Notebook from the ‘burbs of Austin

IMG_0051When we go to Austin, we don’t go downtown much. It’s a great town, but the locals do have a taste for the dollar and that means it is rather expensive, particularly now that the Pound is at parity with the Ruritanian Ringgit. For the last two years I have tried to host an Audience in the city, but I cannot find a venue that is cost-effective because they all want too much money.

Out in the burbs things are a little more sensible and we don’t have to deal with traffic. The circuit is close to the city, but actually out in the country and if you go off the main roads, you end up in places that look amazingly like sets from the 1974 movie “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Interestingly, in the course of the weekend, I discovered that the movie was actually filmed in the area and used real houses because there was no budget for sets… Yes, folks, Austin is weird. We had a very weird experience on the Friday evening when we went out to dinner and were curious to see that waitress looked very familiar. In fact, she looked just like the waitress we had had the previous evening, at a completely different restaurant. In the end, we asked if perhaps she had a sister and she replied by explaining that she had two different jobs and we had miraculously managed to eat in two different restaurants on consecutive nights and yet be served by the same waitress…

Anyway, my notebook from Austin has a lot of jottings, including “Gordon Ramsay”, “Luc Besson” (who I spotted on the grid because he was dressed like a man who had just climbed out of a dustbin and was completely out of place) and “Jeff Gordon”. The race had a very high VIP count with film stars and sports people who had come to watch the fun. There were squillionaires aplenty but the only ones I noted down were “Michael Latifi”, one of the richest men in Canada, who was around the paddock a lot. His son races in GP2. There were some very strange absences as well. One would expect to see American wheeler-dealer Zak Brown, for example, and it was astonishing that there was no sign of the Stroll family. But I guess they probably wanted to lay low and not have to answer questions about the future. The word is that Lance Stroll will be confirmed as a Williams driver (alongside Valtteri Bottas) on November 3.

On the way over I spent most of the flight reading “Total Competition, Lessons in strategy from Formula 1”, a new book written by former Williams CEO Adam Parr, which is actually a conversation between Parr and Ross Brawn about strategic thinking. I am not sure I really understand the target audience because it’s not your average racing book, but then it’s not really a business book either. It was fascinating to read some of the insights about F1 but odd to waltz off from time to time into discussions about the philosophies of Sun Tzu, Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander Svechin. It was also interesting to see that Brawn’s assessment of the problems of Ferrari was almost exactly the same as the recent outburst by former chief engineer Luca Baldisserri who described the team as “a group of frightened people, afraid that they will lose their jobs”.

All the talk about strategy got me thinking about various F1 situations and there was one, in particular, which made no sense at all to me. I was so mystified that I even went to talk to Christian Horner on the subject. What is the strategy of Red Bull, I asked, because I don’t understand. If you want to win World Championships, you cannot easily do it with a customer engine, when there is a factory team among your rivals. It just makes no sense. Christian shrugged and said that there was really no other choice and that they had looked at every possible idea and concluded that they will be most competitive if they stay as a Renault customer until 2020, when there ought to be a rethink of F1 engines and therefore new opportunities. Despite this odd strategy, Red Bull still seems to be able to deliver the goods and indeed there is no-one else looking as thought they might beat Mercedes. Ferrari talks a good game, but never seems to deliver… Anyway, I did hear whispers that Red Bull will soon wow us all by announcing a major sponsorship deal with the US oil company ExxonMobil. This is currently a McLaren sponsor.

McLaren was very much in the gossip in Austin with stories floating around that Ron Dennis, who is chairman of McLaren and F1 team principal, may soon move out of that role. How that is presented to the world will be interesting because Ron deserves a huge amount of respect for what he has achieved. In many ways, McLaren is Ron Dennis, even if it all goes back to Bruce McLaren in the 1960s. Dennis has always argued that best leaders have succession plans and are happy to step back and leave their creations to new generations, but since the removal of Martin Whitmarsh, that has not really happened. Dennis wants to regain control of McLaren… Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened and it seems that the other shareholders are now doing the unthinkable. Dennis is a fighter, of course, and is still trying to find a way to buy out his partners, but at the moment it is not happening. McLaren is also in the rumour mill because there is believed to be a big BP deal up for grabs and McLaren and Renault seem to be scrapping for it. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

The driver market is also very interesting at the moment, not least because several drivers seem to think that they are going to get the second Force India drive. The team has been having a bit of a fashion parade since it became clear that Nico Hulkenberg would be moving on. I hear that a whole string of drivers have been spotted having meetings with Force India, including Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein, Esteban Ocon and Felipe Nasr. What is really interesting is that this could end up being a test of clout between the Formula One group and Mercedes.

