Button willing to make sacrifices in new Honda order

7146 970e pvsJenson Button is willing to accept a substantial pay cut to facilitate Ross Brawn’s management buy-out of Honda Racing and ensure the team’s presence on the grid this year, according to reports.

The British driver, who extricated himself out of a lucrative contract with Williams in 2005 to chase his championship dreams with Honda, is believed to be working closely with Honda Racing chiefs to secure the team’s future following the loss of manufacturer backing at the end of last year.

In the absence of a suitable buyer it is looking increasingly likely that Honda’s Tokyo bosses will allow team principal Ross Brawn and managing director Nick Fry to press ahead with a management buy-out of the team rather than disband the outfit altogether, which could cost as much as £100 million.

Pitpass has added weight to the speculation today pointing out that
the domain names Brawnracing.com and Brawnracing.co.uk have been newly registered by Caroline McGrory, a former lawyer for Honda Racing.

However, should Brawn and Fry take the helm they will have to make substantial cut-backs to keep the team running which could mean as many as 200 redundancies at the Brackley headquarters.

According to the Times, Jenson Button is determined to play his role in this process by relinquishing at least £15million of his salary over the next three years. The 28-year-old will also pay the expenses and salaries of a small entourage that includes his physiotherapist and personal assistant.

Critics of Button’s perceived playboy lifestyle will of course point out that this is but a small dent in the wallet for a driver who earns in excess of £60 million a year, but the gesture is symbolic of Button’s underlying motivations, according to a team insider.

“The people who have said that Jenson was a money-grabbing playboy should eat their words,” a source told the Times. “He could have held out for his full pay, like certain bankers, and even gone to law with a cast-iron case. But that was never in his mind.

“All he wanted was to come to a deal that would allow him to drive a car put on the grid by Ross Brawn. Nothing else mattered.”

FIA pushes for ‘radical’ change in 2010

fia-logoThe FIA has signalled its intention to introduce further cost-cutting proposals in 2010, shifting its focus to the long-term future of Formula One.

The regulating body has already rubber stamped a raft of radical measures to curb teams’ spending this year – such as banning in-season testing and restricting aerodynamic and engine development – but in the context of a worsening economic climate the FIA believes further change is needed to secure the future of grand prix racing and guarantee the participation of the smaller independent teams.

Indeed, Honda’s decision to withdraw from the sport has delivered something of a wake-up call to the sport’s powerbrokers, while the recent loss of major sponsorship backing from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Dutch Bank ING has compounded fears about the sport’s income streams.

Although a last minute management buy-out of Honda Racing ensures the presence of twenty two cars on the grid in Melbourne there now exists real concern about how to retain the smaller independent teams, such as the new Honda outfit, and make competing more financially viable.

The FIA will submit further proposals to this end at the World Motorsport Council next month. It is believed that the proposals will build on existing regulations to introduce more standard parts and restrict testing. Autosport reports that budget capping could also be considered.

“In view of the difficult economic conditions which continue to affect Formula One sponsors and major car manufacturers, the FIA is preparing radical proposals for 2010,” the FIA said in a statement on Friday.

“If adopted by the World Motor Sport Council, the new regulations will enable a team to compete for a fraction of current budgets but nevertheless field cars which can match those of the established teams.

“These regulations will not affect the established teams which now have stable backing from the major car manufacturers, but will enable new teams to fill the existing vacancies on the grid for 2010 and make it less likely that any team will be forced to leave the Championship. The proposals will be submitted to the World Council on 17 March.”

Honda saved by management buyout

The Honda team will be present on the 2009 Formula 1 grid according to British newspaper The Times. According to the paper, Ross Brawn has led a management buyout of the team with money from Honda, Bernie Ecclestone and commercial partnerships said to be funding the team’s 2009 F1 efforts. Despite recent rumours that the Virgin Group were looking to back the team, it appears that this will not be the case.

Little information is known over the team – Jenson Button is said to be the lead driver for the 2009 season however it is yet unknown what name the team will race under or what their racing livery will look like, or who his team-mate will be. The two strongest contenders for the second race-seat are Rubens Barrichello who has raced for Honda for the past three seasons, and Bruno Senna, the nephew of the late, great Ayrton Senna.

Frank Williams dismisses financial woe rumours

Frank WilliamsFrank Williams, manager of the Williams F1 team, has dismissed reports that his team could be in financial difficulties thanks to RBS ending it’s sponsorship of the team.

RBS, who have just posted the biggest losses in British corporate history, have chosen to end their sponsorship deal with the Williams Formula One team as of 2010 prompting speculation that the loss may cause money woes for the British racing team. However Frank Williams has been quick to dismiss these claims, stating that RBS only contributed 10 percent of the team’s budget and that there was still plenty of time to find a replacement sponsor.

