Notebook from Darth Vader’s train

IMG_0051It’s Monday night here in Osaka and I am sitting on the Nankai Railway’s wonderful Rap:it Express which will shortly depart from Namba Station to Kansai Airport. Now, it’s not likely that you will meet Eminem, Ice Tea, Slick Rick or Snoop Dog on this purple Darth Vader on rails, but it is the coolest train you will ever meet, and amongst the most efficient as it rattles through the Osaka suburbs before turning right and crossing
a bridge that leads to the man-made island in the bay where the airport is located. Last night – and tonight – it will be like the F1 Paddock.

It being the second race in seven days, the gossip in the paddock in Suzuka and the lounge at Kansai was rather more intense than at Sepang a few days earlier, because F1 people had had time to sit around for a couple of days and dream up trouble.

img_2984Thus there was an awful lot of chat about Force India, Williams and Renault, which are the next teams in the F1 pecking order now that the big teams are done. The chit-chat in Suzuka was largely about Renault, which has now kicked into action, having been turned down by Sergio Perez (and James Allison come to that). Perez and his sponsors are staying at Force India on a one year deal, on th basis that ther might be an opportunity for Sergio at Maranello in 2018. If one ignores the question of why anyone would want to go to Ferrari in 2018, it is almost logical because Ferrari is Ferrari. You get to wear red overalls and, so they say, lot of girls throw themselves at you if you wear the uniform. I have never asked the Ferrari girls if it works in reverse as well, but I expect they will be in the airport too…

I could write a thousand words (at least) on the subject of Ferrari at the moment and why the other teams are all quietly giggling, following the departure of James Allison. This was about as stupid as sending the team off to Asia having absent-mindedly tagged the engines to go to Keflavik International Airport, on the basis that in the car industry they do things differently. What Mr Marchionne needs to understand, and will soon understand (if he survives long enough in the job) is that being a suit from the car industry is about the worst possible qualification you can have to make decisions about F1. Look at the history of F1 (hell, who looks at history these days?) and you will see some spectacular crash-and-burns when arrogant car people turned up in F1, knowing all the answers and left with their suits in tatters and their pockets emptied of play money. One thinks of a string of Ford execs in the Jaguar Racing era, of Renault fonctionnaires through the ages and of all the Toyota types who should have contented themselves with jobs selling Cedrics in Kyrgyzstan, rather than trying to be F1 team bosses. In the F1 world no-one even remembers the names of these transient mega-stars…

Anyway, that’s 210 words and I’ve not even scratched the surface of the problems at Maranello. There is a hint of the trouble ahead with team boss Maurizio Arrivabene telling the media that Sebastian Vettel needs to justify his place in the team at the end of next year. That’s a bit like telling a prima ballerina that her bottom is getting a bit too big. She’ll be off to the Bolshoi in a flash of theatrical powder. Perez, who some believe has never won a crossword competition, would be perfect for Ferrari in this circumstance, although he may have to one day be content with a career record not that different to Jean Alesi. Still, everyone loves Jean, and we ownder sometimes what he might have achieved if he had joined Williams in 1991, rather than following his Italian heart to Ferrari.

