Notebook from nowhere

NotebookI began writing this notebook in Australia, did some more in Dubai and in the plane over a variety of countries and now it is being finished off in Paris.

The first race of the year is rarely one with much gossip. The focus is on what is happening on the track (blimey) and not on the Paddock. Mind you, access to the paddock has been further restricted this year by the Formula One group, which seems to be intent on having only it own guests these days and Rolex salesmen are not that interesting…

The biggest talking point in the paddock was, of course, the disgraceful debacle that was qualifying. It made F1 look amateurish and one needs to ask how and why such a stupid thing could have occurred. What is obvious is that someone, somewhere made a mistake and none of the checks and balances worked. To explain what happened and how, one first needs to understand the system, which is as clear as Mississippi Mud Pie. Some have blamed the teams, others have taken shots at Bernie Ecclestone and some have had a go at the FIA. Lots of reporting has aimed at the F1 Commission, but this is really a red herring. The F1 Commission is a rubber-stamping body that can only accept or reject proposals. It is not allowed a mind of its own. Even if it was, the political situation is such that its members generally vote things through and do not rock the boat, either because their objections are overruled and there is no point in stirring up trouble, or because they really don’t care about the sport. It is a similar story with the second rubber-stamping body – the World Motor Sport Council.

The reality is that the new qualifying was the work of the F1 Strategy Group or, in other words, the eight voting parties involved: these are the FIA, the Formula One group, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull, Williams and Force India. The FIA and the Formula One group each have six votes, the teams have one vote each. The Strategy Group is where this problem came from.

Now here’s the thing. It took me five whole minutes to get a very clear picture of what was going to happen with the new rules. You simply have to ask some team strategists and they will tell you. And they did. The Q1 and Q2 sessions would be fraught with difficulty, they said, because of time, tyres and traffic. There would be no second chances and the action would be disjointed. No-one would be able to react to other times being set and so ultimately it would be a question of everyone running as fast as possible at the start of the sessions. Those who went earliest might get a chance of a second run (as we saw with Jolyon Palmer), but that would involve speed and discipline. The team would need to guess whether its time was good enough before deciding on a second run. If they waited too long, the run would be stopped by the clock.Explaining it all to the public, they said, would be tough. In Q3, they added, it would be over with five minutes to go. You might as well go and make tea, one said.

And that was exactly what happened.

The question, therefore, was very simple. If the cleverest people in the paddock all said that it wouldn’t work, why on earth did the Strategy Group vote it through?

There are two possible answers to this: politics, and/or arrogance. I don’t know which is right, but it has to be one or the other. When you stop to think about it, it may be a similar case to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, with the Emperor being sold on the idea of an invisible suit of clothes and no-one daring to say that they don’t see it, until the inevitable “But he isn’t wearing anything at all”…

The decision to go ahead was taken in late February and announced by the FIA, which explained that the goal of the new regulations was to deliver “a faster, more spectacular FIA Formula One World Championship”.

The thinking behind a change in qualifying, such as it was, is as follows: by getting qualifying to scramble the grid, one can inject more action into the races. This is not as artificial as drawing starting positions from a hat, as used to happen. For the last 80-odd years the fastest driver has been given the best starting position because it is logical. The sport does not want to see undeserving drivers at the front (as happens in GP2) where drivers with limited talent can win races by being put to the front with the reversed top 8 system. It is a major flaw which, for me, undermines the credibility of the series because when overtaking is tough, slower drivers stay ahead and win.

“Two proposals were on the table,” Mercedes’s Toto Wolff said. “One was the reverse grid idea and the other was this one. We voted for the least worst solution. You can’t say no, no, no, all the time, so this time we felt maybe it’s worth exploring and see how it is.”

Under the rules of the Strategy Group, if the FIA and Formula One vote together then the teams can do nothing, except if Ferrari decides to use its veto on any decision, sporting or technical, which it has a right to do. But if there is a stupid idea that might make the FIA and Formula One look bad, then there is no reason that Ferrari would veto it, if it knows it is a bad idea. Similarly, one can argue that the teams look bad if a daft idea is adopted, so one can imagine the Formula One group doing that, given the current political situation. The truth is that the voting structure means that there must be alliances and thus there must, therefore, be politics.

The Formula One group’s legal people are threatening to overturn the Ferrari veto, arguing that there are clauses in the hyper-secret FIA-Formula One group 100-year commercial deal. It is impossible for anyone to say whether this is fact or fiction. And here is the key: the motivations of those involved are different. Formula One wants the best possible show in order to try to drive more revenues. The teams want to win, but they want a fair system, while the FIA under Jean Todt seems to have abdicated all responsibility and has signed away its right to do as it pleases, in exchange for large amounts of money. One can disguise this by pretending its all about consensus decision-making, but I think a sensible High Court judge, faced with the facts, would conclude that the motivation was that the FIA President wanted money to fund his other ambitions. If that is not the case, he’s not doing enough to convince people of anything.

I do not believe that the eight people who voted this through are stupid enough for this to have occurred. For me, this is all about blame-shifting and scoring points off one another in the overall fight for control in F1. The teams are happy to see the FIA and Formula One being weakened by bad decisions and so may have agreed to the system knowing it would fail – because it would have useful consequences. Formula One may have had the same thought process, believing that a public failure would weaken the manufacturer credibility. It is either this, or they are all not competent.

It is increasingly clear that the current political structure must be broken up if the sport is to thrive. But that will not happen because no-one wants to give up the power that they have won. The whole system is stuck and the only real hope, is that European Competition Directorate might arrive and order all parties to find solutions or face the bureaucrats doing it for them.

The other thing that is bizarre is the complete lack of any reaction from the FIA after the teams met in Australia and said that they want to change the qualifying. There was no sign of either the FIA President or the CEO of the Formula One group.

They were not the only ones missing, by the way, the crowd in Melbourne was down 24,000 compared to the four-day figure last year, from 296,000 to 272,000.

Beyond that there was not much real gossip in Melbourne. The race was very good and the action generated one key question: will the track now have to get rid of its sand traps? Fernando Alonso’s accident was a clear indication that the sand trap is not the right thing for safety. Alonso’s car was up-ended by the change of surface and the sand trap caused it to fly for something like 50 metres, without losing much speed. In safety terms, flying is never good. In my opinion, this is much more important a question than the halo.

When I got off the plane in Paris, I heard the bad news from Brussels (not that such things are unexpected today). I also heard horrible news from Ferrari. I do not normally write about the private lives of people in the sport, but I was desperately sad to hear of the sudden death of Becky Allison, the wife of Ferrari technical director James Allison, at the age of only 48. James is one of the good guys in F1, a proper old school racer and one of the smartest engineers in the sport. he has played a key role in the team’s current revival. James and Becky were married for 23 years. Becky was an accomplished singer, trained at the Guildhall School of Music, to which she won a scholarship. Her career was a little disjointed because she moved to Italy for four years when James first went to Ferrari. The couple have three children: Emily (22), Matt (19) and Johnny (17). One can only hope that James and the family can draw strength from the knowledge that the good people of F1 – the majority – understand that sometimes humanity is more important than the games that are played. Their pain is shared even if not everyone knew Becky.

98 thoughts on “Notebook from nowhere

    1. Joe, here is the problem with the bad strategy group, FIA and FOM… Charlie Whiting has to front the BS Qualifying, the silly radio restrictions and at the sametime introduction of HALO, a safety device. Who is going to believe that HALO has been thought through when they get quali wrong and fine tune allowwed radio calls up to the race? The problem with rubber stamp binary decisions is the fine details can’t be tuned ahead of time. As they say devil is in the details. Saftey is about lives, would you trust this group with important decisions on this track record?

  1. I kind of feel there was a bit of a Field of Dreams moment with the qualifying when they gathered round the table and said “if you build it they will come”, if we change the rules the teams will magically run their sessions in entirely new ways, despite the prevailing paradigm being largely the same.

    Unsurprisingly though, it doesn’t work like that.

    “Two proposals were on the table,” Mercedes’s Toto Wolff said. “One was the reverse grid idea and the other was this one. We voted for the least worst solution”.

    My question is – why were there only two proposals? Is it just a case of “we’ve only got 10 minutes to debate and take a vote, so we will literally have to decide between ideas crap and crapper and not take the time to consider option number three “something else”? How do those two proposals actually get to the proposals stage?

    P.S. sad to hear about Becky Allison.

      1. If you tossed a coin to decide anything in F1, a certain diminutive gentleman would snatch it out of the air before it hit the ground …

    1. Two proposals. Why didn’t some bright spark attending put up their hand and propose a third- ‘Leave things alone’…..?

  2. Who decides what the strategy group gets to vote on? Toto’s comments that they had to choose between a reverse grid or the elimination style they tried Saturday makes me wonder how they ended up being limited to those two options.

    1. Yes, this.
      I’m having a really hard job convincing myself that the ever meddling fingers of the two white haired trolls weren’t steering this wreck.

      On another note, very sad to hear of the Allison family’s loss. Thoughts go out to them.

    2. As I already said on here, once Bernie is gone most of formula one problems will follow him out the door.
      According to EU sporting regulations the commercial rights holder should not have anything to do with rules and regulations (interference).
      Yet still it goes on these forums about what should/shouldn’t have been done, about this, that and the other, yet nobody seems willing to go str82dpoint of what is causing all these problems.

  3. TV viewing figures have dropped off drastically in the past few years.
    Bernard wanted to create headlines by introducing “scrambled” grids. This would artificially create “racing” & might encourage some casual F1 fans to watch the races. Whether the system worked & whether due diligence had been followed, was immaterial to BE. Hundreds of articles were written in the lead-up to Australian qualifying.

    As for the teams in the Strategy Group, they pick their battles carefully. No point opposing BE on this change, that doesnt really advantage any particular team.

    1. Ben mercer> TV viewing figures have dropped off drastically in the past few years.
      Bernard wanted to create headlines by introducing “scrambled” grids. This would artificially create “racing” & might encourage some casual F1 fans to watch the races.

      I think he’ll find that the way to “encourage some casual F1 fans to watch the races” will be not to stick them onto pay-TV in the first place…

      1. Having thought about it for a while now, there are a number of elements that might consign F1 to utter irrelevance.

        The more political confusion there is the less interesting the event itself becomes and as audiences decline so the risk of a breakaway formula grows.

        Whatever we may say about Bernie, he’s not daft and is only the promoter, he’s not the technical decision maker so probably didn’t have a say in the qualy. format.

        To his detriment, however, he and presumably CVC have sold the broadcasting rights to SKY, a move he knows will be hugely unpopular with British viewers, but Bernie has been determined to break into the US for donkeys years, As the Americans pay to view most sports anyway, they won’t bat an eyelid at paying to watch F1.

        However, there is one big flaw with F1 as far as the Americans are concerned, the race is too short at less than 2 hours. Oval racing goes on for hours, at least that’s the perception, and the Americans seem to love long races as opposed to short sprints. God forbid they have to get up and do something else for the rest of the day.

        There are also all the other countries globally that pay for their sports as well, the UK is an irrelevance in the grand scheme, even much of Europe pays to watch sport. When he gets it on SKY Bernie’s more able to break into more countries with more viewers willing to pay to view. Nor do trackside attendances mean much, SKY doesn’t want any spectators, it wants everyone to stay at home and pay them to watch the sport. We wonder why tickets are so expensive? It’s because no broadcaster cares if anyone visits a track or not.

        And I rather think this will be Bernie’s swan song, the final cashing in before he jumps ship as the sport self-destructs. He can see it’s happening and frankly I can’t blame him for lining his pockets before it implodes. He may wield a great deal of power but when it comes to the technical side, it’s not up to him other than to shout from the sidelines.

        If F1 continues it will be to a foreign format, suitable for people less knowledgeable than the average Brit F1 fan. It will just be entertainment, that’s it. It’s been happening for years, ever since ITV put on a better show than the BBC because they introduced the Janet and John presenting format that sought to explain aerodynamics, engines and team dynamics to the great unwashed, all of which could be found with a casual glance at Autosport once a month.

        Personally, after 50 years of watching the sport, I’m happy to witness its demise. It was never competitive, during every one of the last 50 years we have bitched about team dominance, the processional races and lack of overtaking. We need something fresh, far removed from the political circus it’s now become. Sadly, few of us will be part of it. There is just too much competition for F1 to survive in its current format. It’s not the only race of the fortnight, which it used to be. It also has to compete with Rugby, Cricket, Golf and, yes, Football as well as the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and the Paralympics.

        Is F1 in its final death throes? Yes, absolutely. It either needs to wake up and smell the bacon or die, and I don’t see any signs of the former giant of televised sport doing anything but snore itself into oblivion.

        Terrible news about Becky Allison.

  4. As the qualifying change came through so late, all teams had to sign off the change for this year. Why did they sign off on this? And is there a chance one team will dissent on the change back? (expecting not on the latter but…)

  5. Hi Joe,

    That’s awful to hear that James Allison has lost his wife and the mother of their children at such a young age. Hope he is granted the time and space he needs to deal with this.

    On a side note, I just want to thank you for a highly informative and very entertaining evening last Friday night. I’ve been a reader for a number of years now and had been trying to get along to this event for the past few years, but was always out of town. This year finally worked out and it was well worth the wait! You generously gave up a lot of your time (with half a voice) and spoke with so much authority and knowledge from your years of travelling around the world, covering this sport we love. Cannot recommend your event enough and will definitely be coming along again. Cheers.

  6. Here’s a new definition if the phrase, “pointless ecercise in frustration”: trying to get a NASCAR fan to watch an entire F1 event. Thank the gods he didn’t watch the qually.

    1. Thats funny – given that a Nascar “race” seems to take an entire working day. Although I’m sure Nascar see it more as an “Entertainment Broadcast Delivery Veeehicle” or something…

  7. I don’t know James Allison. I think I’ve only met him once (back in his Benetton days). But he has a reputation as a very hard working, very bright and decent man.

    That is extremely sad news about Becky Allison, very sad indeed for her family and friends.

    That (and the events in Brussels) put F1 into perspective.

  8. Very relieved that Fernando survived his accident, but so sad to hear about the Allison family tragedy. The politics is very frustrating but events sadly have a habit of putting it all into perspective. Thoughts to everyone in Brussels.

  9. …”the crowd in Melbourne was down 24,000 compared to the four-day figure last year, from 296,000 to 272,000″…
    I can account for 8 of that 24,000. After 4 years of 4-day grandstand tickets, my partner and I skipped this year (and possibly next year as well) because we spent our F1 budget on buying the pay TV package for 2 years, so we can watch all races.
    I will probably end up cancelling that because I paid for ad-break-free races last year and this year they have started putting ads in as well! Might as well go back to the pirates…

    Removing the sand traps for safety may be a good idea but we need something else to stop drivers carry on with minimal impact from running off track. Till the 90s, there was much more sense of drama when you knew that a mistake could see the driver out of the race, as they manhandled the V12 beasts.

    1. SMP, I and a group of about 10 used to go the Australian GP (from all around Australia) but no more. For the last four years we’ve been going to Sepang. The hotels are inexpensive (unlike Melbourne), the restaurants are inexpensive (unlike Melbourne). The grandstand seats (early bird prices) cost AUS $110 this year (compare them with Melbourne!) and the airfares, yes, cost a little more but not a lot more. Overall cost… similar.

      1. I lived in New Zealand for 50 years and never got to a F1 race. Just too expensive to go to Melbourne. Now I’ve been in Moscow for 11 months and I’ve already been to one race at Sochi and will go to the next there on May 1. Ticket, hotel 700m from the track entrance, and flights all up were just under US$400.

    2. threre are a number of free streams on the web if you can cope with a few pop ups and tolerate Sky f1…

    3. SMP: How on earth do they expect people to fork out for pay-TV coverage if they then put adverts in it??!! I despair, sometimes…

  10. I was certain the “Reverse Grid” option was all that Bernie allowed on the table until he relented and allowed the teams to propose something else (he doesn’t take any blame if it goes tits up) – this was their proposal ….. but as Toto said “This was the least worst”
    Plus, it was so nice to see Toto taking 10 seconds at the start of the Friday Press Conference behaving like a Sportsman and welcoming Gene Haas to F1 – It showed real Statesmanship.

  11. If there were only two proposals on the table, and the previous system wasn’t one of them, we are bound to assume that Todt and Ecclestone had united to do away with the previous system. If it’s true that Ecclestone favours the reverse grid idea, then that was bound to be on the table, and perhaps the teams had no option but to come up with something that wasn’t the previous system as the only way of avoiding reverse grids.

    Since that something has turned out to be a disaster, logically we must now expect it to be withdrawn, leaving only one idea on the table – reverse grids.

    Does this mean the reverse of qualifying or of the previous race? And what is the point of qualifying if you have reverse grids? Unless you have world championship points for qualifying – then it could possibly work for the grid to be the opposite of qualifying. But it would still suit somebody to make sure they were the slowest in qualifying so as to be on pole for the GP. A contest to be the slowest in qualifying might be quite comical! But also dangerous?

    1. How do penalties apply to a reverse grid? Change your gearbox, upgrade your engine, bump into another car whilst leaving your garage and you’ve got pole!

  12. Amongst all the bad news yesterday I was most gutted when a reporter mention James’ family situation.

    Never met the bloke of course but as an engaged fan he really does stand out as one of the good guys. What a sad situation & I hope we see him back.

  13. Almost feel with 21 races and 22 drivers, why don’t they let a different driver start on pole for each race and recycle the grid forwards throughout the year so everyone starts from (almost) every conceivable position…joking. But as has been said it’s quite unbelievable that only two desperately poor solutions were brought forward to the table. A political quagmire.

    I still feel more should be done to spice up entertainment at racetracks for fans in the grandstands. Before you would have, for instance, a sunday morning warm-up which would make fans flock to the circuit on race mornings and added that extra intrigue before the race (i know this is impossible and unnecessary now with parc ferme/reliability concerns, but just an example of how on-track action has been diluted, yet ticket prices remain high). The argument over scrapping fridays and putting that all into a saturday programme with practice and qualifying and condensed 2-day events is possibly a good step to bringing more fans on saturdays, as well as cost-saving. What do others think?

    I’ll be attending a race next month but i’m considering going along on friday practice to see more cars/action on track and suss out the venue(as well as enjoy a roving ticket across several stands)…but i’m pretty certain i’ll be skipping the saturday to go sightseeing in the city and watching quali in a bar..and return for race on sunday. If qualifying was a true spectacle then i wouldn’t think twice about attending on saturday, but the truth is it just doesn’t have a huge enough appeal. Which is fine – it is afterall just a method to set up the grid for Sunday’s main event, but surely there is a way to make it into something not to be missed.

    1. Race promoters should take a leaf out of what the Australian GP organises on race weekend in Melbourne. It’s not just practice, quali and a race but 4 days of entertainment with different categories and side events.
      Far more than I have seen at the 15 different countries I have seen races in!

  14. Sad to here James A.has lost his wife.Courage James,hard times are part of the human life.Stay strong.

  15. Its only the first race, i enjoyed it. Hopefully many more races like this season. IMO they can leave the rules as it is for 2017 and after. Let F1 do what it does best, developing.
    My compliments to F1, a few decades ago Alonso wouldn’t walk away from a crash like this.

  16. Given that that what is under the sandtrap is grass for the rest of the year, I think laying down then pulling up tarmac would be a considerably higher cost proposition than using gravel and then relaying the grass. There did however appear to be some gap between the grass and gravel which should have not been there, which seemed to cause the initial downwards motion which sent him over

  17. Very sad to hear the sudden death of James Allison’s wife. I wish him and his family all strength in these sad days 😦

  18. A large proportion of the crowd drop off was on Friday when the weather was diabolical up until 10am when people would have been deciding whether to go.Saturday was down a little bit and Sunday was at the same level as the previous few years.

  19. Terrible news about James Allison’s wife – 48 is very young.

    I can only imagine how hard it would be for him to think about F1 after such a terrible event.

  20. Joe,
    One must ask who was agitating for the change in quali format. It seems the finger must point at Ecclestone. I’m sorry but it any Director of a fortune 500 company had demonstrated such poor stewardship he would have been fired long ago.
    He may have done good things in the past but now times have passed him by. CVC must see that they won’t offload their remaining shares as long as this status quo holds.
    As for the Euro Commission sorting it out; I think not. I doubt they ( the Commission) could solve the puzzles in the Beano. Apart from the Migrant crisis we will see an end game in the Euro crisis, triggered by Dragi’s experiment with negative interest rates and excess liquidity in the financial markets. If that coincides with the EU referendum that would be a perfect storm, but I digress.
    Ditto on condolences for James Allison. Italy puts strong importance on family and I’m sure Ferrari will provide him with all the support he needs.

  21. Whilst I do agree that the gravel trap did appear to launch Alonso’s car into the air, I’m not sure that tarmac would have provided any significant retardation to a car already missing 3 wheels. The impact with the tyre wall of a car skating along on its belly or side would be immense.

    As a race marshal, I’m not at all convinced by tarmac run offs, the number of big hits seems to be greater than the number of cars rolled by a gravel trap.

      1. True. Every crash is different and the car skating along at that speed without wheels is always going to prove difficult to arrest safely.
        On a permanent track, the combination of tarmac, gravel and tyres/Tecpro seems to be the best option but with the limited space on a park/street track, the risks are always going to be increased.

        Keep up the good work Joe, I always look forward to reading your blog.

  22. Surely the FIA controls the paddock not FOM. They did have the “paddock club” but again did they not sell that a few years ago?
    Again the FIA controls press passes not FOM so what is going on? Am I completely wrong as usual? Or is Bernie overstepping his authority? (an almost automatic assumption)

      1. How did that happen?
        .4 All persons concerned in any way with an entered car or present in any other capacity
        whatsoever in the paddock, pit lane, or track must wear an appropriate pass at all times.
        3.5 No pass may be issued or used other than with the agreement of the FIA. A pass may be used
        only by the person and for the purpose for which it was issued.

  23. Really sad and shocked to hear of James’s loss. I worked with him at Renault, a good honest bloke who put his neck on the line for the employees in the latter years.

  24. The F1 Strategy group as i recall has three sides of six voters each. Obviously if FOM and the FIA voted together the teams would have no say in anything ever. (Unusually for a Bernie system, votes are of an equal value) Thus I reckon the FIA abstained or voted half and half if 8 people voted the idiocy through. However despite the appearance of equality, I have thought, from the very rumour of its inception, that the F1SG was a Bernie device. With the FIA of a dither in recent times only a few words in ears need be spoken, reminders of favours given or not to be given, to set up the votes as BE wishes.

    If the FIA have suddenly developed the balls to look at the secret 100 year agreement to frustrate Ferrari, then are we on the way to the unfit person rule, or the “Bringing the sport into disrepute” clause, either of which should have seen the back of more than one prominent F1 figure over the last few years.

