Rosberg’s Lost his Lid

Nico Rosberg appears to have lost his helmet on arrival in Brazil… or has he?

Is this a big marketing spoof, or has Nico’s helmet really been stolen? His twitter feed says it was accidentally left in the hotel lobby and has gone walkies… so if this is a marketing ploy it’s not going to please the race organisers or local government to essentially point out that the crime rate in Brazil is so astonishingly high. Which kind of begs the question of whether it is real… It was only back in Monza that the GP2 paddock got broken into and Andi Zuber had BOTH his race helmets nicked, while Luca Filippi had his overalls half inched. So it’s not out of the realms of possibility in Europe, let alone Sao Paulo.

Nico does have a good poker face though, I’ve known him long enough to know that… genuinely there I times when I still can’t tell if he’s pulling my leg. Real or not, here’s his plea.

An interesting Rumour in Turkey

I’ve just heard a very, very interesting rumour in the Istanbul Park paddock.

Following a morning meeting of FOTA and their respective team drivers, a decision has apparently been reached to boycott this afternoon’s race. Yep, it’ll be Indianapolis 2005 all over again.

The rumour says that at the end of the formation lap, all 16 FOTA cars will pull into the pits and pull out of the event. By running the formation lap, they may not have fallen foul of their contract to take part in the event. The governing statutes are unclear on this point.

That will then leave us with four cars – the Williamses of Rosberg and Nakajima and the Force Indias of Sutil and Fisichella.

But is it actually going to happen? Right now we just don’t know. After submitting their block entry, FOTA doesn’t really have any cards left to play in its war with Max Mosley and the FIA over the 2010 regulations… save for boycotting a race, and giving fans of Formula 1 a potential vision of how the sport would look if the FOTA teams pulled out.

Could this be the final card in FOTA’s hand; the last play of the match? With no Bernie Ecclestone and no Max Mosley in Istanbul, there’s not even anyone, save Alan Donnely, to mediate.

With empty grandstands and its future already in doubt, the Turkish Grand Prix is almost the perfect place to pull off such a stunt.

With under two hours until the race is set to get underway, this rumour is gathering pace with every minute.

While many consider it hugely unlikely, it still might not be a bad idea to have a small punt on Nico Rosberg for the race win.

Independents to Break FOTA Unity?

nakajap

Yesterday’s news that Williams has entered its name for the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship caught many of us unawares. After a weekend of multiple meetings and relative media silence from FOTA representatives the media was, on the whole, fairly convinced that FOTA unity was tight. The teams had written to the FIA demanding the 2010 regulation changes be dropped and, from what I had understood to be true from a number of reliable sources, FOTA was due to enter its name for the 2010 championship as a block unit if their condition of a revision to 2009 regulations was met.

So why the sudden change in position from Williams? If the teams had agreed to make their demands known to Max Mosley and the FIA in writing, in return for the teams agreeing to sign a new Concorde Agreement, has Williams’ entry to the 2010 championship not seriously reduced FOTA’s bargaining position? Furthermore, does the action of Williams not call into serious question the unity of FOTA, and give us a true reflection of the divisions between the manufacturer teams and the independents over the issue of budget caps?

“The unity of FOTA is of paramount importance to Williams,” Williams F1 CEO Adam Parr told Reuters. “Yesterday [Sunday] we joined the other members of FOTA in writing to the FIA to request a continuing effort to find a compromise concerning the regulations for 2010.”

“We believe that under the leadership of di Montezemolo and John Howett, FOTA has extracted some very significant concessions from the FIA. These include not only the procedural aspects of the budget cap but also other elements that will enable the higher budget teams to participate. Having said that, Williams has, and has always maintained, that we have a binding contract with both FOM and the FIA to participate in the world championship from 2008 to 2010.”

“We have been paid in full for our participation and we feel both morally and legally obliged to make it clear that we will participate in Formula One in the future as we have in the past 30 years. We owe this to our employees, our sponsors and the fans, all of whom are affected by statements that the teams may not enter next year’s championship.”

“We will continue to work within FOTA and with FOM and FIA to find a compromise but no one should be in any doubt about our commitment to the FIA F1 world championship.”

Williams has long been known to have been in favour of a budget cap in Formula 1. Indeed, there have been very few public comments from Williams, Brawn or Force India over the past few weeks over the subject of budget caps. Quite simply, it makes an enormous amount of sense for independent F1 teams to agree to the budget cap. They cannot compete forever with the big spending of the auto manufacturers.

A division was always going to occur within FOTA at some point, and Williams’ decision to enter its name for the 2010 championship could yet come to be seen as a pivotal moment in not only the future of FOTA but the future of Formula 1. Williams, in citing its contractual obligations to F1 and in not wishing to let go of its 30 year history in the sport, is drawing a very clear line in the sand, as the team is displaying a position completely at odds to that of Ferrari which is claiming that all deals are off in F1 as the 2010 regulation changes breached Concorde, and that they have no qualms in breaking their 60 year history in F1.

It is widely rumoured that two of the major manufacturers will pull out of F1 regardless of what happens in these negotiations, at the end of 2009. Why then would Williams wish to align itself too heavily with a group whose own members do not even know if they will be around in 2010, if Williams itself is already certain that F1 is where it wants to be next year?

Williams may not be the powerhouse it once was, but its place in Formula 1 is no less important. It is the third most succesful team in F1 history. Its name is as synonimous with the sport as that of Ferrari and McLaren. Indeed, in both historical and emotional terms, Williams falls behind perhaps only those two teams in the heirarchy of Formula 1 public perception.

It’s also worth noting that in the top six most succesful teams in F1 history, only two (Ferrari and Renault) are motor manufacturers. The rest are independents.

Independent teams then have formed a critical part of this sport’s history, and could yet play a decisive role in its future. Williams’ decision to enter for 2010 has seriously weakened FOTA’s position. If they are joined by another independent team over the next few days, FOTA’s bargaining position will be weakened still further, particularly if Williams is joined by the championship-leading BrawnGP team.

Also, don’t rule out McLaren from splitting with FOTA’s bigger picture plan. Already under pressure from the FIA following the lie-gate scandal, Martin Whitmarsh has already claimed today that McLaren is playing peacemaker. The point at which the peacemaker does a deal to save its own skin may not be far away.

Formula Juan

I was chatting to a colleague yesterday about Jacques Villeneuve’s recent comments that he wouldn’t be averse to an F1 comeback. We pretty much agreed however that if Robert Kubica was having trouble reaching a suitable weight to run KERS, JV could be similarly troubled.

“Why not divide F1 into weight categories?” he asked.

“The heavyweight F1 world championship” I quipped… which got us talking about Juan Pablo Montoya.

This weekend marks six years since Montoya won the Monaco Grand Prix for Williams. Indeed it was the Colombian who scored the last of Williams’ 113 F1 victories back in 2004, and I couldn’t help but feel that Formula 1 of today is slightly poorer without him. I just loved his personality, his honesty and his humour. More than anything, though, I think I loved the way he raced. Foot to the floor, balls to the wall, hard-ass racing. He was one of very few drivers who really took it to Michael Schumacher, and in any other era might well have been an F1 champion himself. Arguably, he should have been.

Here’s some of his best bits Vs Michael.

And the other side of Mr Montoya… fairly fruity language, and possibly the single greatest F1 quote of the last decade.

Oh, and just one more… a brilliant advert.