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

Notebook from Melbourne

A weekend break to Australia is not the sort of thing that people generally do, but F1 life is like that and until there is a more sensible calendar, this is what we will have to do. Having travelled so far to get there, some F1 folk stay around after the Grand Prix and go up to Bahrain on the way home, after a week in Sydney, Queensland or maybe up in Asia. But for those who have things at home, it is a matter or flying out and back in seven days: two in the air and five on the ground. You can go for a shorter period, by arriving on Friday morning and leaving on Sunday night, but that really is pushing the envelope. It would probably be better to have the Bahrain race only one week after Melbourne so it can be done on the way home, rather than two weeks later.

Still, the F1 calendar is not an easy thing to put together and Chase Carey and his gang are still stuck with contracts from the Ecclestone era, which make their lives difficult. Australia has a deal to be the first race, until at least 2023, and the locals want to keep that status - and the date. Perhaps, as the F1 calendar expands, they will have to pay more for the privilege, but then if F1 is worth it to them (which clearly is the case), then it's a good deal for all concerned.

Travelling is not always an easy life but Carey is a traveller by nature, which means that he understands the rigours involved. On his way to Australia, the Formula 1 chairman stopped off in Florida to attend the induction ceremony for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, which was held in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was asked to be honorary chairman for the event, which gave him a chance to tell the major players in US motorsport about F1's plans. It is a smart move to snuggle up to NASCAR, which is the 800 pound elephant in the room in US motorsport. Carey is no stranger to the folk from NASCAR, having negotiated many TV deals with the France Family during his days as the big cheese at Fox, but it is wise to talk to NASCAR about F1's planned expansion in the United States, to avoid possible conflict.

The plans to host an F1 race on the streets of Miami have gone seriously quiet in recent months. The word is that the primary target for F1 in the United States right now is Las Vegas, where I'm told a deal is now close. The only problem is that the track that is available is not very interesting and the design of the circuit is under discussion because there is absolutely no point in F1 going into the US market if it produces a poor show as a result of the circuit design.  In the old days no-one seemed to care that much, but Liberty Media is smart enough to understand that what is required is a good show, otherwise everyone is wasting their time. The word is that a number of the existing circuits are being looked at to find ways to make overtaking possible, notably Melbourne and Abu Dhabi, the first and last races of the year, which tend to produce uneventful races.

Elsewhere, the work continues to try to keep Austin on the F1 calendar following the bizarre bureaucratic glitch that resulted in the race promoter failing to get the $25 million reimbursement that was due because one page in a 300-page application was omitted. I have to say that the whole thing smells a bit odd to me. The State and COTA both say that they want the race to happen but cannot go ahead because of the demands of transparent government. It makes no sense and thus there are folk speculating that the whole business is designed to get the Formula One group to agree to step in and promote the race, leaving the promoter free to rent the circuit and not have to pay the bills. If the F1 group did promote the race, would it make money? Or at least be cash-neutral? Who knows? But I did hear whispers of F1 going back to Indianapolis if Austin doesn't get its act together… I'm not sure it is a great idea, but it is the one place where F1 can arrived and go into action, without any work needing to be done.

There continues to be a lot of working going on in relation to the 2020 calendar, with some important deadlines coming up soon. My Dutch colleagues tell me that they need to have a deal by the end of the month if Zandvoort is to go ahead. They are not very positive, but F1 seems to think that there will be a Dutch GP in 2020. We will see.

The other key date to watch for at the moment is May 8, which is election day in South Africa. If the African National Congress wins the election, I think we are going to see the South African GP revived at Kyalami, with funding from the government.

The F1 Strategy Group and the F1 Commission will meet in London on March 26, with the goal being to sign off on the commercial and regulation changes for 2021. Hopefully this will go ahead so that everyone can get down to planning for the future.

In the wider world of Formula 1,  the word is that Racing Point F1 will shortly launch an application for planning permission at Silverstone to build a new factory on land adjacent to the current site. It is expected that permission will be given, but the necessary steps will take time. There are still suggestions in the F1 paddock that we have not heard the last about the dispute between Haas and Racing Point over the way in which Force India was acquired by the latter last year. Under the terms of the existing commercial agreements, the two teams and the Formula One group could end up going to arbitration in Switzerland in order to find a solution, but everything they do is covered by confidentiality agreements and so we should not be hearing about it…

Having the F1 paddock and the Australian Supercars paddock adjacent to one another, with a gate linking the two (for the first time), there were a few visits to F1 from the local heroes. One rumour doing the rounds is that Fernando Alonso might take part in the Bathurst 1000 at some point in the not-too-distant future. Given that McLaren boss Zak Brown owns a stake in the Walkinshaw Andretti United team, this is quite plausible, although the team had done no better than sixth in the races so far this year, mainly because of the domination of the new Ford Mustangs.

