Green Notebook from Sotteville-sous-le-Val

Sunday was one of those lovely happy days that Formula 1 has from time to time when almost everyone is happy to see a new and (sometimes) unlikely winner. We had that in 2017  in Sochi when Valtteri Bottas won his first victory and then in 2019 with Charles Leclerc. Last year we were spoiled with Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez and, oh so very nearly, George Russell.

I was delighted with Esteban Ocon’s win for a number of reasons. Firstly, he’s always been a good bloke and F1 has not changed him at all. Secondly, he’s not had an easy path in his career. And thirdly, as readers may know I live in Normandy and so my two  “local” F1 drivers are Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon. It is also where Alpine was first established (in Dieppe). Regulars will know that I love to find out the intricacies of racing history and Alpine is a great story.

The firm was founded by Jean Rédélé in the late 1940s. He converted Renault 4CVs into rally cars for his own benefit initially and then expanded to sell the cars to customers and to produce road car models. What few people know is that the links to Renault are even stronger than that because Jean’s father Emile was one of the very first Renault employees at Boulogne-Billancourt, and he was Ferenc Szisz’s mechanic in the very first Grand Prix de l’ACF at Le Mans in 1906. Emile decided to start a taxi business in Dieppe after World War I and Louis Renault himself asked him to become a Renault dealer.

Now a Dane will tell you that Normans are all descended from the Vikings (as the name North Man suggests) and if you go back 13 centuries you can discover that yes, it is true. The Vikings were pretty good at rape and pillage and they not only burned down Rouen but also beseiged Paris on a couple of occasions. In the end the first Duke of Normandy was Rollo, a Viking raider. William the Conqueror was a descendant.

If you happen to be driving down the A13 motorway near Rouen, you may see a large metal monument with a globe and arrows going in different directions. You can find it as you pass Sotteville-sous-le-Val. This was erected in 1990 and was by the sculptor Georges Saulterre. It is called “Sur les traces des Vikings” (which translates as “In the footsteps of the Vikings”).

At the bottom of the hill you might also see a kart track next to the motorway. It is called the Circuit de l’Europe and it is significant because this was where Pierre and Esteban first began competing. When they were nine they were best buddies.

Now, the two are both Grand Prix winners and this caused French TV commentator Julien Fébreau to get VERY excited. He’s already famous for going completely crazy when Gasly won at Monza last year and as Ocon crossed the line in Budapest Fébreau was screaming again. There’s nothing like enthusiasm – and he has it by the bucketload.

The naysayers of social media always find fault in everything and say that it was all down to luck, or whatever. But it has to be said that Esteban drove a stunning race, free from error and under intense pressure all the way from Sebastian Vettel, a four-time World Champion. It was a day when it was easier to get things wrong than to get things right and Ocon got it all right. If you listen to what other drivers said you will see that Ocon is a popular fellow, with Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso all singing his praises. He has made it to F1 from very humble beginnings and has been completely unchanged by the experience.

It is a great story if you don’t know it already. Esteban’s parents moved to France in the 1980s, when they were in their late teens. His father was Spanish and his mother of Algerian descent and they settled in Evreux, in Normandy, where his dad worked as a mechanic and built up a small garage business. Esteban is named after a cartoon character that his mother loved from a TV series called “Esteban, Child of the Sun” in the original Japanese version but “Les Mystérieuses Cités d’Or” (The Mysterious Cities of Gold) when dubbed in French. Esteban went to search of lost cities in the New World…

The Ocons stumbled into racing by accident when Esteban was a very small boy. He loved driving microkarts and it quickly became obvious that he was very good.

They bought a kart from a family who lived 40 miles away in Rouen. Their name was Gasly. The kart had belonged to Pierre’s brother. So Pierre and Esteban would meet on Wednesdays and at weekends, when there was no school, and they would hammer around the Circuit de l’Europe.

As they grew up things became more serious and the Ocons literally sold everything to give Esteban a chance. They won a lot with little money, but they lived in a caravan and they got their tyres by picking up what bigger teams had thrown away.

