Notebook from Iztacalco

In the days of the Conquistadors, this place used to be an island in Lake Texcoco, not that you would know it today. The Spanish drained much of the valley, but there remained a complex maze of chinampas, artificial islands created to provide protection for the residents, and to grow food. These appeared to be like floating gardens and they gradually disappeared and today the area is just another neighbourhood in the vast urban sprawl that is Mexico City. Around 20 million people now live here, in the valley in the shadow of the volcanoes of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. It is a high plateau, over 7,000 ft, higher than Ben Nevis, Mont Ventoux and even Vesuvius, and it has the rather colourful name of El Valle de los Malditos, the Valley of the Damned. In this chaotic city there are ancient pyramids and palaces alongside the cathedrals, bull rings and plazas that the Spanish built.

You have to have a few days to spare if you want to learn the history of the Ciudad de México for it covers the Maya and Aztec civilizations, the Spanish conquest and colonial era and then revolutions and doomed empires, a period when the French were in charge, civil wars and military rule. Today Mexico is a complicated place where the rich and the poor live side-by-side and brutal drug-trafficking cartels engage in bloody warfare. At the same time, it has long been a playground for Americans, who head south to enjoy cheap entertainments of various kinds. Mexico makes around $20 billion a year from tourism and, with the peso trading at around 25 percent below its 10-year average, one would expect the trade to be booming, but the violence has led to a US State Department travel advisory in August, warning US citizens not to go south.

Even before that happened, Mexico was looking at ways to build up its tourist trade, based on its wealth of culture and its spectacular sights. The Mexican Grand Prix is part of that process and the Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) festival is a big draw. Celebrating the dead is deep-rooted tradition in Mexico and rather than being sombre or melancholic, it is joyful, celebrating life with music and dancing yet also remembering the departed. It was particularly poignant this year because of the recent earthquakes. There are all kinds of traditions, including orange marigolds, cookies for the dead and a skeletal lady with a big flowery hat, known as La Catrina (right), who is an integral part of the festival. Perhaps it was these bizarre traditions that made Mexico seem such a cool place for creative types, back in the 1920s and 1930s when the likes of DH Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Malcolm Lowry all found inspiration for their great literary works. More recently life has imitated art with the authorities in Mexico City deciding to create a big Day of the Dead parade, after one was featured in the James Bond movie Spectre. This was the second year and around half a million people turned up to watch ghoulish floats, giant skeleton marionettes and hundreds of actors, dancers and acrobats, dressed in macabre costumes.

The Day of the Dead festival was the theme in the background at the Grand Prix and one grew accustomed to bumping into people made-up to look dead, notably at the welcome desk in the Media Centre (left). After several weeks of mad travelling around the world some of the F1 circus didn’t really need the make-up. We’re getting towards the end of the season and Mexico was to be the race at which the Drivers’ title would be settled, the Constructors’ having been done in Austin, a week earlier.

The Mexico 2017 pages in green notebook begin with notes about the rather dull question of track limits, following the series of unfortunate events in Austin where Max Verstappen was deprived of a well-deserved podium after he passed Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari on the last lap with all four wheels over a white line. One cannot fault the decision of the stewards if one follows the rules to the letter, but there is no doubt that the five-second penalty that knocked Max back to fourth place ruined the spectacle. It was a head-on collision between two very different cultures: the spectacular heroes of F1 and the folk who live by red tape. The FIA argues that it must uphold the rules and the buccaneers say that they are there to put on a show. Both are right and both are wrong. It was a clash that happened again on Sunday when Sebastian Vettel ran into the back of Lewis Hamilton at the third turn. Hamilton suffered a right rear puncture. Vettel was clearly to blame, Hamilton was the victim. In the past similar mistakes have been punished because of the impact they had on other racers, but the teams argue that the stewards should not get involved and allow the racers to race, and so they must accept this for what it was. Vettel’s mistake went unpunished and one was left with the impression that the stewards in Mexico did not want to fall into the trap into which their colleagues in Austin jumped feet first. They didn’t want to ruin the show. At the end of the day, Lewis won the title and didn’t care about the incident. He laughed and said he was not interested. In Austin red tape won, in Mexico it was the day for the buccaneers.

