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F1: McLaren 'In Good Shape' Despite Absent Title Sponsor Photo:
 
 
TMR Team | Jan, 23 2014 | 0 Comments

McLaren has confirmed it will not announce a replacement for departed title sponsor Vodafone when the 2014 car is officially launched on Friday.

But after the final season of Vodafone's backing passed without a win or even a podium for the great British team, managing director Jonathan Neale insisted McLaren remains in good financial health for 2014.

"We're in good shape financially," he told GMM exclusively, "and we have a lot of fantastic partners -- Mobil 1, Santander, GSK, Johnnie Walker, Hilton, Hugo Boss, Tag Heuer and SAP and quite a few more."

Neale pointed out that because McLaren is not a PLC, it does not have to "show a profit".

"Our shareholders, Ron Dennis, Tag and Mumtalakat, never take a dividend," said Neale. "No, they're motivated by the desire to see McLaren grow and grow again.

"So, yes, I can confirm that McLaren will have a bigger operational budget in 2014 than we've had in any previous year," he added.

However, McLaren is in a period of great change, and not just because Honda is arriving as the works engine partner in 2015.

McLaren supremo Dennis is also back in charge, amid speculation Martin Whitmarsh's days as team principal are over.

Claiming that Ross Brawn or Sam Michael could be set to take the reins, Speed Week reports that Whitmarsh will not be at the Jerez test next week.

And Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reports that Ciaron Pilbeam, once Mark Webber's race engineer at Red Bull, has been poached by McLaren from Lotus to be chief race engineer "in the wake of their disastrous 2013 campaign".

(GMM)

 

Hulkenberg hopes 2014 cars not too slow

Jan.22 (GMM) Nico Hulkenberg hopes the cars of F1's all-new era are not too slow.

At the end of the long V12 and V10-powered era of normally aspirated power, the sport is switching to 'greener' V6 turbo engines from 2014, bolstered by sophisticated energy recovery systems.

But some fear the cars, at least in 2014, will be three or four seconds slower than the field of 2013, bringing them within the range of the support series GP2.

Asked if that kind of performance would be a disappointment, German Hulkenberg admitted: "It would be a step in the wrong direction.

"Formula one must remain the ultimate," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"If we lose four seconds, then the GP2 cars would be very close to formula one, and the difference between them is no longer clear enough."

But Hulkenberg, who drove for Sauber in 2013, admits he doesn't have much data to base his fears upon, as he has not tried a 2014 car in Force India's simulator.

"Force India does have a simulator," he said, "but the software and the models are not yet for 2014 and so it makes no sense to try to test it.

"We are in a wait and see period," Hulkenberg added.

He has, however, at least seen Force India's new car, the VJM07, and is not sure what to think of it.

"Naturally the narrow front wing and the distinctive nose looks a bit strange to the eye," said the 26-year-old. "Not so pretty."

And once linked with moves to Ferrari, McLaren or Lotus for 2014, Hulkenberg admits that the bigger teams could have an advantage over their smaller rivals this year.

"It is more open than in previous years," he said.

"The big teams with their big budgets have an advantage with how quickly they can develop.

"But the new rules are also a chance for smaller teams to come up with something better than the rest -- you only have to think about 2009 and Brawn GP.

"On the other hand you can also get it wrong as well, so it could go either way," Hulkenberg concluded.

(GMM)

 

Kobayashi racing for free in F1 return

In a last-ditch effort to move up the grid, Caterham overlooked some of the most lucrative 'pay drivers' for the 2014 season.

Although his fans pledged their own money towards his return to F1, the popular and feisty Kamui Kobayashi admitted he is only contributing a modest amount - less than $2 million - to the Tony Fernandes-led team's budget.

"Unfortunately it is not enough to get a seat," the Japanese told Britain's Sky, "but hopefully this is a good indication and a message to Tony Fernandes".

And also in contrast to his main race seat rival Heikki Kovalainen, who needed to be paid a salary in 2014, Kobayashi revealed that he will be driving for nothing this year.

That is despite the fact Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali offered him a new deal to race GT sports cars in 2014, where he would have been paid real money.

"Stefano is not happy I didn't take it," Kobayashi smiled, "but it (racing for free) is my decision, my approach and this appeals to Tony, this was my message to Tony."

Indeed, Fernandes said that while the contribution of Kobayashi's fans is appreciated, the less than $2 million offering "makes no difference" in the context of massive F1 budgets.

