JoeBlogsF1 The real stories from inside the F1 paddock Aug, 01 2017 00:00:30 EST Notebook from atop Beachy Head

Notebook from atop Beachy Head

How did I end up here? Standing on the edge of a famous cliff, looking down - rather tentatively, lest something happens and I find myself 530 feet below, after a six second fall, which I have concluded would not be a great career move. Still, I must have seemed happy enough because I was not approached by any of the people who supposedly prowl Britain's most notorious suicide spot, trying to talk people out of jumping. To be honest I’ve never thought much about doing such things as I have always seen life as a gift and have never felt the urge to do anything other than enjoy it to the full. In any case, Beachy Head is such a beautiful place that it ought really to inspire positive thoughts, rather than have such a sad reputation.

I ended up here because my dash to get to Newhaven on time for my boat back to France was restrained by a plodding bureaucrat in London, who took two hours to do the work of 30 minutes, followed by traffic crawling out of the city, through never-ending traffic lights and sleeping policemen and then those ghastly average speed traps for miles and miles on the motorway before the coup de grace came with rush hour in Brighton… As a French resident, this is the first thing one notices about the UK. It has SO many cars clogging the roads that there is little fun left in driving. Talking to the visiting F1 Frenchies at Silverstone, I noted that they all seem to have flown into Birmingham and driven south, rather than going anywhere near the vast snarl-up otherwise known as London.

…and so I ended up having to rebook my departure on the 11pm ferry and found myself with some hours to kill. And after a quick trip to a supermarket to stock up on things the French don’t accept as being edible: jelly babies being top of the list, along with ginger wine and pork scratchings, I decided to potter along the coast and visit places I have never visited and so found myself in Exceat, East Dean and at Birling Gap before climbing the hill to Beachy Head. Aside from the tourism, I intended to find myself a decent dinner.

The strangest thing about Beachy Head is that just behind the famous cliff is a pub called The Beachy Head. I decided to give it a try. A while later I pondered how many anonymous inspectors from the Good Food Guide had thrown themselves over the edge when finished with the cuisine in this seemingly harmless place. An anaemic prawn and lobster cocktail with lettuce cut from sheets and mayonnaise scooped from a jar was the poor beginning and the steak pie which followed was probably a worse advert for Britain than Nigel Farage. It has one of those Big Top pastry domes beneath which no circus music played, no lion tamers wowed and the ringmaster had a droopy moustache. It was the kind of food that would make the French enthusiastic for Brexit. It might even be a possible explanation as to why the two countries spent an entire century at war, arguing about warm beer and a number of dishes deemed to be crimes against humanity by the opposite side...

It might even have been the explanation for why the Normans invaded England, to improve the food for when they wanted to spend dirty weekends raping and pillaging along the English coastline. Of course, that was long before the pretty little English roses got too broad in the beam to be slung over the shoulder, at least not without inflicting a hernia on oneself...

In a state of post-prandial desperation, I talked myself down from the ledge and went back to Newhaven, where a yellow boat, collaborating with the English in culinary matters, took me back cross the Channel and, with stiffened sinews and blood summoned, it was once more unto the beach in Normandy. And as I sped through the empty country lanes with gentle mists rising from the fields, I was able to focus on a great weekend for F1, even if some other sports had produced dramatic showdowns. This was actually rather annoying as most of my less busy colleagues stayed on in the media centre after they had produced their words and were oohing and aahingwith the excitement and then began making odd squeaky sounds as the cricket and the tennis both became so exciting that they were quite literally hopping about like schoolboys needing to pee. This was very disruptive, and I must confess that I was just about ready to call in an air strike to stop the squawking when they all finally shut up and went home, discussing whether this really was the best day ever in the history of sport, and what WG Grace would have made of it all...

