Tag Archives: #COTA

US GP under threat as Texas cuts state subsidy by $5.5m

The future of the US GP has been thrown into doubt by the news that the Texas state government has dramatically reduced the subsidy it pays to to the Circuit of the Americas, and which in effect covers a large chunk of F1’s sanction fee.

Originally the state had made a $250m commitment over 10 years, and the race received $25m per year in 2012, 2013, and 2014, but this has been cut to $19.5m for this year. The circuit was made aware of this number before the race weekend, although the news has only just emerged.

It comes on top of the losses caused by the bad weather at this year’s event, which led to reduced sales of concessions and also had an impact on the event’s viability.

“To use a technical term, I think we’re screwed,” circuit chairman Bobby Epstein told the American-Statesman. “It hit us cold. No one could foresee this coming. But the big question now is, ‘Is the race coming back?’”

Meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone told the paper: “If it’s changed, it’s going to be difficult to continue the race in Austin.”

The whole COTA project was built around the idea that the race qualified for a subsidy that is paid to major events to reflect the income that they generate for the cities that host them. This is in effect based on how much tax revenue out-of-state visitors generate during their stay.

The Texas Major Events Trust Fund payment for the Grand Prix was approved by previous state governor Rick Perry and administered by the office of Comptroller Susan Combs, who worked closely with event founder Tavo Hellmund and Ecclestone when COTA was still in the planning stages.

However, on September 1 responsibility was transferred to the office of current Governor Greg Abbott, who took over from Perry in January this year. Following an audit by Texas State Auditor John Keel Abbott’s staff have used a different formula and concluded that the event is worth around 20% less to the state than previous figures suggested.

In his report Keel noted: “Although the Comptroller’s Office prepares post-event studies after a major event, those studies cannot accurately determine whether the estimated incremental tax receipt increases were actually collected.

“Specifically, those studies state that determining the measurable change in tax receipts due to a major event is difficult due to the size and population of the state. In addition, taxes are remitted to the State based on receipts from 30-day to 90-day periods, which makes it difficult to isolate the economic effect of a particular major event.”

He also made it clear that in the past some tax types had incorrectly been included in the calculations: “The Comptroller’s Office inappropriately implemented that methodology by including certain information in its calculations that is not permissible. Specifically, when the Comptroller’s Office used economic modeling software to estimate the incremental tax receipt increases associated with major events, its estimates included tax impacts for tax types that statute does not permit to be considered.

“Based on output from a demonstration that the Comptroller’s Office’s staff performed using the estimated direct spending amounts for an actual major event, auditors determined that 22 percent of the total funding that would have been approved for that major event was caused by the inclusion of tax types that were not permissible.”

Keel’s report can be found here: http://www.sao.state.tx.us/reports/report.aspx?reportnumber=16-001

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Gentlemen, start your (alternative) engines as Todt and Bernie take on manufacturers

The FIA has formally announced its proposal for a low budget “client” engine to be introduced in 2017, which means that F1 could run with two different types of power unit which will somehow have to be balanced by an equivalency formula.

As previously explained it would allow teams to have a much cheaper alternative to the manufacturer supplied hybrid V6s. Although the specification has not been confirmed the FIA wants to have a 2.2-litre twin turbo V6, which in essence is similar to the current Indycar engine. The FIA is planning to launch a tender process, to which the likes of Cosworth and Ilmor could respond.

Today’s announcement is a direct result of a recent meeting between the engine manufacturers are the FIA in Geneva where the subject of a cap on supply costs to customers was discussed again, following a unanimous agreement at the last strategy group meeting that such a plan would be imposed.

However Ferrari used the veto on rule changes which was given to them by the FIA many years ago. The FIA, with the full support of Ecclestone, has used that rejection of a cut in supply costs to find a way to introduce the new engine concept. For Bernie Ecclestone one of the primary motivations is to find an engine that Red Bull could use in 2017 that has no manufacturer strings attached.

In a highly unusual move the FIA has gone public on the Ferrari veto.

The governing body said today: “The FIA, in agreement with FOM, suggested the principle of setting a maximum price for engine and gear box for client teams at the last Strategy Group meeting These measures were put to the vote and adopted with a large majority.

However, Ferrari SpA decided to go against this and exercise the right of veto long recognised under agreements governing F1. In the interest of the Championship, the FIA has decided not to legally challenge Ferrari SpA’s use of its right of veto.”

In explaining what happens next the FIA used very careful language to emphasise that this is an idea that has to go through the proper processes: “Therefore the FIA will initiate a consultation with all stakeholders regarding the possible introduction of a client engine, which will be available as of 2017. Following this consultation a call for tenders for this client engine, the cost of which would be much lower than the current power unit, could be undertaken.

Supported by FOM, the FIA will continue in its efforts to ensure the sustained long-term development of the Championship and look for solutions enabling it to achieve this. It asks all of the teams to make a positive contribution to the success of this approach through proposals and initiatives in the interest of the Championship and its continuation over the long term.”

Ecclestone is fully behind the idea and is convinced it will work.

We used to have people running turbo engine and people running normally aspirated,” he said in Austin. “It wasn’t a two-tier system. It was a choice. Whatever it is, I anticipate they will be able to continue running their engine and others running the other engine.”

Regarding equivalency he said: “Obviously it can be done, yes. Maybe we will have refuelling again for those that want it, if people have an engine that is super efficient they won’t wan to obviously. They don’t have to.”

The existing manufacturers are obviously sceptical about the idea, and it remains to be seen whether ultimately the scheme is a ploy to force them to lower the supply prices of their current engines.

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Toto Wolff: “They are enemies in the same team…”

Toto Wolff admits that the first corner clash in Austin between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will lead to a discussion with the two drivers in order to calm the situation.

The incident followed a similar one in Suzuka, where Rosberg was edged wide and lost momentum.

“Lewis came on the radio and said it wasn’t on purpose,” said Wolff when asked by this writer. “I think it’s something we are going to talk about in a couple of days, but this is a moment to celebrate a World Champion who deserves to be World Champion, and then once emotions have cooled down, we should discuss.

“It’s clear that a racing driver who has just lost a World Championship for a second time against his team mate in a tough race where certainly Turn One wasn’t very nice, and he lost it by his own mistake. I think we have to respect for that.”

Wolff admitted that the last three races will have a different feel given that both titles are won.

“Flat out! Actually, we have been unleashing them all the time already. I don’t know, I have never been in that comfortable situation of being able to sit in a race and enjoy it like a fan, watch it. But then it’s also a crucial moment now to make sure that today’s race won’t release consequences within the team, and splitting the two sides of the garage.

“Celebrate the World Champion, let a couple of days pass, emotion cool down, have a chat. It’s never easy, it wasn’t easy the first time around. I think we’ve gained some experience, I’ve gained some experience, I’ve been around a little while now, and I just need to have a calm approach, but a firm approach, about how we would like them to compete out there.”

Asked if Rosberg would eventually be happy for Lewis he said: “That’s never going to happen. They are enemies in the same team. It’s clear that we cannot expect him to cheer up in such a situation.”

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Ecclestone: Honda wants to supply Red Bull but Dennis is blocking it

Bernie Ecclestone says that Honda wants to supply Red Bull in 2016 – but Ron Dennis is blocking the deal from happening.

Ecclestone added that he and the FIA agreed with Honda that they would expand to two teams in their second year. However, McLaren has a veto on the identity of who that team might be.

The honest answer at the moment it would appear that Honda are happy to give them an engine and Mr Dennis thinks they shouldn’t,” said Ecclestone. “Although Honda have got an agreement with the FIA and myself that they would allow them into F1 to supply to engines to one team for first year, two teams second and three teams the third.

And they somehow got involved and made a commitment to Ron that he had a veto on any engines, and he doesn’t want Red Bull. He doesn’t want them. I think he believes they may be competitors.”

Asked how McLaren could have a veto given the Honda/FIA agreement he said: “In fairness to Ron, he probably didn’t know. I am not blaming anybody. They are the facts.

At the time when they came in the FIA said if we let you into F1 you have to supply three teams, they said as we are brand new into F1 we don’t think we can do that. We supply one team for the first year and after that, second and third year.”

Ecclestone was non-committal on whether or not the deal would go through.

I don’t know…Ron has said definitely not. As far as he is concerned, so I don’t know if his veto will stand up.

They can only run Honda if Honda agreed and they won’t agree obviously and have an argument with Ron, because Ron will suit them.”

Asked if Honda would really represent competitive engine that Dietrich Mateschitz wants he said: “At the moment… But you don’t know what next year’s Honda is going to be.”

