Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Kimi Raikkonen, Marko, Lauda and More
Formula One heads into a three-week break after the Chinese Grand Prix. The next race, the Spanish Grand Prix, takes place in early May.
Bernie Ecclestone should be there. His trial in Germany starts this week, with the F1 chief accused of paying a bribe relating to the sale of shares to CVC in 2006. But the court has kindly agreed to a part-time schedule, so he'll still be able to attend the races.
In other news, Kimi Raikkonen aimed a four-letter blast at a journalist who asked the wrong question, while Kevin Magnussen just wants to be left alone.
Also, there are signs a rivalry 42 years in the making is finally kicking off in earnest.
Bernie Ecclestone's German Trial Set to Start on Thursday
Bernie Ecclestone will stand trial in Munich on Thursday accused of paying a $44 million bribe to a banker involved in the sale of F1 shares to CVC Capital Partners in 2006.
At the time, Gerhard Gribkowsky was chief risk officer of BayernLB, a German bank which owned a 47-percent stake in F1.
Per The Guardian, prosecutors allege Ecclestone bribed Gribkowsky to push the sale of BayernLB's shares in the direction of CVC, because they had agreed to retain Ecclestone as the sport's chief executive.
Reuters says the shares were sold for around $830 million.
Gribkowsky has already been convicted of receiving the payment. He was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison in 2012 after admitting charges of corruption.
Ecclestone does not deny making the payment, but he claims it was unrelated to the F1 share sale. In his testimony at Gribskowsky's trial, he said he paid $10 million to convince Gribkowsky to not make public claims about his tax affairs.
"The only alternative was that the British tax authorities followed a case that would have been very expensive for me," Ecclestone said (h/t BBC News).
"The tax risk would have exceeded £2 billion. I paid him to keep calm and not to do silly things."
Hearings will be held once or twice a week until September, after the court agreed to a part-time schedule which would allow Ecclestone to continue running F1.
If found guilty, Ecclestone faces up to 10 years in prison.
But he's probably more concerned about the fact he'd also lose control of the sport.
Kimi Raikkonen Struggling with Ferrari but Still Motivated
Kimi Raikkonen feels part of the reason he was unable to come close to the pace of team-mate Fernando Alonso at the Chinese Grand Prix was his driving style.
When asked by ESPN whether the new chassis he received—his old one was damaged in Bahrain—had any problems, Raikkonen responded:
My view is that it's probably more to do with driving style, plus the weather with the cold conditions and not getting the tyres working. Obviously if there was some issue then we would not be fast or happy with the new tyres, so I think it's a combination of cold conditions, the circuit layout and my driving style.
Conditions in Shanghai were cool and the rain on Saturday washed away much of the built-up rubber, returning the track to "green" state. In such conditions, drivers who are kinder to their tyres struggle to get them working, and they tend to suffer disproportionately.
Raikkonen came home in eighth place, more than half a minute behind Alonso.
But his morale is still good. When asked about his motivation levels and whether poor results affected them, Raikkonen left the interviewer in no doubt that he'd asked the wrong question:
I don't know why you always come up with motivation. If I didn't have motivation I wouldn't be here answering these kinds of questions. It's f--k all to do with that. We have bad races and it's an unfortunate thing, but the aim is to improve and get where we want to be.
Raikkonen, whose motivation is repeatedly questioned, maybe has a point. It's difficult to find a reliable figure for his net worth, but celebritynetworth.com and therichest.com both say it's $130 million, so he certainly doesn't need the money.
He only races because he likes doing it.
Interviews, on the other hand...
Kevin Magnussen Happy to Go It Alone
Kevin Magnussen has revealed he is happier when his family do not attend races with him.
His father, Jan, drove in 25 F1 races in the 1990s and has been involved in the motorsport world for over 20 years. Currently involved in sports car racing, Magnussen senior told The Guardian back in January:
Now Kevin is in Formula One I've thought a lot about how long my career will go on. I've got to decide whether I can focus on what I'm doing or whether I'd rather be with Kevin. But I don't want to be his manager. I want to be his dad, and that's it.
We've become very close in the past two or three years and I want to be a good dad to him and be there when things go well but also stand right beside him when things go wrong. That's all I want to do.
But speaking to The Guardian's Paul Weaver in Shanghai, the younger Magnussen didn't sound too keen on the idea, saying:
I'm quite happy to be alone. For the reason that if I have family round I feel a distraction. It's nice to have them there, really nice, but then I want to spend time with them, and that's not good. It's frustrating. So I prefer them not to be there, really. I prefer to spend time with the engineers.
It's cool to have a dad who understands what you mean when you talk about oversteer or traction. But it's not a help at the race.
It's not the first time a young McLaren driver has expressed the desire for a bit of breathing space away from family members. Lewis Hamilton famously fell out with his father Anthony in 2010.
Hamilton's father had, up to that point, been his manager and a constant presence in the pit lane supporting his son.
But other drivers thrive on having their family around them, including Magnussen's team-mate Jenson Button. He was very close to his father, John, who attended all but one of his son's races before he sadly passed away in January this year.
Button's fiancee, Jessica Michibata, also accompanies her future husband to all his races.
Each driver must pick the path which is best for himself, and for now at least, it seems Kevin Magnussen is happier on his own.
Red Bull and Mercedes Rivalry Heats Up
At Red Bull's appeal against Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification last week, Mercedes attorney Paul Harris called for a greater punishment to be given to the team. In a statement to the hearing (h/t Sky Sports), Harris said:
We are frankly concerned that Red Bull have shown such a flagrant and deliberate disregard for the rules. There is a real risk that they will do it again. We must have a level playing field. The most effective way of ensuring that Red Bull do not flout further written and oral instructions from the FIA for at least the remainder of this season is for this court to recognise the severity of their infringement and to impose a further sanction upon them.
This came after Red Bull loudly led the objections to the "secret" Mercedes tyre test last May. The team used a 2013 car, which was not permitted under the regulations. As a result, they were banned from attending the 2013 Young Drivers Test by an FIA tribunal.
In an effort to diffuse tensions at the Chinese Grand Prix, Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda took Red Bull a Sachertorte—a famed Austrian chocolate cake.
But Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko was having none of it. Referring to Lauda's Sachertorte, he told German newspaper Bild (h/t Autoweek.com for the translation), "He thinks everything is over with a cake. I think the next time he wants to eat with us, he should put on a bulletproof vest.”
Diplomatic as always, Helmut.
Lauda had a long and successful career as a driver, but Marko's was cut short after just 10 F1 races when he was blinded in his left eye by a stone which pierced his visor at the 1972 French Grand Prix.
In the six races they competed in together, Marko—in a more competitive BRM—outqualified Lauda's March 5-1. They both finished in four of the races, and again Lauda was ahead only once.
Le Mans winner Marko's injury meant fans back then never got to see if a proper feud would develop between the two Austrians.
But 42 years later, it seems to be heating up nicely.