamant they had an agreement ready to present to the FIA and that it met all criteria. 

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Ecclestone is said to have suggested to Dietrich Mateschitz that together they could form ‘The Red Bull Grand Prix World Championship’ for loud, normally aspirated cars and break away from the official F1 series. The Austrian drinks magnate is said to be less than enthused. The dreaded prospect of two parallel world championships – last mooted for 2010 and, before that, 1981 – would return should Mateschitz be convinced to change his mind. 

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On the matter of the qualifying format, the teams faced down Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt, insisting pre-China that the 2015-style procedure be re-instated, with an agreement to trial alternative systems in the late season. Very much taking a lead role in the team unity stance was Ron Dennis, who visited the Mercedes unit on at least three occasions over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. 

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In the increasingly desperate quest to get F1 fans to buy into the current turbo hybrid engines, increasing the fuel flow has been suggested – making it advantageous to run them beyond the current typical change-up speed of 10,500-12,000rpm, thus increasing the noise. Interestingly, Mercedes HPP has advertised for a ‘noise engineer’ to work on improving acoustics without compromising engine performance. At the same time, the engine manufacturers are suggesting going to a three-engine limit per car (down from five) per season.

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So far this year, drivers are very much on-message about not criticising Pirelli specifically as, with no contract yet signed with the FIA, there is a fear the tyre company could simply withdraw at the end of this season. Off the record, they are as critical as ever. Between the Bahrain and Chinese Grands Prix, with assurances from the teams and the FIA about getting the necessary test days to test the new 2017 tyres, Pirelli boss Tronchetti Provera threatened to pull the company out of F1, potentially leaving the category without a tyre supply. An emergency meeting was hastened in which the test days were agreed. 

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Though Haas impressed hugely by scoring 18 points in the first two races, it came at the cost of near-exhaustion to several members of the 120-strong team. A recruitment drive is underway.

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One of the drivers of the proposed Pirelli Formula 1 test car could yet be Robert Kubica.

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Fernando Alonso and Johnny Herbert publicly made up in China after their spat in Bahrain, hugging each other and laughing on the driver parade truck on which Herbert was conducting the interviews. Alonso’s live TV rebuke – Herbert had said in a column that he believed Alonso was past his best and should retire – involved him suggesting to the Englishman that he’d been forced to become a commentator because he was not a world champion. 

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