How to get to the Russian Grand Prix…

Russia is closed to the world – and this makes things just a tad complicated for those who wish to attend the Russian Grand Prix.

“Why would you want to?” some might say.

Well, it’s because I have this rather old-fashioned belief that a journalist is probably better informed if he (she or it) is where things are happening, rather than at home (although, to be fair, in the modern age, with all the electronic gizmos I am sure that one can operate from home without too much trouble).

My view is that I will stop going to F1 races when they stop happening – because this is what I do. I have done all of the Grands Prix this year, in fact I’ve done them all since the autumn of 1988.

The last Grand Prix I didn’t attend was the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez in October that year. I’d been to the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril the previous weekend and I then jumped on a plane on Monday morning and flew to London, did a few hours in the office and on the Tuesday I flew to Sydney. My diary says that on the Thursday I went “To Bathurst” where I spent the weekend reporting on the Tooheys 1000, which was won by Tony Longhurst and Tomas Mezera in a Benson & Hedges For Sierra. I had planned to go on to the FIA Asia-Pacific Touring Car Championship race at Calder but it was cancelled and so I went to Fiji (as opposed to Fuji) instead – for a holiday after a very busy season. After a quick trip to Wellington for the street race there, I rejoined the F1 world in Suzuka at the end of October and from there went back to Australia to finish off the F1 season in glorious Adelaide – before a week in Melbourne covering a World Endurance race at Sandown Park. Those were different days, although even then we still tended to stick to one championship of another…

It is funny to think that as I was gallivanting around the Pacific Rim, Kimi Raikkonen was celebrating his ninth birthday, Lewis Hamilton was three, Romain Grosjean was two and Sebastian Vettel was one. The rest of the current F1 grid weren’t born…

Anyway, having done all of these races, I think it is quite a nice idea to keep on going to see how many I can do – before finally my luck runs out. Getting to the Russian Grand Prix is probably the closest call I’ve yet had to not making a race (and I’m still not 100 percent convinced that I trust the airlines involved). There was a race in the 1990s when I had pneumonia and was banned from flying by my doctor – so I took a train to Barcelona…

The problem is that with Russia closed, the number of flights that are going into and out of the country are very limited and airlines have no hesitation at all in cancelling flights if they don’t have enough people to make them viable. They are ruthless. I guess they need to be, but one cannot trust them, as was once the case (although, to be honest, I never trusted Air France because there were always strikes etc). This is one of the reasons why I have gone to all the races by car since F1 restarted after the lockdowns.

I will continue to do that unless getting to the races by road is simply too much. I think the 1,750 miles from my home to Istanbul is probably a bit over the top, although I am definitely pondering the 1,250 to go to Portimao, and, therefore, the 1,500 from Portugal up to Imola that would inevitably follow. Both of these journeys can be split and going to Portugal would mean a stopover in one of my favourite places – Saint-Jean-de-Luz, on the Basque coast near Biarritz. The Portugal-Imola trip would require rather more time, but a three-day trip by way of Valencia and then the old crusader city of Aigues-Mortes in the Camargue might be a very civilised way to do it. We’ll see.

In F1 these days one lives from day to day and deals with the problems as they come flying at you. Of course, things were not helped in Mugello when I fell victim of the circuit’s safety “equipment” when a sticker on the floor in the media centre detached itself and acted like a banana skin, resulting in me falling heavily and doing serious damage to my foot. This has since turned various colours and is still causing pain. But, as everyone says, motor racing is dangerous…

The big crisis surrounding the Russian GP was that the Russians require a certificate of negative Covid-ness that is not more than three days old. I rang the local lab in France where I have done previous tests (although the tester was about as accurate as a bomb-aimer at 10,000 ft) and was told that there was no problem. I could have a test and the results would be back in around 14 days. The lady on the phone didn’t seem to understand the concept that testing with a 14-day delay was utterly pointless. OK, I thought, I’ll go private and rang a clinic that was recommended to me by another lab. Get there at seven they said. It opens at eight. So I did that and found myself 209th in the queue – and was duly turned away as F1 journalists en route to Russia don’t seem to rate very highly with doctors who are faced with hundreds of people with Covid symptoms – every day.

I fully understand that. So I asked the FIA if they could help out, because they have a relationship with a big testing organisation which would likely have capacity. No, I was told. The FIA folk are going to Munich to be tested because nothing is moving in France. In Munich, they said, you can do it at the airport and the results are back in 24 hours or less… So, does one risk going to a French clinic at five in the morning and hoping that they will test you? Or do you go somewhere where you are sure to get a test? I searched France, Belgium, even Britain, but nowhere had any guarantees. So I went to Germany. A hop back and forth to Munich (my first plane ride since March) was easy enough and I even bumped into some of the FIA crew (socially-distanced, of course). I admit it is a bizarre thing to do, but when one has invested a bunch of money in getting to Russia, it is pointless to just throw it away (because the chances of getting it back are minimal) and so it was worth the risk.

Will I actually get there? Who knows. I’ll find out tomorrow…

In the interim came the news that Stefano Domenicali looks like being the next CEO of Formula 1, in place of Chase Carey, who wants to go back to a quieter life in America.

We knew that Chase was on the move, although in many ways it is a shame because he has done a terrific job for F1, but hats off to Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei for a really smart choice of Stefano Domenicali. I honestly don’t remember when I first met Stefano, but it is a very long time ago and he’s as solid as they come. A very bright man with a great deal of charm and all the right experience. It’s good to feel that F1 is in safe hands…

And with that, I will head off to start the trip to Russia…

Six hours after the race

The German Grand Prix was an amazing race with Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari seemingly in control, with Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen in hot pursuit, while Lewis Hamilton worked his way up from 14th on the grid. By lap 11 Hamilton was in the top six. When he reached fifth, he seemed stuck. Hoping that rain would coincide with his need to stop for tyres. Hamilton drove a long first stint and emerged in third behind the two Ferraris, with Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Vettel but on older tyres. The German complained that he was being held up. Ferrari called Raikkonen and told him to move over. He did as ordered. It looked like the whole thing was safe in Vettel's hands and then on lap 44 some light rain began to fall and it was a question of whether it was wise to stop and change tyres. Those who did made the wrong choice. And then on lap 52 Vettel got it wrong, slid off the track and nosed into a tyre wall. His race was done. He'd blown it – and he knew it. A Safety Car was called and various drivers dived for the pits. Hamilton was not one of them, When he came around a second time it was very confused. Lewis looked like he was heading into the pits but decided at the last moment to stay out. He kept his track position, ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen. There was a brief challenge from Bottas but Hamilton stayed ahead and won a superb victory, a real tour de force. The rout of Ferrari was completed with Bottas in second and Lewis went back to the top of the Drivers' Championship and Mercedes retook the lead in the Constructors'. 

– We talk to Hamilton about his new Mercedes contract
– We look at the race fees in F1
– We remember Mo Nunn
– And we look back at the German GP of 2010 when Ferrari team orders caused controversy

– DT visits a gallery
– JS ruminates about passion in sport, and the future for Ferrari without Marchionne

– Peter Nygaard and his team capture the exciting events at Hockenheim.

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine in the world. It’s so fast, it’s almost real-time… But it is a magazine that tells you the full story, like racing magazines used to do. It is published in electronic form in PDF format, so you can read it on a laptop or a tablet.

Our reporters have access that will take you behind the scenes in the F1 paddock and explain what is really going on. And we don' t hold back when we have an opinion about soemthing. There are plenty of fascinating stories from Grand Prix history as well, plus great photography. We don't believe in fake news or waffle. This is old style reporting, giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, both in qualifying and in the race, so you have a proper record which can stay in your computer for years to come.

You get 23 issues for £34.99, covering the entire 2018 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to <a href="https://www.grandprixplus.com/">https://www.grandprixplus.com</a&gt;.

