News Wrap, Week 25
The news wrap is back! Oh, how good is this, I can hear Rex Hunt exclaiming. Yes, after a month of no action, Formula One is set to roar back into life at the Circuit de Spa-Froncorchamps, even if the conclusion of the season has long been decided. But that’s okay – there are still lots of other things to keep you and I occupied for the remainder of the 2011 season.
But first, what did you get up to on your break? Completed water feature in your backyard you’d been planning for months? Took your poodle for a walk? Did you perhaps you get a social life with all those free weekends you suddenly had? How outlandish. Let me say, Rob and I kept pumping out the weekly podcast, each one more deranged with a lack of Formula One news than the last. Why, there was Episode 27, which was comprised mostly of insights into Rob’s love life and prank calls. Or, for those tech nerds out there (you know, the I-carry-the-F1-technical-regulation-around-with-me-everywhere types, *ahem* Rob), we recorded a feature-length interview with Craig Scarborough a few weeks ago. We even recorded a midseason review edition for Episode 28. So much Box Of Neutrals goodness. Go nuts.
Now, to business…
Heidfeld vs Lotus (Renault Genii Lotus Capital Lada Renault Trololol)
It seems Renault simply cannot keep itself from the legal system. Just when you thought Lotus vs Lotus was over (it isn’t, by the way. Keep reading), they’re back in court, this time taking on races without a win record holder Nick Heidfeld, nay Occasionally Quick Nick, nay Nick Seinfeld. So what’s the deal airline food Lotus Renault? Well, it’s pretty straightforward, ish.
What’s the deal with Nick Heidfeld?
Heidfeld was drafted to Renault to replace the injured Robert Kubica at the beginning of the season. Renault, who had been gearing up in an attempt to vie for the championship needed a team leader to bring home consistent points, alongside second-year driver Vitaly Petrov. So far this season, Heidfeld has scored only two more points than Petrov. He has finished only six time in the top ten and of his three retirements, two of them were arguably his fault. Moreover, he’s been outqualified by his younger teammate eight times to three. It’s hardly the sort of result you would be expecting from a team leader.
And indeed, Eric Boullier concurs, citing that he ‘was not very happy with the pure speed of Nick and his global performance as an experienced driver.’ However, the matter isn’t quite so simple.
While Renault feel that they’re within their legal rights to relegate Heidfeld to the back seat (he remains contracted to Renault), Heidfeld and his management have interpreted the contract differently, purporting that it entitles Heidfeld to first-driver status, thus his own race seat. The case was heard during the midseason break and decided in Renault favour, but Heidfeld is appealing. A final decision on the matter is due before the Singapore Grand Prix. In the meanwhile, in steps Bruno Senna, who starts his Formula One career proper after twelve months with HRT last season.
Heifeld will be desperate to get his seat back. Realistically, his Formula One career is nearing its end. He has – disappointingly, in my opinion – become something of a Pedro de la Rosa. That is, one you hire to fill gaps, but never lead a team. It’s difficult to argue with 185 winless races.
Lotus vs Lotus – Lotus strikes back
It’s the never ending story, really. Lotus sues Lotus, Lotus counter-sues Lotus. I hear Ron Howard is considering a screenplay based on the matter. If you’re confused, let me fill you in – briefly:
Tony Fernandes (1Malaysia) leased the rights from Danny Bahar (Group Lotus) to name his team in 2010 Lotus Racing. Group Lotus claimed at the end of that year that 1Malaysia had breached their contract agreement and terminated the lease five years early. Over the summer, 1Malaysia signed a deal with David Hunt to use the historical Team Lotus name in Formula One, as they’re doing this year. Meanwhile, Group Lotus entered into a sponsorship agreement with Renault F1, with the plans to eventually buy the team to turn it into a Lotus works competitor. The result: we have Team Lotus-Renault (Tony Fernandes/1Malaysia), and Lotus Renault (Danny Bahar/Group Lotus).
The two teams sued each other before the start of the year, with the decision being largely favourable for Tony Fernandes. Though it was found that he did indeed breach the original contract, it was ruled that he was allowed to keep the name Team Lotus. Danny Bahar appealed, but the appeal was rejected.
Now here’s where things get properly political. Tony Fernandes is Malaysian, and thus Team Lotus is racing with a Malaysian licence. Group Lotus is also Malaysian-based, despite being a British outfit. Therefore, this squabble has also been a national one. Recently, the Malaysian Government has sold a significant stake of their national airline to Tony Fernandes, which is believed to be in exchange for Fernandes dropping his use of Team Lotus in order for Danny Bahar to use it for his own ends in both Formula One and road car manufacturing. Team Lotus/1Malaysia F1 would become Caterham F1 – already a sponsor of the team, owned by… Tony Fernandes.
Joe Saward broke this story, check out his significantly more coherent summary here.
So, if this is all correct, next year Renault will be on the path to becoming Team Lotus, while the team we currently know as Team Lotus will be Caterham F1, or something similar. Got it? Hmm…
Michael Schumacher’s future
Just a small bit of news, this one. Michael Schumacher, who insists that he’ll stick around in Formula One at least until the end of 2012, is set to test Mercedes’ 2012 DTM challenger. DTM is Germany’s premier touring car championship. Mercedes’ box Norbert Haug has said that ‘Michael is full of respect for the DTM drivers. At some point he will definitely test our new DTM coupe for 2012.’
Take from that what you will.
You can follow me on Twitter, if you have nothing better to do: @MichaelLamonato