F1 Business Diary 2015: the Hungarian Grand Prix

It was a weekend of mixed emotions for Ferrari in Hungary, as a race that started with a moving minute’s silence for former reserve driver Jules Bianchi ended in victory for Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took all the plaudits after producing a dominant drive to win an incident-packed race at the Hungaroring, but it was Jules Bianchi who was at the centre of everybody’s thoughts in Budapest and around the world of motor racing. On a weekend of remembrance, Vettel and Ferrari led the tributes to the Frenchman, dedicating their victory to the team’s former reserve driver after members of the paddock gathered on the grid for a moving minute’s silence for one of Formula One’s most prodigious young talents.

“Merci Jules, c’est a toi,” Vettel said on the Ferrari team radio after taking the chequered flag. “Thank you Jules, you will always be in our hearts. This win is for you.” 

Bianchi's parents were in attendance in Budapest and watched on as further tributes were paid to their son, who passed away on 17th July, nine months after suffering severe head injuries in a crash at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. Red Bull drivers Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo, both of whom joined Vettel on the podium, dedicated their somewhat unexpected results to Bianchi, while others carried tributes on their helmets and cars or sent messages of support on social media.

Forza Ferrari

Vettel’s second victory for Ferrari provided a fitting finish to a difficult week for everybody involved with the Maranello-based outfit. “It has been an incredibly tough week for all of us and, for all the people at Ferrari, who know that, sooner or later, he would have been part of our team,” said Vettel, who recorded his first ever win in Hungary to match Ayrton Senna’s record of 41 career victories.

Vettel’s comments came after former Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo revealed earlier in the week that Bianchi was being lined up to replace the under-performing and under-pressure Kimi Raikkonen at the team. “Jules was one of us; part of the Ferrari family,” Di Montezemolo told Sky Italia. “The Suzuka incident took away from us a first-rate person; reserved, quick, very educated, very close to Ferrari, who knew how to interact with the engineers. In short we lost a driver with a certain future.”

Former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, who resigned in April last year, added: “Jules was always at Maranello. Every day he came to the factory to grow and nurture his dream of driving for Ferrari. Our idea was that, after Marussia, he should go to another team to grow and be ready for the big leap. That is what we planned some years ago but unfortunately fate took him away.”

Spaghetti Arrivabene

Vettel’s unerring performance in Sunday’s race was reminiscent of his dominant drives at Red Bull and lauded by many within the Formula One world, but not everybody was happy with how it was covered on television. With much of the coverage provided in the world feed rightly focusing on the dramatic, wheel-to-wheel racing going on well behind the German, Gianfranco Mazzoni, a commentator for Italian public broadcaster Rai, suggested that Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management (FOM) were purposely keeping coverage of both Ferrari cars to a minimum.

According to Mazzoni, the perceived boycott was down to the fact that Ecclestone is currently embroiled in a dispute with Ferrari team chief Maurizio Arrivabene, with Ferrari’s lack of airtime branded by Mazzoni as a “shameful” ploy by Ecclestone to limit the team’s exposure. Mazzoni even urged Italian viewers to complain to FOM directly but Arrivabene and Ecclestone were having none of it – Arrivabene called Mazzoni’s accusation “absurd” while Ecclestone said he “did not notice a boycott of Ferrari”.

Though Arrivabene refused to go into detail on Mazzoni’s accusation – or, for that matter, the future of Kimi Raikkonen – he did use his post-race interview with the BBC as an opportunity to fire a shot at another detractor. In the wake of Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda’s suggestion that Ferrari’s recent struggles were down to the fact the team “mucks about with spaghetti rather than improve their car on the track”, Arrivabene said: “Last night I had a pizza Arrabbiata as I do not like spaghetti so much.”

For those who don’t know, Arrabbiata is a tomato-based sauce with a fiery kick and literally means 'angry' in Italian. There’s nothing like a war of words to spice things up in the paddock.

Sauber doubling down

Sauber's weekend began with the news that they had re-signed drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr for the 2016 season. The Swiss team’s decision to keep the pair, who finished tenth and 11th respectively in Hungary, ends speculation that both might have been heading elsewhere. In the days leading up to the announcement, Brazilian Nasr, 22, had been linked with a move to his former team Williams, while 24-year-old Ericsson was also rumoured to be on his way, possibly even to IndyCar.

“We are pleased about the extension of the contracts with Marcus and Felipe. This early point in time shows that the drivers and the team are sure they are heading in the right direction,” Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber’s team principal, said in a statement.

“We have full confidence in the talents and skills of Marcus and Felipe. Both have shown solid performances, gained experience and learnt quickly. We enjoy having them in the team and they give it a positive boost. Despite their young ages, they work very professionally – on as well as off the track. Marcus and Felipe are already involved in a very dedicated way with the development of next year’s Sauber C35.”

News of the renewals increases the likelihood that Sauber, who currently sit seventh in the constructors’ championship with 22 points, will now put pen to paper on similar extensions with Banco do Brasil and Silanna. Banco do Brasil followed Nasr to Sauber from Williams and is reported to be backing him to the tune of US$24 million, while Silanna, an Australian-headquartered semiconductor company, supported Swedish youngster Ericsson in his Caterham days.

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