I was reminded over the weekend of that overly-bearded Victorian thanks to the bizarre activities of William Storey, the man who represents Rich Energy, the Haas F1 sponsor who has an energy drink that no-one has ever seen in a shop and yet can afford to sign a sponsorship deal with Haas worth around £45 million. The details were revealed as a result of all the paperwork flying about, which showed that the team was owed £6 million for the second instalment of this year’s fee, plus £14 million for 2020 and £15 million for 2021. The team noted Storey’s announcement that the deal was being cancelled and so billed him for the full amount, asking for £35 million within 14 days. It soon became clear that Storey did not represent the wishes of the other investors and he was duly removed from his position. What happens to him now is irrelevant and uninteresting. One hopes that the folk behind Rich Energy will keep the sponsorship alive as Haas has obviously budgeted on having the money. The whole thing was fairly predictable given that Storey has appeared from the start to be an attention-seeking fantasist with his absurd tweeting about his business challenging Red Bull. Perhaps in a few years we will remember him with a chuckle, as we do in F1 with such people, but we probably won’t…

The only big news of the weekend was that Silverstone had signed a new five-year deal for the Grand Prix. This was hardly news but what is interesting is that, according to our sources, the deal is exclusive for three years, which means that any London Grand Prix cannot begin until 2023. This may have been the sticking point in the final day, which was agreed, to all intents and purposes, several months ago. If nothing else, it highlights the fact that Silverstone is now taking the threat of a London race seriously…

Down among the undercurrents at Silverstone was talk of a couple of new teams, which are hoping to enter the sport in 2021. This makes sense from a strategic point of view, as it creates something of a level playing field for newcomers, but it is not yet clear how this will work from a governance standpoint as the entry requirements will probably be changed. Why? Because there is no point in having new teams if they get none of the benefits that the existing teams get and so tend to go out of business (as happened to all three of the teams which started in F1 in 2010.

The current rules require a $20 million bond, which is paid back when the team are operational. The idea of paying new teams prize money does not go down well with the existing teams as they will take a hit in their revenues, which isn’t really fair. The word is that new teams will be allowed to come in and will get immediate rights and benefits but will need to pay $200 million up front to get an entry. This money will be shared between the other teams, to stop them complaining. Thus if two new teams arrive, the existing 10 teams will get a budget boost of $40 million in 2021. In addition to their $80 million or so in prize money… The budget cap needs to come down and the revenues need to rise but in theory, at least, when these two things meet, the teams will suddenly have a value. At least, in a perfect world…

Very little is known about the two teams being planned but one is linked to the name Graeme Lowdon, who was involved with the Virgin/Manor/ Marussia operation, while the other name I have heard is that of longtime F1 wheeler-dealer Daniele Audetto. He is 76 and so is unlikely to be actively involved in the team but he seems to be doing the groundwork for someone, although there is no indication who. The only downside of this $200 million barrier is that it will be cheaper for newcomers to buy existing teams which are struggling, rather than trying to build a new one.

Despite the constantly negative coverage of F1 at the moment from the majority of the media, there continue to be signs that all is well and that the future is pretty rosy. The word is that the TV viewing figures in the Middle East have multiplied by five in recent months, following the decision to switch the coverage from pay-per-view to free-to-air. This will be the trend in the future because it is clear that the sport needs more eyeballs, except perhaps in markets where pay-per-view is accepted as being normal. In markets where it is not, such as the UK there is not much that can be done, except to encourage the pay-per-view vendor that they will sell more subscriptions if people know what it is that they are buying…

One of the goals of Liberty Media was to have a calendar ready much earlier than was previously the case, but this remains a problem because all the race promoters have different priorities, and each has local events which make calendar-planning complicated. The 2020 calendar was being held up by problems in Austin and Mexico but I’m told that these are now fixed and that the races will go ahead but there is now delay because the mid-season races are trying to avoid clashes with other sports. The big problem is the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which will take place between July 24 and August 9. This will obviously impact on the Hungarian GP, which traditionally has a late July date but should not impact on anything else. However, in order to avoid a clash the Tour de France has been moved and will run from June 27 to July 19. It will start in Nice. This is all very well except that June 28 was going to be the date of the French GP at Paul Ricard and to clash with the Tour would not be a smart thing to do. So France wants to move to the July 12 date, as this would produce more spectators as France has a national holiday on July 14 and so lots of folk would make it a long weekend… Britain would thus have to swap with France, but a Britain-Austria back-to-back would be tough, particularly if there has been Brexit. Thus, it might involve the Austrian GP moving to June 28, with Britain switching to July 5…  It is a complicated jigsaw puzzle. However with Britain pulling in more than 353,000 spectators over the four days, including a record 141,000 on Sunday, the British GP is doing quite well.

Wed, 17 Jul 2019 09:46:30 +0000
Changes at Ferrari and Alfa Romeo

Changes at Ferrari and Alfa Romeo

Simone Resta, currently technical director of Alfa Romeo, will be starting work back at Ferrari after the summer break and will work on the design of the 2021 Ferrari. He will spend his gardening leave working with Ferrari on road car development.

This will be the fourth change of technical direction at Maranello since 2016 when James Allison departed. Mattia Binotto took over initially, but he would move on to become team principal at the end of 2018, since when there has been a group of technical managers running the technical side at Maranello.

The move shows that the influence of Ferrari with FCA is still considerable, even if they are separate entities on paper and it is expected that a new appointment at Sauber be someone coming from Ferrari’s F1 programme. If this occurs, which I am told it will, it will underline the tight links between the Alfa Romeo and Ferrari teams.

The team itself is still the old Sauber, but there is a deal for the Italians to have a measure of control without ownership, as the active involvement of the real owners appears limited as the day-to-day decision-making is done by Frederic Vasseur, who was in a strong position to negotiate the terms of his appointment when he was hired.

Thus far, this seems to serve everyone well. The owners don’t have much to do but are holding on to the asset; Ferrari has a B team where it can train up its staff and which has a vote when it comes to politics and Alfa Romeo (FCA) has a presence in F1 which it hopes will help to sell more road cars. At the moment Alfa is struggling in the markets, despite having good products in the Giulia and the Stelvio.

Wed, 17 Jul 2019 07:17:33 +0000
Six and a half hours after the race

Six and a half hours after the race

The British Grand Prix was a real humdinger of a race as Lewis Hamilton chased after a record-breaking sixth victory in his home Grand Prix.

It quickly became clear that the only person who was going to stop that happening was his own Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, and the Finn was clearly not interested in making life easy for Lewis. They both started the race on Medium tyres and on lap 16 Bottas headed into the pits and took on another set of the same tyres. He was committed to a two-stop strategy because he had to use a different compound. Hamilton had a 17-second advantage and had decided to go for a one-stop race, as the tyres were holding up well. He would go as long as he could and then switch to hard tyres. This meant that all he had to do was get as close as possible to Bottas and just wait until Valtteri went into the pits. The Safety Car gave Lewis what amounted to a free pit stop. He stayed ahead. It helped, but it was not the decisive factor. Lewis would have won the race whatever the case, if he could keep his tyres alive. Towards the end of the race the team twice called Lewis in for new rubber but he declined to pit. It was a risk he did not need to take. The tyres were fine... It was another Mercedes 1-2 with Charles Leclerc third for Ferrari after Sebastian Vettel ran into the back of Max Verstappen and punted the Dutchman off. Both cars were damaged and Vettel fell to the back and was then given a penalty as well. Verstappen's challenge was over. He was unable to do much and had to finish fiifth behind his team mate Pierre Gasly, who finally began to show better form. Further back Carlos Sainz held off a charging Daniel Ricciardo for sixth place, while Alexander Albon tried to do the same as hamilton and go all the way after the Safety Car, but he had taken on Medium tyres and they faded away in the closing laps, which meant that in the last eight laps he fell from eighth to 12th, leaving Kimi Raikkonen, Dany Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg to take the remaining points. It had been a thoroughly entertaining race...

- We look at Lewis and the British GP
- We remember Frank Williams and Piers Courage, back in 1969
- We look at Extreme E
- DT looks back at a great Silverstone weekend
- JS ponders the passage of time in F1
- The Hack ruminates on the past and on Goodwood
- Peter Nygaard and his crew snap Silverstone

If you don't know GP+, we think you should check it out. It's an 80-100 page e-magazine with everything you want to known about a Grand Prix weekend - all delivered around six hours after the chequered flag. It is a magazine that is right at the centre of the sport. We attend every race and actually know and talk to the people involved. The magazine is published in electronic form in PDF format, or as a flip-book, so you can read it on whatever platform you desire: computer, tablet, cell phone or online. And you can download it and store it in your own devices. We offer more than 270 magazines, going back to 2007 for just £59.99, which is a fabulous deal. A single year subscription is a bargain too at £39.99. Subscribers can download the magazine by clicking here.

