Notebook from a cafe in Miami

IMG_0051The rain delays at Interlagos shouldn’t have made any real difference to our e-magazine GP+, but they did, because we had planned to exit Brazil on planes leaving at one-thirty on Monday morning. This meant that the time between the end of the Grand Prix and the hour of departure from the circuit came down in alarming fashion for everyone in the F1 circus, although no-one else was crashing out a 90-page e-mag. So, it was foot-to-the-floor time and the result was a magazine that was out in two hours and 35 minutes after the chequered flag. This all worked out OK and so I am now in Miami, having breakfast and tapping some thoughts into my iPhone. Working on planes these days is tough because no-one ever seems to be happy if they have an upright seat, so iPhone journalism is now the norm.

Brazil was a terrific race and one of the great events of the year, although the city of São Paulo is not perhaps one of the most charming to be found in the world today. It’s incredibly diverse and often chaotic, but there is an energy about the place. People are working to improve and, if one remembers back to when F1 arrived in 1990, the city is a very different place now. It’s still not perfect, far from it, but much has changed. Brazil has developed into a country which now has half of its population classified as being middle class. The poverty and inequality which used to be so obvious 20 years ago has been reduced, in contrast to the global trends that sees the gap between the rich and the poor widening, but in Brazil this is still far bigger than in most advanced economies and the inequality that remains continues to cause problems which undermine progress: crime, corruption and so on.

It is the diversity of Brazil that is the most impressive thing and what gives it so much strength. Progress is constant: there is a new bridge here, a new road there. There are more and more glass tower blocks, where once there were meadows.

Motor racing is important to Brazilians, but it is not the most important thing and so improving Interlagos has been a long, and much-delayed struggle. This year there were new Race Control and Media Centre facilities. The problem with both is that they were underground. They were bunkers. The Media Centre felt like a government nuclear bunker that I visited somewhere in England a few years ago. It is an odd thing to have the media working in some kind of fungicultural facility where we are fed on the bullshit that comes from the teams and kept in dark, like mushrooms…

I couldn’t help but wonder whether this was partly the reason for the strange second Red Flag decision during the race. At the time I actually went out of the media bunker to see what conditions were really like and was rather astonished that it did not seem like red flag weather at all, a concept that had been suggested by the radio messages of the drivers and the crowds in the grandstands giving the thumbs down sign en masse. This was a really strange decision and the one idea that I heard that might explain it was that the Safety Car needed to be refueled. That certainly did happen as a number of photographs were taken of this happening, but was this the reason for the stoppage? I did not have time to ask the question about how many modifications are made to the vehicle to make it faster, but obviously one way to do this is to reduce the fuel tank size and thus the weight. Or was the decision made because the decision-makers were in a bunker and were detached from the real world?

I suppose that we should be happy that the TV coverage included a shot of the grandstand with the thumbs down and that we were treated to Sebastian Vettel’s tirade in Mexico. This shows, I guess, that the Formula One TV directors are willing to show that all is not rosy in the sport. But I do think that there has been some weird stuff going on of late in this respect. It is not really the perfect solution when the series promoter controls the TV output because there is a danger that it will cease to be a media activity and become subtle propaganda instead. In a perfect world, there would be an independent entity, although this is a very difficult thing to do because money is king and any sub-contractor would always be worried that having too much pure journalism would mean that it might lose the deal in the future. I suppose that this all depends on the integrity of the commercial rights holders and the TV directors and whether they give (or are given) instructions as to what should be shown. There are quite a few people who feel that Mercedes coverage is being restricted this year, although one can argue that following the leader is not great TV and so the TV folk would respond to such a charge that they are simply trying to keep the broadcast interesting. Similarly, the selection of TV shots and radio messages can be viewed as story-telling, but it too could be manipulated if someone wanted to do that. OK, most drivers don’t abuse the Race Director in quite such a rude fashion, but was that good for the sport? It added an element of interest, but it also made one of the sport’s biggest stars sound like a very silly boy, when we want the racers to be courageous heroes. I don’t know, but when you look at the TV coverage of other formulae, you can ask the question of whether things like camera angles could be better, to get across the speed of the cars.

I loved the fact that Lewis Hamilton told the media after the race that he had seen the Verstappen near-accident when he was watching the race on television, on the big screens around the track. It wasn’t that hard, Lewis said. I’m told that his radio messages were also impressive as he radioed in to check what he thought he had seen, when Red Bull switching back to extreme weather tyres. He didn’t need the team to tell him… When you hear things like this, and see driving as we saw from Max Verstappen, you begin to appreciate just how special these guys really are. They are astonishing. It is in the wet that one sees the greatest talents. It is interesting how Nico Rosberg rarely does well in such conditions and one must also note that in Brazil Nico won back more than half a minute thanks to Safety Cars and red flags, when compared to Hamilton, so the final result is not really indicative of what happened. Similarly, he gained by Red Bull making a tactical error with the tyres with both of its cars. If you are Nico Rosberg, you know this. You cannot afford to be delusional. Nico is an intelligent man and I have been impressed by his dogged determination (something he does share with his famous father) and his ability to bounce back after being drubbed by Hamilton. He must know that he does not have the same kind of talent as his team-mate, but he is committed to winning in a different way. I heard a fascinating story the other day from someone who knows these things about Michael Schumacher, who explained one day that the reason that he worked so hard was because he knew deep down that Mika Hakkinen was a quicker driver and so Michael was trying to beat him by other means.

