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The Bahrain Grand Prix was an exciting event with a tense fight between Mercedes and Ferrari, although the TV coverage seemed to be more focussed on Saubers. Lewis Hamilton drove a controlled race, chased initially by Sebastian Vettel. Then Nico Rosberg moved to second. The gap was about five seconds before the first stops and dropped to 1.3 after the stops were done. Lewis built the lead back to 5.6 secs before the second stops. Kimi Raikkonen went for a different strategy  and was briefly in the lead and then Lewis was in front again and held the gap to the flag as Kimi charged after Nico and took second with two laps to go. Valtteri Bottas was able to get ahead of Vettel in the middle of the race and Vettel could do nothing and finished fifth. Dan Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat both scored points for Red Bull, while Lotus and Force India both scored points.

In GP+ this week…

– We interview Felipe Nasr
– We ask whether wind tunnels should be banned
– We look at F1 trophies…
– And we look back to the big races of 1915
– DT has strong opinions about spraying champagne
– JS thinks that technology must lead F1
– …and The Hack looks at teams that have gone wrong

GP+ is the fastest magazine in the Formula 1 world. It is published as the mechanics are still wiping down the cars after each and every race. It appears in PDF format so that you can read it on your computer, your tablet and even on your smartphone, but it’s an old style racing magazine in a modern format. It goes right to the heart of the sport, inside the F1 Paddock. We are there at every race and we get to the people that matter. We are also passionate about the history of the sport and love to share it with our readers.

GP+ is an amazing bargain. You get 21 issues for £29.99, covering the entire 2015 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to www.grandprixplus.com.

In your face!

Sport that is all about passion and emotion. In Italy the country goes wild when Ferrari wins a race: church bells are rung. Prime Ministers send their congratulations to winning drivers, grandstands and spectator banks heave with flag-waving fans wearing crazy hats and sporting painted faces. It’s sweaty, its exciting and it’s fun. That is why people like doing it. In the cockpits of the F1 cars feelings have to be controlled. After the chequered flag, when the race is run, the drivers enjoy an explosion of joy and relief. Watch the TV and you can hear them screaming. It is not unusual for them to cry when it is their first win. It’s raw and powerful. It’s a big deal. And it’s great live TV. It’s way better than medal ceremonies with bouquets of flowers. Spraying champagne was something that began in 1967 when American Dan Gurney won the Le Mans 24 Hours with AJ Foyt. Gurney was handed a bottle of Moët & Chandon and sprayed it on everyone in his vicinity, in a totally spontaneous and joyous gesture. He sprayed Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby, photographers, wives, other drivers. Everyone.

“It was a very special moment at the time,” Gurney says. “I was not aware that I had started a tradition that continues in winner’s circles all over the world to this day. I was beyond caring and just got caught up in the moment. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime occasions where things turned out perfectly… I thought this hard-fought victory needed something special.”

Don’t forget that this was the 1960s when people died regularly at the wheels of racing cars. Winning was a big deal and celebrating was important. I am sure that psychologists will tell you that it was all to do with releasing tension or whatever. I don’t care, but the fact is that it is a tradition that has been going on for coming up to 50 years and it is a tradition that should be cherished. Everyone who goes up on an F1 podium knows what is going to happen. And if they don’t, then they should not be there. And people have a choice. You don’t have to become an F1 podium hostess if you do not want to be one. It’s a choice. And in making that choice you accept that you may end up being sprayed with champagne. It is much the same with grid girls. No-one forces a woman to become a grid girl. They do it from choice. And I have known quite a few racing driver’s wives over the years who started out as grid girls. It was a good career move… So, if choice is involved in the matter, the over-zealous followers of political correctness should shut up and go away. Part of the emotion of F1 is the raw and powerful celebration after the event. The kind of people who made a fuss last week about Lewis Hamilton spraying a podium hostess last week in Shanghai were either journalists desperate for any old story; or people who want to read into the celebrations things that are not there. It is got nothing to do with sexism. It has nothing to do with treating women as sex objects. That is all tosh. The people complaining and stirring up trouble are the kind of people who think that a burglar should be allowed to sue you if he trips over and breaks his ankle while stealing from your house; the kind of people who think it is right for a country to apologise for bombing another country during wartime.

“I do my talking on the track,” said Lewis Hamilton. “That has how it has been since I was eight years old. The stuff outside the car I’m not very interested in.”

“Ultimately it was a great weekend. My actions are through excitement. This is Formula 1, it’s the pinnacle of motorsport. I’d just won a Grand Prix for the team and… I usually see it as a fun thing. I would never intend to disrespect someone or try to embarrass someone like that. I don’t really know the reasons why people are starting to bring those kind of things up, but this is a sport that so many people love and the more we show character and fun, perhaps it reflects just how great this sport is. That’s what I try to do. I don’t really know what to say about it.”

Liu Siying, the 22-year-old real estate agent, told the Shanghai Daily that she was not really bothered what happened.

It’s called motor racing. Not a place for the health and safety culture that poisons so many societies today.

Lost in translation

When you fly on an Emirates flight, they are always very keen to tell you the number of languages that the crew members are able to speak between them. I guess that is a good way to make as many people as possible feel at home. Language is a subject that I find fascinating and yet it is also something that is not really required on a plane. You do not need to speak someone’s language to know whether they are a nice person or not. The acid test, I always think, is with regard to the reclining of seats. I don’t have a problem with it – it is your right to do it – but I firmly believe that it is impolite to do it at meal times. People who do not think of it are self-centred and rude. One of the joys of travelling is trying to understand the way other nations and races do things and I have also found it fascinating when one finds words that are “lost in translation”. There are some things that simply do not translate word-to-word and you require a phrase (or even a paragraph) to explain what they mean. I have found that many of these untranslatable words relate to specific emotional states, good and bad, which is why one can get the gist of an explanation without having a single word. Some will tell you that the Danish hyggelig means cosy or homely, but I am told that this does not convey the full nature of the word that implies not simply warmth and a good feeling but also friendship, fire and good  beer. The Germans have schunkeln, which is apparently a verb that relates to swaying from side to side, in time to music, while linking arms with the people on either side of you. The English (and their cousins, who talk in similar fashion) do not have a word for schadenfreude and so borrow the German one for why people laugh at the misfortunes of others. The Germans also have the splendid backpfeifengesicht, which is a descriptive word for a face that needs to be punched. The Russians seem to brood rather a lot and have words for a depth of despair that others do not feel: toska is feeling of great anguish, without any obvious cause. The Germans have a word that describes the feeling of being lost in a great forest, waldeinsamkeit, which is apparently a very specific kind of terror. The Portuguese have the evocative saudade, a mournful feeling of longing for something or someone that you have loved and lost, while the Japanese have wabi-sabi, which is the peaceful acceptance of the natural cycle of life, finding beauty in its imperfections. Further afield, one finds similar words that capture very specific things. In Yagan, the local patois of Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina, they use the word mamihlapinatapei to describe the meaningful look that is shared between two people who want to do the same thing, but are reluctant to make the first move. While the word ilunga in the Tshiluba language in the Congo has been deemed as the world’s most difficult word to translate as it means a person who is unwilling to forgive a third slight (but will put up with two). Another personal favourite is naa, which is a regional expression in the Kansai district of Japan, which is used when you agree with someone. The Japanese also have words for looking worse after a haircut (age-otori) and for the dappled effect that is created when sunlight filters through the leaves of trees (komorebi). The Italians have a very specific word for an old woman who is dedicated to cats (una gattara), while islands in the Pacific also provide us with such useful words as papakata, which on the Cook Islands means having one leg longer (or shorter) than the other; or mokita, which in the Kilivila language of the Trobriand Islands, means “the great truth that we all know about but agree not to talk about”. The best translation I can think of for that is “the elephant in the room”, an American idiom that means that there is something obvious to everyone that is deliberately ignored to avoid trouble. There was a report yesterday in the Shanghai Daily newspaper in China that had a touch of elephantine mokita about it. The story was about the decline in the pulling power of Formula 1 in the Chinese market, following a crowd that was smaller than in 2014. The marketing manager of the race promotion company, a Mr Yang Yibin, reckoned this was caused by big teams dominating too much and smaller teams being unable to make a sensible challenge. Mr Yang said that the current Chinese GP contract runs until after the 2017 event, but added that changes need to be made in the sport if the deal is to be extended. “Maybe we can expect something new when we go into the post-Bernie era,” he said, saying the unsayable. In F1 circles these days there is a lot of mamihlapinatapei with regard to the need for change in F1… and it seems sometimes that everyone wants to see a little more wabi-sabi from the Formula 1 group. Until that happens, however, we are in for more waldeinsamkeit and less hyggelig. The members of the F1 circus are now either in Bahrain,  getting everything ready for the race, or sitting by swimming pools, or in Dubai, waiting to go to Bahrain. Only the real lunatics (and those with cheap tickets) have gone back to Europe for 36 hours…

China 2015 cover

The Chinese Grand Prix was not a race filled with wild action, but things livened up after the race as Nico Rosberg complained that Lewis Hamilton had held him up. Lewis responded by saying that if Nico had been able to have overtaken him, then he should have done it.  Ferrari looked solid in qualifying but in the race the Mercs were strong enough to keep the Italian cars at bay, while Williams finished fifth and sixth, but a very long way back.

In GP+ this week…

– Max Mosley wades into the F1 crisis
– The Manor miracle explained in full
– Technology transfer – is it a good idea?
– Jolyon Palmer talks about his first weekend with Lotus
– Ron Tauranac at 90
– DT looks at the contrasts of Shanghai
– JS finds the positive in a negative world
– …and The Hack becomes a TV critic

GP+ is the fastest magazine in the Formula 1 world. It is published as the mechanics are still wiping down the cars after each and every race. It appears in PDF format so that you can read it on your computer, your tablet and even on your smartphone, but it’s an old style racing magazine in a modern format. It goes right to the heart of the sport, inside the F1 Paddock. We are there at every race and we get to the people that matter. We are also passionate about the history of the sport and love to share it with our readers.

GP+ is an amazing bargain. You get 21 issues for £29.99, covering the entire 2015 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to www.grandprixplus.com.

Sorry to have been so quiet for the last 36 hours, but I was on a plane (well, a couple of planes) going from Paris to Shanghai. My progress was not greatly aided by the French air traffic controllers. I had watched an entire movie before the plane took off and I am afraid that I do not have the broadness of vision to understand these people and I struggle to agree with Jane Austen’s wonderful remark that “selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure”. I consider them to be spoilt fonctionnaires and I fervently believe that they should all be fired and re-employed on more sensible contracts – take it or leave it.

Fog in Dubai then tried to make life difficult, but we made it into Shanghai Pudong International Airport and took the wonderful Maglev train to a station near the city. We then went through the usual shenanigans with the local taxi drivers (read bandits) who prey on all visitors. If you scream at them loud enough they understand that you are not keen on being robbed and back down. Still, the Shanghai Tourist Board would do well to throw the lot of them in jail if they wish to make the city a more attractive place. Next year we have decided we will try the subway… because you can trust the drivers who have to follow rails.

I then spent the next few hours in the hotel, digging a tunnel under the Great Firewall of China. It took until the way early hours before I was able to find a route to file some urgent copy and I went to bed cussing. I just don’t get it, the Chinese pay Bernie Ecclestone a huge pile of money to have a Grand Prix in order to tell the world about what a lovely place Shanghai is, and then they make it virtually impossible to communicate sensibly with the world, by blocking useful websites, email, blogs, twitter, Facebook and Xi Jinping knows what else. The silly thing is that people in the international media are, by nature, resourceful and so after hours tearing hair (and using rude words) we always manage to find a way to do what the Chinese want us to do. The result of all is that rather than being positive and happy to tell the world about this intriguing country that is trying to go through an Industrial Revolution in 10-15 years when it has taken the rest of the world centuries to do the same thing, one ends up jaundiced, tired and negative.

Anyway, everything is finally working and now I am supposed to say nice things about China… Perhaps there is someone in a government agency somewhere who might wonder why am I struggling to do that. Perhaps not…

The cars are out in vaguely smoggy Shanghai…

Max Mosley, the FIA President from 1993 to 2009, says that the sport needs to take a serious look at the way money is spent, and the way revenue is distributed. The 74-year-old says that something needs to be done to avoid Formula 1 from collapsing. One might think this is a rebuke of the way that the Commercial Rights Holder takes money out of the sport, but at the same time, it is a smack on the side of the head for the FIA, which is doing nothing to save the sport from the mess it is in.

“Half the teams simply can’t compete because they haven’t got enough money,” Mosley said. “To me that is wrong. You would not allow one team to run a bigger engine than another and yet if one team has five times as much money, the effect is exactly the same. It’s not fair from the sporting point of view. The only way to deal with it is to get everybody to agree. You can sit all the teams down and say ‘Look, collectively we’ve got a massive problem because some of you have enough money, but most of you don’t and if we go on like this Formula 1 is going to collapse, so I am inviting you all to agree to a change’. Unfortunately, you cannot so it without unanimity.”

