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British GP saga close to conclusion

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Andrew Benson | 14:20 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

The saga of the future of the British Grand Prix continues to drag on - but all the indications are that Silverstone is inching towards concluding a deal with Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

I heard whispers earlier this week that a deal had actually been done, if not yet signed. But Damon Hill - the president of the British Racing Drivers' Club which owns Silverstone - tells me that is not yet the case.

Hill says there is "no reason to think it won't be signed" but long experience of working with Ecclestone has taught him not to presume anything will happen before it actually does.

"It would be almost inconceivable for there not to be a British Grand Prix next year," Hill said on Thursday, "but until it is signed, there is always the possibility that will be the case."

There is no doubt that both the BRDC and Ecclestone's F1 Management (FOM) company are keen to sort it out and secure the race's future in the wake of the fiasco over Donington Park's failure to raise the funds needed to fulfil its contract to host the race.

silverstonevettel226.jpg

They have reached broad agreement on a multi-year contract for the British GP to be held at Silverstone, and only the fine details of the deal remain to be resolved.

But as Hill says: "It's not done until it's done, and until it's done to our satisfaction, it won't be signed.

"There has been an intensive period of negotiation about the fine detail, which we're hopeful will get us to the point of being able to sign a contract - but nothing has been signed yet."

The BRDC's concern is the level of financial risk to which it is exposed - it remains steadfast in its position that it cannot put the future of the company at jeopardy just for the sake of the grand prix.

"We're down to the finer points, but they are crucial points," Hill says. "The small details are important details - it's to do with the liability that is undertaken and whether it's acceptable.

"It's potentially very serious and that's why it's important to get it resolved."

Hill would not expand on what specifically "liability" meant, but a source reasonably close to the BRDC - but with no knowledge of the talks - told me that it might well be that Ecclestone is trying to lay off some of his own financial risk on to Silverstone in return for what he considers to be a cut-price deal for the race.

The risk for the BRDC if that is the case is that it would make the insurance premiums rise dramatically.

Or it might be that in return for the reduced race fee Ecclestone is demanding Silverstone share some of the revenues it will earn from ticket sales - a track's only source of income given that FOM owns the advertising rights - and that the BRDC has to guarantee a minimum amount.

Given the small margins on which the BRDC operates, get any calculation like that wrong and it could be disastrous.

Ecclestone is on holiday at the moment. He is renowned for pushing as hard as he can for the best deal for himself but in this situation it is also well known that not only does he want a British GP, but so do the F1 teams and the owners of the the sport's commercial rights, the venture capital company CVC.

Silverstone is his only option, so one assumes that the two sides will reach an agreement by the deadline of next Tuesday - the day before a meeting of the World Council of F1's governing body, the FIA, decides the official 2010 F1 calendar on 9 December.

Elsewhere in F1, there looks to have been a major development on the subject of Renault's future in the sport.

renaultsunset595.jpgThe sun seems to be setting on Renault's time in F1 as a constructor

The French company announced after an emergency board meeting last month that it would make a decision before the end of the year whether to continue in F1 in 2010.

On Thursday, the respected French newspaper L'Equipe published a report saying Renault president Carlos Ghosn had now decided that the company would cease its involvement as a car constructor, while remaining an engine supplier, and was looking for a way out that would enable the team to survive. The situation is being discussed at a meeting of Ghosn and his heads of department on Thursday - and again at a conseil d'administration (executive board meeting) next week.

The story is written by the journalist Anne Giuntini, who is very well connected at Renault, so I am pretty confident that it is accurate.

Giuntini's report says Renault is trying to strike a deal to sell the team to Prodrive, the engineering company behind the Subaru world rally team which is run by former Benetton and BAR F1 team boss David Richards.

Prodrive, who had an F1 entry for 2010 turned down by the FIA in the summer, would not comment specifically when contacted by BBC Sport, but a spokesman pointedly did not deny the story.

"We're looking at all the opportunities and the reasons for going in (to F1) would be based on the same criteria we set 12 months ago - competitiveness and cost-effectiveness," he said. "We are looking at everything that's out there."

An intriguing corollary of Renault pulling out would be that the highly rated Robert Kubica could be back on the driver market.

kubicaalonso595.jpgKubica chats to Alonso - could they be Ferrari team-mates in 2011?

There is one obvious vacancy at a potentially front-running team - the second seat at Mercedes (formerly Brawn) that has recently been linked with Michael Schumacher.

Almost unbelievably, though, it seems Mercedes sports boss Norbert Haug is not interested in Kubica, feeling that the Pole's former BMW Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld is a better bet should Schumacher not be available.

Haug is in a minority of approximately one in the F1 paddock if he does believe that.

Certainly, Ferrari would not agree. They are known to be fans of Kubica, who is tipped for a race seat at Maranello alongside Fernando Alonso in 2011.

