Formula One - On and Off track week 21

Formula One - On and Off track week 21

More problems for Briatore, teams happy with Cosworth, dreaming of an American-Italian marriage, and F1 returns to the United States in 2012 More problems for Briatore Once again ex-Renault team principal Flavio Briatore is in the middle of ...


More problems for Briatore, teams happy with Cosworth, dreaming of an American-Italian marriage, and F1 returns to the United States in 2012

More problems for Briatore

Once again ex-Renault team principal Flavio Briatore is in the middle of another controversy. Last week Italian police seized his 62-meter yacht Force Blue just before it entered the harbor of La Specia on the western coast of Italy. When the police boarded the yacht Briatore himself was not on board, but his wife Elisabetta Gregoraci and 2-months old son Falco Nathan were. Local Italian prosecutor Walter Cotugno told the yacht was seized as part of an investigation over its questionable registration as a charter yacht, and claims there is no evidence of the yacht being chartered.

Briatore's Force Blue has been seized by Italian police.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The unnamed company (which is also under investigation) that supposedly owns the yacht, is registered in the British Virgin Islands, but the yacht itself is registered in the Cayman Islands. With this construction Briatore has allegedly dodged EU taxes on fuel for luxury yachts, in total 800,000 Euros in two years. Yachts registered outside the EU don't have to pay the fuel tax if they leave the EU within 8 hours. Because Briatore claimed he charters the yacht from the company on the Virgin Islands, he didn't have to pay the fuel taxes. Briatore knows the Virgin Islands very well, in the early 1970s he fled to the islands after he was convicted on various counts of fraud after the bankruptcy of the Italian Paramatti company, and sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison.

But apparently the Italian police have been monitoring the movements of the yacht for well over a year, and have come to the conclusion Briatore and his family are in fact the only users of the yacht within the EU. Also according to the Italian police, by registering the yacht outside the EU, Briatore, who is officially an European citizen, also didn't pay about four million Euros of VAT. No one in F1 has ever been associated with so many serious allegations of fraud, and as long as it has not clearly been established whether Briatore was in fact guilty of fixing the race in Singapore in 2008 or not, it would be unthinkable he could play a part in promoting F1. Briatore's credibility, if there was any left, has decreased to minus zero.

Teams happy with Cosworth

Last week rumors emerged that a few teams were concerned about the Cosworth engine. They are happy with the power and fuel consumption, but are concerned about the drivability and performance degradation (which means the performance decreases the more miles the engine makes). It was even suggested Cosworth approached the FIA to file a formal request for engine changes. The rumors were fueled after Renault announced they would be more than happy to provide engines to other teams in 2011. Cosworth currently supplies the Williams, Lotus, Virgin and HRT teams.

Cosworth business manager Mark Gallagher rubbished the rumors that Williams and Lotus were looking for a new engine supplier, but also admitted there are a few problems that have to be addressed. "The engine has achieved or exceeded its targets but we have also seen some issues which we are working hard to resolve," he said. Gallagher also stressed he fully supports the new teams, "There has been something of a tendency to find fault or criticism with the new teams wherever possible and I think this criticism is quite unjust. From a Cosworth perspective all three new teams work hard and are good commercial as well as technical partners."

Mark Gallagher and Adam Parr.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Williams and Lotus have now also dismissed the rumors and both teams confirmed they are quite happy with the engine and said the problems they have are relatively simple to solve. The drivability issue could be solved by simply changing the engine mapping. Williams CEO Adam Parr commented about the problems, "This is definitely something on which they [Cosworth] are working and where they have already made progress." It seems it is just a storm in a glass of water, and even if Cosworth would request the FIA to allow them to improve the reliability of the engine would not be such a big issue. After all, Renault and even Ferrari also had to ask the FIA if they could change a few components after they discovered their engines had a reliability problem earlier this year.

Dreaming of an American-Italian marriage

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had a dream this week according to the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. He had a dream about a with Stars and Stripes decorated third Ferrari sponsored by American companies. Montezemolo has been dreaming about a third Ferrari ever since Michael Schumacher wanted to return to F1. But as we all know, not all dreams come true, and Schumacher wasn't prepared to wait for Montezemolo's dream to come true, and is now employed by the German Mercedes team, who had a dream about an all German F1 team, an example of a dream that did come true.

Of course this American-Italian marriage would be a perfect marriage, the third Ferrari is the ultimate dream of the Ferrari marketing managers, who of course are aware of the enormous potential of the American car market, and the prospect of an American sponsored four-wheeled Ferrari billboard appearing on TV in every American living room, must really be exciting for them. Parris Mullins, friend of YouTube founder and ex-US F1 investor Chad Hurley, is the one who is interested in buying himself a way into F1. But it remains to be seen if it would be a good idea to sponsor a third Ferrari and become part of the Ferrari dream family.

There are two other possibilities, he could take over one of the existing teams, Bernie Ecclestone is adamant at least one of the current teams is not going to make it to 2011, and change it into an American team. But it would be far much better to support a true American team, using American technology, a car designed by American engineers and piloted by American drivers, but the problem is they will have to apply for the 13th slot in 2011 before the end of June, and that is a very tight deadline.

Although the US F1 enterprise miserably failed in putting together such a team, there is still a lot of interest in F1 in the US, the dream of a true American F1 team is far from over. The US Cypher group haven't given up that dream, and with the right support and the right partners they might make that dream come true. So there is still hope, and getting the right people together at the right time seems to be the key. Of course, the only thing that's missing in this story, is a F1 race on American soil.

F1 returns to the United States in 2012

Formula One returns to the United States in 2012.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Bernie Ecclestone has recently been discussing the return of F1 with several candidates, and when Ecclestone wants something, he usually gets it. And right on cue, yesterday F1's Commercial Rights Holder issued an official statement in which they announced the return of F1 to the US. The race will take place in Austin, Texas, and for the first time in the history of F1 in the US, "a world-class facility will be purpose-built to host the event." FOM has signed an agreement with Full Throttle Productions to stage the event from 2012 through 2021.

The first part of the dream has been realized, and the second part of the dream, an all-American team, will now have more chances to become reality as well. And Montezemolo's dream? A third car is with the current Concorde Agreement in place not possible, the FIA regulations also specifically say "each team must enter two cars." Perhaps Montezemolo even wants a fourth Ferrari on the grid, the rumors are that he himself will be at the wheel, he has already been practicing his skills in the multi-million dollar Ferrari simulator at Maranello last week...

Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".


See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 20

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Luca di Montezemolo , Flavio Briatore , Bernie Ecclestone , Adam Parr
Teams Williams