The word is that Renault (and let’s not go into what that word means because there are a string of claimants to the title of being team boss) has made generous offers to a couple of drivers, having failed to extract Carlos Sainz from his seat at Toro Rosso. Instead, it seems, Renault now wants Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg. Bottas would probably quite like a well-paid three-year deal with a manufacturer team, but Williams needs him alongside Lance Stroll, to give the team an outside chance of on-track success. But how good will Williams be? The team is not rich, but it should be doing better than Force India, which has a similar Mercedes deal, but less impressive facilities. One could dig into the different scenarios in the future of Williams and Force India, but with Renault you know you will have manufacturer support, even if that manufacturer is rather less than functional in F1 terms. One team member described the situation to me as being “a battle”, but I think I prefer the term “civil war” because I am not sure we know how many sides are involved at the moment.
The problem with offering Bottas and Hulkenberg big deals is that both men already have contracts for 2017, although in both cases, it might be better for the team if the pair went on their way as the subsequent vacancies could be filled with men with financial support. In the case of The Hulk, the team does not want to get in his way, while in the case of Bottas, Williams does need him. It might take a Felipe Nasr instead but we’re still not sure about a lot of drivers in the midfield. At Force India the financial problem has been eased by the confirmation of Perez, but money Is always useful (particularly if you have team owners who owe billions). It is fairly clear that Vijay Mallya and the other bloke who has spent a lot more time in jail than he has in a Formula 1 paddock are going to have to sell the team. If F1 was not in a state of political flux, that would probably have happened by now. The problem is that no-one has yet told Mallya not to be silly and that his team is worth $1, rather than the $300 million he think he should be able to get. The team is an amazing operation and works wonders with very little money, but that cannot go on forever. Mallya is betting that there will be a cost cap before the team ceases to be competitive. Maybe he is right. The best bet for the team would probably be Kevin Magnussen because he is quick and he seems to have access to some substantial sponsorship from the Jack & Jones brand, a clothing company from Denmark. A lot of people think that Mercedes will place Psacal Wehrlein there, but it is clear that Mercedes wants to be paid for its engines, rather than taking a loss in order to slot in a driver. On name that will not be seen is that of Alex Rossi, who has now signed a three-year deal to be an IndyCar driver with Andretti Autosport. That’s a logical thing to do given that he is now an Indy 500 winner (which is not a bad career move when it comes to raising money). As I understand it, Alex will have a get-out clause to leave if an F1 deal comes along. Not very likely, you may say, but an American driver is a good idea and Honda, which likes Rossi a lot, might one day see the value of trying to parachute him into its second team – as and when that happens. I expect action soon on that front, but I doubt Rossi will be involved early on.

91 thoughts on “Notebook from Darth Vader’s train

  1. Great writeup as always.

    I suppose Nico/Bottas is the first choice (or fourth if you include previous dream scenarios from Renault…) now with Nico/Ocon as backup (if the Gasly rumour is just a rumour) – so this will probably mean for sure that Kevin doesn’t get another yellow seat next year.

    I don’t know if Jack ‘n Jones raises their game, but as I recall, they funded Kevin with around €7 mio this season, which I assume is far from what the likes of Ericsson, Nasr, Stroll, Perez, Guiterrez and some other currently out-of-team can bring, but I really hope Kevin will retain his place in the grid.

    Peter Nygaard also showed some concern in his chat session yesterday in a Danish media and another of Kevin’s old friends – commenting in another Danish media – had the same concerns about Kevin – and that he ultimately should be happy to get a seat with Manor (which would then be the third year of three for Kevin in a car that is not very competitive).

    But if the free seat by Force India is not taken by Wehrlein in a switch-deal with Mercedes, there might still be hope for Kevin.

    1. OSAKA JAPAN: “Passengers aboard a Monday morning Nankai electric airport express train surprised to hear the driver make an in-train announcement (we have many foreigners on board today, we apologize for causing you inconvenience). the driver escaped with a verbal warning from his bosses.

  2. Again ; Essential reading and giving a in-depth view on F1’s wheeling and dealing ( more often far more intriguing than what happens on the track ) . Would love to read your ( and the paddocks view … ) on the McLaren /
    Honda situation ; On Hondaland this team was dressed down unseen in recent years .
    Did you see the picture of Ron , Jost and Fernando in the Spanish MARCA sportspaper ? Grim faces …. Will these 3 be able to get things going next year ?

  3. I don’t believe anyone at Maranello wanted rid of James Allison, but did they have a choice??

    Due to his personal circumstances, he was committing only a fraction of his time to the team, and sticking to his declared wish not to live in Italy, etc etc.

    He was given the faith and loyalty of Ferrari. That is a huge and rare privilege, but James seems not to have reciprocated that loyalty, and Ferrari apparently, was not number one on his list of priorities. Consequently, Marchionne had to make a difficult decision.