Whether that happens and what he does in the meantime remains to be seen, but it is surely inconceivable that the man who wrestled an uncompetitive BMW Sauber to a brilliant second place in Brazil in October could be without a drive in 2010.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Kubica and Alonso at Ferrari. What a mouth watering prospect :)

  • Comment number 2.

    Good blog as always Andrew.

    I hope you are right it would be a travesty if there was no British GP next year especially with an all British team (Maclaren) to enjoy.

    I echo your comments on Kubica aswell quality driver.

  • Comment number 3.

    Heidfeld has outscored Kubica 2 out of 3 seasons. Other teammates he has outperformed include Raikkonnen, Massa, Villeneuve & Webber.

    It seems that you (and the rest of the F1 paddock) make the mistake of confusing self-promotion with ability (that being an area where Heldfeld notably fails to perform).

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with jiffle. Bar one good race at Brazil last year, Heidfeld got far more out of the car in races. Likewise he is far more consistent, and better overtaker and Haug is certainly not in a minority among F1 fans who know about the sport.

    Kubica will, no doubt, have a more successful career than Heidfeld overall, but at this moment in time Heidfeld is a much better option for Mercedes. He hasn't had a chance to show his ability yet in a series of poor Prost, Sauber, Jordan and BMW cars with 2008 the only year he had even a glimmer of hope of winning a race. If it wasnt for team tactics - allowing Kubica to overtake - then Heidfeld would have won that race in Canada.
    Kubica meanwhile has lost to Nick in 2 out of 3 seasons, and on overall points. Its time Heidfeld was respected as the top quality driver he is.

  • Comment number 5.

    Robert Kubica is a future world champion in my humble opinion. He's the only driver who's won in a BMW Sauber too.

    It would be a travesty to see Heidfeld racing in the World Championship next year instead of Kubica.

    Don't get me wrong - they both have their place on the grid, but Kubica deserves it more. Self promotion didn't win enable Kubica to win in Canada last year or somehow get him second place in Brazil did it ?

  • Comment number 6.

    "Kubica and Alonso at Ferrari. What a mouth watering prospect :)"

    Erm. what about Massa?

  • Comment number 7.

    Kubica got almost half his points for this season in Brazil, as the result of one brilliant qualifying session. That he got the car to Q3 on a dry setup was fantastic (the race was relatively simple - he had a better setup for the conditions than most of the rest of the pack).

    However, flashes of brilliance do not make a season. Kubica may well be the better qualifier of the two, but he has also flattered to deceive, consistently choosing lighter Q3 loads which have looked good on the grid, but compromised his race strategy.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with @jiffle. I would love to see Heidfeld in a good drive next season as he is a very under-rated driver, who seems to miss out on opportunities through lack of self-promotion - remember he was the Mercedes protege, expected to drive for McLaren and was pushed aside for Raikkonen.

    I don't think he's an absolute great - there is a slight lack of killer instinct - but then I've not really seen any evidence that Kubica has it either. Give Heidfeld a good car, and then we can judge...

  • Comment number 9.

    Erm. what about Massa?
    ----

    It's not rocket science. He'll be out of contract and moved on. I don't mean to sound cynical but the main reason Massa has a drive with Ferrari next season is that the team felt an obligation to keep him on after his crash. Otherwise they'd had a harder decision to make regarding Raikonnen.

  • Comment number 10.

    'Haug is in a minority of approximately one in the F1 paddock if he does believe that.'

    That made me titter and think of the 13.30 programme on Radio 4 about criticism.

    Kubica has won one GP and didn't that involve team orders?

    What's up with Heidfeld? Why don't you rate him? I'm not sure if something is lost in translation, but whenever Kubica's pit radio is eavesdropped for TV consumption he bellyaches that much he could be auditioning to be my next girlfriend.

    Perhaps Heidfeld gives feedback in a more constructive manner?

  • Comment number 11.

    Kubica could take a year out and go rallying, or strike a 1 year deal with one of the new teams (which he has with Renault anyway). Interesting one, but I'd have to agree with Haug, Heidfield would be better for Mercedes in the short term.

  • Comment number 12.

    The BBC has a lot to answer for in this "saga". Its constant negativity towards Donington has been surprising and nothing short of disgraceful.

    Did you ever stop to think that the British people might want to see a change from the dull straights of Silverstone to a modern circuit with exciting corners?

  • Comment number 13.

    Also, saying 'Haug is in a minority of approximately one in the F1 paddock if he does believe that' is wrong because a certain Mr. Whitmarsh said he's the most under-rated driver on the grid, and Peter Sauber said he's never worked with anyone more professional and better at developing a racecar than Heidfeld.

  • Comment number 14.

    There always seems to be a lot of hype over Kubica but what has he really achieved? As a few people have correctly highlighted on here is that Heidfeld out performed him for 2 out of 3 seasons, his sole win was largly due to the fact that P1 & P2 drivers were wiped out when Hamilton rear-ended Raikkonnen!

