Box Of Neutrals – S01E37

 Just a few days left of the 2011 Formula One Season – though the Championship has long been decided, and most of the races have been merely formalities on the way to Sebastian Vettel claiming a second world title.
I’m going to miss Formula One when it’s gone – though to be honest, I think we could use a break to reset and refresh.  After 37 weeks of racing, a bit of a rest will be much appreciated. With that in mind, I hardly imagine what all those real travelling members of the media must be feeling.
So with this being the final news wrap of the year, we’ll go out in tradition Box Of Neutrals style as of the season’s second half – with little worthwhile content, and probably a picture or two of Peter McGinley.
Formula One in the USA
You may have picked up on the kerfuffle that unfolded last week in Austin when Bernie Ecclestone revoked America’s race hosting licence after the promoter failed to cough up the funding. Well, that’s still happening. But there’s been a minor development.

Bernie: we make the contract

The Circuit of the Americas has scrapped together some funds, presumably from behind the couch, and is now ready to pay Bernie Ecclestone. This is a significant shift from the model that was intended to be used, with the Texas State Government originally set to pay the hosting fee.
However, there is one major problem: CotA hasn’t actually signed Bernie’s contract. Instead, a second contract has been drawn up – one that’s somewhat cheaper than the one FOM put on the table – and sent of to Chateu du Ecclestone for the old man’s approval.
Uhm… that’s not how it works, America.
While you can’t fault CotA for being bold, what the company hasn’t realised is that you don’t negotiate with Bernie. True, Ecclestone’s playing hard-ball – when he withdrew the previous contract that was breached two weeks ago, he offered a second, more costly one – but nonetheless, no-one negotiates with Bernie.
Ecclestone’s response?
‘I doubt it [will happen]. The truth is they’re not complying with the terms and conditions of the contract. And as we make the contract, we will award the event or not award the event. They are not awarding anything to us.’
There’s an old phrase, ’don’t bullshit the bullshitter’. It’s not a particularly great phrase, but I think it’s pertinent to this situation.
Robert Kubica
This is perhaps the most baffling story of the past month. Robert Kubica, for those unaware, was Renault’s stat driver, and the one who was set to eventually help the team challenge for another championship at some point.
That plan was suspended, however, when Kubica almost lost his arm in a horrific rally accident in Italy during February.

Robert Kubica: comeback?

The Pole has spent the year in rehabilitation, aiming to be fit enough to test in an old Renault F1 car by the end of the year. Reanult team principal Eric Boullier set the deadline for Kubica’s decision in October. When there was no word, he shifted it to November. With November almost up, Boullier was becoming desperate.
Then, last week, Kubica conceded that he still isn’t fit enough to test, and so was going to do the right thing by the team and tell them he won’t be back next year, and they best go about finding his replacement.
Or, at least, that’s what Renault thinks he said.
A day after the disappointing news, Kubica’s manager Daniele Morelli contradicted Renault’s version of events to the media, saying that the team twisted Kubica’s words, and that the driver still hoped to be ready for the start of 2012.
Talking to Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport, Morelli said that ‘It’s not true he won’t be ready for 2012. He stated he doesn’t have certainty that he will be in shape for the first tests in February. We count on and hope to be ready, but in any case the delay will be a few months.’
Eric Boullier hit back shortly afterwards, apparently surprised, saying that Morelli himself had approved the wording of the press release. Boullier, confused, replied ‘He approved it, I can show you the email. And now he is upset with I don’t know what. He’s creating stories from nothing.’
It is a truly confusing situation. Renault clearly wants Kubica back quite desperately – so much so that they continued to extend his deadline to make up his mind. Meanwhile, Kubica will want to jump back into a car as soon as possible, for the longer he’s away, the more out of practice he’ll fall. So why should either of them lie?
There is one theory. Gazzetta dello Sport has also suggested that Kubica has a preliminary contract signed with Ferrari. It’s long been known that the Scuderia has been interested in Kubica – and it’s a sign of just how highly the paddock rates him that there’s still such intense interest in him after a year away from the sport.
Is Morelli distancing Kubica from Renault to ensure the path to Ferrari remains clear for 2013? It’s all unclear, but it’ll be interesting to watch.
Formula One on Sky
It’s interesting that Box Of Neutrals, somehow, keeps coming back here despite us having very little to do with British broadcasting whatsoever. But people seem to be rather engaged with the BBC/Sky broadcast deal, so we may as well talk about it.
Last night saw both BBC and Sky announce significant details as to their broadcast plans for the 2012 season. The BBC will be broadcasting ten races live next year: China, Spain, Monaco, Europe, Britain, Belgium, Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi, and Brazil. Interesting omissions from the list include the season opener in Australia (presumably due to cost and the unattractive British timeslot), and Japan (for a similar reason, I imagine). Naturally Bahrain has been omitted, since it mightn’t happen anyway, and I’m thinking Korea may be on the list so that, if that also falls through, the crew can leave a week earlier and broadcast the Japanese Grand Prix instead. BBC Radio 5 will continue to broadcast every race live. Check out the full details here.

Peter McGinley’s Konstruction Kompany

Sky Sports will be throwing everything it has at Formula One, meanwhile, with the launch of a dedicated F1 channel. It’ll be available to SD customers with Sky Sport subscriptions, or HD subscribers without the sport package. Live coverage of every Formula One session, and possibly some support races (to be confirmed later) will be broadcast without ad interruptions. Subscribers will also be able to watch coverage live online.
What does intrigue me is the rather harsh reaction from fans over this deal. Yes, the whole ‘paying to watch F1’ thing has been thoroughly covered, but there’s been some rather abusive words exchanged with Sky since the announcement – which is very much uncalled for.
There seems to be some assumption that Sky will do an awful job at covering F1, which is unfounded. Considering the vast amounts of money behind the Sky broadcast, the coverage is likely to improve – providing the right team is hired. Yes, it’s sad that the BBC has lost its exclusive deal after only a few short years considering the stellar programming it put together, but there wasn’t any money left to continue paying for it. It’s that simple. And, in the end, this deal is better than the BBC scaling back and carrying out only a skeleton broadcast for the remainder of its contract – like the Ten coverage in Australia.
Anyway, that’s about it from me for now. Box Of Neutrals still has another three episodes to run on SYN before wrapping up the season – so expect some more time-filling antics along the way. Rob and I will also continue to post rubbish on the website, and we’ll also be putting together some end-of-year goodies in a few weeks. Christmas special, anyone?

 You can follow me on Twitter, if you have nothing better to do: @MichaelLamonato


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