Let me explain, the choice will be made by team owner (for the moment) Vijay Mallya. But he has a number of problems to overcome. He has the makings of a decent budget for 2017 but more money will not hurt. Out in the market, there is a problem in that Formula 1 really needs a Brazilian driver because of the large TV audiences there and the fact that Felipe Massa is stopping. Brazil, it should be added, is in a bit of a mess at the moment with various scandals and economic trouble, but that is not something that Bernie Ecclestone cares about. His view, apparently, is that Nasr should be at Force India for the good of the sport. The team has enjoyed a great deal of support from Mr E (if you understand my inference there) and so Vijay ought to do what he is told to do. Nasr is a decent driver and has money behind him and Brazil is important. However, the other serious candidate appears to be Esteban Ocon, who is a Mercedes-contracted driver and the word is that Force India owes Mercedes rather a lot of money and it could solve the problem by taking Ocon and getting a discount on the engines (or running him to wipe out some debt). This means that Mallya may find himself caught in the crossfire and the result will indicate who is more powerful…

Drives are running out, of course, and there are more players than there are seats, so someone is going to suffer in the longer term. Danny Kvyat is delighted to have been retained by Red Bull, but right now drivers like Nasr, Palmer, Wehrlein and Magnussen are all feeling a little uncomfortable. I think we will see KMag staying where he is, alongside Hulkenberg at Renault. There is one Sauber that is open and a lot of drivers talking about it. Haas may also have one seat available as Romain Grosjean is staying, but no deal is yet done with Esteban Gutierrez. The team says that it wants the best drivers it can get, but no-one is quite sure who that could be. The word is that Wehrlein might be in the picture. He might also stay at Manor, but that team seems to need more money and so one should watch for Rio Haryanto, reserve driver Jordan King or a well-funded youngster looking to get his hands on a Mercedes engine.

Finally, the Austin weekend proved to be a big success, to a large extent thanks to Taylor Swift. I didn’t see her around the paddock but she held a concert on Saturday night inside the circuit and 83,000 people attended. Now, some of these were definitely race fans, taking advantage of the two-for-one event tickets that were on offer for $150 apiece. A lot of the others were Swift fans, who are largely young ladies and not a group who are overtly keen on F1 cars. Still, some brilliant thinking by the Circuit of the Americas figured out that if you get girls to see a concert, they will convince the menfolk in their lives to go along too, using the race as bait so that everyone will end up happy. The boys might not be too into Swift, and the girls might not be too into F1, but it’s a good compromise and a lot more tickets were sold as a result. The overall three-day crowd figure was up 43,000 on last year and even if some of them did not attend the race, it really does not matter that much because they paid and the fact they paid also means that the circuit can claim more money back from the state of Texas which is committed to funding the event on the basis that it drives economic activity. Clever. In any case, the F1 world will not complain if more young women attend races…

And finally, along similar lines, there are quite a lot of F1 projects on the go in the US at the moment, specifically in California, which is the obvious market for the sport (other than New York City). Chris Pook popped up as usual to see Mr E and he usually has at least two projects on the go at any one time. He is very discreet, but one gets the feeling that F1’s primary target at the moment is Long Beach, where the Indycar contract finishes after 2018. There was some utter fluff being talked elsewhere about Las Vegas (which is and always will be a waste of energy) until the day comes when someone builds a Nurburgring in the hills. That might work, but messing about in parking lots or trying to set up a temporary circuit on The Strip is a total waste on time. People go to Vegas to gamble, drink and get laid, not to watch Siegfried and Roy, Barry Manilow or an F1 race. And the casino owners know this…

There was a project until recently in the hills between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, to the south of San Francisco, but that seems to have run out of steam because of permit problems, while I hear whispers of a project out to the east of Los Angeles, in the desert, where there is a lot of Indian land, where permits are not essential and where the inhabitants are always looking for ways to bring people in so that they can build casino resorts and such things. Looking at a map and guessing where that might be is the best we can do at the moment, but I’d say Twenty-Nine Palms seems like a possible option…

103 thoughts on “Notebook from the ‘burbs of Austin

  1. Some great observations Joe. Do you think Palmer is done with F1?

    And nothing on F1’s attempt to get fans engaged digitally – which ended up with Verstappen as the driver of the day. Hahahaha

  2. Concerning ‘Total Competition’ I’m looking for an insight into the way Ross Brawn has ran his operations but the tabloidish quotes that have appeared in the media made me afraid that it is going to be a semi autobiography chit-chat stuff. Can you share some more details please? Thanks in advance!

  3. I’d love to see a race in San Diego. Close to LA and Mexico and a similar population to Austin, which seems to be the ideal size for a city to create a buzz around an event.