Nico knows Lewis is a faster driver, but he just doesn’t accept that this has to mean Lewis will always win. Brain power and hard work can beat natural talent.

Elsewhere, down through the field, we saw some really impressive performances from people who should be mentioned: Sergio Perez was mighty, but he did not have the car to hold off Verstappen at the end; Felipe Nasr drove an immaculate race for Sauber, in front of his home crowd, and I hope that this will lead to him getting a job next year. It would be wrong if he was left out; and Esteban Ocon did a really astonishing job for a man of his experience and with the machinery he had. Somewhere out there in rainy Interlagos, Pascal Wehrlein’s socks are to be found, because they were blown off him by Ocon on Sunday.

The driver market remains a little confused, despite the pre-Brazil signings. There are now three drives left and the major players are Wehrlein, Nasr and Esteban Gutierrez, with potential appearances from the likes of Jordan King and Rio Haryanto. I am not a gambling man, but I don’t see Wehrlein, Nasr nor Gutierrez at Sauber… And three into two does not go at Manor. Although I think that we will probably have to wait a while now to see who owns Manor by the end of the winter.

The other big news in Brazil is the situation at McLaren, and I am very sad to see that this is where we have ended up. Ron Dennis was a brilliant and inspired leader of the company, dating back to 1980 when he first took it over. He has created an amazing company and really deserves more recognition than he has had for doing this. He should be Sir Ron and it is many years overdue. However, the people who own the team (or at least 75 percent of the shares) no longer want him to be involved. They appreciate what he has done in the past, but do not think that he is the right man for the future. They may be wrong, but it does not matter. They have the power. They own the shares. In the circumstances it would be nice to see Ron depart with grace and elegance. He is 70 years old next year and while he does not see that as being old, others obviously see it as being a problem. It is a situation in which no-one wins if the fight goes into the public domain. It has all been going on quietly for months, but someone decided to blow it open the other day by leaking a story to Sky. We all appreciate a good leak from time to time, but I thought the story that appeared was rather unfair. It said that Dennis had made a $2 billion bid for the business (the McLaren Technology Group and McLaren Automotive, although this was not clear) and that it had been rejected. To be fair I was not surprised at all by that, because I think the company is worth more than that – not that I am an expert. Offering twice the annual turnover is not a massive bid when one considers what McLaren is and the potential growth that it still has. The report was rather slanted in that it spoke of “a plot” to oust Dennis as chief executive. Why would a decision between shareholders be perceived as being a plot if it is their company and they did not see the value in the bid?

The bottom line in all of this is that the power rests within the shareholders. Sir Frank Williams remains in undisputed control of Williams because he owns 52 percent of the business. Ron Dennis is in trouble because he owns 25 percent. Maybe McLaren would never have been what it is today if he had not parted with the equity, but he did and that is now the problem. A graceful solution would be best, but I don’t see that happening and that is a tragedy as Dennis is one of the most impressive individuals the sport has produced in the last half century.

The crowd in Brazil ended up being 7,000 down over the weekend compared to last year, and while that may not seem a very good situation, it must be remembered that there are a lot of factors in play and, I reckon, the crowd was pretty good in the circumstances.

It was odd that throughout the weekend, São Paulo seemed very quiet. There were not the massive traffic jams that we are so used to seeing. We even asked if there was some kind of national holiday to explain the situation. No, they said, no holiday this weekend. What no-one said was that there was a holiday on the Tuesday after the race. When there is a national holiday on a Tuesday, people in many countries ask for the Monday off and then depart for a very long weekend on Friday night or Saturday morning. Thus the fact that November 15 was a holiday did affect the number of people in town. Having said that, others may have used the holiday to come to the city from elsewhere, so the impact might not have been huge. There was the weather, of course, which was horrible, and one must remember that the Brazilian economy is in a bit of a state at the moment and so to get that big a crowd without a front-running Brazilian driver was a pretty good effort.

What else? This week sees the Strategy Group meet to discuss the future and, while the agenda remains secret, one hears on the grapevine that there is some action going on in relation to stewarding. I hear that one team is pushing for there to be a single permanent steward. This has been tried in the past and is a very bad idea because it takes about six months before teams start complaining the individual chosen is biased against them. Providing the stewards is, of course, an FIA thing and it would be wrong for the teams to try and get control of the judges who punish them. The problem is that the FIA got itself into a mess when it agreed to the Strategy Group and, as we know, can now be outvoted unless safety is involved. We also know that, at the moment, the future structure of the sport will depend on the relationship between the new owner and the federation. FIA President Jean Todt has been seeing rather a lot of Liberty’s man Chase Carey, so they say, and this must make the teams and Bernie Ecclestone feel rather nervous. Liberty has to get clearances from various competition authorities, but these are easy enough if they simply do what the competition people want. This would help the FIA regain its political independence. It can either keep the money it will have when the deal goes through, or it must cut a new deal with Liberty, but I’d be very surprised if Liberty wants to have the kind of control that the Formula One group has had in recent years. Liberty just wants to build a business and doing that in cooperation with the other players is smarter than fighting them. The sport will be better off with an independent regulator, as the FIA is supposed to be, so it is interesting to see anything that tries to change the roles of the different parties in relation to the sport…

The one thing that I hope in on the agenda is the question of engine rule stability. Changing the current hybrid rules makes no sense at all, given the huge costs that this would entail, so the best thing for the sport would be to extend the current engine formulae for another five years, to 2025, in the hope that this would attract new manufacturers. But then the current big teams don’t really want more opposition and so might vote against the idea.

Ah, politics… What messes it can get us into…

138 thoughts on “Notebook from a cafe in Miami

  1. ” He should be Sir Ron an it is many years overdue.”

    I have always assumed that he had been approached but had turned it down. I am not a fan, but if that’s the case it adds to the respect that I have for him and his achievements.

    1. McLaren’s involvement in the Ferrari spying scandal, that cost them a huge $100m fine, will block any likelihood of Ron receiving a knighthood. With honours being handed out like confetti recently, knighthoods have lost their shine.

            1. Unfortunately Italy has a law that protects the reputation of a person even after death ie the estate or relatives can still sue just as if the person were still alive.

          1. Reading between the lines, I don’t think we will know the ‘truth’ until at least one person who was involved pops their clogs. By which time most of us may have lost interest in the event, or pegged out ourselves.

            1. Indeed; it’s my ambition to live long enough to hear what actually happened in 2007. I just wish I knew which clog-wearer it is that I’m supposed to be outliving…

                1. > He was born in 1940

                  Thank you Joe! In which case, being ’64 vintage myself, there’s some hope for me yet (no offence to the person concerned)…

              1. Max I would think – he must be about that sort of age. Bernie is much older, 86 i think, therefore born around 1930

        1. Sounds like a book could be written about it, which reminds me I have to put your other two books on my christmas wish list. With the new benchmark of 90 pages in 2hrs 35min, sounds like the is plenty time for a new book “just time for Christmas? Just kidding.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Is Stephen Fitzpatrick looking at selling Manor do you think?

    Presumably they will still get tv money next season as don’t Haas have to be in the championship three years before they are eligible?

  3. Joe,

    Thanks for putting out the Notebook. Much appreciated.

    I’d like to respectfully take issue with your comment:

    “..but it also made one of the sport’s biggest stars sound like a very silly boy, when we want the racers to be courageous heroes.”

    The racers are who they are and if they reveal themselves through word and deed (however noxiously) I want to know. Not because I’m an investigative journalist, but because I’m a fan of the sport as it exists. F1 putting its best foot forward is one thing. Creating a Disney-fied illusion is another. The latter would not be worth paying to watch, as I do now.

  4. Two questions, Joe, based on your reporting:

    1/ refueling the safety car made me wonder what type of fuel today’s F1 cars use, i.e., in terms of octane, additives, etc?

    2/ I noticed that elsewhere you answered a question about the Ron Dennis / Mansour Ojeh rift as a “long story.” That was intriguing, given the history the two have together at McLaren. Could you provide a brief synopsis of the rift, please?


        1. Whilst no truth that RD tried to take control from Ojjeh whilst he was undergoing surgery, did he not take control from Martin Whitmarsh at the time, MW being very much aligned with Mansour Ojjeh? What the Mark Hughes Motorsport piece seems to say.

    1. @Robert Wood – I recall reading something about Ron trying to stab Ojeh in the back (in a business/control sense) while the latter was in hospital having a double lung transplant. Not the sort of thing one does to a friend…

  5. Speaking of politics, which team refused to adjust their pit location to help Mercedes avoid the extreme bump-and-turn?

  6. Hi Joe,

    I have always felt if Ron Dennis wrote a no hole barred book on his time since 1980 I would be first in the line up to buy it, A different guy but an incredible story. I believe he owned the team in his early twenties.

  7. I’m sure I won’t be the only one to point this out, but I read (on the Motor Sport Magazine website) that Charlie Whiting wanted to preserve the official two hour racing time (the clock that is stopped when a race is red flagged) for the slightly better weather to maximise the chances of the GP running the full distance.

