Bernie Ecclestone

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Formula 1 2017 preview: Offseason recap

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The gap between the end of the 2016 Formula 1 season and the start of the 2017 campaign perhaps feels like the least ‘offseason-y’ offseason of recent times.

Since the checkered flag dropped in Abu Dhabi and Nico Rosberg claimed his maiden drivers’ title, a huge amount has happened.

So here’s a run-down of all that has happened over the winter.

November 27 – Nico Rosberg clinches his maiden F1 world title in Abu Dhabi, finishing second in the race to win the championship by five points. Felipe Massa makes what was planned to be his final F1 start.

December 2 – Rosberg announces his immediate retirement from F1 in a press conference ahead of the FIA gala in Vienna, Austria.

December 11 – Hamilton and Wolff enjoy an “amazing” meeting regarding plans for the 2017 season. Hamilton says Mercedes will have “the strongest partnership” to defend its titles. BBC Sport reports that Valtteri Bottas is Mercedes’ prime target and has already tabled an offer for the Finn.

December 15 – Mercedes confirms that it will make no announcement regarding Rosberg’s replacement until January 3 at the earliest. Claire Williams says that Williams was open to letting Bottas leave, relying it could find a suitable replacement.

December 20 – Reports suggest that Massa has agreed to come out of retirement and return to Williams for 2017, paving the way for Bottas to leave the team.

December 30 – Massa posts on Instagram that he is back “training hard” in America.

January 3 – The earliest date for an announcement from Mercedes passes.

January 6 – Manor – the team Wehrlein raced for last year – enters administration, raising doubts over the team’s future and place on the 2017 grid.

January 10 – Mercedes confirms Paddy Lowe will leave the team after three years.

January 15 – Claire Williams says she expects to make an announcement about Bottas’ future within a week.

January 16 – Pascal Wehrlein is officially announced by Sauber; photos of Bottas in Mercedes team gear leak online; Williams confirms Massa will return; finally, Bottas is announced officially at Mercedes.

January 19 – Mercedes signs British youngster George Russell to its junior program.

January 20 – Liberty Media offers shares to F1 teams ahead of takeover.

January 22 – Pascal Wehrlein pulls out of the Race of Champions’ second day through injury.

January 23 – Liberty Media completes its takeover of F1, ousting CEO Bernie Ecclestone and ending his 40-year rein at the helm of the sport. Chase Carey becomes CEO, appointing Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn into top roles.

January 26 – Renault names BP/Castrol as new fuel and lubricants supplier.

January 27 – Manor confirms it will close after failing to find a buyer, costing over 200 jobs.

February 4 – Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne calls on Liberty to make F1 more entertaining.

February 7 – McLaren confirms that racing CEO Jost Capito has left the team after just five months.

February 9 – McLaren team manager Dave Redding confirms he will move to Williams.

February 10 – BP/Castrol also becomes McLaren’s new fuel and lubricants partner; Ferrari forced to postpone a private Pirelli test after Sebastian Vettel suffers a crash.

February 16 – Mercedes announces that ex-Ferrari man James Allison will become its new technical director; the FIA responds to “malicious” reports regarding the sale of F1; McLaren marketing chief Ekrem Sami leaves the team; Dirk de Beer becomes Williams’ new aero chief.

February 17 – Williams releases renders of its new car, the FW40.

February 20 – Sauber presents C36 car, celebrating 25 years in F1.

February 21 – Renault reveals R.S.17, targets top five finish in the championship.

February 22 – British youngster Lando Norris joins McLaren’s junior program; Force India reveals VJM10 car for 2017.

February 23 – Mercedes unveils 2017 F1 car, completes filming day.

February 24 – McLaren and Ferrari unveil their cars. McLaren’s takes the most note for a bright orange livery.

February 26 – Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso reveal their 2017 runners.

February 27 – Pre-season testing begins in Barcelona.

February 28 – Sauber appoints Tatiana Calderon as its new development driver.

March 2 – The first test ends with Valtteri Bottas as the fastest driver. Williams and McLaren endure difficult runs, while Mercedes and Ferrari steal a march on the field.

March 4 – McLaren denies there are any fundamental issues with the Honda power unit.