  4. I don’t understand why more F1 races haven’t materialized in the US. Temporary street circuits are a hassle and there are several fantastic permanent circuits… Virginia (VIR), Elkhart Lake (Road America), Barber, Mid-Ohio and my personal favourite Watkins Glen in Upstate New York which has F1 heritage and was recently resurfaced.

    1. Nobody’s gonna pay Bernie’s ransom… plus, it costs a fortune to bring a perfectly good track up to F1’s standards…

      1. Also, our “environmentalistas” will raise a big stink about some “endangered” insect and drive up the cost of building a proper race track to YUUUUUUUUUGE (as our Mr. Trump pronounces it) and insane amounts.

          1. As a California resident…

            The Indian reservations are their own world. They can pretty much do what they want. (It gets borderline unbelievable at times. Even in a state filled with Enviro’s and NIMBY’s.)

            But an F1 grade circuit is mucho $$$$$$.

            But if they can get the money and the tribe wants to play ball…

            The trick would be the location and the track making money the rest of the year.

      2. The ransom, and the fact that Elkhart Lake (Road America), Road Atlanta, and the Glen are the only real road courses worth the effort – and even they would require big $$ to get up to F1 standards.

  5. I heard Bernie say to Martin Brundle “there are some great people here……..Jeff Gordon…..” (not Lewis Hamilton et al). That seems to encapsulate the whole weekend – it was the opening act for a Taylor Swift concert. Not that I am being critical just divining the facts and hoping the strategy works long term. I read that 269,889 attended but if you take out the 83,000 for the concert and divide the balance by 3 (3 day ticket), then race day had about 62,296 which looked about right from the TV coverage of the spectators there.

    1. Don’t really agree with your assumptions there Peter. A significant number will have attended both the concert and the race, they were selling combined tickets. Also attendance over the three days would by no means have been even. There would be less on Saturday than Sunday, and less on Friday than Saturday.

  6. Not sure why you were so mystified by the Red Bull Renault situation. It quickly became obvious last year that Renault were the only option which Horner just pointed out to you. It was widely reported at the time that Mercedes & Ferrari weren’t keen as they knew they would suffer if they supplied them and McLaren didn’t want all the growing pains with Honda only to watch Red Bull swoop in as the sun comes up and take all the glory.

    The Renault contract to 2020 is likely just words on paper anyway. I’ll be amazed if there isn’t an exit clause to allow for Red Bull picking up a manufacturer deal before then if something good came along.

    1. I thought Red Bull bet the farm on VAG, who have bigger issues to worry about with emissions test fixing.

    2. I’m not sure why Red Bull don’t just dump the young driver programme and Dr Helmut and put that money towards building their own engine. If you build a great car, great drivers will want to drive it, so you don’t need to keep them under contract from the age of five just so you won’t miss out on the next big thing. I for one would find the team a lot more interesting if it was less of a closed shop as far as driver talent goes.

      1. The good Dr and his young driver programs budget is very very small beer when compared to the cost of an F1 engine program. It may well be cheaper to to a new engine today than it was 3 years ago as a lot of info can be bought with the right people. BUT you would still need £300M plus, my be plus plus a lot to do the job properly.

      2. Probably because building your own engine is not something they have the know how for, and it would cost a lot of time to get a competitive engine (ask Honda) and a lot more money then the young drive programme costs.

        Plus the benefits of the young driver program seem to be very good for the total of F1, so it adds prestige.

  7. We were also out in the sticks (Pflugerville) and the suburbs are a great choice…no Austin F1 price hike..friendly locals. Journey to Cota via the Toll road (25ml) was only 35 mins…on race day!. We even got there before the gates had opened. Track is fantastically fan friendly with so many really good viewing places for just general admission prices..however Turn 12 was where most of the action took place so I’m glad I booked seats there. Thinking of Mexico next year; any tips Joe?

  8. Lets call Ace’s, Ace’s. The only way on God’s green earth that anyone will get an additional race up and going in the U.S., is if it makes sense from a business perspective. The former adage of “Hey Spend $400,000,000.00 on a philosophy of “let’s let the track and the race build up the area”, just doesn’t fly in the U.S, market, What flies in the U.S. market is “Spend $400M on a track and have a return of $1.5M per year over ten years” Now THAT makes sense. Throwing money on an “If come, maybe” just doesn’t hold water. It has to be a mutual benefit for all from the get go. If not, everyone is just pissing in the wind. Putting money in investor’s pockets from the start is what will motivate people in the U.S. It doesn’t matter who owns F1. We’re not talking about crooked heads of state of some fifth world country. Investor’s want a return on their investment. It’s basic business 101. You put money in and get a positive return in say, five years, With the business plan F1 currently has, it’s as though it’s a pauper panhandling on the street. ” Hey man! Can you spare an extra $400M and an extra $1.3M every year for a race?” That’s not happening. Lets put it another way: Would YOU (one of the readers here) invest in F1’s hypothetical fantasies? Look up P.T. Barnum’s famous about one being born every minute.We all know Bernie will ax anything at the drop of the hat. Fact is, F1 is beyond a risky investment, regardless of where the investment is coming from. As it stands and is structured right now, you’re pissing dollars into the wind, as far as F1 goes. They might as well call it “The Formula One charity World Champion ship, the way it’s currently run.