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Sun, 14 Jul 2019 21:50:25 +0000
The Haas story - updated

The Haas story - updated

The odd story of Haas and the Rich Energy sponsorship has left the Formula 1 Paddock scratching heads about what on earth is going on, not least because the cars are still liveried and there are no plans to change that - and because the team is saying very little.

This means that, despite all the rumours after Rich Energy’s announcement, the deal is still in place and judging by the team’s behaviour there is not a problem between the team and the sponsor. Could it be a legal move in case things end up in court? No, because there is clear evidence that Rich Energy has terminated the deal and if the team wanted to, it could stop the sponsorship straight away. So, the only logical conclusion is that there is something going on inside Rich Energy. We really don’t know much about the company. The man behind the business is William Storey, an attention-seeking ZZ Top-lookalike figure who put together a consortium of wealthy individuals to launch an energy drink and to use F1 to promote it. The team has bank guarantees and so the backers must have money because banks don’t do things like that without serious evidence of cash.

Thus one can speculate that perhaps the problem lies between Storey and his backers. Storey appears to have dropped off the planet but we expect to hear more as the weekend progresses. Whatever the case, it’s a weird story... in the finest tradition of Weird F1 sponsors.

There has since been a statement from the Rich Energy shareholders: “Clearly the rogue actions of one individual have caused great embarrassment. We are in the process of legally removing the individual from all executive responsibilities."

Exit ZZ Top...

Thu, 11 Jul 2019 12:00:41 +0000
McLaren drivers

McLaren drivers

It is no surprise at all to hear that McLaren has retained its two drivers for 2020.

I’m quite sure that in both cases the team simply picked up options, with neither driver really having a choice because that’s the kind of contracts that young drivers get. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same was true for 2021 as well. Stability is key to success, as long as the drivers are performing well, which is clearly the case at McLaren. And it strikes me that Andreas Seidl is a very sensible fellow and having been a big banana at Porsche Motorsport he knows what he’s doing.

There are things that need to be fixed at McLaren but I sense that everyone is happy on the driving front, although I would expect the team to find a reserve driver of its own next year, rather than sharing Sergey Sirotkin with Renault. Who would that be? That depends a little on the team philosophy. One can make  money from such an appointment but it is better to get the best driver available. Youngsters are cheap and enthusiastic and it wouldn’t surprise me if they went back to Nyck De Vries, who was a McLaren driver for years, but was let go just before he started to come good in Formula 2.

I hear, by the way, that the team’s CFO John Cooper is on the move, the latest of the old regime to move on.

Wed, 10 Jul 2019 07:17:54 +0000
Time to catch a cold...

Time to catch a cold...

Well folks, I know that a Wednesday (July 10) is not the perfect day for those people who work but then this is a great opportunity to catch a summer cold and be forced to take a day off, to come to London to attend an Audience with Joe, if you're not busy watching the Tour de France arrive in Colmar, or spending £3,000 to see the Gentlemen's Quarter Finals on Centre Court at Wimbledon. I've tried to avoid football matches, but those who know that Partizani Tirana are playing Qarabağ in the first round of the UEFA Champions League might prefer to stay home. If not, there really are no excuses... unless you're planning to watch Jess Glynne, Billy Ocean and Nina Nesbitt at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Anyway, I'll be at The Hollywood Arms, which can be found at 45 Hollywood Road in Chelsea SW10 9HX, with an evening which will run from 7pm - 11pm, answering your questions about Formula 1. Food will be served mid-way through the evening, while drinks will be available at normal bar rates.