“Don’t worry – there’s hundreds of trillions of cash in the world,” Williams explained. “Something will turn up!

“It was presented as though it was the end of the world for Formula 1, which is totally, totally untrue.”

Where the BBC can improve on ITV

This week the BBC unveiled the details of its flagship new coverage of the 2009 season. The corporation took back the rights to screen the sport from rival broadcaster ITV, whose coverage began in 1997. Television, for F1, is of paramount importance to the viewer for practical reasons in a way that it could never be for football, for example. So in what ways will the BBC bring the sport to the viewer, and how can they improve on ITV s finished product?

Unquestionably, ITV did a great job with F1. F1 was one of the few things of quality that ITV as an organisation have provided the British public with in recent years. The delivery of the coverage, the presentation, the interviews and by and large the commentary were all spot on. A marked improvement was made on the pre-1997 coverage, when fans might recall repeatedly being shown pieces of empty track, for no apparent reason. The discovery of Martin Brundle, one of the most gifted and perceptive broadcasters of his generation, was a feather in ITV s cap. Even with technological advances promoted by FOM and improvement in the feed they received from the host broadcaster, ITV provided armchair F1 fans with reliable and efficient F1 programming.

There were, however, some areas where the ‘other side were found wanting. The biggest gripe was advertising, and while some accepted the adverts as a necessary evil in the modern television age, others could not tolerate them. F1 can sometimes be dull for the uncommitted or casual fan, and when ITV happened to miss the only event of note in the whole race because of advert breaks, it could be difficult to forgive.

Secondly, the personnel could sometimes be at fault. Jim Rosenthal s brave efforts to sound as though he knew what he was talking about in F1 ITV s early years must surely go down as one of the greatest broadcasting rearguard actions ever. James Allen is a tremendously wise and knowledgeable F1 journalist, whose written work is amongst the best in the business. As a commentator, however, Allen occasionally forgot to engage his brain before speaking. As a successor to Murray Walker his job was even harder. Walker s mistakes were funny and charming, those of Allen just irritating. Equally, Allen s tendency to involuntarily wax poetical about his sport a problem ITV commentators in particular seem to suffer from was simply unnecessary; the sport is poetry enough.

The Beeb, then, can improve on ITV in a number of ways. There won t be advert breaks, thankfully. The coverage is likely to be more in-depth, and is promised to be more wide-ranging with more options for the digital viewer. Mercifully, Brundle has been retained in the commentary box alongside proven commentator Jonathan Legard, and the candid studio pundit line-up of David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan is promising.

There are pitfalls the corporation must take care to avoid, however. The presenter Jake Humphrey is new to the game and will not have the calm or gravitas of Steve Rider immediately. Secondly, and as a BBC head honcho noted earlier this week, care must be taken to avoid jargon because it will alienate the non-fanatic viewer.

Finally, the BBC must not be afraid to cover Lewis Hamilton. Some sections of the blogosphere repeatedly criticised ITV for being obsessed with the Hamilton phenomenon, but this criticism was wholly undeserved. With the exception of Coulthard on some days, ITV missed out on spectacular, exciting and competitive British drivers from when Damon Hill retired right up to when Hamilton burst on the scene in 2007, the best part of ten years. The British broadcaster will always show extensive coverage of and enthusiasm for the British driver, to appeal to its public. The BBC s job is to square the public s enthusiasm for Hamilton with providing balanced journalism not neglecting the other drivers.

Fans should await with interest the coverage of the new season the proof of the BBC pudding is in the eating.

Rosberg: I need success by next year

Highly-rated German Nico Rosberg has said that he has to have success by the end of next year for the sake of his career. The Williams driver, a karting compatriot of Lewis Hamilton, has seen his erstwhile colleague become world champion while he himself has languished in under-performing cars. He told reporters at Williams’ Grove headquarters that he needed to become successful sooner rather than later.

For me it s a crucial year, mainly because I want to have success in my sport that s what I m racing for,” he said.

“I hope that I m going to have a car to have good success this year it s very possible and I m hopeful.

“If not then I need to see, because I want to be in a really top car by 2010 at the latest,” he is quoted as saying by ITV-F1.com

Rosberg, son of 1982 world champion Keke, has been loyal to Williams despite mediocre results in recent seasons. He has been courted by McLaren in the past, and depending on Heikki Kovalainen’s performance in 2009, may be a possibility again for Woking in 2010.

Ex-Honda team prepare car as rumours of salvation continue

The team formerly known as Honda is said to be preparing their 2009 car, the RA109, for testing. The news comes despite no formal acknowledgement of any buyer of the Brackley-based outfit, and continued speculation around the future of the team. However, autosport.com reports that the team has been issued with instructions to continue preparations for the season, including shakedowns and pre-season testing.

