Category Archives: Grand Prix News

FIA confirms change of qualifying format for 18 cars

The FIA has confirmed that the qualifying format will change in Austin to reflect the fact that there are only18 cars in the entry.

As predicted by this writer last weekend four cars will be eliminated in Q1, and a further four in Q2. However Sebastian Vettel has already declared that he won’t participate in qualifying as a change to a complete sixth power unit will mandate a pitlane start, so in effect three cars will be bumped in Q1 this time.

Meanwhile the stewards have formally confirmed that Marussia and Caterham have both breached the regulations relating to entry in the championship by failing to turn up for the US GP.

The stewards have taken into account the ‘current financial circumstances’ of the teams had applied no penalty. However the matter has been referred to FIA President Jean Todt.

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Former Caterham F1 boss Ravetto gives his side of the story

Former Caterham F1 team principal Manfredi Ravetto has expressed his frustration at the way the problems of supplier Caterham Sports have led to the team missing the US GP.

After Caterham Sports went into administration the administrator Finbarr O’Connell took control of 1MRT, the actual race team and owner of the entry, and announced that the team would not go to Austin. Ravetto had earlier been asked to step down from his role.

Meanwhile Tony Fernandes and the Caterham Group continue to claim that the purchase of 1MRT by Engavest – the consortium advised by Colin Kolles – was never completed.

“I am quite surprised by the latest happenings around the team and I thought it was time to rectify a few things,” Ravetto told this writer today. “First of all I was asked to step back under the promise that it was in the higher interest of the team and the team’s survival.

“I was promised that the team would keep going racing and salaries were paid and so on. Now the team is not turning up in Austin and the employees are struggling to get their money, and I would like to understand where we stand.

“As long as the management group I was a member of was in charge it is absolute undisputed that three things were happening. The cars were running, the salaries were paid, and the creditors were under control.

“It’s a fact that there are 300 families who have a problem now and nobody seems to be interested in that. I can only repeat that our priority has always been to keep the cars running, to keep the company alive, and to keep the employees happy and paid. Now I am not a Caterham guy and I am not an Engavest guy, I am workforce, so I am the same as a mechanic, same as an engineer.”

Ravetto insisted that there were key questions to be addressed.

“It seems to be undisputed by all parties involved that the team still belongs to the previous ownership [Fernandes]. My first question is why did Caterham Group and Mr Fernandes release a press statement on October 3rd saying they had nothing to do with the F1 team, and the F1 team was sold?

“I’ve been given plenty of reassurance and evidence that the purchase price has been paid. My second question is even if it was not why was a new management installed in the team? There must have been a good reason for this to happen. Otherwise I would have been forced into thinking it was just an exercise in order to shift over liability to somebody else, which is something I don’t want to consider, given the high profile of the parties involved.

“My next question is are we absolutely sure that there was no option in doing whatever had to be done in a timing and a way which was not causing this huge damage?

“How come CSL’s problem interfere with 1MRT? It comes to my huge surprise that a situation that affects company A has a detrimental effect of a death sentence to company Z. I’m not saying from A to B, from A to Z. This sounds very uncommon to me, and this is always something that needs an explanation.”

Expanding on the role of Fernandes, Ravetto said: “I think he is changing his version too many times. One day he is saying the deal has not happened because Engavest did not pay. Previously he said the deal happened and I have nothing to do with the F1 team. One day he says the deal has not happened because Engavest did not pay the creditors. And one day the deal has not happened because of not having transferred the building.

“How can we run the team for four months if we didn’t pay creditors? I think this is one of the most amazing things I ever heard.

“I understand that Finbarr O’Connell is fully in charge as per his request. I must say I found it very strange that he has also asked and received control of 1MRT. But I’m happy as long as the team is surviving. I’m afraid I don’t see this happening, that’s the problem.”

Ravetto played down the obvious suggestion that the plan was always for Caterham to morph into FRR, or Forza Rossa, the Romanian-backed team that Kolles has also been advising.

“I can say that at no time was this intended to become the Forza Rossa operation. The project from day one was to keep Caterham alive, to develop it, to expand it, also to integrate a structure of businesses, maybe with the chance of selling technology to third parties, In other words to make a proper thing around the team called Caterham F1. This was the task from day one. And this is something to which I was sticking until the very end.

“Nobody can say it wasn’t our intention to pay creditors, otherwise we would not have lasted until the Russian GP, and we wouldn’t have been ready to carry on. Everything was ready to finish the season, and everything was ready to start building the 2015 car.

“I just want to see the whole truth emerging, and I just want respect for the job which has been done, which cannot be disputed, and also the people who have worked with us.”

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Ferrari to separate from Fiat/Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler has announced plans to spin off Ferrari into a separate company.

A 10% shareholding will be sold via an IPO, with the rest distributed to existing FCA shareholders.

The news was announced by FCA CEO and new Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne.

He said: “Following our acquisition of the minority interest in Chrysler earlier this year, the transformation of Fiat and Chrysler into FCA was completed earlier this month with our debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

“As we move forward to secure the 2014-2018 Business Plan and work toward maximizing the value of our businesses to our shareholders, it is proper that we pursue separate paths for FCA and Ferrari.”

FCA chairman John Elkann added: “Coupled with the recent listing of FCA shares on the NYSE, the separation of Ferrari will preserve the cherished Italian heritage and unique position of the Ferrari business and allow FCA shareholders to continue to benefit from the substantial value inherent in this business.”

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Administrators trying to save Marussia

Marussia now formally gone into administration as attempts continue to save the Banbury-based team.

