Renault sale still not done says Lotus boss Carter

Lotus F1 CEO Matthew Carter says he still doesn’t know when the planned takeover by Renault will be finalised.

After Suzuka both sides announced that a letter of intent had been signed, but cautioned that the deal would only go through if certain conditions were met.

“I honestly don’t know,” Carter told this writer when asked about the likely time scale. “We’re working on things. It’s clear that all the parties involved want to get this resolved as quickly as possible, and we’ll work thing through as quickly as we can.

“It’s the same for us anyway, it really doesn’t make a helluva lot of difference. We get on with doing our job on the race track. We’ve been confident for a long time that things are going to be resolved. It’s just taking a long time.”

However, he admitted that the delay was not positive: “It’s not helping, but at the end of the day as we’ve always said we’re here, we’re racing, we’ll be at all the races. What happens behind the scenes or what happens above our level will happen.”

The letter of intent has bought Lotus more time with its ongoing legal case, and Carter admits that some of the pressure is off: “The legal process was the legal process, we were always confident that it was going to be resolved and we were going to get through it. But it’s hard to say too much and talk too much when you’re in the middle of things.”

Carter insisted that Renault’s attempt to get a better deal with Bernie Ecclestone is not the cause of the hold up.

“To be perfectly honest I don’t think there’s a sticking point. I think it’s just a case of everyone working as hard as they can and as fast as they can to get the thing resolved as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile when asked by why the process was dragging on Ecclestone himself claimed he didn’t know.

“No idea,” said the F1 boss. “They say they’re going to buy it, I’m sure it’s not that they’re running out of money, I’m sure there are other reasons. Maybe the sellers aren’t really sellers.”

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Toto Wolff: Mercedes won’t back down on Red Bull decision

Toto Wolff has reiterated that Mercedes will not supply engines to Red Bull next season, and says that no new discussions have taken place.

Wolff and Niki Lauda had a lengthy meeting with Bernie Ecclestone today, but Wolff denies that the F1 boss was trying to twist his arm and reverse the decision.

“It was a conversation about general topics – life!,” Wolff told this writer. “Bernie doesn’t twist arms, Bernie makes it very subtle. Honestly, we didn’t discuss the topic. It might sound strange, we have every day a discussion and this was a very public one, but there was nothing spectacular we discussed.

“We really took some time to analyse the situation over the summer. We tried to understand what Red Bull’s situation was, and expected or waited for some feedback, and finally when things didn’t move we decided to pursue our current strategy by supplying Williams and the independent teams, and not pursue the Red Bull option.

“We didn’t change our opinion. It got a bit confused at the beginning of the week with certain statements, but it didn’t change. We have three customers teams plus us, and this is the structure that we want to work with.”

Yesterday Ecclestone made it clear that he was frustrated that Red Bull had started to talk to Mercedes before Manor, and yet the latter managed to secure a deal. However Wolff sees no connection between the two.

“The Manor deal has no link whatsoever with Red Bull. There were many other factors which led to the decision to not pursue what were really early stage discussions.”

Wolff said that he doesn’t believe that Mercedes or Ferrari will be painted as the bad guys for not helping Red Bull.

“I don’t think that anybody put us in that bad guy situation. Every team is responsible for how you manage your business, and this is why I don’t see at all that that happened.”

Meanwhile Toto downplayed the third car option, despite having sounded enthusiastic about when asked in Suzuka.

“We need to all try and do our best to keep Red Bull in the sport, Red Bull and Toro Rosso, because Red Bull is a great brand and has done a lot for F1. If it were to happen the fall back solution would be three cars. But I’d rather have the first thing solved and have Red Bull and have three cars on top of that and have a really full grid of 24, 26 cars.

“It’s clear that not a lot of people have an appetite for three cars, for valid or not valid reasons. If Red Bull and Toro hopefully stay in the sport we’ll have 22 cars anyway next year.”

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F1 sale not so close after all, says Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone has downplayed the possibility of a chunk of the F1 business being sold, just a couple of days after suggesting to a televised business forum that a deal could happen before the end of this year.

CVC’s 35.5% shareholding is potentially up for grabs, although Ecclestone said today that its boss Donald McKenzie is still not keen to sell

I said there are three people that are interested in buying,” Ecclestone commented in Sochi today. “They have been talking a little bit, but now they are a lot more interested. If the shareholders want to sell, they will sell.

I am not selling. That is what the problem is. Mr McKenzie, who is the controlling shareholder, also doesn’t want to sell. If someone wants to buy and someone doesn’t want to sell it is difficult.”

Ecclestone also made it clear that a deal was no nearer than it has been in the past.

Anyone that does follow F1 will know we have been here a million times.”

He also scotched suggestions that he might retire and leave F1 any time soon: “I don’t need to leave it at the moment. But the three people who are interested in buying it asked me to sign a contract to make sure I stay with them.”