  9. Love the notebooks, thanks for the insight Joe. As a Southern California resident, Riverside specifically (home of the 1960 USGP, too bad I wasn’t alive yet), I’d hazard a guess as to maybe the Palm Springs in regards to an “east of Los Angeles” area. 29 Palms (known locally as 29 Stumps) is a very desolate area in the middle of nowhere and it would be very hard to imagine a GP taking place anywhere near there. Palm Springs on the other hand is well developed and has lots of money, lots of resorts, Indian casinos, and the infrastructure to handle an event on the scale of a GP. It is definitely known as an upscale “oasis in the desert”. I could definitely see it being a viable location for an F1 race.

    1. I have spent a very long week working in the 29 Palms area, was really shocked Joe thought of that as a GP location. Pretty sure he had to be joking based on the sheer geographic improbability of the location, even better when you know what it is really like!

      1. I know what it is like. I have been there. However, remember that Las Vegas and Dubai were once empty miserable deserts. Nothing is impossible if there is money and water.

        1. A better Idea might be to hook up with the Lytton pomo’s in the bay Area, buy the huge plot of land Sonoma raceway is on, and have it declared as tribal land so they can re-build whatever they want on it.

          They have done that type of thing before.

  10. Thanks for your insights Joe. It will be interesting to see whether the 2017 regulations open up sufficient freedoms for Newey Snr to weave his magic and put RB ahead of the pack. However, this leads me to what appears to be the key ingredient to their success as a non-factory team – how long can they rely on Newey? How much longer is he prepared to commit to F1 and is there a depth of talent within RB to take over? Would be great to get Joe’s thoughts via a second blog post.

  11. KMAG has been rumoured to be ‘close to extending’ the deal, but as I read the comments from Renault, they have not made up their decision and could wait until end of season before they decide.

    However, according to an article by Peter Nygaard, KMAG can only hope to get a one year contract, as Sainz is supposed to be signing a contract from 2018 with Renault, as there are no signs of him being promoted with Red Bull.

    I guess everybody is waiting for Force India now, if Renault does not make a move before.

    Regarding the penalty for KMAG when overtaking Kvyat – am I the only one (as a Dane, I know) who think this penalty was harsh – especially compared with the incident between Alonso and Massa, where no penalty was handed out?

    1. I was sure Alonso would get a penalty. Granted there was no replays from other viewpoints but to me he was out of control and at fault. Not sure what lap the KMAG incident was on.

  12. So many drivers, so few seats: I can see why bringing major financial backing in the millions gets you a drive.
    However, this financial ‘dance’ confuses me a little, as the pinnacle of motorsport I’d kind of expect F1 teams to have no trouble finding major sponsorship money?

    (More than anything, I guess it shows how little of a clue I have about how tricky this sport is behind the scenes.)

  13. Why no mention of the new F1 track being built here in Tenerife?! Well obviously it’ll never be F1 level but heyho still a nice place to have a test track. Fingers crossed they will eventually get spades in the ground

    Secondly I believe you may underestimate our furry faced friend. He has been financially on the ropes for many a year plus carrying the dead weight of his business partner and it must be remembered majority shareholder. He always had the option (need) to take 2 paid drivers yet stuck with Hulk and others who bring more talent than money.
    He took Perez which was seen as a money option but he could -arguably- be thanked for revitalising his career. Whilst not much love for the man is spilt here i do feel he’s overly maligned and it needs to be remembered what the performance of the team was when he bought it and how it performs now…

  14. 29 Palms? Really? Perhaps you have heard something, but as a resident of Southern California I can’t see it. Two-and-a-half hours (at least) by freeway from West Los Angeles, Newport Beach, or San Diego (the affluent areas). The closest major airport is 1:45 away. I don’t believe there are sufficient lodgings in the area. And hot…you’d have to time it precisely on the calendar. Given all that, I’d surely go if there was a race, but how many would? Long Beach (my hometown), for all its foibles, would be vastly superior. It was great in the 70’s when Pook ran it, no apparent reason it couldn’t be again. Picturesque street circuit with lots of seaside and lesser accommodations, three nearby airports, two concert halls close by and plenty of younger moneyed booster types in town (I’m not one). Get Tilke or Dromo in there to modernize it and you’d have a world-class venue.

