JoeBlogsF1 The real stories from inside the F1 paddock Aug, 01 2017 00:00:30 EST A change at Renault Sport Racing

A change at Renault Sport Racing

Renault has appointed Thierry Koskas (54) to be the new President of Renault Sport Racing. He will replace the current incumbent Jerome Stoll, who is 65 in March and is retiring. Koskas was previously the company's global marketing director and a member of the Renault Executive Committee.

Koskas is a graduate of France's elite Ecole Polytechnique, from which the graduates, known as Xs, go on to leading roles in business and politics. Graduates include three French Presidents: notably Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Among those in the business world are France's wealthiest man Bernard Arnault, Renault boss Carlos Ghosn, and CEOs of most of France's major companies such as Safran, Total, Saint-Gobain, Arcelor, Vivendi, Alstom, Air France, Suez, and many more. He was also a graduate of the Ecole des Mines engineering school. Sfter seven years working for the government he joined Renault in 1997 and has since had roles in Britain, Hungary and at head office, as Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Asia and Africa Region, head of Renault Argentina and also director of the company's electric vehicle programmes.

Koskas's role in marketing will go to Francois Renard, a former Anderson Consulting executive who is joining Renault from Unilever.

Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:47:20 +0000
Fernley joins McLaren for IndyCar

Fernley joins McLaren for IndyCar

Bob Fernley has been appointed McLaren's President of IndyCar. He will lead the McLaren 2019 Indianapolis 500 programme.

The appointment is designed to avoid McLaren having to invest any of its energy or people in IndyCar, as the focus needs to be on Formula 1, the company's core business. 

Fernley worked in IndyCar back in the 1980s, but has not been involved since 1990. According to a McLaren statement, Fernley will build and lead a technical team entirely focused on the 2019 Indy 500, while helping to evaluate the feasibility of a longer-term McLaren involvement in IndyCar.

One presumes that McLaren has certain engineers already picked out to run things, or that a team such as Andretti will loan the team people with the relevance up to date experience.

Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:20:58 +0000
Notebook from Guarulhos

Notebook from Guarulhos

The Aeropuerto Internacional de São Paulo is to be found (if you don't get lost on the way) in the Guarulhos municipality, in the north west of the city. To get there from the south of this vast urban sprawl, where Interlagos is located, one follows a road they call the Marginal Pinheiros, alongside a very polluted river. This later becomes the Marginal Tietê, which is very similar but with a different smelly river.

One can go through the middle of the city, but it gets very complicated, particularly if you miss the Túnel Ayrton Senna, and traffic can be appalling. Having said that the Marginals can be clogged up as well because Sao Paulo is not an inconsequential city, being the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, with a population estimated to be over 21 million. The thing about the Marginals is that they are rather complicated because they are, in reality, not one road on each side of the river, but actually two or three parallel highways, each with three or four lanes and only a limited number of places where one can filter between them.

The logic is to keep the traffic flowing, but what generally happens is that those who don't know the system end up being on the wrong highway when they get to the place they wish to exit and so they are sent off to places you definitely don't want to go to. If you have ever read Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities", you will understand that taking the wrong exit from a highway can leave you in places where it is not great to be…

But, you never know. Sao Paulo is a cosmopolitan place with, so they say, more Japanese restaurants than there are traditional Brazilian steakhouses (churrascarias).

The signage on the Marginals is such that one usually makes at least one mistake before one gets to the sambadrome (above, with a section of the Marginal Tietê), an elongated stadium where they hold carnival parades with large grandstands on either side and naked ladies prancing down the middle. They used this a few years back for the venue for an IndyCar race, but it didn't last…

When you are at the Sambadrome, you know that the rest of the trip is a doddle because you can either go up the Rodovia Presidente Dutra, or the parallel Rodovia Ayrton Senna, both of which lead to places with signs that will get you to the airport. If you miss those junctions you are on the road to Rio… but (for movie buffs) without Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. The way to spot these exits is to look out for high security prisons, as there are four of them in the neighbourhood.

The road to Rio may be the route that Formula 1 will be taking shortly, when the current contract at Interlagos comes to an end. On the Monday after the Brazilian Grand Prix, F1 chairman Chase Carey was in Rio - and he wasn't there for the Caipirinhas or the bossa nova. His trip was to visit a neighbourhood called Deodoro, which may sound like something that live in the bathroom cabinet but is actually an old military base in the western part of the city, where various competitions were held during the 2016 Olympic Games. One of these was the equestrian events and a friend of mine was there to oversee the televising of them. Because horses don't like helicopters, it was decided to get aerial shots of the venue using a balloon, with a camera attached. This was soon shot down by unknown gunmen in the nearby favelas, presumably on the basis that they thought it was a spy in the sky. A replacement balloon was sent up and was duly shot down. Rio de Janeiro is a wilder town than Sao Paulo, by all accounts, with a fifth of the population reckoned to be living in the shanty towns, without basic facilities. As the government is weak in the city, the favelas are ruled over by drug gangs, which fight turf wars with one another. At the same time the drug barons provide some kind of authority.

