Formula One - On And Off Track Week 37

Formula One - On And Off Track Week 37

Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent

Story Highlights

  • Pirelli want FIA to change tyre regulations
  • Williams F1 financially in good shape
  • British MP not happy with Sky/BBC deal

Pirelli wants tyre regulation changes

Formula One’s tyre supplier Pirelli will push the sport’s governing body the FIA for changes in the tyre regulations. The Italian tyre manufacturer was not happy with Red Bull Racing, who ignored Pirelli’s camber recommendations and as a result had to start with blistered front tyres during the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. Pirelli had recommended a 4 degree camber angle of the front wheels, but Red Bull pushed the boundaries and ran their cars with 4.3 degrees camber.

Pirelli, and hopefully Red Bull as well, have learned an important lesson at Spa, and Pirelli has urged all team to follow their recommendations regarding the camber angles. It is not entirely unthinkable if teams keep ignoring the recommendations, Pirelli will ask the FIA to make their recommendations mandatory, but at the moment Pirelli thinks no action is needed. For the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, another high-speed circuit, it is understood Pirelli recommended a 3.75 degree camber angle to prevent the tyres from overheating which caused the blistering at Spa.

Pirelli pushing for changes in tyre regulations
Pirelli pushing for changes in tyre regulations

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But there are a few other things Pirelli’s Director of Motorsport Paul Hembery would like to see changed in the tyre regulations. During the Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix, drivers were allowed to change tyres during a red flag situation, something that certainly changed the outcome of the race, and Pirelli wants to ban tyre changing during a red flag situation. “I don't really understand why they are allowed to change tyres, but maybe I am missing something, “ Hembery said after the Monaco Grand Prix. “If they hadn't changed the tyres, then they would have had to fight to the end as they were all on different strategies, and the tyre wear and life was very different.”

Another thing that has bothered Pirelli is the fact drivers have limited their running during qualifying to have one extra set of fresh tyres for the race. Currently drivers have six sets of tyres for qualifying and the race, and having an extra set of unused tyres is certainly an advantage. Another trick that was used is deliberately missing out on Q3, which means a driver has a free choice of tyres for the race, while drivers who qualified in the top ten must start the race on the same tyres they qualified on.

”It means people could be saving a set of tyres because then they would be better off in the race,” Hembery said. He also has a solution, “I've made a suggestion to put to the Sporting Working Group to say that actually in those circumstances, you should be made to use your Q2 tyres in that situation, so there is no advantage from not setting a time.” Hembery further explained, “If you have problems and don't go out and qualify, you will still start on a set of tyres that have done an out-lap, set a time and an in-lap, so they will be in the same condition as everyone else. That is the fairest sporting way, so hopefully they will adopt that.”

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorspor Director and Mario Isola, Sporting Director Pirelli
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorspor Director and Mario Isola, Sporting Director Pirelli

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He also thinks this way qualifying will be more interesting for the fans as well, “It is more for the fans because otherwise we will see people not bothering in qualifying and that is a waste of time.” And speaking of ‘wasting’, that is exactly the problem with the in total 11 sets of tyres a driver has for three days, five sets of soft, and six sets of hard tyres. Because drivers like to race on the soft tyres and not on the harder compound, Pirelli gets two sets of unused hard tyres back from each team after the race.

Hembery thinks this is waste of money and resources, and the FIA might as well allocate five sets of each compound for a race. As an interim solution Pirelli has proposed to the teams to allocate six sets of softs and five sets of hard tyres, but the teams have failed to reach an unanimous decision as some teams are very reluctant to give their opponent six sets of softs, which could for example be an advantage for Ferrari, as the hard tyres don’t work very well with the Ferrari 150° Italia.

Pirelli is now pushing the FIA to change the rules. Pirelli currently bring 1,824 tyres for each race, not including back ups and wet weather tyres, and ten sets of tyres per driver would mean a reduction of 98 tyres, which they now have to destroy after the race. “The FIA does have a role to play in terms of regulations, we need to have a stimulation from them as well because at the moment it's a cost that has no benefit to the teams or the sport or to Pirelli. It's nonsense,” Hembery commented. Which means the FIA now has to convince teams it is as Hembery put it ‘pointless to bringing tyres they are not going to use’.