    I personally don't see it, I think he'll always be a F1 plodder like Trulli, Heidfeld & others - I would be amazed if he ever becomes a WC. With all the new talent coming through the ranks I would laugh if Ferrari wasted their money! Massa in my view trumps Kubica every day of the week and would be a much better investment alongside Alonso for the future.

    2010 will be a great season, that is one thing we can probably all agree on! Roll on March....

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm not saying Heidfeld is not a decent driver, just that he's never going to set the world alight. He's solid, Mr Consistency, as Martin Brundle described him in his 2009 review: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/drivers_and_teams/7878980.stm.

    It's wrong to say he outperformed Webber and Kubica. Scored more points than them, maybe, but that is not the same as being faster. And who scores the most points when you're in a team that's struggling is not always the best way to judge a driver's quality - it can, if not always be down to one freak result.

    Heidfeld would do a good job for Mercedes, and be a safe pair of hands. But if you want someone who could potentially inspire you, or pull a freakishly good result out of the bag, or occasionally completely transcend the car, you'd go for Kubica every time.

  • Comment number 16.

    Not sure how Kubica would do alongside Alonso at Ferrari, I can't see Kubica taking the kind of second seat that Alonso will be demanding. I wouldn't be surprised if that Merc aren't looking at Rosberg as their hope for the future and Heidfeld as the strong 2nd car to score points whilst helping to develop the car.

  • Comment number 17.

    General comments about the relative ability of Kubica and Heidfeld to work cooperatively and PRODUCTIVELY in a team setting could not be more to the point.

    Mercedes-Benz is historically famous for the professional manner in which they do everything, to include racing. An absolutely essential requirement for one of their drivers would be an ability to function within the team. Period.

    In this regard Nick certainly would seem to have the edge over Robert.

  • Comment number 18.

    As an American, I found myself rooting for the British GP at Silverstone. F1 needs its past, even if Bernie won't admit that. Bravo to Damon Hill if this works out. http://wp.me/pIux9-1O

  • Comment number 19.

    One race that sticks in my mind is the 2005 Monaco GP. Heidfeld passed Alonso under braking into the chicane in a very neat manoeuvre that didn't look that special until Webber (in the sister car) tried to do the exact same thing a few laps later. Webber outbraked himself, cut the chicane and had to give the place back to Alonso. He did get past Alonso at a second attempt, but even that pass looked touch-and-go in terms of whether he was going to cut the chicane a second time.

    Ok, that's just one incident, but Nick has proved time and time again to be a very tidy racer - and one of the few in F1 who can actually overtake. The worst that can be said about him is that his driving style doesn't excite the viewer, which is why so often commentators ignore him.

  • Comment number 20.

    Say by some miracle Schumacher does return as a Merc driver. It could be quite funny to see nick and Kubica joining Sauber. I do think in raw talent Kubica is the quicker of the two, but I think Nick is the more complete and consistent of the two driver. To be honest I feel Nick deserves it more, although they both deserve to drive winning cars.

  • Comment number 21.

    Are you sure it will be Felipe who leaves Ferrari after this season. Fernando won't be happy if he isn't No 1 at Ferrari. Of course, Santander is backing Ferrari, but so it was backing McLaren in 2007 and still Fernando left the team.

    Also, if Fernando becomes No 1 at Ferrari, will Kubica want to be No 2 to him? In that situation he wouldn't get the same treatment Fernando gets.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ FishFingers #12

    That's really a pathetic attack on the BBC. As Ecclestone himself has said, the main cause of the failure of Donnington was the recession.

    And how can you blame the BBC when every other news service has been running similar or more negative srticles on Donnington. Plus I don't think the BBC's coverage has been particularly negative or indeed non-factual.

    I would think you're a Daily Mail reader (read: anti-BBC default) if I didn't know better.

  • Comment number 23.

    "It's wrong to say he outperformed Webber and Kubica. Scored more points than them, maybe, but that is not the same as being faster. And who scores the most points when you're in a team that's struggling is not always the best way to judge a driver's quality - it can, if not always be down to one freak result."

    -------------------------------------------------------

    You put it perfectly, but by doing so completely undermined your own point.

    1) More points is what is important. It's no good winning 3 races and retiring in every other race from 1st postion even if it means you're quick. I'd rather have a dull racer who comes consistently 4th than a driver who would win then crash then win then retire etc.
    2) Down to one freak result eh? Last year Kubica got almost half his total points in Brazil because of one 'freak result' due to weather conditions. Either way Heidfeld scored more points so is surely the better choice.

  • Comment number 24.

    1) there is nothing to choose between kubica and heidfeld, kubica can pull out stunning performances but heidfelt is the perfect driver for a new team. he is solid and underrated.
    2) isn't prodrive the people who were going to enter an aston martin team?
    3) i hope renault stay in but so long as we keep all 13 teams I'm happy.

