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Friday, April 12, 2013

China Musings - Free Practice and Free Association

Even before the tyres spun for the first time at the Chinese GP expectations were high amongst the fans and Journalists that we were going to have an epic weekend, and none of that related to the racing.  We had Webber coming back into the limelight having kept schtum since making his disappointment clear to everyone in Malaysia.

We had ongoing discussions about the Red Bull way vs the Mercedes way,
We have Vettel's ever changing statements culminating in his statement that he'd do it again (regardless of team orders),
Christian Horner continuing to say that he's in charge (Don't be silly, I am still in charge)
Red Bull saying there'll be no more team orders
McLaren coming back after three weeks of hard graft
Ross Brawn seemingly getting closer to the exit
Bianchi being modest about his ever more apparent abilties

You know, it feels like a lot has happened in three weeks and yet nothing has.  Three weeks of analysing and picking apart a should he/shouldn't he team orders story.

Sir Rosberg the Good, Seb Vettel the Bold, Sir Hamilton the Humble, Sir Webber the Grump!

Now Rosberg was good and Webber had every right to be grumpy, Vettel was bold and should have been sent to the naughty step, but nobody believes Hamilton is humble; I don't think even Lewis would describe himself using that term, perhaps tha Shiznet (the link is not what you might expect Lewis!).

Felipe is the man in the chair beating his team-mate in the WDC and hoping to outqualify Fernando for the third time in three races tomorrow
© Scuderia Ferrari
And then Felipe Massa Comes along and ruins it by taking the Ferrari fastest on Day 1 of Free Practice, beating Kimi and Fernando into second and third. So now all of the Journo's have to pay attention to both of the Ferrari guys as well as both Mercedes and Red Bull drivers.

That's at least 6 interviews to look for, if Massa have finished behind Alonso they'd only need to do 5, and if Rosberg finish abaft of Lewis they wouldn't have to talk to him, which makes 4 interviews, Fernando's would be over in two minutes, and they could eat with Webbo, Vettel will stubbornly stick to his script, unless his team tell him otherwise so that just leaves an hour to sit down and listen to Lewis being humble...and sincere, and have to watch Roscoe drooling on his masters racing boots:

"Lewis, does your racing boot not slip off the pedals from all the drool your dog deposits on them?"

Then nip down to McLaren for tea and sorrows and finally to Force India for a bit of sympathy

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Will Bernie Ecclestone Destroy the US Economy

Just in case you didn't know yet, a group called Bluewaters Communications Group LLC, are attempting to sue Bernie Ecclestone over the Gribkowsky Bribe affair, say that they had a preferential bid on the table to take legal control of F1 from the banking group which took over in 2004.

That banking group contained the likes of Lehman, J.P.Morgan and Bayern LB Banks, all of whom wanted out of F1 in a big way apparently from the minute they got their hands on it.

They claim that Lehman Brothers and J.P Morgan approached their representative and asked if they would buy the Banks shares in the sport; those shares represented a controlling interest in F1.

Bluewater raised the capital they needed to make the bid and began negotiations with Gribkowsky, who represented Bayern LB, the only non-US bank involved and the largest shareholder in the Bank Group.

The basic claim is that Bayern LB paid Bernie a $65 million finder's fee, which he then paid $44 million of to Gribkowsky, who steered the sale of the Bayern shares to CVC Capital Partners Ltd.

Bluestone are miffed because they claim their bid offered sale price + 10% over any other offer on the table and reckon that the only reason CVC got the sale was because they promised to keep Bernie on as Chief Bottlewasher.

Bluestone had a stated offer of around $1 Billion on the table.

All this is quite interesting and also pretty boring for F1 fans, really because it's not part of the sport, just a corporate wrangling for control.

The thing that interests me about it comes from the fight over whether the case can be heard in the US courts.

One of the mainstays of the Bluewater case is that the fact that the bribe bank transfers were undertaken in US currency enable the US courts to hear the case, even though the transfers took place between banks in Switzerland and Austria, outside of the US.

This is very interesting, and you'll pardon me for now referring to Lee Child's, Jack Reacher novels to illustrate my point.

In the first Reacher novel "The Killing Floor" the plot revolves around a US Dollar counterfeiting ring and a lot of discussion takes place, obviously enough, about the US currency.  The point is made that, in the US banks, there is only about $350 Dollars per head of population, with the vast majority of the currency circulating outside the country and being used for business transfers, etc. This keeps the currency at a primary position in the currency markets with a lot of investors buying and selling Dollars, increasing confidence in the Currency and in the Country.

In other words, it's good for the US economy to encourage the use of Dollars in foreign transactions.

Should the New York Courts decide that US Currency transactions taking place abroad come under the jurisdiction of US Courts...well, the question I'm wondering is whether international business would continue to use the Dollar in non-US dealings?