It's a great opportunity for me to tell stories and give fans the chance to see beneath the skin of the sport. I passionately believe that the sport does not give enough back to the fans and so I strive to do so in a convivial atmosphere. In order to ensure that everyone gets the chance to ask as many questions as they want to ask, the audience numbers are limited, so book now if you want to be sure of a spot. It's a bargain at £39.00 per head. Unfortunately, if you want to come, you need to book in advance as there are no walk-in tickets possible.

To sign up, click here

It seems that most people like the events. This is what some think:

“Just got back from An Audience with Joe Saward evening – which was absolutely excellent. Joe was on sparkling form and massively entertaining – and at nearly three hours of talking, you certainly got your money’s worth!”

“Joe was every bit as forthright and honest in the flesh as is he is on his blog – if not more so – and his answers to the audience’s questions were always funny, insightful, and on many occasions highly revealing.  Whatever Joe was asked, he had an entertaining view and more to the point a lot of insider evidence to support it."

“I had a great time last night at the “Audience with Joe”. Thanks for making the effort and spending so much time chatting to us all. For anyone local to future “Joe” events, I encourage you to get along and join us in the fun!"

To sign up, click here

The venue is a short 5-minute walk from Earls Court tube station, or an 8-minute walk from both Gloucester Road and South Kensington.


Thu, 04 Jul 2019 16:17:38 +0000
Notebook from the Pfälzerwald

Notebook from the Pfälzerwald 

One can talk of the romance of being on the road, but like most romance, there is lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes. You might, perhaps, be wondering where one might find the Pfälzerwald. Fair enough. Would you be any wiser if I said it was the Palatinate Forest? This runs north to south, to the west of the Rhine, stretching westwards towards the French border at Saarbrücken. Most people don’t go there because you can whizz past on the autobahn by way of Kaiserslautern, but I always find it rather therapeutic to go through the forest, on a road that is almost as fast - and has fewer vehicles.

One of the problems of driving around Europe these days is the traffic, even in the quietest places. I regularly drive from the Red Bull Ring to Paris in a day. It is about 1,200 km and it is pretty hard work if one obeys the law. You get on the road at six in the morning, which isn’t difficult if the gasthaus has yappy dogs who wake (and wake you) at four thirty. That is assuming, of course, that you haven’t been working all night. Anyway, it takes about 15 hours of driving, allowing for lunch on the Rhine at Speyer, and one arrives in Paris after the rush hour is finished. But this year I moved to Normandy so things are a little bit more complicated. The journey time goes up to more than 16 hours and that makes for a very long day.

It probably didn’t help that I didn’t get all the necessary work done until ten o’clock in the morning and so any thoughts of a heroic (or should that be stupid) non-stop run evaporated. And then, after about half an hour on the road that goes north-west from near the Red Bull Racing up to the German border at Passau, I ran into a traffic jam. The road was clogged with trucks and a zillion Dutch racing fans, all a little worse for wear after a night clog-dancing to celebrate Max Verstappen’s victory…

I saw a sign to the village of Rottenmann and decided that it was worth a visit. I’d rather be moving and wasting time than looking at the back of a Dutch caravan. And then I just kept driving, leaving the jammers behind. There was no real plan apart from getting on to the German autobahn network. I decided not to go through the Salzkammergut because, delightful though it is, I knew it would be slower and so went down a valley that took me eventually to Schladming, a name that is famous in the world of skiing. I was soon on the A10 motorway, hurrying north to Salzburg and then went west to Munich, Augsburg, Ulm and Stuttgart, driving through some massive rainstorms, in the course of the afternoon. I figured that I would do 700km on Monday and save the other 700 for Tuesday. And thus I ended up at Landau in der Pfalz, the gateway to the Pfälzerwald, set in a pleasant wine country. If the name sounds familiar – and you’re not thinking of a Welsh racing circuit (Llandow) or a McLaren driver (Lando), it is because this was the town where they invented four-wheeled carriages in which the seats faced one another and so the name passed into the language as the Landau Carriage and was even used in the early years of the automobile, when they used a similar layout is some of the horseless carriages. It was time for my last Wiener Schnitzel before crossing the border, after which one orders an Escalope Milanese instead and get the same thing, albeit without cranberry sauce. For those who like culinary history, the reason for this was because in 1848 Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky imported the recipe to Vienna after fighting some battles in Italy and enjoying a few lunches in Milan. This may be why Johann Strauss Sr composed a march in Radetzky’s honour, which kept the name alive.