    1. 29 Palms? I have flown over that area, and driven close to the city. It is a town in the middle of the Eastern California desert, a long way from any large city, with next to no vegetation, searing heat a large portion of the year, and would not really exist were it not for a US military base. If you thought that Watkins Glen had logistical issues, 29 Palms would make Watkins Glen look like Nirvana.

  15. It would be interesting to know what Liberty Media’s General Counsel thinks of this type of non-arm’s length dealing between FOM and a team (Force India).

  16. Zak Brown was at Estoril over the weekend for the European Le Mans Series where his team, United Autosports, were racing, and later receiving their trophy as European LMP3 class Champions

  17. Ah, just checked your blog rules and my last post broke one. Apologies Joe. It would appear that the US fans, including me, are not happy with the state of F1 coverage in the US and someone has tracked the coverage of the last 2 races. The race is broadcast live but with adverts and pointless montages from previous races, only 75% of the race (at best) is broadcast. There are slot of unhappy fans and seems that the US is crying out for Liberty to sort it out!

    1. Yes, the US TV coverage is terrible. The adverts I don’t like (but understand from a commercial aspect), but the montages drive me nuts. They are truly pointless during a live event as they have zero commercial benefit, other than promoting their own channel to someone already watching, but getting increasingly irritated to the point them may look for other (less legal) sources. They might as well be pulling in additional revenue showing us another Mobil1 advert. I know in the current day and age of live timing apps and social media feeds, watching live is critical to some, but I’d live with a broadcast that starts live but progressively time shifts when they go for commercial break (i.e. pause the race while showing adverts), such that no action is missed, just slightly delayed. With a young family I now have to watch most races prerecorded at stupid o’clock on Sunday night, and I’m pretty good at avoiding results/news via the internet or smartphone, so a live broadcast that falls 20 minutes behind real time events due to commercial breaks should at least be an option for those who don’t want to miss a quarter of the race.

      I’m British currently living in the US, so can directly compare the NBC Sports coverage to what is broadcast in the UK. The US commentary is acceptable, although lacks true driver insight. Sky’s Martin Brundle may be out of the game by 20 years, but he’s still a keen eye and keeps his hand in with occasional ‘fun drives’ in contemporary machinery, but David Hobbs (although reasonably entertaining) is somewhat lacking in relevant hands-on driving experience and seems to carry preconceived opinions and biases on certain drivers that he bases his analysis on just as much as the actual on-track events. It’s similar issues with Steve Matchett, although his perspective as an ex-mechanic does make a nice balance as it’s a team sport, and his mechanic v driver jokey banter with Hobbs can be genuinely funny.

      You already have to pay a small fortune for cable TV that includes NBC Sports, so many fans would certainly be willing to pay extra to get a commercial free live race broadcast (maybe via on-demand), something at least close to the quality of the Sky F1 coverage. Maybe in the long term, once current commercial contracts start to expire, it makes sense for the Sky broadcast to be sold to various different English speaking markets around the world (including America), rather than duplicating effort and getting sub-par coverage for a market as important as the US. It’s no wonder F1 continues to struggle to break into the US when the quality of it’s TV coverage makes such little effort to attract all but the existing fans. And from a commercial/marketing aspect, they loose even some of die-hard fans who are willing to seek alternative (i.e. illegal) feeds from other countries because the home coverage is so bad.


      1. I’m also a Brit living in Cali for 6 years now and I agree completely with your take on the US presenters. My gripe with the US coverage is the time spent going to the adverts and returning back to the racing. I also do not want to see what happened in last weeks race during this weeks live race and we do not need to see Nico Hulkenberg speak, voice will do thanks.

        If Bernie/Liberty wants the US audience to expand then maybe they need to take a hit on the cost to the broadcast fees so less advertising is required. I note elsewhere that this years viewing figures for the US GP were down on last year. Beaten by Ice Skating.

        I also use the F1 App which is now pretty good and I don’t mind paying for that, if there was the possibility of a live feed on Apple TV I’d definitely pay for that too. At least NBC haven’t made the same faux par as (UK) ITV did by going to an advert break in the closing moments of the race!

    2. Ahh, there is a trick in the USA for the serious fan. DISH network. For MOST of the races one of the Mexican channels carry’s the race, no commercials. Commercials on NBC\Sports, flip channel on recall button. No missed action, no little window in the commercials. Just some very animated commentators you have to listen too.

