JoeBlogsF1 The real stories from inside the F1 paddock Aug, 01 2017 00:00:30 EST A big chance for a youngster

A big chance for a youngster

Jacques Villeneuve is a funny guy, with strong opinions, but he is passionate about what he does and endlessly enthusiastic. For some years he and his childhood friend Patrick Lemarié (they have known one another since they were eight) have been trying to find a way to help youngsters get a start in motor racing, without requiring vast sums of money. Most of the young driver schemes that exist require those taking part to pay for the privilege and are not always based on talent.

The result was a new scheme called Feed Racing, which was launched earlier this year. It is an annual competition to find new stars, with guidance from professional coaches and the prize of a fully-paid season in British Formula 4 with Carlin, which has won the title for four of the last five seasons, notably with Lando Norris back in 2015. That is worth around €400,000, but is an excellent springboard for a professional career in the sport.

The competition is important in that France’s celebrated Volant system, which aided a string of youngsters to climb the ladder to Formula 1 from 1971 onwards, disappeared in 1994 when Elf reduced its involvement and everything was merged into an operation called La Filiere. It exists today as the Auto Sport Academy, but is more of an educational establishment and the prize of €100,000 doesn’t buy much these days.

Lemarié, who was a finalist in the Volant Elf 88 competition (losing out to Olivier Panis and Yvan Muller), has believed for a long time that the system should be revived and this year he and Villeneuve acquired seven Mygale Formula 4 cars and ran a series of courses at Magny-Cours, attended by around 40 youngsters for 10 different countries. This produced a selection of the best candidates and it boiled down to six, who took part in the final competition on Tuesday morning at Magny-Cours.  The finalists included four young Frenchmen plus a Dutchman and a driver from Ukraine. The format adopted was a knockout system to ensure that even if conditions changed, it would be the same for the two contestants at every level. They were not racing one another but rather competing against the clock at the same time, half a lap apart. The seven-lap final (the best three laps being averaged to get the result) was between the 21-year-old Dutchman Marijn Kremers, this year’s KZ Karting World Champion and 18-year-old Etienne Cheli, a French kart racer and son of former Formula 3000 driver Eric Cheli. It began in dramatic fashion as Kremers spun at the final corner just before beginning his first flying lap. The car came to rest just inches from the pit wall, bringing out a red flag. This would have destabilized a lot of drivers but Marijn showed admirable control by remaining calm and setting a series of quick laps to defeat Cheli.

Kremers grew up racing karts in the Netherlands against his contemporary Max Verstappen, but he never had the funding to progress in the sport. He moved up through karting to become a Birel factory driver - but his age counted against him.

“The age isn’t important,” said Villeneuve. “He is the fastest guy. I am sure he will be able to win races in Formula 4 in Britain next year.”

Villeneuve said that he was particularly impressed by the third-placed finalist Alexis Giroux, a 20-year-old butcher from Marseilles with no experience in karting competition before he signed up for the contest.

The competition was based solely on speed except for the choice of the fourth semi-finalist, who was picked by a jury consisting of former F1 driver Olivier Panis, ski champion and Dakar winner Luc Alphand, Serge Saulnier, président of the Magny-Cours circuit and former team owner and Carlin team manager Martin Knapman. Villeneuve and Lemarié were not involved in the process. They hope that next year the number of people signing up for the courses will double with the goal being to expand to more than 100 in the future.


Wed, 13 Nov 2019 11:12:39 +0000
Albon confirmed by Red Bull

Albon confirmed by Red Bull

Red Bull has confirmed that Alex Albon will stay with the team next season as team-mate to Max Verstappen. Pierre Gasly will stay on at Faenza with what will be Scuderia AlphaTauri.

Team Principal Christian Horner: “Alex has performed extremely well since his debut with the Team in Belgium and his results – seven finishes in the top-six – speak for themselves. It’s extremely hard to deny that level of consistency and in tandem with a growing reputation as a tenacious, fiercely committed racer, Alex has proved that he fully deserves to continue his progress with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. There is plenty of potential still to unlock and we look forward to seeing Alex alongside Max in 2020.”

Alex Albon added: “I am really excited to be partnering Max again for next year and I know how fortunate I am to be given this opportunity. I’m hugely thankful that Red Bull have put their trust in me and believed in my results since I joined the Team and for them to keep me in the car next year is a big deal. This year has been an incredible year for me and getting the call up to Red Bull mid-season was already a big step, so now I will use the learnings from this season and use the experience to improve and fight at the front in 2020.”

Tue, 12 Nov 2019 10:00:21 +0000
A big day for Jacques...

A big day for Jacques...