Bernie Ecclestone: Could a $44 million law suit bring down the US Economy?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The (F)lighter side of F1

On the lighter side of F1 Richard Branson is finally honouring the bet he made with Tony Fernandes over which team would finish highest in the WCC in 2010.  Branson was heading Virgin F1 (now Marussia) in 2010 whilst Fernandes headed Lotus (now Caterham).

Photo taken from Air Asia's Facebook Page
Both rivals being the owners of their own airline as well as F1 team at the time made a bet that the losing team owner would serve as an Air Steward on the rival airline.

Lotus won the bet in Abu Dhabi in 2010 by finishing 10th whilst Virgin finished behind the HRT F1 team in 12th place.

Branson now looks set to honour the bet on Sunday 12th May, with all proceeds from the flight going to charity.  Tony Fernandes famously presented Richard Branson with his Stewardess outfit after the race in Abu Dhabi.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bahrain GP reprise

This is my annual blog about Bahrain and how I feel we shouldn't be racing there in the current climate.  This year I'm not going to get exorcised about it, my blog has, over the last two years made many statements with regard to my position on this race which I set out hereunder if you're interested.  This year I won't be doing a separate championship minus Bahrain as, frankly, it's a pain in the arse to maintain but, as with the last two years, I won't be watching the race weekend.

I've been following Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch over the last two years and they are still not satisfied with the situation in the country.  We can expect the newspapers and websites to provide a glut of information coming up to race weekend but it would appear that little, if anything, has changed since last year.

I remain disappointed with the FIA that they continue to sanction the race, with Bernie, and with the Teams for their position on this matter, but I'm not going to go into overdrive on this issue.  Last year I saw F1 Reporters trying to adapt their skills to investigative reporting whilst real journalists were being kicked out of the country by the authorities controlled by the ruling house. Let me just say that in the vast majority of instances they were found wanting.  Limited to the area between their hotels and the circuit, for their own safety, they were wide open to be abused by the PR machine sanctioned and operated by those in power.

All I can say is that I hope this year the F1 journalists stick to what they know best.

Once again I'll be spending that weekend wishing things were different, hoping that both parties can reach a satisfactory accommodation, and lamenting my favourite sport's decision to continue to race in a country which uses F1 as a political public relations tool.  I'm turning off - I hope you do too.

F1 Live Timing App not my cup of tea

I'm not the most tech literate person in the world and don't tend to get too excited by Apps, particularly paid ones, so I thought I'd give my view on the official Live Timing App for 2013 and on F1 distractions in general.

The fact is that I'm not a fan.  The live timing screen, which is free for those who sign up, gives all of the information that I need if I miss qualifying or want to follow Free Practice while I'm at work.

The F1 Cave
If I'm watching a Race or Quali then I like to enjoy the race itself.  If I was to enjoy timing screens, 3D pictures of where everyone is on the track, and of course Twitter, I'd need to slink off to the F1 cave where I could sit at my bank of computer and television screens watching TV, following each page on the App, and reading and contributing to the #F1 Twitter feed.  As well as that I'd want at least three in-car screens so I could follow 2nd place and two other battles on-track from the car behind.

Australian GP Control Room
It's never going to happen.  I'm not commentating on a GP so I don't need to distract myself in order to keep an audience informed.  I can sit back and watch the race unfold on the TV, subject to being able to find some quiet corner where the kids can't find me of course.

I'm not going to enjoy the experience any more if I water it down by inputting numerous other feeds into my brain.

What's more important the actual race or watching all of the other crap that everyone else is going to tell you about anyway?

If I were at a circuit and could be guaranteed an uninterrupted WiFi feed then this App would be worth every penny because you'd know where everyone was at any given time.

The experience of a live race is unrivalled by TV or any other form of tech, but it can be enhanced by things like Fanvision (which has parted ways with the circuits), this type of App (were the circuits to provide trackside WiFi), and the massively large TV screens dotted around the track: find yourself at a location without a view of one of those and you'll struggle to keep abreast of what's happening.

The fact is that I enjoy watching Quali and the races live but that's about all that's important to me.  Free Practice is only indicative and, while it's a must see when at the track, it's not important to anyone but the teams at the races.

The only TV coverage of Free Practice which I would find compelling and unmissable would be Thursday FP at Monaco.  The circuit may be anachronistic, obsolete, unsafe, and processional but it remains the jewel in the crown of the sport.  As a race Monaco may be a waste of time but watching those cars racing around that track at those speeds in close proximity is one of the most satisfying Televisual experiences going.

In summary, this App isn't for me, I want my plain, unvarnished racing to take place on my TV screen in front of me.  I would want access to all of the material after the race but I then I want access to everyone's data after the race and most of it pops up on the web somewhere or other.

F1 is desperately seeking to break through on new platforms and in new media but this kind of in-race application doesn't improve my viewing experience, it's an undesirable distraction; a distraction that will set you back about £24 - I'd prefer a cup of coffee