Welcome to FOX Sports’ Live Formula One blog from the Circuit of the Americas! We have all the latest commentary from the Thursday driver press conference prior to Sunday’s USGP.
Thursday Notebook: Leaving Sauber For Lotus Was Too Risky, Says Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg says he chose not to drive leave Sauber to drive for Lotus in the final two races because it would have been too much of a risk.
Lotus could not give the German any guarantees for 2014.
“Of course it is attractive and sounds attractive from the outside,” he said. “On the other hand it was for the last two races, which brings also some risk with it. And also after that you have to see the bigger picture which is beyond after two races, what can happen there. And that’s why we came up with this decision.
“I just went there to see Eric [Boullier] and to speak face-to-face about these two races as well, because obviously the future and next year is important as well, and that’s why we went to see each other and speak face-to-face.”
Regarding the risks, he said: “Stepping into a new car, which you don’t know. If I had stepped in there I don’t think people would have expected me to beat Romain right away, he seems to be fairly comfortable in the car now and in the team, he’s delivering very good results now.”
When asked if he would have made a different choice if there was a 100% guarantee of a Lotus seat in 2014, Nico stated, “I think had that been the case that would have been a big change in the plan, for sure.”
As to whether moving at this stage would have ended his chances of driving for Sauber in 2013 he said: “Exactly…”
Hulkenberg admitted to some frustration about now knowing where his future lies.
“It is a bit tricky, and a patience game, a bit of a mind game, to be delivering and not knowing about the future, it’s a bit tricky. Of course I’d like to know weeks or months ago what I’m doing. The answer is this is it, so I have to live with it and cope with it. It’s not me, half of the field is not knowing what they are doing. From that point of view on a race weekend you have to black that out, keep delivering, that’s all I can do on the circuit.
“I’m aware that we have to keep out eyes and ears open, we can’t let it slip through our hands. I think there are options and opportunities for me to be somewhere.”
Late McLaren Decision Came As A Shock, Says Perez
Sergio Perez insists that he only found out this week that he was on his way out of McLaren, and had firmly believed that he would be staying on with the team.
“I found out a couple of days before you found out, so it was a very late decision,” he said in Austin today. “I had no idea, it just came as a shock to me because the team was always giving me good feedback, everything was pretty much settled down and I was going to stay with the team but then something happened in the last few weeks so they decided not to… It puts me in a very difficult position now, to look forward for my future.”
Nevertheless he said he didn’t feel let down by the team, especially in terms of the timing.
“No, not let down at all. As I said, it’s been a difficult year. People from the outside can think whatever they want, but inside the team, every single person that works in the team knows the amount of pressure we are having, everyone, from Jenson, myself, Martin, everyone, everyone. With McLaren and the year that we have had it was so disappointing for everyone so they have had to make some changes and yeah, they had to change me, and that’s racing.”
Regarding his future he said: “I know there are some options. As I said before, I want to stay in Formula One but I will no stay in F1 just to stay. If I don’t find the right option for myself then I have to look at something else but I’m pretty confident something good will happen and hopefully I find a good seat. I think I have a lot to offer a team.
“I have been three years in F1, one year with McLaren. A very difficult year but I think I learned a lot. I think this year, although it has been very difficult and probably one of the worst in terms of results for myself, I think I am a good driver and I can do good things out there.”
Magnussen Confirmed For McLaren Race Seat
McLaren has confirmed that Kevin Magnussen will race alongside Jenson Button in 2014, replacing the departing Sergio Perez.
The news comes as no surprise after the Dane emerged as a serious candidate over the past few weeks. The team is clearly hoping that the 21-year-old will emulate Lewis Hamilton, the last protégé to be promoted to a race seat.
Magnussen stated: “I’m absolutely overjoyed to be making my Formula 1 debut with McLaren. I’ll put it simply: this team is the best. It’s been my dream to drive for McLaren ever since I was a small kid, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve dedicated almost every day of my life to achieving the goal of becoming a McLaren Formula 1 driver.
“I have an enormous amount of respect for everyone at McLaren, and I want to say a massive ‘thank you’ to everyone, but most of all to Martin and his senior colleagues, for giving me this chance. I won’t let you down, guys!
“Equally, in Jenson, I have absolutely the ideal team-mate. He’s extremely quick, obviously, but he’s also very experienced and superbly capable from a technical perspective. He’s a Formula 1 world champion, which is what one day I also hope to become, and I’m determined to learn as much as I can from him.”
Martin Whitmarsh added: “We’re delighted that Kevin will be joining Jenson as a McLaren Formula 1 race driver for 2014. Their confirmation is an important step for us as we continue to strengthen our organization ahead of the 2014 season.
“Next year, we’ll witness the biggest raft of technical changes to Formula 1 in many years, and every team and manufacturer will be pushed to the limit as they try their best to adapt to those new challenges.
“Jenson’s race-winning speed, intelligence and racecraft have long been a crucial advantage to McLaren, but it’s his skill as a development driver and his peerless technical feedback that will be equally valuable as we make the transition into a new and complex technical formula during the winter and new year.
“Kevin, too, is clearly very talented and very determined, and we therefore have high hopes for him. Moreover, every time he’s tested our Formula 1 car, he’s been very quick and very methodical, and his feedback has been first-class.
“Furthermore, the manner in which he won this year’s World Series by Renault 3.5 Championship was truly outstanding, showcasing as it did not only his impressive natural pace but also his increasing maturity and ability to structure and manage a championship campaign.”