Elsewhere, the rumours are beginning to build about who will lead the Williams F1 technical team, as it is very clear that Paddy Lowe's leave of absence "for personal reasons" is PR chaff. Lowe is gone and there will no doubt be legal action at some point to find a settlement, but Williams now needs a carpetbeater to come in and get the place up to speed…

The death of Charlie Whiting cast a cloud over F1 in Australia, as one would expect, but I think it would be great if the FIA was to decide that Race Control will be known as "Charlie" from now on, which would be a brilliant memorial. They might come up with some daft acronym to achieve this but I much prefer the idea that it be called Charlie… As guidance, they might note that the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War were known as VC (or Victor Charlie in the phonetic alphabet). This was soon shortened to Charlie… Race Control would be Romeo Charlie in the same phonetic alphabet, and would likely to b shortened to Charlie as well. It might not be a great success at the upcoming Vietnamese GP, but the war is long gone…

It was great to see F1 holding a season launch in Federation Square on the Wednesday prior to the event. It was even better that all teams and drivers attended the event. That is how it should be - and they shouldn't need an incentive to be there. About 10,000 fans turned out for the event. It couldn't be much bigger than it was given the capacity of the square but the location was terrific.

The days in Melbourne passed very quickly, as often they do. Despite the dreadful nanny state that Victoria has become, it is still a great place to visit and on the Monday after each Grand Prix I jump on a tram from downtown and go out into the suburbs, off the beaten track, to an old pub-hotel that has transformed itself into a fabulous restaurant, full of charm and great "tucker". My favourite lunch is a beast called a Moreton Bay Bug, which is a form of lobster. A few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and some Moreton Bugs and there is not much wrong with the world.

Then it is off to the airport again…

Wed, 20 Mar 2019 22:06:33 +0000
Seven hours after the race

Seven hours after the race

Valtteri Bottas drove a brilliant race in Melbourne to win a dominant victory and kick off his World Championshp in the best possible way.

No-one could touch the flying Finn, who came home 20 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton, 22 secs clear of Max Verstappen's Red Bull-Honda and almost a minute ahead of the fastest Ferrari. It was not at all what was expected after the winter testing. The fight further back was intense and it was remarkable to see eight of the 10 teams scoring points.

- We remember Charlie Whiting
- We talk to Red Bull's technical director
- We chronicle the adventures of the F1 rookies in Melbourne
- We remember F1's adventures in Phoenix
- JS praises Netflix
- DT meets the locals
- The Hack goes off in various directions

Peter Nygaard captures the light and colour of Albert Park

For those who don't know, GP+ is the world's fastest F1 magazine. We publish 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's so fast that some people in F1 simply don't believe it.

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 cheaper than chips. 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

And if you'd like to help us spread the word about the magazine, you can go to @grandprixplus and retweet and comment.

Sun, 17 Mar 2019 13:31:51 +0000


The F1 world arrived in Melbourne full of energy and the enthusiasm that is always there when a season begins. There was a good season launch in Federation Square in downtown Melbourne and all 20 drivers and the 10 team principals all managed to turn up. There were probably 10,000 people there, but there could have been more if the people at the back could have seen more. They couldn't, so they left, but it was still a good initiative.

On Wednesday everyone was talking about the Netflix series about F1 - Drive to Survive - which is terrific for fans and, more importantly, for non-fans. It isn't really a secret why it is successful: it is about the people in F1, not the corporate veneer. It's a about having the passion to swear a lot when things go wrong. People fascinate people, no matter the age, the demographic, the media platform the nationality. People are engaging if they are allowed to be. Anyway, it was a great show and I highly recommend it. Netflix never give out numbers (apparently), but it looks like it has been popular enough to do a second series. They are already filming, even if no agreement is yet in place. And for 2019 there are some fantastic potential storylines. I noticed a lot of cameras around Robert Kubica…

But then, on a bright sunny Thursday morning, came the news of Charlie Whiting's death overnight in his hotel room. It was a shock because, these days, 66 is still very young. Like all such shocks, it reminded everyone of their own mortality. It was felt deeply by F1's community of lifers - those who are in the sport for life, not just passing through - because Charlie was a friend of many, and losing one of "the gang" is always painful.