It's a big day today for Jacques Villeneuve and his Feed Racing scheme, designed to help a talented youngster to enter professional racing. The finals take place this morning at Magny-Cours, the prize being a fully-funded Carlin Formula 4 drive in Britain in 2020.

Tue, 12 Nov 2019 08:42:32 +0000
F1 launches green campaign

F1 launches green campaign

The news that Formula 1 has a “sustainability plan” to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 is the start of a campaign to give the sport a more environmentally-friendly image. It is long overdue, particularly in the light of the extraordinary achievements in engine efficiency since the new formula began in 2014.

The hybrid power unit will play a key role in the future of the automotive industry and the current F1 hybrid power unit, delivering more power using less fuel than any other car, combined with advanced sustainable fuels and energy recovery systems presents a tremendous opportunity to deliver a net-zero carbon hybrid power unit.

This new initiative will cover the Formula 1 cars and on-track activity and the rest of the operations as a sport.

The plan comes after twelve months of intense work with the FIA, sustainability experts, Formula 1 teams, promoters, and partners, resulting in an ambitious, yet achievable delivery plan. Carbon reduction projects will begin immediately to start the journey of becoming a more sustainable sport.

Formula 1 has been at the forefront of technological innovation throughout its history with advancements that have directly benefitted the wider automotive industry. Aerodynamic innovations, safety developments, energy recovery systems, navigation tools and composite materials from F1 have been adopted by the road car and other industries.

The initiatives will include action to ensure we move to ultra-efficient logistics and travel and 100 percent renewably powered offices, facilities and factories. And by 2025 all events will be sustainable. This will mean the use of sustainable materials at all events with single-use plastics being eliminated and all waste reused, recycled or composted. Additionally, we will provide incentives and tools to offer every fan a greener way to reach the races.

“Few people know that the current F1 hybrid power unit is the most efficient in the world, delivering more power using less fuel, and hence CO2, than any other car,” says Chase Carey. “We believe F1 can continue to be a leader for the auto industry and work with the energy and automotive sector to deliver the world’s first net zero carbon hybrid internal combustion engine that hugely reduces carbon emissions around the world.”

“In launching F1’s first-ever sustainability strategy, we recognise the critical role that all organisations must play in tackling this global issue. By leveraging the immense talent, passion and drive for innovation held by all members of the F1 community, we hope to make a significant positive impact on the environment and communities in which we operate.”

Tue, 12 Nov 2019 06:59:31 +0000
The mayor vetoes opposition to F1 in Miami

The mayor vetoes opposition to F1 in Miami

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has today used his veto to overturn opposition to the planned Formula 1 race at the Hard Rock Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins. This is situated in Miami Gardens, where the local County Commissioner Barbara Jordan has led opposition to the event.

Jordan’s proposals to make things difficult for the event were passed at the end of October by the Miami-Dade County Commissioners with votes of 7-6 and 8-5. The mayor had 10 days in which to veto the decisions. He can be overruled if there are nine votes against him, but this is not the case as of today.

Gimenez said that he has had a meeting with race opponents, Jordan and Dolphins representatives and that he hopes that they will find a way to compromise so that the county can host what is a major global sporting event.

Part of the problem has been education with some wild claims by opponents of the race about the noise levels involved, which clearly are way in excess of what F1 produces today.

Since 2014 the noise of the engines has been much reduced, to such an extent that it is not unusual for F1 people to not even notice when a session has begun, because of the quieter engines.

There is also a need for the local residents to understand the benefits that come from an F1 race, which have been seen in places such as Melbourne, where F1 has acted to improve the reputation of a neighbourhood and thus raise the house prices.

There is also great potential for locals to make money by renting out properties when the races are on, as hotel prices tend to get very high when F1 goes to any city and thus fans and even F1 people turn to using private residences. The number of people who will be affected by the race is very limited.

It would be hard to find a location with fewer residents being impacted anywhere in developed southern Florida, although perhaps Homestead might be able to match such a claim.

The sad news is that it costs a great deal of money to host an F1 race and so it will either happen at the Hard Rock Stadium (which is willing to pay) or it will not happen at all.

Gimenez believes that Miami will benefit from an F1 race if the locals are reasonable and listen to the arguments put forward. If not, F1 will look elsewhere and take its many benefits to a city that will appreciate what it has to offer. Las Vegas is waiting in the wings…

Fri, 08 Nov 2019 16:59:29 +0000
Notebook from an autumnal forest

Notebook from an autumnal forest

It doesn’t really matter where you are in the northern hemisphere, at this time of year the forests are spectacular. The leaves have turned a million different shades of greens, yellows, reds and brown, as the trees finish their year with a grand finale, the last blast before they shut down for their winter break. The days are getting shorter and cooler as Nature rolls ever onwards. For human folk it is traditionally a time of celebration and remembrance. A time to be thankful for all the good things that we have before the austerity of winter. It is the season of festivals and fireworks, when memories are made, to be remembered with a cosy nostalgia when one grows older.