They say that every governor of Rio de Janeiro for the last 20 years has been convicted of corruption, is facing charges or is under investigation. The police and less well-trained and less well-armed than the gangs. It was for this reason that not long ago Brazil deployed 30,000 soldiers in the favelas to try to get things under control.

Sao Paulo may not be perfect, but sometimes you need to be careful of what you wish for. In recent years Interlagos has seen a number of armed attacks on Formula 1 staff and many in the sport would be happy to see the back of the place. Those who understand motor racing will be sad if that happens because the race track is exceptional. It's just in the wrong place. When it was built in the 1930s it was out in the country, surrounded by a vast housing development. The reason there is a circuit is that in one area the hillside was not stable enough for housing. The ground is always subsiding bit by bit and this is why Interlagos is susceptible to bumps.

These days in F1 the tail is very much wagging the dog when it comes to security. This year it was decided to close the media centre at 11pm on Sunday because people didn’t want journalists going home though the nasty bits of town after the police had been withdrawn. F1 has long had a rule about the media, which you can see written on the door of every press centre in the world. The place does not close "until the last journalist leaves", or at least it shouldn't. I have been the last journalist on quite a few occasions and have had to climb over gates which have been locked. Several times I have left the track and gone out for breakfast and there is something fundamentally wrong with a venue that forces the media to go home, for its own protection…

Anyway, there are multiple problems associated with the Brazilian GP not least the fact that the Formula 1 group has no desire to do business with the current race promoter, for reasons which might not go beyond the fact that he wanders around with the air of a man looking for water to walk on. The Brazilian Grand Prix earns F1 very little money thanks to a sweetheart deal agreed in the dying embers of the previous owners of the commercial rights. If Brazil had to pay the same money as other races, it would not have a Grand Prix. No-one is offering the right kind of money at the moment, with the city government saying that the race must be done with private money and private money (of which there is a lot in Brazilian, if you look beyond the favelas) not very keen on doing business with the people involved. Recent elections have served only to muddy the waters, but the city still seems to be intent on selling the circuit, but saying that it will pay for upgrading work which was promised for F1 but never completed, and that any new owner must agree to keep the facility open for motor races, rather than turning it into a housing estate (which will subside) or a high security prison (or whatever). The mayor (who seems to have far too many teeth when he smiles) says he has a letter of intent to continue with the current promoter, which is about as useful as a parachute without any straps because F1 doesn't want to do business with the aforementioned promoter.

When all is said and done, F1 needs South America and but at the moment no-one seems to be able to run a Grand Prix. The rich countries are all messed up and the poor ones are too poor (and messed up). The choice, it seems, is basically limited to Brazil and Argentina although the latter is in the middle of an impressive economic meltdown which has required the largest ever bailout by the International Monetary Fund ($57 billion), so it is unlikely that the government will want to be seen to be spending money on F1 any time soon, although it might not be such a dumb idea as it would generate economic activity and bring in tourist dollars.

The paddock in Brazil was really quiet in terms of gossip as there is only one drive left for 2019 (Williams 2) and so there was only a modest flutter of interest in a number of deals for young Brazilian drivers. The German media seems to think that the Williams drive will go to Robert Kubica but I don't see why there is any rush for Williams to do anything and one has to ask whether it is wise to sign a driver who has not done a season of circuit racing since an accident that nearly killed him in February 2011. If he does race in 2019 he will instantly become the second oldest person on the grid. Yes, money is important and Robert may be quite capable of racing for Williams, but is he really a better choice for the team than Esteban Ocon, one of the brightest young hopes of F1?

Still, strange decision-making is not unusual in the paddock at the moment, with McLaren having left more than a few jaws dropping by announcing plans to set up its own IndyCar team and go racing at Indianapolis in May next year. Now, there is nothing wrong with ambition, but ambition needs to be tempered by reality and matters of a practical nature. I am sure that McLaren wants to sell more of its road cars in the United States of America, and perhaps it will raise more sponsorship by lumping the two programmes together, but trying to win the Indy 500 with a new team, built in six months, would seem to be risky, whichever way you look at it, particularly when your core business (Formula 1) is only just scraping in above disastrous.

Winning in Formula 1 is all about focus and if the man who is supposed to be making strategic decisions is looking two ways at the same time, one might suggest that neither programme is likely to success. One can always hope, as McLaren fans no doubt will.

Let us hope that the idea of building a team from scratch is marketing hyperbole and that the plan is to buy an existing team, or a part of one, and paint it orange.