In 2009, when Esteban was 12, he was spotted by an aspiring racing entrepreneur with the unusual name of Gwen Lagrue, who was pals with the new Lotus F1 team principal Eric Boullier. Eric was beginning to build a stable of young drivers under the Gravity Management banner and so they took on Ocon and found some money to help him, but in the KF3 World Cup in Braga in 2010 Pierre and Esteban had a crash that ended their friendship. Pierre became best mates with another youngster called Charles Leclerc…

With money from Lotus things were fine and in 2013 Ocon was hooked up with ART to race in Formula Renault. The following year he switched to Prema Racing in Formula 3 and won the title first time out. But then things went wrong. Lotus was running out of money and Boullier moved to McLaren. Suddenly there was no budget for Ocon to move up to GP3.

Fred Vasseur came to his rescue at this point, although it was not perhaps as altruistic as that sounds because ART didn’t have a driver capable of fighting for the GP3 title. The car carried almost no sponsorship but Ocon won the title at his first attempt. This led to him becoming a Mercedes driver. To understand that one needs to know about Vasseur and Toto Wolff. They may be rival team principals these days (although it is a bit of a one-sided contest) but they go back 15 years, to when Wolff first bought a stake in AMG, which was supplying Mercedes Formula 3 engines to Vasseur’s ASM.

The two men hit it off, sharing a passion for winning races and making money. They enjoyed huge success in Formula 3 with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta and then after the team became ART with Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi. Wolff was also part of the management of Valtteri Bottas when the Finn raced for ART in 2009 and won the GP3 title for Vasseur in 2010. By then Wolff had bought into Williams and Bottas became reserve driver. Later ART would also run a team in DTM for Mercedes. If you dig deep enough you find that when Wolff got married in 2011 one of his witnesses was a certain F Vasseur. And the pair also ended up using the same apartment in Oxford for a while when Toto was running Mercedes and Vasseur was at Enstone. The pair are close and one might perhaps ask whether this will end up being part of why Bottas will likely end up at Alfa Romeo in 2022.

The story of Alfa Romeo in Budapest was at best a total disaster. There were penalties aplenty and Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi ended up 11th and 14th on a day when points were up for grabs in the most dramatic fashion. The opportunity was completely lost. But it actually got worse as night fell because Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification meant that while Raikkonen picked up a point for 10th, the team’s situation dived because the two Williams drivers moved from eighth and ninth to seventh and eighth and the team doubled its points from five to 10. This means that Alfa Romeo will need to score eight points (at least) in the rest of the year to be eighth in the Constructors’ Championship (the usual position). Given that they have managed just three points in the first 11 races that is going to be a real cliff to climb in the second 11. And if the team ends up ninth, the prize money will be significantly reduced, despite the investment and expansion that Hinwil has seen in the last few years.  It is clearly something that is frustrating Raikkonen, as after the British Grand Prix when his engineer suggested he could have been 10th without a collision with Sergio Perez, Kimi replied: “Maybe, or maybe we need to make the car fast, it’s simple. It’s impossible to fight against them. Same this. Same that. And try to fight with the other cars. Come on, we’ve got to wake up and do something.”

In theory, Alfa Romeo has both seats open next year but there are multiple repliable sources saying that Bottas is close to signing a deal. That means Raikkonen won’t be staying. Giovinazzi is the only Italian driver in F1 and dumping him would be troublesome for Alfa Romeo, particularly as he has not done a bad job. But Alfa Romeo no longer has the right to nominate a driver. Ferrari doesn’t either, but it would be wise for the Swiss team to stay sweet with its engine supplier, which appears to be getting much closer to Haas these days. Still, there is a Ferrari deal in place for some years to come.

Having said that, in F1 a contract is always something that can be negotiated away. A switch to Renault power is an option in the longer term, which Renault would like as it is lining up good youngsters and has nowhere to put them.

In the short-term, it would probably help if Alfa Romeo went with a Ferrari youngster: Giovinazzi is one, so are reserve driver Callum Ilott and Russia’s Robert Shwartzman, the last-named being highly-regarded at Maranello.

Vasseur may well argue that the team should take a risk and go for something a little different. Theo Pourchaire has almost got enough points to get a superlicence – and he’s testing an Alfa Romeo this week. He turns 18, the minimum age for a superlicence these days, on August 20.

He’s not really ready for F1 yet, but seats are few and far between and so the team might think that Pourchaire is a risk worth taking. If you see the impact that running Charles Leclerc had on the team a few years back, it might be an option to galvanise the staff. And it might help Renault get Pourchaire into its stable, which would be an incentive for a big French firm. The driver decision is due at Monza, after the summer break.