  • Comment number 25.

    if massa leaves ferrari where will he go? sauber? renault? or a newer team? i do understand why he could leave ferrari if he is thoroughly beaten by alonso but if not how can he be kicked out? he was equal best with hamilton in 2008 and lost out because of his teams frequent mistakes!

  • Comment number 26.

    I think I need another "who goes where in 2010" summary. I can't keep up with which teams are in, let alone who is going to drive for them!

    I fear we may have a three tier formula 1 next year with McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Brawn in the top tier, Williams / Force India and Toro Rosso in league 2 and all the new teams in league 3, headed by Sauber and whoeverbuysrenault.

    For the sake of getting them involved, maybe the BBC can run an unofficial mini-league for the new teams with their own 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring? If any of these new and recycled "budget-cap" teams are within 2 secs a lap of the big boys, they will have performed miracles...

  • Comment number 27.

    #12, Fishfingers, it's not the BBC's fault that Gillett let the JCBs loose before getting the backing was it?

    That many people may have wanted the GP at Donington Park wasn't going to alter the ability of Gillett to secure the funding to make his proposed changes to Donington feasible was it?

    I think Gilletts's claim that East Midlands Airport had agreed to close their airport for the weekend to provide parking at Donington typifies the Only Fools and Horses aspect of this whole Donington mess.

    Gillett? Just another minor bit part player in Bernie's political wheeler dealing?

    Donington is a mess, and it's nothing to do with Bernie's actions at all is it? Thank you Mr Ecclestone for helping to ruin a perfectly serviceable racing track.

  • Comment number 28.

    Andrew> "Scored more points than them, maybe, but that is not the same as being faster."

    Fangio once started that racing was the art of winning at the slowest possible speed, and, despite the 50 years that have elapsed since the maestro ruled F1, that is still the case. Many races are won today through getting fuel economy while trapped in traffic, through managing tyres and then delivering the speed in a handful of laps when needed. (Which race was it that Jenson went 2 laps longer on a pit stop then the car in front, and then delivered 6 consecutive purple sectors to gain the lead and win? And they argue whether he's a worthy champion... Sigh!).

    F1 is an incredibly subtle sport (in spite of the legions of computers currently thrown at it) and being fast is just part of that equation.

  • Comment number 29.

    @hamiltonsennamossfan: I think you could have found room for Jim Clark in all that? ;)

  • Comment number 30.

    Someone get the straight jackets out, Kubica has the potential if given the right machinery, Heidfeld doesn't, he will never be WDC no matter what car you give him.
    Ferrari don't need mediocre consistent finishers, they need drivers that can win.

    And the comments about Heidfield overtaking are laughable, he's been in F1 9 seasons and he's probably actually overtaken less people than Hamilton did this year alone. Wheel to wheel, tête-à-tête he can't overtake squat, once in 2005 does not an overtaker make. Qualifying out of the top 10, 1 stopping and making places when everyone else pits does not constitute actual overtaking, it's simply place gains. With refueling banned and the fuel situation the same for everyone he will not be making up ground in that way anymore.

    He would make a good choice for a team that has no chance of building a podium worthy car, points are valuable for that sort of team. Winning teams need drivers that can win when given a capable car.
    Kubica has the spark and pace to potentially go all the way if given the right car. Whether he does is another matter, I don't think he will but at least he has a chance, Heidfield doesn't.

  • Comment number 31.

    @21. I would imagine that Ferrari probably value Alonso more than Massa, my theory behind this is that I think they are looking for a world class driver to build a team around in the same manner that Schumi,Todt, Brawn and co built Ferrari around Schumi, with Irvine, Rubens and then Massa all serving as 2nd fiddle drivers, there to support Schumi's title bid as their 1st priority and pick up points (and wins when Schumi couldn't).

    Given what happened to Alonso at McLaren, where he got firmly slapped down when he demanded the team favour him over Lewis and Alonso behaviour when he threatened Ron Dennis with going to the FIA over the spy-gate scandal I am of the assumption that Alonso will be happy to have the Schumi treatment.

    Add into this the fact that Ferrari plied Kimi away from McLaren with HUGE bags of cash when Schumi retired and have then kicked him out of the car forthwith to make room for Alonso (including paying Kimi a huge sum of money to sit out of F1 next season). Don't be fooled by any idea that Ferrari are only giving Massa a drive next season by some idea that they 'owe' it to him because of his accident... Sorry but no, I just don't buy that. They are keeping Massa in the car a) because he is quick b) he is relatively consistent (certainly more than Kimi) and c) because he played 2nd fiddle for Schumi, and hope that he will do the same for Alonso (something that no one in their right mind would think that Kimi would do, I would imagine that if they gave Kimi team orders to let Alonso past that he would probably decide to park up or drive him off the road instead).