The only major paddock activity in Brazil was a bunch of meetings between different combinations of the teams discussing the financial future of the sport and who should get what when they are divvying up the pot. At the moment the focus seems to be on Red Bull which has a rather higher opinion of its value than its rivals do. I cannot see how such conversations are ever going to bear fruit as getting anyone to agree to anything is almost impossible and the best way to do things is to simply adopt the "take it or leave it" approach. I understand that Liberty Media is trying to win hearts and minds in these negotiations so that everyone can work together to move the sport forwards, but too much Mr Nice Guy could end up with F1 in a state of complete drift.

There were only a few celebrities in the paddock beyond the usual old lag racing drivers. There was the soccer player called Kaka not being a follower of football I am not sure if Kaka is the same as Caca as there appear to be two footballers with this name. I won't go into too much detail but in much of Europe the expression "caca" has a rather lavatorial meaning. Still, I guess that kids love Winnie the Pooh…

In the paddock in the course of the weekend I did bump into Argentine racer Juan Manuel Fangio II, a nephew of Juan Manuel Fangio I. He was a very decent racing driver in his own right and raced in Europe in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 (if I remember correctly) before going off to the US, where he did well in IMSA and Indycars. Today he has a sizeable cattle ranch in Argentina, providing meat for export.

One thing I did pick up in Brazil was that the FIA has recently appointed two new deputy race directors in Formula 1, without any fanfare at all. The two fellow in question are an American called Scot Elkins (with only one t) and Australian Michael Masi. The former is a man who started out as a NASCAR engineer with Robert Yates Racing, who then spent time in industry and as an academic before becoming technical director of Champ Car in 2004. After that he worked for IMSA as VP of competition before becoming COO of the Motorsport Safety Foundation. Masi is the Race Director of the Supercars Series in Australia.

With the World Championships all now done and dusted, there is going to be little of interest in Abu Dhabi, apart from the race itself. It would be nice to go out at the end of the season with a good battle between the big players, without the need for any controversy and then we can get into a few weeks of rest and recuperation once the prizegivings are done. The FIA is planning a very grand event at the Great Philharmonic Hall in Saint Petersburg. Usually in December the city has an average temperature of around minus five degrees, but it has been known to get down to minus 37, so it might be an idea for those planning to go to remember to pay some long johns.

I was chatting to Ross Brawn on one of the days and he mentioned that he was off to Las Vegas to be the keynote speaker at some big event for Amazon. It struck me that perhaps he might take the opportunity to stroll up and down The Strip looking for a good place to lay out a racing circuit…

Wed, 14 Nov 2018 16:25:50 +0000
The crash in Interlagos

The crash in Interlagos

FIA stewards deal with rules as written and often do not add interpretations that others might draw. So Esteban Ocon got a penalty because he was the lapped car and should not have crashed into the race leader. But I would argue that Ocon’s move on Max was a righteous one, neat and sweet.

The time sheets tell us that Esteban was on newer and faster tyres and all he wanted to do was to pass the Red Bull and get back on to the lead lap, which he had a right to do. If the two had been on the same lap I’m sure it would have been ruled a racing incident because for me it was a 50-50 crash because both drivers could have avoided it. But if you’re a lap behind you must take a little more blame, even if you are faster than the leader and trying to unlap yourself.

The bottom line, however, is that Max Verstappen was ultimately the architect of his own downfall, because he decided, for what ever reason, not to leave any space for Ocon. He knew Esteban was there and he shut the door at a point at which Ocon could not back out of his move. The result was that Max lost the race - and it did not have to happen. 

One must add here the background story between these two chargers as they go back a long way and there has been some antagonism along the way. Perhaps Max’s stubborn move was caused a little by that. I think we can dismiss the paranoid ramblings of Helmut Marko as utter rubbish. If Esteban took out Max to help Lewis, it was a conspiracy worthy of Dallas. That was not a sensible remark but sadly the sort of thing that one expects from Marko.

As to what happened afterwards, it was a sign of Max’s passion but also a certain amount of immaturity. Going around physically engaging with other drivers is not a good idea, not helpful to anyone and not great for a role model. He was lucky to have stewards who don’t believe in using the cane. I’m not sure the punishment was sufficient for that reason because as we have seen with Sebastien Vettel, letting a driver off on the basis that he will learn from his mistakes is very poor “parenting”. Vettel lost it on the scales in Interlagos, proof that Jean Todt’s softly softly approach after Baku last year did not work.

As to what Max should do for his community service I have a suggestion. Rather than painting zebra crossings in the Place de la Concorde, he should be ordered to attend the annual stewards’ training event this winter. It will teach him about the job and how it’s not always easy. It will feel like a punishment to him no doubt, but he might learn from it. No mobile devices should be allowed.

Mon, 12 Nov 2018 19:22:05 +0000
Five hours and 15 minutes after the race

Five hours and 15 minutes after the race

The Brazilian Grand Prix was a dramatic race that resulted in Mercedes clinching the Constructors' World Championship. It was packed with excitement and drama as Max Verstappen seemed to have the race under control when he found himself under attack from his old Formula 3 rival Esteban Ocon, who was a lap down but was looking to unlap himself. Ocon pulled off a sweet move around the outside of the race leader and Max must have known he was there, but he left Ocon no space. It was a tough call for the FIA Stewards but in the end Ocon was punished, presumably because he was a lap down and should have stayed out of the way. Interestingly, it took them a long time to reach a conclusion. After the race, Verstappen got physical in the FIA garage, pushing Ocon three times. It was not the smartest thing to do, but sometimes tempers are tempers and Max was upset that he had lost the win. While all this was going on, Lewis Hamilton got ahead, took the lead and held on as Verstappen charged back. Behind them Daniel Ricciardo hounded Kimi Raikkonen to the finish line. Bottas and Vettel followed in, but were too far back to make an impression. It was enough, however, to give Mercedes sufficient points to finish off the Constructors' title. It was all good entertainment... Also picking up points were Charles Leclerc in seventh, the two Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen with Serio Perez taking the final point in his Racing Point Force India.

- We assess where Lewis Hamilton fits into history
- We look at the Grand Prix that's coming in Hanoi
- We explain what all those Mercedes engineers do.
- We remember the Gaillon hillclimb
- JS wonders what McLaren is up to with its IndyCar plans
- DT goes to Seattle
- The Hack talks TV coverage

Peter Nygaard snaps away at the picturesque Interlagos

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Mon, 12 Nov 2018 00:12:06 +0000
Hanoi and other matters...

Hanoi and other matters...

The Hanoi announcement has now been made and those of you who have been surprised that Formula 1 is going off to Vietnam in 2020, should perhaps take note that I am not reporting it in any great detail because I have done it all already.

If you really want to be ahead of the game in Formula 1 news, there is a service that I provide that requires (shock, horror) payment, although I think that a subscription to the JSBM newsletter is a good investment for anyone involved in the sport, or very keen on what is happening.

To the right is the front cover of JSBM 18-40 from October 22, giving the news of the Hanoi deal, and if you go back to JSBM 18-38, two weeks earlier, there were details of the race track that has now been announced. So, if you really want to keep up with the insider news in Formula 1 and also in other formulae, you might like to subscribe to JSBM. You can do that by clicking here.

Yes, this is a promo, but if I don't do it, who will?

Wed, 07 Nov 2018 11:10:20 +0000
Notebook from Miami… and other places

Notebook from Miami… and other places

Apologies for the rather delayed green notebook. Life has been very busy since the Mexican Grand Prix, churning out words which pay money, which must be the priority as sadly this blog does not.

The Mexican GP seemed to come and go very quickly and while it was great to see Lewis Hamilton win his fifth World Championship, and thoroughly deserved though it was, it does mean that there is little to generate excitement in the final two races of the year. While the teams care passionately about the Constructors' title (because it decides on the money they are paid), the racing public generally does not and who finishes fourth, fifth and sixth in the Drivers' title is not that enthralling, except for the uber-fans (and I use that term in the original sense, rather than in relation to taxis).

It was a tough Sunday night in Mexico City. I never quite managed to get to bed, closing the computer at about 05.30 and then packing my bag and heading for the airport to catch an early bird flight to Miami, passing over the Gulf of Mexico, to the north of the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba. We then crossed the Everglades into MIA. I was hoping to nip into town between planes, to have a sniff around the Bayfront Park area, where there are plans for an F1 race, but sadly the queues at US immigration (even with the fancy new machines) were such that I found that there was not sufficient time left to do it comfortably. And so I wandered off to the next departure lounge. On the way I sat down to have lunch in a great little restaurant where they have a mix of Caribbean seafood and boring old US fare (burgers etc). The conch fritters were good and I was reminded of a trip I made to Havana some years back and began to muse about what a great idea it would be to have a Grand Prix in Cuba.

There was a time, hard though it may be to believe, when Havana was the coolest place on earth, a bit like Miami these days, with the Hollywood jetset and rich socialites enjoying the city's hotels, restaurants, night clubs, golf clubs and casinos. Ernest Hemingway lived there, in a villa to die for, and sucked down ice-cold daquiris and mojitos at El Floridita. He's still there, by the way, holding up the bar in life-sized brass form.

The whole of Havana was run by The Mob at that time, paying off the government when it was required and inevitably someone decided that a motor race was in order and so all the big racing stars were lured to Havana to race sports cars around the streets and along the waterfront, known as the Malecon. It was during one of these events that Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped by Fidel Castro's rebels, seeking to draw attention to their cause, one of the great stories of motorsport. After the revolution Cuba spent 50 years in a cultural deep freeze but since Fidel retired it has begun to open up again, although (inevitably) President Donald Trump has been pushing things backwards. Anyway, he won't last forever, and I'd love to go racing in Havana… not that there is any sign of that happening any time soon.

The reason I mention all this is that somewhere in the chaos of my overfilled bookcases at home, I have a book called "Grand Prix - From Havana to Miami", which was commissioned by Ralph Sanchez and written by Jorge Cunill, both Cuban exiles, who escaped from Cuba and made their lives in Florida. Sanchez, inspired by the car races in Cuba in the late 1950s, decided to try to stage Grands Prix on the streets of Miami, beginning in 1983. The book tells the story of both the Cuban races and those in Miami, although it was published before the Miami event switched to IndyCars. Sanchez, who died some years ago, would be delighted to know that F1 is now trying to revive the event he started.

The work in Miami is ongoing as they try to get the deal with Miami over the finishing line. At the same time, the word is that they are working on a parallel project (of which little is known) in Las Vegas. There was a time a few years ago when I kept up to date with Vegas on a daily basis because of all the dealings that there were trying to get an F1 race there. I'm just catching up again and things have changed a lot, with 19 of the city's 29 casinos now owned by just two companies (MGM Mirage and Caesar's Entertainment). So it's a whole lot easier to negotiate than it was in the days when the casinos were operating with more independence. There are also new tramways and monorails which make it easier for people to go from one casino to another. The fear in the old days was that a race would restrict the flow of gamblers to the casinos, but this is less of a problem than it was. There are definitely things happening but everyone is keeping schtum at the moment.

There is still believed to be some potential for a race in New York City, but that will probably require a change of mayor before things can happen. Anyway, politicians come and go and so change can happen (although it is not always good). However, the drawback of democracy is that it hard for deals to be done quickly and it is far easier to get a yes or no answer from one party states, with strong governments. Thus the deal for the Vietnamese Grand Prix (which will be announced in the next few days) has been done relatively quickly compared to the more complicated venues in the Western world.

Politics has already scuppered the planned race in Copenhagen, although there are still some attempts to revive the event outside the city, at the Roskilde Festival grounds. It would work, but it is not quite the same as running through the streets of a city where the bicycle is king.

Elsewhere, South Africa seems to be a good bet in the longer term, but there needs to be an election next year to confirm Cyril Ramaphosa as the country's president. If he wins that then the race is very likely to happen. There is much excitement in the Netherlands, as well, where there are reports that a revival of a Dutch GP at Zandvoort is close, driven by the fact that Max Verstappen seems able to draw fans to wherever he races.

Down in Latin America, things are not so hopeful with the race at Interlagos now seemingly doomed to finish after the event in 2019. There is clearly no appetite to continue in Sao Paulo and while there is a plan for a new circuit in Rio de Janeiro, the key question is who is going to pay to build such a facility? What Brazil needs more than anything else is a new driver to inspire the country, but the only hope is Sérgio Sette Câmara. He will be worth watching next year in F2 and it is quite likely that he will find an F1 reserve driver job somewhere as well, as he will probably be looking for a seat in F1 in 2020.

The green notebook was a little short of scribbles beyond this, the silly season now being over and not much going on. There was a dull team meeting on the Saturday where they talked about numbers for budget caps and such things. There was a note saying that Niki Lauda is finally out of hospital, and that someone is making a film about the battle between Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans in 1969, with Matt Damon and Christian Bale starring. There was a note saying that Claire Williams is still looking for money to try to get Esteban Ocon to drive the second Williams in 2019. There is also a note saying that the FIA's head of legal services has recently jumped ship to join… Mercedes GP, following the recent trend of FIA employees to be lured away to the teams. There is also a note which says: "British Grand Prix", a reminder that I have heard nothing at all about the future of the race. The contract ends next July and if there is to be a replacement race in the UK, then we ought to have heard something by now. I get the impression that Silverstone thinks it has Formula 1 over a barrel, but I also get the feeling that this is not good thinking because Liberty Media cannot be seen to back down to a promoter over the question of money. It worries me that F1's version of Brexit might become a long-term disaster…

Apart from all of this, there are a lot of notes about a meeting going on shortly at which the International Olympic Committee will begin to define its attitude towards esports, and that motor racing is very well-placed in this respect because it is the only sport in which the competitors do the same thing in virtual reality and in reality.

When you stop to think about it, that is quite something as e-tennis players use buttons rather than a racket, and e-soccer is all about hands rather than feet.

The F1 esport world was heading to the second event of the three this year, taking place in ever-so glamorous Fulham Broadway, which I visited virtually recently (in the spirit of the event) and found that it was almost unrecognizable as the place I used to hang out as a young teenager, back in the days of the 1977 jubilee and cheering on Fulham (on the telly) against West Ham  in the 1975 FA Cup Final.

