Good Oil: Silverstone pleads poverty
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As the British Grand Prix weekend arrived, everyone in the F1 circus seemed a little bit grumpy, not least the track’s owners, the BRDC (British Racing Drivers’ Club).
The club has long complained about the costs involved in staging the annual round of the Formula 1 championship, but things came to a head in the days leading up to this year’s British Grand Prix race weekend.
The BRDC has executed an opt-out clause in its contract to host the race, meaning that unless extra funding can be found, the British Grand Prix won’t return to Silverstone after the 2019 season.
The circuit owners claim that, even when race weekend sells out, the event still loses money.
“We have reached tipping point,” BRDC chairman John Grant told reporters.
“We can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads.
“Our hope is that an agreement can still be reached so that we can ensure a sustainable and financially viable future for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come.”
The contract the BRDC signed back in 2010 came with a 5 per cent cost increase built in each year, so there are no surprises that costs to host the event have risen.
Previous F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone was unsympathetic about such matters, and the BRDC has this week discovered the sport’s new owner, Liberty Media, is similarly unimpressed with their cry of poverty.
Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey issued a cold rebuke to the BRDC announcement, stating:
“The week leading up to the British Grand Prix should be a week of great celebration for F1 and Silverstone.
“We deeply regret that Silverstone has chosen instead to use this week to posture and position themselves and invoke a break clause that will take effect in three years.” Ouch.
Mercedes F1 can’t commit
Mercedes F1 suffering from commitment issues. Photo / Supplied
Poor Valtteri Bottas. Snatched from Williams by Mercedes F1 at the end of the 2016 season to fill the hole left by Nico Rosberg’s sudden departure, he must have felt like Charlie Bucket when that massive Wonka Bar he’d impulsively decided to snaffle yielded a golden ticket.
Fast-forward to the 2017 season’s midway point, and things seem to be working well for the 27-year-old Finn. He scored his first victory at the Russian Grand Prix and has proven himself worthy of a place within a team at the pointy end of proceedings.
But even after a solid start to life at Mercedes F1, things appear uncertain for him.
The paddock grapevine suggests that Mercedes F1 considers him only a placeholder driver, as he was signed on a one-year contract.
With paperwork-orientated manoeuvring for the 2018 season already a feature of race weekend goss, there are calls from pundits for Mercedes F1 to extend his contract and let him flex his muscle in the driver’s seat.
But team boss Toto Wolff has refused to rule out the possibility of securing the sport’s unluckiest driver, Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard’s contract with poorly performing McLaren runs out at the end of this year so someone regarded as one of the best racers in the game will be available.
“Valtteri is doing a good job, but I don’t think you should be rushed into a driver decision,” Wolff told reporters.
“The market becomes interesting in 2019 and onwards and you need to plan ahead what is happening,” he said, referring to Lewis Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes F1 expiring in 2019.
It looks like Bottas may be wise to go have a few after-work drinks with his old team-mates at Williams.
You know, to check in and say hi.
Raikkonen on double warning from the boss
Ferrari to Raikkonen: stop being so… well… you. Photo / Supplied
Speaking of workplace relations, perma-silent Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen has been issued not one, but two public back-handed critiques by the president of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne.
The first came inthe Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport, where Marchionne said, “He is a good guy and he is working, but we need him to [help to] win the constructors' championship.”
Following that, Marchionne commented — on Finnish TV, no less — that Raikkonen needed to work on his motivational levels.
“I think Kimi has to show a higher level of commitment to the process,” he said. “There are some days when he is a little sluggish, but we'll see.”
The idea that the Ice Man lacks motivation hardly comes as a shock. The 37-year old seems to suffer through almost every non-racing component of his obligations for Ferrari.
His aloofness is legend and his disinterest in playing the F1 game — especially where media interaction is concerned — is something he almost wears with pride.
Search YouTube and you’ll find multiple compilations of Kimi’s confused, mumbled and downright tetchy responses to interviewers’ questions.
Now Ferrari has a sniff of a chance in the constructor’s championship title run, that aloofness probably seems a little more damaging from a team-spirit point-of-view. Two verbal warnings in as many weeks? Watch your back, Kimi.