I've known Charlie since he was at Brabham in the late 1980s and I've always got on well with him, even if we didn't always agree. The F1 lifers are bonded by our passion for the sport and that usually overcomes all the day-to-day pushing-and-shoving. It is a family and Charlie was one of the big brothers, having been active in F1 for more than 40 years, beginning in 1977, when he was 25.

His involvement in the sport came through his big brother Nick, a car dealer and racing driver, six years his senior, who drove with great bravado and was a fan favourite in races at Brands Hatch, with a team called the All Car Equipe (ACE). Charlie started working with him when he was 15, preparing saloon and rally cars. By the mid-1970s the brothers had turned to running single seaters and prepared a Surtees F1 car in the 1976 Shellsport International Series, a British Formula Libre championship, under the banner of ShellSport Whiting for Divina Galica. Charlie enjoyed the experience and in 1977 he joined Hesketh a team then in deep decline.

A year later Charlie found a new job with Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham in Chessington, where he would spend the next 10 years, firstly as chief mechanic for the World Championship successes of 1981 and 1983, but later as an engineer and manager, working with Ecclestone and a group of staff who would become known as "Bernie's Boys". They would end up with big jobs in the Formula One group as it grew after Ecclestone sold Brabham. By then Ecclestone had become the FIA Vice-President in charge of promotional affairs alongside eccentric FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre and Bernie convinced the Frenchman that Charlie would be the right person to be the Formula 1 Technical Delegate, his job being to scrutineer the F1 cars. By 1991 Balestre was gone and Ecclestone ally Max Mosley was the new FIA President and Whiting's roles increased.

But his path through life was not without pain, particularly in 1990 when Nick was brutally murdered after being abducted from his garage. His body was later found on a remote marsh in Essex. He had been stabbed nine times and shot twice with a 9mm pistol. No-one ever really knew why it had happened, except that he had some dangerous associates, notably his schoolfriend Kenneth Noye, a murderous thus. At one point Nick was questioned by police about laundering the proceeds from the celebrated Brink's-Mat robbery in 1983 when a gang of robbers, expecting to find £3 million in cash, stumbled upon 6,800 gold bars, weighing three tons and worth £26 million. Probably, some of the those involved thought Whiting had talked too much, but no-one really knew.

Charlie was a decent man. He played the F1 game and did his fair share of rule-bending in the days when everyone was doing it. There is an the legendary tale of Brabham having a seat made of lead which would be slotted into the car after qualifying and before the cars were weighed. There was also a celebrated rear wing made from lead… That was part of the game in those days and it was why later on, Charlie was such a good technical delegate, a classic poacher turning gamekeeper. He didn't miss much...

His roles within the FIA expanded and he became F1's circuit inspector, the   official starter of F1 races, the head of the F1 Technical Department and later the F1 Race Director and Safety Delegate and ultimately became the head of the FIA's F1 team. He played a key role in terms of safety, particularly in relation to circuit safety. He worked incredibly hard, was forever on the move but was respected by all. For a journalist he was terrific because he could explain complicated technical matters in simple terms and was always great company, always having a new joke and living the F1 life to the full. A lifer.

The loss of Charlie will change the way that things are done in F1, as his roles will go to different people.

But F1 without Charlie - or Charles, as I always called him - will not be quite the same. More's the pity.

© Graham Read

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 18:09:41 +0000
Charlie Whiting 1952 - 2019

Charlie Whiting 1952 - 2019

FIA Director of Formula One, Charlie Whiting, has sadly passed away this morning (14 March 2019), in Melbourne, aged 66, as the result of a pulmonary embolism, three days before the Australian Grand Prix which will open the F1 season.

Charlie began his F1 career in 1977 working at the Hesketh team, then in the 1980s at Brabham. He has been an integral part of the organisation of the FIA Formula One World Championship since he joined the Federation in 1988, and has been the Race Director since 1997.

FIA President Jean Todt said: “It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s passing. Charlie Whiting was a great Race Director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula One who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport. Formula 1 has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie. All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula One lovers.”

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 00:56:50 +0000
Thoughts on arrival in Melbourne

Thoughts on arrival in Melbourne

So, the winter is done and the 100 Fascinating Facts are finished. There wasn't much time off and so I guess I must try harder this year to get some done during the season, in order to earn myself some time off next winter. Not sure when Volume 3 will be published (maybe around the British GP), but I will probably bundle it with the other two and might even sell some autographed copies as this seems to be something some people want.

Anyway, here I am in Melbourne, I arrived at 06.00am and now sitting around in the Business Centre where I stay, waiting for a room to be ready and then I may take a little turn around downtown, because it is such a great city. Then it will be time to pick up the pass and have a bit of a gossip if anyone is about. This evening there is the F1 launch event for the fans in Federation Square and then a McLaren BBQ, so it will keep me busy until I keel over tonight.

Still, it's back to normal blogging now and while there have been a few interesting stories over the winter, the only one I feel I perhaps should have written more about was the state of Williams, but when that was all happening I was up to my neck in other work and wasn't able to invest the time.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Williams fan and I hate seeing what is happening to the team today. It actually pains me. My first Grand Prix as a spectator was the team's first victory back in 1979 and I gradually got to know everyone involved from the mid-Eighties onwards. I was very close to FW, one of the most inspiring people in F1, and Sir Patrick is a wonderful voice of reality, although a little more muted these days. I was also a huge fan of Ginny, Lady Williams, who wrote the best book I ever read about F1 (A Different Kind of Life) and who was so important in the way the team developed. I'm very glad that her role has been highlighted by the recent documentary about the team. What has happened in recent years is incredibly sad. Frank had at least three succession plans that all went wrong, the first as long ago as 2005 when Chris Chapple was appointed CEO. In 2006 Adam Parr arrived, a very clever man, but he made important enemies early on (read Bernie Ecclestone) and in 2012 he was thrown out with FW getting nudged to make the move (so they say) by Mr E, when there were discussions about Williams getting an annual historic payment. And then, of course, there was Toto Wolff, who arrived as a shareholder and ran the team for a bit before being lured away (how could he refuse such a deal?) by Mercedes.

Paddy Lowe, the chief technical officer, is a very clever engineer but being a clever engineer does not necessarily mean you are a great leader. It is something we have seen over and over in F1 history. Leadership is about more than brain power. In any case he is now on "a leave of absence” from the team “for personal reasons”, which is an explanation which simply draws more attention to the situation because it is so clearly corporate gobbledygook. It has been known for some time that Lowe's complicated deal with the team, including share options and (so they say) massive compensation if he was to depart, was getting in the way. Some say that Williams could not afford to part ways with him, which would explain the leave of absence, which means that he has not actually left the team, but is no longer actually involved, which in turn means that the parties can now negotiate/take legal action, without it impacting on the day-to-day life of the team. In any case, no-one in F1 is expecting Lowe to return from his leave of absence. One can, of course, blame him for failing to produce a good enough car for two consecutive seasons, with different design teams.

The 2019 car, if nothing else, does not seem to have any fundamental flaws, apart from the fact that it was late arriving and so is far behind its rivals in terms of development. There is talk of insufficient money but when you do the numbers, while Williams has lost a lot of revenues of late, because of the poor results, it still seems to have had a bigger budget than direct rival Force India/Racing Point, which has produced much better results, despite going through a period of administration and having facilities that are far less impressive than those at Grove. If money is short at Williams, then there will likely be a big crisis this year. I hope not.

There are some who argue that if a team has two consecutive bad cars, then the management must be questioned because the fault lies in the choice of technical director, as well as with the technical director himself. I would phrase it slightly differently: I would replace the word "management", with the word "leadership". They are not the same thing at all. If one looks at Sauber, one can say that Fred Vasseur did a terrific job to revive the Swiss team. I don't disagree with that in some respects, but I think that the thing that got the team's staff willing to go the extra mile was having Charles Leclerc driving. He was an engine for progress (not the only one, but an important one nonetheless). This year they have a bigger budget and have hired some good people and we will see if the progress is sustained. It will be interesting. Racing teams succeed through good leadership, even if they have small budgets. That is the key. Leadership usually begins with the shareholders but can be provided by the management, the leading engineer or even a driver, but it has to be something that allows people to do their jobs and inspires them at the same time. If the ownership will not let its managers operate then the team will fail. It's to do with respect more than anything. If one sees what Gunther and Otmar do with the teams they manage, you see how it works, on small budgets.