      1. I base my impression of the F1SG on JA’s description of it as it came into being. He said three parties, six votes each. If it has changed it is something that we would rely on you to tell us.

      2. JA’s blog 27th Sept 2013 “But perhaps the most significant development is the activation of the new rule making process in Formula 1, with the creation of a Strategy Group, made up of 18 voting members, equally split between the FIA, FOM and six leading teams.”

  25. If Alonso’s crash totalled the Honda engine, will it count towards his allocation for the season?
    As for the qualifying fiasco, I believe the teams were presented with 2 options by Whiting, that came from Bernie. I think it is likely that Bernie still has the power to insist one was chosen. The teams were caught in a cleft stick.

  26. The reverse grid works very well in UK stock car racing, in fact it is an essential part, but this is a contact sport with vehicles specially built for contact.
    It is also used in race three of the BTCC where again it does add spice, but the cars and speeds used are able safely to withstand the inevitable nudge or braking assist.
    An F1 race with a part reverse grid would resemble an old FF race, with cars flying in all directions.
    And please tell Toto that he can say “no” all the time in future, if the suggestions are so stupid.

  27. I have never seen much of James Allison on UK tv, but was very impressed with his rare appearance last year, very stoutly defending Kimi and immediately endearing himself to me by his forthright but very considered manner.

    My condolences would mean very little to him and his family but I hope Joe can pass on the sense of great sadness at the infeasible loss, from F1 fans on Joe’s blog.

  28. Qualifying was a joke and it was obvious to those with an appreciation of how F1 works what would happen.
    Perhaps the teams felt given their limited choices the best option was to provide the powers that be with a good length of rope.

    I am glad that others realise how much more serious the gravel traps actually made Alonso’s crash.
    The traps may serve a purpose with saloon cars but flat bottom cars at high speed either skip over the gravel(making them redundant) or dig in and launch greatly reducing the ability of the crash structures and barriers to work as designed.

    Finally, as someone who has worked with James Allison and holds him in very high regard – both as an engineer and a person – it was terribly sad to hear of his loss, especially as I believe it was sudden and unexpected. As you say, hopefully the F1 family will pull together to offer him, and his family, the support they will be needing.

  29. Well spoken Joe on all counts.
    Qualifying, all of it, a complete and predictable disaster, and I cannot believe that Mr Pirelli is apparently suggesting that some variation be tried at Bahrein after everyone has voted for cancellation. Unanimity for once and yet we have a dissenting voice ?
    Unbelievable, also, that neither Ecclestone nor Todt were at Melbourne, showing a total lack of respect and sense. If they are too old to travel a further substantial indication that they must go.
    Alonso’s lucky escape a pointer for further investigation. Gravel OK if you go in front first but a problem if spinning. The halo would certainly have reduced his ability to crawl out so easily and whilst its longitudinal strength has been shown to be effective might its lateral strength be an aggravating factor, and then there are the looks ! Most often front wheel / rear wheel collisions cause flying as we have seen many times, long before the gravel becomes a factor. Had that occurred this time the outcome would have been very different due to the high speed and proximity of the spectators. In my opinion far more relevant than the Eiffel Tower / Lotus 7 cockpit protection.
    The bumbling lack of forethought and planning, short termism and kneejerking needs to be attacked urgently. The team principals may well have been complicit in the stupid decisions but it all starts in one place with the constant complaining and bullying that is an ever present motivating (de) catalyst.

  30. For once I read Hamilton’s post race whinings and had to agree he talked sense: the qualifying was rubbish and the 2017 rules will do nothing to improve the racing – as he says, improve mechanical grip, lessen aero and let the cars get closer to enable the drivers to race.

  31. The gravel trap worked fine. It stopped the car well before the barrier at the end of the runoff, and the driver escaped with little more than a shaking from a 300kmh accident. Sure, the car played its part, but have a good look at the video and study the process of what actually happened.

    The flying bit was disconcerting, but that also meant that when the car landed it dug in, rather than slid, spiking the deceleration rate that would have been otherwise more gentle and consistent if sliding the whole way.

    Lets avoid ill considered knee-jerk reactions. If you want to make improvements, I can suggest two – remove that lip that seems to have triggered the roll (if it exists, it may not), and extend the tyres further back (FA nearly missed the tyres, striking the very last ones).

    1. “Sure, the car played its part, but have a good look at the video and study the process of what actually happened.”

      Yes if you look at the video you will see at 0:17 that the car remains upright as long as it is on the grass strip, but at 0:19, as soon as it enters the gravel it is turned over by the gravel and gets airborne. It flies over most of the gravel area what means that no energy is absorbed. Something that wouldn´t have happened on tarmac. F1 safety standards are treemndous, but that can be different. when a car gets airborne. Something we don´t need.

