FIA World Council green lights Liberty F1 deal

The FIA World Motor Sport Council has formally approved the sale of the F1 business, just a day after Liberty Media’s shareholders agreed that the deal could go through pending the go-ahead from the governing body.

The FIA’s role in the sale has come under some scrutiny as it owns 1% of the business, and as such stands to benefit.

Liberty made a presentation at the WMSC meeting in Geneva today, before the deal was voted through.

A statement today from the FIA said: “The World Motor Sport Council has unanimously approved the change of control of Delta Topco Limited (the holding company of the Formula One Group and thus the owner of the Commercial Rights of the FIA Formula One World Championship) from CVC Capital Partners in favour of Liberty Media Corporation at an extraordinary meeting today in Geneva.

The transaction will see the transfer of 100% of the shares in Delta Topco to Liberty Media Group, one of the tracking stocks of Liberty Media Corporation.

During the meeting, the representatives of the prospective new owner made a detailed presentation of their strategy. The members of the World Motor Sport Council then had the opportunity to ask questions about the specifics of the agreement, the ongoing working relationship with the FIA and Liberty’s plans for the sport.

Liberty, Formula One Group and the FIA intend to collaborate to create a constructive relationship that will ensure the continued success and the development of the FIA Formula One World Championship in the long term.

The World Motor Sport Council’s decision confirms the FIA’s belief that Liberty, as a renowned media organisation with expertise in both sport and entertainment, is clearly well positioned to ensure the continued development of its pinnacle Championship.

The FIA holds a one per cent shareholding in Delta Topco. As part of the sale by CVC to Liberty Media Corporation, and in line with the agreements between the FIA and the Formula One Group, the FIA will be dragged along in the sale process under the same conditions as CVC and all the other shareholders.

The FIA looks forward to working with the new owners of the Formula One Group on further developing the unrivalled global spectacle that is the FIA Formula One World Championship for all stakeholders.”

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Mercedes finally confirms Bottas arrival

After weeks of speculation Mercedes has finally confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will replace the retired Nico Rosberg this season.

Williams had earlier said that Bottas is moving to Mercedes, and will be replaced by Felipe Massa.

The Finn made a speech to team members in the Brackley factory, accompanied by Toto Wolff.

Wolff noted: “I think Valtteri fits very well in our team, as a driver he’s very fast, and he has also the heart in the right place. He shares our values and passion, and he’s modest and humble and he’s hard working.”

Although Mercedes did initially explore all its options – and there was no shortage of enquiring phone calls – other big names were contractually tied elsewhere, and it soon became clear that Bottas was the

The deal was eased by the fact that Williams is a Mercedes customer, and Wolff’s role as part of the Finn’s management team. However Pascal Wehrlein was kept on standby as a back-up in case he was needed.

In addition to coming to a commercial arrangement with Mercedes Williams had to find a replacement, and persuading Massa to return from his brief retirement, which was forced on him by the lack of a top drive, was not too difficult.

It’s very exciting times for me,” said Bottas. “I think it’s going to take a while to understand that this is really happening. It’s definitely another dream come true, to race in another team with such great history – especially in the recent years, which have been so impressive. I’m really proud to become a part of that and grateful to everyone at Mercedes for trusting my skills and giving me this opportunity.

“I’ve had a really warm welcome so far. Of course, I have a lot more people to meet and new faces to remember. But initially everything has felt very good. I’m really impressed with the facilities and I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone better. My first experience with Mercedes power was in F3 back in 2009 and, of course, I know the Power Unit well from the last three years with Williams. But there are a lot of new things to learn with the car and also with how the team operates at the factory, in testing and at the races.”

Bottas knows that he faces a tough challenge.

“I’m ready to work hard, to prove myself to the team and to prove my skills. It’s going to be a challenging season and joining a new team makes it more work than normal. But I’m 100% ready for that. I’m training hard to be at my physical best because it will be much tougher with these new cars. I always set the bar really high, so my target is to perform from the first race. I’m full of energy and ready to get to work for this year and hopefully many more to come with Mercedes.”

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Williams confirms Massa is back for 2017

Williams has confirmed that Felipe Massa has changed his mind about retirement and will return to the team as a race driver in 2017, on a one-year deal.

The Brazilian replaces Valtteri Bottas, whose deal to join Mercedes has finally been completed after weeks of negotiation.

Massa announced his retirement well before the end of the 2016 season, but it was clear that he had been motivated in large part by the lack of an offer to stay with the Grove team, which already had its sights set on Lance Stroll. With no obvious decent opportunity elsewhere, he preferred to walk away on a high.

However when it became obvious that Bottas was available to Mercedes he was quickly approached about the vacant seat.

The announcement is also good news for Bernie Ecclestone, the Interlagos promoters and Brazil’s Globo TV company, all of whom were keen to ensure that there was a Brazilian driver on the grid in 2016.

Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams,” said Massa. “I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve. Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.

In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I’m grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams said; “I’m delighted that Felipe has agreed to come out of retirement to be a part of our 2017 campaign. With Valtteri having a unique opportunity to join the current Constructors’ Champions, we have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to give Valtteri this fantastic opportunity.

Valtteri has been part of the Williams family since 2010 and in that time has proved a huge talent, securing nine podium finishes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the whole team, and wish him a successful season as he joins Mercedes.

Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to. He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go. Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us.”

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Sauber finally confirms Wehrlein’s race seat

Sauber has finally confirmed that Pascal Wehrlein will replace Felipe Nasr as the pieces of the 2017 puzzle start to fall into place.

