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GP Week : Issue 143
10 n Steve Mullens, a lawyer who previously served on the boards of a number of Formula One-related companies, declined to testify in the Gerhard Gribkowsky trial in Munich. Following Bernie Ecclestone’s appearance in the Munich courts shortly before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Mullens’ appearance was hotly anticipated by those curious to learn more about the pair’s relationship, which the F1 boss admitted had declined in recent months. According to The Daily Telegraph, Mullens declined to appear on the advice of his lawyer, who was concerned he might incriminate himself with his testimony. n One of the rumours doing the rounds of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last weekend was the news that Bernie Ecclestone’s Munich appearance had made the powers that be at CVC Capital Partners nervous enough that they were looking to replace the 81-year-old as quickly as possible. One of the names being bandied about as a possible replacement was Martin Sorrell, but GPWEEK learned this week that Sorrell is not seen as a serious candidate by the investment firm, who are currently “looking hard” for Ecclestone’s replacement. n The FIA Institute this week announced the names of the 18 drivers chosen to take part in the 2012 FIA Institute Young Driver Academy. Academy participants will spend the next year attending “a series of workshops covering all aspects of driver performance and safety. The driving elements of the course include the development of technical skills, safety training, attitudes and awareness. The human performance aspect will feature physiology, psychology, nutrition, media skills and career management.” The 18 selected are: Mohamed Al Mutawaa (18) UAE; Klaus Bachler (20) Austria; Andrea Bate (22) South Africa; Craig Breen (21) Ireland; Andrea Caldarelli (21) Italy; Gabriel Chaves (18) Columbia; Jonas Gelzinis (23) Lithuania; Michael Klitgaard Christensen (21) Denmark; Jack Le Brocq (19) Australia; Michael Lewis (20) USA; Alexander Lynn (18) UK; Jose Andres Montalto (21) Costa Rica; Ramon Pineiro (19) Spain; Brendan Reeves (23) Australia; Pontus Tidemand, 20, Sweden, Timo van der Marel (22) Holland; Sepp Wiegand (20) Germany; and Lewis Williamson (21) UK. Short Straights THERE could be financial troubles ahead for Williams, pending the outcome of an investigation by the Venezuelan Congress into PDVSA’s sponsorship of the Formula One team. Congressman Carlos Ramos this week wrote to the team, asking that they supplied information on the sponsorship deal, including a copy of the original contract, to assist with an ongoing Congressional investigation into Maldonado’s state funding. There are concerns that the PDVSA money brought to Williams by Pastor Maldonado was not approved through the proper channels, and political opponents of President Hugo Chavez are taking advantage of his declining popularity and ailing health to attempt to wrest back control of the country. “Further to Williams F1 sponsorship contract with PDVSA, I would like to ask for a copy of the original contract between Williams F1 and PDVSA, for the purpose of an ongoing investigation in this respect that a commission of the Venezuelan Congress is undertaking. “As you may be aware, according to Venezuela’s legislation, expenditure of the sort has to be approved by Congress. You may also be aware that our Congress granted no approval to the sponsorship contract between Williams F1 and PDVSA. “ Therefore, I should be grateful if you could provide the following information: Amount disbursed to date to Williams F1 by PDVSA; Evidence of payments made to date to Williams F1 by PDVSA. I look forward to your reply while I remain at your service for any queries you may have in this respect.” Should the investigation into the unauthorised use of state funds find that Maldonado’s sponsorship was not properly authorised, the Venezuelan government will cease payments to Williams. Should that be the case, it is rumoured, Maldonado will lose his seat with the team. Problems for Williams’ Venezuelan sponsorship deal? FRENCHMAN Jean-Eric Vergne dominated the three-day Young Driver Test at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit last week. Vergne, who is a rising star of the Red Bull driver development programme, spent all three days of the test behind the wheel of the championship-winning RB7, and topped the timesheets at the end of every day. But it was not all smooth running for the man behind the wheel of the car that dominated the season – Vergne was sidelined by a series of mechanical issues on the second and third days of the test. Wednesday morning saw sensor problems, while the KERS unit failed in the afternoon. Thursday afternoon was affected by a number of unspecified reliability issues. “ That was a fantastic day for me,” Vergne said after stepping out of the RB7 for the first time. “Driving the World Championship- winning car is just great and I liked every lap I did out there. Knowing there are two more days still to do, just makes me smile more. It’s a great opportunity from Red Bull Racing; I’m trying to learn as much as possible and get as much as possible out of it.” Vergne earned plaudits from the team for his performance over the course of the three-day test, which saw the French driver finish top of the timesheets every afternoon despite a series of problems with the RB7 that reduced his track time. “Looking to Jean-Eric, I must say I have been very impressed with him during this test,” Red Bull head of race engineering Ian Morgan said. “He’s not really been in our car for any length of time before this week and he hasn’t made a single mistake. He’s good at taking in information and using it as required and he’s been consistent and controlled. He was able to do as we ask and put in a lap time whenever we needed – he’s done a good job.” Vergne dominates YDT