F1 Business Diary 2014: the United States Grand Prix

The US Grand Prix was a thrilling affair, but the backdrop to Texas’ third Formula One race was frustration and dismay at the scrambled state of the sport’s financial structures.

Formula One's financial elastic, stretched over many years and many contracts, snapped over the US Grand Prix weekend, as did the patience of the sport's smaller teams.

With Marussia and Caterham in administration and missing the race in Austin and next weekend's event in Brazil, there was a grid of just 18 cars – the smallest field since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix, which took place without the banned BAR team. The scrambled state of the sport's finances, and in particular a revenue distribution model which has become more weighted than ever in favour of the largest teams, was just about the only topic of conversation all weekend – at least until the lights went out and Formula One delivered a highly enjoyable Grand Prix, with action right through the diminished field. At one point on Saturday there were even murmurings of a boycott from three teams – Sauber, Lotus and Force India – who have been complaining all season about rising costs relating to the new generation of power units, the skewed way in which US$900 million is distributed amongst the teams (a separate issue is that only US$900 million of Formula One's multi-billion dollar pot reaches the teams in the first place) and the lack of decision-making influence they now have. Unlike the top outfits, the three do not have a guaranteed place in Formula One's strategy group, which sign off on any regulatory changes, leaving them very much out of the loop on many of the key decisions.

Ecclestone’s view

The boycott threat might have been a lot of hot air, but it drew some remarkable quotes from Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's chief executive but, crucially, a man who is now an employee of Formula One's owners rather than the owner himself. Most striking was this: “I know what the problem is, but I don't know how to fix it”. Ecclestone's apparent preference for tearing up the bilateral agreements Formula One, as the commercial rights-holder, holds with each of the teams is something the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren will not countenance. The differences between the sport's 'haves' and 'have-nots' was never more starkly on display than in this fascinating, frustrating team principals' press conference on Friday. The fundamental problem with cost-cutting measures, as has been pointed out by many, is that there is no template for how to structure a Formula One team and thus no real way of controlling how much is being spent. Ecclestone, interestingly, also pointed to the fact that agile decision-making was easier in the past when team principals tended to be the team owners. Now, sign-off is required at a higher level than those present in the meetings, leading to delays and different viewpoints. As it stands, teams are unable to agree on anything at all, the commercial rights-holder appears in flux and is apparantly content on continuing to drain the sport of cash and the FIA, world motorsport's governing body and the body with ultimate sanctioning and regulatory control, remains, rather shamefully, impotent. There are no easy fixes – there may not even be a fix – but, make no mistake, Formula One has found itself in a 200mph mess of its own making.

Steady Eddie

Attendance figures for year three of the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) are still to be released but, certainly from the television pictures, it had the feel of a big event, despite a bizarre piece of scheduling which saw the race take place at the same time as a Nascar Sprint Cup race elsewhere in Texas. Eddie Gossage, the impresario of the Texas Motor Speedway, certainly wasn't impressed with Formula One's diary-work. “Race fans shouldn't have to choose,” he said over the weekend. “Some chose here, some chose there. This was a shot at Nascar by Bernie. The folks in Austin should have been stronger and pushed back, but I think that's their relative inexperience.” Thankfully for Gossage, who seemed a touch sore about the whole thing, there will be no such clash next year, with the Formula One race taking place a week earlier as part of a new back-to-back with the returning Mexican Grand Prix. Bobby Epstein, the driving force behind COTA, is already billing it as the 'Tex-Mex two-step', a tagline we can only hope does not catch on.


News emerged over the weekend that Lewis Hamilton will not be renewing his management contract with Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment beyond the end of the season. The world championship leader – despite a lead of 24 points with two 2014 races to go, the double-points finale in Abu Dhabi makes it a touch premature to describe him as world champion-elect – says he will decide what he does next once the season has concluded. It would be no surprise to see Hamilton, a man familiar and comfortable with the celebrity lifestyle, decide to take more control of his future by going it alone and setting up his own management vehicle as the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rory McIlroy have in recent times.

Taste matters

As the Formula One community heads south to Sao Paulo for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, the business diary's resident chef George Dudley, head chef at London's Fox and Anchor and the author of the very fine Splendid Red Trousers blog, has once again delved into his big book of recipes to deliver this Interlagos-themed treat:

Brazil has produced the world’s greatest footballer, its best racing driver and the finest grilled steaks.

The sloping first corner at Interlagos is one of the most compelling sights in sport. So the art is to prepare a meal that will provide a real taste of Brazil and ensure you won’t miss this iconic moment.

A meat-laden Brazilian churrasco is tempting, however I have chosen healthier and less time consuming Prawn Stew (Moqueca De Camaroes), which ensures you will be able to focus on the race.

1kg raw Tiger Prawns, peeled & deveined (you can use cooked prawns which need a shorter cooking time)
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 jar of roasted red peppers, diced
1 bunch of coriander, chopped
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (chilli sauce to us English)
A bag of limes
Salt and pepper

To find some of the less conventional ingredients, you may have to summon the spirit of Senna and find some of the more exotic grocers.

After arriving intact and moved into Sunday morning the mind should move to food and sport. With the race starting at 4pm GMT, begin your chopping at 1pm. For ease of use leave everything in separate bowls.

Deveining the prawns can be tricky and messy but is relatively easy…after beheading and carefully removing the shell, run a sharp knife alongside the black vein. Repeat on the other side and gently coax out the vein. Your prawn should have the appearance of an elegant butterfly.

However, if it looks too much like hard work, buy a pack of cooked prawns.

A 3.30pm, like a well-oiled Mercedes pit-stop, heat olive oil in a hot pan.

Sauté onions for several minutes until translucent, then add the garlic and peppers and cook for 7 minutes more.

Add the tomatoes, prawns and coriander to the pan and simmer gently until the prawns turn pink

Pour in the coconut milk and Sriracha (chilli) sauce, and cook just until heated through – do not boil.

Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper and a flurry of freshly chopped coriander. Leave aside ready to serve hot.

With time the essence, leap to the freezer and grab a few cubes of ice and go to work on them with a rolling pin under a dishcloth. Pop the crushed ice into a tumbler and pour a liberal slug of Cachaça  into it. Pop a pinch of brown sugar in and stir vigorously. Finally squeeze the juice of half a lime in. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

With a warming shellfish stew and an ice cold caipirinha in hand, it is impossible not to have a grin to rival the great Rubens Barrichello's.


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