Pressure growing on cash-strapped Lotus

F1 Fanatic Round-up

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In the round-up: Lotus has sent its trucks to Monza after being given a payment advance by Bernie Ecclestone as their rumoured buy-out by Renault has led to an invoice from Pastor Maldonado’s sponsor PDVSA being put on hold.

Comment of the day

Nico Hulkenberg may have over-committed himself at Force India:

Best option available to him for 2016, no doubt. But I am surprised by his two year deal. He puts himself out of sync for some very good seats that are available for 2017. Ferrari, Mercedes each have one seat for 2017. Williams may take up Massa’s extension for 2016 but for 2017, all options may be kept open. McLaren also have a good chance of going up the order in 2016 and may have an extra seat in 2017.

Additionally, young drivers such as Ricciardo and Verstappen are out of contract in 2016 and these aforementioned teams will look to sign them on for a longer term contract as they have age on their side. What this means, is come 2018, when Hulkenberg (aged 31 then) is on the market, there will be very few good seats available to him. That will be very bad news for him.

I sincerely hope he has an escape clause for 2017.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Katederby, Notna and Derek Taylor!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is via the contact form or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

Ex-F1 drivers Jean-Louis Schlesser and Mauro Baldi won the World Sportcar Championship race at Donington Park on this day 25 years ago, for Mercedes.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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60 comments on “Pressure growing on cash-strapped Lotus”

  1. If Pirelli have to make that U-turn on the Vettel failure, then I can’t see them in F1 much longer.

    Ironically, this then leaves F1 back with Michelin, who left the sport after a high-profile failure in the tyres. It seems that the F1 tyre contract is something of a poisoned chalice.

    1. While it may be slightly embarrassing, I think this is actually good news for Pirelli. It would be unacceptable if the tyres were designed in such a way that the wear-out failure mode is a catastrophic tyre blow-out. If that were the case, Michelin would be positioned perfectly to take advantage. But, if it turns out that the blow-out was due to a cut, then the design is not fundamentally flawed. Either way, their desire to respond to events without the full facts needs to be re-considered.

      1. The thing is that the tires need to be able to resist cuts that are caused by running over the kerbs. Just because it was a cut caused by kerbs doesn’t remove the blame from pirelli if blame needs to fall on someone. Imho if the blame game really needs to be played here then fia is at fault too for not policing the track limits properly. In spa the lack of policing on track limits was blatantly rediculous with drivers going so deep off track in eau rouge that saying the drivers were 4 wheels of the track is putting it very very nicely indeed.

        The best and easiest way to prevent these type of cuts on tires is all ebout enforcing the track limits and building runoff in such way that going 4 wheels off the track flatout in every corner of the track is not faster.

        1. If the problem was caused by persistent driving outside the track limits, doesn’t that put some of the blame back onto the driver?

          1. It is the job of the driver to find the fastest line around the track. If that means going off the track to gain an adventage then they do it. It is the job of the race control to make sure the drivers respect the limits of the race track period.

            The issue is that while going over the kerbs can break many things on the car the tires are the one that usually have the biggest chance of causing a big accident. For example accelerating over rough kerbs can break your drive axles. That’s pretty harmless dnf. The suspension can break too. That can be dangerous. But when a tire explodes there is a high chance that the car will spin into a wall. That is because unlike all other situations the tire will always break at high speed.

    2. That should be COTD

    3. It seems that the F1 tyre contract is something of a poisoned chalice.

      Yep, even for Bridgestone & their high performance tyres.

      1. And of course it was the one race those tyres didn’t work that led to the orders given to Pirelli.

    4. I think that it was obvious that Pirelli’s blame on Ferrari was a desperate attempt to veer the pressure of the italian tyre maker. Obviously in business you don’t point fingers like that. Regardless of being one or the others fault, to keep the business rolling you ought to blame “god”. Even if you believe in the cut story, because of the frequency on the cuts you are sane to criticize Pirelli for making such a susceptible tyre. In my view the tyres must be getting cuts because of their poor make. Again the compound bond to the carcass seem to the trouble as in 2013. Taking in consideration that SPA is not a rough surface nor is make out of many high corners, I suspect Monza may be the grave for Pirelli as this track puts more rpm’s on the tyres than SPA. I’m predicting 3 tyre failures.

      1. I agree with the first part of you post @peartree: yes, it did seem the ‘blame Ferrari’ was an ill-advised PR attempt (may lead to Paul Hembery having to resign?).

