I am about to depart from a misty Paris, bound for Atlanta and then on to Austin. Some people may think this is a bit late in the day to be going, but I’ll be there on Thursday evening, so it is not very different from European races. With a 20-race calendar every day at home counts and I will discover Austin after the race, as we have to sit around in the city for a couple of days before bouncing down to Brazil on Wednesday afternoon. I dare say that they will be a fair bit of hoop-la going on in the next couple of days and I can happily live without that. It is good to be in the final straight now and I am curious to see whether Sebastian Vettel can wrap up his third consecutive title this weekend, or whether Red Bull racing will fall over themselves again and set up a showdown in Brazil. That would be nice, but the Red Bull has been so much better than the Ferrari this year that it is hard to imagine Alonso being able to take the fight to Vettel. And one cannot count out the likes of McLaren and Lotus getting mixed up in the showdown to make life more difficult for the two challengers. There are plenty of other things to watch out for further down the order as well, so it is bound to be a pretty interesting weekend.
The sad news today is that my mate Gary Hartstein has not had his contract renewed by the FIA for next year. This is a little odd, but I guess it is part of the Frenchification of the FIA that has been going on quietly since Jean Todt took over. One hopes that whoever replaces Gary will be amenable and bilingual and will create the kind of respect that Sid Watkins and Gary have had over the years. Drivers do not want some anonymous doctor at their side after a big crash. They want the reassurance of someone they know and like. Gary has always been one of the good guys and has helped most of the F1 circus over the years as the F1 “village” doctor. He very kindly helped me to get access to a top specialist when I had a back problem a few years ago. Above all, however, I shall miss our paddock chats each weekend because, like most doctors, Gary cut through the bull and spoke a lot of sense.
For many years Gary was the “token” American in F1, which was odd considering that he was based in Belgium, where he was a key player in the A&E department of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Liège.