Ecclestone: We can never totally eliminate spying

Bernie Ecclestone believes that it would be impossible to eradicate spying and information transfer between teams in Formula One. Spying has been a controversial subject that has overshadowed much of the 2007 season. First McLaren were embroiled in a saga which saw them disqualified from the constructors championship having been found guilty of possessing confidential Ferrari documents. McLaren then pointed the finger at Renault who are now facing a meeting with the World Motor Sport Council, leaving many wondering when the espionage finger pointing will end.

“There has always been spying ever since I have been in Formula 1,” Ecclestone said in an interview on the official F1 site. “It is a little bit more sophisticated than it was. In the old days, one guy would employ somebody and they would take the information he brings with him. In a way, it is still happening today.

“Red Bull employed Adrian Newey. Why did they do that? They took him on board, because he s got years of information about what to do and what not. I do not imagine he came with any drawings, but he came with all his knowledge in his head. We cannot stop that.

“If I am running a private hospital, I would engage the best surgeons I could find. If I hear about a guy who had done 30 heart transplants successfully somewhere else, then I am going to employ him, because he has proven that he can do it. You haven’t bought anything except knowledge. I cannot tell you to forget everything you have done.”

Ecclestone also believes that any espionage that does take place should be the jurisdiction of the police and not the FIA as it is a matter of information theft. He also revealed that when the McLaren espionage story broke, he advised Ron Dennis to go to the police.

“They [the FIA] should keep out of it,” he continued. “I did tell Ron Dennis, when the whole mess started, to report to the police that there was a case of theft – tell them that there is an employee in the house who is receiving or purchasing stolen property. If it was dealt in that way, we would not have had the problems we faced this year. It should be a matter for the police and the court. They have much better tools to find the truth.

“When the information became available to Ron Dennis that something was going on in his company, he should have called Todt and said ‘Listen Jean, something funny is going on, let’s get together . They would have met, both would have informed the police, who then would have investigated the matter and we would have known what really happened.

“I talk often about the good old days, and probably they weren’t good old days. But at least in any event we used to sort these problems out by ourselves. Nowadays every team has got five lawyers, three doctors, two masseurs, a psychologist, and all of them want to work. So if there is the chance to cause trouble, they do cause trouble. Without all these people, the teams would not need to do all this and we would have solved the problems internally.”

When questioned about the allegations that Renault face, Ecclestone replied, “”I do not know the extent of what they have done and what they have not done. I think the difference between them and McLaren is that McLaren were getting information over a person, rather than somebody has stolen a lot of drawings in one go.”

Schumacher and Fisi to test for Force India

Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella two drivers still looking for a race-seat next season will be testing alongside a further five drivers for Force India in Spain next week. Schumacher and Fisichella will join Christian Klien, Vinantonio Liuzzi, Franck Montagny, Giedo van der Garde and Roldan Rodriguez at Jerez. Sutil, who raced for Spyker in 2007 and who has been confirmed for 2008, will not be taking part in the testing sessions.

Of the opportunity, Schumacher said, “I have know Vijay [Mallya] for many years over my time with Toyota. I f fully understand his passion for the sport and know that he will put this drive into Force India to make it a success.

“Driving for a young dynamic team with high ambitions is a good opportunity, but at the moment it is just one test to see how we get on working together, and whether this is possible. I think I can help the team with its development programme but we will see.”

Fisichella said, “Whilst no drivers have been officially confirmed by Renault, the team has given me permission to explore other options. I was invited to test with Force India F1 Team at Jerez and I was very happy to accept it.”

Mateschitz: Alonso is not an option for 2008

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has ended speculation that Fernando Alonso will be racing for Red Bull in 2008.

“Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso have four drivers under contract,” he explained. From what I hear, Alonso is speaking to other teams about a one-year only deal – such a deal is out of question for us. We would prefer to wait a year and prove that we can build a car which is capable of attracting one of the best Grand Prix drivers for 2009.”

Mateschitz then explained that his team might be an attractive option for the Spanish driver in the future, however he made it clear that any signings would be done on a long-term basis only. “Of all teams which Alonso would have to chose, we for sure would be an alternative with big potential – from his point of view, it is logical that he is looking for a contract that leaves him as much flexibility as possible.

“But that leads us into a conflict in interest between driver and team. We are looking for a two-year deal with an option for a third. We are looking for a common period of solid build-up.”

Gascoyne optimistic about 2008

Force India believe they have what it takes to take a step forward in 2008 and start challenging for points. In 2007, the team competed in Formula 1 as Spyker F1 and managed to finish 10th in the overall standings despite a poor start.