But, in the short term, a fast car is really what is required…

The other team with a seat that’s really available (as opposed to being available in theory, like the second Red Bull, the second Mercedes and so on) is Williams. Nicholas Latifi has a contract for next year and so the opportunities for others are rather limited. The team says it doesn’t yet know if George Russell is leaving, but there are a lot of people trying hard to get the team’s attention. One man who was much in evidence in the paddock in Budapest was Nyck de Vries, the Mercedes Formula E driver and an F1 reserve. He is keen to find a ride in a Mercedes-engined team and is being talked about as a possible Williams driver, but he was also to be found chatting in a serious fashion with Aston Martin types in Hungary. One man who we know won’t be at Williams next year is Dan Ticktum, who has been released from his contract in recent days. Don’t hold out any hopes for Roy Nissany, Jack Aitken (who broke his collarbone and fractured some vertebrae in a big shunt in the Spa 24 Hours last weekend) or Jamie Chadwick.

I did hear a whisper that there might be some major excitements at Aston Martin over the summer break, but I do not know any more – although the source was good. I wouldn’t mention it otherwise…

Anyway, that is the main action noted in the green book from Budapest, with a few nuggets added.

On Sunday evening French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted congratulations to Ocon, having learned after Gasly’s win in Monza last year that trying to contact a race winner in F1 by mobile is really a waste of time. Macron was delighted that Ocon and Alpine had both become winners. The French government, by the way, still owns a significant share in Renault.

Politicians love F1 when things go right for them, but getting more involved is never a great idea. And vice-versa. After Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel protested about new laws being proposed in Hungary, the country’s Minister of Justice Judit Varga was obviously not impressed.

“I have seen that sadly Lewis Hamilton is joining the manufacturers of international fake news by attacking our child protection law,” she said. A shoe-maker should stick to making shoes – and a F1 driver should stick to driving.”

Varga says that the law is being introduced to prevent child abuse and to stop LGBT indoctrination.

“I suggest that Lewis Hamilton read the Hungarian Child Protection Act,” she added.

One hopes that he and Sebastian already have.

The sport has enough politics of its own without getting involved with real world controversies, which inevitably end up with this kind of response from politicians. One can only wonder what F1 teams and drivers would say if a government minister suggested set-up changes that might be made to make cars go faster…

When it comes to F1’s politics, the FIA President Jean Todt recently suggested that there might be more candidates in the presidential election that is due later this year.

“The closing date is sometime in October,” he told media at the French Grand Prix, “so there is still time.”

This was perplexing because the system is such that it is very difficult to find the necessary representatives required to create an election “ticket” because of the requirement to have people from different regions and from both touring and sport clubs. Todt knows that this is the case and so the suggestion that there might be another candidate was interesting because that would require one or other of the contenders to withdraw. It is no secret that in some FIA circles the choice on offer is not generating much excitement, but is there enough to create an earthquake?

Much news these days is about the calendar – not 2022, but 2021. It is a complete nightmare as F1 tries to find another 12 races that will fit together with one another, with the complex (and changing) government restrictions, with red lists and quarantine requirements. It is fairly pointless speculating at the moment because nothing can be decided before August 10 when there will be a decision about Japan, after the Olympic Games is over. After that, dominoes will start to fall. I could go into complex speculation about all of this but I see no point. I do expect to see a race in Qatar this year and I would suggest that the most likely date is November 21 because when there are new races on the F1 calendar there are generally free weekends before and afterwards to make sure that there are no problems with customs authorities and so on. What I do hear, however, is that with Qatar paying a LOT of money, F1 might not need to have 23 races to hit its financial goals.

It is also worth noting that Circuit of the Americas (COTA) promoter Bobby Epstein was in Hungary on his second visit to a European race in recent months. Epstein is negotiating a new long-term deal for COTA – and discussing whether or not there could be a second Formula 1 race this year, with the United States Grand Prix, scheduled for October 24. The suggestion is that there could be a second Grand Prix of the Americas on October 17, but that could only happen if the Japanese Grand Prix drops off the F1 schedule.

But that would also create problems for the Turkish Grand Prix as the country is on Britain’s Red List which would mean another race in a non-red list country would be needed afterwards to avoid all the British-based F1 personnel being put into expensive government-regulated hotels for 10 days on their return to the UK. No-one is going to agree to do that… although one might suppose that to avoid such a thing staff could be given paid holidays in low-risk places… No, you’re right, that’s not very likely, is it?

And would it be included in the budget cap?

I drove for a day and a half to get home from Budapest, which gave me plenty of time to consider the options. I reached no conclusions because it is impossible to do so. One can only come up with possible outcomes: Plans A to Z. And you need always to think about the weather as well.

The recent weeks have been awful in Europe, with constant rain and devastating flooding in places. The run from Budapest, heading home to France, was pretty nice until I got to the Rhine. I crossed the river near Speyer and rain began to fall as I climbed up the hill to go through the Pfälzerwald, the forested area between the Rhineland and the French border at Saarbrucken, where the US military has a big presence. It’s a pretty bleak area on a wet day. It was not a fun moment because there are always dangerous idiots who are driving without lights in the spray, or others who think that it is logical to be going 60km/h in the fast lane in such conditions. When it comes to road safety, the world still has a lot to do.

As the rains began to fall, the German radio station I was listening to decided to play “Love is all around”, by Wet Wet Wet, which seemed entirely appropriate. German radio stations love to play 1980s hits endlessly and so I drove through the October weather listening to the likes of Tina Turner, Supertramp and James Taylor, with the occasional local hit, although most of these sound like the awful British football team singalongs that used to be produced before big matches.

The rain continued right through to the French border at a place they call Goldene Bremme, named after a tavern on the old road.

I didn’t see blue skies until I reached the Argonne Forest, a scenic spot to the west of Verdun. Once this was famed for its highwaymen and later for violent battles during World War I.

And, of course, there was a racing circuit there too. But that’s another story…

84 thoughts on “Green Notebook from Sotteville-sous-le-Val

  1. Was the Supertramp song “It’s Raining Again”? That would have been even more appropriate.

    By a nice coincidence we passed “Sur les traces des Vikings” a couple of hours before the race on Sunday, on our way back from visiting family in Les Andelys, which from previous posts you have written I know to be close to where you live. It is also of course near Evreux, which I didn’t know until reading your blog post was where Esteban grew up. As I passed the sculpture, I wondered what it represented, so thank you for the explanation – and the story about the karting track.

    When we got home and I heard the GP result, I was delighted, because Esteban has always been so patently a nice guy as well as a fine driver. Now to read your Notebook and realise that on the day of his maiden F1 win I was so close to different key places in his life, it’s a little bit special.

    Over the weekend, while browsing the internet for information about the Cote des Andelys hillclimb, I had by chance come across a Facebook page set up by the son of Denis Dayan to honour his memory. I’m not normally a fan of Facebook but I couldn’t help but be moved. For those who don’t know – not Joe, who certainly does – Dayan was a very promising French driver who was killed at Rouen-Les Essarts in 1970, in the same F3 race which also took the life of another promising French driver, Jean-Luc Salomon. Among the many moving tributes left on the Facebook page there is one by someone who mentions that he used to visit Denis Dayan’s motor sport shop in the centre of Rouen. More coincidences: days later, here I am reading about the Gasly family in Rouen, selling their kart to young Ocon. Not a shop in their case, but a motor sporting transaction in Rouen nonetheless.

    Denis Dayan’s son, incidentally, is called Bruce Dayan. Not a particularly French forename, as far as I’m aware. I wonder if Denis named his son after Bruce McLaren? If so, it’s poignant that the month of June 1970 began with McLaren’s fatal accident at Goodwood on the 2nd, and ended with the terrible race at Rouen which took the lives of Dayan and Salomon on the 28th. And present at Les Essarts that day was Jochen Rindt, who is shown on Bruce Dayan’s Facebook page in the same photograph as Denis Dayan before the start of the race. Another poignant moment, for Rindt too would of course lose his life a few weeks later.

    Thank goodness motor racing has brought happier moments to Normandy’s current generation of drivers. I hope they will have many more.

    1. I will check it out. That weekend at Rouen was a disaster for France with Dayan, Salomon and Bob Wollek very badly hurt when he went off into the trees.

  2. Again, very nice to have more than motor racing. I was inspired to spend a lot of my life abroad by early exposure to DSJ´s Continental Notes and there´s much of that in your notebook. I´m sure it would be heretical to say that you have a wider world view than DSJ, Joe, but that´s how it seems to me.