Interestingly, I see from a number of press releases that the virtual races (one should really call them e-prix, but Formula E seems to have nicked that idea) held this week (Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Spa) were all won by Mercedes, with champion Brendon Leigh, winning the first two and the third by his team-mate Daniel Bereznay. This means that Mercedes has won five of the six races so far, with the win on the Baku circuit going to Toro Rosso's Frederik Rasmussen. The podium at Ricard was completed by the Toro Rosso duo of Patrik Holzmann and Rasmussen, while Silverstone saw Rasmussen runner up with The Hype Energy team (Force India)'s Marcel Kiefer third. At Spa Bereznay was chased home by Joni Tormala (Red Bull) and Rasmussen. In the championship, with four races to go, Leigh has a lead of 41 points from Rasmussen and Bereznay. In the team championship, the virtual reality is pretty much the reality with Mercedes miles ahead of the rest. To be honest I don't know how the cars are set-up and so on, but anything that attracts a young audience to F1 has to be a good thing.

The green notebook has several pages of notes about the eracing, as I wrote a fairly lengthy article on the subject in GP+ magazine, trying to explain to traditional race fans why they might get excited about the virtual version.

The only team not involved in the virtual championship is Ferrari, which says that virtual reality is not in its DNA. This is true, but I guess that I might argue that the Italian team has often been known to inhabit a parallel reality.

I thought I would ask a gamer-driver about reality versus virtual and found Lando Norris who explained that any crossover between the two disciplines was "unlikely" because they are so different and said that the games are different from the real simulators which in turn are different from reality. He said that some of the virtual racers were "pretty good" but said that they would still need to climb the motor racing ladder if they were ever to make it in F1.

The key question for me was whether or not esport is really sport.

"How do you define a sport?" Lando said. "I don't know. It's a competition."

Fri, 02 Nov 2018 15:22:36 +0000
Six and a half hours after the race...

Six and a half hours after the race...

The Mexican Grand Prix was dominated by Max Verstappen, but the big story of the day was that Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his fifth World Championship, equalling the great Juan Manuel Fangio. Perhaps it was not achieved in the way he would have wish for, because the Mercedes team was struggling with tyres.

Initially Lewis went from third on the grid to second as pole man Dan Ricciardo was overtaken by Lewis and Verstappen. The Ferraris were clogged up in traffic so could not make the break they had hoped for. It was clear early on that Lewis could not match the pace of Max and the gap between them was nearly five seconds when Lewis stopped on lap 11. When the first round of stops unwound themselves, it was the same story again with Max ahead of Lewis and Daniel, but once again Lewis began to fade. The man on the move in the middle segment of the race was Vettel, who passed Ricciardo for third on lap 34 and went past Hamilton for second on lap 39. Lewis struggled on but by the time he pitted again on lap 47, he had lost so much time that he was fifth, behind both Red Bulls and both Ferraris. He would gain back a place when the unlucky Ricciardo retired with engine trouble on lap 62. Bottas had similar tyre troubles and ended up being lapped by Verstappen. Amazingly, the rest of the field, from sixth-placed Nico Hulkenberg downwards were all lapped TWICE by lap 59. It was not a classic race, but it was a great victory nonetheless. Further back Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson boosted Sauber by both scoring points in seventh and ninth, split by Stoffel Vandoorne, who had his best race of the year in the McLaren. The last point wnt to a feisty Pierre Gasly, who started 20th and fought his way into the points.

- Lewis Hamilton talks about being a five-time World Champion
- We look at Formula 1 as an esport
- We explain about Formula 1's relationship with MIT
- We remember Le Mans 1968 - a Mexican victory
- And DT explains the joys of competing on the Carrera Panamericana
- JS ponders the progress being made by Liberty Media
- DT reckons that F1 should not fix things that are not broken
- The Hack remembers a colourful old editor

Peter Nygaard battles though Montezuma's Revenge to bring you some great pictures from Mexico

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Sun, 28 Oct 2018 23:43:04 +0000
Haas does a deal with Rich Energy

Haas does a deal with Rich Energy

The Haas F1 team has done a deal with Rich Energy, which will see the drinks company becoming the team's title sponsor for a number of years. It is expected that the team will change the livery of the cars to the black and gold of the drink, although it is not something that one sees a lot in shops. The obvious explanation for this is that drink is going to be using F1 as a means to launch the brand and that there are investors who are keen to cash in on the world's fixation with energy drinks. A title sponsorship in F1 these days can come from as little as $10 million and so it is not a huge investment in the overall scheme of things, if the backers are wealthy.

When Rich Energy was bidding to buy Force India last summer, it was suggested that the brand, fronted by the heavily-bearded William Storey, was supported by British entrepreneurs David Gold and David Sullivan. This colourful pair started out in the world of pornography, diversifying into sex shops and films in the late 1970s. He invested the profits in real estate in London and in the Daily Sport newspaper, which was sold in 2007. In the 1990s he bought the Birmingham City soccer club before selling the shares in 2009 and buying West Ham United, which now plays at the Olympic Stadium in London.