    Of course I have no real knowledge, and I am going on the speculations of others, informed or otherwise.

    1. This is what I would like more information on some day. Obviously Ferrari are exceptional marksmen when the target is their own foot, but Joe has me convinced that Marchionne, in a regrettable moment of bean-counter ineptitude, fired James Allison against the conventional wisdom of everyone with a pulse. I am having a very hard time believing that. His wife died. I find it much more believable that the split was mutual and the catalyst was bad luck, and not an idiot in a suit.

        1. So, a lack of patience, ultimately on the part of the Ferrari brass. James wanted more time, Ferrari claimed they didn’t have it. Now they have no time and no James.

          That makes sense. I mean, it makes sense in the context of Ferrari.

          Thanks Joe!

  4. It would be “mega” with the 2 former McLaren drivers Perez and Magnussen at Force India. Maybe even on the shorter term, even though a forced one, smart career move by Magnussen – and not least his backers at Bestseller/ Jack&Jones. The great engineers at Force India will surely be able to put together a competitive race package for 2017

  5. Joe

    As usual the Notebook is so much more enlightening than Lennie’s cousin’s version (I know they not related) on Lupert’s F1 channel, although I do watch Ted’s notebook as well.

    The bit about Alexander Rossi is interesting as he was probably the best American since Eddie Cheever to get near F1.

    Are you ever tempted to put some proper (believable) ringers into these posts and see how far the bottom feeders take them?

    Also very interesting analogy over Marchionne and other car execs and how they have tried over and over to be the one to succeed. I think the closest that anyone got to breaking that was Dr Thiessen at BMW. I think the Toyota bloke was an Aussie, but cannot remember his name.

    GP + Was superb again this GP, Every article was a must read.

    1. The thing about my stuff is that the bottom-feeders don’t know what is true and what is not true, because they have no sources to help them and they cannot claim to have copied it from somewhere else because usually it does not appear elsewhere. So they have to be cautious because in the past I may have caught some of them out using what are known as barium meals… A barium meal is an espionage technique where a false story is planted on an individual to see if he is the leak. There is a more advanced technique called a canary trap in which different versions of the same document are given to several suspects to see which version is being leaked.

      1. …the barium meal is also a medical procedure, just like gastric excision, and both can have their uses for James Bond

  6. Ferrari looks to me to be heading for a period of mediocrity just like the one that they enjoyed from 1991 until 1996. They may get the occasional “wild card” win, but the car will not be competitive enough over a full season. They lost their technical director midway through a key design year, with a new set of regulations focussed on aerodynamics taking effect for 2017 and beyond. If they do not do a good job with the new regulations, they may slip further back next year. If that happens, Sebastian Vettel will not stay around. He will not stick it out like Jacques Villeneuve did at BAR, wasting the best years of his career. Marchionne can fire more leaders, but firing people is the easy part. Finding the right replacements is more difficult than it looks. Stability and results are related. Even a well-funded F1 team that is a revolving door has inconsistent and usually poor results.

  7. On the subject of Wehrlein and the cost of Mercedes engines:

    Red Bull’s driver development model has taught us that the whole scheme is far more than just marketing by supporting young talent, it is actually an investment that pays off when their 2 or 4 drivers start to deliver in F1 for the fraction of money that they would need to pay for comparable drivers. Thus it is the successful driver that pays for his/her own career and for others as well before he/she is dumped from the F1 teams or moves away like Vettel did.

    Following this logic, Mercedes needs to keep investing into Wehrlein and possibly into Ocon as well to have the ability to replace their currently expensive drivers with cheaper alternatives in order to see return on their previous investment. I guess Wolff knows that too, so I’d expect Wehrlein to end up at Force India if there is an opening there.

    1. Suggest you read the new 2017 regs, available to download on the FIA website. Appendix 9 is all about engine supply and cost and everything.
      Section 19 is about drivers attending press conferences.

