Formula One - On and Off track week 35

Spa-Francorchamps could alternate with Nurburgring, Hamilton is not number one, Korean GP again in doubt, Vettel criticized in German press Spa-Francorchamps alternating with Nurburgring next season With the Belgium Grand Prix only just 3 days ...

Formula One - On and Off track week 35

Spa-Francorchamps could alternate with Nurburgring, Hamilton is not number one, Korean GP again in doubt, Vettel criticized in German press

Spa-Francorchamps alternating with Nurburgring next season

With the Belgium Grand Prix only just 3 days behind us, there are strong indications the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps is thinking of running the Grand Prix every other year and not each year. This column already reported the Belgium circuit is expecting to make a multi-million Euro loss this year, last year they reported an official loss of 5.134.000 Euro. Chairman of the Spa Grand Prix Association Etienne Davignon had in an interview with the Belgium newspaper HLN confirmed the circuit has financial problems, also due to the high fees they have to pay the Formula One commercial rights holders FOM and CVC. "I have said previously that we will look at the figures and examine them on a year-to-year bases.", he said. "We have certain overall targets in terms of income and expenditure. I don't want to give precise figures now, but ticket sales were good."

Dark clouds over the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps.
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Which means Davignon now thinks the losses will be less than they had anticipated, but he remains cautious about the future of the race, "What will happen in the future we don't know. We are playing with the hypothesis of the Grand Prix alternating with a circuit nearby. This is the topic of discussions but we are not quite at this stage yet." The circuit nearby is said to be the German Nurburgring, which also has problems making both ends meet at the end of the year. Spa-Francorchamps has until now survived with the help of the Walloon government who have repeatedly supplied the cash to limit the financial deficit. As a result of an earlier contract with the previous Walloon government, the Ardennes circuit has in July received 5.4 million Euro from Belgium investment company Sogepa.

But the Walloon government is under pressure and has to save 2.5 billion Euro the coming years, and last weekend Walloon minister Jean-Claude Marcourt has warned that there will be a day the Walloon government will stop their financial support, and told the organizers they must do everything they can to limit the deficit. A bi-annual Belgium Grand Prix would theoretically cut the losses with 50%, which would perhaps be more acceptable for the Walloon community.

The circuit has a contract with the commercial rights holders for 2011 and 2012, so if the organizers would decide to alternate with the German Grand Prix, it will not be before 2013. Perhaps the FIA and the Formula One teams, united in the FOTA, should again urge FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone to preserve the classic European Grands Prix, and especially Spa. Because there is no way around it: this beautiful, and by drivers and fans, beloved Ardennes circuit was again the scene of a breathtaking race last weekend, and no one in his right mind would want to miss it for the world.

Hamilton is not number one

After his win in Belgium Mark Webber hinted it is about time Red Bull decides who is the number one driver in the team, but with only 28 points difference between Webber and Sebastian Vettel, it is perhaps too early for Red Bull to ask Vettel to back Webber. If a team wants to favor a driver, such a decision would only be acceptable when the points gap is unbridgeable, and that is certainly not the case within the Red Bull team. Jenson Button probably heard what Webber said, and he strongly rejected the idea McLaren would from now on favor Lewis Hamilton. The UK Sun headlined on Tuesday: "Jenson: I won't play second fiddle." Button is now 35 points behind Hamilton, but he reckons McLaren will not ask him to back Hamilton for his title bid.

Button won't play second fiddle.
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Button in the interview, "We [McLaren] will not do that. The Constructors' title is as important as the Drivers' crown." Button said he won't play second fiddle, even if it means McLaren would lose the title. "I don't fear either of us will miss out on the championship by approaching it our way. But if we do, we do - we're here to go racing," the Briton was quoted. Despite his optimism, Button seems nevertheless to be very worried, he has also been talking with the UK Mail, and they published a story where he claims 'Hamilton is not McLaren's No 1'. Although Hamilton is now McLaren's best card for the title, he is not at all worried about his position within the team, "The team don't need to tell me I'm the man now as there is no negative I can see. So long as the team are giving us both 100 per cent, there's no problem. It works for us now, so why not continue that?"