Furthermore, a team source indicated to the BBC that instructions to proceed with the testing programme – which continues at Jerez next week – meant that an engine deal had been done. If the engine deal is from Mercedes-Benz, this would signify that a buyer has been found, because the German manufacturer has stipulated that it would not provide engines unless a future was secure.

”We’re carrying on as if we’re going to Melbourne. There’s no way we’d go to any test without an engine deal … if we’re going to Jerez, it means it’s a done deal,” the source said.

Some quarters of the press are reporting that Michael Schumacher had been invited to pour some of his personal wealth into the team. The seven-time world champion had previously been linked with the team through his friendship and experience with Honda F1 team principal Ross Brawn, but his involvement remains a rumour. Equally, speculation that Honda F1 CEO Nick Fry has been elbowed out of the team is yet to be substantiated.

RBS pulls the plug on F1

RBS ShoppicThe Royal Bank of Scotland has confirmed that it will pull out of Formula One at the end of 2010 when its contract with the Williams F1 team finishes.

The finance company, which has been hit hard by the credit crunch, will follow in the footsteps of Dutch bank ING and withdraw from grand prix racing as part of a broader review of its sporting sponsorship portfolio.

RBS first backed Williams in 2005 and will see out its current contract with the Grove-based outfit untill 2010, but the bank will make major cut-backs in hospitality and trackside advertising starting this year.

Williams team principal Frank Williams said in a statement: “RBS has been a great partner for this team and we are pleased to have made our contribution over the past four years to developing the RBS brand internationally.

“Thanks to the support of RBS and our many other loyal partners, we are in a strong position to ride out the inevitable challenges of the next two years.

“RBS is showing great responsibility to the role that we play in the British economy, supporting over 500 highly skilled technology jobs in a sector in which Britain leads the world. In the last three years, Williams has spent over £100 million with 2700 UK suppliers and it is of course important that this business endures.”

Andrew McLaughlin, RBS group director, Communications, added: “We recognise that we are now operating in a very different economic environment and have been reviewing all of our activities since October. It is imperative that we respond to the reality of the situation we face and that we do so in an orderly way that respects the commercial agreements we have in place and the implications for our partners and the jobs they support.

“Throughout our relationship, Williams have shown great understanding and innovation in driving the programme forwards. They have been very supportive in finding ways to reduce costs over the remainder of our contract. This early announcement allows Sir Frank Williams and his team to plan ahead financially.”

Haug: Force India may run Mercedes drivers in future

Mercedes-Benz motorsport president Norbert Haug has said that Force India may run Mercedes-backed drivers in the future. The German told Indian newspaper DNA India that the Force India team, whose technical collaboration with McLaren-Mercedes started for this year, could be used as a testing ground for young talent.

“This could mutually be developed as an option for the future,’ said the Mercedes man.

Haug added that the Force India driver line-up of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella for 2009 was secure, however. The Indian team, which unveils its new car on Sunday, is known to have benefited from McLaren’s KERS technology after collaboration between the two was announced for the upcoming season. Haug said concentration on the technical rapport was paramount at this point in the relationship.

‘For now we prefer to make one step at a time,” he said.

Mercedes-backed drivers who might stand to benefit from the arrangement would be Paul di Resta or Gary Paffett, who both have tested for the McLaren squad. Current McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa might be thought too old – at 39 – to be considered for a seat.

Beeb’s F1 coverage will be ‘comprehensive’

The BBC have unveiled the details of their planned coverage for the 2009 F1 season, saying that their service will be ‘comprehensive’. The corporation took over the rights to screen the sport from ITV in a coup last year with the promise of 21st-century broadcasting, including interactive features. The BBC yesterday confirmed that all the races and qualifying sessions would be broadcast live.

‘BBC One will carry live coverage of all 17 Grands Prix and every qualifying session except that in Brazil, which will be shown on BBC Two,’ said a statement on the BBC website.

The BBC F1 team will be fronted by Jake Humphreys, with David Coulthard and ex-Jordan team boss Eddie Jordan as studio pundits. Award-winning commentator Martin Brundle, a refugee from ITV, joins seasoned sports commentator Jonathan Legard in the commentary box, while pitlane reporting is to be continued by other ex-ITV man Ted Kravitz. Commentating legend Murray Walker is said to be providing comment and analysis via the BBC website.

Interactive features include the ability to choose different video feeds, which means F1 viewers will be able to scroll through on-board cameras, leaderboards and main feed. The BBC’s ability to provide this depth of coverage is thought to be one of the main reasons why Bernie Ecclestone chose the corporation over ITV.

It is suspected that the BBC will also resurrect the theme music which characterised its F1 coverage in the late eighties to mid nineties, Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain.