Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Ecclestone Quits, Dennis Stages Coup
With the start of the new season still two months away, you would be forgiven for thinking that it’s a time of quiet in the world of Formula One.
Far from it. Not only are teams flat out in their preparations for some of the biggest regulations in the sport’s history, the past couple of days have seen several huge stories breaking that could affect the season ahead.
Ecclestone Steps Down Amidst Bribery Charges
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone will stand down from his role as director of the sport’s management board.
The dramatic news comes after it was revealed that Ecclestone is to go on trial to face allegations that he bribed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky over the sale of F1 to a private equity group in 2006.
Delta Topco, who owns Formula One Group, issued a statement on Thursday (as quoted on BBC Sport) that Ecclestone will continue to run the business on a day-to-day basis until the case has been resolved.
After discussion with the board, Mr Ecclestone has proposed and the board has agreed that until the case has been concluded, he will step down as a director with immediate effect, thereby relinquishing his board duties and responsibilities until the case has been resolved.
The board believes that it is in the best interests of both the F1 business and the sport that Mr Ecclestone should continue to run the business on a day to day basis, but subject to increased monitoring and control by the board. Mr Ecclestone has agreed to these arrangements.
The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the chairman, Mr Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and deputy chairman, Mr Donald Mackenzie.
Dennis Wrestles Back Control of McLaren
Following on from one of the worst seasons in the history of the McLaren team, former team principal Ron Dennis has staged an internal coup and wrestled back control.
Dennis, who stood down as team boss in 2009, has been appointed as the team’s Group CEO. It means that current team principal Martin Whitmarsh’s role is now under threat.
According to Autosport, Dennis addressed the factory staff in Woking to say that changes would be made in order to get the team back to winning ways.
There will be changes. We will win again. My fellow shareholders have mandated me to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren, beginning by improving our on-track and off-track performance. Over the coming weeks I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimising every aspect of our existing operations, whilst identifying new areas of growth that capitalise on our technologies, and where appropriate further investing in them.
Although Whitmarsh will remain in charge of the team for the time being, no decision has been made as to whether he will be replaced before the start of the season.
Lotus Reveals Massive Debts
The Lotus Formula One team has revealed it is £114 million in debt but insists their future participation in the sport is not in doubt.
Alarm bells started ringing towards the end of the 2013 season when Kimi Raikkonen pulled out of the last two races of the season because he had not been paid.
But team majority shareholder and Genii Capital co-owner Gerard Lopez told Germany's Auto Motor Und Sport magazine via BBC Sport that because most of the debt was internal, there is no immediate demand to repay the debts, and the team is safe.
We have around £114m of debt, of which more than £80m debt is with ourselves (Genii). Why would we demand the repayment of these (internal) debts? That makes no sense. We reconciled the money as marketing expenses. At the moment, it is important that the team goes forward.
Lotus had been hoping for an investment deal with Quantum Motorsport to materialise, freeing them up to recruit Nico Hulkenberg. But talks collapsed and the team instead decided to hire Pastor Maldonado, who comes with a reported £30 funding from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
The budget gap from last season was again covered by us. The Quantum money never arrived. We have now killed the talks. For 2014, we will have at our disposal our new sponsor PDVSA's budget. We will not generate any new debt. Genii is still 98% owned by us.
Pirelli in F1 Until 2016
Pirelli has agreed a contract with the FIA to supply the tyres for Formula One teams for the next three years.
The Italian tyre manufacturer had been the subject of much criticism following a series of alarming tyre failures during the 2013 season but complained that the in-season testing ban gave it little chance to correct the problems.
New sporting regulations now allow eight days of in-season testing for every team with one dedicated to tyres, as outlined in an FIA press release on ESPNF1.
1) One of the 12 days of official pre-season testing, as prescribed in the 2014 Sporting Regulations, will be dedicated exclusively to wet tyre testing.
2) Each team will dedicate one of their eight days of in-season testing, as prescribed in the 2014 Sporting Regulations, exclusively to tyre testing. This means that during each of the eight days of in-season testing, at least one team—and up to a maximum of two—will be concentrating on tyre testing along with Pirelli's engineers.
Emotional Button Tweets Pride in Father
The most heart-wrenching story of the week was the sudden death of Jenson Button’s father, John, from a heart attack at his home in France.
John Button was the driving force behind his son’s Formula One career, supporting him from his time racing go-karts during his childhood through the various formulae on the step-ladder to the pinnacle of the sport.
He was always a cheerful and popular face in the F1 paddock and his presence will be sorely missed.
On his official Twitter page @JensonButton, he tweeted:
Rest in Peace with the Angels Your son XXXX
Papa you cannot believe how very proud I feel to be able to call you my Dad. I love you Papa Smurf, you'll forever be in my heart
He was such a big part of my life I'm going to miss him so so much...
Thank you all for your lovely messages about my Dad, it's so nice to see he touched so many people...