  8. First, thanks for countless exciting articles Joe.

    Regarding the Bestseller Company that have Jack & Jones as one of its brands, this is for sure a successful business with retail stores selling their products all around the world, as well as making solid profit. The following information about their global present can be found on their homepage:

    “BESTSELLER brands and products are available online, in about 3000 branded chain stores or 15,000 multi-brand and department stores across most of Europe, The Middle East, North and South America, Canada and India. BESTSELLER Fashion Group China is an independent BESTSELLER company designing its own collections for more than 6,800 stores in China.”

    However, as the company and owner have its origins in “Midtjylland” (Central Jutland), I would expect nothing but a very conservative approach when it comes to the PR budget. I doubt Kevin’s access to sponsorship will be considered substantial in the world of formula 1.

  9. So, who do you see partnering Hulkenberg at Renault? And what does your crystal ball say about the driver situation at Haas?
    Great blog as always Joe

    1. Frederic Vasseur summed up the situation very well at Suzuka when he said that “one cannot confirm or deny a decision until that decision has been made”.

  10. Very interesting thoughts.

    Who would have Jean Alesi have replaced at Williams in 1991? Patrese?

    Also intrigued who the number 2 Honda team might be. I’m guessing an established team?

  11. Hello Joe. Can You bring a bit more light reg Renault? They do very un-nice towards current drivers to say the least. What’s there? They flirt to everybody right now. Now it’s Hulk going there. Redbull denied Sainz to go to them – is it coz 1-tly he’s so good and 2-dly have their current Warriors an escape clause after 2017? So that they need Sainz if one (or both) their Superstars are teased away?

      1. I’ve never been on that one. Have seen it a few times. The best looking bullet train was the 500 series. They introduced them in 1997. They had an extremely long pointed nose, for air penetration . Those trains had quite low headroom, compared to the normal Shinkansens. I only travelled on them a couple of times. My favorite was the ” Grand Hikari”, as the Green cars were ” Double Decker”. It was nice to sit up on the top floor, coming back to Tokyo from work down at Himeji. They were ” interesting times ” 🙂

  12. Interesting. This is one of the best silly seasons for a while – in the midfield anyway.

    Personally I think Bottas should stay where he is for next year as he would will be one of the possibles for Raikkonen’s seat in ’18 although much like Hulkenberg his career has plateaued recently so moving to Renault for good money and a longer contract might be attractive and you’d assume Renault will become properly competitive again in the next three years. Looking over the fence at Red Bull they know their engines are good so ‘just’ need to get the rest sorted out.

    If Bottas leaves Williams what will they do? It’s late in the year and there aren’t many experienced and proven performers out there. Convince Massa to stay on for one more or borrow Button from McLaren?

  13. It never ceases to amaze me how the big manufacturers make the same mistakes over and over when it comes to entering F1. On a few occasions I have had cause to meet and chat with Richard Parry-Jones, the now retired global Vice President of product development at Ford, who also ran their Jaguar F1 programme. It goes without saying of course, but he is an incredibly intelligent and insightful man, and a nice chap as well. But the JaguarF1 team didn’t succeed and Ford pulled the plug. Whilst overseeing the operation, Parry-Jones removed Niki Lauda as Team Principal, and was at the helm when the plug was pulled.

    Is the repeated failure of car industry giants a simple matter of impatience for results from ‘the board’ ? Mercedes have ‘got it right’ in as much as they have left the team to get on with it. Fortunately, the results came as they promised, with the big rule shake up in 2014, but I wonder how patient the board would have been if the car wasn’t as dominate as it turned out to be.

  14. It’s been alleged that one of Sunday’s stewards, Garry Connelly was disappointed with the decision of the panel regarding the Verstappen – Hamilton blocking, that he went to Mercedes and asked/told them to appeal the decision. Which is why they appealed and then dropped the appeal. Does this story have legs?