    3. yeah man. steve matchett might be a nice guy, but his treating of the viewers like we are little kids drives me crazy. In the US we have to put up with racecast full of comments like: “and you see, when you add wing the car gets more downforce” or gems like “the driver really has to look after his tyres during the race.” Not to mention his heart-attack level “whoooas!” whenever so much as a tyre lock up happens. AAARGH! Sky F1 is so much better.
      Besides that, the world feed director is useless. during the Austin GP, at the start, when Nico was mid-side to side battle with Ricciardo, the idiot cuts to lower mid pack nothingness. WTF. total amateur hour and complete lack of ability to carry the story.
      Rant over.

  18. Always nice to read an article where there is no need to make a comment other than to say, very well written and interesting….unlike the cesspool of FB comments. You and motomatters have much in common!

  19. Vegas is the only shot for a second race now if someone wants to promote it. (no way the Hulmans allow them back at IMS) It won’t be on the Strip, it would be downtown or perhaps around the convention center. Your views on the business dynamics of Las Vegas are dated and wide of the mark. Gambling hasn’t been the primary draw for over a decade. It’s about entertainment, dining and shopping more than gambling.

    Long Beach won’t take an F1 race nor will you see a Grade 1 circuit build in California. Particularly in NorCal. The Mission indians don’t have several hundred million to build the circuit (let alone the hosting fee) and infrastructure and private investors aren’t going to give it to them.

      1. Actually Joe .. other than his Las Vegas opinion… the man is telling it like it is . You need to have a good long look Joe at our US financial situation . Suffice it to say .. it aint pretty … despite what either side of the aisle might have you believe . Now pardon me while I cast my early ballot for the Liar … so’s to guarantee the defeat of the 350 lb orangutan in the room .

        1. I am well aware of the situation. If this is going to happen it can only happen with private money, but what you need to understand is that just becuase there are projects does not mean that they will happen. I am simply reporting the stories I hear,I am not saying in this case that they will happen.

          1. I agree I can’t see any possibility of a place as well visited as LV shovelling cash in to Bernie’s (sorry, Chase’s) furnace. Why would they, it’s not like more business is needed. That said, still a long way to go, but the city did just sign off on a new NFL stadium, subject to Oakland moving (the problem being, that’s popular already).

            There is a natural ceiling on the number of races anyway (whatever that number is, we are approaching it if not there already…), so there is time for the right venue to come up. Some races will drop off along the way as the fees get too high, but not every rumour can be true, else we’d be racing 50 weeks of the year. Actually, make that 51. What better time to have a GP than when all the family is home together on Christmas Day? However even Bernie would know he can’t compete with the following week.

            Not that that would stop a journalist or two contriving the idea of a night race around the Thames on 31 December…hey, it may snow. Might as well make it a double event with WRC. Now we’re entering Vegas GP territory again…

            1. I agree it would have to happen with private money Joe, However, as I’ve suggested earlier, throwing $400M for the facility+ $35M per event out the window is inane. F1 needs a new business plan in order to gain U.S. investors. I use the word investors because we’re talking about a business investment which returns a profit and is a good investment. At the moment what F1 is, from a financial point of view, it a pan handling charity.

    1. Vegas and the possible new track will be seriously short of water. The reservoirs serving LV are very low and the increasing urbanisation and expanding suburbs are draining every drop. In a few short years there will be desert once again.

  20. Joe, what is your assessment of Arrivabene’s survival chances? 50/50 or possibly worse?

    The Taylor Swift fans who stayed to sample F1 will have seen it’s greatest team botch a simple pit stop with all the finesse of utter buffoons.

    In happier times “Iron Mauri” is eager to hang contract negotiations over the heads of his drivers in the belief that the threat of dismissal is a great incentive. Surely he himself is now feeling the lash of possible exit on his red-clothed posterior.

  21. Insightful stuff as always Joe.

    Re the 2nd Manor seat next year. It is my understanding that King does not have a super license. I appreciate that people have gotten round it before but I thought they had tightened up any loop holes last year.

    You said a few blogs ago that you didn’t think Rio Haryanto was in the running for the Manor seat. Has there been a change of circumstances. I thought he did a decent job this year and I’d see an Asian driver on the grid.

    1. As Jordan King didn’t do enough to earn a Grade A licence under the old rules, yet has raced in [Grade A requiring] GP2 this season and last, perhaps he was also already granted a Super Licence per the old [broken] rules, too? …the continued entitlement to which is grandfathered into the current age of the new rules.

      Alas, there will still be a handful of such curiously qualified drivers rattling about in the junior formula for a couple of years yet.

  22. 29 Palms? The title of one of Robert Plant’s better tracks from his solo career. Production has aged badly, though.

