Grand Prix Business Diary: Belgium

After a summer break, Formula One returned with a bang in Belgium: Spa and the Caterham teams have new deals, Christian Horner makes Red Bull's cost-cutting position clear and Toyota's return to top-line motorsport.

Spa-Francorchamps remains perhaps the most popular Grand Prix venue of the season for drivers and spectators alike but a complicated organisational and political structure and funding issues has meant it has lived something of a year-to-year existence on the Formula One calendar in recent times.

News prior to the weekend’s Grand Prix that the race has been confirmed until at least 2015 came as a relief to all. The new contract, according to locals, is at a lower annual fee and apparently without the annual escalator usually inserted into race contracts by Bernie Ecclestone.

It also locks the race in to its traditional late August or early September date this year. Local organisers said this year's Grand Prix will benefit the Belgian economy by some €43.4 million.

Caterham gives you wings

Caterham's quest for a point continues – the team has failed to score since it entered the sport as Lotus in 2010 – but there was positive news on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix as the team revealed a major new partnership with EADS, the aerospace and defence company.

Tied up no doubt in team principal Tony Fernandes' aviation interests, informed industry experts suggest the deal may be worth over US$10 million to the team – “good money”, as Air Asia owner Fernandes put it on Twitter.

The deal also includes a much wider partnership with Caterham's road and technical divisions, also now under the stewardship of Fernandes. Expect technology tie-ups and collaborations to emerge in the coming months. And perhaps even a point or two.

Cutting to the heart of the issue

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner might be in the midst of the title battle but he found the time to make his team's position on cost-cutting in Formula One abundantly clear in Belgium.

Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso are against enshrining the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA), a set of standards agreed by teams to bring costs down, in the FIA regulations.

Speaking to Autosport in Spa, Horner said: “Our feeling is quite simple: Formula One should not be run by accountants. It is a sport; and strong sporting and technical regulations are a better way to control costs than audits and examination after the event.”

Life after Formula One

It is nearly four years since Toyota withdrew from Formula One and it is fair to say that the Japanese manufacturer is little missed in the sport.

But proof there is life beyond Formula One, even for a car-maker, came at Silverstone in August with Toyota's first podium in a world championship event since Jarno Trulli's third place finish at the 2009 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Toyota's hybrid LMP1 car, competing this year in the World Endurance Championship, finished a competitive second on only its second outing.

And as Rob Leupen, Toyota Motorsport's engaging director of business operations, told SportsPro at Silverstone the World Endurance Championship is already proving a better fit for the Japanese: “I think we can say this type of championship and this type of racing is fitting a bit better to Toyota as a company than Formula One does, due to the hybrid and the technology.”


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