The thing that slightly alarms me is that there will come a point at which Mercedes will need to decide whether to continue with Williams and might conclude that it could be a better idea to go with McLaren... I understand that Williams does not wish to become a satellite team of a big manufacturer, but if you cannot hack it with the big boys, this is the best strategic choice. That might be difficult for Team Willy to accept, given its history, but it might also be the best path to survive. All the customer teams have the dream of one day picking up a manufacturer of their own, but this is hard to do. I believe that if F1 cuts its costs and stays with the same brilliant engines (and does more to promote the astonishing achievements of recent years), the groundwork will be laid for more manufacturers to get involved. As the engines develop, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, which means that newcomers can catch up more easily... Changes to the engine rules simply spreads the field out and pushes up the budgets...

Tue, 12 Mar 2019 22:58:19 +0000
Come and meet Joe at the beach!

Come and meet Joe at the beach!

Joe's Audience events are highly popular with Formula 1 fans around the world, offering a unique insight into the sport, with a journalist who has been to every single F1 race since the autumn of 1988, more than 540 races in total. Such experience and contacts gives you insights into the sport, both in the modern era and in the past.

If you're going to be in Melbourne for the Grand Prix weekend, there is a once-a-year opportunity to go and ask Joe any questions you like, and to meet other passionate fans of the sport who will be attending. There is no shortage of subject matter at the moment with the new cars, the new season ahead and all the discussions about the future shape of the sport.

The event will be at the West Beach Bathers Pavilion, located at 330A Beaconsfield Parade, St Kilda, which is right down on the beach (see map below). It is within easy reach of Albert Park by tram and a pleasant walk from the Canterbury Road entrance, if you prefer. The event will kick off at 7pm on Friday, March 15, and it will run until 11pm, with food and drink available throughout the evening at normal bar prices.

The tickets remain at A$70 and there was a huge turnout last year, so it is best to book early as the number of tickets is limited in order to ensure that everyone gets the chance to ask questions. We are expecting a sell-out crowd, so don't leave it to the last minute. You might not get in.

If you don't know about the audience, here is a quick idea about what people think about my events:

Paperballpark: "It was very interesting, informative, and absolutely worth the money. Joe really knows his stuff, and isn’t afraid of saying what he thinks. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in F1 – you won’t regret it!"

Francesco Zargani: "Having attended my first talk with Joe in Singapore last year, I can truly say they are awesome and would highly recommend it to anyone lucky to be in Melbourne during those days."

Phil Branagan: "After eons of listening to Joe yacking about F1 (and many other topics) I sent my brother and his mate off to one of his chats in Melbourne a few years ago. They came back impressed, and then wondered why I don’t know as much about this as JS does. Few do. Highly recommended."

To buy tickets, click here

Tue, 12 Mar 2019 04:19:27 +0000
Your GP+ Season preview is ready for downloading

Your GP+ Season preview is ready for downloading

The Formula 1 season is upon and GP+ have been trying to figure out what will happen in 2019. Can Lewis Hamilton win a sixth title or will Sebastian Vettel finally strike back. And how will Max Verstappen do with Red Bull's new relationship with Honda. There are lots of fascinating questions to be answered. 

- We look at the runners and riders for the season ahead and assess their potential

- We talk to Lando Norris

- We look at the state of Formula 1's finances and reach a different conclusion to some others

- We look at F1's troubles in the Americas

- We look back at Nigel Mansell's remarkable victory in Brazil in 1989

- We remember Dr Robert Hubbard, the inventor of HANS and fast lady Kitty O'Neil

- JS looks back at the very short winter break

- DT wonders about the British GP

- The Hack looks back at some flawed heroes

Peter Nygaard and his team provide some terrific photos of the winter and the new F1 cars

If you don't know GP+, check us out. We are the world's fastest F1 magazine. We publish an 80-100 page magazine with everything you want to known about a Grand Prix weekend - all delivered around six hours after the chequered flag. It's so fast that some people in F1 simply don't believe it.

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 cheaper than chips. 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

And if you'd like to help us spread the word about the magazine, you can go to @grandprixplus and retweet and comment.


Sun, 10 Mar 2019 09:52:45 +0000
DIY racing. Fascinating F1 Facts: 100

DIY racing. Fascinating F1 Facts: 100

In the movie Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear makes an apposite remark as he and Sheriff Woody are hurtling through the air (as you do). "This isn't flying," Buzz says, "this is falling - with style."

We all know that humans cannot fly. Nor can most animals and there are plenty of adynata, in different languages, which make this point that some things are impossible. The English say that "if pigs could fly" or "when Hell freezes over", the French talk of chickens growing teeth. The Italians talk about "when donkeys fly".

