Notebook from a string of airport lounges

It’s unimportant o’clock here in Dubai (DXB to aficionados). The computer says 05.50, the watch says 07.50, the iPhone says 07.50, so 07.50 it must be. The computer is on another time zone. Life is like that at the moment. Even when one is in Singapore, one is not on the right time zone. It’s an odd way to live. Going to bed after breakfast never quite feels right and my body, used to time changes, refuses to adapt to the illogical. If the sun is up, then one should not really be asleep… Thankfully the human being was really made to sleep for small bursts at a time (because of wolves etc…) and so we can survive without the regular eight hours that the rest of the world enjoys.

Travelling the world has its compensations, of course, and my column in this week’s GP+ e-magazine began with a treatise about bougainvillea and the beautiful Five O’Clock Trees of Singapore. These are a delight when one visits the Garden City and so I snuck off into a little horticultural history, pointing out that the trees were imported to Singapore because of their brilliant shade-producing qualities. You need shade when you are in Singapore because it is almost always hot and humid. This causes storms on an almost daily basis, which is what we saw on Sunday evening as the F1 grid was preparing for the race. The Mercedes team lit up with smiles when the first rain drops began to fall. This was their chance to limit the damage that Ferrari was going to do in the World Championship.

“We are at a circuit where they were in another world,” Lewis Hamilton said. “We really had not a lot of hope. I was so happy – you can’t imagine how happy I was – when it started to rain. It levels the playing field and then there’s a real race and that’s what I was excited to have.”

On the grid, before the rain came, Niki Lauda was looking at the sky, seeing the lightning away to the north and hoping.

“The only other hope is…” he said, nodding his red-capped head in the direction of Max Verstappen.

In the end, Max was the victim of the Ferraris. Kimi Raikkonen shot off the line, like a startled rabbit, and went to his left to pass Verstappen. Sebastian Vettel moved to the left at the same time to protect the inside line. Verstappen was stuck in a pincer movement but he couldn’t back out of it in time. He was clipped on both sides. Raikkonen went sideways and cannoned into his own team-mate, to the delight of the Ferrari haters. Amazingly, Vettel kept going, only to lose it on the next straight, probably because of things pouring out of his car. He spun, hit the wall and that was it for the day. Lewis Hamilton was leading.

“It was still a massive challenge,” he said. “I could have easily just binned it. Through the race, every now and then, Senna popped into my mind. His Monaco GP [in 1988] when he was in the lead and hit the wall. That always comes in and reminds me not to do it. In the back of my mind, it’s almost like he talks to me, ‘Just stay focused, keep it together’.”

Before qualifying, I was talking to one of the super-clever strategy boffin types we have in F1 and he said that Singapore is a really important race this season because of the differing performances of the two leading cars. Ferrari needed to score maximum points on the streets of Marina Bay because the remaining races will probably favour Mercedes more. He reckoned that if Red Bull and Mercedes could beat Ferrari in Singapore, the loss of points would probably be a decisive factor in the overall scheme of things. After qualifying that didn’t look like happening… but then came the race. There would be no dancing on the streets in Maranello on Sunday night. The look of horror on team principal Maurizio Arrivabene’s face was such that one imagined this Heathcliff-like figure had seen the ghost of Cathy Earnshaw wandering through the Ferrari garage… but these were not Wuthering Heights, but rather heights of blundering by the Ferrari drivers. After the race Lewis was all smiles. He leads the World Championship by 28 points. If Vettel wins the next four races, Lewis can afford to be second because his Ferrari rival cannot draw level with him before the Brazilian GP. And Ferrari can forget the Constructors’ Championship. That’s gone south with the autumn geese. Yes, Lady Luck might play a part in what happens in the final races of the year, but she did that to Lewis last year and he’s hoping she’ll be a little friendlier 12 months on. If the teams perform as they should perform, then Hamilton should be the World Champion. We will see…

The green notebook has a lot of busy scribblings on the Singapore GP pages. To be honest, most of this stuff goes into my JSBM insider newsletter but I like to give a little away on the blog to encourage people to subscribe and get all the good stuff.

One of the first notes is “A-B-C”, which was a coded message for myself. It means: Australia, Bahrain, China and is the new calendar which should be announced later this week when the FIA World Council meets in Paris. The Formula One group is very keen NOT to change the calendar late in the day, it wants to do things differently to Mr E, but it seems that the race promoters have all asked for the A-C-B to become A-B-C and so the FIA will likely agree to it. The Chinese wish to move away from the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, when people visit the graves of their ancestors. This is a three-day holiday from April 5-7 and it is best to avoid it, as it might impact on the size of the crowd. It hurts no-one to be helpful in this respect as a big new Chinese GP deal is about to be announced… So 2018 will begin with the Australian Grand Prix on March 25, but then China and Bahrain will switch places so that Bahrain becomes the second race of the season on April 8, with China following a week later on April 15. It is a tough back-to-back for the F1 teams, but not very different from the planned Russia-Japan double-header on September 30-October 7.

These days, the distance between race tracks is not really the issue (unless the teams are moving by road), the decisive factor in getting things to happen on time is the attitude of customs officials towards the movement of tons and tons of F1 equipment across their borders. Formula 1 continues to produce miracles in this respect, particularly as we now live in an age when greasing the wheels of officialdom is not acceptable behaviour. Perhaps there will come a day when the sport over-reaches itself and half the cars don’t make it from one race to the next (because of hurricanes, planes going technical or whatever) but until that happens the decision-makers are going to keep pushing the limits.

F1 has always pushed the limits and will continue to do so. The denouement of the McLaren-Honda-Toro Rosso-Renault affair was all duly announced in Singapore, along with the transfer of Carlos Sainz, which was a bit of a surprise, and that was then followed by dominos falling elsewhere, with Sergio Perez signing for Force India, on a one-year deal, and Fernando Alonso certain to sign for McLaren in the next few days – as he will now have Renault engines to play with. For those who doubt the efficiency of the McLaren chassis, Singapore was a good illustration of what the team could do if the engine was not so important.

In the course of the weekend I bumped into Bob McMurray, an old McLaren hand who has long since returned to his native New Zealand. He pointed out that this is not the first time that McLaren has done a deal with Renault, the previous agreement having been made in 1987, when the team was looking to replace its ageing TAG turbo engines. It seems that a letter of intent was signed between Ron Dennis and Renault’s Jean Sage, but then Honda came knocking on McLaren’s door and Dennis leapt at the chance. Shortly afterwards, Frank Williams discovered that Honda was dumping him and had to scramble together a deal with John Judd for his V8s in 1988. As an aside, there was no little sense of irony (one might even call it karma) when Dennis’s dream of winning all the races in 1988 was ruined when Ayrton Senna stumbled over the Williams-Judd of Jean-Louis Schlesser in the final laps of the race in Monza… ruining Ron’s clean sweep.

McLaren and Renault, incidentally, came close to another deal in 1993 when Dennis tried to secure the supply of Renault engines that the Ligier team enjoyed (thanks to Guy Ligier’s relationship with France’s President François Mitterand, who had the power to tell Renault what to do…). In the end that deal never happened. I recall Dennis telling me that he backed out of the whole thing when it became way too murky for a strait-laced fellow from Woking. Those Ligier engines ended up in the hands of Benetton, as its team boss Flavio Briatore was a man who was more at home in dimly-lit places. And thus began the successful Benetton-Renault phase of F1 history…

The summer of 1987 also marked the withdrawal from Formula 1 of Alfa Romeo, after Rene Arnoux made some rude remarks about the company’s new four-cylinder turbo engine. Alfa Romeo had recently been acquired by FIAT, which was looking for an excuse to terminate Alfa Romeo’s involvement in F1…

Alfa Romeo was back in the rumour mill in Singapore, following a supposedly quiet visit by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) boss Sergio Marchionne and Ferrari’s Maurizio Arrivabene to Sauber on the Tuesday before the Grand Prix. One can say that it was all about Sauber taking on Ferrari youngsters Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi next year, but in reality that does not require the presence of a busy executive such as Marchionne. So why were they there? Marchionne has talked several times about bringing Alfa Romeo back into Formula 1, to bolster the company’s international growth. It is interesting to note that in the last few days Alfa Romeo has launched a social media campaign featuring Ferrari drivers Vettel, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi driving Alfa Romeo Giulias around the company’s test track at Balocco. You can find it on Youtube. In the automotive media there were also stories that Marchionne may spin off the Maserati-Alfa Romeo division of FCA in order to raise $7 billion to reduce FCA’s debt (…and thus add to its value), while giving Alfa Romeo the freedom to grow. FCA is forecasting that Maserati will double its sales in the next 10 years and Alfa Romeo is supposed to do likewise. Cynics say that sending Alfa Romeo into F1 would be a neat way to make the company more sexy to investors, who would no doubt be reminded that Ferrari shares have gone stratospheric since the company was spun off, rising by 130 percent in the last 12 months. So perhaps Marchionne was in Hinwil looking to buy Sauber from its current owner, the invisible Swede, who could turn a quick buck on the deal, not that he needs any more dollars. There has also been a suggestion in the Italian press that the mysterious departure from Ferrari earlier this summer of its F1 engine designer Lorenzo Sassi may not have been quite what it was reported at the time. Perhaps, they said, Sassi was taken out of Ferrari to be redeployed at Alfa Romeo…

Getting full control of another team might help Ferrari a little bit politically as well because there will come a moment fairly soon when the sport is going to point out to the Italians that F1 would be better off if the distribution of revenues is done in a fair way. When I was leafing through my notes from 1987, I noted that this was also the moment at which Ferrari built an Indycar, designed as a threat to suggest that Ferrari might go to America if Bernie Ecclestone did not give in to its financial demands. That is not going to work this time around.

There was some talk a few weeks ago about Prema Racing, the dominant force in Formula 2, with the aforementioned Leclerc, being involved in an Alfa Romeo F1 operation in the future. In Singapore, the rumours were a little different with Nicolas Todt apparently wanting to buy Prema Racing shares from Lawrence Stroll (now that he no longer needs a team for his son), having fallen out with his ART partner Frédéric Vasseur, he of Sauber fame. The problem seems to be that Todt is not happy with Vasseur having started Spark Racing Technologies, which is making tons of money building Formula E cars, without him being a partner… It seems, by the way, that Prema will next year be running McLaren protégé Lando Norris and Sean Gelael (of Indonesian Kentucky Fried Chicken fame), while ART will likely take on Nirei Fukuzumi, Honda’s big new hope, alongside the Anglo-Thai Alexander Albon. The primary opposition will likely come from DAMS, which is expected to run Nicholas Latifi and Mercedes protégé George Russell.

There are lots of people who do not really understand the stories about Red Bull going with Honda in 2019, following the first year of a deal between Honda and Red Bull’s sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso. Surely, they say, that would be a backward step, as Honda engines are no good, etc etc etc. The deal makes sense to me for one very simple reason: money. Many folk in F1 are now convinced that Red Bull will leave F1, to all intents and purposes, at the end of 2020. It would have gone sooner if there was not a penalty clause in the deal between the Austrian drinks company and the Formula One group. This was agreed because Red Bull was given additional money on the understanding that it would remain in the sport for the full term of the commercial agreement. This means that if Red Bull quits as a team owner it would be required to pay $100 million for each year remaining, thus $300 million for 2018, 2019 and 2020. Doing a deal with Honda for both of its teams means that Red Bull will, at the very least, be able to save five seasons’ worth of engine bills (about $150 million): three with Toro Rosso and two with Red Bull Racing. Given that Honda was also paying McLaren substantial sums of money, Red Bull may also be able to get a similar deal, which would reduce its F1 spending still further. The word is that Red Bull wants to sell both teams. It might not look that way because the last time Red Bull split with a team (Sauber in 2001) the team continued to be Red Bull-branded for three more seasons, with free space for Red Bull on the cars counting towards the price of the sale. Thus, if similar deals were done today, extracting the maximum value for Red Bull, we can expect to see Red Bull liveries until the end of 2023. If the Honda engines do become successful then that will be a bonus. In the end, success would probably lead to Honda wanting to buy a team and Scuderia Toro Rosso would be a good choice in that respect – although there is a long way to go before that will be on the agenda.

People are also confused by Christian Horner’s remarks that Red Bull will not have a deal with Porsche nor Honda, but that there will be a car manufacturer supporting the team. He is referring to Aston Martin, although everyone knows that the luxury car maker does not have the money to pay for an F1 programme. So how does that work? Well, in my opinion, things will develop as follows: Cosworth, Aston Martin and McLaren are all looking at making their own engines for the new rules in 2021. If they work together, sharing development costs, they could all walk away with a competitive V6 unit. McLaren would use it as a McLaren engine, Cosworth as a Cosworth and Red Bull as an Aston Martin. Cosworth had sales last year of $50 million and wants to double that in the years ahead. It has an order book exceeding $350 million at the moment and an F1 programme could seriously help to make that happen. There are a lot of smart folk with F1 knowledge involved with Cosworth. The board of directors features former FIA advisor Alan Donnelly, McLaren’s Zak Brown and former Williams CEO Adam Parr, not to mention Carl Peter Forster, who has serious industry experience as a former head of Opel.

If that were to happen then Mateschitz could sell the team to Horner (and almost certainly Adrian Newey). There are various ways in which this could be funded, ranging from the sale of some of the equity in the new team to private equity firms or banks, to seller financing (in which the team would pay back Red Bull over time) or even to the assumption of debt, which Red Bull would run up before departing.

Aston Martin is beginning to turn around as a car company, but there is still a lot to do. The Valkyrie model, designed by Newey, has been a smash hit success, and so one can expect to see a few more similar ideas in the years ahead. One might even imagine an ambitious young man like Horner thinking that he could probably raise the financing to buy not only the team, but also the car company as well, turning himself from being an F1 type into an industrialist, which is something that Ron Dennis did at McLaren.

In the post-Dennis era, McLaren has rather less focus on F1 than it did in the old days. Today it has other things to take into consideration. It is heading towards an IPO in around 2023 and so it is looking to add value to the business in the interim. Getting Renault engines is a good step as the results will improve. Having its own McLaren F1 engines will help sell road cars as well. Other sporting success will help. McLaren had a tickle at the Indy 500 this year and might decide to expand that sort of thing in the future. Winning the Indy 500 would be great advertising… but there is also the possibility that McLaren may also be seen at Le Mans. Zak Brown talked about expanding McLaren’s sporting footprint some months ago (before the Indy 500 adventure) and there is a great opportunity at the moment with the Le Mans 24 Hours as the withdrawal of Porsche and Audi has left the FIA World Endurance Championship with just one manufacturer, Toyota. It is not even certain that the Japanese will remain in the series because winning without opposition is a pretty worthless activity. Peugeot may come into the WEC is 2019 if the budgets are slashed but if WEC promoter the Automobile Club de l’Ouest is looking for ways to keep the LMP1 class as a World Championship, it needs to get some new challengers into the game in a hurry. It has just announced a shift to a winter schedule, with an 13-month “super season”, which will run from May 2018 to June 2019, including two Le Mans 24 Hours races in the same championship. It is also expected that the FIA World Motor Sport Council will give the green light to some rule changes that will bring new players into LMP1. It is a little-known fact that LMP1 is in fact two classes: LMP1-H and LMP1-L. The first was for the fancy hybrids that we have seen in recent years, the second is a cheaper sub-class for non-hybrid engines. This was too expensive for most competitors and the performance was not close enough to that of the LMP2-H cars, and so teams switched to the cheaper LMP2, where everything is standardised. With a little tweaking, however, LMP1-L could become the big deal. Already ByKolles, Ginetta, and a Dallara/SMP Racing have decided to go down this route and others may follow. Teams don’t have to design and build their own cars and there are several manufacturers with designs that might be used, notably ORECA, Onroak, Riley Tech/Multimatic and HPD. The Gibson GK428 engine, standard in LMP2, can be tweaked to get more power and one can imagine a company such as Alpine stepping up. But might McLaren also go down that route? The whisper is that this could happen, based on the fact that Eric Boullier was spotted in deep conversations with ORECA boss Hugues de Chaunac at the recent Chantilly Arts & Elegance event…

Money makes the world go around, but one should also remember that F1 has been fairly lax in exploiting its potential revenues in the modern social media age. I was told the other day about a South Korean firm called Gamevil Inc., which produces games for mobile devices. This had revenues of $137.6 million last year and produces around 30-40 games a year, most of them supplied free to consumers. What caught my attention, however, was when I was told that the firm had a billion game downloads in 2016. That’s an awful lot of eyeballs. Just imagine if they all paid $1 for a Formula 1 game? OK, even if one consumer downloaded 40 games a year, there would would still be a useful $250 million in revenues… And if the game cost $5…

116 thoughts on “Notebook from a string of airport lounges

  1. Wow, quite a download. Thanks Joe, great as always. I feared I might miss the European GT stories but you’ve excelled yourself.

  2. Just wondering how would Cosworth, McLaren and Aston Martin deal with intellectual property issues over this common engine project, but I hope it’s solvable between them.
    And a thought – if there is a season with double LeMans, then McLaren LMP1 team would have two chances to win this race, just as Alonso was reported somewhere to stay for two years.

  3. Random question for you. I recall earlier this year Force India got a fine (10k from memory) for not displaying their drivers names on the cars shark fin (PER & ORC). However I’ve noticed in recent races that all teams adhere to this, with the exception of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari. In their defence, all three teams display the driver number on the shark fin as an alternative, but is there a different set of rules for different teams?

    1. I think that was a suspended fine, IIRC. The rule is I think to have 3 driver letters or car number on the shark fin, and it was deemed SFI’s weren’t clear enough at that time

    2. I think the fine was for not displaying the identifier in a visable place on the side of the car (it was on the ‘bend’ of the engine cover so difficult to see side-on)

      I believe the rules state that you must display either a number or name (Three Letter Identifier) on the side of the car. It’s at the teams discretion if they do one or the other of these.

  4. The Alfa thing interests me. Looking at how the brands stack up against each other I don’t see real competition for Alfa in F1 other than maybe some of the higher end sporting Renaults. I think Mercedes see themselves as above Alfa and the talk of Aston & Porsche coming into F1 doesn’t align with Alfa either to me.

    If there is going to a separation Maserati on the other hand would seem to fit better in the Aston, Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren .

    But the Quadrifolgio is already on the Ferrari engine covers…..

      1. Interesting one. Wonder if that’s tied to Massa’s “they need to show they want me” comment from the other day?

        Kubica fits the bill for an experienced over-25 driver to lead the team and market for Martini at the same time, and there aren’t really any other serious candidates around (maybe Jolyon Palmer, if he has a barnstorming end to the season?) Massa will no doubt do a job, as he has this year, but he isn’t realistically going to drive the team forward and Stroll is some way from being capable of doing that. Kubica could, but only if he can dispel any doubts about his ability to cope with the physical demands of a Grand Prix weekend in these, rather more physical, F1 cars. Massa might’ve been telling the team “test Kubica and you can forget about me for 2018”.

  5. Love it!

    “Flavio Briatore was a man who was more at home in dimly-lit places”
    Flav was first described to me as a “Gentleman of leisure”

    Same thing,I guess…

    1. Sure that wasn’t “a man of honour”?

      How strange though the word ‘honour’ sounds when used in connection with Flavio…

        1. I am trying not to give Flavio’s lawyers any grounds to sue, but I gather that the expression “man of honour” refers to a recognised member of certain Italian families who are part of “Our thing”

              1. Are you by any chance referencing the occasion on which IIRC a bomb exploded outside Mr. Briatore’s London residence?

                IIRC, he attributed it to a case of mistaken identity and claimed that it was placed by Irish nationalists.

  6. Impressive information download.
    All the uncompensated back-and-forth between Alfa and Ferrari and one might think there might be a corporate governance problem at FCA and Ferrari, driven by the overlapping executives. But the stocks are performing so nobody will complain.
    Like you say, Aston Martin can’t afford an F1 program, and I’d say that includes can’t afford to fund (own) a team, in addition to not having resources to sole-fund an engine program. Not clear how Christian Horner “owning” Aston Martin (and the former RBR) changes those numbers. Also not clear what “owning” means unless Mr. Horner has a couple of billion in cash lying around. It’s like the old joke about who owns the house, you or the bank.

  7. Hi Joe,

    Just wondering as a multitude of car manufacturing companies were interested in the new engine formula did PSA also join?
    I would assume that F1 would bring the company more visibility then WEC.

    1. I’m at a loss as to how Arrivabene gets away with his continual snubbing of the media. Channel 4 were promised an interview on the grid and Webber was fobbed off at last minute by an embarrassed aide. Punters should be outraged and Liberty need to have a word in his shell-like.

        1. Not only is their current strategy stupid, their current drivers are too as proved in Singapore. Vettel caused all the mayhem and he reports that he had no idea what conspired at the first corner. It would be safer to let the SF70H driven by itself through some autonomous driving technology.

      1. Arrivabene gets away with it because Ferrari are having a period of success at the moment.He should remember the sage words of Sylvester Stallone (yes, really):

        “When you’re on top and you lead the parade, everyone’s there throwing lilies and lilac water on your head. But when those parades have gone by and there’s a storm in your heart, there are very few people that are going to sit there and listen to you bemoan life”

        1. …another example is what their social media chap/lass tweeted about the Vet/Rai/Ver accident, stating Verstappen “took RAI out and then went to VET”.

          Webber’s tweeted reply to that was superb. “…..said the Press bloke who’s never driven a go kart”.

        2. Thing is, had Vettel been less affirmative at the start and Kimi hadn’t taken off like a rocket, these comments would be full of people chastising him for letting Max get the jump on him into Turn 1 with a very racy-looking Red Bull.

          It’s all well and good saying Vettel was too aggressive, but objectively he was applying the correct level of aggression for 99 race starts out of 100.

          1. All the same, the ‘Schumacher chop’ has more or less been adopted by every driver in single seaters as a ‘right’ since he started it many years ago – I don’t see it as a right and neither should the stewards on this occasion. The fact is, Verstappen and Alonso’s races were ruined by two Ferraris who managed to escape any penalties.

      2. I thought Webber’s grid antics were motivated by being irritated by the Ferrari principal’s earlier unprofessional last minute snub of Eddie Jordan and and so he decided to pick up a proverbial stick to see where he could poke it knowing full well he wouldn’t get anywhere and Coulthard’s bemused reaction to his attempt said as much.
        Mark managed to get shooed awkwardly away on live TV and I suspect that was his goal all along.

        1. Pity Arrivabene couldn’t take advantage of Mark’s presence to make amends. Compare with Christian Horner and Toto Wolf’s approach. I think David feels he should be at arm’s length often – personally I would have preferred a ‘scene’.

  8. Do you have a view on possibility of Honda buying the Red Bull team in Milton Keynes, rather than Faenza/Bicester- based Toro Rosso, when the time is right for Mr Mateschitz to sell up?

      1. Yes I did. It pursues the idea that the Cosworth/Aston Martin tie-up will happen and that Honda would purchase Toro Rosso.

        But…given that the Aston supply is only a rumour, is not also a possiblity that Honda would choose instead to supply the main Red Bull team (in the same way that Renault switched team contracts) leading to that team being the target of Honda’s buyout?

        I was curious as to whether you had any view on the likelihood of this alternative outcome. But, as all of this is a few years away from coming about, any speculation is futile.

        1. Whoever ends up supplying that team’s engines (could just as easily be Cosworth as Aston), some sort of management buyout led by Horner and Newey will be the first option Mateschitz looks at.

          1. Yes, that’s what Joe wrote. Albeit that Aston is very unlikely to be making the engine, and Cosworth is unlikely to be badging it. And it all hinges on finance and the as yet agreed 2021 (onwards) engine rules.

            As for Horner and Mr Newey,, this is probably true, but does Horner have the money available and does Mr Newey have the long-term desire to be team owner?

            If this is what Joe has been told in confidence by figures in the paddock, then I trust his word. That’s why I’ve read Joe’s writing for nearly 30 years now.

            But there are a lot of others who are keyboard warriors on the internet expressing opinions without evidence.

      1. As you know Joe, RAI was already ahead when VER decided to clip his rear tyre. VET streaking across to spook VER was not a smart tactic, I grant you.

        1. RAI clearly clipped VER, not the other way round. He misjudged the gap. This caused RAI to spin. VET also hit VER on the other side at the same time but was then taken out by RAI. It was clumsy but I think blind spots were involved.

        1. The stewards said that no one should be punished and that it was a racing incident. That was the right call but it was still blundering in my opinion. Blundering means clumsy.

          1. I predicted (and it’s nice to be proved right even if only this once!) that RAI would make a mistake and VER would clatter into VET, handing the lead to HAM. Wish I’d put money on it….

          2. It was unlucky for all concerned, I thought, but you make your own luck in this game. A cooler head than Vettel’s might have felt confident in the Ferrari’s ability to ultimately jump the Red Bull later on race pace. Might have decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and not gone toe-to-toe with Verstappen (who he could expect to be very fighty) into Turn 1. That level of perspective is fairly rare in F1 drivers, though.

      2. VET, in my view. RAI started blisteringly well and got caught by a typically exaggerated move from VET. VER was particularly unlukcy not to back out from the SF sandwich in time. ALO was even more unlucky; what a start he made!

    1. It was inevitable that Verstappen was going to go for gold, in the same way Seb going to do the same thing. In the normal course of events it would be sorted at Turn 1. However, Kimi stuck to his line when he could moved to his left – he didn’t even cross the line to give Max more room. He and his teammate effectively precipitated the crash by creating a Ferrari sandwich. Kimi should have been retired last year but obviously has comprising photos of senior management tucked away in his drawer!

      1. When you are already ahead, you don’t worry about making room for the car behind. Max did not have to steer left and clip Kimi’s rear tyre. Maybe he was spooked by Vettel lunging in his direction. Or maybe he did it deliberately, that is also possible though hard to prove.

        Compromising photos? Arriva and Marchio? I doubt it lol.

        1. Watch the video, not just the stills.

          Max had every opportunity not to crash into Vettel, provided he chose to crash into Kimi instead.

          And every opportunity not to crash into Kimi, provided he chose to crash into Seb instead,

          He had total freedom to choose which of them to crash into first, but nowhere to go to avoid both.

          1. This is so silly. Why would Max want to knock himself out of the race? He wouldn’t. Therefore your argument is tosh.

        2. Nothing ‘spooks’ Max. ‘If you no longer go for a gap that exists, then you’re no longer a racing driver’……

      1. precisely, toleman fan !

        If I saw anything in that wet start, it was desperation in both Ferrari
        drivers to prevent Verstappen carrying out one of his now-customary
        lightning attacks. Both Vettel and Raikkonen knew precisely what
        they were doing….eliminating a cheeky upstart by whatever means
        were available. They’ve tried it before, but this time screwed up
        good and proper ! Verstappen will one day be an F1 superstar
        and make the likes of both Vettel and Raikkonen look tarnished and
        inferior. Don’t think that I’m unaware of Verstappen’s shortcomings
        either ( I haven’t forgotten what he did to his team-mate a few races ago ).
        But he’ll learn fast and leave the Vettels and Raikkonens for losers.

  9. Another great insight Joe, really appreciate it.

    The sheer number of ellipses always makes me chuckle though, there is barely a paragraph without one…

  10. Fantastic blog Joe. Thank you.

    The Aston Martin / RedBull developments may be a good thing for Williams too as it reduces the potential partners for Porsche.

    Given Aston Martin limited cash resources and the timing, could it be that the title sponsorship cash consideration is a form of prepayment or at least a way to lower the future acquisition price? That would make sense in my view, as the main issue for Aston Martin / Horner / Newey consortium isn’t strategic intent or capability but more the price tag of the asset. It precedes yet complements Red Bull’s free sponsorship post-acquisition.

    1. Williams and Porsche are looking like something of a natural fit – there are close relations between the two. WAE are working closely with Singer as well; a 3-way tie in at some point could have legs.

      1. Apologies to Joe and to anyone else who has already covered this point,

        With all due respect to you and to Singer, I would think the contracts have with WAE and Porsche, VW and Audi are far larger in value than with that Singer.

        The tripod you suggest has one leg far shorter than the others.

  11. Mention of Ron Dennis prompts me to report sighting the old supremo leaving the Ministry of Defence after a hard day’s work. He looked the part, with black bowler hat, satchel and rolled up umbrella.

    By now he will have moved into military espionage?

      1. Standard garb for civil servants. Trousers can be striped or plain charcoal to go with black waistcoat and top coat. A folded ‘Times’ under the arm is optional.

        1. I’m a civil servant, and I can tell you – it isn’t. At least, not for us plebs lower down the food chain who don’t work in Whitehall in London.

          Also, I think this is rather an old hackneyed view of civil servants, rather like how Americans think of England being full of Beefeaters and Ye Olde Teashoppes….

  12. Instead of spending $200-300 million on an F1 budget, and $100 million on a WEC season, if the cost cut comes in down to $150m for the F1, the McLaren’s, Ferrari’s and Red Bull/Porsche/Aston’s of this world could then spend the surplus (or less and put some into marketing) on going to Le Mans and not have to lay off half their work force.

  13. As much as I understand the hardship involved being a journalist and the pain involved with more races on the calendar, as a keen reader of Joe’s blog I sincerely hope there are more race weekend, as Joe gets to investigate and write his best immediately after one. Hats off Joe. Very informative.

  14. If the Honda remains a dud next year, and for whatever reason Red Bull decide they do want to spend the money and keep a Renault engine (they can sell the team for more if it is competitive for example. I can’t imagine key staff being that keen to stay around for 3 years scraping for the odd podium), could they use Sainz as the way to keep Renault engines.

    Instead of a 1 year loan, they get to give him to Renault in return for engines.

  15. Great insights as usual Joe. With reference to the points about McLaren branching out to other series, do you think that there’s any scope for merging Zac’s other outfit United Autosport into the McLaren family?

  16. Should Aston Martin be put on the market, it’s possible Mercedes would be interested. They already have a 5% stake in the company and are providing the engines in the current model. Obviously, UK making a complete break from the EU might put a stop to that thinking.

    Have FCA resigned themselves to a complete change in the finances of F1, so their only way of having more power than the other teams is to double up by buying Sauber? If they do, is it possible Sauber will move their factory to Italy? It would be cheaper to run a team in Italy and probably more attractive to new staff than being based in the backwater Switzerland.

    1. Sauber will stay where it is. Probably for logistical, budgetary and staffing reasons.

      It will be great to see the Alfa name back in F1, great!!

      Re Porsche they’ve never been associated with F1 their racing dna is sportscars…. other than Ferrari there is no brand comparison for then in F1.

      VW Group would be far better using Audi or even Bugatti because of the heritage.

      However i guess it’s all about which brand division feels it needs the global exposure most of all.

  17. If the cars from Milton Keynes are to be powered by Honda and then Aston Martin where does that leave Porsche? Could be interesting if Teams using the same engine badged either AM or McLaren are up against each other.

  18. I know at one time the Kuwaiti investors in A-M were strapped for cash, but EJ intimated that they may be interested in purchasing RB as a vanity project – a bit like the Valkeri.

    On their grid walk DC & MW caught Andy Palmer who seemed quite open about having an association with RB was done as an incremental step. Branding the engine next year and perhaps supplying an engine, or even owning the team in 2021 seemed like a logical progression from what he said.

    The cumulative losses of A-M suggest that investing in F1 is daft. As a catalyst for Investment Dar and Adeem Investment to do bigger deals on the side of the F1 arena might make more sense, particularly if a sensible cost cap is in place.

    As an aside, surely there must be scope for a JoeBlogs app. Bronze membership gets you into the blog, Silver, the business letter and Gold gets you GP+ and the others.

    It must only be about getting the price points right, but hopefully reaping bigger rewards for your efforts

  19. Nice post. One question is F1 safety at a point where drivers feel comfortable taking risky moves?

    I can just imagine what the Halo is going to encourage?

  20. Question regarding Singapore: I always hear that Singapore is a wonderful venue, lovely, lots of business gets done, etc. However as a TV viewer all I see is a concrete trough winding through freeway underpasses and having no charm whatsoever. In all the years of watching I can never get a feeling for locations on the track. Of course, there is no passing but I’m a long time F1 fan and used to it. Is there any place around the track that offers anything better than seeing the cars zooming past a discrete area? How well attended is the race? Personally, I put this race amongst the most boring on the schedule. Rain, scandal, and wrecks seem to be the only saviors for the poor F1 TV viewer.

  21. On Le Mans, i think it would be a great thing for McLaren to get into, with Porsche dropping out and Audi gone I think the LMP1 category is in trouble, without those manufacturers I think it may be a bit hollow for McLaren to win. What would work better would be a proper GT1, GT2, 3 and 4 arrangement. I think this would capture the public’s imagination seeing McLaren P1s racing The TheFerraris and Porsche 918s (possibly even the new Merc Project One and the Red Bull Aston), the lower categories could go down to more common sports cars, BMW Z4s Lotus Elise, Caymans in GT4 would be great and surely a much better way to sell cars than some weird hybrid train looking thing which has little in common with an actual car.

    This would give McLaren the chance to race it’s ‘lesser’ cars too against 911s

  22. Makes you wonder: a lot of drivers seem to run out of contracts for 2019. On purpose by teams, most likely. With the Red Bull signs of dropping out, their top talents will not remain there, right? So how about Ricciardo at Ferrari in 2019 (it looks like they keep Raikkonen as a gap-filler, or because Vettel likes him) and Verstappen at Mercedes (why did they give Bottas a another year contract) in 2019… And if Sainz does okay at Renault, why not keep him? His contract also runs out at the end of next year?
    The only up-side at Red Bull will be Newey (and Horner, who’s not doing a bad job, in my humble opinion).

    1. “why did they give Bottas a another year contract”

      Before James Hunt signed for McLaren, he allegedly phoned the team to say, “I guess I’m your new driver.” Valtteri Bottas no doubt had a similar conversation with Mercedes following the surprise retirement of Rosberg.

      But re-signing him is a no-brainer decision. He has now shown that he can win races which will always make him more attractive than a quick driver who has never stood on the top step of an F1 podium.

  23. Watched the race from start to finish. Loved every moment of it and, OK, I confess, I was one of those dancing for joy at the Ferrari meltdown at the start. Felt really sorry for Max; he did everything right. To quote the man in the yellow helmet all those years ago; ‘if you no longer go for a gap that exists, then you’re no longer a racing driver’. Aside from Lewis’s drive, the highlight for me was the shot of Arivabenne’s face when he realised what had happened. Top stuff. The low point was on the Saturday when EJ announced that Arivabenne had promised an interview but, for some reason,……then decided against it. What a contrast with Toto; seemingly always happy to engage with TV/fans, irrespective of whether he’s won or lost. What a contrast with the Scuderia. Some say that in life, you tend to get what you deserve. That was certainly true on Sunday.

  24. ”the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, when people visit the graves of their ancestors. This is a three-day holiday from April 5-7”

    – If a reason like this is why the Chinese don’t want to keep their provisional date then why were they okay to be close to this particular national holiday this year? And furthermore, an even better alternative would be to put the Chinese GP to April 22, so that it would form back-to-back with the Azerbaijan GP as travelling from Shanghai to Baku would be easier jet lag-wise than travelling from Bahrain to Shanghai. The same applies to Japan and Russia: They should switch dates as well to lessen the impact of the jet lag as east-to-west travelling is easier jet lag-wise than west-to-east travelling., i.e., the Japanese GP to September 30th and the Russian GP to October 7th. These two suggested changes are the ones that should be made to next season’s race calendar at the very least.

    1. F1 and Liberty need to forget about Contractual Clauses for Races such as Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi and Bahrain should be partnered, Singapore and Japan should be paired and Russia and Azerbaijan need to be paired. I agree with avoiding the Football for 2018, but if the Triple Header continues (2019), it must be a Germanic Triple Header: Germany, Austria, Hungary. I agree with your point regarding travel between Japan and Russia.

      1. ”if the Triple Header continues (2019), it must be a Germanic Triple Header: Germany, Austria, Hungary.” – Yes, either that or France-Austria-Hungary. I Also agree with you regarding Abu Dhabi-Bahrain, Singapore-Japan, and Russia-Azerbaijan.

  25. Thanks for the wonderful blog yet again.

    With all these potential engine manufacturers considering to enter the sport. My question is have we got the enough teams to accommodate them.

    With Honda going to Toro Rosso next year and possibly Red Bull in 2019. Wouldnt it make sense for Honda to buy Red bull team instead of Toro Rosso? I know Aston Martin might want to be there with Red Bull

    So my following question would be with McLaren/ Cosworth/Aston Martin engine build. We know that McLaren and Aston Martin would have a team to supply. Where would this leave Cosworth? who could they supply. Let’s assume Honda sticks with Toro Rosso, Sauber will be Alfa Romeo. That would leave Haas, Williams and Force India. We know that Haas is very close to the Ferrari team, so I doubt that. so that will leave Cosworth with either Williams or Force India.

    I haven’t considered Porsche yet, so that could leave Cosworth forcing to supply the only remaining team and if that doesn’t happen, they have no one. Thus making the potential engine project worthless.

    I’m sure Mercedes/Ferrari/Renault would not want to reduce their customer supply as it offsets their engine costs. And with the new engine regulations, I’m sure there would be large upfront costs to them.

    Overall if all these guys want to join the party, F1 needs more teams…

  26. “These days, the distance between race tracks is not really the issue (unless the teams are moving by road)”
    You ever hung around the paddock in Austria overnight Sunday and Monday morning, then jumped in one of the 170 mototrhome trucks to ‘race’ off to Silverstone, arriving on Tuesday evening, only for the packdown crew to fly in, meet them, and then build it all back up again, ready for the client, on Wednesday afternoon?
    I fear it won’t be ferry strikes, border inspections, or the like to stop this madness happening; it will be the death of one or more of these crew working ridiculous hours in Austria having worked all day and night, transit to Vienna, transit to LHR, transit to Silverstone, only to work another two 20 hour shifts ready for Ted’s Notebook to say how wonderfull it is. it is VERY fortunate that injuries over the last couple of years doing this particular B2B have been relatively minor. But luck cannot hold out forever.
    Will Mr Carey take anther look at the calendar then?

  27. How amicable was the divorce bill between McLaren and Honda? Did McLaren manage to get out of it without having to pay damages as was once suggested?

      1. Given that they terminated the contract several years early, against Honda’s wishes. I don’t know if there were performance clauses in the deal that let them got out of it, but my understanding was that the divorce was to happen, it was just how messy it would all be.

        I completely agree that McLaren shouldn’t need to pay anything based on the situation, but contracts can be strange.

  28. The bit that makes no sense to me is red bull should be running at a profit , to stay in f1 till 2020 they were handed a lot of cash plus lots of sponsors & they sell a heap of caps & T shirts so why leave ?

    1. I don’t buy Red Bull tiring of F1 for one second. The media value alone is worth more than $1,000M per season. They won’t find the same return in any other sport.

      Red Bull and Red Bull Racing are very well accomplished at giving the media a few snippets of information to ensure they remain the focus of the F1 news cycle, even when they aren’t performing on track.

      Thinking back to 2014, Red Bull were apparently set to quit the sport, then come to the end of the year, after bagging the majority of media coverage, what happened? Nothing.

      We’re seeing the same thing now.

  29. Thank you Joe

    So many were influenced by hearing Coulthard and Brundle refering only to SB as the villain for trying to block MV from getting ahead into turn one…..i found slow motion footage on the ‘net that seemed to show KR fast starting and coming close alongside MV and then veering slightly to the R and making the contact that tangled the wheels turning K’s Ferrari into a 3 wheeled unguided missile that went on to cause further damage at the turn one entry….dont feel the veer R was in any way deliberate, just driver error…..when K veered to the R he had more than half a car’s width between the L side of his car to the track limit white line…

    I think SV may have allowed MV to get inside his head….slightly reminiscent of the Rossi/Marquez situation in MotoGP at the end of 2015, though those two were fighting for the championship.

    Remain intrigued by the ‘invisible swede’ and Sauber ……could this be Finn Rausing son of the late Gad, brother of Hans etc ? …or maybe Karl-Johan Persson the formaggio grande of the H&M retailer ?

    1. No idea if it’s true, but it’s been suggested that SV was actually psyched out by *Hamilton’s* wet weather reputation. Hence his desperation to hold the lead at the start. Given the championship position, I can see the force of the argument (otherwise, why risk it?), but who knows. Certainly Ham felt that the rain was going to bring him right back into contention, and if he was deliberately trying to psych Seb out playing that up, it doesn’t seem to have hurt…

  30. We don’t see Singapore as you do because we cannot see the magic city or relate to the ambience. Our view on TV is of threatening walls and nasty catch fencing. With the addition of rain it was a real test of Lewis’ ability which he passed with flying colours, possibly his greatest drive. In my view it was up there with JB Canada 2011 one of the finest demonstrations of car control this century. You have seen both, wot think?

  31. Wow great info about airport lounges. I feel that Punta Cana International Airport VIP Lounge, Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge & Spa, Etihad Airways and Al Safwa Lounge were the world’s coolest airport lounges because the Swimming pools, butler service and luxury spas everything in those lounges were the best in the world.

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