        I am not so certain the cutting bit is purely something to blame Pirelli for – sure, we heard it a lot, and you’d think Pirelli should by now be somewhat wise to that, as debris is not quite unheard of.

        Then again, FIA keeps saying they guard the track limits, and that’s not happening much if at all either. The drivers, as Vettel says “didn’t leave the track” while still barely keeping to the white lines, so debris isn’t the only, and likely the less frequent, way these tires can get cuts.

        I think drivers could be more self-concious there, but ultimately, the FIA enable the current situation. They should either allow/tell Pirelli to do everything needed (stronger, possibly more durable, slower, tires) or force drivers to remain on track. Or, I guess, allow Michelin to show they can under all circumstances provide tires that work this time.

        1. The Motorsport magazine article contains the key question

          If the tyres were damaged by the seam in the track, the question then moves onto whether a racing tyre should be fragile enough that such an imperfection should cause it to blow out?

          I don’t think it should, the kerbs are used by the drivers at all the tracks, the tyres should be able to cope with this. If they are not how close were we to a Silverstone 2013 situation at Spa?

          There are reasons why the FIA take a relaxed attitude to enforcing track limits. For one thing even with GPS it is difficult to police all 20 cars fairly at every corner on every lap all in real time, for another excessive or petty penalties are not popular with fans especially when they ruin fights between drivers.

          The current situation is that teams and drivers are told on a track to track basis which corners the FIA deem that an advantage can be gained at, so they all know what is allowed or not and the situation is the same for everyone.

          Even if track limits were enforced can we be sure that two wheels on the track and two on the kerbs wouldn’t still have resulted in lots of cut tyres?

          Finally, the “cut” could anyway have come from debris (which may even have been on the track) and have nothing to do with either the kerbs or track limits.

  2. The pressure on Pirelli may be growing, but let’s take a couple of steps back. Pirelli, like other tyre manufacturers, are perfectly capable of producing a tyre that grips consistently and lasts an entire race. Their current predicament is due to their response to an FIA directive to produce fast degrading tyres. Any subsequent side issue, justified or otherwise, wrongly brings their competence into account.

    However, Pirelli’s current design has been found to be at fault in other areas, and the Spa performance appears to show a reoccurrence of the sidewall weakness that visibly manifested in Silverstone 2014.

    Driver safety is paramount, and if this is a known issue then the FIA, Pirelli, stewards and teams need to work together. Abuse of track limits is raised more and more frequently, yet when they are clearly defined the drivers (mostly) adhere to them. If the tyres are known to have a weakness that is exacerbated by taking excessive curb then the FIA must act accordingly and move to mitigate the issue, track by track, whilst Pirelli work on an improved design. Let’s not even get into the lack of testing time for new tyres afforded to Pirelli – every season is a work in progress, even if they’re not without fault themselves.

    Pirelli are not the same as an F1 team, changing multiple car components race by race. They’re more or less limited to the six types of tyre they produce at the beginning of the season. If there’s a known issue with those tyres then it needs to be managed by all parties working together. The current hysteria of Pirelli = bad, Bridgestone / Michelin / anyone else is better is simply wrong.

    1. Well said Greg. Some good points that too many people are conveniently forgetting.
      I can’t help but feel that Pirelli’s inconsistent PR stances aren’t helping them either.

      Pirelli are far from perfect but they also don’t deserve to be the whipping boy for everyone with something to moan about in F1 (both in the paddock and the stands).
      You used the right word for a lot of this: “hysteria”.

    2. +1 you said it better than I could have.

  3. a rearwards-facing camera on his car showed that the carcass began escaping through a hole in the tread

    Wow… There’s no way the tyre design should allow that.

  4. The curious thing about the “u-turn” is that pirellis theory, or claim, that excessive wear leads to catastrophic failure is not falsified. That’s still out there. It was made moot, at Spa, by an intervening puncture. But it’s not resolved. Drivers need to know if Hembry was just talking out of his rear end or if they can expect to have a blow out if the stint is too long at Monza.

    1. I agree, that statement was clearly of concern to both the drivers and the teams. It still leaves two questions for Pirelli.

      Can a tyre suffer a sudden catastrophic failure at the end of wear life with no warning signs or significant performance drop off?

      How can teams use Pirelli’s “indications” of wear life to plan safe tyre stint lengths if they can be so inaccurate?

  5. Does that mean that Gutierrez will be driving a Renault next year, alongside Grosjean?

  6. Bernie always has the capacity to surprise.

    1. People just have a go at the man for no reason. We live in a capitalist liberal world. He ain’t destroying F1, he’s the sole reason why this has not hit the self destruct button as soon as the big companies tried to overhaul the sport.