    I also think that Alonso has probably had a say in who his team mate is, and I see him thinking he can beat and dominate Massa were as that just isn't an option with Kimi. Yes he might (and would) beat Kimi at times but I doubt he could ever dominate him, and if the team favoured Alonso over Kimi then I would imagine Kimi would just not bother turning up.

    Anyway I am fairly sure that if Massa can race at the front next season (we still don't know how he has recovered from his accident) then we will see tears and tantrums at Ferrari and a new team mate for Alonso by the start of the 2011 season.

    Please note these are just my personal ruminations, I claim no special inside knowledge or the like :-)


    Oh and Andrew, thanks this article. Its great to check here and find new stuff every few days, keep up the good work. I am just waiting now to see a blog from your good-self (or one of your colleagues) on the teams making up the grid, and a summary of the Renault, Toyota, Sauber Pro-drive e.t.c situation ;-)

  • Comment number 32.

    @30 I think you are being overly harsh on Heidfeld. I would imagine the reason that Mercedes might favour him over Kubica is because they already have someone who they hope is a flashy young gun in Rosberg, and that they probably hope that by teaming him with fast but solid Nick they will have a well balanced team. Heidfeld is a good driver (not great) he is reliable and consistent, he also has a good reputation when it comes to developing cars.

    I think they will be looking to Rosberg to inspire the team and bring the glory whilst Nick does the leg work and makes sure the team finishes well in the constructors.

  • Comment number 33.

    @GazzamatazzZ I'm sure you said the same about Jenson Button.

    As for overtaking, I suggest you watch the live data feeds rather than the TV, as the director always manages to be looking somewhere else...

  • Comment number 34.

    Have to agree with the posts about Heidfeld - I'd pick him as a second driver over Kubica any day, and a good second driver is what Mercedes will need next year. Kubica can dream of Ferrari and go there when there's a vacancy, I can't see him doing more than Heidfeld at Merc.

  • Comment number 35.

    Even CAR Magazine admitted they made a bit of a howler with their article proclaiming Kubica the 2009 Champion.

    I rate Kubica, but I think Heidfeld would make a better pairing with Rosberg.


    Going back to the issue of venues for the GP British, Bernie now has the chance to give something back and buy Donington and stage a race there but he knows as well anyone that there's no money to be made in hosting a GP.

  • Comment number 36.

    I've had an interesting thought - what if Prodrive buyout Renault, swap Kubica for Mercedes engines and run Anthony Davdison and Paul Di Resta?

    As Andrew mentions, David Richards and Prodrive are already linked with a Renault buyout and Kubica might be the "surprise" that Norbert was talking about for Mercedes.
    Prodrive intended to run Mercedes power for this season (and in their 2008 entry), Anthony Davidson has links with Richards from the BAR days and his drives for Prodrive at Le Mans. Di Resta is supported by Mercedes and has been impressive in young driver testing and is highly rated.

    A British B-team to the McLaren/Button/Hamilton combo?

  • Comment number 37.

    Is this British GP saga being sorted out soon?
    Im getting fed up of the same old, same old..'its close but we dont know' nonsense.
    If Damon wants to save the Race, he should have got involved in the negotiations rather then allowing the others to sort it out.
    Damon is passionate to keep the Race, I just cannot understand why other people who havent got the same passion for Silverstone trying to get Bernie to agree to host the British GP at the Circuit.
    Still shows that Donington is a option still but that looks hopeless.

  • Comment number 38.

    For those complaining about Heidfelds lack of overaking credientials, how about this classic move; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCcVtKAwwjM

  • Comment number 39.

    @36 - Nice idea, but as Renault want to remain an engine supplier in F1 I would imagine that any selling off of the team will be conditional in the team sticking with Renault engines. Its not a bad engine, Red Bull were certainly quick enough using it.

    @37 - According to what was said on the Beeb at Abu Dhabi the negotiations were down to working out the fine details or the agreement. Silverstone and the BRDC have to have an agreement that will let them stay in business, and Bernie wants to make sure that he screws every last penny out of them (as well as pursue his personal vendetta).

    I think the only reason that Donnington still has 'a hope' is because Bernie wants to use them as leverage against Silverstone, he knows that dropping the British GP would be hugely unpopular with the teams, CVC and the FIA (as well as a huge number of fans, but I don't think he really cares what we think).

    Part of the crux of the matter really is Bernie thinks that the British Government should invest in the British GP (as many other national governments do), our government has refused (as it doesn't see why it should fork over money to a private profit making enterprise / sport) and Silverstone (any venue) is caught on the middle.

  • Comment number 40.

    REF 15

    "Heidfeld would do a good job for Mercedes, and be a safe pair of hands. But if you want someone who could potentially inspire you, or pull a freakishly good result out of the bag, or occasionally completely transcend the car, you'd go for Kubica every time."