There is no obvious link between the parties, apart from the fact that Rich Energy is a sponsor of West Ham's ladies team. Having said that there must be money behind Storey if Haas has agreed a deal, as normally announcements would not be made without money changing hands.

Rich Energy says it is available in 30 countries and intends to use F1 to increase its market share.


Thu, 25 Oct 2018 14:40:12 +0000
Notebook from a (very) soggy place

Notebook from a (very) soggy place

The weather in Austin has been horrible for the last week, apart from a few hours on Sunday, when the United States Grand Prix took place in the sunshine. For the rest of the time it has been overcast, and many shades of grey. It's been like this for a while with heavy and near constant downpours in the days leading up to the race weekend, resulting in severe flooding in parts of central Texas. And that is a problem… This is unprecedented and the waters flowing into the reservoirs around Austin has very high silt content, which has been blocking the filters and the water plants have been unable to produce enough clean water for the city and that meant that on Monday morning we were greeted with signs saying "Don't drink the water", unless you boil it for three minutes, in order to kill off bacteria and microbes. It is all rather strange but then Austin is a boom town, with infrastructure that is creaking at the seams. Ever since F1 started visiting the city in 2012 the road networks have been in a constant state of reconstruction. The Austin metropolitan area now has a population of over 2 million, with the statistics showing that between 2006 and 2016 there was a 35.7 percent rise, compared to a national average of eight percent. So, while it might be challenging for the city authorities to keep up, it is a land of opportunity for entrepreneurs.

The owner of the Circuit of the Americas, Bobby Epstein is just such an individual and he has been busy building up the revenues of the facility. In the last year, for example, there is a new karting track, which has been laid out in old parking lots behind the main grandstand. His latest plan is to add a soccer stadium to COTA. It won't be huge but is being squeezed in between the very-active concert area, at the foot of the circuit's celebrated tower, and the 20-acre welcome area they call the Grand Plaza. The initial stadium will have 4,000 seats but there will be room for expansion later and he has secured a franchise with the United Soccer League, a second division beneath Major League Soccer.

He has also secured an IndyCar race for 2019 and it was interesting to see a lot of IndyCar faces in the F1 Paddock, including Jay Frye, the series's President of Competition and Operations. Michael Andretti was there, along with his son Marco and driver Alexander Rossi, while Penske's Josef Newgarden popped up as did JR Hildebrand. Andretti has a booming business at the moment with successful teams in IndyCar, Indy Lights, Rallycross and Formula E, with his latest expansion being into Supercars in Australia, where he is associated with the Walkinshaw Andretti United team. I had several chats with Michael in the course of the weekend and he mentioned that the team came very close to acquiring Force India… We knew he was bidding, but there were a few people who reckoned they might have done the deal. One of them, the generously bewhiskered William Storey, who looks as though he would be more at home at a ZZ Top concert than in the clean-cut world of Formula 1. He made a bid to buy Force India with his Rich Energy drink, but the judge rejected the bid as not being credible enough.

Still, Storey continues to present himself as having money and this was why he was seen in the company of Claire Williams and Mike O’Driscoll of Williams, who are obviously still in search of lucre, despite Claire's insistence that "we're managing our finances pretty well, we’ll have a good budget going into 2019" and that the decision over drivers will be "predominantly" based on talent. If one does the sums one can make a case for George Russell having been taken on for his talent (and his low salary demands), but trying to convince everyone that the second drive will not involve money (or quid pro quos) is predominantly absurd. Money remains a key factor in the driver decision. There are now only three drivers being mentioned in relation to the seat: Esteban Ocon, Robert Kubica and Nyck de Vries. Kubica has $10 million from Poland, while de Vries has the problem of not be assured of a superlicence until the Formula 2 season is finished. He is currently fourth in the championship and needs to retain that place to get the licence. Nyck also races in sports cars, sharing a Racing Team Netherlands Dallara-Gibson with Giedo van der Garde and Frits van Eerd. The car is sponsored by the Jumbo supermarket chain (which is owned by van Eerd and his family) and the suggestion is that he will provide money for de Vries to get into F1.

Having said that, Ocon remains the most likely choice because he is highly-rated in F1 and because Mercedes can help Williams with its costs in the future. So let's put it another way: truckloads of cash will not be flowing either way between Brackley and Grove, but someone somewhere will have to pay for the Mercedes engines, and if it isn’t Williams, the chances are that it will be Mercedes… or a third party. There was a whisper in the Austin paddock that Force India sponsor BWT might follow Ocon to Team Willy, and one can imagine that Claire might not be opposed to a pink Williams… as it might allow the sponsor-hunters to play the female card. Having said that Chris Murray, the marketing director of the team has recently departed after five years so closing deals might be a little more difficult than it used to be.