    I have no problem with sportsmen using their position to comment on political events and if that offends ministers in Hungary seeming to equate LGTB with paedophilia, it´s been a good day´s work. I doubt if it would sit well with DSJ.

    I wouldn´t expect Kimi Raikkonen to step up on anyone else´s behalf as he struggles to look after himself these days. The combination of Kimi and Giovanazzi is a waste of a team, never mind a seat. Beggars belief that they´have both been in place for 3 years with no break out results and quite a lot of damaged cars. If Giovanzzi was ever going to do anything,in F1 surely there would be signs by now.

  3. I’ve always enjoyed reading your insightful articles ( as well as the YouTube channels aka MissedApex) but I’ve never commented until now. The latest news from Austin is that they have now escalated the COVID restrictions to stage 5 ( highest stage possible ) : so do you think they can still pull it off ? Also would it be feasible to have both a race in Qatar as well as Bahrain ( in addition to the current Jeddah + Abu Dhabi GP) ?

  4. Joe

    As usual interesting Green Notebook.

    Not sure everyone will agree and taking nothing away from Ocon’s driving and admittedly only based on watching TV highlights I think he owes a lot (and probably accepts this) to Alonso keeping Hamilton behind him (with hard but I think fair driving) for so long.

    1. “Not sure everyone will agree and taking nothing away from Ocon’s driving and admittedly only based on watching TV highlights I think he owes a lot (and probably accepts this) to Alonso keeping Hamilton behind him (with hard but I think fair driving) for so long.”

      Vettel was never more than about 1.5s behind Ocon for the entire race, in a faster car. Seb’s had a rough couple of years but he’s still a 4-time world champion. I think Ocon keeping Vettel behind for the entire race was an impressive drive. It would have been incredibly easy to lock up and let Vettel past, as (eventually) Alonso did.

      Alonso probably did get him the win by holding up Hamilton, but don’t let that detract from anything. Alonso’s driving was absolutely bang on the limit, knowing Hamilton had more to lose he went hard but we didn’t get any of Verstappen’s banger racing antics.

  5. Holey buckets, I used to watch Estebans adventures on ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’ as a kid. Now I feel old.

    1. Ahhhahhaahhahaahh searching for the cities of gooo-oooold
      Ahhahahahah someday we will find the cities of gold

      sadly i think i grew out of children’s TV before they actually did…

  6. No mention of HUL for Williams? It seems that next year’s tires and aero combo could better suit his more aggressive style that was so effective in Jr formulae, but didn’t seem to suit F1. He always came off as a bit arrogant (even for an F1 driver) and given his incredible Jr record, it was earned in some part. If that though translated into entitlement, it’s easy to see how things never gelled. Two seasons away hopefully has humbled him a bit and last year he showed he has the speed.

  7. A fascinating piece, Joe. Living not too far north of you I too regard Ocon (particularly) & Gasly as being my ‘local’ drivers.

  8. God these boomer opinions against standing up for human rights in nations F1 races in. Lewis and Seb are champions not only on the track but off it. I’m so bloody glad they are speaking up against disgusting practices in nations F1 races.

    1. So tell me a place where F1 races which doesn’t have human rights issues… sport should remain above politics. And who is the judge? You?

      1. > So tell me a place where F1 races which doesn’t have human rights issues

        An observer of the basis on which countries were or were not awarded Grand Prix over the last decade or two might suggest that that says more about F1 than anything else, and not in a good way.

        > sport should remain above politics

        Fairly abrupt shift from brute pragmatism to utopian idealism there, it seems to me.

        I don’t recall Putin or the leader of the Turkish Cypriot ‘state’ doing much to keep F1 above politics, and indeed the demand that sport should ignore political considerations is itself political – cf Bahrain. Sport has been political since at least the Berlin Olympics and probably for centuries before.

          1. Would it not depend on what constitutes acceptable human rights. 🇬🇧 🇩🇪 🇫🇷 🇨🇦 🇮🇹 🇳🇱 are all countries that have broad democratic principles. Unless things have changed I don’t believe in these countries you can be stoned to death for having a hot drink with someone you not married to. None of their governments have poisoned dissidents in other countries or have a capital punishment system that doubles as a sales association for body parts.

            Your narrow interpretation tries to cut down the argument to a simple phrase, when it’s more complex that.

            There should be no international sport in countries that do not recognize basic human rights, such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. I’m open minded on other gulf states as western democracy is not a universal model. But Liberty hold their nose and take the blood soaked dollars and look the other way as countries rehabilitate their reputation through window dressed sport events.

            1. Pretty much agree with that.It is up to each individual person to decide where to take a stand on ethical issues.If Lewis and Seb feel this is important enough than none of us should question their right to do it just because we feel differently or Liberty feel differently.
              Not racing in countries because of human rights issues can be a slippery slope.I’m Australian and this countries treatment of its indigenous population and refugees are both shameful.Does that mean I think Australia should lose the race?No.Would I be outraged if drivers protested or Liberty took the race away because of this?No.
              Sport as a political propaganda tool (multiple Olympic Games and F1 Grand Prix) is used all the time but it is also effective as a political weapon against the worst of regimes (apartheid).
              Complicated issue but I feel encouraged when I see sports people looking beyond the cocoon of their sport.

              1. Are Aborigines still treated like 2nd class citizens? If yes, then it is something that should be highlighted at international sports events. Shame Australia into changing.

                Refugees is a much bigger and more complicated issues. As a South African I became an adult when we changed but it didn’t stop every white South African being branded a racist. Many were, sadly most still are. I was not one. Refugees now define a whole manner of people, including economic migrants. The 🇦🇺 way of dealing with this is extreme, but they have seen the consequences and played their hand, much like Covid where they have sealed the country. If only they had vaccinated better.

                Look at Europe, how can these refugees in the English Channel be fleeing a war zone to their first safe haven. Have 🇫🇷 declared war on the rest of the 🇪🇺 and independent 🇬🇧 is a safe haven? These are economic migrants, not refugees. Perhaps if the moral west started by solving the problems in the originator countries.

            2. It’s interesting that your list of countries doesn’t include the US, which one would surely class as having broad democratic principles. However, when F1 goes to Texas, where the death penalty is still allowed, does that make it too much of a human rights problem? But as Joe says, where is the line of demarcation, and who is the arbiter of it.

              As the last weekend highlighted, hopefully by bringing F1 to places, it can help progress their human rights. It’s undoubtedly a very complex argument though. Any reflections on this 10 years after the Bahrain situation Joe?

              1. I didn’t include the 🇺🇲 deliberately as they bend the law but don’t break it with things like rendition and Guatemala Bay. I had to give 🇬🇧 some thought as they allowed Prestwick Airport to be used as a stopover. But that was when 🇬🇧 was as close as it can get to a dictatorship with Tony Blair as PM. His theme tune was “things can only get better” but things only got worse.

                1. The UK was really nothing like a dictatorship under Blair. It is only, in fact, under Johnson that we’re seeing a dramatic erosion of what we call rights but which in reality have never been codified in anything so awkward as a constitution.

                  1. 🇬🇧 does have a constitution, it’s just not codified into a single document, but has evolved since Magna Carta. Much like codified constitutions have amendments like 🇺🇲.

                    🇬🇧 has laws, like the Human Rights Act, Modern Slavery, Equality, non racism, non sexism etc that enshrine rights. Go out and make racist comments like say about black footballers and the 🇬🇧 constitution comes after you. Sadly it’s not universal as there have been racism aimed at Lewis Hamilton that has been ignored.

                    Tony Blair was the fella who tried to introduce biometric ID cards of course, which would hold all your information in a single file and card, a bit like the Stasi. But never let facts get in the way of a prejudiced view. It was a conservative government that scrapped this and many Conservative’s (deliberate small and large c) who are now fighting plans for Covid passports.

          2. > So tell me a place where F1 races which doesn’t have human rights issues…

            > You did not answer the question…

            Black / white fallacy.

            The fact that all states are imperfect does not mean that all states are morally equivalent, or that (slippery slope fallacy?) we can’t draw a line *anywhere* without inevitably having to ban everyone.

            Come on, Joe. I know you’re better than this.

  9. Many thanks Joe – what a great piece, full of interesting facts. The observation about German radio is spot on, as someone who has lived here for 13 years (but I love the 80s and a bit of variety, so I’m not complaining). Enjoy the well-deserved summer break!

  10. > “I suggest that Lewis Hamilton read the Hungarian Child Protection Act,” she added.

    > One hopes that he and Sebastian already have.

    I was a bit confused by this aside.

    As the Guardian[1] reported, “the Hungarian law goes further, making it an offence to “promote or portray” homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors. It also limits sex education in schools to government-approved organisations … Rights groups say the referendum is likely … make life more difficult and dangerous for LGBT children … The referendum will have five questions, mostly couched in leading language. One of the questions is: “Do you support minors being shown, without any restriction, media content of a sexual nature that is capable of influencing their development?””

    There really is no ambiguity: the proposed law is a transparent attempt to legitmise anti-gay bigotry and create a hostile and dangerous environment in which gay people, including teenage children, live in fear.

    Did you read this law, Joe?

    As for Vettel: given his country’s history, it’s not surprising that he — unlike others — would see there is a point at which “political” choices become ethical choices, and therefore protest Hungary’s desire to emulate the Nazi’s amended “paragraph 175”.

      1. As a Formula 1 journalist you know that the law (or regulations )are a set of words that have to be interpreted by a legal forum when breached or broken. Perhaps the best F1 example this century is double diffuser.

        The Guardian will always take a view that it has. But you know when all newspapers, commentators etc take a similar stance that something is wrong. Nelson Mandela avoided the gallows for crimes he did not commit by having a pre-apartheid appointed judge exercising the only leniency the police state law allowed in 1964.

        In South Africa we had an act of parliament called the Extension of University Act. It didn’t extend university education at all but limited it and forced universities to only admit scholars from a particular race group together with dumbed down education if you were not white. This act is no different, it gives lofty ambitions and then hides Draconian elements in the text.

        The EU fell over themselves to bring the old Warsaw Pact countries into their club with its lofty principles around universal human rights. Slowly to start and now gathering pace they are all going right and imposing the authoritarianism they lived under for 44 years.

        Poland has done it, now Hungary. As someone wrote Vettel will be conscious of 🇩🇪 troubled past. As human beings we should be speaking up because tyranny flourishes where good men (now people) remain silent.

        Formula One sadly has a chequered career of being on the wromg side of opinion.

  11. Excitement at Aston Martin? Mmm…. let me think. I think daddy wants his son to be at the best team. So that’s Lance Stroll to Mercedes for 2022 as a new threatless no. 2, pour George is vetoed by Lewis but gets his chance at Aston Martin and Nyck de Vries can step in at Williams. And Valtteri can keep his career alive at Alfa Romeo…

    1. You must have been talking to Lawrence Stroll… or holidaying in Cloudcuckooland. Lance is not good enough d’or that.

      1. In Cloudcuckoo land with Jacques Villeneuve as he appears to be the guy floating this story.

        Stranger things have happened, although drivers don’t usually go to a front line team without some pedigree. Lance Stroll is good but will never even be a nearly great.

  12. Thanks a lot Joe ! Fantastic narrative. I didn’t know the story about Jean Redele’s father… I didn’t know that Esteban’s first go-kart was bought to Gasly Family. I only knew that in the beginning the two families were friends and spared the travels out of Normandy… From a habitue froggy reader… 😉

  13. Thanks for that Joe, another great piece! I have to say that with all of the information about F1 you can pick up these days, I look forward to the Green Notebook almost more than the GPs themselves. Wonderful writing, new insights, history, geography and entertainment, and we know that you only write things based on reliable sources. I love your work. Thanks again.

  14. An enjoyable “Notebook” but as for the remark that “the sport has enough politics of its own without getting involved with real world controversies” — well, no. Vettel and Hamilton deserve our admiration, not criticism, for involvement in the “real world,” including the safeguarding of fundamental human rights. The FIA and Liberty seem determined to earn for F1 the reputation of being the world sport most willfully oblivious to the real world. Think of the countries with the worst human rights records (as ranked by HRW, Freedom House, and other NGOs that promote human rights), and F1 is likely to be there: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Hungary, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. F1’s acquiescence and silence are not sporting values but an embarrassment.

    1. +1.

      The demand that we ‘keep politics out of sport’ is always either a) a demand that political concerns not be allowed to interfere with someone’s commercial interests or b) a demand that the political interests of state actors be privileged over those of individual protestors or c) usually both.

      All of these are themselves profoundly political positions. Cf apartheid South Africa.

