Gosh appears in court to be charged
The former chairman of Renault’s parent company Nissan Carlos Ghosn has appeared in court in Japan on charges of financial misconduct. Mr Ghosn told the court he had been “wrongly accused and unfairly detained”.
Ghosn was once hailed as the man who saved Nissan and a towering figure of the car industry, also looked visibly thinner. He was led into court in handcuffs with a rope around his waist. The sixty-four-year-old is accused of moving personal losses of around £13.3m into the companies accounts.
Mr Ghosn says he did ask the company to take on collateral temporarily for his foreign exchange contracts, but that it did not lose any money through this move.
Asked whether his client could expect to be bailed at the end of this detention period, his lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, said: “In general, in such cases in Japan, it is usually not approved before the first trial takes place.”
He then said that it could be six months before that first trial was held.
Ghosn is also accused of making an £11.5m payments to Saudi businessman Khaled al-Juffali, using Nissan funds in exchange for arranging a letter of credit to help with his investment losses.
If found guilty of the financial misconduct charges, Mr Ghosn faces up to 10 years in prison as well as a fine of up to 700m yen ($6.4m; £5m), according to Japanese regulators.
Mr Ghosn said he had “never been accused of any wrongdoing” and had dedicated two decades to “reviving Nissan”. He said he never received any compensation from Nissan that was not disclosed.
Otsuru added, “In general, in such cases in Japan, it is usually not approved before the first trial takes place.” He then said that it could be six months before that first trial was held.
Honda gives ‘party mode’ for the first time
Red Bull believes that it will be able to celebrate engine ‘party mode’ for the first time in 2019 thanks to its new engine partner Honda. After fourteen years with Renault, the team has switched to Honda, after ending an increasingly acrimonious relationship with its title-winning former partner.
Red Bull has talked up Honda since inking a two-year deal in the middle of 2018, declaring it had surpassed Renault before the end of the season. Motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko believes that the gains planned for 2019 should put them in the same region as Mercedes and Ferrari.
Dr Marko, told Motorsport.com “The figures make us really optimistic, also with regard to the increase in performance. For the first time, we can also celebrate with a ‘party mode’!”
“The Honda engine is already slightly above the Renault engine. If you combine our GPS data with the data provided by Honda, we’ll be in the Mercedes and Ferrari region.” He also says that switch has triggered “a real euphoria” and “a sense of optimism” within the team.
Dr Marko says that Honda is at such a level that they can no longer make such jumps and that if they are 10-15 kW behind that would be no different to the Renault V8.
Team principal Christian Horner said that “an extra 40kW” could have changed the complexion of the season.
The Anglo-Austrian team won four races last year but suffered setbacks from reliability problems as well as Renault being unable to make the gains in performance they expected. Honda had a strong rebuilding season after ending three disastrous years with McLaren to partner Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso.
Toro Rosso had its own minor reliability setbacks but was buoyed by its reliability and performance developments, although Marko anticipates Red Bull will not have a seamless first season with Honda.
Marko added Red Bull had been “portrayed as the big whiners” at the time with Renault but insisted the figures speak for themselves.
“We were in the B category right from the start. We lacked up to 70bhp in qualifying. Depending on the race track it became less, but on average we were always at least 40bhp behind.”
Sauber has “good expectations” for 2019
Sauber says that it has “good expectations” for this season because of how early the team switched “all resources” to its 2019 car. The Swiss team was one of the best performers of last season, showing progress to fight in the points regularly.
The team started the 2018 season at the back of the field, but constant points allowed Sauber to end the season with the fourth fastest car. Ferrari bound Charles Leclerc, has already said that constant progression was a result of it understanding the car more rather than ongoing development.
Team principal Frederic Vasseur said Sauber did not compromise 2019 at all. In an interview with Autosport, released today, Vasseur said “We pushed like hell quite early on next year’s car. We switched all resources of the company on next year’s car quite early.”
“We have good expectations but when you have a change like this in the regulations it’s a drastic one. You never know. You can take the wrong direction and we will understand this perhaps [only at testing] in Barcelona because nobody knows exactly what the others are doing.”
Vasseur says that he is very positive that the team are still improving week by week and with the same purpose as in 2018.
Mercedes has already warned that the smaller teams may be in a better chance of closing up to the front-runners, because of the changes to the aerodynamic regulations which are designed to make cars easier to follow.
Vasseur says that it didn’t matter that the team only finished eighth in the constructors’ championship. Saying “I don’t want to say I don’t care but it won’t change my view on the season.”
“We are fighting towards the top 10, and in terms of teams between P4 and P6. We have to do at least the same [in 2019]. It will be the target.”
Stroll has lofty ambitions for Racing Point
Lawrence Stroll says that he has lofty ambitions for his Racing Point team. The Canadian billionaire saved the team from administration in August 2018, after leading a consortium which brought the team.
His son Lance will join as one of its two drivers next season alongside the long-serving Sergio Perez. The Silverstone team has been one of the strongest performers and is regarded as the team who gets the most in terms of value for money.
Stroll says that he wants to use the regulation changes in 2021 to close the gap. Setting out his goals to F1.com, he said “Short-term, we want to stay fighting where we are. Medium-term, we want to try and fight for third, instead of fourth. Long term, when all the rules change, hopefully, we will be one of the greatest teams in the paddock.”
The team’s previous owner Vijay Mallya took a hands-off approach when it came to running the team, but the Canadian has made it clear he wants a very different and more hands-on approach.
He added “The plan is, number one – ‘Nothing is broke here so you don’t need to fix it’. It already has great leadership and management in the team. They have been doing this for a long time and doing a great job.”
“So it’s about supporting them. Number two – it’s about putting financial stability in place.” The team are expected to unveil a new name for the start of the season.
Wehrlein joins Ferrari as development driver
Former Mercedes reserve driver, Manor and Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein has joined Ferrari as the team’s development driver. The German drove for both Manor and Sauber in 2016-17, split with long-time backer Mercedes at the end of last year.
Wehrlein will make his Formula E debut at this weekend’s Marrakesh ePrix and will combine his role with Mahinda and simulator work for Ferrari this season. It is also believed that the team is considering a second driver to work with Wehrlein.
Ferrari made good use of its development team in 2018, bouncing back from difficult Fridays to perform better in qualifying and the race on several occasions.
The most notable example was the Canadian Grand Prix, where Sebastian Vettel was uncompetitive in Friday practice but went on to qualify on pole and win the race on Sunday.
Asked by Motorsport.com at the 2018 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix how important the right replacements for Giovinazzi and Kvyat would be, Vettel said: “You get the point, it is very important. Based on our findings [after practice], we changed the car [for qualifying], both of us did, and it was better and we were happier.”
“It’s not the first time that this has happened so we’re extremely thankful for the guys, taking the time.”