Max Mosley: “I don’t really see Bernie’s role changing…”

Former FIA President Max Mosley believes that Bernie Ecclestone is likely to stay on and run continue to run F1 even if the sport is sold on by CVC.

US firm RSE Ventures has been linked with a joint bid with Qatar to buy CVC’s 35% shareholding.

“I think it’s still very early days for a possible takeover,” Mosley said in a BBC radio interview today. “Because before they actually move they will do due diligence, and that will take some little time. A lot will then come out about the current state of the sport, which may or may not encourage them.

“But I think whatever happens, if it is taken over, I don’t really see Bernie’s role changing – unless and until he wants it to change. Because he’s the person who’s managed to sell it everywhere. I’m sure CVC has had thoughts about an 84-year-old chief executive. The fact is that there’s nobody else that does the job as well. That’s my gut feeling.”

Asked about Ecclestone’s survival at the top of the sport he said: “I think the thing is he’s pretty amazing, the way he keeps going. Most of us, when we get to a certain age – and I’m quite a big younger than him but still old – you get tired. I said to him the other day, don’t you feel tired in the afternoon? And he said then the phone calls come in and the emails come in, and the adrenalin goes. I think the fact is that he’s really interested in what he does and does it very well. Age then tends to be flexible.”

Meanwhile Mosley said that the high spending by the big teams was F1’s major problem at the moment.

“I think there have been a few strategic errors, but the fundamental thing is because it’s become so expensive, and you’re allowed to spend as much money as you can get your hands on, then you have two or three teams at the top who spend a vast amount of money, then you have a succession of teams, like a tail end, who’ve got much less money. So they can’t compete.

“And that means then that the grid is relatively uncompetitive, and that of course interferes with the show. The key move would be to make the small teams competitive, and there are one or two ways of doing that. If Bernie and the FIA get together, they can overrule the teams. Put crudely that’s how it is.”

Mosley also reiterated his suggestion that teams spending less money should have more technical freedom.

“The way to solve the problem is to say to the small teams you can have more technical freedom on condition that you work within a cost cap. So then they for example would be allowed to have a moveable front wing. There are a thousand things that they could do to make their cars competitive with the very expensive cars at the front, but on a much smaller budget. The expensive cars at the front would say, ‘I can’t stand for that, I can’t get overtaken by one of the small teams,’ to which the answer is you could operate under the same regime should you choose to do so.

“Fundamentally the problem is soluble, but it needs a fairly determined attack on the current structure.”

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US venture firm RSE to join Qatar in bid to take over F1?

US investment company RSE Ventures is said to be teaming up with Qatar to take a major investment in F1, according to a report by the Financial Times today.

The report suggests that the two parties want to buy 35.5% of F1 from the CVC Group for a price of $7-8bn – and that the ultimate aim is for Qatar to own the whole of F1. However it adds that no formal bid has been made, and due diligence is still being undertaken.

Headed by 75-year-old Stephen M Ross, RSE describes itself as “a sports and entertainment venture firm building, operating, and investing in exceptional companies,” adding that it operates sports, media and entertainment properties that deliver world-class experiences.”

It is best known for owning the Miami Dolphins. Its portfolio also includes soccer‘s Guinness International Champions Cup, various other sports and media properties, including Fanvision, the handheld TV device company that was involved with F1 until two years ago.

It’s worth noting that Chief Operating Officer Arne Rees has interesting background, having worked for UBS, ESPN and UEFA in the past. Indeed he was Head of Strategic Business Development at the football organisation, responsible for growing the Champions League and European Championship.

Meanwhile Qatar Sports Investments is part of the Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund. QSI is best known for owning top French soccer team Paris St German, while intriguingly QIA also owns 17% of the VW Group – which has of course been eyeing an F1 involvement for years.

The suggestion is that the controversy surrounding FIFA and the 2022 World Cup has led to Qatar accelerating its F1 plans, which include hosting a Grand Prix.