March 7 – Test two begins.

March 8 – Fernando Alonso blasts Honda, says its power unit has “no reliability” and “no power”.

March 9 – The FIA announces that GP2 will be known as Formula 2 from 2017.

March 10 – Pre-season testing comes to a close. Kimi Raikkonen ends as the quickest driver for Ferrari; 1964 world champion John Surtees dies at the age of 83.

March 16 – Paddy Lowe joins Williams as chief technical officer, having left his role at Mercedes earlier in the winter; Mika Hakkinen becomes McLaren ambassador; reports suggest McLaren has approached Mercedes regarding an engine supply.

March 18 – Manor’s remaining F1 assets are listed for auction.

Bernie Ecclestone: No hard feelings towards Liberty over F1 exit

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Bernie Ecclestone says he has no ill feeling towards Liberty Media following his exit as CEO of Formula 1 in January, but would have preferred to spend at least one more year in the role.

Ecclestone enjoyed a 40-year stint at the helm of F1 before being forced to resign from his position two months ago when Liberty completed its $8 billion takeover of the series.

Ecclestone was replaced by American executive Chase Carey, who will form part of a triumvirate to run the sport alongside commercial chief Sean Bratches and technical expert Ross Brawn.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Ecclestone said that he felt no ill feeling towards Liberty despite being removed from his role after initially planning to extend his stint in charge.

“Not at all. I know the way the world operates,” Ecclestone said, before adding that he would have preferred to spend one more year in the role to see if he could work with Liberty.

“I would have asked them to work with me for a bit, wait for a year and afterwards say: ‘Has it worked, not worked?'” Ecclestone said.

“‘Not worked? Sorry, you’ll have to leave,’ or whatever. But different people operate companies differently, obviously.

“I think this is very much the way American companies operate. Let’s be absolutely sensible about it: they bought the car, they wanted to drive it.”

Ecclestone did however feel that Liberty had judged him too harshly on his business record in F1, having previously said that the sport had not been maximizing its potential.

“These people have thought and said, and Chase has said, that I hadn’t done a very good job in the last three years,” Ecclestone said.

“I thought I had, CVC thought I had, and I managed to produce $1.5 billion-a-year income, which made their shares worth a lot of money.

“Maybe if I’d have done a lousy job people could have bought the shares cheaper.”

Now in the honorary role of ‘chairman emeritus’, Ecclestone said he plans to attend around half of the F1 races in 2017.

“I’ve been asked and invited to go to most of them, so I’ll have to try and sort it out. Probably at least half of them,” Ecclestone confirmed.

The new F1 season begins on March 26 in Melbourne, Australia.

FIA responds to ‘malicious’ reports regarding sale of F1, rejects conflict of interest

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The FIA has responded to “malicious” reports regarding the sale of Formula 1 to Liberty Media last month, denying it had a conflict of interest in the deal.

Liberty Media announced in September last year that it had agreed to acquire F1 for $8 billion, with the takeover being completed last month.

American executive Chase Carey has become F1’s new CEO and chairman following Bernie Ecclestone’s resignation, and will work alongside commercial chief Sean Bratches and sporting managing director Ross Brawn to run the sport.

On Thursday, the FIA issued a statement responding to recent reports suggesting that it had a conflict of interest in approving F1’s sale to Liberty given to its one per cent shareholding in the previous holding company, Delta Topco.

Here is the statement in full from the FIA.

Following the unanimous approval by the World Motor Sport Council of the change of control of Delta Topco Limited (the holding company of the Commercial Rights Holder of the FIA Formula One World Championship) from CVC Capital Partners in favour of Liberty Media Corporation on 18 January 2017, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has been made aware of certain declarations and comments, clearly inaccurately informed or made maliciously, relating to this process.

In light of this, the FIA wishes to make clear the following once again:

  • Firstly, the prize money allocated in the Formula One World Championship is done so in accordance with the bilateral agreements that exist between each team and the Commercial Rights Holder (CRH). The FIA has no knowledge of these agreements.
    Secondly, there is no conflict of interest on the part of the FIA with regard to its approval of the change of control of the CRH which has been approved by the World Motor Sport Council taking into consideration exclusively the terms of the existing agreements between the CRH and the FIA and the best interests of the Championship.
    As per the Agreements made in 2001 for 100 Years, the FIA could only have withheld its consent in the event that the change of control would materially alter the ability of the CRH to fulfil its obligations; it is obvious that the taking of control of the Formula One Group by Liberty does not create such a risk, and nobody has ever suggested a different view in this respect.