    Very sad about Ron Dennis, you can think of the man what you will, but his achievements stand. One can just hope, for Alonso’s sake for one, that the new bos(ses) will be able to get on with things and keep devoting McLaren’s resources to building a team that can deliver a championship challenge. Would that new boss be Jost Capito, or is he one of many captains, a la Mercedes?

  8. As always Joe , a great read and much appreciated. Do you think that Rosberg is being unfairly treated in the media? I think he has done what he has to do, and yes Hamilton is faster and more talented , but there are no style points for how you win and Hamiltons problems will be forgotten in the fullness of time. I think he has done a super job and deserves a bit more positive press. He could easily have dropped it on Sunday and looked very stupid.

  9. Sad to see Ron go.

    Joe, Please can you remind us: What was the cause of the rift between Ron and Mansour Oijeh? That, surely is what lies at the heart of this.

  10. Sad to see Ron go.

    Joe, Please can you remind us: What was the cause of the rift between Ron and Mansour Oijeh?

    That, surely is what lies at the heart of this.

      1. Interesting. Suggests it was an ethical or political difference rather than a straight business one. Presumably Ojjeh was in favour of going, given that he is siding with the Bahrainis? I guess if Ron didn’t want to race there, it was never going to go down well with Mumtalakat…

        Great read – I love the notebooks!

      2. Thank you for the Notebook, a particularly full and engaging one this time.

        Joe Saward> It was a vote over whether to go to Bahrain, I believe

        Fascinating Joe, thank you. Presumably Ron was against, whereas Ojjeh (one assumes) sided with Mumtalakat?

          1. An interesting thing to suddenly get an attack of conscience about (unless it was purely a staff safety issue). South Africa had never presented such issues.

  11. The way Ron has been tossed overboard lacks style and grace. It also seems to lack vision for the future. Time will tell. And as they say, a company, like any asset, is only worth what someone will pay at that point in time. Don’t see rival offers for more. So despite what you or I think it is worth, it is actually worth exactly what Ron offered. If Ron offered a dollar and no one else had a better offer, guess what it is worth! Maybe undervalued. But you cant get anymore at that point in time!

    1. I would reckon an offer does not establish the value, I reckon the value is only established after the transaction is accepted and completed.

  12. Like Bernie, Ron Dennis entered into a Mephistophelean exchange, swapping power for money. Now reckoning time is here and there is grinding and gnashing of what teeth they have left.

    Joe will doubtless know the truth or otherwise of rumors that Bernie is buying Interlagos??

    He was the main feature on sky TV, showing M Brundle round his big utopian farm just miles from the circuit. The kind of place a rich man will need to go to forget the mistake he made giving away power that he once had….

  13. Is Ron out of everything Mclaren or just the F1 team? I had assumed it was the whole group from everything I’d read, but you’d previously said the below, and I hoped he’d at least get to stay doing the road cars.

    “Just to be clear, we are talking only of the racing team and associated companies, not the automobile manufacturing business, which is separate but has most of the same shareholders.”

  14. Massively disappointed to see Ron forced out of McLaren. The average fan simply hasn’t no idea how much he has changed not just McLaren, but Formual 1 as a business. I sincerely hope that we haven’t seen the last of him. He’s never been given a fair shake by the public but I have profound respect for him.

    Joe, what is your sense of how the other executives (Neale, Boullier, Sami, etc.) think about this?

  15. Great piece, Joe!
    I really do hope Ron gets the recognition he really deserves… And that he will write a book about his time as McLaren CEO.

  16. As usual, I enjoy the insights, as well as GP+. Great team, and especially enjoy the historical context you old school journalists deliver.
    Curious as to your opinion of the quality of broadcasts prior to and after Bernie got the F1 group to take over. My impression was that the camera work and editing became somewhat better (despite the concern that they may punish some teams by omission). In my opinion context matters when watching a race: seeing the cars in relation to the track and consistent angles allows for comparative evaluation. I recall being frustrated to watch repeated zooming in on the cockpit, which made the TV look fast, but told you nothing about the driver’s technique and how the car was moving.
    Given the way US coverage is and has been for the past decades (multiple commercial breaks, repetitive “race recaps” and asides for low attention span viewers) I’m concerned that the Liberty Media purchase might make the sport I love even harder to watch. The US broadcast team is solid (Buxton, Hobbs, Diffey and Matchett all bring something unique to the commentary) but just having them call the race with an uninterrupted feed (a la international football) would be a huge improvement and might actually capture new fans. The drama of a prolonged contest of skill, bravery, technology and teamwork is unique to F1, and I think even younger audiences could get hooked if the broadcasts focused on this narrative. In the USA we don’t presently get that, unless you live in a mixed cultural market and can watch the Univision (Spanish language) broadcast: since the radio clips are English, I can follow the race with greater continuity and forego the repetitive commercial interruptions of the US feed. Wonder what the greater audience base sees, and how the sport looks at this as an area for future development.

    1. I feel for you; I was recently abroad where I had no choice but to watch the local stream of the race with many commercial breaks. My God. It was like trying to read Tolstoy with someone standing by with an air horn. Lets hope the new masters will not forget about the expectations of core F1 fans. I appreciate the view of having drivers on ‘Strictly-dance-on-ice-fire-etc’ to promote the sport, however, if F1 goes after that audience without providing alternative viewing options – I will probably stop watching (with a heavy heart).

    2. We USians will never get it without the damn commercials… but it’s gotten dramaticaly worse since NBC took it from FOX. The time devoted to commercials has ramped way up… and that’s apart from all the additional NBC commercials that occur during what is nominally the race broadcast itself. Several races ago, I became sufficiently aggravated that I clocked it, and the combined total was over 40% (!!!) of total broadcast time. (I am not making this up.)

      In addition, the change from Varsha to Diffey has lowered the quality of race commentary considerably, as discussion of the race itself takes a back seat to Diffey trying to portray every pass as grounds for a simmering blood feud between the two drivers involved. That man prefers to talk about anything except the actual race itself, his favorite topic being how Moses brought Lewis down from the mountain (nothing against Lewis, who obviously is among the all time greats). Sadly, both Hobbs and Matchett, being good Brits, are quite polite and thus go along with it… for the most part. Every now and then, Hobbs will have had his fill… but only someone who understands British subtlety will realize that he’s essentially said “enough of that nonsense!”

      1. I can handle the commercials and the commentary, what I can’t handle is David Hobbs; it would be nice to have an ex-F1 driver offering insights who actually raced in this century!

  17. The other news as of today is that Bernie is cheering Trump’s ‘ victory ‘ across the US automotive media . Proof positive once again what a mistake we just made . And here y’all had thought you’d blown it with Brexit . Heck .. we ‘ Trumped ‘ y’all on the stupidity scaled by at least a good twenty points or more on a hundred point scale . Bernie endorsing Trump . Yeahhhhh perhaps Bernie might want to rethink that in light of Trump’s overall America First agenda : of which subsidizing F1 in the US is not even a consideration . Redneck NASCAR maybe . But elitist EuroSnob F1 ? Not unless there’s a profit in it for Herr Trump . Honestly Joe . What has happened to Bernie over the ensuing decades ?

    As for Ron Dennis’s removal . Sigh . Methinks we’re about to witness the demise of yet another F1 icon . Suffice it to say ; No Ron = No McLaren .

    1. While we USians face a dire/comical/fearsome political situation, we have exactly zero national politicians who are crazy enough to favor paying Bernie’s ransom…

  18. Brilliant notebook again!

    The point you make regarding Nico and Lewis was apparent in this race during the red flag stoppages. Whilst Lewis was wandering through the Manor and Haas garages (I know they were closest to his car but I was surprised Manor/Haas weren’t kicking him out), Nico was looking at something on a laptop. Overall it was quite fascinating to see what each driver was doing under pressure.

    We saw some really heroic, astonishing driving from all drivers. It was quite uncomfortable to see drivers stranded and pointing the wrong way down the start/finish straight and it is apparent Pirelli need to work on their extreme wet tyre. It seemed bonkers that drivers were fitting intermediates for the performance advantage citing that there was similar aquaplaning risk. That doesn’t seem right to me!

  19. When did Ron give up controlling interest? Do we know if there was an obvious pressing reason why he did so?

    Regardless of that, this is a sad turn of events. I have no reason to be especially fond of him, but a blind man could see what a special force he has been…

    1. The Bahrainis have been involved for many years. They paid Ron handsomely for the shares. They are good partners.

  20. McLaren have been “my” team for as long as I can remember. Drivers come and go, but I’ve always rooted for McLaren. This means I’ve nearly always been supporting the team lead by Ron Dennis. It makes me sad how this has all gone down. Not so sure I’ll be supporting Bahrainian Royal Family Racing Ltd next year.

  21. As we all know, nothing lasts forever. Ron has just found this out and I suspect Bernie is well aware of it, but might be more inclined to ignore it as he has quiet a few skeletons either locked away in a safe deposit box in Switzerland, or in his head.
    McLaren will become a very different company, but it wont have a single person as the driving force and this is the sad part for F1 as it needs such individuals to allow the fans to love/hate a team on the journey during a life span.
    I think we all knew that Bernie was “batting” for Ron in his Brundle interview, but it was too little, to late.
    Now we must sit and watch as the McLaren “talent” disappears and is replaced by corporate, faceless, people

  22. Travesty that Ron was ousted in such a fashion. He may have needed to go, but there must have been a neater way than this.

    Joe – what do you think Honda make of all this?

  23. I’m super sad to hear about Ron Dennis and McLaren. I’ve been a diehard McLaren fan for well over a decade. Before, I was a fan of F1 in general, but it was learning about Ron’s attention to detail which attracted me to McLaren specifically. I can’t imagine them without him, or even F1. I can only hope that they do not change their image and approach to business/racing, but I have a bad feeling all of this. Without the McLaren I know and love, I’m not sure how much I can care about F1. It’s just not as exciting as a few other series at the moment, and watching McLaren’s progress has been the only thing that keeps me tuning in every race weekend. Perhaps Ron will pop up elsewhere, maybe in Formula E. Age 69 is too young to retire!

    Speaking of Formula E, how about Sergio Marchionne showing interest in Ferrari joining the series, and not wanting to throw more money at the F1 team? Very interesting.

  24. Ron can be a total hard-ass. I’m sure that there are many dented egos in his wake. And th hat may have caught up with him. BTW, if he was on the Let’s-not-go-to-Bahrain side, he was right.

  25. Very sad to see Ron forced out like this, he should have retired on his own terms, however the last few years have been shocking, no title sponsor, dreadful move to Honda, loss of key sponsors (Boss, Tag, Exxon, Vodafone, Etc) loss of key staff, heads had to roll eventually and sadly Ron’s was next, if they had dominated the last two years since Honda power arrived with a new title sponsor and victories in the bag, I would imagine it would have been different.

    Wish list for 2017 McLaren

    New colour scheme – vibrant and exciting – how about Orange
    New Honda Engine – ditch size zero rubbish and fit big turbo for Power
    New Sponsor – fill the blank spaces on the car – some money is better than no money
    New mentality – ditch Woking mission control react to what happens on track use the people on site to make the call.
    Challenge for wins – for at least if you are in the hunt for victory you have a chance.

    So long Ron, thank you for the memories, you have left a legacy we will never forget Lauda, Prost, Senna, Hakkinen, Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton, Button and arriving in 2017 Vandoorne.

  26. I think the above will be happy to keep their jobs and salaries. Don’t rock the boat now as they may all be pushed aside very soon indeed.

  27. A wry moment when I read Ron’s statement quoting his 20 world titles with the official McLaren statement referring to 17 titles. But what’s 3 titles between friends……

  28. “out there in rainy Interlagos, Pascal Wehrlein’s socks are to be found”……. I spewed coffee when I read that line! Score one for you, Joe.

    1. This Unit hereby endorses this product, service or opinion.

      Can anyone here lip-read well enough to determine what was being said in the Haas garage after Gutierrez’ attempt to have his gloves join Wehrlein’s socks?

  29. 1. Did someone say Adam Parr?? Likely or 2+2=5?

    2. Great shame about Ron, always thought he let too much go to the others. Is it the same story at Mclaren Automotive Joe or not?

    3. Does this mean we could see the Commercial Rights Holder simply be the commercial rights holder, the teams just be the teams, and the fia being a true sporting authority or am I getting my hopes up?

  30. So, Joe, how do you do your lap chart from an underground bunker?

    As for your concluding paragraph – why woul other manufacturers be against the current formula? Since hybrid is “the way”.

    Oh – totally – Sir Ron!

  31. “Nico knows Lewis is a faster driver, but he just doesn’t accept that this has to mean Lewis will always win. Brain power and hard work can beat natural talent.”

    I would agree with this statement but this is not why Nico is ahead. It is purely due to Lewis having worse luck with reliability. I would greatly admire someone who wins through dogged hard work to overcome a more naturally talented rival but someone who wins because the more talanted rival was essentially handicapped leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A conservative estimate would be that Lewis has lost at least 50 points due to his engine failures and associated grid penalties.

    If Nico wins, as appears highly likely, then it will be through pure luck of the engine lottery rather than hard work.

    1. F1 is about driver and machine. Reliability has always been a factor. In previous era Lotus were notorious for having cars that would be lightening quick but rather fragile. So were the championships won by other drivers during such times any less valued just because their car held together until the chequered flag?

      Its also worth pointing out that certain drivers styles appeared to either compensate for reliability woes or would exacerbate them – case in point was Berger and Sato. A more recent example was Nico himself a year or two back at the Canadian GP – both Mercs suffered the same brake issues however one driver was able to overcome the handicap and still pick up points whereas the other failed to do so.

    2. “If Nico wins, as appears highly likely, then it will be through pure luck of the engine lottery rather than hard work.”

      I don’t think that is really fair. Lewis has certainly had more reliability issues, but could also have picked up more points at several races where reliability wasn’t a concern. For instance, Azerbaijan & Singapore.

  32. It seems that McLaren and Ron Dennis are one and the same. What a sad day. It will be fascinating to see how the team and the rest of the company will carry on without Ron at the helm.

    I wonder how Fernando feels about this…

  33. Nice notes, thank you.

    But I seriously doubt anyone is replacing the tank of the safety car to save weight when the easy answer is don’t fill the tank.