The FIA under Jean Todt seems to be fixated on things outside the sport, clearly not understanding that any FIA is judged solely in achievements in the sport, as the rest of the work done receives zero coverage. Given that the federation had been next to useless in recent years in terms of communication about F1, there is no hope that it will have achieved anything outside the sport. The good news do that the in recent days the federation got a new head of communication. He cannot do worse than the last incumbent, so there is hope that something positive will come from the appointment. Having said that Jean Todt is not very good at communication and, it seems, does not listen to advice. It would be wise to listen to Mosley who, despite his faults, did a decent job running the federation.

Renault’s trials

The one thing that Renault knows about its F1 programme is that it is not right. It is time for a change. But what should that change be when money is tight? When the firm was winning four consecutive championships with Red Bull it did not seem to matter much. They would plonk a Red Bull F1 car in the Renault atelier on the Champs Élysées in Paris and that was marketing… They might pay for adverts telling the world that Sebastian Vettel was Renault-powered, but the car screamed Red Bull and Infiniti and most people on the planet don’t know (nor care) which car company owns which brands. This meant that Renault did not get anything like the return on investment that it should have been getting. But then again, it has no one to blame but itself.

Renault used to be a team owner and 10 years ago won two World Championships with Fernando Alonso. The cars were yellow enough and people knew they were Renaults, because that’s what they were called. But things went wrong when the team management began to get desperate and pulled off one of the most outrageous cheats in the history of F1, by having one car crash in order to bring out a Safety Car to benefit the other car that had been positioned to take full advantage of the crash. It was not hard to spot at the time but it was impossible to prove, so the media had to bite its tongue and only hint that something was wrong. The team got away with it, but then team boss Flavio Bristore got cocky and dumped Nelson Piquet Jr, who had been the crasher in the above scenario. Piquet – with a little help from his father – wrought revenge and went to the FIA – and all hell broke loose. All Briatore statues were toppled and danced upon. Renault cringed with embarrassment and threw the team at the nearest available pair of hands, which happened to belong to Gerard Lopez. He did not look the gift horse in the mouth… One can say that Renault was not to blame for all this, but it put its trust in the wrong people,and so it must accept the buck that landed at its feet. They trusted Briatore & Co and they paid the price and since then has hidden behind Red Bull.

This is obviously not the best solution for Renault at the moment but it was expedient at the time. Winning was winning even if the story was not being told and it was only when the new Renault V6 engine did not do very well that a crisis has developed. Now a solution must be found. The obvious solution would be to buy back Enstone. The problem is that Lopez has loaded the team with debt and run it down and in recent months the team has ditched Renault engines in favour of Mercedes V6s.

Thus Renault cannot simply buy it back and slap stickers on the side of the cars. The only real choice right now is to try to work a deal with Red Bull, Renault’s only remaining client in F1, to get a livery change at Scuderia Toro Rosso. Buying the Italian-based team makes no real sense as it is always more difficult to get the best people to work outside the UK and the team is also still heavily dependent on Red Bull Racing. Sauber has a similar problem with its location and Force India is well-located but lacks infrastructure. The only logical choice therefore is Lotus… And that will require a swallowing of pride in Renault world HQ at Boulogne-Billancourt and a change of engine. The whole project may be more expensive than Renault is willing to pay, but with F1 as it is now the price could come down in the next year or so, so doing a temporary deal with Toro Rosso is sensible. Red Bull would no doubt seek financial incentive to agree to this, or at least a reduction in the cost of its engines, but buying space is a quick and easy solution to Renault’s problem. In the longer term it is not the right solution. What Renault needs to do is to turn a losing team into a winning one, then people will understand that it was Renault that made the difference. Let us not forget, by the way, that Renault and Mercedes have an alliance over engine design (not to mention token shareholdings in one another). Daimler owns  3.1 percent of Renault and Nissan, while they each own 1.55 percent of Daimler. While it is nice for Mercedes to dominate in F1, too much of a good thing means TVs get turned off, so one can see a case for Merc helping Renault to be more competitive, as better racing means more eyeballs and, on paper at least, more car sales. The F1 manufacturers are still struggling with the idea that identical engines can be branded differently, for the good of the cause, but maybe one day they will wake up the upsides of this strategy and we will see an explosion of car brands in F1, all using much the same engines. The healthiest championships at the moment are GTs where performance balancing is now the norm, everyone wins enough to make involvement worthwhile. And as Bernie Ecclestone often says the sport was probably strongest in the old Coswotth days when almost everyone had the same engine… Why should Renault and Mercedes not badge engines Nissan, Infiniti, Aston Martin, AMG or whatever. Why could Ferrari not do the same with Alfa Romeo, Dodge and Maserati? And come the day when others want to join in, we could have 12 solid teams with 12 different engine names…

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