When one is doing the really long-haul drives, one tends to just keep going and so I ignored the old Argonne circuit, near Verdun, and bypassed the former F1 track at Reims, but by early afternoon I was a little weary of being on the road and after a stop to write the “Pat Fry leaves McLaren” story I decided to take half an hour for myself and went in search of the Peronne circuit, the home of the Grand Prix de Picardie from 1925 until 1939.

For racing historians, this is not the same as the Circuit de Picardie, which is closer to Amiens, which hosted the French GP of 1913. The GP of Picardie was for a while the second biggest race in France for Grand Prix cars and was won by the likes of Philippe Etancelin, Robert Benoist, and later saw voiturette victories for Prince Bira, Raymond Mays and Johnnie Wakefield. 

There is little today to suggest that there was ever a race track on these country roads but then suddenly at the crossroads, where once the pits were located, there is a large monument in honour of Louis Trintignant and Guy Bouriat, two racers who were killed on the same weekend in 1933. Trintignant was the brother of Maurice Trintignant, the future Monaco GP winner, while Bouriat was the head of competition at Bugatti.

I made it home by five and I was going to sit down and write up the Notebook but there was a podcast to do and then real world things like lawn-mowing to be done - as it is only a few days before I set off once again for the British GP. July is always a bit of a blur for F1 folk, as we rush through six races in nine weeks.

At some point during this period the silly season tends to kick in and we start to hear stories of who is going to go where in 2020. It has already started, largely due to the poor results set by Pierre Gasly. It is fairly clear that nothing is going to change at Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas would be mad to leave Mercedes. Thus Red Bull is the focus of all the rumouring and, while the team might complain about the wild stories surrounding Gasly, it is worth noting that Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko has had a long career dumping drivers mid-season. If you look back at the Red Bull teams you will see Christian Klien dumped in mid-season in 2006. In 2007 it was Scott Speed. In 2009 it was Sebastien Bourdais, in 2016 Dany Kvyat was given the heave-ho by Red Bull Racing while the team let Carlos Sainz go off to Renault, so the team ended the year with two different drivers to those at the start. The problem is that so many Red Bull Young Drivers have been axed that there aren’t any left who are ready for F1. Alex Albon looks like a man who will get into a top team one day, but it would be foolish to promote him too soon, as happened with Kvyat. So Red Bull is going to have to look outside the programme for a driver next year unless Gasly suddenly perks up.

Marko’s brutal approach has been seen again in recent days with the news from Japan that Dan Ticktum has been dumped from the programme having failed to do much in his first races in Super Formula. The English driver will be replaced in Japan by Mexican Patricio O’Ward, Marko’s latest favourite, who won the Indy Lights title last year but struggled to find a budget for IndyCar. Red Bull has supported him but does not want him racing on ovals (except Indy) and so last week parachuted him into Formula 2 with MP Motorsport. It was a tough call but by the end of the weekend he was looking OK. Now he will go off to take over Ticktum’s ride with Team Mugen and may be back doing more F2 races as well.

One good choice for Red Bull in the short term could be Nico Hulkenberg who has been waiting around for a top team for far too long. He can wait for Renault to get up to speed (if it can), but jumping in as Max Verstappen’s team-mate at Red Bull might be rather daunting. This would be neat as it would open up a seat for Esteban Ocon at Renault, which would give the French a Frenchman to cheer. The Silly Season is really a chain reaction, like dominos falling. It starts with the top teams and continues until the last seat is filled. Those involved spend their time setting up different scenarios and then go with which fits the bill at the moment an opportunity arises.

Verstappen’s win in Austria was a sign that Red Bull is getting to a point where it needs to have two real hotshoes and it is probably safe to say that Hulkenberg would do a better job than Gasly, although to be fair to Pierre he has had some hard times in the past and fought through them. We’ll see how it develops.

