Wednesday, September 16, 2009

F1 Wannabe

Allure of F1 undimmed in Asia (source: Malaysian Insider)

A new design, manufacturing and technical centre will be built at the Sepang International Circuit. —Reuters pic

LONDON, Sept 16 — The allure of Formula One remains undimmed for Middle Eastern and Asian investors as the sport shifted further away from its European origins yesterday with the rebirth of Lotus as a Malaysian-owned team.

Leading Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes will be team principal after Lotus were awarded the 13th slot on the 2010 starting grid by the governing International Automobile Federation.

A new design, manufacturing and technical centre will be built at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.

“The cars will be made in Malaysia, by Malaysians,” the government said in a statement.

BMW-Sauber, who were left fighting for their survival after German manufacturer BMW announced in July that it was pulling out at the end of the season, hope to be racing against them after being rescued by Middle Eastern money.

BMW said Qadbak Investments, a Swiss-based foundation representing unnamed Middle Eastern interests, had signed a contract to buy the team.

Although Lotus have taken the slot that was BMW-Sauber’s, the latter team were given a reserve 14th place with the FIA also looking into a regulation change to allow the grid to stretch to 14 teams and 28 cars.

The Middle East already has two races for the first time this year, with the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix joining Bahrain on the calendar, while France has disappeared from the calendar.

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment fund owns a five per cent stake in Ferrari while Bahrain’s state holding company Mumtalakat has 30 per cent of McLaren.

A further 15 per cent of McLaren is in the hands of Saudi businessman Mansour Ojjeh.

The Gulf’s financial involvement could grow even further if media reports in Germany are correct about Mercedes seeking a 75 per cent stake in championship leaders Brawn.

German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport reported last week that Aabar, a major investor in Mercedes’ parent company Daimler, would hold the stake until the car maker’s exclusive contract with McLaren expires in 2011.

Malaysia and Singapore are now established fixtures while South Korea is aiming for a slot in 2010 before India makes its debut in 2011.

Indian aviation and liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya has already put the country more firmly on the motorsport map with his Force India team taking pole position in Belgium last month and grabbing two top four positions in two races.

Force India were formally Jordan, Midland and Spyker and remain based at Britain’s Silverstone circuit.

Britain and its “Motorsport Valley” has long been the home of choice to a majority of teams but the numbers are levelling out. Newcomers due to debut next season promise to take the sport out of its familiar surroundings.

USF1 have decided to base themselves in Charlotte, North Carolina which means that the championship that started in Europe 59 years ago with teams from just Italy and France could soon see cars being produced on three continents. — Reuters


Malaysian F1 team plans grand HQ (source: Malaysian Insider)

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 – Sepang International Circuit (SIC), a joint partnership involving the government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs for the 1Malaysia Formula (F1) One Team project, has allocated between 8,000 and 12,000 hectares for the development of the Made-in-Malaysia F1 team headquarters.

SIC chief executive officer (CEO) Ahmad Razlan Ahmad Razali told Bernama the headquarters, to be located at the circuit, would be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including a wind-tunnel, to test the aerodynamics of the Malaysian-made machines.

He said the headquarters, comprising an office, research & development (R&D), manufacturing, technical centre and other related departments, would be fully functional, two years after the preliminary works expected to begin by the middle of next year.

“SIC have chosen a suitable site for the team headquarters which will be located at the parking area before the tunnel, to enter the podium building.

“But it’s all in the preliminary stages. All the parties involved will have to sit together after the Hari Raya and submit whatever plans we have to the motorsports governing body, the Federation of International Automobile (FIA) for endorsement,” he told Bernama here today.

Ahmad Razlan admitted the cost to build the team headquarters at SIC would involve millions or maybe even billions of ringgit but could not reveal the actual cost because it was “still in the preliminary phase”.

SIC would only build the physical infrastructure but the hardware and software of the projects would be decided by other parties, he said.

Ahmad Razlan said cooperation between SIC and AirAsia began a few months ago when Asia’s low-budget airlines boss Datuk Tony Fernandes told him about his ambitious dream to set up an all-Malaysian F1 team.

For SIC, the idea will not only enhance the level of the company’s involvement in the motorsports industry but also show Malaysia’s direct involvement with F1.

“This is a new chapter for SIC ... as organiser of Malaysian F1 race to the niche Home of Motorsports and now, we can boast that we’re the hub for motorsports in Asia,” said Ahmad Rzalan.

Asked if the Malaysian-made machines would be on the grid before the Australian Grand Prix in March next year – the first round of the 2010 F1 calendar – he said the cars would be in Malaysia before the race.

“I can assure all Malaysian that the 1Malaysia F1 Team machines will be in this country before the Australian race, most probably for testing at the 5.543km Sepang Circuit.

“We’re not building the car from scratch. We already have the Lotus technology for the engines and within three month, the car is fit to be on the road. The Malaysian car has enough time to make a pinnacle for the motorsports industry. That, I can assure them,” he said.

He said the team’s technical director Mike Gascoyne had over 20 years experience in F1, and previously performed the same role for the Force India, Toyota, Renault and Jordan Formula One Teams.

Meanwhile, National Sports Institute director-general Datuk Dr Ramlan Abd Aziz said the institute was willing to share its expertise with the budding F1 drivers.

He said former national F1 driver Alex Yoong used to undergo physical training under the institute’s supervision as F1 drivers needed to be physically and mentally ready.

“If necessary, we will set up a team comprising experts to help in the training.

“However, before we provide any assistance, we must get the green light from the youth and sports ministry,” added Dr Ramlan. – Bernama


By Admin:

Will all these be another white elephant project where millions or even billions of tax-payers' RMs going down the drain? Petronas spent about 50mil pounds (approx. RM290mil) a season sponsoring the soon-to-be dissolved BMW-Sauber F1 team (the team will not be participating in the 2010 season), and that is just as a sponsor having its name and logo pasted on the cars.

So how much would it actually cost Malaysia to build a grand F1 HQ in Sepang, and to run and upkeep an F1 team? Millions? Billions? And where will all these lead to? How long can the team be sustained? 1Malaysia? (suck) People First, (no) Performance Later? In Bolehland, it's Malaysia Boleh, come rain or shine! CIAO!

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