  32. In the UK, the number of television viewers watching the Australian GP was the lowest since records began. If Bernie and his CVC cronies think collecting huge windfalls from pay tv firms, which in Britain can only attract an average audience of 360,000, represents a long-term future for F1 then I can only hope that the EU steps in to wrest the sport from these vandals.

  33. “Bad” news from Brussels, but “horrible” news from Ferrari? I trust your judgement enough to figure that this was just an unlucky typo/oversight…

      1. Joe, I’ve always presumed that you read the comments before allowing them to appear on your blog (due to the time delay between writing & the comments appearing)?
        It’s your blog and so I’d say that you completely have the right to edit/remove/refuse to publish anything that you feel is out of place . (If you did so I am also sure that you would put a carefully worded explanation in, in place of the offending post).
        I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business (heaven forbid), but am just explaining what I (as a regular reader) would think was perfectly acceptable.

      2. I’m confident Joe that, on reflection, you’ll understand what eltjo2014 was trying, in a rather clumsy way, to say and why he was trying to say it. I know I do.

      3. Peace Joe! You know that comments such as those are as rare as rocking horse droppings. The vast majority of us just shudder at such appalling remarks.

    1. You’ve taken them totally out of context and tried to suggest that Joe is saying one is worse than the other, and that is not how it reads.

    2. This is over-scrutinization in the extreme – the article is a ‘notebook’, i.e. some initial comments jotted down while in transit (returning from the other side of the world!). Given that Joe acknowledged the tragic events in Brussels in a respectful manner while writing about his thoughts on F1 (the topic he focuses on), demonstrates sufficient empathy. If he hadn’t mentioned it at all, no one would have batted an eyelid. This kind of nitpicking is pedantic and borderline trollistic in nature.

  34. Surely the sensible thing for qualifying would be to revert back to something approaching the system they had 30 years ago. One single session of 20 minutes, grid order decided from the results. The only thing I would change would be to add in a rule requiring all cars to complete 7 laps at better than 115% of the pole time in order to qualify.

    The only thing that will suffer will be the three ad breaks in Bernie’s “advertiser friendly” format… so it will never happen…

  35. If the grid is to be artificially created, either by previous race position or by lots, I personally do not have an issue with either….so long as qualifying remains and points are rewarded as a result.

  36. If fans are reducing at the popular events, and we continue going to places where money rather than fandom is clamouring for a race also resulting in empty grandstands, why don’t we just hook up the expensive simulators in each team HQs to eachother and broadcast that?

    I’d hope that at some point, the people with money will realise that there’s no one to show off to about how rich you are if all the fans stay at home.

    Reverse grids? This is F1, the pinnacle of motorsport, the faster cars at the front get to win the race, we want overtaking and excitement yes, but we used to get this without artifical meddling. Let’s give each driver a red shell per race as well which homes onto the driver in front and makes them spin…that will be more entertaining than DRS…but it sounds like a familiar idea…hmmm.

  37. re: sand traps. one could also argue a “what if” the car had continued at nearly full speed, skidding on its floor without front wheels to brake, and nose dived into barriers a la Sainz last year. the sand caused a flip but also slowed the car more than the asphalt would have.

  38. Regarding the sand traps…I agree with you Joe that the change of surface seemed to cause FA’s car to roll. But when the car returned to earth it appeared to dig in and slow dramatically before ultimately hitting the wall at a much lower speed. Given the speed it was traveling when it left the racing surface, FA’s survival is due at least in part to the retardation caused by the sand. Just my $0.02 on the matter. Thanks for your Notebook comments.

  39. Time is now to strip F——- I—- A—— Emperor Napoleon of his invisible clothes and exile him to St Helena where he can do no more damage.

  40. My condolences for the loss of Becky Allison. I can understand the loss having lost my mother when she was 47.

    One forever wakes for those losses.

  41. When presented with two bad options it’s too bad that they HAD to choose one rather than just rejecting them both.

    The good news is that the decision was quickly reversed. In many cases people are too proud or arrogant and will instead double-down on their decision rather than ever admit that they made a mistake.

  42. And while we’re discussing bad FIA rules, who was the genius that thought a team could pit during a red flag with no competitive disadvantage was a good idea? I’m happy for Grosjean and Haas to take advantage of the situation but my God that was such an unbelievable advantage for them compared to the rest of the field. Imagine if it wasn’t Grosjean but was instead a few laps earlier and Raikkonen was out front. He could’ve pitted, got fresh rubber, and would’ve retained the lead over Vettel and Rosberg.