Williams financially in good shape

Despite comments of former Williams’ marketing boss Scott Garrett ‘Williams will ever have the budget to win again in Formula One’, the Williams Formula One team today reported an increase in profits of 37 per cent for the first half of 2011. The team’s turnover has increased with 5 per cent to £47.3 million (£45m in 2010), while the core profit before tax has increased to £1.7 million (£1.3m in 2010) after investment of £1.1 million in Williams Hybrid Power and Williams Technology Centre Qatar. According to the statement the team issued today, the earnings per share, after Williams’ debut on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in March this year, have increased 49 per cent from 12.98 to 19.31.

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

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The statement further read, “Full year results are expected to show revenue growth of around 12% to 20% over 2010 as a result of new business development and activity in Williams Hybrid Power. Overall profit before tax is expected to be in line with 2010 despite investment in Williams Hybrid Power and Williams Technology Centre, Qatar.”

Sir Frank Williams commented, “The first half of 2011 shows momentum in our diversified growth, building on the foundations we laid in 2010,” and confidently added, “We have upgraded and extended existing partners Randstad and Oris, and added Interbrand as a new partner. Our new partnership with Jaguar Land Rover was followed by an exciting alliance announced with Renault, which will further strengthen our medium term performance both on and off the track.”

Chairman Adam Parr is also optimistic, “We are pleased to report interim results that demonstrate further progress of our Group strategy. Our core business has performed in line with expectations, with greater costs incurred in the first half.”

The first half of 2011 shows momentum in our diversified growth

Sir Frank Williams

In contrast to Williams’ optimism, Garrett earlier this week stated to GMM: "The sorry state of the Williams Formula One equity price indicates a team that is more desperate than confident, and confidence is critical when presenting oneself to sponsors and asking them for money." Where Garrett got his information is not clear, but he certainly did not read Williams’ 2011 interim report.

True, the Grove-based team has had financial problems and it is also true the performance of one of the last real Formula One privateers is nothing to write home about, but a number of changes should mark the return of Williams next year. Williams, who won 7 Drivers' and 9 Constructors' Championships, earlier this season announced a new engine deal with Renault, and is also poised to make changes in the technical department.

Technical Director Sam Michael will leave the team at the end of the season, and Briton Mike Coughlan will take over his duties in 2012, and is in fact already working on the design of Williams’ 2012 contender. “We have made several senior new appointments in engineering and aerodynamics, bolstering both our team devoted to improving track-side performance, and supporting our Jaguar Land Rover partnership,” Parr said today.

There will also be changes to the Board Parr revealed, “We would also like to welcome Mike O'Driscoll and Edward Charlton to the Board, joining Toto Wolff as non-executive directors. Their varied experience and expertise enable each to bring valuable perspectives to the Board’s stewardship of our strategy, performance and resources. They will serve our minority shareholders well. It is our intention to appoint a fourth non-executive director before the year end.”

Pastor Maldonado, Williams F1 Team
Pastor Maldonado, Williams F1 Team

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Meanwhile, Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado, who secured his first world championship point during the Belgian Grand Prix, is set to stay in 2012, but Sir Frank earlier denied he is staying thanks to the backing of his Venezuelan sponsor PDVSA, “Many people believed we only have him because of the money. But he is also super-fast, straightforward and the team loves him. With a Renault engine, we can give him a better car in 2012.”

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver on the 2011 grid, still has no deal for 2012. “I have waited for three weeks but there has been no contact on the part of the team. I have presented the team with my terms and I am even willing to sign a two-year contract,” he told Brazilian journalist Livio Oricchio. And added, “Unless Williams have money problems, they should stick with what they have right now -- a very experienced and very motivated lead driver and a youngster developing himself. It would be wrong to have two kids for next year.”

It is rumored three other drivers are looking to replace Barrichello for 2012, Finnish test driver Valtteri Bottas, Force India driver Adrian Sutil and Dutch GP2 driver Giedo van der Garde, who according to the Finnish Turun Sanomat ,has ‘the most money’.

British MP not happy with Sky/BBC deal

Leading British MP Don Foster not only voiced his concerns but also expressed his doubts over the new joint seven-year contract with the British BBC and Sky Sport in letters he wrote to the BBC and FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone. The new contract means the BBC will only broadcast ten races live on free-to-air, while Sky will broadcast all Grands Prix live on their subscription channel Sky Sports. The deal is highly controversial and has provoked the anger of British Formula One fans, who will have to buy an annual £480 costing Sky subscription to watch all Formula One races live in 2012.