    Spot on Andrew....where have all the Heidfeld fans been hiding all season?
    So much claptrap about Heidfeld's consistency, yet is he consistently brilliant?
    He'll make an effective number 2 and if he gets the Mercedes drive then good luck to him, although it would be ironies of all ironies if Kubica ends up with nowt if Renault were to pull out...and as a spectator who would you rather watch - Heidfeld finishing 40 odd consecutive races in the midfield pack or Kubica's scintillating drive in Brazil?

    The mind boggles with some of the comments made here....

  • Comment number 41.

    Another spanner in the works.

    Think you will find that Nick will remain at Sauber now that they have a comfirmed grid slot, he said right at the outset when BMW pulled the plug that his preference would be to remain with whomsoever took over the team.

    Regarding Kubica..........I wouldn't give him a drive in a peddle cart, he is a waste of space. If Pete Sauber has really thought about it he will be knocking on Kobi's door and inviting Panasonic to join his attack on the grid.

  • Comment number 42.

    Regarding Kubica/Heidfeld.

    Merc are right to go for Heidfeld.

    Kubica is undoubtedly the more talented and potentially faster, Heidfeld the more consistent. Merc already have one young driver in Rosberg, do they really want to put anothe4r still learningn his trade alongside him? I doubt it. Also the cynic in me says that Heidfeld will be much easier to get rid of in a year if they get Vettel than Kubica would be.

  • Comment number 43.

    @40 - As a fan I agree that Kubica has the potential to give me more thrilling races to watch than Heidfeld, but the thing is its not fans who get to decide who races in what cars.... that job is left to team bosses, and looking at it from a team bosses perspective I can exactly why they would choose Nick over Robert given that who ever they choose will be partnering Rosberg.

    Yorkshiregweilo888 also raises an interesting point, Nick has stated his preference to staying put, and he also has a lot of history with Sauber... I think its time for th F1 Mole to do some digging ;-)

    I can't remember an off-season where so much was still up in the air from what teams will make the grid, who will be driving them and even when you look at teams with confirmed line ups both McLaren and Ferrari are heading into possible driver squabbles for primacy. I just can't wait for the season preview and then Bahrain....

  • Comment number 44.

    @Calsonso Interesting that you see Nick as an effective No. 2. My take is rather different:

    With Nick's tendency of matching (or bettering) highly rated team-mates, this could make a fascinating season if he went to Mercedes - Nico has never been paired with a competitive team-mate in F1. The pairing would push Nico really hard, and we would finally find out how good he is.

    Of course, Heidfeld so comprehensively trounced Villeneuve that it ended his F1 career (something that @GazzamatazzZ ignored when saying that Nick could never be WDC).

    Kubica is a very, very good driver. But I find him difficult to like - he complains way too much, and I get the impression that he raises the tension in the team and with his teammate.

    Alonso & Kubica would be fantastic entertainment - for non-Ferrari fans! I reckon they would fall out so fast they would make the Hamilton-Alonso rows look like an argument between Trappist monks! Bring it on, I say..

  • Comment number 45.

    Have you all noticed that in all your conversations concerning the future direction or driver choices for the Brawn/Mercedes team you always talk about Haug, never Ross Brawn.

    It is becoming very clear that Haug is effectively the boss of the new Mersedes Silver Arrows team and is calling all the shots.

    Sure Ross has made a pile of money and will be kept on, quite rightly, for his ability to build a fast car and his strategic pit wall ability, but his title of team principle is just for PR purposes.

    With two German drivers who will use German car engineers and of course German Mercedes engine technicians plus Haug and his staff anyone still with a British passport had better learn to speak German pretty quickly or they wont understand half of whats being discussed.

    My prediction is that a couple of years down the line the whole operation will be moved to one of Mercedes factories in Germany. Just like they have waved goodbye to road car development with Maclaren and are now building supercars in house under the AMG banner.

    Perhaps Jenson is no fool after all.

  • Comment number 46.

    Interesting comments and some very valid points on the Kubica-Heidfeld debate.

    I will leave you with this thought: you are the boss of Mercedes Grand Prix. You are facing a season running a team for the first time, and that team are the reigning world champions.

    Your rivals are Hamilton-Button at McLaren, Alonso-Massa at Ferrari, Vettel-Webber at Red Bull.

    Are you really confident that a driver line-up of Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld is going to stand a cat in hell's chance against that lot?

  • Comment number 47.

    @Andrew Given that Ross stopped development of the 2009 car in June and switched to the 2010 car, I would say Mercedes are going to be highly competitive. They have the choice of some very good drivers, but, for me, the combination of youth and experience has to make sense. You also need drivers that will cooperate, something that may not be one of Kubica's strengths. Having said that, I think Ross would be able to manage any driver lineup - as long as Mercedes let him do his job.