It is those massive budgets, and a lack of success so far, that have Air Asia chief Fernandes' patience almost at an end for formula one.

Frustrated by the uphill battle to level the playing field in pitlane, he admitted that 2014 could be Caterham's last roll of the dice.

"If we're at the back again I don't think I'm going to carry on," he said during a media day at the team's Leafield base.

"Nothing is set in stone, but after five years with no points there is a limit to one's patience, money, motivation, so it's an important year," added Fernandes.

Another example of Caterham's final push is that it is moving its wind tunnel programme this year into the state-of-the-art Toyota facility in Cologne, as also used by Ferrari.

(GMM)

 

Lotus only team to miss Jerez test

Lotus has been left standing as the only team that will sit out the first test of the crucial 2014 pre-season next week.

That is because Marussia on Wednesday announced that it will be at Jerez, despite some earlier uncertainty.

"If it (the new car) is there and you can use it, you want to use it," team president Graeme Lowdon had said last week, sparking the uncertainty.

But Marussia told its 170,000 Twitter followers on Wednesday that its 2014 car will be at Jerez.

"For those of you asking if we'll be in Jerez next week ... we will indeed," the message read. "Can't wait to see the new MR03 out on track!"

The news puts the spotlight firmly on struggling Lotus, after boss Eric Boullier said he knew as "fact" that other teams will also be sitting out Jerez.

A table compiled by F1's official website showed that every team except Lotus has confirmed they will be testing with all-new V6-powered cars in southern Spain.

Lotus is yet to announce even a launch date for its E22.

Meanwhile, while Marussia ended its Jerez test announcement with the hashtag 'lookinggood', that was not the message given on Wednesday by Cyril Abiteboul, the Caterham team boss.

He admitted that the new green Caterham is "ugly", because of the solution used to comply with the FIA's new nose-height restrictions.

"Kids should be dreaming when they see a formula one car," he is quoted by Reuters. "I don't know what sort of dream or nightmare you will get when you look at those cars.

"It does remind me of (the film) Alien, with something coming out of the mouth and whatever. It's not very nice."

(GMM)

 

Van der Garde says he turned down Caterham

Giedo van der Garde claims he turned down the chance to stay at Caterham this year in order to "move sideways" to Sauber.

Just a year into his grand prix career, the Dutchman will not even be on the 2014 grid, but serving only as Sauber's reserve and occasional Friday driver.

Well backed by his father in law Marcel Boekhoorn's McGregor brand, he told De Telegraaf newspaper that he turned Caterham down.

"I liken it to Jasper Cillissen," van der Garde said, referring to a Dutch goalkeeper who gambled on a transfer between football teams, sat on the bench for a year but ultimately went on to great success.

De Telegraaf said van der Garde was offered the race seat at Caterham for 2014.

"I didn't do it," the 28-year-old confirmed, "because this is a better option.

"My goal this year is to show what I can do and race for Sauber in 2015. I'm a driver who wants the maximum possible, not to race around at the back."

Van der Garde said he is happy with his 2014 programme.

"It looks good," he said. "There are more test days this year and I can do some of the Friday free practices.

"And if it is necessary, I am ready to race."

(GMM)

 

New York judge dismisses Ecclestone case

Bernie Ecclestone's legal woes have eased slightly, as it emerges a $650m lawsuit against him has been dismissed.

Late last year, a company called Bluewaters Communications claimed it was the high bidder to buy formula one in 2005.

But it said CVC only won the day because of chief executive Ecclestone's alleged bribes, after Bluewaters gave "no commitment" to keep the 83-year-old in his top job.

F1 business journalist Christian Sylt now reports that the New York supreme court has ruled that it has no jurisdiction to hear the case.

According to Autoweek, the Justice ruled that the "critical events underlying the claims in this lawsuit took place in Germany, England and elsewhere in Europe".

Although still in charge of F1, Ecclestone has stepped down from the board and is facing jail after German prosecutors said the corruption affair would be heard in criminal court this year.

(GMM)

 

Force India gives sneak view of black 2014 car

Force India on Wednesday gave the F1 world a sneak view of its 2014 car.

Although the VJM07 will only be seen in detail next week at Jerez, the side-view digital image did reveal a noticeably low nose, and a striking new livery prominently featuring black for the first time.

New sponsors are also obvious, including the Sergio Perez-linked Claro, the Mexican lubricant brand Roshfrans, and the Kazakhstan capital Astana.

"Adding black as a main colour gives us a fierce new look," said team chief Vijay Mallya.

(GMM)

 
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