      1. The Blade Runner (@)
        2nd September 2015, 8:51

        Oh COME ON!!!

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        2nd September 2015, 10:56

        WOW. I….. No, I’m speechless. Just WOW…

    2. He’s only advancing payment due, it’s not really a loan.

  7. Bernie knows RBR needs Merc engines to keep them from withdrawing F1 before the end of their 2020 contract. Bernie knows Lotus is in-debt. Bernie sets up Renault to remarry Lotus, which drops the costumer Mercs to a new potential team… Bernie is just doing his job, in the end it is the best of both worlds, it keeps F1 afloat. I’m sure he’ll try to tilt the scales to his side as the teams are weighting too much on F1’s health.

    1. @peartree, Exactly what I was thinking. And besides Red Bull’s withdrawl threat, the idea of Mercedes dominating another year won’t sit well with Bernie. It would and arguably already is damaging the sport. Real competition at the front is needed.

  8. Bernie Ecclestone hands lifeline to Lotus (The Times – subscription required)

    “I thought I should cover the wages of the people there to make sure they were all right and so that Lotus would at least get to Spa and, hopefully, to Italy.”

    More on the Lotus situation (Joe Saward)

    “Making this public is clearly not something that Ecclestone would usually do (he loans money to teams on a fairly regularly basis), so there is clearly a desire to use the media to move things along rapidly.”

    We fans might not always like him but somehow somewhere I’m also confident he will be at the base of what will make F1 great again. He’s kind of like a father who thinks his child should manage on himself but when really needed he’s there to step in. Sure he got rich on it but the man dedicated his life to the sport and it’s not like others did not have plenty of opportunity to do so too.

    1. He’s kind of like a father who thinks his child should manage on himself but when really needed he’s there to step in.

      Now I’ve heard it all.

      Bernie is a great father.. especially to his sons Caterham, Manor, Force India, etc. He gives them a harsh lesson in life by not giving them enough pocket money as compared to his elder son Ferrari and his new favourite son Red Bull. A lot of these sons are made homeless when they run out of pocket money, but once in a while sons like Lotus get a little change to keep them from starving.

      We fans might not always like him but somehow somewhere I’m also confident he will be at the base of what will make F1 great again.

      Sure. He commercialised the sport at a great time.. (something a lot of people could have done equally well if you ask me), but lets not forget that he is also at the forefront of destroying the sport through for personal greed.

      Over the last 40 years there are very few sports that have reduced in popularity and have been nearly run in to the ground like formula 1 has. At the end of the day, it is a poor job by the management of the sport. I believe, like many other fans do, that he needs to be replaced, with absolutely no influence on the future of the sport

      1. @todfod Or, child Caterham and Manor can’t survive on themselves without father Bernie constantly coming in between. They are not strong enough and life isn’t always fair so in nature that means death. What is the point of having weaklings in the group if for example Haas is on its way.

        What I’m trying to say is; Yes the financial model needs tuning, but if teams can’t sustain themselves via sponsors and (little) prize money perhaps F1 is not the place to be for those teams. Be honest, what does Manor really contribute. Look at it from a business point of view (which F1 is and always will be).

        Manor is going into its fifth year and have not made a single step forward since limping at the back in 2010. Their entire 2014 effort is a utter waste of money and I don’t know what they promised their investors but they have been scammed.

        …nearly run in to the ground like formula 1 has. At the end of the day, it is a poor job by the management of the sport.

        Let’s not overreact. F1 has its flaws but it’s still miles away from no longer existing.

        I believe, like many other fans do, that he needs to be replaced, with absolutely no influence on the future of the sport

        I do too, because he is too old and stuck with old-fashion ways that he knows to improve the show. We need a fresh approach. But I tell you now we will be amazed at what this man means for the sport the day he is no longer there.

        Because let’s say Horner is to follow up on him, when is he going to lend a few millions to Lotus? How is he going to create opportunities for F1 to expand to new countries, etc…

        1. @xtwl

          but if teams can’t sustain themselves via sponsors and (little) prize money perhaps F1 is not the place to be for those teams.

          That would leave only 4 teams on the grid. That’s barely formula 1 anymore. As the commercial rights holder of the sport, he should have done a better job of making sure that the sport was profitable in a sustainable manner for all stakeholders.

          Because let’s say Horner is to follow up on him

          Please do not suggest Horner as a suitable replacement. The thought makes me sick.
          There are a lot of capable people who can resolve the issues with the team earnings, venue hosting fees, television and digital rights and the ‘show’ to get it back on track. It’s just a matter of having the right intention – for the good of the sport, that has to drive it… not greed

          1. That would leave only 4 teams on the grid …

            @todfod Hardly as these teams are here now, without the optimal situation. We even have one coming in. So if the situation were to improve we possibly would see more teams and bigger differences between them.

      2. They are just cousins, not sons.

    2. @xtwl I don’t want to sound like I’m always down on Ecclestone because he has done a lot of good for the sport and I do think there are times when he gets worse press than he deserves.

      But he more than anyone else has the power to make the kind of deep, structural changes the sport needs to prevent quality midfield teams like Lotus ending up in the precarious position they’re in. Instead he’s put thick wads of cash in the hands of the teams who needed least, and seems content to wait for the others (except the 2010 arrivals he terms the “cripples”) to reach crisis point before stepping in to dole out welfare money, keeping them beholden to him. I don’t see that as generosity, I think it’s manipulative.

      1. The Blade Runner (@)
        2nd September 2015, 11:00

        SPOT. ON.

      2. @keithcollantine I was trying to say he has done a lot of good for the sport but as you said with the power he has he should have it ‘easy’ to do more good now it is perhaps needed most.

      3. @keithcollantine Why I don’t think you’re wrong, I think it should be asked why on all Earth is Lotus in such a precarious conditions to begin with. A 200M debt is simply insane. Granted, some of it would have been compensated if the revenue-share system was fairer, but it still leaves Lotus as a terribly-managed team, financially speaking.

  9. @Sumedhvidwans Regarding Hulk situation, I don’t think it is as dramatic. Most contract in F1 can be broken, specially by big teams (which are the one Hulkenberg is interested in from FI).
    He has had some difficulties in the past to have a seat in F1 while he deserves one, that’s probably a reason to secure one for some time.

    And most of all, I’m pretty sure WEC was in the balance and few other team (if any) could offer him to race both in F1 and in WEC which is probably something he wants to do.

    Let’s hope he lands in a top seat one day, even if it is for a single year but I’m very curious to see how he will fare…

    1. Well that they can be broken, doesn’t mean they will. The smaller team will always ask for some compensation, if you followed the Bottas case, it’s pretty obvious that he missed that Ferrari seat because Williams asked around 10 million to release him, which the Ferrari board thought it was too much.

    2. Top teams don’t want Hulkenberg, simple as that. If they did, he would be already in one of them.

  10. I’m sure there’s a stipulation in NH’s contract to allow him to join a top team in 2017 should an opportunity present itself. He’s not stupid. An extremely intelligent guy in fact.

    For now it’s the best option for him, also with guaranteed Le Mans participation

    It’s a travesty he’s not there yet, as of the top 4 teams in the WCC’ 8 drivers he’s IMO better than at least 4 of them at the moment with a further 2 a question mark.

  11. The only numbers that matter to (Hamilton) belong to Senna, his boyhood idol. “People are always like, ‘Hey do you want to do what Michael Schumacher did?’” Hamilton said. “‘No, I’m only focused on what Ayrton did.’ That’s how it’s always been.”

    Hamilton is one of the great F1 drivers and very likely to get his third WDC this year.
    But he will probably never become ‘a Senna’! If Lewis wins the next 2 races he starts, then he’ll have 41 wins out of 161 starts – exactly the same as Senna.
    But it is (almost) impossible for him to be a 3x WDC with 161 race starts (which Senna is) and therefore will always fall short. We will never know what Senna would have achieved in races 162 and onwards!

    1. @coldfly Senna is over-idolized, he is one of the very best for sure, perhaps the best there ever was but Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso are just the Senna’s of this decade. I sometimes wonder had social media or blogging existed would people also have written Senna would never be ‘a Clark’, or Clark never ‘a Fangio’.

      1. @xtwl – it’s Hamilton himself though who defined Senna as his idol. Hence the comparison.

      2. Of course, people in the 80’s and 90’s had the same feelings that you have now.

    2. Never mind the fact that there are more races pr year now than in the early 90ies so Hamilton need more race wins to win as many WCD

      1. @t-wester Add to that reliability, a teammate like Prost for some time but also the most dominant car for most of his best years.

      2. @t-wester – fair point. But in Senna’s days there were many more competitors.
        Maybe you can build a model how ‘valuable’ each WDC is ;)
        Or just keep it simple!

        1. Imho, if LH’s self-imposed ‘test for success’ is to ‘do what Ayrton did’ he will never pass the test. It’s not about numbers. Even if Senna’s career had not been cut short, it would still not be about which driver hit which number after however many race starts. Eg. Other bands or groups or performers may have sold more records or made more money, but there’s only one Beatles.

          For me personally there was something mystical about Senna. For me there has never been another driver more born to do what he did. There were intangibles that make it hard to describe what Senna meant, and I simply have never felt that for LH, nor most drivers. That’s just me. Full disclosure I was a huge AS fan and have never been an LH fan yet appreciate what he has done in his career so far and I have the capacity to be happy for him at times even though I’m turned off by him at other times.

    3. I see the name above Hamilton’s on the wins list glaring at me. 41 victories in 150 starts with 4 WDCs and he is a peer of Hamilton’s, not an idol.
      It will be interesting to see who between Hamilton and Vettel writes the records once their careers have run full circle. We’re poised to see a great battle for the history books, in real time.

      1. I think records are irrelevant to who you see as a great in F1. For example Vettel did more for his reputation as a driver this year with his 2 wins than he did with the nine wins in a row 2013.
        Schumacher did more for his name driving that 1996 Ferrari than he did when getting 4 championships in a row in the early 2000’s.
        To me Hamilton is the best F1 driver we had this last decade and an amazing talent even if he never went to Mercedes and was stuck with one championship and driving at the back with a bad Mclaren-Honda car.
        In the same way that i think Gilles was a lot better than many who have championships on their name even if he never won one.

  12. As I said last week, I was told by a guy from Force India that over 100 tyres have suffered cuts through this year so far, Over 60 tyres suffered cuts at Spa.

    And also as I said last week the Pirelli tyres have been far more prone to suffering cuts than previous tyre suppliers have been & Pirelli haven’t ever done anything to try & rectify this other than the steel belt in 2013 which simply changed the way a tyre failed & caused additional problems.

    This is a big part of where the driver frustration comes from, They are seeing all these cuts & there seeing cuts blamed for failures & they have been voicing there concerns to Pirelli & the FIA for over 4 years & nothing seems to ever change.

    1. Adding to my above comment…..

      IF this whole concept of high degredation tyres is to blame for tyres that are more prone to suffering cuts & Pirelli cannot make them any more resilient then they need to speak up & say thats the case & insist that F1 move away from artificial degredation to spice things up. If the amount of cuts are not down to the high-deg concept & Pirelli are unable to do anything to improve things then clearly they need to step aside & let somebody else have a go.

      To be perfectly honest I think the best thing for F1 & the tyre supplier woudl be a tyre war, That would force the entered supplier/s to manufacturer the best quality, best performance tyres possible & gives teams options to switch if whichever supplier they have isn’t producing the best product. The benefit from a fans POV would obviously be we woudl see drivers able to push harder & higher performance tyres would drop lap times by at least 2 seconds straght away (As happened in both 1997 & 2001 when a 2nd supplier entered F1).

  13. Their frustration is understandable, the sport has been very fortunate that no injuries or serious crashes have resulted from these failures.

    1. This was meant as a reply to @gt-racer, so “Their” refers to the drivers.

      1. Nothing seems to ever change because the formula would not work if F1/Pirelli made changes we all know would be an improvement. F1 hasn’t been able to get off their downforce addiction. Therefore to try to create less processions from dirty air effect, we have DRS and bad tires as terrible (but easier) bandage attempts to counter the dirty air effect. Never mind even those have not succeeded in countering the dirty air effect, the only way one supplier of tires in F1 feels any marketing impact is if they agree to make tires to fail and be the talking point of F1, hand in hand with F1 wanting that. Two makers making better tires would get marketing impact from us constantly talking about what tires what team is on, which is why Michelin always said they want a competitor when they’re in F1. Keith referred to BE being manipulative, and the current format of F1 is manipulative and has not worked in enthralling people and growing F1. Changes couldn’t come soon enough, but I’m sure even F1 doesn’t yet know what that will ‘look like’ given how off the mark they have been with the implementation of this current format…eg BE immediately decrying the quietness of the cars, seemingly somehow not clueing in somewhere along the line in the 2 or 3 years of development leading up to the first race with these PU’s.

  14. Isn’t anyone else sick of Pirelli’s misdirections, terrible tyres, and outright lies???

    Does someone have to get seriously injured or killed before the FIA does something?

    Not to mention what Pirelli have done for F1 is hardly entertaining!

  15. Lotus’s stance is very bad.

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