Flying donkeys seem rather unlikely, but each spring in the village of Gonfaron, in Provence, there is a festival to celebrate a flying donkey. There seem to be several different versions of the legend but one involves a grumpy old man refusing to tidy his house when a religion procession was due to pass by. The old boy remarked that if Saint Quninis didn't like his house, he could always fly over it. Some time later, the same old fellow was out riding his donkey on the steep hill to the north of the village. The donkey was bitten by an insect and took off at high speed, throwing off the rider and charging over a cliff and into a deep ravine. It wasn't flying, it was falling (probably without much style) but the villagers were amused: Saint Quinis had taught the old man a lesson - and a donkey had flown.

Still, history relates that nothing is impossible in Gonfaron… In the middle of the village there used to be the Garage de l'Avenir. Today it has been converted into a bakery, but it was once a wheelwright shop, belonging to the Julien family. When Henri Julien was born in 1927 the family had already converted this into a garage and the youngster grew up with cars all around him. He learned to be a mechanic with his father and then at various dealerships in nearby Toulon but at 19 discovered his real passion when he went to see the 1946 Grand Prix of Nice.

He decided that he would become a racing driver. He didn't have the money to buy a car and so he decided to build one himself a special basd around a 500cc Simca. He called the car the JH1 and he competed in local events. The following year he built a second special, which was lighter than the original and powered by a BMW engine and there followed a series of cars with Panhard engines which he raced in Formula Junior, even taking part in the Monaco race in his Julien-Panhards in 1959 and 1960. Finally, in 1965, he retired from driving. He was 38 and it was too late for him to go further.

For three years he ran the garage but the arrival of Formula France in 1968 presented an opportunity and so for 1969 he set up Automobile Gonfaronnaise Sportive and began building AGS racing cars, the first being the JH4. These were raced by Gerard Cerruti and Francois Rabbione and in 1970 at Pau, driving the new JH5s Cerruti finished third and Rabbione fourth. The series became Formula Renault in 1971 and the JH6 was raced by Francois Guerre-Berthelot and in the years that followed there were different versions of the car for Formula Renault and for Formula 3 and Richard Dallest delivered strong results in 1977 and Julien decided that he would try Formula 2 in 1978. Two years later Dallest won two races at Pau and at Zandvoort. The 1981 season was disappointing but for 1982 Julien took on two youngsters – Philippe Streiff and Pascal Fabre – and both scored points with Streiff sixth in the championship. He was fourth in 1983 and again in 1984 but finally managed to win a race at the very last round of the European F2 Championship at Brands Hatch. The relationship continued in 1985 in the new Formula 3000 but Julien had by then set his sights on Formula 1 and dropped out of Formula 3000. He acquired an old Renault chassis, rebuilt it with a Motori Moderni engine in the back and the JH21C made its first appearance at the Italian GP with Ivan Capelli driving.

It was revamped in 1987 with a Cosworth engine and the clothing firm El Charro funded Fabre although at the end of the year Julien put in Roberto Moreno an in Australia he finished sixth, scoring AGS's first F1 point.

The 1988 JH23 was a new car but it was very unreliable and at the end of the year, Julien suffered a big setback when his two designers quit to join the new Coloni team and Julien had to go into 1989 with a modified old car. Sadly, when testing in Brazil, Streiff crashed heavily and suffered neck injuries which left his paralysed. Julien decided it was time to quit and sold the team to the flamboyant Cyril de Rouvre.

Julien went back to his roots, building 500cc specials in order to set new speed records. He died in 2013, at the age of 85 and in recent years the village has named a street in his honour...

It is a little-known fact that there was another AGS racing car that had nothing to do with Julien. It was called the Atelier Guérin Special and was built by Pierre Guerin in Grenoble. It was raced on hillclimbs in the 1950s by a Monsieur Allonso…

Sun, 10 Mar 2019 08:00:01 +0000
Going round in circles. Fascinating F1 Fact: 99

Going round in circles. Fascinating F1 Fact: 99

The sands are forever shifting in Formula 1 and never was that the case more than when Ferrari decided that it needed to hire McLaren's technical director John Barnard in 1986. Barnard has designed the McLaren MP4/1, the first carbonfibre composite car in F1 in 1981 and allied to the TAG turbo engine in 1984 the team won 12 of the 16 races and drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost finished 1-2 in the World Championship, separated by half a point. Together they dominated the Constructors' Championship as well. In 1985 they did the double again with Prost winning the title, although Lauda was no longer as competitive. And then in 1986 Prost won another title, despite the strong challenge of Williams-Honda. In August that year Barnard left McLaren, having been lured away by Enzo Ferrari, who had finally become convinced that his team needed to get more help building its chassis. The problem was that Barnard didn't want to live in Italy. His family was happily settled in a large country house near Godalming with his wife Rosemary and three young children then aged seven, five and one.