    I, for one, hope that Heidfeld is sensible and takes the Mercedes option if it is offered... it seems to be the known quantity for next year (if anything in F1 is knowable) whereas being loyal and staying at Sauber is a risk, most likely offering yet another season in the midfield.

    The one team I would be worried about would be Ferrari. They haven't seemed to be on an upward curve in the last 2 years (since the post-Schumacher personnel changes), and I wonder if they'll struggle to stay with Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull...

  • Comment number 48.

    Andrew, I know what you mean about Nick Heidfeld – I used to think he was a pointless and boring driver eg Fisi, Trulli but soon I realised that despite not being the most scintilating character off the track, on it he is ballsy, feisty and a true racer – just take a look at this if you don’t believe me:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VLdPDo6mP4

    You’ll agree some of those moves are world class – the move round the outside of Alonso at Bahrain ‘07, the double double pass of Kimi, Kovalainen, ALonso and Glock at Silverstone last year and of course his masteful move on Alonso at Monaco ‘05. Nick is one of the last true racers in the sport, right up there with Jenson, Lewis and Alonso in terms of overtaking ability. The likes of Rosberg and Vettel may be very highly rated, but it is hard to think of many truly great overtaking maneouvures they have pulled off since they entered the sport.

    If anything, Rosberg is far less deserving of a top seat - he has been solid enough in his 4 years in F1 but was trounced in '06 by webber and since then has had only mediocre team mates - Wurz was past it in '07 and Nakajima has never looked F1 class. If I were Mercedes I would have signed the BMW duo for 2010 as they have already proved well-matched (although I would like to point out Heidfeld has outscored Kubica 150-137 in their 3 and a half years together) and can work well as a team. Give Quick Nick a chance!

  • Comment number 49.

    REF 46
    The simple answer is no, of course not!
    But F1 is has never been thus, and Mercedes are trying to make the right strategic call at this moment in time.
    Team philosophy is so so important (that is why Toyota, with their consistently bad driver line-ups, failed so miserably and paid the ultimate price).
    Mercedes want Vettel, but they can't get him just yet as he's tied up with Red Bull. I can see where Haug is coming from by not bringing in Kubica as he's not a long term project for Mercedes - that's why Heidfeld makes sense for a year/2 year contract: 2 German drivers in a German Team under the guidance of the brilliance of Ross Brawn.
    If Heidfeld wants to stay with a reprieved Sauber Team and be its number 1 then why not bring in Michael Schumacher??
    Ultimately, the Vettel/Rosberg partnership is what Mercedes want in the medium to long term and, with their resources, the right personnel (Brawn), and the right philosophy, these 2 young (German) drivers could be a potent force for many years to come...
    For now, however, what Brawn can produce for next season should never be underestimated, although it's anyone's guess how the new regulations will suit each team and drivers...

    Back on the Alonso/Kubica debate:
    If Alonso, or any other driver that can actually influence a team to choose their teammate he'd choose..... Kubica ! They're poker buddies and mates!

    Kubica - in a consistently good and competitive car last year he outperformed Heidfield in 11 of 18 races including his first win in Canada,not including 2 retirements, and for most of the season was challenging for the WDC...he got moody this year because he was driving a car almost as bad as that of Alonso's, and the talk pre-season was that of BMW mastering the then new KERS system, so it's not totally surprising when a driver like Kubica, who has been put on a pedestal with realistic chances of glory to be suddenly given a woefully inept car to feel utterly crestfallen...

    I personally think the Alonso/Kubica partnership at Ferrari would be Manna from Heaven (sorry Massa), but maybe I'm in the same minority of thinking as Haug;-)

    Kubica's drive, at present, does hang in the balance,and he could very well end up being a right moaning minnie for another season or two...

    Kobayashi - good call REF 41 yorkshiregweilo888. I'm surprised we've heard none of the new entry teams banging on Panasonic's, er Kobayashi's door!

    ps. does anyone care where Kovi is going to?

  • Comment number 50.

    ...and as the main title is called "British GP Saga close to Conclusion", I'll believe it when I see it - still plenty of time for it to go Pete Tong..

  • Comment number 51.

    IT IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR THE UK TO HAVE ITS GP.
    AS THE WORLDS LEADING COUNTRY IN THIS SPORT, IT HELPS OUR BALANCE OF PAYMENTS AND ALL THINGS MANUFACTURED.
    SILVERSTONE OR BUST

  • Comment number 52.

    46. At 10:23am on 04 Dec 2009, Andrew Benson wrote:

    Are you really confident that a driver line-up of Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld is going to stand a cat in hell's chance against that lot?

    -----------------

    I would rather put my money on Kubica/Heidfeld. They have worked well together at BMW for years and did develop a championship challenging car in 2008. However they have already signed Rosberg, and he is a driver who has performed consistently well this season and shown flashes of brilliance, so they are 'stuck' with him.

