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Frankl's F1 Report - Thoughts on Austin and Brazil



Nicholas Frankl
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Formula 1 Racing Desk

Wow, well F1 certainly isn’t boring these days. I’m sure you have been keeping up to speed with the daily updates – they are relentless and just keep coming.

Austin was a great weekend. The drivers, team members and 120,000+ fans all loved the city, the new facilities, the exclusive night clubs, (one, filled with celebrities and models, had $20,000 Methuselahs of gold champagne), enjoying a real city with real people and character, something I heard throughout the weekend from lifetime F1 team members and journalists, who have gotten increasingly bored and frustrated with the ‘new’ races that Bernie creates in some fairly miserable and uninspiring locales around the world. “We love Austin” was a common comment in the sunshine, and with broad smiles! Texans are friendly people, of course, and very welcoming, and that ‘Southern Hospitality’ goes a long way to creating a positive race weekend experience.

Naturally the paddock was all smiles and pleasantries, with Mercedes serving the best coffee and Lotus the finest ice cream. I did look into Ferrari and chatted with Fernando a little while; he was all beard and smiles and wanted my custom made Ferrari screen cleaner for his phone (I gave him one), but alas I never found the gelato machine! Bubbling along just a micron below the surface was the real worry that F1 has been smoking a happy pipe for way too long and living in some delusional junkie jamboree, always believing that the good times - or a rescue plan from Bernie - was just around the corner. As Mr E reminded the world, since 1950 there have been over 150 team closures, including his own Brabham F1 team and for as long as wealthy / visionary entrepreneurs believe they can ‘make a go’ of owning and running an F1 team (two very different skill sets incidentally), there will be many more, too! It reminded me of a conversation I had with Mr. Paul Allen (you know, Bill’s partner at Microsoft) at the Cannes Film Festival aboard his 126m / 414ft GIGA Yacht Octopus, which has over 70 crew, two helicopters and a large 12 person yellow submarine in its belly. No, I’m not joking, I’ve seen it). I asked him if he would be motoring over to the Monaco GP the following week and he chuckled and said he’d been pitched a bunch of times about buying or starting a team himself (he owns the current NFL Champions Seattle Seahawks, so likes sports teams), “Nah I don’t think so, unless I wanted to make another $5billion dollars, he smiled, and only then if I started out with $10 billion”. I’m sure that Gene Haas knows something about racing that Paul Allen doesn’t, but I don’t have a clue what that is and I certainly do know that he’s not on Forbes 2014 top twenty billionaire list.

So Marussia (whom I always assumed was a Putin vanity play) is gone and Caterham is on crowd sourcing life support, hoping just to make the grid in Abu Dhabi and collect 10th in the constructors and the approx. $15m from the team championship payout. Sauber (who appear to have about 5 drivers signed for 2015) has scooped up Brazilian driver Nasr and about $20m from his bank sponsor and will also be in the money from the constructor’s points, despite having had a miserable season. The team principal’s press conference summed up the chasm between the owners and the corporations. VJ Malaya put it brilliantly when he explained to McLaren, Mercedes and the world that writing checks as a team owner was a lot different than being a team principal and receiving a monthly transfer! The difference between signing the front of the check and signing the back of it!

CVC certainly doesn’t help the situation. They want an IPO and as much return on the investment as possible – that’s their job for their shareholders, but it also leaves Bernie, once really in control and with the sports moneybag at his disposal, without many chips to spread around.

Jenson will likely be seeing a lot more of Mark Webber next year sports car racing. He’s had a phenomenal run in F1, made tens of millions and was very fortunate to fall into Ross Brawn’s car at the right time and win a championship. He lost his lovely father this year and will be getting married in Hawaii in December, so changes are in the air for the great Brit.

Personally, I think Lewis has the psychological and performance upper hand on Rosberg and certainly is my world champion, but Abu Dhabi could turn it all around, just as it did in Brazil with Massa and Lewis in 2008, with him winning on the last corner of the last lap of the year. Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if the two silver cars took each other off 1st lap in the rain and a Ferrari won on Sunday? Just a thought to ponder.

As we have been reminded this week, F1 isn’t for the faint hearted – it’s a billion dollar casino that spins faster than any Vegas roulette table and turn’s it’s global players lives around on the spin of a wheel…

About Nicholas Frankl

Nicholas Frankl has attended more than 250 F1 Grand Prix in the past 30+ years (1st race age six weeks). He has been writing for The Auto Channel since it started in 1995/6. He managed the Asprey/Ferrari partnership from 1996-99 working closely with Todt, Irvine, Schumacher and Stefano Dominicalli. Visiting the Ferrari factory annually he has a deep insight into the inner workings of the team. He is also an three time Olympic sportsman, having qualified and driven a two-man & four-man bobsleigh in Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games. He has raced cars in the UK and USA, competed in the Cannonball, Gumball and Bullrun rallies, is a certified private pilot and member of both The Royal Automobile Club and Automobile Club of Monaco. Throughout his life he has visited the majority of F1 tracks and shared drinks and many fun times with many of yesterday’s legends and todays hero’s.

A Word from Nicholas:

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

So where does bobsleigh fit into this mix?

Well, that's me. Gilles Villeneuve I may never (unfortunately) be, but the next best thing (I'm told - and in fact can vouch for) is Formula One on ice. 1994 saw me competing as driver of the first Hungarian bob team in the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and then onto two more Olympic Winter games. Why am I telling you this? Well, if for no other reason than that you'll at least understand how I gain some insight into the sport we love. Strangely enough, the F1 boys have a real respect for their ice cousins; the speed, G' forces and exhilaration are quite similar. This, however, is only my "off season" hobby. The reason for this intro is to allow me to say HI, From here on I hope we’ll become firm friends, as I follow the F1 circus around the world and you get to pick up all the details. Not just the results, but the gossip too and the first-hand natter you just don't get from the usual sources.

Thanks to my father, whose stories you'll also be reading, I've grown up in the world of motor sport and cars - in fact instead of a birth certificate, I think I was born with a pit pass. It's the sort of life that if you enjoy our sport is tough to beat, so I thought this would be a good way of sharing the fun.