    1. The rules say that Stewards can act with regard to an incident “which is reported to the stewards by the race director (or noted by the stewards and subsequently investigated)”, which means that if Connelly wanted to see if the stewards wanted to take action against Verstappen, he would have been within his rights to discuss the matter with them and then inform the Race Director that there should be an investigation. That did not happen because there was no notification given of any investigation. The Race Director did not react to the move, nor did the Stewards and therefore no investigation took place. Teams can always complain that there should have been a penalty, but that does not happen until there is a decision that they can complain about. This would have been the Provisional Result, issued by the stewards at 17.45. This is deemed to be a Stewards’ Decision and teams then have one hour after a decision in which they can notify the stewards of the intention to appeal. Mercedes did this and an appeal was lodged at 18.14. At 19.12 the stewards ruled that they could not hold a hearing because the drivers had left and that a hearing would have to be delayed until Austin. At 19.50 Mercedes AMG Petronas notified the Stewards that it was withdrawing the protest. The race result was declared official at 20:00. The whole process was confused because everyone was on the move after the race, with planes/trains to catch in various directions. How and why this happened is unclear, but the reports about what happened seem to have come from Mercedes management talking to the German press, presumably trying to explain the mess. It would be wrong for an FIA Steward to suggest to a team that it should take action and it is hard to imagine someone doing that. This doesn’t make any sense given that the FIA could have investigated the move and did not. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans, because how could one prove intent when there was clear evidence of lack of intent when the incident happened? It seems to me that this is probably the result of distrortion of facts caused by Chinese whispers. A Steward ought not to incite protest, but there is a difference between doing that and reminding a team of actions it might have forgotten were possible, in the course of a casual conversation. “If you didn’t like it, you can always complain…” is clearly different to “Why don’t you do this…” but one can see how this might be misconstrued if it was all reported speech.

  15. Second Honda team ….. Interesting I expect Honda would want a team with a half decent chassis and aero to benchmark the McLaren, not just a tailender to give them mileage.

    Force India
    Toro Rosso

    Immediately spring to mind.

    Any idea on the time scale for a formal announcement….


    1. I’m pretty sure I read that TR are switching back to Renault next year. That makes the most sense as the RB junior team.

      Getting FI or Williams to give up their Mercedes engines would be difficult.

      Haas is tied-at-the-hip to Ferrari.

      So there’s no immediate candidate for Honda. Unless Merc decides to scale back and supply only 2 teams, in which case I would expect Manor to draw the short straw.

  16. I still cannot see a cost cap happening. The only exception is the PU prices for teams who buy from engine manufacturer in the 2017regs. There is a list of what is and is not to be included in the selling price. But all this does is to help limit the outlay on PUs for the purchasing teams.
    A cost cap would so upset Ferrari that Marchionne may withdraw the team. That would probably lead to him being replaced or Ferrari being separated from the group once again with new leadership.
    One has also to wonder how Ferrari might perform on a level playing field.

  17. Thanks for another insightful notebook. I enjoy these a lot. About Magnussen joining Force India: Do you think this is a realistic scenario? Would be great to see the two McLaren leftovers fighting it out.

  18. I don’t read anything on Jules Bianchi. There was no official memorial or anything of that kind. Is there a reason for this? The Bianchi family seem to be angry with F1 for ‘withholding information’. Is that why Jules was hardly mentioned last weekend? Personally I can do without these memorials after one year. I heard no-one mention Jimmy Clark these year at Hockenheim…

    1. Jules is still in everyone’s hearts and Ricciardo dedicated his Malaysian GP win to him. I don’t wish to sound insensitive, but do we need to mention everyone who has died in an F1 car each time we return to the circuit where they died? If so, why no mention of Riccardo Paletti at Montreal this year? Or last year, or indeed any year that I can remember?

      1. My thoughts exactly, but there was upheaval in the Dutch press about this. One year a big memorial, the next year nothing at all…

  19. Honda second team? Sauber? Surely Force India wont want to be a second team. Torro Rosso a possibility but Red Bull not interested in Honda and need to keep their driver production line flowing. Williams? No. Haas are a Ferrari B team. Leaving Manor who Merc are using for their own driver production line.

