Thursday, December 10, 2009

Contracts Are Meant To Be Broken

Robert Kubica is back where he started; with Renault. Kubica had started his professional racing career in Formula Renault almost a decade back. Now with the departure of BMW leaving him out in the cold, his career has landed with a team considering exiting the sport. The Pole's immediate career is laced with uncertainty.

There were bruits placing him with a 2010 Ferrari seat and has even been linked to the vacant seat in Mercedes Grand Prix. One may say that he has already signed for Renault next season but that confirms nothing. And if not Michael Schumacher, Kubica may well be the surprise that Norbert Haug may be referring to. Pay no heed to the signature. It guarantees nothing.

A recurring keyword in Formula 1, Michael Schumacher, supposedly had a contract with Jordan in 1991. After a messy deliberation, Schumacher found himself behind the wheel of a Benetton in the next race. Schumacher’s entry into Formula 1 was attributed to Mercedes as they were involved in a sportscar series for which he represented. Mercedes had plans to enter Formula 1 and the sportscar programme was a prelude to the show. Schumacher would be a protagonist, if not the protagonist for the programme. Their plans were delayed and by the time Ron Dennis could try and convince him to board his ship, Schumacher landed at Maranello and made history.

2009 Word Champion Jenson Button too had his share of breaking contracts. Button’s finest season before this year was in 2004 when he finished third in the championship, behind the two Ferrari drivers. He had managed to get ten podium finishes in eighteen races. During the course of the season, it was established that he had a contract with Williams for the following two years. He had started his career with Williams in 2000 but drove for them only for that year alone. Williams, who were looking to replace Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, were looking to acquire Button for 2005, waving the contract under BAR’s nose. Button was released to BAR after reaching a financial settlement with Williams settling an eighteen month dispute. The settlement is said to be paid by Button at an estimated £20 million.

Kimi Räikkönen announced his sabbatical from Ferrari even though he was contracted to the team for 2010. It started when Diario AS, a Spanish newspaper, reported mid-season Fernando Alonso’s move to Ferrari for 2010, releasing a floodgate of rumours and speculation. Ferrari denied such stories and reminded us all that Räikkönen was contracted with them for 2010. The year’s worst kept secret was out. Ferrari has been reported to have paid Räikkönen €17million as an early termination fee.

Giancarlo Fisichella’s move to Ferrari in 2009 had roots in the severed Ferrari engine deal. Another dishonored obligation settled.

Toyota had committed to F1 until 2012 under the Concorde Agreement. And in retrospect, even though a binding accord had Toyota’s initials on the dotted line, the team left with an apology from Toyota president Akio Toyoda. Toyota, in this regard, may be let off lightly as Ecclestone does not want to set a precedent of whipping the guilty lest he scare off other potential teams in the future. One of the clauses in a Concorde Agreement is the responsibility of the teams to participate in every race for commercial purposes. The teams in turn would get a percentage from the sports commercial revenue. Super Aguri’s departure mid-season in 2008 meant a bigger piece of the pie for other teams. In rumination, Super Aguri's signed papers were archived.

No guarantees. The whole business is like a divorce settlement. Break-up and pay-up.

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