Whitmarsh also had a few words for Sergio Perez: “Last but very far from least, I want to take this opportunity to thank Checo, who has developed well during a difficult season, as his recent run of points-scoring finishes underlines. He’s a lovely guy and a fine driver – fast and combative – and I’m sure he’ll build on that firm foundation in 2014. All at McLaren wish him well for the future.”
Lotus Confirms Kovalainen As Raikkonen’s Replacement
Lotus has finally confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen will compete in the last two races of the season in car number seven.
Eric Boullier said that the team had considered Davide Valsecchi, but made no mention of dealings with Nico Hulkenberg or a somewhat ambitious request to Michael Schumacher.
Boullier stated: “Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo.
“On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki.
“Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible. We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”
Kovalainen said: “It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013. We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible.
“Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed. This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”
Ward Forced To Withdraw, Leaving Todt Unopposed
David Ward has withdrawn from the FIA election after failing to get the required support from members for his nomination – which means that President Jean Todt will now be unopposed and thus has four more years at the helm of the FIA.
Ward had written to the FIA confirming his withdrawal, and took the opportunity to point out the perceived flaws in the system that did not allow him to take part in the election. It’s been clear for some weeks that the letters of support Todt obtained while touring the regions on FIA business earlier this year would make it almost impossible for a second candidate to be nominated.
Ward’s letter is reproduced in full here:
I am writing to confirm my withdrawal as a candidate in the 2013 FIA Presidential election. It has not proved possible for me to secure the required number of regional Vice Presidents for Sport to ensure the eligibility of my list. I, therefore, would like to offer my congratulations to Jean Todt who will secure a second term uncontested, if not unopposed.
As I explained when I launched my candidacy in September, my reason for standing has been to promote transparency, accountability and democracy in the FIA. For many years the FIA has struggled with governance reform. All too often it takes one step forward and then two steps back. This is clear from the current election which is being run on a shorter presidential list than the 2009 but which is offset by a new requirement for 26 nominating clubs. The 2009 eligibility threshold was 23 but has now risen to 37 which is the highest ever in the history of the FIA.
The need to obtain seven Vice Presidents for Sport has given control over whether or not there can be a contested election at all to the FIA’s sport regions. Moreover the use of support agreements in advance of the election makes it very hard for any candidate to obtain the required Vice Presidents for their list. In the FIA’s North American region eleven out of the twelve clubs signed an agreement to support Jean Todt in March. This left only one club available to provide a Vice President for my list. Clubs from the region that are sympathetic to my candidacy would have to break their previous pledge of support. It is understandable that they have been reluctant to do so.
Fortunately some clubs have understood the need for change. Statute amendments have been submitted to the General Assembly to delete Vice Presidents of Sport from the presidential list and cut the number of club nominations. If passed the eligibility requirement for future FIA elections would be just seven. This would encourage multiple candidates to stand and restore fairness to the FIA election system.
The statute changes would also give sport regions the right to directly elect their own Vice Presidents for Sport. This would strengthen their accountability to the regions that elect them. According to the Senate President Nick Craw, “the idea of electing Sport VPs democratically is not practical”. I strongly disagree with this. It is perfectly practical to be democratic. The FIA’s Vice Presidents for Mobility are elected in this way; so are the Regional Presidents of the Federation Internationale de Motorcylisme (FIM). The reason why the FIA leadership finds democracy impractical is that they fear it would be less easy for them to control regions that elect their own leaders.
The current FIA model is government of the leadership, by the leadership, for the leadership. I think it would be better if they took their inspiration from President Lincoln. The FIA’s government should be of the clubs, by the clubs, and for the clubs.
I believe greater democracy among the clubs and their regions is essential to the future growth and vitality of the FIA. This is particularly important in a world in which mobility and motor sport will grow fastest in the newly motorising economies of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
These are the regions where elected Vice Presidents can develop the skills and experience needed for higher office. Then, as happened in the FIM a few years ago, perhaps a non-European can be elected as FIA President.
My candidacy in the 2013 election has not been motivated by a burning ambition to serve as President of the FIA. My clear preference would be for a club President to be elected to that role, supported by the appointment of a new Chief Executive. That is why I have described myself as a reluctant candidate. What I have tried to do is to encourage debate about the flaws that exist in the FIA’s governance system. I am satisfied that I have succeeded in that. Indeed I have received many supportive comments about my manifesto ‘Agenda for Change’ and I hope the ideas it contains will serve as a catalyst for further reform.
If the statute amendments are passed on 6th December the FIA will have taken a significant step towards a more democratic future. I very much hope that the amendments will not ‘talked out’ by the leadership in the World Councils, but voted on by secret ballot in the General Assembly.
Whatever the outcome, I think progress in the governance of the FIA is inevitable. We are living in an age of transparency with new demands for accountability from governments, corporations and sports federations alike.
Last week the new President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach speaking in the UN General Assembly said that sports organisations need to justify their autonomy and demonstrate good governance.
He explained that the IOC’s Universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic Movement should be accepted as a minimum standard at all levels of sport. I fully agree with President Bach and urge the FIA membership to study the Universal Principles carefully and use them to guide further reform to improve the FIA’s transparency, accountability and democracy.
I have had the privilege to work in various capacities with the FIA and the FIA Foundation for twenty years. It has been a very rewarding experience both professionally and personally. I would like to especially thank the supporters of my campaign, the clubs willing to nominate me, and all those who encouraged me to stand. For me it has been a very positive experience. I wish all my friends and colleagues in the very best of luck as you continue to develop the FIA’s vital role promoting motor sport and mobility around the world.