Green Notebook from the kitchen

I hope that the freezing weather conditions across the northern hemisphere will not impact on the reader’s ability to take in complex information because this column will require a certain amount of neural electricity. My apologies, but I don’t make the rules…

F1 is all about freezing conditions his week – and not just when it comes to the weather forecast. The F1 Commission meets on Thursday and there is much discussion about the delicate question of the engine freeze. Oh, and I dare say there will also be some discussion about how to deal with the pandemic…

The voting structures are all secret (and decidedly) arcane, but we are just relying on leaks of information about it all works.

There are 12 members of the commission (on most occasions), but this can be expanded to 16 with the addition of one representative of each of the four engine manufacturer, when the vote relates to power units. In reality, this means the same 12 people, but some of them gain extra votes. Thus, for example, Toto Wolff will have two votes: one for the Mercedes team, and one for the Mercedes engine. So you would think that 12 plus four equals 16… and so a majority would be eight votes. Ah, no…

If only life was so simple. A simple majority does not actually mean a simple majority because while each of the teams gets one vote the FIA and Formula 1 each get 10 votes apiece thus creating a total of 34 votes. 

So 17 is a majority? Ah… no. Because the simple majority refers only to the 10 votes of the teams. Thus to win a vote one must win 27 of the 34 votes. Are you still following?

Of course this does not take into account the practical politics involved which means that it would be unwise for a customer to go against the engine supplier, on whom they rely for their horsepower. So in practical – but not absolute – terms the aforementioned Big Bad Wolff can really call on five votes, while Renault can scrape together just two. Ferrari effectively has four and Honda three.

Anyway, all of this is fun and games but does not take into account sensible realities. An engine freeze is a good thing for Formula 1 because it means that car companies can spend their money on developing new engines for the cheaper engine formula in the future, rather than on the expensive power units of today. And if they agree to the freeze, these new engines can come a year earlier than planned. If Ferrari and others think this is unfair, it is because they are not competitive and one can only say that if they had done a better job in the past they would not be in this mess.

For those who might not know why engine freezing is important, one should add that the two Red Bull teams will take over the Honda engine project at the end of 2021, if the engine development is frozen from the start of 2022. If not, there is a chance (and how big a chance one cannot say) that Red Bull will fold up its teepees and take its sponsorship off to a hovercraft racing or bicycling on mountain ledges. And F1 really needs Red Bull to stick around. So, for the good of the sport we need an engine freeze.

Now some might leap in at this point and say: “Ah, but Ferrari has a veto” which is true, but the terms of this veto (which are even more secret) have certain conditions that make it difficult to use. The veto can only be exercised if it is not “prejudicial to the traditional values of the championship and/or the image of the FIA” and that the new regulations were “likely to have a substantial impact” on Ferrari’s “legitimate interest”.

Given the secret deal between Ferrari and the FIA last year over what Ferrari did with its engines in 2019, I think the word “legitimate” might create some arguments.

The best solution would appear to be to freeze the engines in 2022, 2023 and 2024 and let everyone have another go wit the new engines in 2025.  This, aligned with a change in chassis regulations at the same time, would be far more likely to create a new pecking order than any expensive development race between now and then.

The plan is for the new engines to be considerably cheaper as well and that will impact of the decision-making, as it will mean a much more cost-effective F1.

Anyhow, that is the thing of the moment. 

My apologies for the quiet period before the recent TV viewing figures and the announcement that Lewis Hamilton is staying where he is for another year. To be honest neither is a great surprise. I was having some time off.

The thing that all fans should be waiting for is Liberty Media’s announcement of its 2020 Q4 figures on Friday, February 26. Once we have the Q4 figures, we have the Full Year figures and once we have those we will know the scale of the disaster that the COVID-19 pandemic will have wrought on the sport.

Why is this important? Because all the financial calculations for team revenues from the commercial rights holder are based on the annual revenue figures of the previous year. Once we know that number then calculators can start fizzing and teams can work out how much they are going to get. The signs are that it could be as much as 50 percent less than last year. But we don’t know for sure.

Generally-speaking, stock market listed companies tend not to play with their numbers too much and work to what are called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) standards, but that does not mean that firms cannot work hard to make their numbers look better in order to keep their share price up.

Of course, there are other occasions when one might want to make the numbers look worse and so they pile all the bad things into a mediocre year and then they will very look good when they bounce back a year from now. And you really have to know about accounting to see what they do. There are lots of ways to overstate and understate assets and liabilities, using such things as contingent liabilities, revenue acceleration and using subsidiaries, ownership investments, and joint ventures to boost assets. Usually this is done to give the appearance of a solid business so that credit can be obtained at low interest rates or better terms for debt financing. This may all sound a bit dodgy, but most of it is entirely legal.

This was all explained to me many years by a very clever forensic accountant, who said that it was a waste of time for non-financial journalists (and wannabes) to try to figure out what is really happening with companies based on the income statements and balance sheets, because if one does not know the what the accountant was trying to achieve, it is very hard to spot the tricks that they can use.

So I don’t waste too much energy on analysing cooked books each winter, but rather I enjoy the delights of cookbooks.

In the summer months we F1 types don’t get much time for delightful things such as families, gardens, cooking and pastimes that do not involve noisy cars. So when there is a lull in the action, it is a great chance to fill the days with such pleasures and not worry too much about the number of page views that one is generating (or not).

February is troublesome in some respects as gardens are generally hibernating at this time of year; and spending afternoons sketching waterlilies at Giverny is not really an option in driving rain. And having the little ones round requires bidding against rival relatives…

Sitting in front of a fire reading books might sound like a good project, but if one is catching up on sleep there is an inevitable conclusion before the end of each chapter and so one needs something that involves a bit of action, warmth and enjoyment. My conclusion, many years ago, was that cooking was the best answer and so in the winter months I cook a lot.

My own library of cookbooks is quite extensive and multilingual, including tomes on pies, crumbles and chowders, on the goodness of garlic and, of course, the chronicles of St Delia. There are even books about how to cook Chinese and Indian food because I have lived in remote spots where getting a takeaway meant hours of driving. In amongst all this are two automobile-related recipe books: the first called Racey Recipes and the second Manifold Destiny.

The latter is a cult publication – and a work of genius – which tells you how to cook using the engine in your car: where to place a dish (wrapped in aluminium foil of course) and how far to drive (and at what speed) before the meal is ready to be eaten. This is utterly splendid, all the more so because it certainly doesn’t work with electric cars, which have all the culinary romance of microwave ovens. My favourite recipe is Upper Class Roadkill, which begins with the most splendid sentence ever seen in a recipe book: “First run over a small deer…”, although it is rather American in its culinary tastes, and I am not sure that Alain Ducasse, Raymond Blanc or Guy Savoy would be very interested in “corned beef donuts”, not least because the spelling is horrid…

To my twisted brain, Racey Recipes sounded to me a little like some advanced form of cannibalism probably because it was clumsily billed as “The Ultimate Motorsport Celebrity Cook Book” which I took to mean ways to prepare motorsport celebrities. You know, Lewis and Lentil Pie, Daniel Avocado, Fried Grosjean Brains and Toto Wolff Waffles. That sort of thing.

However it turned out to be a compilation of the favourite meals of people in F1 (back in about 2000). So it is clearly a little out of date.

However Eliza Acton and Isabella Beeton are still selling so it is clear that while recipes go in and out of fashion (I mean, who eats jugged hare these days?), they don’t really age.

I was idly pondering if in the post-Netflix era of F1 whether the new demographics of the sport would mean that thousands of fans (male, female, non-binary transgender androgyne and all the rest of them) would like to buy an F1-themed cookbook. Perhaps, I argued, there is a gap in the market. I am sure these things are very difficult but when you boil it all down (or perhaps I should say reduce) all you need is a publisher and an iPhone for photography (right). It honestly doesn’t matter if the recipes are disgusting because who buys a cookbook twice? If a recipe goes wrong people generally blame themselves, as it is assumed that the author has some clue what they are talking about. One thing I have noticed is that there are an awful lot more cookbooks in bookshops (and online) than there are titles about motorsport, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, when everyone is agonising about what to buy for relatives.

It struck me that Grand Prix Grub (the name of the book, not the description of the author) would sit very comfortably on the shelves between The Poacher’s Guide to Vegetarian Cuisine, Fiddly Finger Food for Fulham, Pretentious Aussie Tucker and The Use of Tofu in DIY.

I am not sure which is my favourite cookbook, but The Jungle Hiker comes close. Published by the Royal Air Force in Ceylon in 1944 it has everything you need to know about surviving in a jungle after being shot down. (“First cut yourself from the wreckage…”). This includes the splendid recipe for “Fricassee of Lizard”, which I am keen to try if I can ever find a non-lounge lizard…

Onward to the kitchen…

47 thoughts on “Green Notebook from the kitchen

  1. At some point, the most basic competency of all these people has to be called into question if we end up with the FIA, the rights holders, and most of the teams deciding to extend Mercedes’ domination of the championship from an already unprecedented 8 to 11 years.

    ELEVEN.

    That’s most of a generation of children and young adults who will never have known Formula 1 as a competitive sport.

    And these people actively WANT that, their closest competitors included! Lunacy.

    1. There is a very big aero change for next year. The power systems are currently sufficiently close that if MB mess up someone else could easily win in ‘22. As for new power systems, which although cheaper will still be relatively complex hybrid units, I doubt you could bring them forward much as the development work hasn’t started yet.

  2. Glad you’re keeping well and occupied during the off-season, Joe.

    If you’re serious about the Grand Prix Grub book idea, perhaps Nicholas Latifi’s Dad’s Sofina company would be interested in sponsoring it? Maybe published in English and French, to include your ‘home’ country and the French-speaking market in Latifi’s Canada . . .

    Kind regards,

  3. “Grand Prix Grub”

    A traditional dish from each country that has ever held a Formula One Grand Prix. 32 recipes according to Google? I’ll take two copies.

  4. chronicles of st delia ! what a picture that paints for me joe !
    more than half a century ago I lived in east anglia and watched this young lady demonstrating her expertise as a chef on the local channel, who would have guessed how her career would have progressed ; even madam chairman of a premier league football club !
    needless to say , her complete works is still on our cookery book shelf ; 40 years old , but still worth it’s place

  5. I have often wondered if we had an F1 themed cafe (or cookbook) would it lead to such products as a Gerhard Burger, a Michael Milkshaker or a Giancarlo FizzyCola? I’m sure others can do better than I!

  6. The great thing about France is that it is as easy to buy Quail or Guinea Fowl at the market as it is to buy a couple of Pork chops.

    The bad thing is that during the current Covid restrictions, there is nowhere that can do decent takeaway battered Cod and Chips.

    The spoiler on Porsche 911s of the1980s, made a very practical heated picnic tray. Stuff just falls off modern ones.

  7. Re-Grand Prix Grub: Joe, did you ever read a book called “I just made the tea” by Di Spires ? Memoirs of catering for various teams back in the day (I think, from about 1977 onwards), in partnership with her husband Stuart. An entertaining tome, not entirely dedicated to food !

  8. We get the European part of the tour at 7am Sundays. So for the series of races that start at that time a bunch of us (old guys) get together and have the F1 breakfast club. Watch the race, have “coffees” with a touch of the UK or Europe. A proper F1 breakfast cookbook is something I could use.

    Great column. Rather a little Joe than a bunch of don’t know.

  9. I knew someone that was a fast jet pilot. They had to learn how to survive should they ever be shot down over enemy territory. They were taught how to catch rabbits and other creatures, prepare and cook them. When it came to the practical test they were dumped in some remote part of Wales. They did manage to snare a rabbit but non of them had the necessary to dispatch said rabbit so they ended up having grass cooked in various different ways. One of the group disappeared, to return some time later with food supplies purchased at extortionate rates from a nearby farm. A few years later they had to go to Iraq for the first gulf war. I asked if they now wished they had practical experience of trapping and cooking food. They said no because they all had belts containing gold sovereigns and they had heard that food was cheaper in Iraq than Wales.

    1. The older ones were sent up to North Scandinavia with a reindeer skin and not much else. They called the ingenues ” the cotton wool kids “. Even the present cold spell in Wales doesn’t get close to what we found for a couple of weeks every winter in Burgundy where we lived afloat.
      Can’t remember where they did their hot weather survival.

  10. I remember the old F1 News magazine featuring drivers’ recipes once or twice in about 1994 or 95. Presumably ghosted by their PRs, Physios or team hospitality people…

  11. Still surprised that no driver and/or trainer has published a workout video or opened a fitness spa on the Cote.

  12. Joe I note you didnt mention the proposal to trial sprint races in place at traditional qualifying at selected events this . I take you think like me this proposal is stupid and will be voted down by a landslide then and therefore not worth writing about? Am I correct in that assumption

  13. Romain and Marion Grosjean published a cook book some 3 years ago. I believe some ‘cheating’ was involved as chefs Akrame Benallal, Guy Savoy and Christophe Michalak, were also involved in the writing.

    I don’t have a copy, so I’m not aware if there are any flambée recipes!

    Stefano Domenicali has been busy in recent days. He’s come up with yet another variation on a Saturday race. Liberty’s obsession with making changes to F1 is becoming annoying.

      1. I find Grosjean brains a little disappointing especially the very unpredictable fatty bits that just go crazy.
        Toto waffles are a delight, light and fluffy but surprisingly flavourful and often slightly spicy.
        Shout out for Charles Éclairs, numnum

  14. The Lone Star Bar in Invercargill offer a “Gerhard Burger”
    ” 100% NZ premium grass-fed beef pattie, onion jam, Swiss cheese, bacon, gherkins, tomato, red onion, lettuce and aioli in an artisan sourdough bun ”
    ( https://www.lonestar.co.nz/menu/ then scroll down to the burger section)

    1. Sounded quite OK till I read “artisan sourdough bun”. For a burger. Ugh….

      Reminds me of the old joke: “Pretentious ? Moi ?”

  15. My family has had a tradition of having a meal on a Grand Prix weekend to complement a “National” food of the county the Grand Prix is in. I think this was a fantastic way to introduce new foods to my young at the time daughter.

    As I live in Australia and attend the Grand Prix here is Melbourne the food is what I have trackside.

    But for the other races here is a basic menu for each country.

    Russian GP = Chicken Kiev
    British GP = Roast Beef
    French GP = Chicken with garlic and herbs
    Austrian GP = Schnitzel
    Monaco GP = Seafood
    Italian GP = Pizza or Pasta
    United States GP = Turkey (Legs)
    Canadian GP = Pancakes with maple syrup
    Mexican GP = Nachos / Burritos / Tacos
    Brazilian GP = BBQ meat skewers
    Germany GP = Pork knuckles / German style sausages
    Hungarian GP = Goulash
    Japanese GP = Sushi
    Chinese GP = Fried rice
    Singapore GP = Singapore noodles.
    Azerbaijan GP = A stew
    Bahrain GP = Dips and bread.
    Abu Dhabi GP = Kebabs
    Spanish GP = Paella

    Also Le Mans = croissants

    As for last seasons double races it was easy to change the menu.

    I know the foods may not be correct foods in some peoples eyes but this is a representation that I see of those countries foods, and what I and my wife can cook easily.

    So a cookbook of the Grand Prix inspired foods would, I think be well received.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. For any of the Middle East races, look no further than Machboos – known locally as ‘mutton grab’ or ‘sheep on a plate’. Google it and you will understand ! As a snack, try chicken shawarma – basically strips of chicken plus sundry veggies served on a flat-bread or in a thin ‘wrap’ – or (my favourite) – falafal, traditionally a breakfast or mid-morning snack, served with diced salad and pickles, in a flat bread (don’t forget the tahini sauce !).

      From someone who spent a long time living in the region…

  16. Ack in the days when racing cars had the engines where God meant ‘em to be, a clever bloke In Adelaide South Australia, Eldred Norman, had an impressive single seater, supercharged Ford Zephyr special. He was partial to a hot lunch which he obtained by using tie-wire (anyone remember that?) to fasten a can of baked beans to the exhaust manifold. After the morning’s practice it was a simple matter of snipping the wire and opening the can…. who said Aussie food was pretentious?

  17. Hi Joe, I enjoyed reading this, especially the whimsical bits about cooking. I was also dead chuffed to see your dedication to the sport acknowledged in this year’s Autocourse; that really made me smile. Kind regards, Tim.

      1. Hi Joe, pages 310, Yas Marina Qualifying of this year’s edition. The main photo is of you with the caption “The indefatigable Joe Saward was a permanent fixture in the new deserted media centres in 2020”. Like I said this made me smile because it recognised what you do (I can’t remember the last time they did something like this in all the years I’ve been buying Autocourse – since 1976) but it also reinforces your point about your actually being there, in person, and that you are not one of the hacks who trawls the internet and regurgitates what they have read online. All the very best, Tim.

  18. After reading, my decision is to go back to read my old quantum mechanics books. It’s more straight forward than formula 1 nowadays.
    Even, having Joe guiding me like a PhD Teacher. Thank you Joe. Brilliant.
    About cooking … and if am I allowed, the new trending is to use a pressure cooker. I enjoy it a lot, and it makes delicious plates. Hmmm!
    Believe me.

    PS: to complement Box Box Box idea, for the upcoming Portuguese GP (???) – Grilled Sardines. A MUST!

  19. I wonder which part of the “engine” you would use for cooking in an all electric car? Perhaps you would just plug in a multi-cooker, toaster and kettle!

  20. Somewhat off topic. UK motorcycle racers appear to have their transport vehicle carnet issue sorted and will be able to travel to the EU without problems – allegedly, and at little cost.

  21. Joe may i ask how long would it take you to write a piece like this green book, and does it all flow out in one go or would you go through some drafts?

    1. It generally flows, but I do tweak it when I am re-reading. And sometimes the busy life means that I get interrupted and have to go back to it later,,,

  22. St. Delia also produced an excellent book titled ‘Frugal Food’ but I guess that would be of little use in the F1 world!

  23. Grand Prix food for me was always a bacon sarnie at 6.30 am Sunday morning as silverstone or brands was waking up. Times have changed.

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