Technical chief Mike Gascoyne has admitted that they did not develop their car as quickly as they had hoped however he is optimistic about the team s future. “I think we finished the season in very good shape,” he began.

“The year was very difficult in some respects the team did not develop as we had hoped, it was quite difficult financially, and then we had the sale of the team. Looking back, we haven t been able to do as much as we wanted and we haven t moved forward as much as we would have liked. Nevertheless, looking forward, we can now be very optimistic about the future.

“For 2008, I think we definitely have to make a step forward be more consistent, qualify better, and, if we are racing in the midfield, regularly pick up the odd point. We certainly have to target more points next year.

“Scoring the first point was very important as the team has been on the back foot for many years now. Although finishing the season with one point is not a lot of different from, it certainly feels a lot different it s a landmark for the team and shows we are moving forward, from a team at the start of the year that was just driving around at the back to a team that can go racing. From this perspective, it was very important so we need to make sure that we build on this next year.”

Schumacher wins Massa’s go-kart challenge

Michael Schumacher has won the International Challenge of Go-Kart Champs in Brazil his first public race since quitting F1 in October 2006.

The seven-time world champion beat all other contenders in a race organised by his former team-mate Felipe Massa at the Ingleses kart track in Florianopolis. Having qualified in fourth, Schumacher took the lead on lap two before finishing five seconds ahead of his nearest rivals, Nelson Piquet Jr and Luciano Burti.

Taking inspiration from the GP2 format, the second race adopted a reverse grid. Schumacher started from eighth place and made his way through the field to second, before brake problems saw him slip back to sixth. His points total from the two races was enough to seal victory.

Schumacher s next race will be on December 16th at the Race of Champions at Wembley.

Super Aguri cuts 30 jobs

Super Aguri are looking to streamline their operations by restructuring their staff structure and cutting around 30 jobs in order to secure their financial future.

Super Aguri suffered a financial blow in 2007 when main sponsor SS United failed to make the sponsorship payments it had promised. Super Aguri are in the middle of legal proceedings against the company. The shortfall off funds meant that the F1 team had to scale back it s research and development for the year.

Super Aguri are planning to use a Honda customer chassis for the 2008 season. As they are no longer planning to develop their own car, less staff will be needed within the team meaning they can make cut-backs and financial savings. It is understood that the team has not yet made a decision over which staff will be made redundant however the team have pledged to help the cut members of staff find alternative employment within Formula 1.

Schumacher chases McLaren seat

Ralf Schumacher has dropped hints that he would like to drive for McLaren in 2008. “It s not secret that the seat at McLaren-Mercedes is by far the most coveted there is,” he explained. “Every driver out there in the market would love to sit in their super car.”

However, Schumacher admitted that it was unlikely that he would be offered the seat as he had not yet had any contact with the team, although he felt he was good enough to challenge and beat British star Lewis Hamilton.

Ralf Schumacher endured three poor seasons with Toyota. Over 2007, there were many rumours that the team were going to drop him throughout all the speculation, Schumacher remained adamant that he would remain in Formula 1 in 2008 however the German driver is currently without a seat and two of the only options available appear to be with McLaren and Force India.

Don’t despair Ron

It has been a bittersweet year for Mclaren. It began with the explosive debut of Lewis Hamilton whose unexpected speed fostered progressive competition in the team. Both drivers were getting the best out of a good car and by mid-season Mclaren were looking clear favourites to take the driver s title. But it was a weary Mclaren machine that returned to Woking at the end of the season. The team had left Interlagos with a $50 million tab and no silver wear to show for it. And a few weeks later, the news everyone expected was confirmed; Fernando Alonso was packing his bags.

So where did it all go wrong? How on earth did Mclaren let the drivers championship slip through their fingers?

It is tempting to attribute Mclaren s downfall in 2007 to the very public row over intellectual property and the internal tension that this exacerbated. True, it cost them the constructor s championship whether or not you agree with the FIA s conclusions. But can it really explain the way they threw away the drivers championship? Lewis Hamilton arrived at the penultimate Grand Prix with a 12 point lead, does not some of the blame rest with him and his engineers for the tactical mistakes in Shanghai and Brazil?

You could argue that the intense rivalry between Hamilton and Alonso made worse by the spy scandal and claims of driver favouritism had adverse effects on the team s campaign. Had the two drivers not been racing each for the title, or had Mclaren backed a single driver, the mistakes of Alonso and Hamilton at Fuji and Shanghai could have been avoided. Indeed, these two DNF s proved absolutely fatal for Mclaren. They allowed Raikkonen to bring himself right back into contention.

While the off-track politics did not help the team s campaign I don t think it is fair to say that it was the only reason why Mclaren left Interlagos empty-handed.

Personally I think a lot of the blame and this is not quite the right word lies with Hamilton, after all it was he who had the 12 point lead heading into Shanghai. But in something of a paradox I don t think blame should actually be ascribed.

What we saw in Shanghai when Hamilton was doggedly fending off Raikkonen on a delamanting tyre, and again in Interlagos when he ruthlessly tried to retake his position from Alonso, was a quality not a weakness. It is one thing to be so callously aggressive at the start of the season when the pressure is off, quite another to have the same confidence and determination to do so in the heat of a championship decider.

Yes, Hamilton s actions may not have been the right things to do in the context and unquestionably helped Raikkonen win the championship. But it was precisely that aggressive approach and refusal to settle for anything other than first which got him into a championship fighting position in the first place. It is a quality that made Michael Schumacher so exciting to watch. He too often fell victim to his racing instinct, most notably at Hungary 2006 when, having been left an open goal from Alonso, he refused to settle for fifth place and ended up colliding with Heidfeld in a bid to make up ground.

Ron Dennis should not be disheartened with the outcome of 2007. He should avoid trying to change his protégé s approach to racing. Hamilton s aggressive style is a quality which in the long run, as with Schumacher, will win him more championships than he will lose.

Above all Dennis must resist the temptation to pair Hamilton with a lesser driver. Hamilton still needs to develop as a driver and allowing him to slip into a comfort zone would not be the best way to maximise his potential. He needs to be constantly pushed as he was this year. Contractual obligations permitting, Nico Rosberg would be my first choice for the second Mclaren seat.

There is another reason for Dennis to smile. History has shown an almost formulaic tendency amongst world champions. When a driver has successfully wrapped up two world championships for the same team it is as if a little warning light turns on in his brain: “I need a new challenge; I need to prove I can win in a different and or lesser car.” Ron Dennis must know that he cannot hold on to Hamilton forever however many clauses and stipulations he puts in the Englishman s contract. Hamilton s failure to take the 2007 championship may have just extended his stay at Mclaren.

Prodrive will not race in F1 in 2008

Prodrive will not be racing in Formula 1 next season thanks to the continuing controversy over customer cars. Prodrive were looking to enter F1 in 2008 using a McLaren chassis and engine however their plans were put on ice after Williams threatened them with legal action if they chose to run with their choice of chassis.

The argument stems from the Concorde agreement and whether customer cars are legal or not. The issue has been running for nearly a year with no signs of a resolution talks to frame a new Concorde agreement are still ongoing and however without an agreement between F1 teams, Prodrive have resigned themselves to not being able to race in F1 in 2008.

A statement from the team read, Prodrive has always been committed to competing in Formula One with what has become known as a ‘customer car. It has been well known that our entry was made on this basis and that our entire business model was built upon this premise.

“Over the past 18 months we have put considerable effort into securing an agreement for the supply of cars and engines from McLaren and Mercedes, as well as financial backing from a partner new to the sport. It was therefore particularly disappointing to face a last minute legal challenge to our entry, when our plans have been public knowledge for over a year.

“This legal challenge and continuing delays to the new ‘Concorde Agreement’ represent a fundamental change in circumstances, therefore we must now realistically rule out the possibility of Prodrive being on the grid in 2008. It is, however, still our ambition to compete in Formula One and we are hopeful that a new ‘Concorde Agreement’ between the FIA, FOA and the teams will provide clarity as to the terms on which this might be possible. When this new agreement is reached, we will be in a position to consider the extent to which we can adapt our plans for participation in the future.”

Schumacher to test for Ferrari again

Michael Schumacher will once again be behind the wheel of an F1 car next week as he continues his testing duties for Ferrari. At testing in Barcelona earlier this month, the German driver showed he had lost none of his flair as he topped the timesheets on both of the days he tested.

However, fans will be sad to hear that Schumacher has no plans to return to Formula 1 racing Ferrari have said that his tests for the team were half for pleasure and half for technical reasons.

Ferrari are utilising the German s traction control skills Kimi Raikkonen has had limited F1 race experience without traction control, whilst Felipe Massa has never raced in F1 without traction control. Schumacher however has had extensive experience in Formula 1 cars without traction control and therefore can provide valuable insights to the team during testing.