It is the time of year when Formula 1 gets its champions, although in reality most of those involved with the teams are already looking ahead to next year, with designs completed and signed off and manufacturing beginning. Lewis Hamilton is World Champion for a sixth time and he deserves all the glory he gets. This was a tough one, where he had to dig deep.

The green notebook is coming to an end as well, slightly battered after 18 months in the field. A new one will take over in Brazil.

The big battles may be done but the last two races will be more than mere skirmishes. In the midfield a couple of places in the Constructors’ Championship can make a difference of $10 million in prize money, but the sport chooses not to talk about such things, for reasons that have long ago become obscure.

The chatter in Austin was dominated by two subjects: the new rules for 2021 and then later in the weekend the technical clarification from the FIA regarding the way in which the fuel flow meter can be used. It is clear that Red Bull’s inquiry to the FIA was designed to get a clear ruling on the subject because of suspicions about the Ferrari performance since Spa. Ferrari says that its drop-off in performance in the race in Austin was entirely coincidental, although pretty much everyone else seems to have made a connection between the clarification and the drop in performance. That doesn’t mean everyone is right, so we will be looking closely at the races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi to see if Ferrari is back where it has been, or whether the loss of performance is still there.

In the meantime, work is now switching to negotiations for the next commercial agreement, which will focus on how revenues are divided up and who will make decisions about what. These will still be based in the original commercial deal - known as the Concorde Agreement – which was replaced in 2013 by the so-called “Bilateral Agreements”, although these were essentially the same agreement with a number of individual arrangements with the different teams. Discussions over how the prize funds operate seem to be done and everyone seems to have accepted that Ferrari will still receive money as the Longest Standing Team (LST), although it will not be as much as was previously. A lot of chatter has been going on about other special payments, with everyone claiming that they should be rewarded for this and that. In the end, however, F1 owner Liberty Media is gradually trying to move towards a system which is more akin to the sports franchises seen in many American leagues. The logic is very simple as this system offers more stability and security for all concerned and will be more attractive to the kind of sports investors, who have no particular interest in motorsport but want to invest in the business of sport. Back in 2016 NASCAR adopted such a system, using “charters” which guaranteed revenues and rights. Formula 1 has had such rights and revenues but it is a clunky system which could use an overhaul to establish a better way of doing business. The current commercial contracts in Formula 1 run out at the end of 2020, so  there is another year before these need to be finalised. The next deal will be for another 10 years, taking the sport to 2030.

One whisper that we did hear in Austin was that Ferrari is keen to have a clause which blocks recent team principals from becoming executives within the Formula 1 group. This has been nicknamed the “Toto Wolff Clause” as the Mercedes team boss is believed to have had some discussions about a possible role with Liberty media in the future.

The other big news in the paddock was the merger between Groupe PSA (otherwise known as Peugeot-Citroen) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The two firms intend to create a stronger company by having a better geographic footprint while saving billions in operating costs and investment. The deal was deemed necessary by FCA in order to meet European emissions goals in 2021 and 2025. The result is a company which will have six Peugeot nominees on the board, and five FCA executives. This means that there is an argument that this is a Peugeot takeover of Fiat, although FCA chairman, John Elkann, will become chairman of the new company. When the deal closes FCA shareholders will get a $6.1 billion premium.

The merged companies will have a big portfolio of brands: Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, Vauxhall, Fiat, Chrysler, Ram, Abarth, Jeep, Dodge, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Maserati. It remains to be seen whether all of these brands can survive after the merger, with some of them in serious difficulties. Chrysler, for example, has only one car model, with three different types of minivan; Lancia has only one model, the Ypsilon which is sold only in its home market of Italy. This however has outsold Alfa Romeo models thus far this year, while Maserati is also suffering from a fall in sales.

The new deal could, obviously, impact on the Alfa Romeo sponsorship of Sauber in Formula 1, although this is not necessarily a negative impact as Peugeot boss Carlos Tavares might see the value in the new company having a presence in F1, although the brand might change. He might also consider the sponsorship of Sauber to be the wrong model for a big player in the industry. For the moment it is too early to say. Having said that, the poor performance of the team is not going to help matters.