Enzo Ferrari agreed to create a British design office for Barnard and suitable premises were found in a leafy business park hidden away behind The Parrot Inn just outside the village of Shalford. River House in the Broadford Park development was a rare industrial area in the protected Green Belt. It was agreed that this would be called the Guildford Technical Office (Ferrari GTO) a play-on-words on the celebrated Ferrari GT car of the 1960s, and Barnard set about recruiting staff. The facility began operating in 1987 while Barnard helped to develop Gustav Brunner's F187 with which Gerhard Berger scored back-to-back victories at the end of that year in Japan and Australia. The initial plan was for Barnard's 639 to be used in 1988 but there was too much to be done and so Ferrari developed the older car into the F187-88C. That year McLaren dominated and in the summer Enzo Ferrari died at the age of 90. Ferrari's only success was the fortuitous 1-2 at Monza after Ayrton Senna collided with the Williams of Jean-Louis Schlesser.

Barnard's car - now called the 640 - was radical with the first semi-automatic gearbox in F1. The problem was that it was very unreliable and Ferrari and Fiat boss Vittorio Ghidella was worried that it would not be a success. That took care of itself a few months later when Ghidella was replaced as Ferrari boss by Piero Fusaro. The head of Gestione Sportiva was Pier Giorgio Cappelli, a Fiat scientist who had previously worked in the Fiat and Alfa Romeo research centres, hired by Ferrari just before his death. Fusaro wanted a new leader at Gestione Sportiva and in March 1989, just before the start of the World Championship, Lancia's rallying kingpin Cesare Fiorio was appointed the new boss.

A few weeks later, against all odds, Nigel Mansell won in a 640 in its debut race in Brazil. But politics was already becoming complicated with resistance to the UK operation growing in Italy. The team concentrated on developing the 641 for 1990 but by the autumn Barnard had had enough. He was offered a deal to join Benetton and so acquired the GTO operation, which he sold to McLaren for use for its F1 road car programme. Instead he set up another design office, called the Benetton Advanced Research Group (BARG) in Langham Park in Godalming.

As he was doing this Ferrari enjoyed its best year with the 641 and only narrowly missed winning the World Championship with Alain Prost, but in 1991 things began to turn sour in Maranello, with Prost campaigning to get rid of Fiorio. This was successful in May, with Claudio Lombardi, one of Fiorio's lieutenants, taking over the role. By October, Lombardi had avenged Fiorio and Prost was fired, for being too big for his boots and for saying that "a truck would be easier to drive than this car".

It was then that Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli decided that there had been sufficient politics in Maranello and took on Luca di Montezemolo to be the new boss of Ferrari SpA. He decided that Lombardi should become technical director and that the sporting role should be given to Sante Ghedini. Montezemolo asked Ferrari consultant for advice and he said that they should hire Barnard again.

After the Benetton experience John had quit F1 and was designing intricate surgical instruments for his brother-in-law. He then worked on a secret F1 project with TOM'S, aimed at luring Toyota into Formula 1, while indulging a new passion for garden design, having found inspiration in the work of Gertrude Jekyll.

Barnard still didn't want to leave the area. His kids were then 12, 10 and six and so it was agreed that he would set up another facility. This time it would be called Ferrari Design & Department (FDD) and it was located in Northfield House in Broadford Park, next door to the old GTO…

Barnard got together many of the same crew and began work on the 412T1 for 1994. In 1993 Montezemolo hired Jean Todt to run Gestione Sportiva and that changed things again.  Todt took on Michael Schumacher and took on Benetton engineers Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne and by 1996 Montezemolo was saying that FDD would be phased out as Todt wanted the whole team in Italy.

Barnard acquired FDD as part of the settlement with Ferrari and set up his own business called B3 Technologies, which worked for Arrows and then Prost Grand Prix before he turned his back on F1 sold the facility and, ironically, moved to live in Switzerland…

Today Broadford Park still has racing links, as it is the home of Gordon Murray Design… although it is not in one of the old Ferrrari buildings.