In February the chief of the Qatari ASN (QMMF) Nasser bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, a rally driver who has been the FIA Vice-President for sport in the Middle East since December 2013, said that a contract was about to be completed for a third Grand Prix in the region.

We are about to sign contracts to organise a Formula One race,” Al-Attiyah told agency AFP. “We have completed all the steps and there are only a few details before the official signature.”

In 2012 CVC sold part of its F1 stake to Black Rock, Norges Bank and Waddell & Reed.

Intriguingly some observers have suggested that some recent criticism of the sport has been fuelled by certain parties wanting to drive the price down, with some suggesting that Bernie Ecclestone, who still owns 5%, wants to buy it back.

It remains to be seen how that theory would get with the RSE/Qatari bid.

Meanwhile when I asked RSE about its interest in F1 I was told: “Unfortunately at this time we have no comment.”

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Honda not ready to supply second F1 team

McLaren and Honda insist that the 2015 project has not suffered because of the lack of a second team to help log mileage on the troublesome new power unit.

Honda F1 chief Yasuhisa Arai says that there is still no plan in place to expand to a second supply for next season.

“It’s a good idea but we don’t have any such kind of plan,” said Arai. “I concentrate on McLaren-Honda, one team, that’s it.”

“I do agree with Arai-san,” said McLaren team boss Eric Boullier. “I think the project is not mature enough to take over a second team. I think a lot of [the] job can be done on dynos before we think about having a distraction of a second team.”

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Felipe Massa: ” I tried not to make any mistakes…”

Felipe Massa earned his first podium of the season – and the second for Williams – after he managed to keep Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari at bay in Austria.

The German had been in front initially only to lose time with a wheel issue in the pits. Massa then had to stay in front for the second half of the race, and he was able to so despite Vettel being less than a second behind in the closing laps.

I think it was a great result today,” said Massa. “So we managed to get the opportunities, which was a mistake of another team or Sebastian, I don’t know what’s happened so I cannot say. But [it was] enough, and we managed to keep the pace, which was good – but maybe a little bit slower compared to him.

I expected him to be close to me at the end of the race and he was, but I managed to keep him behind which was the most important thing.”

Massa admitted he wasn’t sure he could hold Vettel off: “I think he got very close with maybe 10 laps to go. I thought it could have been possible. We know that Ferrari manage the tyres very well, especially at the end of the race. We did maybe 40 laps, maybe more with these tyres, so I expected him to be strong at the end of the race, and he was.

But you never know, I had to defend myself so I think when you are defending, you don’t know what’s going to happen, so you just need to try and do your best and not make any mistakes. I think that was the only point that I had in mind, so I tried not to make any mistakes and if he was going overtake me because he managed to get the right line or pass me, you don’t know. But I was trying, and we managed to make this happen.”

Although Williams is still a long way behind Ferrari in the championship, the gap has closed.

I think it was very good for the team. It was important points against Ferrari, also, looking at what’s happened to Kimi today. So, we are not giving up, we will fight until the end. We understand that maybe they have a little bit of a quicker car compared to us, but we are working very hard to improve and to be there and really trying to get back the points that they are in front, which is not easy, but it is what we’re trying.”

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Ferrari boss says team willing to supply engines to Red Bull

Fiat and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne suggested today that the Italian team would be willing to supply engines to Red Bull Racing, if it was asked to do so.

RBR last used Ferrari engines in 2006, before passing the supply on to Toro Rosso, and going with Renault.

It’s in our DNA, we’ve done it before,” said Marchionne. “I think we can provide engines to any of the teams that want to race. As long as we keep control over the aerodynamic work on the car, I think there’s going to be enough distinguishing traits between us and the competition. We are more than glad to try and provide a level playing field, now that the engine is there.

I talk to everybody. And I have a lot of respect for Red Bull. I think they’ve done a lot for the sport, they’ve had the world championship for a number of years. I think they will find their way again and if we can help them get there, we’d be more than glad to do it.”