The team confirmed on Monday that Antonio Giovinazzi will be staying for another season, which closes the door for Nico Hulkenberg. The latest rumour has linked him to a drive in DTM with BMW, but he has denied that this is the plan. One presumes that this is a fall-back position until all F1 opportunities are finally exhausted. With it being virtually certain that the second Williams drive will go to Nicholas Latifi, The Hulk’s only real chance is a reserve driver job, which might lead to a return to racing in 2021.

On the same day as Giovinazzi was announced, there came the news that Roger Penske is buying not only Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but also IndyCar and IMS Productions, which creates content for the series. This is a big deal in the United States and, inevitably, has led to suggestions that this could lead to F1 returning to Indianapolis.

“Can we run a 24-hour race here? Can we run a Formula 1 race here? What are the things we can do?” Penske said at the announcement of the sale. “This is a great asset. So I look at all of these across the board to see what can we do.”

This news was not in the notebook itself because it came on the Monday, but it is worth considering given the context.

Earlier in the week, F1 had run a successful street festival on Hollywood Boulevard, but had suffered a setback with the Board of County Commissioners of Miami-Dade County in Florida voting to create a number of bureaucratic hurdles for the Hard Rock Stadium Formula 1 project in Miami Gardens. The votes are expected to be vetoed by the Miami-Dade mayor, who is a supporter of the F1 project. Clearly, F1 needs to do more to educate and win over the locals (principally the politicians) as some of the arguments heard in the meeting were completely daft and highlighted just how little the people involved know about F1.

Elsewhere, the word from Brazil is that the Brazilian GP will switch to Rio de Janeiro in 2021. The funding for the new race track in Rio is in place and construction work is expected to begin as soon as the track gets its final planning permissions. The likelihood of a race in Argentina has effectively disappeared with the defeat of President Mauricio Macri in recent elections.

F1 had a good weekend in Austin with at least two new deals signed. There is a new trackside advertising deal with Caterpillar Inc, often known as CAT, world’s largest construction equipment manufacturer, and there is a new deal with Codemasters Studios. The interesting thing about the deal is that Codemasters already had a deal for a couple more years but seems to have agreed to a renegotiation in order to secure the contract in the face of opposition from other video gaming companies. The new deal runs from 2021 to 2025, with an option to continue in 2026 and 2027.

Elsewhere, despite rumours that Renault may quit F1, the team is continuing to build up its technical capabilities, with the hiring of Pat Fry and Dirk de Beer. Oddly, Fry doesn’t yet have a job title, which suggests that the team is looking for a way to integrate him into the structure, without disrupting the existing people. De Beer, on the other hand, becomes head of aerodynamics, replacing Peter Machin.

Over the weekend, Racing Point also received its planning permission for the construction of a huge new factory adjacent to the current facility. Work will begin on the new facility in February.

Finally, the one element of the new sporting package which has not gone down well is the idea of increasing the calendar to 25 events and reducing the race meetings to three days. The primary victims of the latter change will be the race promoters, who will be paying the same for less, unless F1 can increase its plans for week-long F1-related festivals in the host cities. The other victims will be the media, which will get less access to F1 people as Thursdays were used a lot for media work.

Teams are still sceptical about having more races… even if they pay extra money – because of the strains that a bigger calendar will place on the staff…

Thu, 07 Nov 2019 12:08:29 +0000
Six and a half hours after the race

Six and a half hours after the race

The United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas was a great triumph for Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas winning the race and Lewis Hamilton finishing second and by doing so, winning his sixth World Championship title. He is not just one short of Michael Schumacher's all-time record and he is clearly planning to after that in 2020. Although Ferrari strong in qualifying, the challenge evaporated in the race with Sebastian Vettel going out with a suspension failure early on and Charles Leclerc being completely off the pace, finishing 52secs behind the winning car in a lonely fourth place, which led to speculation that a technical clarification from the FIA on Saturday may have had an major impact on the team's performance. We will see, no doubt, in the remaining races of the year. It was an exciting race beginning with Bottas and Max Verstappen leading Hamilton. Lewis needed only four points to secure his sixth World Championship, but he has never been one to drive for points and, gambling on a one-stop strategy, he drove another superb race, taking the lead when Bottas and Verstappen pitted early on, Valtteri covering Red Bull's attempt to under-cut him. Hamilton remained ahead until his pit stop 10 laps later and then ran third until his two rivals stopped again on laps 34 and 35 and he went back into the lead. He had an advantage of just under 10 seconds with 20 laps to run. It was a question of driving hard but conserving his tyres. Gradually Bottas and Verstappen both closed in but he fought hard to keep his team-mate behind him. But on lap 52 Bottas went ahead and Lewis was left watching his mirrors as Max closed in. They got to the finish line with 0.8s between them. Behind the distant Leclerc, Alex Albon fought back after a first lap incident and pit stop. he charged back, pitting twice more, and made it through to fifth. Behind him the Renault-engined cars wiped up most of the remaining points with Daniel Ricciardo sixth, Lando Norris seventh, Sainz eighth and Nico Hulkenberg ninth. The final point saw drama as Dany Kvyat once again ran a rival off the road on the final lap, but penalised and so Sergio Perez got his place back and with it a World Championship point.