Korean GP again in doubt

German architect and circuit designer Hermann Tilke was in Spa last weekend to deny the rumors the Korean Yeongam circuit will not be finished in time for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix on October 22-24. Tilke, "I've read some negative stories in the press and I can tell you that we'll be there on 24 October. The weather has delayed construction a bit, but we're on schedule to get everything finished on time." Race promoter the Korea Auto Valley Operation (KAVO) has a seven-year contract with the FOA, and the official Formula One website reported this week the track is currently '90 per cent' finished.

The FIA has already violated their own rules, the 2010 International Sporting Code says the final inspection should take place 90 days prior to the actual event. But the regulations also state: " which inspection all work relating to the track surface, permanent features and safety installations should be completed to the FIA's satisfaction." Unfortunately this means there is plenty of room for interpretation of the rules, as '90 per cent finished' could be 'to the FIA's satisfaction'.

In the past photos of the works at the circuit have been published which showed the actual track surface was still not finished, in fact, there was no sign of a track surface at all. The circuit has been inspected by FIA officials at the end of July, and FIA safety inspector Charlie Whiting alluded to the fact that he he was satisfied with the progress. KAVO CEO Yung Cho Chung about Whiting's visit, "As anticipated, we had a successful visit and we are confident the drivers, teams and Formula One fans will enjoy the Korea International Circuit." Ecclestone also dismissed rumors the circuit would not be finished in time, and recently said, "It is still on the calendar, They will get it done somehow."

To further deny the rumors the circuit has again published photos of the circuit complex a few days ago, but the photos depict the buildings, as the team and pit buildings, the media center and the main grandstand, but none of the photos show the actual track. There are rumors the surface is now being laid, which would be just in time, as the asphalt needs time to set and cure before it is suitable for racing. This weekend will reveal the truth, the circuit will then be opened for the first time and HRT driver Karun Chandhok will give a demonstration for the Red Bull Racing team. In the event the circuit is not ready to host the Korean Grand Prix, it is very unlikely another venue would take over its place, there are only seven weeks left and it is next to impossible to organize a Grand Prix on such a short notice.

Vettel criticized in German press

German Red Bull driver Vettel has been criticized by the German press for the mistakes he has made this season, and are even suggesting his season is over if he doesn't stay out of trouble for the remaining six races of the year. The German Auto und Motorsport magazine reported Vettel made a number of rookie mistakes this year. In Turkey he eliminated himself and almost his team colleague Mark Webber as well when he assumed Webber would move out of the way, and they also criticized him for the safety car misunderstanding in Hungary, which again cost him a lot of points. After the accident with Button in Belgium the German press blames him of being too impatient, and suggest he should first think before he tries a risky maneuver.

Trouble Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing and Jenson Button, McLaren Mercedes.
Photo by

Niki Lauda also urged Vettel to use his brains in his column for Bild magazine, "Please Sebastian! You are a super talent in Formula One, but by taking unnecessary risks you will again destroy your chances for the championship." And the former three-time world champion continued, "One more mistake like in Spa and the championship is over. I understand he is under pressure after he has lost so many points, also due to technical problems, but if you look at Webber you will see he gets better and better each race, and makes less and less mistakes, although he is under the same enormous pressure as Vettel is."

Bild also headlined: "Vettel: Crash, chaos, title gone!", and quoted McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, "He is a real crash kid, this wasn't the first time this year, he is still learning, but we are now the victim [of his mistakes]." Bild also criticized Vettel's overtaking maneuver on Vitantonio Liuzzi, again he was accused of being too impatient to overtake the Italian, which in the end cost him the chance of scoring any points. The German press also suggests Vettel is not experienced enough, and hasn't learned anything from the mistakes he has made in the past.

Ex-McLaren team principal Ron Dennis was also present at Spa and told another German magazine about the incident with Button, "He could have avoided this accident, and he was lucky he got away with only a drive-through penalty. It is good if he pushes it to the limit, it is good when you attack, but there are many sayings in motor sport, and one of them is: If you want to finish first, you first have to finish."

Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".

See also: Formula One - On and Off track week 34

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