Interestingly, the driver steward in Mexico was Tom Kristensen, the multiple Le Mans winner, who is also the head of the FIA Drivers’ Commission. He is quietly campaigning to have a definitive solution over the question of track limits, with the drivers being allowed to have a voice in the decision-making. Whether this is done by returning to traditional track-side grass (which would be expensive for the circuits) or policed using electronic means (which is possible) it would at least mean that drivers would know where they stand.

There was much discussion in the paddock about Verstappen’s new deal with Red Bull, with whispers which suggest that the no-longer-teenage Max has a contract which, when all bonuses are included, is in the same league as the contract that Hamilton enjoys and is worth around three times what he was previously being paid. That was reckoned to be around $15 million a year, so triple that and you have a good guess at Max’s new deal. The big question now is whether Red Bull is going to keep Daniel Ricciardo when his contract runs out at the end of 2018. Daniel seems to be a good fit for the team and is almost on Max’s pace. He could go to Ferrari but Sebastian may say he doesn’t care but will no doubt remember that Danny Ric had the measure of him in 2014 when the Australian finished third in the World Championship with three wins and 238 points, and Vettel was fifth, without a victory and scoring only 167 points.

Ricciardo says he would like to take on Hamilton at Mercedes. Lewis says that he wouldn’t mind that battle, but added that Daniel really needs to beat Max before thinking about getting signed elsewhere. The word is that Daniel will stay at Red Bull and there is talk of a $10 million deal. Elsewhere in the Red Bull empire, Desperate Dan Kvyat has been cast into the abyss because he didn’t do quite enough and now Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly are expected to be the Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers in 2018. There were rumours in Mexico that Kvyat might be able to find Russian sponsorship and so could perhaps become an option for Williams, although at the moment the choice remains: Felipe Massa, Paul di Resta, Robert Kubica and Pascal Wehrlein.

There was plenty of talk about the big meetings about the new engine and, coming soon, the plans for the redistribution of revenues. Lots of journalists have been slapping “exclusive” on their stories and claiming different things, but it is clear that there is change coming and that the big teams are going to have accept what is on offer, or they will need to walk the walk. Formula 1 being the powerful tool that it is for them, they don’t really have a choice, although ego can sometimes overpower logic. One subject who has been much discussed in recent days is Sergio Marchionne (right), the boss of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), who is the man who really calls the shots at Ferrari. There is talk that he will eventually flick team principal Maurizio Arrivabene into a skip branded with a Prancing Horse, and the whisper is that Mattia Binotto, the technical chief of Gestione Sportiva, may be given the role, but others think things will be a little different with Arrivabene perhaps staying on until early 2019 when Marchionne retires from FCA. Perhaps he has ambitions of his own to be team principal at Maranello, in addition to being chairman and CEO. Others say that we should keep an eye open for a lady called Lucia Pennesi, who is commercial and marketing director at Gestione Sportiva, in whom Marchionne seems to have great confidence. Might there be a female Ferrari team principal, or is that too radical a suggestion for a company that has only 12 percent of its customers being women, but has ambitions to attract more lady buyers in the future. For now, that probably belongs in the file marked “wild speculation”.

Something else that turned heads on the grid in Mexico was the presence of NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, his second visit to a Grand Prix in four races. Gordon retired from NASCAR at the end of 2015, but came back for a few races last year to help the Hendrick team. This year he is working as commentator and a sponsors ambassador, but it should be remembered that he is also a Hendrick shareholder and many see him as being the man who will take over for Rick Hendrick when the 68-year-old when he decides he has had enough. Hendrick’s only child Ricky was killed in a plane crash in 2004. Gordon (46) has always been keen on F1 – he did a car swap test with Juan Pablo Montoya back in 2003 – and no doubt he and Hendrick will have noted the way in which rival NASCAR owner Gene Haas has created an F1 team. The fact that the Formula 1 business is now US-owned and managed and that there are big plans to push into the US market might perhaps add up to an interesting story in the future. But again that is one for the “wild speculation” file.
What is not wild speculation is the fact that Mexico is really into F1 at the moment. There were 6,000 VIP guests in the Paddock Club at the weekend and the locals even joked about needing the army to be sent in at the end of the weekend to get the last of them out of the building. This fixation on F1 has impacted rather on Indycar and Esteban Gutierrez. The US racing series wants to have a race in Mexico City but has yet to find the funding to do the deal, while Gutierrez is keen to race Indycars but needs money to land a deal.