Five and a half hours after the race…


The Austrian Grand Prix made a gripping race – if you are not a Mercedes fan. The Mercedes team looked to have everything under control after qualifying, and in the early laps Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas ran 1-2 at the front of the field. And then Bottas suffered an hydraulic failure and pulled off beside the track. This led to a Virtual Safety Car and all the major runners apart from Hamilton pitted. The caution period was finished rapidly and Lewis found himself in a mess, with tyres that were losing performance. In the end he had to pit and dropped to fourth. He charged back but was too far behind to make up the gap. In the end the tyres needed changing again and although he stayed fourth, his challenge was gone. Up front Max Verstappen had taken the lead with Lewis pitted and he managed his tyres carefully as he was hunted down by the two Ferraris. With Mercedes scoring nothing, Ferrari moved ahead in the Constructors’ Championship and Vettel moved back to the top of the Drivers’ race. It wasa good day for Haas with fourth and fifth, for Force India in sixth and seventh and for Sauber in ninth and 10th. In the middle was Fernando Alonso who drove a fine race from the pitlane to finish eighth. The tens of thousands of Dutch fans went crazy…

– We talk to Kevin Magnussen
– We look at the Red Bull Honda deal
– We report on Porsche’s new lap record at the old Nürburgring
– We remember one of the forgotten titans of the 1930s: Rudolf Hasse – JS compares the French and Austrian GPs – DT gives Dietrich Mateschitz a vote of confidence
– Peter Nygaard and his team capture the beauty of the Red Bull Ring.

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine in the world. It’s so fast, it’s almost real-time… But it is a magazine that tells you the full story, like racing magazines used to do. It is published in electronic form in PDF format, so you can read it on a laptop or a tablet.

Our reporters have access that will take you behind the scenes in the F1 paddock and explain what is really going on. And we don’ t hold back when we have an opinion about soemthing. There are plenty of fascinating stories from Grand Prix history as well, plus great photography. We don’t believe in fake news or waffle. This is old style reporting, giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, both in qualifying and in the race, so you have a proper record which can stay in your computer for years to come.

You get 23 issues for £34.99, covering the entire 2018 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to https://www.grandprixplus.com.

Five hours and 15 minutes after the race

The French Grand Prix made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with much of the reporting being about the appalling traffic problems that blighted the weekend at the picturesque Paul Ricard circuit. The race was a dominant victory for Lewis Hamilton, who was chased by Max Verstappen after Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas had an incident at the first corner. This resulted in a penalty for Vettel, although Bottas suffered rather more than the Ferrari driver. There was plenty of action down through the field as Vettel and Bottas made up for lost time, while Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo fought over third place. Vettel ended up fifth but lost the World Championship lead. Kevin Magnussen gave Haas at solid sixth place ahead of Bottas and the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg. Charles Leclerc picked up the final point. It was a fairly straight forward race with the extraordinary site of the three Frenchmen in the field all being involved in incidents with one another at the start. First Grosjean bounced off Esteban Ocon, then Ocon crashed into Pierre Gasly. Ocon and Gasly were out on the spot, while Grosjean ended up with a penalty that would drop him out of the points. There were further disasters for McLaren and Williams.

– We talk to Pierre Gasly about his relationships with Esteban and Charles
– We interview Montreal promoter Francois Dumontier about his plans for the future
– We talk to Nicholas Latifi
– We remember the eccentric Paul Ricard, who built the French GP circuit
– We remember Martin Birrane – DT thinks that the French GP must do better
– JS escapes to another age, when the French GP was younger
– Peter Nygaard and his team capture the beauty (and the horrid stripes) of Paul Ricard.

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine in the world. It’s so fast, it’s almost real-time… But it is a magazine that tells you the full story, like racing magazines used to do. It is published in electronic form in PDF format, so you can read it on a laptop or a tablet.

Our reporters have access that will take you behind the scenes in the F1 paddock and explain what is really going on. And we don’ t hold back when we have an opinion about soemthing. There are plenty of fascinating stories from Grand Prix history as well, plus great photography. We don’t believe in fake news or waffle. This is old style reporting, giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, both in qualifying and in the race, so you have a proper record which can stay in your computer for years to come.

You get 23 issues for £34.99, covering the entire 2018 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to https://www.grandprixplus.com.

Six hours after the race

The Canadian Grand Prix promised a little bit more than it delivered with Sebastian Vettel leading Valtteri Bottas from flag-to-flag and Max Verstappen staying in touch but never looking like he was going to challenge for victory. At the end of the race it was exciting as Max closed in on Valtteri and the two crossed the line 0.1secs apart (in other words, side by side) on the last lap. In fact it wasn’t the last lap because there was a cock-up in the race management and the celebrity flag waver was told by someone to wave the flag at the wrong point in the race – at the end of the 69th of 70 laps. This meant that the result was back-dated to the end of the 68th lap, as happens when races are stopped.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth, having jumped Lewis Hamilton at the pit stops early on. The World Champion had an unspecified glitch in his engine throughout the race and was happy to get home and take the points for fifth. An early Safety Car ruined the strategy of those who wanted to go fast and short on the softer tyres. There was also a question of fuel saving for Bottas, who let the gap to Verstappen close as he saved fuel at the end of the race. It was drab day for Kimi Raikkonen, who finished and undistinguished sixth, while the two Renaults were lapped in seventh and eighth. They were a little fortunate to get that as Esteban Ocon was ahead of both of them when the Frenchman was delayed in his pit stop with the rear jack being released too early. That was enough to drop him to ninth, while his friend and longtime rival Charles Leclerc, managed to get his Sauber up to 10th.

It was another poor day for McLaren and Williams with Alonso retiring with mechanical troubles and Vandoorne being delayed after a brush with Lance Stroll on the first lap, shortly before Stroll and Brendan Hartley had a sizeable collision, which caused the Safety Car.

– We talk to Zak Brown and Sergio Perez
– We look at what may happen with Alfa Romeo Sauber
– We ponder the F1 calendar for 2019
– We remember the F1 races at Mont Tremblant in 1968 and 1970
– DT enjoys visits to Mont Tremblant and the Musée Gilles Villeneuve in Berthierville
– JS ponders what Michael Andrett is up to with F1
– Peter Nygaard and his team capture the glitz and glamour of Monaco.

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine in the world. It’s so fast, it’s almost real-time… But it is a magazine that tells you the full story, like racing magazines used to do. It is published in electronic form in PDF format, so you can read it on a laptop or a tablet.

Our reporters have access that will take you behind the scenes in the F1 paddock and explain what is really going on. And we don’ t hold back when we have an opinion about soemthing. There are plenty of fascinating stories from Grand Prix history as well, plus great photography. We don’t believe in fake news or waffle. This is old style reporting, giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, both in qualifying and in the race, so you have a proper record which can stay in your computer for years to come.

You get 23 issues for £34.99, covering the entire 2018 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to https://www.grandprixplus.com.

Come and meet Joe in Montreal

If you are going to be in Montreal for the Canadian GP, why not have a night out with me… as a reader of this blog, you know that I have been around for a while in F1. I like to think that I have picked up a little about how the sport works and I have certainly known a lot of very interesting people.

I believe that it is important for F1 people to engage more with the fans and so for the few years I have been hosting a series of evenings in different F1 cities to allow fans to come along and ask questions about F1. This year I have brought down the price to make it more affordable for the fans. I limit the number of fans at each event so that everyone gets a chance to ask questions and I try to make the event as informal as possible. I have been known to have a few drinks in the course of the evening and that tends to loosen up the inhibitions when it comes to telling stories.

The event takes place on the Friday of the Grand Prix, from 7.00pm until 10.30pm. You have the chance to meet other F1 fans and to learn more about the sport from one of the pros who follows the sport everywhere. There is a buffet dinner halfway through the event – and you can drink as much or as little as you like at normal bar prices. If you are in the mood to party, there is music downstairs after the event is finished.

The Pub St Paul is located in the bustling old port area of the city and is easily accessible. It’s a great venue.

Joe’s 2018 Audience in Montreal will take place on Friday, June 8, upstairs at the Pub St Paul, 124 rue St-Paul Est, Vieux-Montréal, Québec H2Y 1G2.

To book tickets, click here

Five and a half hours after the race

The Monaco Grand Prix of 2018 was a tense race, rather than being an absolute blockbuster. It was a tour de force by Daniel Ricciardo, who overcame engine glitches to hold off Sebastian Vettel for 78 laps around Monaco. The strategies of the main players were basically not very different, although some went longer on their first stints, notably Pierre Gasly (lap 37), Max Verstappen (lap 47) and Nico Hulkenberg (lap 50). Verstappen managed to claw his way up from the back of the grid to collect two points for ninth place, a neglible reward for a weekend when he ought to have gathered a haul of points, but for a shunt on Saturday morning, which ruined everything. For Ferrari and Mercedes it was very much a case of damage limitation and in that respect they were greatly helped by Max’s faux pas. If the Dutchman had given the team a 1-2, the rival teams would have taken a much bigger hit. While Vettel and Hamilton fought over the podium positions, behind them the two Finns: Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen played second fiddles in fourth and fifth, while Esteban Ocon gave a virtuoso performance to finish sixth in his Force India, under pressure in the closing laps from Gasly, Hulkenberg and Verstappen. The final point went to Carlos Sainz, who has a long way behind by the end. McLaren’s hopes for points were ruined by a mechanical failure for Fernando Alnso and a pit stop glitch for Stoffel Vandoorne. From around one-third distance it was clear that Ricciardo had problems and so there was plenty of tension until he finally crossed the line to win – and the high jinks began…

We talk to Charles Leclerc

We look at the future for Force India

We wonder whether Red Bull and Honda will be getting together soon

We remember the Monaco Grand Prix of 1968 when Dickie Attwood had his day in the spotlight

DT is fed up with Ferrari playing politics

JS loves telling stories about racing on The Riviera

And Peter Nygaard and his team capture the glitz and glamour of Monaco.

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine in the world. It’s so fast, it’s almost real-time… But it is a magazine that tells you the full story, like racing magazines used to do. It is published in electronic form in PDF format, so you can read it on a laptop or a tablet.

Our reporters have access that will take you behind the scenes in the F1 paddock and explain what is really going on. And we don’t hold back when we have an opinion about soemthing. There are plenty of fascinating stories from Grand Prix history as well, plus great photography. We don’t believe in fake news or waffle. This is old style reporting, giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, both in qualifying and in the race, so you have a proper record which can stay in your computer for years to come.

You get 23 issues for £34.99, covering the entire 2018 Formula 1 season.

For more information, go to https://www.grandprixplus.com.

Five hours after the race

Racing teams are always looking for silver bullets to solve problems. Mercedes has been struggling to get comfortable with its 2018 car, while Ferrari and Red Bull have seemed more able to find performance. But, after the Spanish Grand Prix, in which Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas scored a solid 1-2 finish, to take the lead in the Constructors’ World Championship – with five Mercedes board members there to watch – Lewis said that he now feels he has got to a place where he is happy with the car. That’s bad news for his rivals.
The Spanish Grand Prix was an battle of strategy, with the teams juggling with tyres that were difficult to heat and compounds that were fairly similar. It was all about being on the right rubber at the right moment. Lewis did it perfectly, doing a one-stop race, starting on soft tyres and going to mediums on lap 25. Valtteri Bottas chose a similar strategy but pitted six laps earlier, in order to get ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had managed to get ahead at the start. The German Ferrari star went for a two-stop race and after the second was down in fourth and unable to do anything. His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen went out with mechanical trouble. It was a bad day for Ferrari. Red Bull stepped in and Max Verstappen was a solid third, despite damage to his front wing after a collision with an errant Williams. Dan Ricciardo was a quiet fifth, never looking like a threat, while the rest of the field was lapped. The best of the rest was Kevin Magnussen for Haas, although his team-mate Romain Grosjean caused a significant crash at the second corner, picking a three-plce grid penalty for Monaco. This took out Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly. Magnussen drove a good race to led home Carlos Sainz’s Renault and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, while Sergio Perez picked up points for Force India and Charles Leclerc showed well again for Sauber.
In GP+ this week, we talk to Fernando Alonso and Claire Williams.
We look at the Miami F1 project
We remember the mercurial Gunther Schmid, a team boss with a temper
DT explains why he was annoyed by Spain this year
JS explains how to catch team principals…
And Peter Nygaard records the event for posterity with his Nikons.
GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine in the world. It’s so fast, it’s almost real-time… But it is a magazine that tells you the full story, like racing magazines used to do. It is published in electronic form in PDF format, so you can read it on a laptop or a tablet.
Our reporters have access that will take you behind the scenes in the F1 paddock and explain what is really going on. And we don’t hold back when we have an opinion about soemthing. There are plenty of fascinating stories from Grand Prix history as well, plus great photography. We don’t believe in fake news or waffle. This is old style reporting, giving you a blow-by-blow account of what happened, both in qualifying and in the race, so you have a proper record which can stay in your computer for years to come.