Foster, who is the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport, wants clarification on the deal as he thinks there are plenty of questions that have been left unanswered. In a letter, which was published on the Liberal Democrat’s website, he wrote to BBC’s Director General Mark Thompson, “I do not believe plans to share coverage between the BBC and Sky promote the best interests of license fee payers and motor racing fans. I believe the best result would have been for the rights to remain with a free-to-air broadcaster, even if this was not the BBC.”

BBC TV Camera
BBC TV Camera

Photo by: Hazrin Yeob Men Shah

He is especially unhappy with the information given by the BBC, Sky and FOM about how this deal was put together, “My main concern is that your account of who made the key decisions behind the agreement does not agree with the version of events given by Formula One Management,” he wrote. “I am concerned about the apparently divergent views of Formula One and the BBC about the sequence of events and the desired outcome. In fact, Bernie Ecclestone seems to claim that it was the BBC who forced Sky's involvement. The BBC apparently 'held all the cards' as there was still time left on the existing contract. He says that Sky were brought to the table by the BBC in the first place,” he stated in his letter.

Foster urged the BBC to provide the answers to the many questions he and the British race fans have, “This deal has led to disappointment and anger among fans, and now they have to sift through completely contradictory explanations of who was responsible. The least they deserve is a clear account of what happened. I urge you to give it.”

Apparently Foster and others believe the BBC did not want the rights to go to their main free-to-air rival Channel 4, and therefore decided to share the rights with Sky. According to the UK Mail online Channel 4 made a £45million last ditch bid to secure the rights. Ecclestone however, denies he was the one who made the contact with Sky, “The BBC brought Sky to us with the idea of a joint contract. The BBC got to grips with Sky themselves.” He also denied he had ruled out free-to-air coverage for the UK, and was in fact in favor of the lucrative seven-year Sky contract, “I spoke with ITV too, and came up with the same problem as Channel 4 had. We had a contract with the BBC which didn't run out until 2014.”

But the BBC denies this, Neil Land, BBC Sport Chief Adviser and Business Manager said at the time, “Ultimately, it is the responsibility of FOM to decide which broadcasters cover the sport. FOM must decide what is in the best interests of the sport, its employees, manufacturers, sponsors and viewers -- when choosing its broadcast partners. On this occasion, FOM decided that a broadcast partnership between the BBC and Sky was in the best interests of the sport.”

Foster also mentioned in his letter, “I am concerned that Formula One fans in the UK, who are also licence fee payers, had no-one speaking up for what was in their interests. I am also particularly unhappy at claims that the BBC was the main facilitator of the end result.”

Bernie Ecclestone with the BBC
Bernie Ecclestone with the BBC

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Currently there is still confusion about what the BBC will do with the remaining races they can not broadcast live, will they air a full re-run of the race later at night or just a highlights version of the race? So far the BBC have refused to give an official comment on that subject. When the deal was announced last month, Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal and FOTA chairman, said he had spoken with Ecclestone, “Bernie assured me, and I asked him several times, the deferred coverage will not be highlights, it will be a full race. That, to some fans, will be very important.” But Ecclestone later denied this, “The BBC will broadcast 75 minutes of every race, and will be broadcasted at 6 o'clock at night.”

Foster said in his letter, “The BBC may broadcast half the races, but this means nothing to fans who want to watch the whole season live. They cannot buy half a Sky package. For them, all of the rights may as well have gone to Sky, as it will cost them exactly the same.” And Foster also addressed another topic, “But this [an exclusive contract with Sky] would have violated the Concorde Agreement and the many public statements that FOM have made about the importance of free-to-air, meaning that the BBC have legitimised the otherwise indefensible situation of fans paying the full price for access to Formula One.”

Many also fear this deal will have an impact on the Formula One sponsoring, as sponsors would obviously rather see Formula One on free-to-air TV and not on pay channels. For Great Britain the situation is even more precarious, as eight of the 12 teams are based in the UK, and UK sponsors pay about £540million each year. It is also feared the deal has opened the door for FOM to strike similar deals in other countries, which is clearly not in the best interest of the viewers, but in the best interest of the commercial rights holder.

Next month there will be a meeting of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport committee, and BBC Director General Thompson will be quizzed about the exact nature of the deal.

Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”

Formula One - On and Off Track week 36

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Rubens Barrichello , Giedo van der Garde , Frank Williams , Pastor Maldonado , Adrian Sutil , Toto Wolff , Bernie Ecclestone , Valtteri Bottas , Mark Thompson , Mario Isola , Martin Whitmarsh , Adam Parr
Teams Red Bull Racing , Force India , Williams
Tags bbc, bouman, hembery, parr, pirelli, sky, williams