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Ecclestone rebuffs criticism of Japanese GP TV coverage

Bernie Ecclestone has downplayed the controversy over the apparent lack of coverage of Mercedes on the TV world feed of the Japanese GP.

After the race senior Mercedes figures, including Niki Lauda, expressed their frustration that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were hardly featured.

Inevitably some observers suggested that keeping the silver cars off the screens was a ‘punishment’ from Ecclestone, either because the Stuttgart manufacturer has refused to supply Red Bull, or for other reasons.

“People say there is no overtaking so what we showed is a helluva lot of overtaking,” Ecclestone said in Sochi today. “Actually if you look at the figures I think nearly all the teams got more or less the same amount of coverage.

“It’s no good just showing… We had the same with Michael. People don’t want to see one car alone on the track. If there’s some racing going on at the front, it’s good.”

Ecclestone also denied that Lauda had raised the issue with him.

“What’s it got to do with Niki Lauda? Lots of people were unhappy about things. He came and talked to me about something else.”

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Bernie Ecclestone: “I can’t make these people do something…”

Bernie Ecclestone said today that he doesn’t know whether Dietrich Mateschitz will follow through on his threat to withdraw from F1 if Red Bull cannot find a competitive engine package for its two teams.

The F1 boss insisted in Sochi that he has no inside knowledge of what direction the Austrian billionaire will take.

I am not worried because I don’t know,” he said. “I worry when I have to worry. If they leave? It is bad for F1, bad for the sport.”

Asked when he expected an answer from Red Bull he said: “They don’t have to give me any answers. They are in the championship. If they don’t turn up, we’ll know.”

Meanwhile Ecclestone made it clear that he’s frustrated that Mercedes opted not to work with Red Bull.

They are supplying other people with no problems. Mercedes made a deal with Marussia, although I understand that Red Bull had asked for an engine before they dealt with Marussia. But I guess they looked at it as, if we supply engines to Red Bull, maybe they can beat us. If we supply engines to Marussia, maybe they won’t.”

Bernie also admitted there’s a limit to what he can do to convince Mercedes or Ferrari to supply a competitive engine.

I can’t make these people do something. The only thing we can do is to stop them selling more than three teams with engines. That we can do. They can only have the right to supply three teams. We want them to supply more.”

Asked if Mateschitz was relying on his advice Ecclestone said: “He’s thinking about what he wants to do.”


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Mercedes F1 team spent £240m when winning 2014 championship

The Mercedes F1 team spent over £240m and posted a loss of £76.9m during its title winning season in 2014, the company’s annual accounts have revealed.

The team enjoyed substantially increased revenues compared to 2013, but the high costs of the hybrid V6 rule changes and bonuses paid as a result of the ongoing success ensured that costs increased at a far higher rate.

In fact the report for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd reveals that turnover (essentially sponsors income and prize money) increased from £125.2m in 2013 to £146.9m in 2014 “due to higher sponsorship revenue and increased income from the Commercial Rights Holder flowing from improved track performance in 2013.”

Meanwhile operating costs went from £190.7m to £240.2m “due to significantly higher bonuses payable as a consequence of the record-breaking level of sporting performance and also increased costs arising from regulation change.”

The loss after tax increased from £51.0m to £76.9m, which was “within the pre-defined parameters set by the shareholders.”

The accounts also reveal that on average in 2014 the team employed 765 people, up from 663 in 2013. Wages and salaries rose from £49.7m to £65.2m.

Looking ahead the company acknowledges that it will receive extra funding from Bernie Ecclestone as a result of its sustained success, as the team signed a deal that triggered bonuses based on winning two championships and a string of races. It notes: “The agreement with the Commercial Rights Holder has provisions for significantly increased revenue flows based on sporting performance, some of which will be triggered in 2015 as a result of the team’s performance in 2014.”

Intriguingly the accounts also say that “the company remains committed to cost reduction in F1 and will continue to work with the other competitor teams and stakeholders to achieve this objective in a fair and transparent way.”

It’s worth pointing out that while Mercedes spent more in winning the title the cost per point earned progressed from a high of £1.0m in 2012 to £530,000 in 2013 and then to £355,000 last year, allowing for double points in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes believes that RBR spent £397,000 per point in its championship winning years.


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First 2016 F1 test now set for February 22 in Barcelona

The F1 teams have agreed to hold the first test of 2016 in Barcelona on February 22-25, sources have confirmed.

That means that the new cars will run only seven days earlier than had been planned, despite the first race in Melbourne being moved forward by 14 days (2016 is a Leap Year).

The teams had been targeting a first test date of March 1-4 in Barcelona. That has been left intact and now becomes the second test, and the original date for the second Barcelona test later in the month has been cancelled.

The gap between the first test and the first race has shrunk by a week, so teams will have to run a different schedule than they had been expecting to as they prepare the cars for Australia.

Meanwhile teams are currently planning to hold the first in-season test after the Spanish GP, while the second will potentially actually be post-season, after Abu Dhabi.

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