The FIA would naturally be happy to demonstrate the absence of any conflict of interest to any competent authority that may so request.

Once again, the FIA looks forward to its collaboration with both Liberty and the Formula One Group to create a constructive relationship that will ensure the continued success and the development of the FIA Formula One World Championship in the long term.

Ex-FIA president Mosley would have kept Ecclestone in charge of F1

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Former FIA president Max Mosley believes that Liberty Media should have kept Bernie Ecclestone in charge of Formula 1 following its acquisition of the sport.

Liberty completed its takeover of F1 two weeks ago, with American executive Chase Carey replacing Ecclestone as CEO.

Carey will run the sport alongside commercial chief Sean Bratches and sporting manager Ross Brawn, while Ecclestone has been given the honorary position of chairman emeritus.

Mosley ran F1 alongside Ecclestone during his time as FIA president between 1993 and 2009, and believes that Liberty has made a mistake by not keeping the 86-year-old at the helm.

“I think it may be quite difficult [for Liberty]. I think what [Ecclestone] was brilliant at was dealing with the promoters and the organizers and the whole structure of the championship,” Mosley told ITV News.

“For somebody new to come in without all the personal relationships it may be difficult. If it had been me I’d have kept him on doing the things that he’s demonstrably very good at and concentrated my efforts on doing the things that up to now have not been done, like interactive television, virtual reality, social media, the internet and all the rest of it.

“All of that’s been slightly neglected in Formula 1 and that’s the sort of thing that Liberty will probably be very good at.”

Mosley was quick to praise Liberty’s decision to make Brawn F1’s new sporting managing director, saying the ex-Ferrari and Mercedes team boss will be of huge value to the sport’s new owner.

“Ross completely understands the sport and he understands what needs to be done and he’s got an absolutely first class analytical brain,” Mosley said.

“I think he’ll be an enormous asset to them and that [sporting] side isn’t really what Liberty should be doing. Ross is outstanding so they made a good choice there.”

Steiner: F1 on a solid platform to growth from under Liberty

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Formula 1 is on a solid platform from which to grow under new owner Liberty Media, according to Haas team chief Günther Steiner.

Liberty Media completed its planned acquisition of F1 last week, with chairman Chase Carey becoming the sport’s new CEO following Bernie Ecclestone’s resignation.

Liberty has appointed dedicated managing directors for F1’s sporting and commercial arms, with widespread changes expected to follow in the coming years.

Ecclestone enjoyed a 40-year reign at the helm of F1, leaving an indelible mark on the sport that Steiner believes cannot be underestimated.

“F1 would not exist like it is now without Bernie; I think we wouldn’t be sitting here without him. We have to give the guy a lot of respect for that,” Steiner said.

“Without him, we will miss a character, but we move on. There is always something after everything. I hope the new shareholders will do a good job, as good or better as Bernie, we hope. If they do as good a job as Bernie, it will be a good sport for a long time to come.

“I think Formula 1 has got a good future, but I think everyone who ever works in F1 is thankful to Bernie for what he did to take us to where we are now.”

Steiner was positive when discussing the plans that Carey and his colleagues may have for F1, but warned against making too many changes to the existing setup.

“Chase Carey gave an interview recently to one of the big channels in the States, and he gave a taste of what he wants to do,” Steiner said.

“I don’t think there was anything [that made me go] ‘wow, I didn’t think of that one’. They just want to get better and use technology more in the media world as well, and maybe put a budget cap on.

“But we all know there are long-term contracts with the teams that cannot be changed tomorrow. FOM owns the rights to the promoting of the sport, but not to rule it: that’s the FIA.

“I think in F1 there is good governance, a very solid governance how it is ruled. So somebody can’t come in and turn it completely around in two weeks.

“I think that’s a good thing to keep it stable. It’s a very solid platform to do this.”