Briatore makes the impossible possible, the 2011 race calendar - twenty is plenty, McLaren talent Nyck de Vries crowned 2010 Kart World Champion
Briatore makes the impossible possible
Ousted ex-Renault team principal Flavio Briatore was again seen in the paddock and on the start grid of a Formula One event, this time during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Many fans are wondering how on earth Briatore can walk freely around the Formula One paddock from which he was banned for life, visibly enjoying the media attention he unfortunately always attracts, while pretending nothing has ever happened. The answer is simple, his good old friend and business partner and FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone helped him acquiring a VIP pass, the same pass given to people like Dario Franchitti, Eric Clapton, Hugh Grant, the members of the rock bands Kasabian and the Stereophonics, and other real VIP's and celebrities who visited the Italian Grand Prix. Ecclestone reckons that celebrities who visit a Grand Prix will benefit the image of the sport, but if the name of the celebrity is Briatore, he should think again.
Although Briatore has won his appeal against the decision of the FIA WMSC and his life-time ban was overturned, the fact remains that after the appeal the FIA decided to ban Briatore until the end of 2012, but this ban doesn't seem to have any real meaning, as he has been spotted in the paddock at previous Formula One venues as well. Briatore even never contested his innocence, the only thing he wanted to achieve with his court case, was to overturn his life-time ban. The current FIA President Jean Todt now plays the role of the one-eyed Horatio Nelson, seemingly not able or willing (depending on which eye he is using) to enforce the ban the WMSC has imposed upon the Italian.
Of course Briatore didn't visit the Italian Grand Prix without again making a number spicy comments on the current status of Formula One. First he commented about the return of his former prot?g? Michael Schumacher. "The comeback was wrong. His car is not the best, but he isn't competitive. Rosberg is usually better. Sometimes I just feel sorry for him," Briatore said to the waiting reporters who diligently made their notes. After that it was time to say a few kind words about his other prot?g?, Mark Webber. According to Briatore Webber should be the number one driver in the Red Bull team. "Red Bull haven't realized yet that if they continue like this, with Webber and Vettel racing against each other, they could lose the championship," he said.
He was also clear about the future of Formula One, from his point of view teams will have to dramatically reduce the costs if they want to survive. "But you'd have to throw 100 people out of the paddock. With today's decision-makers this is not possible. You can't teach them how to save because they never have. It's like sending an alcoholic to rehab in a bar," he commented. Or, how would this be for a comparison Mr. Briatore, to allow a disgraced and banned Crashgate conspirator to return to the scene of the crime, the Formula One paddock, without any punishment or therapy, even worse, without showing any remorse about his past behavior. That would really be disastrous for the sport.
Rumors have emerged Briatore is lobbying to reduce his ban, but he has denied he is planning a return to Formula One. In an interview with the official Formula One website he said, "I have won seven titles with different teams. I want to have fun with what I'm doing -- that is my motivation and not the need for a job. At the moment I wouldn't have fun in Formula One. At the moment I am happy with what I am doing -- being a dad, husband, and taking care of my investments." Despite his ban Briatore is still managing Webber and Fernando Alonso and when asked who will win the title this year he said, "Both would deserve it because both are extremely strong. I personally don't have a favorite. What matters to me is that one of the two will win the title."
The FIA has recently announced they will introduce a Competitor's Staff License, and also announced 'a new mechanism will be introduced to control access to areas under the jurisdiction of the FIA and no pass of any kind will be issued to any person or body who is not in good standing for the purposes of the FIA International Sporting Code'.
The 2011 race calendar - twenty is plenty
The FIA recently unveiled the 2011 race schedule with now 20 races on the calendar. The first race will be in Bahrain on March 13, the last race in Brazil on November 17. With 20 races next year, Formula One teams are again facing a logistical nightmare. The 20-race calendar will also stretch the limits of their financial and human resources to the max, and teams have now voiced their concerns about the expanding calendar. The 2011 calendar also features four back-to-back races, but also like this year a four-week break in August.
