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GP Week : Issue 151
BRIEFLY » At an international business summit this week, a Mercedes executive rubbished the notion that Formula One’s great manufacturer exit in 2009 came about as the result of a change to environmental strategy at the highest levels of Honda, BMW, and Toyota, choosing instead to trash talk his corporate rivals. “Some people said that Honda and BMW and Toyota stepped out [of Formula One] because they had a very environmental friendly strategy,” Anders-Sundt Jensen, vice president brand communications of Mercedes-Benz Cars, told the International Herald Tribune’s Sports Business Summit in Istanbul this week. “Bullshit. They left because they did not have any success. For us, we are an international brand and there are 20 Formula One events around the world. I can only tell you one thing: For car manufacturers, please give me that platform which provides so much attention for so little money, and I am definitely willing to change our activities and shift them towards that platform. So far, I haven’t found it.” » While this week’s rumours of a proposed calendar expansion that could see the Formula One circus setting up at 24 grands prix every year struck fear into the hearts of those who already spend their lives on the road, one proposed new venue could be a very popular addition. This week, rumours of a grand prix in the Caribbean gathered apace, with the Dominican Republic the destination of choice. Danilo Medina, who is running for president with the support of the incumbent in elections due to be held next month, has said that if elected he will create a public-private partnership to bring Formula One to the Caribbean island, with the government paying the race fees and private investors developing a circuit. The Dominican Republic was a popular tourist destination, but visitor numbers have been affected by the ongoing political situation in neighbouring Haiti. According to reports in Germany ’s Auto Motor und Sport, two F1 teams exploited loops in the gearbox regulations to gain an added advantage at last week’s Bahrain Grand Prix. “Not every gearbox change means a gearbox failure,” the article read. “Not every failure means a technical defect. Some defects can be simulated for tactical reasons in order to bring about a technical facelift earlier than scheduled.” While the credibility of such conjecture could easily be called into question, the article in question was written by respected F1 journalist Michael Schmidt, who is known for his technical insights. Schmidt implies that the retirements of Bruno Senna and Jenson Button were deliberately brought about by the teams to circumvent regulations that state that any car that finishes a grand prix must run the same gearbox across five race weekends. Earlier gearbox changes are possible, but lead to an automatic five-place grid penalty unless the car in question retired from the previous race. According to Schmidt, Williams and McLaren both had a lot to gain from early gearbox changes, especially if they could be arranged without incurring the traditional penalty. Auto Motor und Sport report that between Shanghai and Bahrain, Williams discovered a manufacturing error in their gearboxes. Worse, the parts required to fix the gearbox would not be available till Barcelona. Should the team have seen both cars to the chequered flag on Sunday in Bahrain, a necessary gearbox change in Barcelona would have seen both cars start five places down on their qualifying positions. The same story claims that McLaren retired Jenson Button with a view to giving the British driver a freshly designed gearbox a race ahead of schedule, while also avoiding a repeat of the gearbox issue that saw teammate Lewis Hamilton hampered with a five-place grid penalty in Shanghai. IS GEARBOX TRICKERY BEING USED TO MANIPULATE DEVELOPMENT RACE? Did Button retire in Bahrain in order to change to a new gearbox without the five- place grid penalty? 5 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS