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For fans, the world of Formula 1 can be a little complicated and difficult to understand and it is not easy to find explanations. You cannot get a pass to go into the paddock and ask questions and you don’t know other race fans who can explain things to you. How do you find out? And how can you get to feel part of the event? There is an answer which will mean that you can find out pretty much anything you want to know about the sport, and you can discover it in a convivial atmosphere, with drinks and a buffet dinner on the day before the race meeting begins, when you can not only meet one of the most experienced F1 observers, but you can also meet other F1 fans in Singapore. You get a lot for your money, with a whole evening of questions, plus food and drink, all of which is included in the very reasonable ticket price. It is terrific value for money – and a great way to feel part of the event.

I will be hosting one of my Audience with Joe events on Thursday, September 15, at the Tanglin Club, which is conveniently located not far from the Orchard and Newton MRT stations, or an easy cab ride from the Marina Bay area. The event runs from 7pm until 11pm and I will answer any question that you want to ask, or at least I will tell why I cannot answer it! And you won’t get sponsor-friendly wishy-washy answers. I say what I think. I’ve been kicking around for nearly 30 years and know all the movers and shakers, so I get some interesting access that other journalists cannot get.

My goal in hosting the event is to engage with fans. It may be complicated and may seem unfriendly sometimes, but I believe that we should share our passion for the sport and knowledge of it with as many people as possible.

“I attended an evening with Joe in Singapore last year and it was an excellent event,” wrote one fan. “Joe had the audience enthralled with his knowledge, stories and insights. He shoots straight and is incredibly candid. You will for sure walk out of the room knowing far more than you ever thought possible. One snippet about a particular legend of the sport alone made it all worthwhile. And this year the wine, beer and food are all included! Make sure you arrive in Singapore on time for 7pm!”

To book tickets for this unique event, click here

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 16.49.23Once we knew that Lewis Hamilton would be taking a series of engine penalties at the Belgian Grand Prix, we knew that the chances were that Nico Rosberg was going to win the race, even if Max Verstappen had the Mercedes boys worried with his pace in qualifying. Max was second on the grid and the estimated 50,000 Dutch fans who flocked to Spa, clogging the roads on Sunday morning, were desperate to see their hero do well. Alas, it was not to be. At the first corner Sebastian Vettel made a fairly a wild move, slicing across when he had no real right to do so. The result was that he ran into his own team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who then hit Verstappen, who was on the inside and in the right place to make the corner his own. Nico must have chuckled into his helmet if he was watching his mirrors as his primary rivals tumbled over one another. Nico was four seconds clear of Nico Hulkenberg at the end of the first lap with Daniel Ricciardo third. There was a Virtual Safety Car on lap 3 after Carlos Sainz suffered a puncture and then on the fifth lap Kevin Magnussen dropped it in his Renault in Eau Rouge. It was a huge crash and after several laps of Safety Car, during which many of the cars pitted to get themselves on to better tyres, the red flag was shown, as the barriers need to be repaired. It took 17 minutes before the mess was cleared up and then the race was on again with Rosberg being chased by Ricciardo, who had snuck ahead of Hulkenberg in the rush into the pits. By that point Lewis Hamilton had driven from the back of the field to fifth place, with Fernando Alonso, who had started with him at the back ahead on the road, the two having started on harder tyres. When the race got going again. Lewis overtook Fernando and then Hulkenberg to rise to third, but there was not much more that he could do after that. Still, a third place finish from the back row of the grid was a great job, with a little help from the Safety Car. Rosberg was able to control the rest of the race, but was gracious in victory admitting that it had not been a difficult day and congratulating Lewis on his performance. Dan Ricciardo was second but never really challenged Nico, while Max and the Ferraris spent the afternoon trying to make up for lost ground, falling over one another as they jousted. There was a lot of whining noises from the Ferrari cockpits… It was a big day for Force India, which picked up a bunch of points and overtook Williams to take fourth in the Constructors’, while McLaren jumped ahead of Toro Rosso thanks to Fernando Alonso’s solid seventh, further evidence that McLaren is starting to get there… Vettel finished sixth and overtook Raikkonen in the Drivers’ World Championship, while Kimi was ninth and Verstappen a miserable 11th, despite some hard driving.

Also in GP+ this week…

– The silly season in F1
– We remember Chris Amon
– We look at the Belgian GP of 1966, a race that changed F1 forever
– JS explains why he loves Spa
– DT reflects on a painful August
– The Hack recalls the lucky Mr Amon
– Plus the usual fabulous photography from Peter and his team of snappers

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine. It comes out before some of the teams have even managed to get a press release out. It is an e-magazine that you can download and keep on your own devices and it works on computers, tablets and even smartphones. And it’s a magazine written by real F1 journalists not virtual wannabes… Our team have attended more than 2,000 Grands Prix between us.

GP+ is an amazing bargain – and it is designed to be, so that fans will sign up and share the passion that we have for the sport. We don’t want to exploit you, we want you to join the fun. You get 23 issues for £32.99, covering the entire 2016 Formula 1 season.

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

Mark Kleinman is a journalist who, in the past, has been shown to have a very good source within CVC Capital Partners, so when he comes up with a story about the private equity firm, one should pay close attention. Kleinman reported today on Sky that John Malone’s firm Liberty Media is close to completing a deal worth $8.5 billion to buy the shares of the Formula One group from its existing shareholders. He also says that if the complex deal goes ahead, it will result in Formula One being listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York. He does, however, say that the deal is not completed and one has to therefore ask whether the leak is designed as a hurry-up to other potential bidders, or whether it is really the most likely outcome.

The fact that Liberty Media is interested is not news, as it has been rumoured for some months. Malone took an interest in the sport about 18 months ago but no deal could be found and so he bought control of Formula E instead.

Kleinman also reports that if the deal goes ahead the role of chairman of Formula One would go to Chase Carey, a 62-year-old American, who is the executive vice-chairman of 21st Century Fox, a News Corporation company. He has long been associated with Fox, dating back to 1988 and he helped to launch such things as Fox Sports and FoxNews. A Harvard MBA, he moved from Fox to become CEO of DirecTV in 2003 before that was sold to Liberty three years later. He stayed on for three further years before going back to News Corporation in 2009 and he has been tipped in the past as a possible successor to Rupert Murdoch. He would certainly be a high-flyer, but it is not clear why he would take the F1 job, if he is looking at a brighter future…

En route to Belgium

Over here in France, we have what they call a canicule, which means that it is stinking hot and it’s hard to sleep at night unless you have air conditioning. But it’s nice to see some solid good weather after what had been a pretty patchy summer. The good news is that it is due to last until the weekend and then will cloud up a bit and rain on Monday. That’s the theory and it may even come to pass, but when one considers the microclimate at Spa, it is hard to certain about anything. The one thing we can say is that the refreshed F1 circus will be back in action after the summer break and that brings a surge of energy after a few weeks when hearts beat slower and days went on longer. The summer break is a great thing for F1, unless of course you don’t have a family, in which case some get a little bored.

There are lots of questions to be answered: will Red Bull be up with Mercedes; will Ferrari have dropped back at all? Or moved forward? Will Ma Verstappen catch Dan Ricciardo? And, of course, the big question: will Nico Rosberg be able to stop the Lewis Hamilton rout?

Should be a good weekend of racing ahead.

In the interim, I’m driving across eastern France, looking forward to my favourite circuit…

The power of a driver

André Maes, the long time promoter of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, has told the national newspaper La Dernière Heure that the event has already sold 70,000 three-day tickets, something that he has not seen since the glory days of Michael Schumacher back in 2001 and 2002, when legions of German fans would stream across the border to Spa, following their hero, who had huge support in the region around Kerpen, the town where he grew up. This means that with sales in the days leading up to the race, plus all the other people associated with the event, there are likely to be in the region of 85,000 people brought to the region for the race. This will delight the regional government of Wallonia which has to support the event and cover its losses each year. It remains to be seen whether the event will actually make a profit, but that is still a possibility.

The reason for the hike in ticket sales is very clear: Max Verstappen. The recent German Grand Prix saw large numbers of Dutch fans in the grandstands at Hockenheim, having driven the 250 or so miles from their homeland to watch their hero in action. Spa is much closer to the Netherlands, the nearest point to Spa being only around 45 miles from Spa, meaning that some of the visitors will be able to return home each day. Many others will camp at the circuit, which is probably the best option for fans as there is a fairly limited supply of hotels in the immediate vicinity of the circuit, beyond the ones popular with F1 people in Spa, Malmédy and Stavelot. The organisers at Spa expect that there will be around 20,000 Dutch fans in the crowd this year and says that all the grandstands have been sold out and only general admission tickets remain. Spa is also a popular venue for British fans, who drive across from the UK for the event, which is held on a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, which means that they have Monday to return home.

 

Verstappen’s rise has led to interest in reviving the Dutch Grand Prix, which has not been held since 1985, but was a regular fixture on the F1 calendar for more than 30 years. It is clear that there are problems hosting such a big event at Zandvoort, the traditional home of the race, located in the sand dunes next to the North Sea, near Haarlem. The track would need considerable work and vehicular access would need to be restricted. Zandvoort is well-served by trains from Haarlem and Amsterdam, the latter being only half an hour away. However, the big problem is to find a way to raise the fees required to pay for such an event, with the circuit admitting that it cannot do much without government aid. The government has been pushing austerity measures in recent years, in an effort to improve public finances but for the last 18 months the economy has been growing as confidence returns. One alternative that has been put forward is to host a Grand Prix at the TT Circuit Assen, in the north of the country. The track, a shortened permanent version of a celebrated motorcycle road race circuit, hosts the Dutch round of the MotoGP series and has a contract to continue to do so until 2026. The track would need some modification for F1 but it would cost a great deal less than trying to revive Zandvoort. The Assen organisers say that they are interested if financial arrangements can be put in place.

The Belgian GP at Spa will,incidentally, have increased security with traffic and pedestrians no longer mixing in the area around La Source, as a precaution following the Nice attack in July. There will also be more bag inspections.

A near-miss in Pocono

There are many arguments in the discussions about head protection in top line motorsport, but the ABC 500 at Pocono, delayed until Monday because of rain, gave further evidence that it would be wise for the sport to find solutions as quickly as possible, lest more drivers are killed or injured.

Mass pit stops in IndyCar racing are usually fraught, with cars getting in and out of their boxes. There are often collisions, notably at Indianapolis this year when Andretti’s Townsend Bell pulled out of his pit and was hit by Penske’s Helio Castroneves and then collided with his own team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay. The same two teams were involved in the incident at Pocono. On lap 64 Alexander Rossi pitted from the lead. He was departing his pit in the slow lane when Charlie Kimball, who was further down the order, arrived in the fast lane for his stop. Kimball seems to have believed that he was clear of Rossi, and Rossi was either unsighted or believed that Kimball would duck behind him. In any event, the two cars were side-by-side and collided and Rossi’s front end went into the air. As it came back to earth Castroneves emerged from his pit and arrived beneath Rossi’s car, which then landed on the Penske car in the cockpit area. Fortunately the impact was just in front of Castroneves. Rossi then slid over the top of the Brazilian’s car .

Castroneves said later that his hand had been grazed by Rossi’s flying car.

Apportioning blame in such an incident is difficult. Rossi was penalized a nominal 20 seconds for avoidable contact, but it was clear that he did not see Kimball and had been relying on his pit crew to send him out in an orderly manner. Others felt that Kimball should not have turned in, but he appears to have thought that Rossi would pass behind him. There are also questions about whether Castroneves’s car should have been released into the path of the others.

“Everyone is going to have their own opinion, but I was staying in the slow lane,” Rossi said. “Kimball was obviously trying to come into his box, but then Helio was being released. So I don’t know. It’s very unfortunate.”

The former F1 driver was happy that Castroneves was not hurt, but felt that he had been robbed of a potential victory.

“We were at the front with relative ease and we were waiting for the end to go to the front for the final time,” he said.

The incident, which came a year after Justin Wilson was killed at the same venue, when he was hit on the head by flying wreckage, is a further sign that it would be wise to act sooner, rather than later to try to improve the protection around the drivers’ heads.

It is time to wind up things again, in preparation for the forthcoming Belgian Grand Prix, and after a solid three week break from the sport, F1 will be re-energised for the rush of races to come: we have seven races in 10 weeks between now and the end of October, which will keep us all busy… The World Championship is still wide open, between the two Mercedes drivers, although there is no doubt that before the break, Lewis Hamilton clearly had the upper hand. It will be interesting to see whether Red Bull or Ferrari has made any progress. Ferrari, remember, ended the first part of the year by dropping its technical director James Allison and there were signs that the team could go into one of its celebrated downward spirals. We will have to see whether Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne understands the importance of stability in an F1 team, or thinks – like most automobile industry executives – that the sport is easy and keeps making changes. Before the break began Pirelli began its 2017 tyre testing programme with Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Gutierrez doing a wet track test over two days at Fiorano with a modified 2015 car fitted with prototype 2017 tyres. Red Bull then took over with two days testing dry tyres at Mugello, with Sebastien Buemi doing the driving with a modified RB11, designed to simulate 2017 performance. Kimi Räikkönen used the summer break to take time to get married to Minttu Virtanen at a ceremony in Tuscany.

Beyond the various excitements at Maranello, there has been little news of any real interest over the break with the exception of the announcement that Manor F1 has replaced Rio Haryanto with Esteban Ocon. This was no great surprise, but it will be fascinating to see how the young Frenchman does alongside Pascal Wehrlein, another Mercedes-Benz protege. Wehrlein has looked good, but he was beaten matched quite often by Haryanto and so the contest between Ocon and Wehrlein could be of long-term interest as Mercedes looks for its own new stars.

The rest of the news that appeared in August appears to have been largely waffle and rehashes of earlier stories, presumably pumped out by scribblers trying to scrape a living in the quiet month. There is no sign of any immediate progress in the sale of the Formula One group; there is still no Grand Prix in Las Vegas and, while there has been some pushing and shoving at Silverstone, it is by no means clear whether the changes have been caused because of the planned sale of the circuit, or because the financial results of the British Grand Prix were not as good as they might have been. From what I hear the race made a financial loss despite being a sellout and that obviously means that there is some reflection needed on the strategic approach that was chosen by the management. Discounting is perhaps not the best answer if one has to raise very specific sums of money.

I have to admit that I find the constant politicking at Silverstone to be a complete waste of energy for all concerned. There is a contractual arrangement in place that runs until 2024 and it would not be wise for the Formula One group to terminate the current deal in an effort to get more. In such a scenario, one can imagine that Silverstone would simply walk away from the Grand Prix and spend a few years building up its financial strength and getting work done, leaving F1 without a home race. It is particularly frustrating for Britain because the government has been willing to spend huge sums of money on the Olympic Games, but refuses to help fund the Grand Prix. One can understand why politicians would not want to do anything to associate themselves with some of those involved in the Formula One group, but it is simply not right that Britain’s only F1 venue struggles to survive when Formula 1 is one of the country’s biggest success stories.