    1. They need a faster Safety Car if they want the blue tires to do a good job of getting water off the track…

      Do they need a LeMans car to do the job properly?

  34. How secure are the driver arrangements with this change at Mclaren. Does JB have any chance of driving in 2018 and will Alonso stay if there see lack of leadership to steer the team towards wins?

  35. Agree that Lewis is naturally faster than Nico, but surely Nico is in ‘safe’ mode at the moment, so I assume this is not the most representative time to compare them.

    Much as we wouldn’t draw too much from the fact that Nico dominated Lewis in the last few races of ’15, when Lewis had clocked off for the year.

    1. Was he in safe mode in Malaysia, Canada or Monaco?
      just because he is leading now when he is slow its because hes in ‘safe’ mode?

      1. There are 2 kinds of “safe mode”. The new version is an engine setting.

        The old version is a mental setting by which the driver determines to win a race while going as slow as possible. This version has had many famously successful adherents. I suspect Nico may belong to this school of thought.

      2. Equally Hamilton was slow in Azerbaijan & Singapore, no different to when Rosberg was slow in Malaysia, Canada or Monaco – neither were in ‘safe’ mode however both drivers have had the upper hand at different tracks.

      3. Yes, my point exactly, isn’t it? It would be fair to assess Nico’s performance on the likes of Monaco but surely looking at his performance in the races post-Malaysia needs to be seen in the context of the championship.

        Interestingly, if Nico was to win the championship, I think in some small way a contributor was Lewis going on holidays early in 2015. This seemed to give Nico some momentum and confidence, two things that were all but obliterated earlier in that season, that he carried in to 2016.

  36. Being a Kiwi, & knowing a few of the mechanics who started with Bruce,I always thought of McLaren as “our” team,Ron took it to the heights it has become with a lot of hard work,and, from what I’ve been told he wasn’t averse to getting his hands dirty when it was required,I can’t see him retiring,so good luck to hom, whoever he ends up.

  37. Joe

    Does anyone know the real intentions of Sauber’s new owners..

    Do they have serious money or are they servicing the debt and fillings the seats with pay drivers?

    1. A more practical buy would surely be Force India, rebadged Project4. He could then possibly wave 2-fingers down the pit lane at the end of 2017.

      If Force India is not worth £200million, I just don’t really get how McLaren TC can be worth in excess of £2billion. As a return on capital employed, it must be a very poor performer.

      As the old saying goes; turnover = vanity; profit = sanity.

  38. I heard on the radio that yesterday was an anniversary of Pitman shorthand. Given that you have this nice green notebook, do you use shorthand notes, or stitck a memo recorder in the subjects face?

    I suppose with currently technology, you could even save time by getting the memo recorder to type an accurate quotation ready for GP+?

  39. I think, Joe, that you overrate brains in F1 drivers. A common error with those who have them in abundance. Nico may or may not be more intelligent than Lewis. I have my suspicions but no proof.

    If we assume Nico doesn’t waste his time looking at the TV screens during a race – great comment by Lewis, one for everyone’s greatest list, much better than swearing – but instead is writing a concerto, then one has to ask how his intelligence manifests itself in points.

    He’s talented, few I hope would disagree, so why then, with Lewis’ dnfs littering the result sheets, isn’t he home and dry by now? I’ve been watching F1 since my first race in ’66 at Brands, and I reckon it is mind-set more than anything else which governs the results.

    My main sport is rugby and my team can talk themselves into a win, despite their youth and inexperience. And do the reverse. That’s common to all sports I think. Brains? Nah. Hardly as asset to a driver. Conceit – now there’s something they all need in abundance.

    I don’t think intelligence will decide the final race.

    Great blog by the way.


    1. Didn’t Nico study aerodynamics at Imperial College, London for a while?

      To answer my own question, I checked Wikipedia (sorry!) and apparently he was offered a place on the course, but opted to do the first-ever season of GP2 instead. Wikipedia also reminds me that “In the Engineering Aptitude Test, administered to all new Williams drivers, Rosberg achieved the highest score in the team’s history.”

      There’s also the small matter of fluently speaking five languages (they can’t ALL be picked up naturally!).

      Whatever else one may or may not think about Nico, I don’t think you can accuse him of lacking brains.

      (Having re-read your post, I now realise the main thrust of it was to say that “brains don’t really matter when it comes to F1 racing” (which is another can of worms entirely!), rather than that Nico wasn’t intelligent, but I’ll let my post stand for others.)

  40. re: stewards. it doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 100 different stewards if they would just follow a rule book without “interpretation “. they just need a sheet of paper with a list of infractions and their punishment alongside.

    out of bounds = 5 second time penalty added to the first pit stop or to the race time. hitting another driver while on the outside of a turn = penalty x. moving during braking = penalty y. all penalties applied immediately.

    i’m tired of the uneven application of penalties for apparently the same offenses.

    i’m sure a single permanent steward would be immediately bribed and manipulated via all kinds of covert ways.

