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GP Week : Issue 152
The current configuration of the Nurburgring might not be to everyone’s tastes, but anyone who has visited the circuit in Germany ’s Eifel Mountains knows the sense of racing history that permeates the surrounding area. To get to the ‘Ring, first one must pass scraps of the legendary Green Hell, 23 wood-lined kilometres containing 160 corners. The historic track throws the brash modernity of the current Nurburgring development into sharp relief – a development that has proven to be more curse than blessing. Following months of dispute between the Rhineland Palatinate regional government and current tenants Nurburgring Automotive GmbH, the government is moving to evict Nurburgring Automotive over unpaid rents. It is the latest move in a saga that saw the operating license terminated in February, 28 years ahead of schedule, and it is now looking increasingly likely that the German Grand Prix will get caught in the cross-fire. If the regional government is able to evict Nurburgring Automotive and find new tenants, FOM has said it is willing to do a new deal. But the likelihood of finding tenants willing and able to pay the race hosting fees is a tall order, and unlikely to happen before 2013, F1’s next scheduled visit to the Ring. If the sitting tenants manage to stave off the eviction, it is highly unlikely that they will be in a position to pay the costs associated with running a grand prix. As a result, there are now serious question marks over the future of the German event. Hockenheim, which currently hosts the German Grand Prix every two years in an alternation deal with the Nurburgring, has long said it cannot afford to support an annual event. Writing on his blog late last week, F1 Joe Saward posited that France’s much-vaunted grand prix alternation deal could be with Hockenheim, and not Spa as has been widely reported. A British High Court judge has ordered the Force India Formula One team to pay £650,000 in legal costs to the Caterham F1 team and its chief technical officer, Mike Gascoyne. Force India has been in dispute with Caterham and Italian designers Aerolab since 2009 over allegations that the T127, the car run by Caterham in the 2010 Formula One season, involved “systematic copying” of 2009’s VJM02. A separate suit was made against Gascoyne. While the claim of systematic copying was rejected when the verdict in the case was delivered in March, Force India were awarded £20,900 over the use of their intellectual property. That award allowed the Silverstone-based team to claim the verdict as a victory, but the victor’s spoils are small when compared to their costs. Friday’s hearing saw Force India’s request that costs be paid by the defendants thrown out on the grounds that no damages were either claimed or awarded. Instead, Force India have been given fourteen days in which to pay Gascoyne £400,000 in interim legal costs, with a further £250,000 going to the Caterham F1 team. Lawyers for Gascoyne and 1Malaysia Racing Team, which became Caterham, wrote to Force India’s legal team in November 2011, offering to settle the dispute out of court. The interim costs Force India are now required to pay date from those letters, while standard costs incurred before November 2011 are also subject to payment. When added to the £700,000 fees Force India were required to pay Aerolab in March, Friday’s decision brings the Silverstone-based F1 team’s expenditures on the intellectual property dispute to £1.35 million. Force India are keen to have the intellectual property dispute reviewed by the FIA now that the matter is out of the courts, but the body has so far declined to comment on what was, until Friday, an active legal suit. TROUBLE AT THE NURBURGRING VICTORY IN AEROLAB CASE COSTS FORCE INDIA £1.35 MILLION BRIEFLY » Despite Bernie Ecclestone’s earlier assurances to the contrary, it looks as though the outcome of the French elections could affect the return of the grand prix, expected to take place next year. While Ecclestone said the race was a done deal irrespective of who ended up in office, first-round winner Francois Hollande has confirmed he will put the French Grand Prix under review. “After the presidential election there will be a review of [the French Grand Prix proposal],” Hollande told L’Equipe. “They were too eager to back the French Grand Prix. We will review it if we are elected. I do not think the French state should be responsible for any financial outlay. There are enough issues to consider without spending tens of millions of euros on a grand prix.” » Caterham have confirmed that 21-year-old American driver Alexander Rossi, currently driving for Arden Caterham Motorsport in WSR, will be getting some track time in Barcelona, where he will take over Heikki Kovalainen’s car for FP1. “I am looking forward to getting back into the F1 car in Spain and I want to thank the team for the chance to run in FP1 in Barcelona,” Rossi said. “I have a clear goal for the session – make sure I run to the plan set by the engineers, not make any mistakes and learn as much as I can over the whole weekend. I know how much I will be able to take from my time with the team back to my Formula Renault 3.5 commitments and I know the team will do everything they can to help me maximise my performance on Friday.” The last American to race in Formula One was Scott Speed, who was last seen in a Toro Rosso at the 2007 European Grand Prix. 6 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS