Sergio Perez, Force India, 2018

Paddock Diary: Hungarian Grand Prix day two

2018 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Months of rumours about Force India’s financial plight culminated in the team going into administration on Friday.

RaceFans exclusively revealed two major developments in the story: That the team’s development driver Nikita Mazepin is linked to a potentially vital injection of funds, and that the team’s current race driver Sergio Perez is connected to the legal proceedings against the team.

@DieterRencken explains how we broke the stories, and reveals more of Mercedes’ connection to the administration proceedings.

7am

Up and about; already it’s 24C outside and extremely muggy, the humidity generated largely by the Danube River which divides Budapest in two – or, historically, demarcated the counties of Buda, on the western bank, and Pest to the east. The consolidated city came later.

I stay in the latter suburb, 12-odd miles from the circuit, so am saved the trip across the river via one of two main bridges, both of which are challenging during peak periods.

I plan to grab breakfast in the paddock so I catch up on F1 and international news before leaving. So often ripples in far off places become waves in the paddock. For example, this week’s Economist special report analyses the Spanish situation and Catalunya, host of the Spanish Grand Prix, is obviously implicated.

9am

Head off for circuit and breakfast at 10am – full English at Williams, complete with bacon, beans and hash browns – before making my way to the media centre, where I’m forewarned about a High Court action against Force India. Details are hazy and no information is forthcoming; later I discover the action was brought by Brockstone, linked to driver Sergio Perez – yet a senior team figure maintains it’s a machine tool company…

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1pm

Time for the FIA press conference – info reaches me that Robert Fernley, due to appear on the panel, has not made the trip to Budapest, so clearly something is up. But what? I decide to observe the interaction between Otmar Szafnauer, Bob’s substitute, and Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff – and ’tis clear from their answers that there is more than meets the eye.

4pm

During the lull between the brief post-FP2 media interviews and sit-down sessions – caused by drivers attending their team debriefs and the FIA drivers’ briefing – I’m tipped off that the Mazepins are interested in investing in Force India, and this information leads to more digging. Still, one final piece of the puzzle eludes me – who/what is Brockstone, and why would it wish to place Force India in administration?

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5pm

Back to the day’s interviews, but my mind is on Brockstone. Checo Perez skips his media session – ostensibly due to a sudden need for physio – raising the question: Could he be linked to the court action? Dig, then dig some more.

8pm

Letter regarding Daimler's involvement in Force India's administration proceedings
Letter regarding Daimler’s involvement in Force India’s administration proceedings
I head for the hotel via a popular franchise food outlet. When I arrive my phone buzzes with the final piece in the puzzle: Brockstone is linked to Perez, being a front company for his dealings.

A number of calls – including trans-Atlantics – to check details, a few emails and various Whatsapp chats later, and the court puzzle takes shape – yes, Mercedes is directly implicated, as is sponsor BWT (see image).

News also reaches me that the FIA and FOM were kept in the loop throughout by the applicant parties, and it is clear this is no sudden knee-jerk debt collection exercise but a concerted action, and could have implications far beyond simply (a forced) change of ownership.

Editor Keith and I spend the next couple of hours knocking our exclusive into shape; I share the details with my other (German) major outlet, and, at midnight, it’s all done. We have an eight-hour jump on the paddock, which is extremely satisfying given the competitive nature of the F1 media.

1am

Still I can’t sleep – a combination of buzzing about the implications and humidity, but eventually fall into a troubled sleep as I ponder the fates of so many good people, some of whom have become friends over the years. How must they be feeling, I wonder?

Eventually I decide that the true culprit is CVC Capital Partners, the previous owner of F1’s commercial rights, who imposed the sport’s inequitable revenue structure on independent teams (which the sport’s current owners intend to overhaul in 2021). The sums owed by Force India to their external creditors amount to less than half the annual bonuses paid to the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes…

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2018 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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19 comments on “Paddock Diary: Hungarian Grand Prix day two”

  1. TLDR. Stick to just telling it as it is instead of this timeline nonsense.

    1. BlackJackFan
      28th July 2018, 11:38

      But it’s a diary…

    2. Says the person who embellishes TLDR…

    3. Please don’t assume other people (paying subscribers) share your view, my parents taught me a life lesson many years ago, ‘say something constructive or don’t say anything at all’.

      This was a good scoop and I appreciated the timeline as part of the Paddock diary structure. Once again thanks Dieter and Keith!

      1. Likewise. Great job with the scoop both @dieterrencken and @keithcollantine and thank you for this insightful post on how it came about.

        Personally I think the Paddock Diary posts add a bit of variety to the presentation of the articles here.

  2. BlackJackFan
    28th July 2018, 11:37

    While on Williams… Claire has asserted that not even Lewis could make their car go any quicker…
    Obviously she has to boost the moral of her current newbies BUT… if Lewis and Mercedes were agreeable, wouldn’t it be great to see Lewis give it a go…?
    I’d pay good money to see that – or Seb, Max, Fred, Dani…

    1. Fred?

      1. Fred Lastname?

        1. It’s either Fred Alonso or Fred Flintstone.

          1. BlackJackFan
            28th July 2018, 17:51

            At least Fred Flintstone had good brakes…
            ‘Fred’ has been used for Alonzo on many sites, for many years. It’s not derogatory.

          2. Well I had no idea. Any reason behind it?

          3. @johnmilk I think it started as a typo of “Ferd” (an extreme contraction of Fernando) on some of the older-style forums. I could not for one moment explain why that one stuck when so many others have not.

  3. I feel darkness in the air, a chilling cold breeze, the dark lord has laid his eyes upon F1. Don’t come back Bernie, leave FIndia alone

  4. The sums owed by Force India to their external creditors amount to less than half the annual bonuses paid to the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes…

    The most important sentence of your excellent diary piece @dieterrencken.

  5. The sums owed by Force India to their external creditors amount to less than half the annual bonuses paid to the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes…

    Oh yeah, because if F1 gave FI that extra money they would pay these debts and not just spend more money and keep doing shady stuff.

    Don’t blame the guy about to go to jail, who somehow managed a scheme where FI owns money to him. Blame Ferrari, Mercedes and Bernie. Makes sense.

    1. Oh yeah, because if F1 gave FI that extra money they would pay these debts and not just spend more money and keep doing shady stuff.

      FI is the single most efficient team in the paddock, whatever shady stuff they’re doing (if the actual team is even doing anything shady) they’re using that money better than any other team so they have more right than anyone to demand the sport change the payment structure.

      Ferrari and Mercedes did what was best for themselves without knowing what was going on with the other guys, Bernie Ecclestone is the one who first signed lucrative deals with them before going to FI with what pocket change he had left.

  6. Darran Donald
    28th July 2018, 20:44

    These diarys are awesome. I usually wait till day 4 is out then read them all together but reading how this came together, basically a whole day of investigating to get the facts out is a side of the sport i cant recall being put out like this during the race weekend, and the buzz of the moment while having in the back of your mind the effect on all the people effected by the news. Great scoop and great work. Hope it works out for the team and the staff!

  7. CVC or Bernie? either way the small teams were raped by them.

  8. Dieter-you have really hit on something good with your daily timeliness postings. This is exactly how a day at the races goes down. You learn things as the day goes on as you talk to people. Very entertaining and informative…

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