Word on the beat
Monza has agreed a new three-year deal for the Italian Grand Prix, but it can’t be inked yet because of legal processes as F1 goes through its ownership change. There could yet also be a legal challenge from the Imola circuit, which also has an unsigned agreement in place. The hosting fees of the Monza agreement are said to be 22 million euros in the first two years and 24 million euros in the third, up from the previous 7 million.
There is already disquiet among the teams and Pirelli about the planned 2017 F1 tyres. Tasked by the FIA to provide a new generation of wider tyre that will degrade in a more linear fashion than the current rubber and allow drivers to push hard for longer, Pirelli has so far tested the 2017 prototypes on a mule Red Bull with about 10 per cent more downforce than current cars and also on adapted Ferrari and Mercedes chassis. Teams are saying their simulations for the new generation of cars are already showing way more than a 10 per cent increase in downforce, with 25 per cent being achieved already and estimates as high as 35 per cent expected by the first race. Pirelli is now concerned that it needs more testing than the two general pre-season days planned in order to meet its brief.
Technical staff reshuffles imminent? AMG Mercedes F1 executive director Paddy Lowe – who recently celebrated the 150th Grand Prix victory in which he’s had a lead technical role, with three teams – is understood to be in the midst of negotiations to renew his contract. It is not a given that an agreement will be reached and rumours have continued to surface about his possible transfer to Ferrari, where his skills and knowledge of the dominant Mercedes would be hugely valuable. Sebastian Vettel added fuel to the fire of these rumours in Singapore, commenting: “When someone of his calibre is available, of course you have to think about it.” The Scuderia still badly needs to find a replacement for its former technical director James Allison, but Lowe’s role there could potentially extend further than that and into the technical team principal position previously occupied there by Ross Brawn. We understand that under the terms of his departure from Ferrari, Allison is not free to work for another team until April 2017. Although both Renault and Williams would be very interested in hiring him, there might also be a position free at Mercedes should the team and Lowe not agree terms.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, while on the subject of blame culture in Spa, was unable to resist taking a pop at Red Bull: “You might blame your engine supplier for a lack of straighline speed even though you are running a draggy car with so much rake that it looks like it’s doing a hand-stand as it comes down the straight. But we don’t do that.”
Liberty Media’s John Malone – F1’s ultimate owner – has reportedly had his first informal discussions with Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne. And it’s said not to have gone too well for the latter. Word is that after Marchionne had outlined how and why the Scuderia gets paid more than the others for taking part in F1, Malone said that it’s not a policy he would be continuing with in any new deal once the current contract runs out after 2020.
Zak Brown is being tipped as the likely commercial man for F1’s new owners. Who would be the new racing chief? Martin Whitmarsh and Stefano Domenicali are both being linked with that role.