Ecclestone faces uncertain future
Berine Ecclestone’s long term future in Formula One is not guaranteed following the takeover by Liberty Media, he has admitted. The US media giant was yesterday given permission for its takeover bid by shareholders and the FIA.
When the initial bid was agreed, Ecclestone said he had been asked to stay on board for three years, but that has now been thrown into doubt. Berxit would be a huge shock for the sport as Ecclestone has been the sports ringmaster for over forty years, building his empire on the control of the commercial rights and marketing rights.
There are suggestions that Liberty want former ESPN executive Sean Bratches as the man it wants to take control of marketing, sponsorship and media rights of F1. Ecclestone says now that his future now rested on Liberty. “We will have to see how we set the company up.”
“It is not a case of my terms, it is a case of let’s have a look and see which way they would like to go. It is something that would have happened anyway. We need to put something together if I am not here because I have become deceased or something, and it is about time we did that.” Said Ecclestone.
Liberty have suggested making changes to the calendar, making grands prix bigger events and a push to expand its presence on digital platforms, something Ecclestone has long been against
Speaking about his comments last year that he would stay for three years, Ecclestone said: “That is what they asked for.
Liberty hopes teams buy shares
Formula Ones new owners Liberty Media, are still hoping that teams will but a stake in the sport when they complete their takeover of the sport. Yesterday, it was announced the media giant had cleared all regulatory barriers to take a 33% stake in the sport.
In a statement Liberty’s president and Chief Executive, Greg Maffei, said “We think it’s important to offer the teams the chance to invest in F1 and further align our interests.”
“We look forward to working with the teams to increase the appeal of this iconic sport and enhance the F1 business.” He added. F1 chairman Chase Carey said that several teams had expressed interest in investing in the sport.
However AutoMotor und Sport said however that leading teams, who met this week in Geneva, had “little interest” in buying shares without voting rights that they would be obliged to hold for at least 10 years.
With a source from a top team saying, “Without influence on the future direction and marketing of Formula One, buying shares is not very attractive for us.”
This could however, appeal to the smaller teams who operate on very tight budgets and have had cash flow problems.
Liberty said the shares will be retired if not issued to teams within six months of the closing of the acquisition, which is expected to happen this month.
“The LMCK shares will be reserved by Liberty for issuance to the F1 teams at a per share purchase price of $21.26,” it added. The price is a substantial discount to the current share price of around $28.
I should have achieved more – Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen feels he should have achieved more in his Formula One career, but has no regrets about moving team for the third time in four years. The Dane is this season driving fort Haas after joining the team from Renault after joining the French manufacture last year.
Magnussen spent most of 2015 waiting on McLaren to decide whether to retain him. Reflecting on how he arrived at Haas, Magnussen says he would not change anything about the last three years. Magnussen told ESPN. “I feel a bit unlucky with the two teams I’ve been with, I think I should have been able to have achieve more with both.”
“I lost the seat at McLaren for reasons that were a little bit strange, and then we parted ways at Renault because we didn’t think it worked.” The Dane says he did have an offer from Renault, but the Haas team made better offer and he is happy with the way it’s turned out.
Magnussen says the reason why he left Renault is because the French manufacture wouldn’t offer him a long term deal. He also was critical of the bloated management structure. “First of all it was just a great chance to get back into Formula One. I’d lost a seat to Fernando at McLaren, had a year completely out of racing, so to get back into Formula One was a huge chance.”
He added, “I enjoyed that a lot and it was very important for me to get it because it was very last minute. It’s taken me to here, which I think is a place I can build myself and gain experience and grow with the team. That for me is a very good situation.”
Hulkenberg moved “stunned” Perez
Sergio Perez says he was “stunned” when he found out that team-mate Nico Hulkenberg was leaving for Renault. The Mexican had been linked to the French team last year, but discussions between his backers and Force India dragged on last summer.
A deal for Perez to stay was finally confirmed, with Hulkenberg joining Renault, with Force India replacing Hulkenberg with Esteban Ocon on a multi-year deal. Perez told Autosport “To be honest, I was quite stunned about it. I knew Nico was very high on their list and I knew if I didn’t go there they’d definitely look at him.”
“They are taking a great driver. Only time will tell who took the right decision but I’m happy with the three seasons that I had together with him.” He added. Perez and Hulkenberg have been team-mates since 2014, when the duo replaced Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.
It was Hulkenberg’s second stint with the team after a year as a test driver in 2011 followed by promotion to a race seat for the ’12 season. “We spent three years working together and they went really quick. I think we learned a lot from each other. It’s time for Nico to move on to a new challenge.” He added.
Massa remains motivated
Felipe Massa remains as motivated about racing in formula One as he has ever been and will deliver this season, says Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams.
On Monday just months after retiring from the sport it was announced Massa had signed a one year deal as former team-mate Valtteri Bottas joined Mercedes. Despite the change of plans following unpresented events over the last two months, Williams has no doubt Massa is as hungry to compete as before.
Williams told Sky Sports News “We are never going to put a driver in the car who we don’t believe can deliver. As everyone saw even in his last race last year [in Abu Dhabi], he delivered for this team.” The whole sport was turned on its head by the shocking retirement of Nico Rosberg within days of winning the 2016 world title.
Mercedes eyed Bottas early on, meaning Williams needed a driver over twenty five because of obligations to title sponsor Martini when their other 2017 driver was teenager Lance Stroll. Ms Williams says Massa was so happy when she asked “would you mind coming out of retirement?”
“But I’ve never heard anyone so happy and excited, so it was a big relief for us.” She added. Massa said it felt “a little bit strange” to consider abandoning his retirement plans, after a “perfect send off.”
Massa says it would have been difficult to turn down, given the regulation changes. Adding “I’m sure my experience can help the team. I hope to have a competitive car and to grow a lot from the first to the last race. I’m really motivated.”
Mercedes sign Russell
Mercedes have signed George Russell to their junior programme and will be the teams test driver, after Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon moved into race seats this season.
Russell will this season race in GP3 with ART. The Brit won in his first season of racing the BRDC Formula 4 Championship in 2014 and received the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in that same year. Moving up into European F3 in 2015, and finished third with Mercedes-powered Hitech GP last season.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said “George has shown impressive form in the junior categories and we’ve been keeping a close eye on him for a while now. It’s still early days in his career but we see great potential in him.”
“We have already seen with Esteban how effective this series can be as a training ground and, of course, this is the championship which propelled Valtteri into Formula 1” continued Wolff.
F3 has proved itself as a proving ground in recent years, with Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll and Mercedes new signing Valtteri Bottas making it into the sport.
Russel said “It is an incredibly opportunity to have the backing of the world champions. I’m proud to have been given this kind of recognition for all the hard work that’s gone into my career over the years so far.”