    1. There’s always going to be matters of interpretation, it’s unavoidable. The NFL has tried to eliminate it; all they’ve done is make the rulebook about a foot thick, nobody except the refs know all the rules, and they *still* have the problem.

      But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is inconsistency. They’re not gonna solve that problem as long they’re changing stewards every dang race.

      I don’t know the best solution, but whatever it is will involve treating this like a true professional responsibility, not a job of musical chairs for occasional volunteer participants.

      From the outside, it appears that they treat this important job as if they’re running a dang bake sale. I’m sure they think they’re taking this seriously, but it doesn’t look like it from afar. I bet this is one of the very first things that the new owners change.

    1. Well, I don’t… I’m 6’8″ and unless I’m sitting expensively up front I simply do not fit without the seat back reclining… this is not a matter of personal preference, it’s a matter of simple geometry…

      I wonder if Bruised Kneecaps would work as a name for a band… a belated tall persons’ answer to The Small Faces? 😉

    2. Joe, you could buy some ‘Knee Defenders” (oh, if you do, take some boxing lessons). If airlines insist on their no knee room or laptop spacing of seats, I reckon the seats should be locked.
      I’m resigned to most discomforts on airplanes but do politely object to ‘seat bangers’. However almost all folk are responsive and often apologetic to being politely informed that their behaviour is annoying me, I’ve even had them offer me free drinks. My biggest whinge is being in a window seat on a trans pacific somewhere over Kiribati, everyone is asleep or trying to sleep and I need a pee. Airlines should provide window seats with a pee bottle, no I’m not serious, … or maybe I am?

    3. build,
      I agree the seats are too small and I am only about 6’1″. But what about the guy behind you and his needs. The airlines need to maybe arrange seats assignments by size and offer more room for bigger people.

      1. Surely in this day and age it should be possible to install a sensor which will prevent a seat from being reclined unless the one behind it is already reclined. Admittedly this would give much of the power to the people in the back row, but it would prevent passengers being unfairly squashed by the back of the seat in front.

  41. Well it is a pity that it doesn’t rain on F1 more often….although it still ended with a Merc 1-2…at least there was some action around them.
    Much has been said over Max V and his drive, and yes it was very good, and marks him again as being top drawer material. However it was also the case apparently, that he was on newer tyres and no doubt benefited from a modicum of extra grip as much as there was any to find!
    That doesn’t detract from his performance, but it doesn’t place his race in an absolute great category, such as some of Hamilton’s wet races and classics like Donnington 1993. But that doesn’t mean that i’m knocking it, just putting a bit of perspective to it.
    Lewis performed in his usual wet weather mode, it is difficult for anyone to get near him when it is that wet, although, again, others like such as JB are usually exceptional, in those conditions. To knock Rosberg is a bit unfair, as he did finish 2nd and he could be said to be on a damage limitation run as he would really have been stupid to race Lewis and fall off the track! At least he still has a lead in the title race, although my own money is more angled to Hamilton now.
    Despite what he said i’d say Lewis is favourite as all he needs to do is win. In a dry race with the Merc, this should not present much problem, whereas Rosberg has to worry over reliability that he has, so far had less issues with, but that might be over….law of averages etc….or a rival hitting him and leaving Lewis to saunter off into the distance…..sure Nico ought to pull it off but i’d wager he will be the one under most pressure right the way to the end of the race. Hamilton has done it 3 times, so he has little to prove, another title he’d surely want, but he is currently record making every race it seems and Senna had 3 titles, so i’d think Lewis wouldn’t be destroyed to lose as long as he wins the race….
    Both deserve the title in terms of results, it is rare that a driver with a second rate car wins it, but you have to say that driving for Merc there would be others who could do the trick just about as good.
    As to the wet, well unless some changes take place on the chassis / suspension and tyre front, then i would think that F1 cars won’t race in the wet within 5 years or so and it’ll be like America with Monday racing if Sunday is more than damp….ahh! Progress!!

    1. > my own money is more angled to Hamilton now.
      > Despite what he said i’d say Lewis is favourite as
      > all he needs to do is win.


      1. RShack Lewis has won over 50 F1 races and 3 titles, that must take the pressure down a notch or two against a bloke who has only been a runner up in the title so far. Also They have the best cars so Lewis can almost be certain that if he is running he will be at the front. Nico would have to bring his best game to town to beat Lewis, which he has done sometimes, but if he brings his second best game then he has to be on the podium and any slip or knock with another car or mechanical fault can prevent that. And i guess Lewis will be winding him up all weekend as well….

  42. That was Martin Brundle who discussed Michael and Mika wasn’t it? I remember him famously writing many years ago – if he had to bet his own money on it, Mika would get the pole but Michael would win the race… God I miss those days.

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