Consider this: in the last 10 seasons, British-based Formula 1 teams have won 145 of the 179 Grands Prix that have taken place, a success rate of 81 percent. That percentage will almost certainly go up by the end of the year. It is reckoned that each medal won by Britain in Rio (gold, silver or bronze) has cost the taxpayer £4.1 million. Now, that money is probably well-spent because it has made British people feel good about their country and perhaps a little more united. It has given Britain pride and sporting prestige.

UK Sport, the body which decides on these things, allocates government money to different sports, and it is focussed and ruthless. If a sport does not deliver, the money stops. However, it is happy to fund elite sport if there is a good chance of success. Elite sport is a specialist industry, and so even if the government does not consider F1 to be a sport, it should have the nous to throw some money at Silverstone, to help it do more than just build a museum. Is there another sport in which Britain wins as much as it does in Formula 1?

I cannot think of one.

If the track had the cash to complete its building projects, it could be much more sustainable, even allowing for the fees that the Formula One group demands. Instead the club spends its time quibbling over what should be sold and to whom. The latest twist is that the managing director of Silverstone Circuits Ltd, Patrick Allen, has been placed on leave of absence. Some suggest that this is because he is too close to Lawrence Tomlinson of Ginetta, who wants to buy the track, and wants to stop the sale to Jaguar Land Rover. Others think it may be to do with the ticket sales at the GP. The BRDC continues its discussions with JLR and with Porsche, which has some voice in what a new owner can do with the track, but thus far the German firm has made no public objections to the JLR plan and stories floating about seem to be designed to stir up trouble.

Elsewhere, it is worth mentioning that part of Britain’s sporting success in Rio is due to a former Formula 1 team boss, now a professor at Cambridge University. Tony Purnell has been British Cycling’s Head of Technical Development or the last three years, but prior to that had an impressive career in motorsport beginning when he was still at university with a dissertation in 1982 that included radical new ideas such as lap time simulation, computational fluid dynamics and highlighted the importance of software in the sport. Purnell was soon a consultant to Newman-Haas Racing and then built wind tunnel instrumentation for Lola and Carl Haas’s F1 team, working with a young Ross Brawn. This led to Purnell establishing PI Research to market his inventions and this quickly became a huge global business before being sold to the Ford Motor Company in 1999. It became part of what was known as the Premier Performance Division, which also included Jaguar Racing and Cosworth. In 2002 Purnell was put in charge of the whole division and remained so until Ford decided to sell the business at the end of 2004. Red Bull Racing grew from the foundations laid by Jaguar Racing. It is worth noting that Purnell was always a motorsport fan and, indeed, supported the careers of youngsters such as Lewis Hamilton and Anthony Davidson during their time in karts. He would later become a technology consultant for the FIA, helping Max Mosley formulate strategy in various championships. After Jean Todt arrived, Mosley’s people were weeded out to a large extent and so Purnell went off to the world of academia and ultimately to cycling, where he was able to apply many of the same ideas using computer modelling and analysis to provide Cycling GB with better equipment, better clothing and better biomechanical analysis of the riders themselves. It is reported that he worked with several F1 teams to develop better systems and coatings. Whatever the case, the low-profile Purnell deserves some of the credit for Britain’s success in the velodrome.

The other piece of news was the death of Chris Amon, at the age of 73. Amon was a remarkable racer in F1 between 1963 and 1976, competing with teams such as Ferrari, Matra, Cooper, Tyrrell, BRM and March. He was seen by many as a potential World Champion but fate dictated that he would never win a single World Championship Grand Prix, thus gaining a reputation for being the unluckiest driver in the history of the sport. He won several non-championship races, collected 11 podiums and won the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Daytona 24 Hours and the Tasman Series, but a Grand Prix victory eluded him. He even set up his own F1 team at one point but eventually decided that he no longer wanted to take the risks required and retired to New Zealand to run the family farm. He would later enjoy a career as a TV presenter in his home country, testing road cars and helping to promote the sport in New Zealand. He was awarded an MBE for services to motorsport in 1993.

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