Ecclestone has now given up his plans for 25 races per season. "We really should be at 16, to be honest. Twenty is plenty, that's the limit. No more," the FOM executive said. And added, "I've been able to squeeze in 20 but I wouldn't want to increase it." Which also means certain races could be axed in the future, Ecclestone also has plans for a race in Rome, Moscow and New York.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn is worried about the increasing pressure, and thinks alternating crews could be the answer. The mechanics and engineers are also pushed to the limits, and a second crew, although it would also increase the costs, could alternate every other race weekend. "We want to have these extra races because it's good for Formula One, but it's reaching a critical stage in terms of people being able to cope," the Briton said. "People all have families, and when you're away for 20 races that's a lot of time away from home. So I think we're going to have to start thinking about the time available for people when they're not at the racetrack. We'll find solutions, but it does need careful consideration."
Of course not only engineers and mechanics are under pressure, each team also employs truck drivers, PR personnel, IT specialists and even cooks. Support crews are responsible for transporting the fancy 'motor homes' and hospitality units, they arrive at the circuit on Tuesday and it takes the crews two days to unpack and build everything up again. After a race on European soil the cars are shipped back to the factory to inspect them, but with the four back-to-back races this is not possible, everything has to be packed immediately after the race and on Monday trucks are already on their way to the next venue.
DHL is Formula One's logistical partner, and together with the FOM they are responsible for delivering the freight to the overseas circuits. Last year DHL transported 35 sea freight containers to Abu Dhabi (five 20 ft containers and thirty 40 ft containers), it took five 747 cargo planes to do the job. For each overseas race 20,000 individual items are transported, spare parts, engines, tyres, race cars, pit crew equipment, food and even toilet paper. They also transport the furnishings of the VIP Paddock Club, TV and computer equipment, and 1 million liters of fuel per year. The material and equipment needed for each race weighs over 300 tons, and is enough to fill 100 trucks.
For the drivers it's a lot easier, they hop on a plane, a number of drivers even have a private jet to make the trip even more comfortable, fly to Abu Dhabi or an other far-flung place and check into a luxury hotel suite their manager has booked for them. And they only have to worry about the qualification and the race, or possibly about how to win the title this year, but at least they don't have to worry about the logistical nightmare of moving the complete Formula One circus to the next Grand Prix.
McLaren talent Nyck de Vries crowned 2010 Kart World Champion
A few months ago this column reported Dutch race talent Nyck de Vries had joined the McLaren Young Driver Development Program. The 14-year old De Vries is managed by the Hamilton Management Group led by Anthony Hamilton, father of Lewis Hamilton who joined a similar program at McLaren when his was a teenager. Anthony Hamilton about the new McLaren prot?g?, "Nyck is an extremely promising youngster. His father Hendrik has been fantastically supportive of Nyck's career, and has been instrumental in raising him up to not just be a great young racing driver, but also a fine young man. Together, we both believe that, with the right level of support, we can take his career to the highest level."
Last year he already won the World Series Karting FL3, and became German and European KF3 champion. The youngster hasn't disappointed McLaren, last weekend the flying Dutchman won the World CIK FIA Kart Championship in Zuera in Spain. Qualifying was difficult for De Vries, 125 drivers entered the meeting and traffic was a problem. De Vries, "With all that traffic on track, I had some difficulty performing a clean lap and I had to content myself with 17th time in timed qualifying." During the first heat he finished in 10th position during a wet race, and qualified in 10th place for the pre-final. He took third place and he then started for the final round of the meeting.
"I made an excellent start, but without gaining places. I had to wait up to the 5th lap to reach second place, but meanwhile poleman Jordan Chamberlain had managed to build a small gap, " he said about the final. He slowly closed in on the number one man and before the last lap he decided to take his chances. "When I saw the sign of the last lap, I said to myself that I had to take my chance. After the long fast stretch, I decided to attack by braking very late and I managed to conquer the first place," De Vries said.
The determined youngster has only one goal: he wants to become Formula One World Champion, and if he gets the same guidance and support of the McLaren team as Lewis Hamilton, maybe one day he will indeed start a race for the McLaren team, but for now he is satisfied with winning the kart title, "I have yet to fully realize it, but I am so happy to be World Champion. I was the fastest at the end of the race and that was the key for my victory today."
Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".
See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 37