The key thing at Williams is to get the car to perform better because this year has been embarrassing for the team, particularly as it uses Mercedes engines. Worse still, Williams has failed to make any progress back up the F1 ladder in the course of the season, which one would expect to have happened. There has been a switch around of design folk at Grove and there will be more changes soon as Rob Smedley, the Head of Vehicle Performance, is believed to have decided to take some time out next year, after 17 years on the road in F1.

Smedley is no fool and was one of the speakers (and a good one) at the F1 Extreme Innovation Series event, which was held in the Paddock Club at Austin on the Thursday before the race. This is organised by Formula One in association with MIT Sloan Executive Education, explaining to business leaders how to create the right environment and conditions – people, teams and technology - to grow businesses using innovation. The keynote speaker was Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, and the event was a great success, with fascinating insights from him and from the brilliant minds of MIT.  The event is designed as a B2B opportunity and it seemed like there was a lot of networking going on.

The Formula One Group hosted a fan festival in Miami over the Austin weekend, including street runs with a number of F1 cars, static displays and concerts, plus live streaming of the race on Sunday. The event attracted a total of 80,000 over the two days, which was a pretty good effort. It underlines the desire of F1 to land a second race in the United States, as quickly as possible. Miami remains the number one target, but the bureaucracy is complicated although the festival and David Coulthard performing a series of tyre-smoking doughnuts in an F1 car on the helipad on top of the 700-foot 1000 Museum building, on the Wednesday before the fan festival helped to create a buzz. If Miami doesn't get a deal together, there is a second project going on in Las Vegas, which seems to be gathering steam. There were some visitors from Vegas (identities unknown) on the Friday and the word is that Ross Brawn may be seen heading to Nevada to have a look at the ideas.

Elsewhere things are going a little better with the Vietnamese Grand Prix in Hanoi set to be officially launched on November 7. The race will be held on the streets of the My Dinh district of the city, in the vicinity of the National Stadium. Work needs to begin soon on the construction of a pit building so that everything will be ready for the first race in 2020. The Formula One Group continues to move forward with quiet plans for a South African Grand Prix, while there is a lot of talk going on in the Netherlands and the Danes are trying to revive the concept of a Grand Prix in Copenhagen, which was torpedoed by politicians quibbling, although all of them say that they support the idea. Politicians…

F1 politics is quiet at the moment, with everyone focused on the World Championship, but talks to try to sort out a budget cap will continue quietly in the background. The new Formula 1 technical rules for the engines in 2021 are already set and ought to be announced at some point soon (probably after the season ends). The 2021 chassis rules will not be finalized until the end of 2019, to avoid the big teams getting too much of an advantage over the less well-funded teams.

There will need to be some decisions from Force India in the next few weeks as the 2019 entries need to be made by the beginning of November. This must include the name of the team, which must include the name of the chassis, so Force India must decide what the chassis will be called. The entry list can be out without the name of the chassis having been changed, but the F1 Commission still needs to agree to allow the team to change the chassis name - and it is wisest that this is done as rapidly as possible. In the meantime the team is moving ahead with its plans and will soon start the process to build a new factory, either on land adjacent to the existing facility, which needs to be acquired, or perhaps on land owned by Silverstone Park, which is keen to have a Formula 1 team on site. There is also a third possible site, believed to be closer to Oxford. The team is planning for a 14-acre site with a factory of 150,000 sq ft, and the goal is to have this up and running by the start of 2021.

The US Grand Prix in Texas marked the first visit to an F1 race by John Malone, the man who ultimately controls Liberty Media and it was interesting to see all the TV crews and journalists milling around on the grid, interviewing everyone except the man who owns it all. The only TV crew to spot him was Britain's Channel 4, with David Coulthard…

Elsewhere, the word from the US is that Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson is close to a deal to race with Carlin in IndyCars next year. The team ran two cars this year: one for Max Chilton and the other for Charlie Kimball, but it seems that they will a car in 2019, with Chilton doing the road courses and Kimball racing on the ovals. Ed Carpenter Racing has finalized its line-up with two regular cars but the word is that Carpenter might run a third car at Indy. The team uses Chevrolet engines and the word in Indianapolis is that if Fernando Alonso is going to run in the 500 in 2019 it will be with Carpenter. This makes sense because Ed Carpenter is the stepson of Tony George, the chairman of the board of Hulman & Company, which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series…

Finally there is a note about Ferrari engineer Daniele Casanova, the head of performance systems at Ferrari, who has died at the age of only 48. He had been at Ferrari for just four years but had a long career in F1 going back to Renault in 2000, followed by stints at Toyota, Red Bull Racing and Lotus F1.

Wed, 24 Oct 2018 16:54:35 +0000