Geoff Rowley and Geoff Carton-Kelly, partners of FRP Advisory LLP, have been appointed joint administrators of Manor Grand Prix, the company behind the team.

The team was always facing a deadline related to the Russian GP. Owner Andrey Cheglakov wanted to see a car on the grid at his home race, but had tired of underwriting the running costs of the team.

One key to the future is the question of whether the team still has a Ferrari contract. Sources told this writer in Sochi that that might no longer be the case.

Rowley explained: “Whilst the team has made significant progress during its relatively short period of operation, the highlight of which included securing two constructors championship points in the current F1 season, the position remains that operating a F1 team requires significant ongoing investment.

“With the existing shareholder unable to provide the required level of funding, the senior management team has worked tirelessly to bring new investment to the team to secure its long term future, but regrettably has been unable to do so within the time available. Therefore, they have been left with no alternative but to place the Company into administration.

“With the Marussia F1 Team now in administration, the joint administrators have assessed that, given the current financial circumstances of the Group, it is not viable for the Marussia F1 Team to participate in the next race, the 2014 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, due to take place this weekend in Austin, Texas.”

The comment regarding the existing shareholder would seem to be a little ungracious given that sources have told this writer that Cheglakov has pumped £185m into the team.

Regarding the future, Rowley said: “The Company will continue to operate while the joint administrators assess the longer term viability of the Company in its present form.

“Following Austin, there are two further rounds of the 2014 championship remaining, in Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi, and the team’s participation in those races will depend on the outcome of the administration process and any related negotiations with interested parties in what is a very limited window of opportunity.

“No redundancies have been made following the Company’s entering into administration and all staff have been paid in full to the end of October. The ongoing staff position will however be dependent on whether the Company can secure new investment in the limited time available.

“We remain highly focused on engaging with interested parties.”

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FIA could change US GP qualifying format for 18-car entry

The FIA has the option to change the format of qualifying to reflect the 18-car entry that it is expected in Austin next weekend, with both Caterham and Marussia failing to make the trip.

Currently six cars are eliminated in both Q1 and Q2. With an 18-car field that would mean that only two cars would be bumped out in Q1 – and with Sebastian Vettel having already stated that he will sit out qualifying due to a power unit change guaranteeing a pitlane start, in reality we could see only one car bumped in Austin.

However, the FIA Sporting Regulations include the provision for changing the number of cars that are eliminated. The numbers specifically referred to are eight for a 26-car entry, and seven for a 24 car entry. It follows that with an 18-car entry four cars would be bumped from Q1 and Q2.

The regulations refer to the size of the ‘championship’ entry rather than that for an individual race. However sources confirm that once the stewards have officially been notified that only 18 cars are in the Austin field they will have the option to decree that four cars are eliminated in Q1 and Q2.

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Ecclestone says Marussia and Caterham will skip US GP

Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that both Caterham and Marussia will miss the US GP – leaving a field of just 18 cars.

Speaking to Reuters, Ecclestone said: “Neither of those two teams are going to go to America.”

Freight was due to embark to Austin today, and missing the US race will mean missing Brazil as well. It remains to be seen whether either team can survive the current crisis and make it to Abu Dhabi.

While the focus all week has been on the future of Caterham, main rivals Marussia have been facing similar financial difficulties, and the situation has obviously been made more complex by the Jules Bianchi accident.

It’s long been rumoured that Marussia investor Andrei Cheglakov wanted to see a car on the grid for the first Russian GP, and thereafter he would cut off his funding.

It’s understood that under what used to be called the Concorde Agreement teams can skip three races, so in theory both could miss the rest of the season and still survive in some form next year.

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Administrator says Bernie will allow Caterham to miss USA and Brazil

The administrators for Caterham Sports, who have now taken control of Caterham F1, say that they have been given permission by Bernie Ecclestone for the team to miss the US and Brazilian GPs while a buyer is sought.

The administrators are Finbarr O’Connell and Henry Shinners of Smith & Williamson.

A statement from the company said: “In a telephone conversation today between Finbarr O’Connell and Bernie Ecclestone, Mr Ecclestone agreed to support the administrators in their wish to sell the Formula 1 team to a party with the financial strength to sustain it into the future.

“Mr Ecclestone also agreed to give dispensation to Caterham F1 such that it could if necessary miss the U.S. and Brazilian Grands Prix but hoped that a new owner would be in a position to race the team at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”

Explaining what has happened over the last 24 hours, the statement said: “Mr Colin
Kolles, the previous principal of the team offered today to hand over management control of 1MRT to the administrators. Lawyers for the administrators and Mr Kolles are currently working on the paperwork to effect this transfer.

“The administrators have already been contacted by a number of interested parties expressing a wish to buy the team and they hope that a transaction with an operator of substantial financial means can be concluded in the next few weeks.

“It is hoped that any purchaser of the F1 team will take over the employees and that they will be able to recommence their work including that at the Leafield site.”

Regarding what the sale iinvolved, Shiners said: “This includes the Formula 1 licence, the racing cars, the designs and intellectual property for current and future seasons plus the workforce and all of the technical support provided to the racing team by CSL from the Leafield Technical Centre. Purchasing the assets would give the buyer ready access to F1 racing.”

O’Connell added: “We believe this arrangement gives us a much better chance of being able to reach a better conclusion for the racing team and its creditors.

“While this is a great step forward in making the whole team and assets more attractive, there is no need for the staff of 1MRT to return to the Oxford site in Leafield until a sale of the Formula 1 team occurs.

“This is a difficult situation which is not of our making. We regret any personal impact on 1MRT’s employees. As administrators for CSL, we are seeking to maximise the outcome for its creditors and other stakeholders.”

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