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Sebastian Vettel: “I hope that next year is a big step…”

Sebastian Vettel says he’ll have a lot more input into next year’s Ferrari having joined the team too late last season to have much impact on the 2015 car.

Vettel is also optimistic about Ferrari’s future prospects, especially given the progress the team has made in the course of this season.

“A lot more,” he said when asked about his input for 2016. “You don’t join the team until you join the team. Obviously there were a lot of decisions that were already taken, some decisions were taken when I was there already.

“The season we’ve had so far has been phenomenal, if you think firstly about where the team was last year. Second the situation that we faced at the very beginning, a lot of new people, people were changing positions within the factory. It’s not that easy all those things to digest for a team, but it has been great, and really strong getting the team together. I’m quite confident, and I hope that next year is a big step.”

Asked what changes he wanted to see he added: “I don’t really want to tell! If you look just at the organisation there’s been a lot of work going in trying to get the team together. There’s a lot of new people, people change their position within the company. Usually those things take time, just so that everybody understands what to do, getting everything right in terms of timing as well, that has been the main challenge this year for the while team.

“Also I was new at the beginning, so that people understand my language, when I talk about the car, the behaviour of the car, the weaknesses. So I think there’s a possibility for us to improve. Obviously we’ve done a massive step on the engine, that’s ongoing.

“At the end we want to have the best engine and the best car, so there’s plenty of stuff to do. It’s no secret that we need a little bit more downforce than we currently have, but it’s more the organisation behind it.”

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Rossi aiming to hang on to Manor seat in 2016

Alexander Rossi says he’s determined to hang on to his Manor seat in 2016.

Inevitably Rossi has been a focus of media and fan attention in the build-up to the race.

I think, first of all, that the reaction has been very positive, which is what we wanted to see,” he said today. “Of course there is pride that goes along with it, but that started in Singapore and Japan as well. Obviously to be here at home means a big deal, but at the same time we have a job to do and very clear objectives to meet. I’m looking forward to it; there are a lot of friends and family that will be coming this weekend. But I think once you get in the car and on track you appreciate the fact that there is a bigger picture.

Asked about his immediate and longer term goals he said: “With the current situation with the performance difference in the cars I think it’s very clear that the objective just needs to be continuing what we’ve done in the first two.

Both of those weekends there was quite a disrupted Friday for the whole team, so I think if we have a strong Friday the Sunday result can be even more positive. In terms of next year, I’m obviously quite keen to be in a full-time seat next year, which is apparent. The position that I’m in with the team at the moment is good and we’re looking to put that all together for next year.

Rossi said he couldn’t say how much of an advantage it was that he drove the Caterham at COTA in FP1 two years ago, and thus knows the track.

I’ll let you know tomorrow. Obviously it gives you a baseline but at the same time the cars in ’13 were clearly very different to what they are now. I don’t know how much is applicable to be honest. I think it’s more of a bonus, the fact that I’ve actually driven the track, more than anything else.”

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Toro Rosso turns down chance to run upgraded Renault

Scuderia Toro Rosso is not planning to take advantage of Renault’s latest upgraded engine over the last four races, because the team believes that it’s not worth taking extra grid penalties.

The Italian outfit has enough examples of the current spec to get to the end of the season. Meanwhile RBR has yet to make a definitive call, although Daniel Ricciardo suggested that it was unlikely.

“We’re going to stick for the rest of the year with the old spec,” said Carlos Sainz. “Given the [performance] values that they’ve given to get another grid penalty and start last, especially with the last four tracks, they are similar to this one… Okay, they are not the best tracks because they have long straights, but it’s not the worst, so we can be very close to the top ten, so to start last, I think it’s too much, it’s not worth it, so we will commit to this year’s spec that we have now, that’s good enough to finish the year, and we have plenty of them.

“It’s an important end of the season now, because we have four races that the tracks should not be bad for us, and we lost a lot of points from the middle of the season, particular me. We need four races where we can qualify decently and race hard from the top 10. So I don’t want to take more penalties to be honest.”

Max Verstappen suggested that the team would keep an eye on how Red Bull performs if and when it runs the new engine.

“I think we have to wait and see how much the difference is,” said Verstappen. “So we have to wait and see how what Red Bull does with the engine, if they are going to use it or not here, and what the difference is. If it’s not that much and you take again a penalty then your race is a bit more difficult again. We just have to wait and see. And if it’s good then hopefully we will have it soon as well.”

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