Mexican GP promoter Alejandro Soberon recognises that he is on to a winner with the F1 race and has responded to suggestions from Austin promoter Bobby Epstein that the Mexican GP be moved to a June date, by saying that as much as he likes Epstein, “it will make even more sense to have Canada and the States, which are closer, together.”

Soberon said that it is impossible to move the Mexican race. “The Day of the Dead holiday has just become a big festival in the city,” he said.

It was interesting to note that Chloe Targett-Adams, the global director of promoter relations at Formula 1, spent a lot of her weekend with three gentlemen from Argentina. Federico Gastaldi, once the deputy team principal of Lotus, is a well-known figure, who used to promote the Argentine GP back in the 1990s, but Marcelo Figoli of Fenix Entertainment is less known (for the moment). Fenix is a big music promoter in Argentina and has promoted the Formula E race in Buenos Aires, but now has ambitions to get a Grand Prix once again. That would require government backing but recent legislative elections have made it possible for President Mauricio Macri to have more freedom of movement, with the opposition Justicialista party having suffered serious losses.

Macri wants a race in Buenos Aires in order to boost Argentine tourism and as a former mayor of the city still has influence with Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who is now in charge. Much has been done to the Argentine economy since Macri took over and one can envisage a race down there in 2020, as the event in Brazil is now struggling seriously.

Another race that could be struggling is the Spanish Grand Prix which could get caught in the crossfire in the ongoing constitutional crisis in Spain. The race has long been the brainchild of the Generalitat de Catalunya, which joined forces with the Reial Automobile Club de Catalunya (RACC) and the town of Montmelo to fund the construction of the Circuit de Catalunya nearly 30 years ago. The Grand Prix is promoted by the Circuits de Catalunya SL company 72 percent owned by the Generalitat, with the remaining shares being split between the RACC (18 percent) and Montmelo (10 percent). Much depends on who is in charge, but will the Spanish in Madrid want to continue funding an event which has always aimed to promote Catalonia?

Things change in the world and it was worth noting the presence of Fredrik Johnsson,the CEO of the Race of Champions in Mexico to recruit for the next event. Johnsson is planning to hold the next ROC in Saudi Arabia in early February 2018 in the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. Things are changing in Saudi Arabia with the arrival in the summer of 32-year-old Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as the new Crown Prince, who is the first in line to the throne, which is currently held by his father 81-year-old King Salman. He seem to have behind the move to allow women to drive and to let them attend sporting events.

78 thoughts on “Notebook from Iztacalco

  1. Looking forwards to seeing the two Force India drivers “race” now they have secured 4th in the WCC.

    I think this year as a result of Ocon has been a huge turning point in Perezs career. I cannot see him being a prospect for moving up to a more competitive team anymore.

    1. I’m not so sure about that. Perez’s pace was still really good on Sunday, but his two-stop strategy was simply non-optimal. Ocon will be at Mercedes in a couple of years, I’m sure. There’s still going to be a gap at Ferrari where Raikkonen is too old and Leclerc is too young, and I expect Perez will remain in the frame to fill it.