    So the question becomes who to pair with Rosberg..... Both Kubica and Heidfeld have their strengths and weaknesses.

    One thing that just popped into my head are the rumours about Keke not wanting his son to race alongside Lewis, maybe Mercedes are wanting to keep Rosberg and his father happy and not give him a team mate who might rock the apple cart....

  • Comment number 53.

    To Andrew.

    What are your predictions for 2010 Drivers-Line-Up?
    Please answer this.

    Hopefully the British GP will be solved out.
    Great to see Sauber back.

  • Comment number 54.

    2009 confirms it's the car, not the driver?

    Lewis Hamilton may have mutured by look at that article in Motor sport about how many revisions that car went through over the season.

    Where were Kubica and Alonso this season? Nowhere - dire cars.

    Where were Button and Rubens this season? Vying for the WDC - great car.

    Where was Webber this season? It's the car!

    Do we really think Kubica can get more from the same car than Heidfeld? What Heidfeld or Kubica would get from Mercedes GP is dependent on the car the team puts under them.

  • Comment number 55.

    54. At 6:39pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    2009 confirms it's the car, not the driver?

    ----

    Yup thats why Kovi scored as many points as Lewis, and Piquet Jr and Grosjean both harried Alonso to within an inch of his irrelevant talent.

    There is no getting away from it, in F1 the car is important but so is the talent behind the wheel. Certain drivers are able to out perform their car at times, and some drivers need a car that ticks all their boxes to unleash all of their speed. The Brawn started the season as the car to beat, but by the end of the season (well mid season) it was probably the 3rd or 4th fastest car on the track and it was the talent of Jenson that kept him in the title race and ended up bagging him the world championship.

  • Comment number 56.

    REF 55
    Well put...and a fundamental reason why I don't watch A1GP.

  • Comment number 57.

    ps REF 55
    ...and using your analogy it's precisely why Kubica is a better driver than Heidfeld...

  • Comment number 58.

    @57 Hmmm...

    Not really, just because Kubica has out performed the car a couple of times doesn't excuse the fact that he has also underperformed it on a more regular basis when compared to Heidfeld.

    What makes for a better driver? Consistently good or occasional flashes of brilliance?

    Ferrari are paying 20odd million this season so they can have a driver who is occasionally brilliant sit out of the sport, and spent 10s of millions more to replace him with a driver who is consistently good....

  • Comment number 59.

    Cordas

    Ferrari are paying 10s of millions on Alonso to replace Raikkonen because he is consistently good with the (more than)occasional brilliance...;-)

    Heidfeld is a consistent, metronomic, gritty and a tenacious driver who can more than hold his own on the race track. He is very very good, but there is not enough in his driving that can be categorized as awe inspiring.
    As you quite rightly say, the performance of the car is important but just as important is the talent behind the wheel, but not just that - it's their psychological profile/mental strength and their relationship within the team.

    With both BMW cars being more or less equal and ultra competitive last season, it was Kubica, not Heidfeld, that rose to the plate of challenging for the WDC, outperforming him in 11 of 18 races including a win - that's pretty consistent.

    Heidfeld is a Ronseal type of driver - he does exactly what it says on the tin - a very good tin - but that's about it...

    Does anyone know what's happening with Heiki Kovalainen? Is he number 1 driver for the safety car next season?
    And should we believe that the British Grand Prix will be saved?

  • Comment number 60.

    Dear Carlonso,

    We aren't arguing about who is the better driver persay (and whilst you point out Kubica beating Heidfeld in 2008 as proof, then surely someone who rates Heidfeld more could point out the other 2 seasons they have been team mates its been Heidfeld who beat Kubica), we are discussing who might be the better driver to fill the 2nd seat at Mercedes.

    I just agree with Haug that I think Heidfeld might be the better driver to fill that seat, for the same criteria listed above. Kubica has a reputation for being a difficult driver to manage, he has also looked to be a temperamental driver and one who might rub the driver they have just signed (and his father) up the wrong way.

    Personally I would much prefer to watch Kubica race than Heidfeld, because when he is on form in a good car he can be electric. I can just see why Mercedes might see it differently...

    As for Kovi... Who? ;-) I bare him no ill will as a driver (unlike others who I would happily see retired), but he hasn't set the world alight at either Renault or McLaren and neither has he shown the promise to. Who knows maybe if he gets picked up by one of the new teams he may find his niche and start to perform, but if he doesn't I won't shed a tear. I would far rather see the likes of Kobiashi, Sutil, Buemi given the chance to shine.

  • Comment number 61.

    why dont the teams in formula 1 stand up to bernie and say we want silverstone on the calender this year 2010 who wants to watch these new tracks with nobody there and no support for the teams.silverstone is a racers track and that is what we want not follow the leader on these new tracks

 

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