  23. My notebook from Austin . 1st the VIP count . Yes Austin spent a bloody godawful fortune paying these pretentious VIP’s that couldn’t give a rats posterior about F1 to attend in the vain and futile attempt to promote the event . Second .. as per the Austin Chamber of Commerce as of this Tuesday morning . Ticket sales – down . Hotel/Motel occupancy – down. Restaurant attendance – down . Nightclub/Bar numbers – way down . As per Nielsen . TV viewership – way down . As per the track itself . Empty seats galore in any section you might chose [ confirmed after watching the repeat broadcast Monday ] And thems …. good sir .. is the facts . Not the hype being handed out by the FIA and CoTA . As for a 2nd US race ? Seriously ? Why in the name of common sense with the Austin race losing the city of Austin Texas on an average of $25 million dollars per event despite subsidies etc … would anyone one else in the US even so much as consider hosting an F1 event in their city ? Answer ? In lieu of the fact that even NFL games are proving themselves to be a losing proposition… and every city across the US at the moment is unable to pay for even the basics [ schools roads infrastructure etc ] and is on the verge of a financial bubble about to burst … NO ONE . Fact is .. if the ( not so ) great state of Texas has its way …the Austin F1 race itself may be heading towards the relegation bin .. seeing as how Texas and Austin in particular cant even pay its teachers salaries .. never mind fund an event that is a losing proposition . And thats the facts .. Joe . 😉

      1. Possibly a lot of folk bought grand prix tickets for the sole purpose of attending the Taylor Swift concert, but did not attend any of the F1/supporting race events, which would explain empty seats. However, the grandstands seemed pretty full on Sunday race day as the FI driver parade got under way, but not so much on the Saturday. I did see lots of people entering COTA in the late Saturday afternoon presumably for the concert.

    1. If a small principality on the Mediterranean Sea can afford to host F1, certainly the mighty US of A could afford two or three races. It would cost them only a small part of the money they are squandering in Asia.

  24. Joe, if RBR goes with ExxonMobil and Renault with BP this would leave Total without a team….
    How high are the chances that McLaren losing ExxonMobil & is going with BP?


  25. San Francisco? I live here and I’ve heard nothing. The only races in San Francisco were in Golden Gate Park in the 50s and some SCCA races in the parking lot of Candlestick Park, the now gone football and baseball stadium.
    And 29 Palms? Really? Have you ever been to 29 Palms? The 4th Of July parade clogs the roads.

    1. You would not have heard anything. It was a secret. There were other races in San Francisco as well. Even in the downtown area during the World Fair. Yes, I have been to 29 Palms. You just need a little imagination. In any case, it was just a guess based on Indian land within easy reach of Palm Springs. It is not a definitive statement

      1. It’s hard to believe that anything can remain secret for very long nowadays, but when the Austin deal was announced I hadn’t heard even an inkling of a whisper of a rumor. When I read it I thought it must be a joke. Hey, I live in Austin!

        If they do have a second US race I hope that they can have it in a temperate location. Somewhere that might be paired with Montreal. Austin is unbearably hot in the summer and Las Vegas or Palms Springs are even worse. By the time it’s warm enough in Montreal it’s too hot in Austin and by the time it’s cool enough in Austin (like now) it’s too late for a pleasant race in Montreal.

        Forget Watkins Glen. I’m from that area and was just back there for a wedding a couple weeks ago. I can’t imagine that little town handling an F1 weekend. I don’t even know how it handles NASCAR.

  26. Mr. Joe: Please, please, please NEVER use the word “reservation” when you are in Canada. Don’t know what the connotations are in the US of A, but here in Canada, that word is poison. You will be strung up by your thumbs in Montreal.

    1. Canadians are so touchy. I got into massive trouble a few years ago for using the word Chinaman, which is not insulting in any country other than Canada. It is not easy writing internationally…

    2. “Reservation” is the word normally used in the U. S. of A when talking about “Native Americans” tribal areas. The Ministry of Truth has not made it a thought crime….yet.

  27. Dear Joe, There is always so much more than just the words and stories in your notes on the blog, just fabulous, and a big Thank You!
    With no other way to ask, the Motorsport group takeover of Autosport leaves me in pain and already the talent there seems to me a bit thin… Dieter Rencken??? wtf.. Anyway, whereto now with my few and valueless ZAR (South African Rand)? GP+? May just be the ticket…

  28. For an NYC race, there is a decent racetrack only 1h:45m from midtown. The Monticello Motor Club can be converted to a Grade 1 circuit when FOA realizes that it needs the NYC area more than NYC needs F1. I think folks that can afford $130,000 initiation fees can afford to form a corporation to upgrade the circuit to Grade 1 if there is a sensible business plan attached that can benefit both sides.

    1. This is not a serious suggestion. I been to MMC several times. It’s enjoyable for gazillionaires like Jerry Seinfeld and Jeff Gordon to drive their Hypercars. But it and the infrastructure are woefully lacking for an F1 race. They had the misfortune of opening a decade ago just as the real estate and stock market bubbles were crashing although they have weathered it and doing more construction.

