Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Indian Grand Prix, Williams Livery and More
The Indian Grand Prix's future is in doubt after Bernie Ecclestone revealed the race will not feature on the 2015 calendar. The root cause is that the Indian government have, thus far, taken the facepalm side in that silly old debate—whether or not Formula One is a sport.
That needs to change for the race to return.
Elsewhere, Williams unveiled their beautiful new Martini Racing livery and a change of colour scheme could be on the cards for McLaren as well.
Here's the week's round-up.
Williams Unveil Martini Racing Livery
Williams unveiled their new Martini livery this week and in doing so catapulted themselves several places up the "most beautiful car" ranking.
The team have signed a title sponsorship deal with the Italian vermouth brand, and they will now be known as Williams Martini Racing.
In an emailed press release, team founder and principal Sir Frank Williams said:
Williams and Martini share a rich history in the world of motorsport, and the values of our two brands and our shared passion for racing make this partnership a natural fit. It will be great to see the distinctive stripes of Martini Racing return to Formula One once again in unison with Williams.
Martini Racing is a name with a long history in F1 stretching back to 1972. At various points the brand has adorned Tecno, Brabham, Alfa Romeo and Lotus cars.
Elsewhere in the motorsport world, the famous white with blue and red stripes has been seen on sports, rally and touring cars.
After such a promising preseason, the new partnership represents another step forward for Williams after enduring one of their worst years in 2013.
But the car may look different at a few races. Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, for example, generally don't allow alcohol advertising. Maybe they'll be allowed to keep the stripes.
McLaren Closing on New Title Sponsor
Sticking with the business side of the sport, this year's McLaren was launched and tested with no title sponsor.
The cars instead featured "MP4-29" in the usual title sponsor spots. This screamed "placeholder" and it seemed likely a new partner would be announced before too long.
This is indeed the case.
McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis told press at a media day (via Reuters):
Our cars will not feature a title sponsor at the first event. But they will definitely feature a title sponsor some time at the next few races.
Dennis went on to say the team were negotiating with a number of companies, and that any deal would be for at least two seasons.
The delay appears to be down to a bit of ironing-out on the financial side. Dennis hinted that the figures being pitched did not meet up to the expectations of the team, saying:
Inevitably when you have a run of poor results, people try and push the rate card down.
I won't accept that. I know what this company is and what its grand prix team can achieve. And that requires the correct recognition when it comes to the commercial relationship with a principal sponsor.
Rumours have heavily linked Sony to the team, per Auto Motor und Sport reporter Michael Schmidt (h/t GrandPrix247). Other names including Gillette have been mentioned, per Auto Motor und Sport (h/t World Car Fans), albeit with less conviction and frequency.
Indian Grand Prix Facing Uncertain Future
The Indian Grand Prix's future is in doubt after Bernie Ecclestone revealed the race will not feature on the 2015 calendar.
The Indian Grand Prix was ostensibly dropped from the 2014 season to facilitate a move from its usual October date to a new slot early in the year for 2015.
But now it seems the trip to the Buddh International Circuit won't be returning as planned.
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters:
At the moment, India won't be on for next year for sure.
Probably 2016...they're gradually getting over all the bureaucracy with the tax position inside the country and the general finance.
The tax position Ecclestone refers to is complex (it's tax, of course it is), but it essentially revolves around the way India classifies F1. The government considers it entertainment, not sport, and therefore F1 itself, the teams and drivers aren't eligible for certain tax exemptions.
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya, a native of India and seemingly not a fan of its tax system, spoke to ESPN last year about the main issue:
Yes there is a problem with India's tax authorities, but India's tax authorities tend to be a very difficult bunch.
Their logic is that there are 19 races and one race is India, therefore 1/19th of all revenue generated in Formula One is subject to Indian tax. From a narrow-minded, Indian tax man's point of thinking maybe that is justifiable, but we need to sit down with them and engage with them and say, 'Listen, this is not the only country that's hosting an F1 race. There are other countries that have been hosting F1 races for decades and they don't make the same demands. So how can you?'
While most of the governments in F1's "emerging markets" are keen for their countries to host races, India has always come across differently.
The Buddh International Circuit was constructed using only private funds, and the government has never appeared to care all that much. It could be that we've seen the last race in India for some time.
F1 Set for Return to Long Beach?
It emerged this week that F1 could return to Long Beach, California, after a break of more than 20 years.
The Grand Prix of Long Beach was first held in 1975 as a Formula 5000 race. F1 first visited the following year, with the event given the title United States Grand Prix West.
F1 departed after the 1983 season, and CART took over. In recent years, an IndyCar race has been held at the venue.
Long Beach local authorities met this week to decide whether or not to invite bids from rival series when the IndyCar deal expires in 2015. No consensus was reached, and the city council will revisit the issue at a later date.
But don't hold your breath just yet.
This one goes back to April 2013, when Bernie Ecclestone told ESPN he had spoken to the Long Beach race organisers about an F1 return.
Discussions never went into the finer details. If they had, one huge problem would have been high on the agenda.
Massive changes would have to be made to the circuit and facilities to get them up to F1 standard. The expense would be enormous and private investment would almost certainly be needed.
In addition, the F1 sanctioning fee (the amount race organisers must pay to host a race) would be significantly higher than the fee IndyCar charges—which is just $2 million, per Eurosport. Unless Bernie cuts them a deal, this might prove off-putting.
The council meeting regarding the contract does indeed raise the possibility of a return but for now it's still very much up in the air.
More concrete talks are needed before we can start looking forward to another race in southern California.