  43. To put in perspective how bad the sport has become, Sky just announced a deal to screen all races live from 2019. So that really will be it from me. I can’t be bothered any more with a sport that messes with the fans so much. BTCC is good, will have to put all my effort into that.

    And on the day the GPDA comes out with their letter too. I thought there may be some hope.

  44. For once I actually agree with Christian Horner, who said they should take the first few races this year to try different quali formats and see what works. I would be in favour of change, as I have all but given up on watching the quali over the last couple of years.
    My variation would be based on the track cycling system, fuel all the cars for 50L, pop on some hard tires, and everyone goes out. Every two laps the slowest car is eliminated, and the times reset again. Plenty of opportunity for a mix up, and everyone would be on track having to work hard – oh and no opportunity for an ad break either.

  45. Perhaps the teams went along with the qualifying change because even more idiotic changes were being mooted by Bernie before the season and it lookeed half-way reasonable by comparison. Ex. Bernie was been quoted during pre-season testing as saying that he personally favored a system where the winner of a race would get some kind of time penalty in the next race along with some other details that were so illogical that my brain just refused to remember them.

    After listening to Bernie’s drivel for a while, almost anything could sound reasonable.

  46. clearly didnt think it through, the idea of not allowing laps within the 90sec count down period robbed it of the only potential selling point. ie. two or more cars battling it out on final hot laps every couple of minutes to see who gets eliminated. Both Grosjean and Gutierrez set excellent fast laps in their respective 90sec period neither of which counted (they would have been 5th or 6th on the grid at that point) instead everyone gave up and stayed in the garage. The countdown period should have been 2 minutes (to allow someone sat in the pits time to get out and get round and start another lap) and any lap started within the 2 minute period should have counted. All in all a fairly poor idea incredibly badly executed.

  47. Not sure what to make of the Sky Sports F1 deal sneaked out on a bad news day

    Coverage on Sky is actually superb now after a shaky first year or so but is spending £330 per year (at 2016 prices) worth it to watch just 1 sport 8 months per year ( August December January & February have no races) or (over the course of a 21 race season) £15.70 per race surely the teams can veto this?
    How the hell can a Manor or a Sauber attract a sponsor?

    At least Premier League Football teams get a guaranteed chunk of the TV Rights deal

    1 step too far for a sport which is essentially 22 moving billboards driving past adverts 60 times a race

  48. Condolences to James Allison and family, puts all this F1 nonsense in perspective, to be gone from this planet at such a young age is terribly sad

  49. Hi Joe,

    I was at the talk in Melbourne on Friday night (a good time, although the noise from that wedding next door was driving me spare) when you commented that you were in favour of F1 on pay TV, and that older people have a problem with paying for sport, but young people are used to it.

    You may be right, but I think it’s worth pointing out that young people are used to paying a small amount for their entertainment. Something like Netflix runs to about $110 per year, or Spotify which is even less. Both of those products give you vast catalogues of entertainment. In Australia F1 coverage will cost you $600 per year, with a minimum 2 year contract, plus other fees.

    The way I got interested in the sport was via a school friend who was obsessed with it, so I started watching to see what the fuss was about and was hooked. I would have had a better chance of flying to the moon than convincing my father to spend $600 on watching sport on TV.

    You can look at cricket in the UK as a perfect example. After 10 years on pay TV it’s becoming a niche sport, whereas in Australia it’s still on free to air and maintains its national obsession status.

    I’m not a ‘I’ll never pay for it’ kind of person, I might be lured into it in the future, but probably not. Which means my kids won’t watch it, which means they’ll never follow the sport and they’ll spend their lives thinking that it’s just some odd thing that their embarrassingly weird dad is into. They’ll never have an uncontrollable desire to buy a TAG-Heuer because they saw Ayrton Senna wear one once.

  50. /caused it to fly for something like 50 metres, without losing much speed/

    Might have some doubts. Yes, there is no friction in the air, but the car going airborne starts fighting gravity and losing its moving energy. When the car hits the ground and bounces back, it would lose even more energy, but it would not be as hard as when it directly hits the wall.
    Flying in the car is not good, but an uncontrolled slide on tarmac does not seem to be safer.
    Just thinking, no calculations done.

  51. So Sky are going to deliver bits of F1 for free!!!

    I presume they are going to start a terrestrial channel then! As anything else would involve expenditure.

  52. I don’t know James Allison except from reportage and some tv interviews trackside, but my heart goes out to him and his children at their loss, which is such a horrible thing especially at such a young age.
    Also, of course, to all those who have suffered loss from the vile terror attacks in Brussels. the world is truly a sad place sometimes, and i hope there will be better news as the year progresses as it all becomes so depressing.

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