      You could put the crowds in tents in what was Max Yasgur’s farm which is just down the road.

  29. Joe, this Austin boy fears you visited the wrong side of town based on what you described. You must see the west side of Austin with rolling hills, lakes and rivers. Quite different from the east side; unfortunately, COTA is located in the armpit of Austin. Let’s get you out west next year! And thanks for all the insights and scoops from this edition of the notebook – all the best.

  30. Hi Joe,

    Is there any chance of the New Jersey race resurfacing, perhaps with more affordable race hosting fees thanks to Liberty’s involvement? Or is it dead in the water?

      1. Shame. How come? Wasn’t the track fully designed and approved? I’d have thought it would be cheap to resurrect, but I guess there are wider issues.

        1. that was a lie. the “paddock” was always planned to be a hotel and a office buildings with a multi level parking lot for the ferry that takes you across to manhattan. bernie’s f1 spin team made it look like they were going for a deal when it was just a scam to line some pockets with some extra scrap from people that didnt know any better.

  31. If the goal is for the Grand Prix racing to grow in the USA – then a race will need to take place in a major city.

    You are not going to get younger demographic to drive to Watkin Glen or Road America no matter how pure the track is.

    1. Sonoma is in easy reach of San Francisco, it would need updating and investment but San Fran is one hell of a venue.

    2. Why not a mildly modified Laguna Seca?

      Wouldn’t take a whole lodda dollars or construction to bring that upto F1 standard?

      1. the laptimes would be hilariously low. with 2017 cars prob at the 1 minute mark. but it would be cool to watch there no doubt. i think they are currently having issues with the suburbia moving in and complaining about noise.

  32. Twentynine Palms seems very unlikely. It’s remote and doesn’t have nearly enough lodging to support a Grand Prix. Not much out there but abandoned mines, Marines and Joshua Tree National Park. There are some reservations lands nearby but the tribes there have no current casinos and thus, no money. Someone outside could certainly partner with them of course but then again, land out there is cheap and regulatory hurdles are few. I won’t complain if it happens though! Plenty of desert to camp in for the race. The Palm Springs area would be much more likely however.

    One thing to keep in mind with circuits is that many do meet FIA standards or could be upgraded to do so at a reasonable cost. It’s FOM’s requirements for snazzy pit and paddock facilities that are a bigger hurdle. It’s possible some of those requirements might be relaxed or go away with Liberty Media, especially in the United States where those facilities are usually more modest, even for IndyCar and NASCAR (and where Liberty understands and values the market more).

      1. Tortoise Rock barely counts as a casino. It’s small and has no hotel. The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians reservation is not that large and is directly adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. Sovereign land or not, the federal government has broad powers in that regard (much more than the country or state). The amount of infrastructure improvements that would be required are staggering. The larger more profitable casinos are in Morongo Valley or near Indio, Coachella and Palm Springs.

        I know you’re connected Joe but a Grand Prix in Twentynine Palms is not going to happen. If it does, I’ll print this comment and literally eat my words.

        By the way, there’s already a good sized racing circuit in Thermal just south of Coachella…

  33. Hi Joe. What’s the RedBull point for locking Sainz into ToroRosso? Do their current Superstars have an escape clauses after 2017? Because Sainz is no worse than Verstappen if not better and limiting his chances, i guess, are going to be a huge loss for F1. (Imagine Carlos Sainz, the son of rally Champ Carlos Sainz, fighting for the F1 Title!!!) Unless RB invest and make the TR able to fight for victories. And then(un-serious) can they buy 3rd team to accommodate Gasly and Visser?

  34. Curious why Bernie might not help Dennis get back control of McLaren? Long term loan or something quiet. He certainly has the power to convince the other partners it would be in their best interest to take the money and run.

  35. Please consider holding an event for the next Austin race. Take a pole of your readers, think there would be a good turn out. May consider other cities such as Houston or Dallas. Could also market as Austin/Mexico race get together.

    1. I tried to have an audience in Austin but the restarants in the city are too greedy. They all want a huge amount of money in addition to the business it would bring them. So it never happened.

  36. I had to laugh at the difficulties you have experienced communicating with the touchy Canadian fans! Having been booted off and banned from a WWII buffs group for using the term ” Nipponese” Apparently the self appointed language policeman had never heard of the Flag carrier airline ANA, All Nippon Air ? It seems now it’s OK to refer to Brits but not Nips! As an ex Brit dividing my time between the UK ,Canada and the USA I can sympathize truly. I have visited the New track at Thermal CA while it was under construction, and found it quite impressive! Plus Palm Springs is blessed with an Airport !

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