Frank Williams Sells His Share of Storied Formula One Team

By ADAM COOPER

AUTO WEEK

Williams F1 has sold a minority shareholding to an Austrian group led by investor Christian “Toto” Wolff.

The Williams team has been owned 70/30 by Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head since it was started in 1977. They have resisted overtures from potential partners, including BMW.

The 37-year-old Wolff is based in Switzerland with his partner, Scottish DTM racer Susie Stoddart. He made his money in a wide range of venture-capital investments under the Marchfifteen and Marchsixteen names. His holdings currently include HWA AG, which operates the Mercedes DTM program, and rally organization BRR, which runs the Red Bull junior team. He also runs a driver-management company with Mika Häkkinen.

Wolff also is a successful racer. He started in Formula Ford in 1992, but has focused mainly on GTs. In 2004, he raced a Ferrari 575 Maranello with close associate and former Formula One driver Karl Wendlinger in the FIA GT series. More recently, he has competed in rallying.

He is lap record holder at the full Nürburgring track, a feat achieved in a Porsche 997 RSR. But he wrecked the car on the next lap after a tire failed at 165 mph.

Now Toyota Quits Formula One

Sheesh…
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The Auto Beat

Posted by: Ian Rowley on November 04

At a hastily arranged press conference this evening in Tokyo, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda announced that the carmaker is the latest big player to quit Formula One motorsport. Toyota, which competed in 139 races after entering the sport in 2002, winning no races, will quit immediately. Toyoda said the company will also stop providing engines to the Williams team. “It’s a complete withdrawal” he said, citing the “the current severe economic realities”. Toyota follows Honda, which quit F1 last December, and BMW which entered its final race on Nov. 1 in Abu Dhabi. On Nov 2. Japanese tire maker Bridgestone said it would pull also out of the sport, saving $100 million a year.

While long rumored, Toyota’s decision to quit wasn’t a certainty. For one thing, since becoming CEO in June, Toyoda, a keen racer, has talked of giving Toyota a sportier image. At last month’s Tokyo Motor Show, Toyoda showed the $375,000 Lexus LFA supercar, which he a hand in developing, and the rear-wheel driver FT-86 sports concept.

What’s more, despite never winning a race, this season wasn’t all bad with several podium finishes. And, after an injury to first choice driver Timo Glock, Kamui Kobayashi, a Japanese driver who graduated from Toyota’s driver training scheme, impressed in the final two races. Toyoda said the decision had nothing to do with Toyota’s poor record in F1. Indeed, with Toyota expected to post a second consecutive annual loss this fiscal year, it is in some ways surprising Toyota took this long to quit. Running a F1 team can cost upwards of $500 million a year.

A bit like Honda last year, the decision may also make good business sense. Spending such large sums on a sport that isn’t a huge draw in the U.S. may not be the best use of limited resources, especially as F1’s heartland is in Europe where Toyota and Honda aren’t huge players. On yop of that, gas guzzling F1 cars don’t sit comfortably with Toyota’s carefully honed “green” image, while it’s hard to see their relevance to any of the company’s production cars, save the LFA. And, if all that wasn’t reason enough, F1 hasn’t covered itself in glory in recent times. In 2007, the McLaren team was fined $100 million for its part in a spying scandal. Last year, Toyota was one of several teams that put its name to a statement attacking Max Mosley, the chairman of the sport’s governing body after he became embroiled in an embarrassing sex scandal. And this season Flavio Briatore, the chief of the Renault team, was banned for life after instructing one of the team’s drivers to crash on purpose.

Michael Schumacher Returns To Formula One To Replace Badly Injured Ferrari Driver Felipe Massa; Gearheads Worldwide Experience Chills

Reaction to Schumacher’s return

michael schumacher

The news that Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher will return to the track and replace injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has fired the imagination of those in and around the sport.

The seven-time world champion will come out of retirement to step into the breach after Massa fractured his skull during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix and will cover for the Brazilian’s expected absence until the end of the season.

The German’s first race will be the European Grand Prix in Valencia on 23 August, where he will face British world champion Lewis Hamilton for the first time, as well as former foes Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen.

Here, BBC Sport gathers the reaction to the 40-year-old’s comeback from the great and the good of F1.

NIKI LAUDA, Three-time F1 world champion

“The return of Michael Schumacher is such a massive sensation that Bernie Ecclestone should pay him half his wages. Has there ever been anything more exciting in motor racing?

“I am not saying that Michael will win because that depends on the speed of the car but I have absolutely no doubts about his ability to perform as well as ever.

“I was 33 when I came out of retirement and he is 40 – but you are what age you want to be. I have no concerns about his reflexes. He will be brilliant.

“The most interesting thing will be to see him up against Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari – who will be faster? Put it this way: Kimi has to get his act together or be shown up.

“After all the politics, the return of Michael Schumacher is the best thing for him, Ferrari and Formula One. Watch him get in and go.”

JOHNNY HERBERT, Former F1 driver and Le Mans 24 Hours winner

“He looks after himself anyway, so I’m sure his fitness level will be to a high performance anyway but it’s the extra little thing he needs to do before he gets back into a car.

“Also, at least he’s doing from Valencia to the end of the year so it’ll give him time to get back into the situation or driving an F1 car and everything that comes with at the race weekend.

“He’s got everything to gain – Ferrari haven’t a won this year so if he comes out of retirement and wins for them this year, he’ll be the biggest god in Italy for sure.

“It’d be awesome if was able to do that, but I think it’ll be very hard – he’s got a very tough team mate to have in Kimi Raikkonen, it might wake him up.