    Logic would suggest Sauber. But hey, when did logic ever work in F1!

      1. I would love to read the JSBM newsletter for exactly this reason, but unfortunately it’s a bit expensive. Understandable though. Maybe if Autosport goes down the drain following the recent sale, I will try turning to it!

        I’d love to get your knowledge of Indycar and WTCC. I have to say, I have no idea how you have time to cover other racing series in that newsletter, Joe! It’s pretty impressive, I think. F1 must be time-consuming enough!

      2. Fair point. I’m trying to piece your tipbits together but only reading one of them.

        I dont read the newsletter as I’m not in the industry, if I was I would and would see the fee as being worthwhile. As I’m in telecoms I spend enough time trying to stay ahead of the game to know that a well informed publication is well worth the spend.

        Enjoy your time at home! Oh and keep writing!

  20. Joe, most likely you are right, and I’ll have to wait until 2028 to see Ferrari world champion again. But I think Marchionne is different from many other car industry suits: contrary to what many believe I think he has a big ego, but has no pride, and he’s smart enough to change plans when they are wrong. He acts quickly and takes risk (see Chrysler acquisition).

    BTW, as a trouble shared is a trouble halved, do you have any news about which stockholder will eventually have the controlling stake at McLaren?

  21. I love Hulk as a driver and being a force India fan, he has been brilliant for us.
    Although you can’t blame him for wanting to go to Renault, being the team leader for a works team, no questions asked!

    Truthfully I think Force India has reached its maximum potential it can achieve in F1 with its current budget and for Hulk no real reason to stay any longer. Can’t moan as I remember the dark days of Midlands and Spyker.

    Be interesting who Force India will sign up, hopefully with the new regulations we can still compete for potential podiums.

    Joe, do you think the reason Force India is beating Willams is due to Williams focusing on 2017 development earlier than us?

  22. any news about Kvyat Joe? Would he be a decent bet for Renault (fairly cheap wage, good sponsorship and he could do with his career rejuvinating) or is he hoping to hang on to a Toro Rosso drive ..

  23. Absence of an American driver costs F1 a lot of money and audience.

    When Bernie was F1 dictator, he organised teams to give a chance to a quick German called Michael Schumacher. We know how that all worked out — and commercially it was a great decision for F1. F1 found a huge audience in Germany which has mostly been maintained.

    When Bernie was a team boss, he gave Indy racer Rick Mears a test. Mears was fast but Rick and Bernie had a misunderstanding afterwards about who paid. Mears was a professional racing driver but Bernie expected Mears to bring him sponsorship money. Any prospect of a deal collapsed.

    There’s a lot of difference between Bernie F1 dictator and Bernie Brabham boss — and perhaps where Bernie is today. Bernie F1 dictator made some bad decisions, really bad ones. But F1 needs somebody twisting arms to put an American in F1.

    Purist fans will hate the idea that a driver wins a seat down to muscle. But in 2016, muscle — family wealth/influence, national industry sponsor, commercial “benefactor” — is the only way to get a drive.

    1. The problem is who, other than Rossi non of the US drivers have the relevant experience not to look like fools. Plus these days you need to show you have what it takes to get a license. One or two of the top Indy drivers would get a license but they have no interest in running around at the back of the field.

      1. ATH, it is bad timing for Rossi. Some people think a few other Indy lads (not lasses, I’m afraid) are F1 standard. Drivers need to believe that they can walk away from guaranteed earnings in Indy racing to guaranteed earnings in F1.

        If Liberty Media are sincere about increasing F1 revenue and sharing it out, an Indy driver might take the chance.

    2. There is an American team in F1, support them. Allocating seats according to nationality would be the death of F1. F1 is about the best cars and drivers, not who’s got the largest number of tv viewers.