  2. Great stuff as always, Joe. We were very excited to read this GP+ and the Notebook three of us, good friends all, managed to attend this year’s GP. We sat in the Gray Zone, facing north, with the paddock club just to our right. It was the first GP experience for two of us and the entire weekend was spectacular, with a few exceptions.
    The energy in the stands was absolutely invigorating and infectous: by the end of race, we were cheering for Max and his job, well-done, as well as Lewis and his victory in concert with our preferred drivers. Everyone in the stands was good-natured and the employees in the vendor booths were full of great conversation and helpful, regardless of being exhausted and happy the season was nearing an end.
    The integration of Mexican culture and history into the aesthetic of the graphic theme of the GP, from the tickets to the paddock club, was wonderful. The Day of Dead parade and dance right in the bowl was hallucinatory and magical. And, of course, the energy of the race itself was something so awe-inspiring and powerful, we were on the edge of being completely overwhelmed. It was wonderous.
    I think our only qualms, which we’ll pass on to F1 in their post-race survey, was the food: I had anticipated heaps of carnitas and bistek, ready for tacos; tortillas and cheese, heating for quesadillas; and any number of other Mexican delights to go with our beers. We were disappointed (but not surprised) to see the Domino’s, purveyors of fast but terrible pizza, had a strangle-hold on the food rights and sustained ourselves on over-priced beer. That’s probably an issue of the promoter/track-owner.
    The other bummer was that we couldn’t get access to the F1 Village without forking over a serious chunk of change. Our Zona Gris tickets weren’t cheap, but the entertainment/hour was worth the money. (The support races were all a lot of fun and I think the three of us are new, big fans of Porsche Supercup.) But the Green Zone or Blue Zone were waaaaay out of our budget. Doesn’t seem right to limit the F1 experience to the most expensive zones. We’d’ve happily paid an access fee to the F1 Village.
    We were appropriately blown away, after the podium ceremony, when (like a puff of smoke that would allow a high-priest to “disappear” atop an Aztec pyramid, shocking his people) the podium rotated and the track became a day club disco. We watched the crowd go nuts with joy and realized that this is how F1 would gather a younger following: Have a party after the party after the party. It was ridiculous and fun, a little like F1. Curious: Did you hear if anyone got truly hurt by the pyrotechnics or how close the paddock came to igniting? Because, from our vantage, those folks looked pretty scared. Then the bass kept on droppin’ and the party kept rollin’.
    We had a spectacular time and can’t wait to try for Austin or Montreal next year!
    Thanks for all your great reporting this season. It truly has deepened and enriched the way we enjoy the sport!

    1. I went to the Mexican GP last year and quite enjoyed it – got sunburnt to buggery though. Loved Mexico City actually.

      But I couldn’t help thinking while reading your post of the old days of F1. Of whiskery blokes pulling up in Transit vans full of tools to work on Tyrells, Heskeths and McLarens, and before that BRMs, Vanwalls and Coopers, with fans able to wander at will, maybe a greasy burger or a cod and chip supper if you were lucky, warm beers all round, and then hooking the cars onto trailers and heading off to the next race with the drivers sharing camper vans.

      As much as I appreciate that daytime discos, pyrotechnics, parades and fast food franchises are the way of the future, man, I think I’d have picked the old days and the old ways every time.

      1. Thought I was old but even the garagistes in F1 used something a bit smarter than a Trani to move themselves around. For those of us lower down the pecking order trailers and an appropriate tow vehicle were the order of the day. That all changed when you know who found he could get a cut from the fancy transporter manufacturers so every class then had to have a “standard”. Supposed to look good on the aerial TV shots, all lined up to millimetre precision administered by a volunteer escaping from his normally highly remunerated City job so that even more dosh could go to the pension fund !
        As for the rest of the scenario yes it was much more fun and intimate and generally with the same number of spectators. The loos weren’t too pleasant though.

  3. Regarding Ricciardo v. Vettel in 2014, did I not once read a whispered suggestion, somewhere on these very pages, that Seb deliberately let himself end up fifth that year so that he would be free of his contract and thus able to go to Ferrari without any penalty?

    Although I suspect Dan would beat him anyway…

    1. I remember 2 of 3 races Ricc won in 2014 would have been won by Seb but team strategy ‘faults’ did force him. Hungary and Canada from memory……so keep the goal flat. And Vettel had more technical issues. It’s easy to say Ricc was better in 2014…..reality was different though.

        1. Yes numbers are numbers but they often don’t tell the whole story.

          For example Lance Stroll is ahead of Massa, Ricciardo is ahead of Verstappen and Vandoorne is ahead of Alonso in the standings. Would you agree that these are all fortunate and actually the reverse of the general level of performance between each team mate this year?

          From what I can recall Ricciardo did seem to genuinely have the edge over Vettel, he wasn’t sandbagging to get a move he was genuinely trying. I don’t think it was the crushing domination that it would appear on the surface though there were some extenuating circumstances.

  4. Dear shoe,
    Thank you for another insightful notebook. I always enjoy them.

    Do you see the high driver salary spend at Red Bull to be consistent with the rumour of a pending Red Bull exit from the sport? Or are secure driver contracts seen as an asset that boots the valuation rather than a financial liability?

    Thank you.

  5. Hasn’t Marchionne promoted a woman from the FCA division to take over the quality controls at Ferrari? If Lucia is the best candidate for the job I doubt Marchionne would hesitate; from everything I’ve read about him I doubt gender would even come into it.

    As to Arrivabene, wasn’t he historically a promotions guy at Marlboro. I don’t think he’s an engineer in any sense.

    Personally, I’d be offering Bob Fearnley the keys to the Maranello coffers, considering what he achieves with Force Indias modest budget

      1. “Jim
        Its not Bob its Otmar that is behind Force India’s performance”

        That sounds like an off season article if ever there was one. Joe, what is your take on the performance at FI given the backdrop financial and legal shenanigans around the owners ?

        Personally I think its a credit to the line management in the team that FI seem to keep a stable workforce and don’t deal in the “star designers and engineers” poker game “Williams springs to mind” .

        They seem to have a good grounded team.

  6. I loved watching the show in Mexico. I lived there for several years and fromthe places I´ve lived in and people I´ve lived with, it was the tops. Though that it is many years ago, it was clear from the show that the values and the complexities of Mexican life have not changed. As you say, and what I really appreciate in your writings, Mexico is a place which merits some study,

    Now living in Madrid, I don´t see a current threat to the GP in Barcelona, which is promoted as a Spanish event (correct, in its early years the GP was imortant in the “branding” of Catalunia, as were the Olympics).

    Hope that Ferrari do not looking for scapegoats. Compared with last year, they have made miracles happen and it should be something to build on rather than tear down. They must sack Kimi, if they want to reduce the gap to MB (2nd or 3rd year that KR would be paid not to drive?). I really don´t believe that Vettel has a veto on a faster driver, as he seems to be able to deal with them on the track when the need arrives. But Kimi´s failure to get the best performance out of the car must be costing on average 3-5 points a race, a big number over a season.

  7. Hi Joe, is there anything to be said about the fact that Lance Stroll has started wearing Martini T shirts again? Is this governed by local regulations, meaning that a younger driver can advertise the drink in places like Mexico? Or is it a sign of Martini stepping out of the voluntary agreement, and that we might see Wehrlein in a Williams after all?

    Thanks for the notebook again, truly a highlight of the beginning of each week.

  8. In regards to Spain, didn’t you say being part of the Eurozone prevented potential civil wars, and that’s why the UK was foolish to vote for Brexit, seems the Spanish and the Catalonians forgot to reed to the script.

    Yeah I know, I’m being a bit cheeky 🙂

    1. Taking into account that it seems to be a good spirited comment, let me point out some facts regarding the issue:
      – Catalonians and Spanish are the same thing, not confronted factions (as much as welsh and british are not different things);
      – There is nothing barely resembling “civil war”, the issue is being handled trough lawful proceedings and quite peacefully so far, whether you like or not the outcome. In fact there would be elections in Catalonia y less than two months;
      – Many in Catalonia regard “Catexit” as foolish as “Brexit”;
      – Doesn´t seem in Spain that the GP (or the WRC for the same matter) is at danger at all. In fact there would be a new catalonian governmet by years end with fully restored powers as long as they abide with the law.

  9. Joe, have you heard any more about Budkowski?

    And is it crediting Abiteboul with too much subtlety to imagine that his recent comments about Mercedes’ contract provisions was an invitation to agree a quid pro quo?

          1. Thank you. I had the feeling that some alternative arrangement might have been made to delay his arrival.

            I just hope that he’s the right man for the job. I don’t quite see what in his cv is going to give him the experience to put the right processes in place.

  10. Re. track limits – isn’t the big difference that Max *benefited*, whereas Vettel actually lost out (in terms of the championship, even though it kept him ahead of Hamilton on the track)?

    Surely there’s a stronger case for lenience in a case where a driver has already been punished by their own misjudgement, as opposed to one in which they have actually gained an advantage?

  11. It was a dark and stormy night when Joe returned to his creaking revolving chair in his Paris office. His jet-lagged cap hanging next to his trenchcoat cast a shadow on the door’s tainted glass where the words Joe & Partners appeared in golden letters. His last weekend had been filled with stories of dead and ghosts, with breaking news and historical achievements. His investigations into the maelstrom of millionaire businesses were always close to truth but sources and incognito names needed secrecy. He opened his green mole skin notebook on the old desk and turned around in a squeak that reminded him of his old Citroën DS needing another liter of her monthly Elf lubricant. Facing his old metal filing cabinet, he opened the lower drawer and took out the “wild speculations” file.
    As the coincidental thunder and lightning boomed a bright light across the poor-lit room, his attention turned to the human figure that silently stood where the door was once closed.
    He knew the time had come for another storm of fast and dark money when he realised that Ms Lucia Pennesi had decided that Joe was more worthy of a visit than the faubourg St Honoré….

  12. Joe, regarding track limits, what do you make of Vettel’s pass on Massa, in which he was clearly off track and ended up in front. Should it have been at least investigated? Thanks as always for a great notebook.

    1. It’s funny that Joe continues to bang on about the penalty for Max “ruining the spectacle” of that race for the fans, yet from what I have seen it seems that a sizeable majority of the fans agreed that Max did deserve to be penalised (a number of sites have run polls on the matter, and around 70% of the respondents agreed that the penalty was deserved).

      I wonder whether he’d have been so passionate if it had involved, say, two midfield drivers instead – if, say, Sainz Jr had passed Ocon for 6th place with such a move, would he care so much, or are they simply not important enough?

        1. It might be important for the “show”, but it’s also supposed to be a sport. One where rules need to be upheld.

        2. I am normally all for having a good show, and there is a lot that Liberty / FIA could change, but in this instance, Max was wrong. Put simply, he cheated by taking a short-cut.

          I am certain, if a boring football match got to the 89th minute at 0-0 and a player scored a cracking goal from an off-side position, you would hardly expect the ref to turn a blind-eye to the outcome.

          I think even a casual observer of motorsport can understand this very basic principle.

            1. Yes.

              He out-braked Herta in one corner and so could not complete the following turn without running off the circuit.

              Unlike COTA, cutting the corner did mean a change of surface, but under FIA Sporting Regulations, he did gain an unfair advantage.

              Therein lies the difference.

              1. Zanardi was completely off track during that pass (don’t know how to add a picture, but you could also use google)…. and he is still remembered for it after 20 years without any doubt of it being a great pass (except maybe for Herta)

      1. It is clearly a matter of record that the FIA has adjudged that Max deliberately broke the rules in order to gain a significantly rewarding competitive advantage; honour and award. Since then, many on this site as well as on other sites have argued; continue to contend that although Max committed an infraction, the penalty imposed was too harsh; too severe; or too punishing. Some have even suggested that zero punishment was apt.

        Writing on some of the leading (sites, e.g., The Telegraph, BBC) I noticed that significant number of thoughtful pro – penalty group members have been wondering whether it is now the accepted norm that cheating is okay as long as a large number of fans in attendance cheered; as long as significant numbers of the members of the press core cheered; as long as the incident served to stimulate heightened feelings of excitements in viewers; And as long as Max’s illegal performance helped to enhance the show.

        Further, they, the pro-penalty group, are concerned that the significant anecdotal evidence, an apparent tolerance for or indifference to rule breaking that emerged from Austin could be indicative of the fact that we are witnessing the decline and debasement of our value system.

        They also are concerned that our children and grandchildren might begin to believe that we now live in an era where anything goes. And asked if we really want our children to learn such modes of behaviours?

        On Sunday, in Austin, hundreds, if not thousands, of children watched that race at home. On Sunday, in Austin, hundred, if not thousands, of children (some very, very young) were in attendance. Certainly their take away from that exciting event should not be that breaching or breaking rules are okay?

        So failure to set good examples might risk contributing to the impoverishment of the minds of the young.

  13. Interesting that Red Bull value Max so far above Danny despite the latter doing a so much better job and scoring most of the points. Yes, there are excuses but sometimes the driver leans on the car too hard. It is not as though Max compares with Lewis who so nearly won the Championship in his first season.
    There will be more well trained young drivers coming through next year, some in halfway decent cars though none as lucky as Max. To use the current mantra, we will see.

  14. Wow, Red Bull really are giving Max a chunk of change! It’s no surprise he’s opted to stay put, earning that kind of dollar with so much time on his side. Hamilton makes a fair point about Danny Ricc. He’s capable of leading a top team to glory, but his stock will be a lot higher if he demonstrates he can go toe-to-toe with Max in a straight (i.e not reliability-compromised) fight. I still think he’ll end up taking Alonso’s seat at McLaren, but this is solely down to gut feeling on my part.

    The new engine specs looks neither here nor there, to me. It gets rid of the MGU-H, arguably the most bleeding edge and important aspect of development for F1’s wider relevance, but retains enough of the existing spec to ensure the units remain jolly expensive. Time will tell, but I suspect this is the kind of grubby compromise that leaves nobody happy.

  15. Joe, I disagree that Turn 2-3 in Mexico was Vettel’s fault. To me it’s just a racing incident (like Singapore?) but if you really have to point fingers, I have to say it was Max. Again, I have nothing against Max and I enjoyed every bit of that short battle, but it’s actually him that cuts across Vettel on the exit of 2, then Lewis going into turn 3 and again while exiting. As a consequence, it looks like Lewis needs to back off a bit (exit of turn 3) and he’s unfortunately in the path of Seb.

    Would love to hear if you can see it that way. Also great way of putting the Austin drama into perspective, I totally agree.

      1. All road crashes in the UK are now called RTC instead of RTA. The notion being all are avoidable and someone’s fault. (Road Traffic Collisions as opposed to Accidents)

        1. Racing is not allowed on a public highway in the UK.

          This was a racing incident on a race track, notwithstanding the reality that it tended to ruin a potentially exciting race.

            1. The law actually permits the closure of a public highway, so that it can be temporarily used as a race track.

              The key issue was not to require an Act of Parliament to achieve that objective.

      2. +1. To me, the cause of the ‘incident’ in Mexico was clear. In much less than a split second, SV had a decision to make and he chose the wrong option. The kind of decision he was faced with wasn’t that dissimilar to the decisions his more illustrious fellow countryman was faced with in both Adelaide ’94 (when he took Damon out) and Jerez (’97 I think) – when he attempted to do the same to JV.

  16. various details, contracts and negotiations are meant to be confident, right? unless someone wants to put some stinkbomb in someone elses paradise. so how it comes that most of that is publicly known even before it happens? i mean fia, teams, drive(r)s and so on. does it mean that all involved in f1 are leaking like a strainer and no one can be trusted ?

    1. The word is confidential. Confident is something completely different. As to leaks, information flows if you know the right people, the skill is knowing what is right and what is wrong.

      1. An awful lot of useful misinformation gets thrown around in F1. We rely on the skills of people like you to filter it!

  17. A beautiful post-mortem on the Day of the Dead. I love the concise, cogent, at times lovely, sing-song prose. The mention of Malcolm Lowry should be an invitation to anyone who has never read Under the Volcano to read about the Day of the Dead from a wildly different, alcohol-fueled perspective. Albeit nothing to do with motorsports. (Albert Finney also starred brilliantly in an otherwise fairly good movie version.)

    MV’s projected salary boggles the mind. But I guess it is like buying Amazon at $40 a share. To think that a mere four seasons ago the “kid” was in his first season out of karting…Now he’s making LH’s kind of money?? What next? An orange Bombardier?

    With the championships already decided it is time, perhaps past-due, to start speculating about 2018. Provided no team jumps the others with stunning techno advances (i.e. engine power) we should see Hamilton/Mercedes battling tooth-and-nail with Vettel/Ferrari, Alonso/McLaren (with Renault power) along with MV & DR at Red Bull, perhaps the best driver lineup in F1. Could be an epic season. Anyone laying odds?

    I’m prejudiced: MV. A first World Championship at age 21.

  18. About track limits… Would it be possible to place a sensor similar to a timing line along the edges of the track in appropriate places (inside of corners and exits of corners) and another sensor somewhere along the centerline of the car? Sensor on the car crosses the sensor line in the track and a time penalty could be applied immediately. To my understanding, there are timing sensors all over the track for sector and sub-sector times so why couldn’t something like this be applied or am I not understanding the technology?

    1. I could certainly imagine track limits determined by GPS. If the car travels onto a certain position (as indicated by its own GPS), at a certain speed (i.e. that the driver isn’t off track because of an incident), then a signal goes off.

      Something based around the same technology that is being developed for autonomous cars.

      1. You would be looking for something with a 1m accuracy, if you measured from the centre of the car.

        I doubt that the US defence department work to that degree of accuracy.

        The car accurately knows where it is along the track by knowing the distance travelled from a trackside sensor.

    2. Surely, most of the debate is not concerning a technical infringement but whether a penalty is the correct and racing continue? I don’t think we’re talking millimetres here, rather, common sense.

    3. Steve W – I think you’re missing the point. You don’t need electronic sensors to determine whether a car exceeded track limits, you can paint a line on the road and apply a penalty if the tire is over that line, with tv cameras set up to monitor any problematic sections of track. The problem is that applying time penalties ruins the race because when drivers are battling for position, they have to push to the absolute limit and will sometimes drift over that line. You will inevitably end up penalizing situations such as MV’s overtake, then people complain because you’ve ruined an exciting race.

      A much better solution is to design the track so that exceeding the track limits will be slower or will cause a spin. For example, if you have a low-grip surface (gravel for example) outside the track limits, drivers are rewarded for pushing right to the limit of the track, but penalized for exceeding it. This makes for exciting racing, whereas time penalties make for boring racing.

  19. Track limits could easily be enforced by a sensor recognizing a car is off the track and applying a speed limiter for a few seconds.

  20. On the topic of “the show” I really hate the way the teams roll out the screens and hide in the pits whenever they can. I might have some sympathy for them wanting to hide the new secrets at the pre season tests but once the season gets underway I think the media should have open access to the pits. Respecting the safety requirements of course.

    I suspect I am in a minority here but a large part of the enjoyment I get from the sport is the engineering and design. Seeing the cars in the flesh without bodywork, being able to watch the TV crew gets close up shots adds to the event for me.

    From racing purity and cost perspective the multiplicity of aero parts is a nightmare, but when you have some knowledge of aero and engineering they are a marvel to behold.

    1. I think that as part of a sensible cost cap and improving the show, it should be imperative that all iterations of new bits are declared to the public and therefore other teams.

      It would help to put an effective brake on runaway development costs.

    2. I think many of the discerning folks who read GP+ and this blog share your appreciation of the details of the cars (and the historical context) and wish we could see more tech features in the coverage. I can’t watch a F1 race without thinking how crazy mad it all is, hundreds of skilled and imaginative people creating these fine contraptions and then handing them over to the best drivers in the world to do their best with. I was happy that LH’s post-championship comments made gracious reference to his recognition of how sweet that is.

  21. Joe so do you expect the Spanish GP not be on the 2018 calendar? This could throw this also throw 2018 pre season testing into chaos as teams will not want test and collect data on a circuit where there is no GP.

    1. As of today, I’d bet that government in Madrid will do everything to pretend that nothing has changed in terms of Catalunya being Spain, and pay the money on behalf of Catalunya government (currently suspended) so the race could go as planned under the name of Spanish GP.
      However, no-one can tell what happens in next months, with new local election on schedule.

      1. All well and good but if the contract is with an entity that no longer exists, surely a new contract is necessary.

    2. They didn’t seem to have a huge issue with pounding around Valencia and Jerez over the years? Personally I’d prefer to see them test somewhere else than a known track as it reduces the variability if they know everything already.

  22. We’re into the book season and hidden beneath the hype over a F1 mechanics book, I see the Lord of Aero, Adrian Newey has written his autobiography. I’ll be down to Waterstones next week to scope it out.

      1. @Joe – I found accidentally on Amazon. It doesn’t even get a mention on the RB website. Perhaps Adrian is being tight with the free copies.

  23. Joe, has anyone (FOM, FIA, Liberty, etc.) said anything about increasing the number of grid slots available? If these new rules do actually result in lots of people wishing to enter (which sounds like a big if given the comments from Mercedes and Renault), only having room for two new teams seems a bit counter-productive.

    I’ve always thought that the current idea of having only 24 cars/12 teams – but effectively preferring only 10 – was a Bernie device to limit the amount of prize money to be paid out.

    1. If they go to three abreast grids, no increase in slots necessary, there’ll be so much more room down the back….(just kidding).

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