Red Bull’s disatisfaction with Renault is well known, but its options are limited. While it doesn’t want to be another manufacturer’s second-strong team, Ferrari may ultimately be its only alternative, as historically the company does not have a good relationship with Mercedes.

However, RBR boss Christian Horner was keen to downplay the possibility of any such deal happening.

It’s very generous of Sergio to make an offer,” he told this writer. “Obviously we would have to look at the details of it. I appreciate his generosity. I’m assuming it would be free of course! First of all we’ve got to sort out our own issues. We’ve got a contract with Renault to the end of next year, so let’s see what they can come up with.”

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Nico Rosberg: “Hopefully Lewis might make a mistake or something…”

Nico Rosberg says he didn’t know that Lewis Hamilton had already spun when he went off at the end of Q3 in Austria – but insisted that it would not have made any difference.

Hamilton’s spin obviously meant that he couldn’t improve with his last lap, but Rosberg said he still had to take risks to beat his Mercedes team mate’s earlier time, and was thus obliged to push.`Nico ran into the gravel at the final corner and had to settle for second.

“I had to beat Lewis’s time, that was the benchmark,” said the German. “That benchmark was two-tenths quicker than my time up to then. I was two-tenths up on my time just before the last two corners, which meant I was exactly equal with Lewis’s benchmark. So I knew I had to pull out one or two hundredths more. and that meant that I took that little bit more risk in the last corners, which was necessary, but I overdid it, unfortunately.”

Rosberg didn’t want to blame damp kerbs or astroturf: “I only saw the on-board of myself, I didn’t see from outside, so I don’t know, I’m not sure. But if there was some indication of spray when I went over the astroturf, then that would be the reason. If not then it’s unlikely to be the reason. The driver braking too late, that is probably the best reason!

“This track in general is very challenging, and we’ve never seen as many mistakes as this week in F1. Why? Because first of all the braking is very, very important here to do a quick lap, and it’s so difficult to get it right, and you have to attack to be quick, so that’s why we see a lot of mistakes. And then somehow it’s very nervous on the rear also, in the last sector. The last two sectors the rear will just step out, because of it dropping away, the track. It’s just the way it is. It’s a cool track, it’s very challenging.”

Rosberg is hoping that the tricky circuit will trip Hamilton up on Sunday: “That’s probably one of my best opportunities for tomorrow, I need to try and keep the pressure on as much as I can, like in Montreal, with a bit colder brakes tomorrow hopefully. Just push all the way if I don’t manage to get the start, keep the pressure on, and hopefully Lewis might make a mistake or something.”

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FIA confirms Austrian grid with Alonso and Button at the back

The FIA has issued a provisional Austrian GP that takes into account the engine penalties handed out to the Red Bull and McLaren drivers.

Although they have 10 place penalties, Dany Kvyat only drops seven places from eighth to 15th, while Daniel Ricciardo goes only four spots from 14th to 18th. That because the multiple penalties mean that drivers who go back then regain places as other penalties are applied.

The penalties were applied in the order of notification to the FIA that there would be an engine change. Red Bull told the FIA as long ago as 2.43pm on Monday, while McLaren’s message was sent at 4.25pm on Tuesday. It’s not a matter of when the new elements were actually used on the track.

The grid now reads: 1st HAM; 2nd ROS; 3rd VET; 4th MAS; 5th HUL, 6th BOT; 7th VES; 8th NAS; 9th GRO; 10th MAL; 11th ERI; 12th SAI; 13th PER; 14th RAI; 15th KVY; 16th MER; 17th STE; 18th RIC; 19th ALO; 20th BUT.

Button, Alonso and Ricciardo will also have to take penalties in the race in respect of grid places that were not used up, with BUT destined to perform a 10 second stop and go penalty, ALO a drive through, and RIC a 5s time penalty as his first pit stop.

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