V8 Supercars isn’t the only speed sport category scrambling to get its ducks in a row this year. Even formula one has its obstacles to navigate before the new 19-race season begins on March 17 in Melbourne. The grid will be no more than 22 cars following HRT’s exit from the sport. And some other teams are still finalising their drivers. At least half the grid is feeling the pressure of budget shortfalls. The trick for the teams is to get a pay driver who doesn’t drive like Aunt Maude. Pay drivers have always been a part of F1, but their numbers tend to increase when the sport has to deal with trifles such as a global financial crisis. F1’s main headache remains its failure to lock in a new Concorde Agreement, the secretive document that clearly spells out the terms and obligations of the players in the sport, specifying how the financials are carved up and who gets what. Occasionally someone spills the beans. Many years ago we learned juicy tales such as the teams getting a meagre 23 per cent of the sport’s annual revenues while Bernie Ecclestone’s family trust got the remainder. Subsequent iterations of the agreement brought changes and for the immediate future Ecclestone has rubber-stamped preferential commercial terms for the leading four teams, thereafter ensuring the rich get richer while the poorest of the rest head for soup kitchens. Timo Glock, ousted by Marussia in favour of a pay driver, says the system sucks. The demands of the FIA for a big slice are part of the mix, too, but Ecclestone plays brinkmanship better than most. Some observers sense the FIA could lose control of its own F1 world championship, its influence related to less glamorous matters such as racetrack and driver safety rather than the big-picture stuff.
RED BULL DUST FLIES
Showing coolness under fire, Mark Webber has elected to shrug off some bizarre criticism from within his own Red Bull team. In an interview with Red Bull’s in-house magazine, the race team’s adviser Helmut Marko declared Webber can’t cope with the pressure of being an F1 championship contender and he fell into a downward spiral when confronted by his teammate Sebastian Vettel’s pace, or mechanical issues. ”Look, everyone at this level has their own agendas and it’s been evident for a long time now that I’ve never been a part of Marko’s,” Webber said on his website, resisting any temptation to mention he has been on the wrong end of political machinations at Red Bull more than once. His priority is to quickly build a solid working relationship with his new race engineer Simon Rennie, formerly with Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus. Webber’s long-time engineer Ciaron Pilbeam has gone to Lotus. After working with the Finn, Rennie will find Webber positively garrulous.
MOUNTAIN OF QUALITY
This is for those Australians out there who squeal regularly about the lack of quality motor-sporting alternatives to V8 Supercars. Next weekend is your chance to see a stunning field of (at last count) 51 machines challenging the mountain in the Bathurst 12 Hour. Twenty-six cars are production-based GT3 exotics and good weather could see the lap record threatened. The already quality field was boosted this week by DTM legend Bernd Schneider, WTCC champion Rob Huff of Britain, and four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Greg Murphy. They join former F1 stars Mika Salo and Ivan Capelli, and V8 Supercar drivers Craig Lowndes, Jason Bright, Warren Luff, Shane van Gisbergen, Steven Johnson, Steven Richards, Lee Holdsworth and Alex Davison, and Carrera Cup goers Craig Baird, Daniel Gaunt and Jonny Reid. The race starts at 7am next Sunday.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.