“The other guy who was disappointed when he retired in 2006 was Lewis Hamilton, he always wanted to go against him, now he’s got the chance.”

MAURICE HAMILTON, BBC Radio 5 Live F1 analyst

“Schumacher’s canny racing brain, his ability to think of several things at once while driving at 175 mph, will be as sharp as ever but his fitness will not.

“No amount of graft in the gym will act as a substitute for time spent in the cockpit.

“That burning competitiveness, which clearly has not been extinguished by racing a motorbike and frequently falling off it while being an also-ran, will play havoc with Schumacher’s pride if, as suspected, his presence motivates Kimi Raikkonen like never before.

“In the past, the driver in the other Ferrari was number two, even if he dared to be faster, and knew his place. It would be a brave man who suggested to Raikkonen that he should fall into line.

“It is a splendid story for sport, for motor racing, for F1 – but not necessarily for Michael Schumacher in the long run.” MURRAY WALKER, F1 broadcasting legend

“It’s a gigantic mountain for even him to climb.

“I have no doubt that he will be physically fit and I don’t doubt that he’s mentally on top of it.

“It’s just that he’s bound to be rusty and he’s got very little time to catch up.”

JONATHAN LEGARD, BBC F1 commentator

“You’ve got to remember that Michael Schumacher just loves competition. I spoke to him last year about him racing bikes and it was clear that he did it mainly for the competition.

“The temptation was clearly too great. Once you’re a racing driver, you’re always a racing driver – you always have that competitive instinct.

“The cars have changed and are different to what he left in October 2006 but I can’t believe that it will take him too long to blow away a few cobwebs. Whether he can be a winner is another matter.”

EDDIE JORDAN, Former F1 team boss and BBC pundit

“Michael Schumacher is absolutely hard core.

“I think whether he is 20 or 40 years old makes little difference.

“His reactions may be a millisecond away but then he was a millisecond better than everyone else previously so I think he’s just levelled it out.

“Well done to Ferrari for making this happen but especially well done to Michael because he has nothing to gain out of this and a lot to lose.

“I’ve been massively critical of Kimi Raikkonen and I think this is going to be the big wake-up call for him.

“You will see a new Raikkonen because he will not want to be disgraced by Michael.

“In fact, it could rejuvenate the whole of the Ferrari team, which has been a bit lacklustre this year.”

JODY SCHECKTER, Former F1 world champion

“Niki Lauda came back and won the world championship, so it’s not impossible.

“He’s been trying to become competitive on motorcycles, which is probably more stupid. You’ve got to say he’s probably the greatest of all time in F1 so I would think he’ll be competitive pretty quickly.”

JOHN WATSON, Former Brabham and McLaren driver

“Michael will spend a lot of time in the Ferrari F1 simulator between now and Valencia.

“He’s not race fit but that simulator is almost as good as the real thing. Believe me, he will not go to Valencia unless he thinks he has not only a chance to pick up points for the team but also that he can win the race.

“There’s every chance he will be there for the rest of the season. Michael will be the best available to Ferrari – and he might be so good that they will offer him a drive for 2010.”

Felipe Massa Seriously Hurt in Formula One Crash

Massa Injure Bad
July 27, 2009

Ferrari’s Massa Stable After Surgery on Skull

By BRAD SPURGEON

BUDAPEST — Felipe Massa, a Brazilian driver who finished second in the Formula One series last year, was in stable condition Sunday after surgery for a skull fracture, his Ferrari team said.

The Brazilian was injured Saturday in a qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix when a spring from another driver’s car struck his head while he was driving at more than 250 kilometers, or 156 miles, an hour.

Massa, 28, was taken to the AEK Hospital in Budapest by helicopter, where he was found to have suffered damage to his skull and a concussion. Although he was conscious upon arrival at the hospital, doctors placed him in an artificial coma and operated to repair the bone.

“Massa’s condition remains stable and there were no further complications through the night,” the Ferrari team said in a statement Sunday. “He will be given another CT scan today.”

The accident happened less than a week after Henry Surtees, 18, a Formula 2 driver and son of a former world champion for Ferrari, John Surtees, was killed at a race in England when a wheel that had come off another car struck him in the head, killing him.

Formula One officials said that they would look into whether any further safety measures may be taken, like putting canopies over the drivers’ heads.

Massa’s accident occurred during the second part of the qualifying session. His onboard television camera showed the car going down the track at speed, then straight off into a tire wall, where Massa remained motionless.

In slow motion, the footage showed a wheel spring that had come off the Brawn car of Rubens Barrichello, another Brazilian driver, had bounced down the track and hit the front of Massa’s car before smashing into his helmet. The Brawn car was about four seconds ahead of Massa’s Ferrari at the time.

Ross Brawn, the owner and director of the team, said the spring weighed about 700 to 800 grams, or about 1.5 pounds. He said the team would look into why it had come off.

Formula One cars have open cockpits, which leave the drivers’ heads exposed. The last death of a driver in a race was that of another Brazilian, Ayrton Senna, at Imola in 1994. He was struck in the head by part of his own car’s front suspension during an accident.

Formula One later raised the height of the car body around the drivers’ heads, but the front and top of the helmet remain exposed.

Brawn found a positive element, saying he thought Massa had survived largely because of advances in helmet technology. The front of the top part of Massa’s helmet was damaged, but the whole structure remained intact.

Massa began racing in Formula One in 2002 with Sauber. He joined Ferrari in 2006. Last year he was edged out of the title by Lewis Hamilton in the final race.

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