Wehrlein has been linked to Sauber for some months but his move was put on hold while Mercedes tried to finalise its deal with Valtteri Bottas.

With that deal now nearing announcement there was no longer a need to keep Sauber waiting. The German joins Marcus Ericsson, whose sponsors are also the team’s owners.

Pascal has shown his talent throughout his career – in single seater racing as well as in the DTM, said team boss Monisha Kaltenborn. “Last year in his rookie Formula One season, he proved his potential by scoring one point in the Austrian GP in Spielberg. There is surely more to come from Pascal, and we want to give him the chance to further grow and learn at the pinnacle of motorsport. I am confident Marcus and Pascal will form a solid combination for 2017.”

Our objective is to establish ourselves in the mid-field and to score points on a regular basis,” said Wehrlein. “That being said, I will do my best to support Sauber. Now I am looking forward to meeting everyone in the team and to tackling the preparations for the 2017 season. I want to say a big thank you to Sauber for trusting in me and giving me this great chance. And surely, a huge thanks also goes to Mercedes for the support.”

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Fred Vasseur leaves Renault F1 role

Fred Vasseur has left Renault after just a year in charge of the Anglo-French team.

Vasseur followed the likes of Christian Horner and Eric Boullier in making the transition from the sport’s second tier to a senior F1 role, while maintaining control of his ART teams. However amid some internal politics his future was in doubt for some time.

Renault says that company president Jerome Stoll and managing director Cyril Abiteboul will remain in charge.

A statement said: “After a first season spent relaunching and rebuilding its Formula 1 team, Renault Sport Racing and Frédéric Vasseur have agreed by mutual consent to part company, effective as of today.

“Both parties remain committed to maintaining the good working relationship they have enjoyed and expect this to take a new form sometime in the future.

“The outlook of Renault’s second season back in Formula 1, as well as the resources implemented to meet them, will be set out in detail at the presentation of the team’s new race car.”

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Mercedes confirms Paddy Lowe exit

Mercedes GP has formally confirmed that technical chief Paddy Lowe has left the World Champion team, ahead of his expected move to Williams.

Mercedes said that Lowe has begun a period of gardening leave, and that in the short term the management team would remain unchanged.

A statement said: “The company’s Board wishes Paddy well with his future endeavours and thanks him for his significant contribution to the team’s achievements. In the short term, our stable technical organisation will continue to operate under the proven and established leadership of our senior directors Aldo Costa (Engineering Director), Mark Ellis (Performance Director), Rob Thomas (Chief Operating Officer) and Geoff Willis (Technology Director).”

Team boss Toto Wolff added: “Paddy has played an important part in our success during the past three and a half years and we thank him for his contribution to this significant chapter in Mercedes’ motorsport history.

Success in Formula One is not about single individuals but about the strength in depth and technical capability of an organisation. We have the talent in place to continue our success of recent years and we plan to build upon it in 2017 and beyond.”

I have had a fantastically successful and enjoyable three and a half years at Mercedes working with a great team of people,” said Lowe. “I am now looking forward to a new challenge and wish everyone well at Mercedes.”

Lowe’s departure is the latest step in what promises to be a series of high profile announcements in the coming days or weeks, including the expected move of Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes, and the return from a brief retirement of Felipe Massa to Williams.

Before Christmas Williams confirmed that chief technical officer Pat Symonds would leave the team at the end of the year, leaving a gap in the team’s management structure – although Lowe could yet arrive at the Grove outfit in a more senior role.

Lowe’s departure is believed to be tied to the Bottas deal, and it appears likely that he will be allowed to start early at Williams, with a short gardening leave, as part of the incentive package designed to encourage Williams to release Bottas.

Meanwhile former Ferrari man James Allison has been lined up to replace Lowe at Mercedes.

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Rosberg retirement stuns F1 world

Nico Rosberg has stunned the motor racing world by announcing his retirement from the sport, just five days after winning the World Championship.

Rosberg says he made the decision on Monday evening, after partying until 9am that morning and flying to Kuala Lumpur for a PR event. He announced it at a press conference ahead of tonight’s FIA Awards in Vienna.

His decision leaves Mercedes with the difficult task of replacing him, although it obviously has Pascal Wehrlein on hand as a back-up. Getting a big name driver out of an existing contract looks like being a tricky task.

Here is Rosberg’s full official statement.

Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion,” he said. “Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.

This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough. I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before. And of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target. I cannot find enough words to thank my wife Vivian; she has been incredible. She understood that this year was the big one, our opportunity to do it, and created the space for me to get full recovery between every race, looking after our daughter each night, taking over when things got tough and putting our championship first.

When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion. On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start. I wanted to enjoy every part of the experience, knowing it might be the last time… and then the lights went out and I had the most intense 55 laps of my life. I took my decision on Monday evening. After reflecting for a day, the first people I told were Vivian and Georg [Nolte, from Nico’s management team], followed by Toto.

The only thing that makes this decision in any way difficult for me is because I am putting my racing family into a tough situation. But Toto understood. He knew straight away that I was completely convinced and that reassured me.

My proudest achievement in racing will always be to have won the world championship with this incredible team of people, the Silver Arrows.

Now, I’m just here to enjoy the moment. There is time to savour the next weeks, to reflect on the season and to enjoy every experience that comes my way. After that, I will turn the next corner in my life and see what it has in store for me…”


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