- Lewis Hamilton talks abotu winning
- F1 goes to Hollywood
- We analyse the new F1 rules in great detail
- We look back to the Dutch Grand Prix of 1977 - DT goes to the movies
- JS has a rant about red tape
- The Hack looks back to days of yore
- Peter Nygaard, celebrating his 600th Grand Prix, rushes around COTA snapping frantically

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.

Or for more information, go to

Mon, 04 Nov 2019 03:03:58 +0000
A lot of noise...

A lot of noise...

A Formula 1 car is a complex piece of machinery and all the different systems on it do sometimes disrupt one another. The cars have a great deal of electrical noise - undesirable electrical signals - which can distort or interfere with the desired signals. This is vary hard to master.

On Saturday morning in Austin, the FIA issued a technical directive to the F1 teams detailing a system that Red Bull had proposed that might have allowed the team to run more than the allowed amount of fuel flow, based on using electircal noise to disrupt the sample pulses sent from the fuel flow metering units, that make sure the teams do not use too much fuel. The system was, of course, rejected by the FIA as being illegal.

It is clear, however, that Red Bull did this for a reason, knowing the suggestion would be rejected, but in order to have the FIA clarify what was acceptable and what was not acceptable. And thus draw a line in the sand. Red Bull is believed to have suspected that other teams might be using such a system, or something similar to it. Using more than the allowed fuel flow could create a situation in which a team might be able to burn more fuel at certain points in a race weekend, which would give the engine a little bit of extra power when it was most needed, particularly when accelerating at slow speeds, which would allow the car to carry the additional speed up through the acceleration curve and so produce a higher top speed.

It seems that the system that Red Bull created, based on experiments it conducted, allowed pulses going from the fuel flow-metre, which samples what is going on, to be disrupted by external electrical “noise”.

This grey area has now been closed and it will be interesting to see if it has any impact on the different levels of performance of the different F1 teams.

Sat, 02 Nov 2019 19:47:55 +0000
Renault confirms Fry

Renault confirms Fry

Renault F1 has confirmed that Pat Fry will join the team shortly.

“I am delighted to be able to work with Pat again," said Renault's executive director Marcin Budkowski, who worked with Fry at McLaren between 2007 and 2010. "His arrival is yet another step as we build and improve our team structure. Pat’s experience, talent and determination will be additional assets as we continue our progress.”

Sat, 02 Nov 2019 19:28:01 +0000
Renault grabs Pat Fry

Renault grabs Pat Fry

The word in the Formula 1 paddock at the United States Grand Prix is that Renault will soon announce that it has hired British engineer Pat Fry to lead the technical team at Enstone.

Fry left McLaren earlier this year after masterminding the team’s 2019 revival. It was always going to be a short-term role because McLaren had hired James Key to be Technical Director. Fry stayed on for a few months and then left.

It is not clear exactly what role Fry will take at Enstone, but it seems that he will work with Technical Director Nick Chester and Executive Director Marcin Budkowski.

Renault has been working hard in recent seasons to improve its engine performance but this year customer team McLaren has outshone the factory, indicating that the team should concentrate more on the chassis and aerodynamics. The team announced on Friday that it is revamping its aerodynamics department, but having Fry will give them a technical leader with a strong history and a great reputation.

For Fry (55) it will be a return to the team, where he worked at the start of his Formula 1 career, after he joined Pat Symonds’s research and development department at Witney in 1987, after seven years as an electronics design engineer on missile systems with Thorn EMI.

His primary role was to work on an active suspension system. He then became a race engineer in the early part of the Schumacher era before being lured away to McLaren in 1993 by former Benetton colleague Giorgio Ascanelli.

He would spend the next 17 years in Woking, initially as a race engineer before moving up to lead the design team of a couple of World Championship-winning cars, before he was hired by Ferrari in 2010.

He became Technical Director (chassis) in Maranello but was then moved aside in 2014 when James Allison joined the team. He became Engineering Director at Maranello for a year but then began working as an engineering consultant, initially with Manor F1 and then in 2018 he was taken on by McLaren to lead the design team of the 2019 car.

Sat, 02 Nov 2019 16:59:01 +0000