You get 23 issues for £34.99, covering the entire 2018 Formula 1 season.
For more information, go to https://www.grandprixplus.com.

Thought for the F1 day

It’s a sunny day here in France and tomorrow I will set off before dawn to drive to Barcelona. It is about 650 miles, but I should get there in the middle of the afternoon in time for a wander around the F1 Paddock and a few chat to find out what’s going on. That’s the plan. It is one of the most enjoyable days of my year, heading to the first European F1 race – a sign that the spring has truly arrived (although it has been known to go through snow on the way). France is a spectacularly beautiful country, endlessly varied, and filled with surprises. I should probably take two days to do the journey and explore a little more, but time is always pressing. The weather forecast is good and I will go straight down the middle of France: by way of the Beauce plains, the forests of the Sologne, the Bourbonnais bocage in the Allier and then on to the volcanoes of the Puy de Dome, close to Clermont-Ferrand.
By mid-morning I will be climbing up the road they call la Méridienne into the Cantal and the Lozere, passing such things as Eiffel’s spectacular railway viaduct across the Truyere river, near Saint-Flour, and then the astonishing viaduct at Millau (one of the modern wonders of the world), in the Aveyron, just before lunch. The road is a spectacular piece of construction, running at over 2,500 ft most of the time, with large sections above 3,200 ft.
After the high plateau of Larzac, one dives down the Pas de l’Escalette, a pass that drops 1500 ft to the coastal plains of the Languedoc and a sunny drive along the coast to Perpignan before climbing again over the Pyrenees until I get to the gentle wooded hills of Catalonia.
So don’t expect much blogging tomorrow. Yes, I know, I’m living the dream, and I do appreciate the life I have. Everyone involved in Formula 1 is living a great life, even if we work and travel hard. The trouble with living the dream is that someone has to pay for it. Readers always assume that there is some omnipotent media mogul in the sky who pays the bills for me and everyone else. It does not work like that. A lot of the F1 media pay our own bills, which is quite eye-watering when added to the costs of normal life. A few folk have mentioned that my new books (the two volumes of Fascinating F1 Facts) are a little expensive. I accept that they are, but I look at it slightly differently. Every day thousands of F1 fans read this blog or listen to me podcasting (there is a new one by the way). It costs them nothing. Paying a little extra for a pair of books (which any F1 fan will enjoy) is a much better way to generate revenues rather than putting everything behind paywalls.
So, if you want to buy the books but think it is a little too expensive, think of it as a way of saying “thanks” for the content you get for nothing. If everyone who reads the blog and listens to the podcast bought the two books today (in my dreams), I would never need to worry about funding again. Ever. It is really is that dramatic… So, think about it, if nothing else. And if you think: “Yes, that’s a reasonable argument” then clink the link and guarantee that the blog, the green notebook, the podcast, the audiences and so on will go on until the day I drop off the perch.