      1. Dan Gurney had good manners; probably still does. The Indy and US team was called All-American Racers; the F1 team was Anglo-American Racers with Gurney in the seat. There was a sweet generation when F1 drivers won a GP in “their own” car put together by people they trusted.

        The current Haas Team is a UK-Italy-USA combo; no team is pure and everybody buys car parts from across the world. BRM tried to Buy British in different times.

        It’s not about a patronising racing seat for an American lad; but an American lad would be good for F1 if he can race.

          1. Yes, it’s a currently moribund website with photos of racecars. 🙂

            Or it’s a small trailing edge device the invention of which is often wrongly* ascribed to the Talented Mr Gurney. aka Wickerbill.

            *If you look beyond race cars. I think it might have been GV Lachmann or Frederick Handley-Page.

            But I don’t really count as current generation, too old.

            1. I also, fortunately. However if you read that pfd which no doubt you found searching on G V Latchmann you will find that together with Mr H-P the pair were responsible for the huge what I call “lines of washing” that appear from both front and rear of the wings of modern large passenger planes during takeoff and landing.
              I believe Mr Gurney’s flap remains unsullied, apart from all else it is upside down!

              1. Don’t knock those “washing lines” I used to make a living from those.

                One story goes that the guys from BAe tried to patent Gurney Flaps in the early 90’s.

                (Not to show off, but I didn’t search google for Lachmann, if it’s wrong it’s my duff memory… ) The earliest versions were piece of rope glued to the trailing edges of aircraft in WW1 (or thereabouts). I was about to write a paragragh about how they work, but I guess I’d bore everyone to death.

                I think anyone in F1 aerodynamics would be ill advised to criticise airliner high lift systems for having too many bits.. I mean, have you looked at an F1 front wing lately? 🙂

  24. The mention of public transportation and its role in transporting Grand Prix personnel brought up a question in my mind that recalls earlier days in Formula 1: Do F1 people still habitually vandalize their transport and accommodations, in the Rock & Roll tradition?

  25. Joe do Force India have a technical alliance with McLaren still? I remember Button mentioning that once when McLaren were being beaten by them.

  26. Joe can answer this question for me please,
    Why didn’t Lewis Hamilton receive a starting grid penalty at the Japan race for replace the blown engine from the Malaysian race?

  27. Has Force India turned into a Mercedes equivalent of Haas, using as many off the shelf parts as possible, and that’s how they’re managing to beat Williams on a budget of tuppence and six?

  28. What might jean alesi have done at Williams from 1991?

    Probably driven Patrick Head round the bend so fast he wouldn’t even have made halfway through the season.

  29. I was at Suzuka last weekend and it seemed there were a LOT of empty seats…it didn’t have the carnival atmosphere of 10-12 years ago. Let’s hope the new F1 owners can turn around the tide.

      1. I was in the A1 stand right across the pit exit…there was a large block of empty seats around me. The stands above and around the first corner, I’d say they were only at about half capacity, if even. It’s a lot different than the Schumacher days…although the Ferrari samurai crew did show and there were still a lot of crazy fans!

        Thanks for the reporting and great work, Joe!

  30. Any chance of seeing Giovinazzi in the F1 paddock next year? He is clearly better than Gasly, who took 2 1/2 years in GP2 just to get his first victory… Giovinazzi got it on his 3rd race (and it was a double!) and now sits atop the GP2 standings… something even Vandoorne didn’t do in his first year…
    If he doesn’t get a chance with any teams and heads off to America, that would be a huge disappointment.

    1. I’d like to see Ferrari pick Giovinazzi up and give him a Sauber third-driver role (at least). He’s clearly pretty good.

        1. They didn’t seem to mind taking Marciello on in that role, as they gave him some Friday appearances. They have recently said they want to sign a reserve for next year. The guy who is leading GP2 in October is not likely to be useless. It would make sense to me. Unless, of course, they can find a rich kid who would be willing to pay for the role.

          If I could ask Sauber myself, I would, but I don’t have the contacts!

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