The win in Austria was great news for F1 for a number of reasons. It will cement Honda’s involvement after years of struggling. It gives fans a clear vision that we could have three teams winning races and it was also good that the FIA Stewards ruled that the move which got Max the lead was “a racing incident”. This is important because in recent weeks there has been much controversy about the way the stewards work and whether or not they apply the rules too strictly. The fact that it took the stewards so long to make the decision was really nothing very sinister. The race ended at about 4.30pm, after which the top drivers had to do a whole lot of media work. Thus the hearing could not be before 6pm. The stewards then had to talk to both drivers, watch all the necessary video and see the data. They then had to go through precedents to make sure that the decision was consistent with other rulings and then there were discussions before a decision, which then had to be typed up and delivered to the teams before it was all made public. In reality the process took one hour 45 minutes, rather than the three hours 15 minutes that some complained about…

Despite what the many cassandras in F1 will tell you, things seem to be going rather well at the moment with demand for F1 races growing – even allowing for hot air in some places. There are currently 21 venues on the calendar. There will be two new ones in 2020, which means that Spain and Germany are going to be disappointed, but there are around a dozen others who are expressing what might be termed “serious interest”. I don’t have the full list but there are at least two in Africa, there is a big new one in the Middle East, Spain and Germany don’t want to be left out, there is a project in London that looks quite credible. There are plans in Brazil, ambitions in Argentina and I believe there are things going on in Central America, in addition to the existing race in Mexico City. And, of course, there are various different projects ongoing in Asia and the United States. At the moment Miami remains the primary target for the Formula 1 group, with the plan being to hold a race on a purpose-built race track around the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium. From what I understand, the facility is not averse to giving up parking areas as it recently converted a significant amount of space into a permanent tennis centre, featuring 19 courts. This will take time, of course, and the biggest hurdle in the way appears to be the fact that the stadium will host the Super Bowl in February 2020 and does not want the venue to be a building site. For the moment, this remains the most likely new F1 race in the States. Whispers from China suggest that the most likely venue for a second race in China is not a well-known city such as Beijing or Hong Kong but rather the capital of Sichuan Province, Chengdu. This is the fifth biggest city in China, with a population of around 15 million, which is about twice the size of London, it is only the 10thmost popular destination of international tourists, which translates to around three million visitors a year, compared to three times that number in Shanghai. Oddly enough, the Chinese government is keen to convinced its citizens from travelling abroad and to spend their money visiting China itself, which would be a big economic boost. They also want more foreigners to come visiting so there is a motive for the national government and the locals to get excited. It has the reputation of being one of China’s most liveable cities and is the Chinese base for a large number of international companies, with excellent access by way of an international airport and high speed train lines that link it to the other major cities in China. In 2011 Chengdu was recognised by UNESCO as being “a city of gastronomy” and it is associated with the giant panda, which is a national symbol for the country. To the world at large, however, Chengdu remains virtually unknown, despite its size and importance, which means that it is a perfect place for F1 treatment…

Elsewhere, things are happening in Rio de Janiero but the F1 project is already running into problems with reports that the tender process to build and operate the planned F1 track has hit trouble as the President of Rio Motorpark, José Antonio Soares Pereira Júnior, is also a partner in a firm which worked as a consultant for the city government - on the tendering process!

The demise of the Spanish GP has yet to be confirmed but already I am hearing that there are other venues who want to take over the event if Barcelona loses the race (which it will). Inevitably one of these is from Jerez de la Frontera but one can imagine that Madrid might also be interested. Carlos Sainz Jr is from the city and his father is very well-connected in the political world there… 

Elsewhere, there are whispers from the United States that NBC has made a significant bid for the Formula 1 television rights for the United States, with the idea being to run a number of races on the network and the remainder on the NBC Sports Channel. The rights are currently being exploited by ESPN, which is part of the ABC/Disney empire, the rival of Comcast’s NBC. It is worth noting that since the end of last year Comcast has also been the owner of Sky television, which owns the TV rights for F1 in various countries, notably in the UK. Thus, if you hear people whingeing about having to pay Murdoch to watch F1, you might like to point out them, in a nice way that Murdoch is no longer involved… The word is that F1 was not overly impressed with the numbers on offer and so the negotiation continues, as F1 doesn’t want to sell the US market too cheaply, based on its current impact in the US and is looking to do a deal based on its expectations…