Sat, 09 Mar 2019 08:00:01 +0000
A fairytale. Fascinating F1 Facts: 98

A fairytale. Fascinating F1 Facts: 98

Motor racing has a way of creating fairytales which propel people much further than they could possibly imagine. Chris Murphy grew up in Bolton in Lancashire, a former mill town close to Manchester, where the economy was in a sorry state by the 1970s.

His father was a truck driver and while Chris was mad about cars and motorbikes. Buildinghis own motorcycle when he was 15, he left school a year later with a few O levels and not much else. He went to work as a draftsman, designing industrial shutter doors. It was not exciting enough for the youngster and he quit and went to work in a local garage, spending the next couple of years repairing cars, fixing bodywork and doing resprays.

He tried to get a job at Chevron Cars, the racing car manufacturer which operated from an old mill in the town, but the company was in trouble and not hiring. So he went to Germany and worked as a door-to-door insurance salesman, trying to sell policies to the British forces based over there at that time.

He ended up back at the drawing office. Bored, he decided to try racing himself but this ended when he had a huge end-over-end crash at Cadwell Park. So he went back to being a mechanic again, working in Formula Ford until there was a chance to work at Maurer, the German Formula 2 car, owned by Willi Maurer, who was also the  owner of the Berlin-based "Mampe" liqueur company, who had somehow ended up with much of the team based in the old Chevron works, because team manager Paul Owens would only agree to work for Maurer if the team was near his home.

Murphy began travelling to Formula 2 races and helping the designer Paul Brown to make parts. This led to experiments with carbon fibre composite and soon Murphy's job had expanded to include being a draftsman, van driver, composite laminator and storeman. The team lasted only until the end of 1983 and then the group in Bolton began working on a project for Armstrong motorcycles before Brown went off to RK Technologies, a carbon fibre manufacturer, based in Inverness in Scotland. Murphy soon followed and worked on a series of interesting composite projects, notably tennis rackets and electric guitars. They were also asked to design mortar launchers and even machine pistols but RK shut the project down as it was clearly rather dodgy.

It was then that Murphy met Bob Fearnley who asked him to design a CanAm based around an March 82C Indycar. The result was the RK-March 847 which was raced in the US by Jim Crawford.

Brown had by then moved to Zakspeed to design the team's first F1 car and he soon called in Murphy to help. Ford then asked Zakspeed to design a composite IMSA GTP car and Murphy looked after that until Brown quit and Erich Zakowksi asked Chris to design the 1987 Zakspeed F1 car. There was no money but through the driver Christian Danner, Murphy met Ralph Bellamy who had designed the Larrousse Lola that year. As a result Murphy joined Lola in 1988 to help build the new car. Bellamy soon departed and for 1989 Murphy was told to design the Lola-Lamborghini F1 car. The 1990 car would give the Larrousse team sixth in the Constructors' Championship.

His friendship with Danner then resulted in another astonishing twist of fate. Danner was a fan of ballet (unusual for an F1 driver perhaps) and he and Murphy went along to watch ballet at the Royal Ballet and to meet some of the ballerinas. The result of this was that in the summer of 1990 Murphy married the Prima Ballerina of the Royal Ballet, Cynthia Harvey, one of the best dancers of her generation.

That same year he switched to Leyton House Racing and worked with Gustav Brunner on the design of the team's 1991 car before the team owner was arrested and money ran out and Murphy move on to work with Team Lotus, for which he designed the Lotus 107 and 109 F1 cars, which were always handicapped by a lack of money. The 109 was qualified fourth on the grid by Johnny Herbert on its debut at Monza in 1994 but was taken out on the first lap by Eddie Irvine. That was the team's last chance and it went into receivership soon afterwards.

Fed up with the F1 world, Murphy started his own engineering consulting business, working in IndyCar and with Team Astromega in Formula 3000, where he worked with a young Fernando Alonso among other future stars. He followed up with stints in DTM with Opel and then back in Formula 3000 and GP2 with BCN Competition, Piquet Sport and Addax, overseeing 25 victories along the way.

In 2014 his old Zakspeed driver Jonathan Palmer asked him to become the technical director of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship and in 2016 he took on a similar role in the BRDC Formula 3 championship. He also runs a racing simulation software company called Datas Ltd.

A long way from Bolton…


Fri, 08 Mar 2019 08:00:01 +0000