Finally there is likely to be some movement soon at Williams as the news that Paddy Lowe and the team are parting company, means that a deal has been done and Williams no longer has to take into account the fact that Lowe is legally still employed there. Now he isn’t and so the action can begin. It may just be a coincidence that Pat Fry has chosen to depart from McLaren, but he would be a good man to pick up the pieces at Grove and get the team moving in the right direction. There are likely to be other changes as well with a new CEO expected to be announced fairly soon. One can speculate about who this will be, but the choice is fairly limited, unless one takes a risk and goes outside the sport. In Williams’s situation this would not be wise so one would expect the team to go for someone who knows what they are doing, which means that one can imagine the job going to someone such as Eric Boullier or Jost Capito, both of whom fell foul of McLaren. Otmar Szafnauer of Racing Point might have been a good option, but he seems to be tied in there now.

Thu, 04 Jul 2019 15:27:27 +0000
Pat Fry leaving McLaren

Pat Fry leaving McLaren

Pat Fry, who led the design team of this year’s McLaren MCL34, is to leave the team with immediate effect.

But it seems there is no controversy about the move as Fry was brought in last year to take the role after Matt Morris left and James Key was not able to join because of gardening leave that had to be served after deciding to leave Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Fry may end up going elsewhere because a number of teams could use an engineer of his calibre, but for the moment it looks like he is going back into semi-retirement, which is why McLaren was able to get him as a stop-gap last year.

The new car will thus largely be the work of James Key.

Tue, 02 Jul 2019 13:28:19 +0000
Five and a half hours after the race

Five and a half hours after the race

The Austrian Grand Prix gave Formula 1 just what it needed - a winner other than Mercedes. It was a straight fight between Ferrari and Red Bull Honda. And Max Verstappen won, forcing his way past Charles Leclerc on the 69th lap of the 71-lap race. Almost everyone was happy. It had been a great race, filled with excitement and surprises. The problem was that Max's pass was just a little questionable. He said it was just racing. And many agreed, but the FIA has rules that must be respected. And thus it was that three hours after the race ended the FIA stewards were still debating what to do... It was a unfortunate way to end what had been a good day, a day that F1 really needed. One could feel a little sorry for Charles Leclerc, but he said himself that he probably would not have been able to hold Max off until the chequered flag. The Mercedes team picked up points but never looked like being in a winning position, but points are points and the team continues to dominate the Constructors' Championship. Ferrari can go home in the knowledge that it had a car capable of winning, and Red Bull Honda wwnt home having given Honda its much-needed first win since Hungary in 2006. All things considered, it was a good day for the sport... Valtteri Bottas was third and Lewis Hamilton fifth, while Sebastian Vettel was fourth, but none of them had looked like winners. Lando Norris did a good job to finish sixth in his McLaren, beating Pierre Gasly's Red Bull and Carlos Sainz was eighth, while the final two points scorers were the two Alfa Romeos.

- We talk to Sebastian Vettel.

- We remember the 1975 Austrian GP

- We tell the story of Ernest Montaut

- DT explains about F1 and domination

- JS goes walkabout in the Alps

- The Hack talks about the French and women

- Peter Nygaard and his crew capture the scenic beauty of the Austrian mountains.

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Sun, 30 Jun 2019 20:25:11 +0000
Teams against tyre changes

Teams against tyre changes

The Formula 1 have discussed the proposal that they should switch back to 2018 Pirelli tyres, in order to get tyres that are easier to use, in theory this might improve the racing.

However, many saw this as an attempt to allow rival teams to close the gap to Mercedes, which has mastered the tyres better than its opposition. In order for the change to go ahead the teams would need to have 70 percent agreement (ie seven of the 10 teams).

A meeting took place on Friday morning in Austria at which the matter was discussed, those wanting the change were Red Bull and its sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso and Ferrari and its customers Haas and Alfa Romeo.

Those against were Mercedes, Renault, McLaren, Racing Point and Williams.

Fri, 28 Jun 2019 09:57:33 +0000