      1. Many forget that nazi sympathiser South African Prime Minister, Balthazar Johannes Vorster demanded politics be kept out of sport as he banned a South African born player, Basil d’Olivera from touring with England in 1968. 🙈🙈. Because d’Olivera was not white and therefore banned from playing against a white Springbok team. He also refused to allow Maoris to tour with the All Blacks.

        That’s the benchmark that all other nations use without understanding the absurdity of the starting position.

  15. Surely Joe it’s unlikely that a Stellantis brand sponsored car would run a Renault engine, PSA and Renault have been arch rivals through history ?

      1. Ferrari does have historical ties to Alfa Romeo, though. But more importantly, Renault wouldn’t supply engines to Peugeot, would they? Essentially, that’s what Stellantis really is.

  16. Love these articles where we see behind the scenes at the track, then get to tag along on your road trips. Not entirely with you on the politics comment though. If any Minister wanted to suggest car setups for a circuit they should be entirely free to do so! So many regimes pay handsomely for F1 to visit and draw attention to their country. That’s fair enough, but I’d still suggest that perhaps they shouldn’t also be able to dictate the sort of attention they then receive.

  17. Sport doesn’t exist in a vacuum and I think it is important for sportsmen to take a stand on important issues. If that offends people, especially tinpot ministers in Hungary seeking to conflate homosexuality and paedophilia, then all the better.

    A fascinating read, as always Joe. I fully expect to see Raikkonen retire this season. If he’s doing it for a hobby- and he is, really, no matter how serious a competitor he is- then it can’t be much fun for him to be plodding round in a poor car.

    Speaking of plodding around at the back in poor cars, Joe, are these teams forgoing development this season because of the budget cap or is it simply that they don’t have the budget? I hope the work pays off for them, I fear for the survival of Haas in particular if they try really hard and 2022’s car is still a tractor.

  18. I’d love Kimi to carry on a bit longer but if the data says he ain’t delivering then it’s time to stop. Well’ F1 anyway.
    Similarly I’d like to see a Bottas Illot line up at Sauber. Callum is better tham Mick and Robert, the other FDA leading juniors…

  19. Great article as always Joe. By the way did you hear anything on the leaked photos of F1’s 2022 car that was eventually unveiled at Silverstone? I found it very surprising that none of the mainstream media showed them as they were readily available. Afraid of paddock pass withdrawals possibly!

  20. Wonderful read Joe. Tying it all together as always. I didn’t know about the origins of Ocon, much less that he was named after a cartoon character, nor did I know about the story connecting him to Gasly. Reading this did make me like those two French drivers a bit more.

    I’ve been to Rouen once, with school when I was 15 or 16. We also went to Dieppe and sat on the pebble beach where the Allies landed. At the time I had no idea about Jean Rédélé or Alpine… Pierre Gasly is 6 years younger than I am. It’s not inconceivable that I might have seen him walking around Rouen as a young boy, with no idea of who he was.

  21. Joe’s stroll through 80s pop brings to mind a tune that really should replace all national anthems at F1 GPs. I mean of course Tony Christie’s “Is this the way to Amarillo and Marie who waits for me”.
    No more dirges please! (especially the Austrian)

  22. I have to disagree about Vettel (and Hamilton) and “keep politics out of the sport”, Joe. Here’s why.

    If it were a blank sheet of paper, by all means keep politics out of the sport. But I’m afraid F1 is more prostitute than virgin on that front.

    F1 chose to tacitly permit its use in wider politics years ago, before the term “sportswashing” was coined. South Africa, China…and a flurry of more recent examples some of which have been less tacit. It briefly held up its head by nixing the Turkey contract when the political use of the sport was too explicit but lost its way since then (and by the way returned to Turkey at a time when the regime has become far more extreme -I have family there who no longer talk freely on the telephone – because it was convenient to do so).

    You could argue politics and F1 became too close when Bernie bribed the uk government…apologies…when Bernie made a political donation of the type so vital to resource a healthy functioning multi party democracy (even if he did get his cash back).

    Don’t forget the entire national anthem ceremony attendance requirement only came about in the first place because it was laid on for Putin, before it was belatedly realised this was a step too far so we all have to pretend it was always going to be a new permanent feature.

    So the sport’s record for keeping politics out is pretty grubby.

    If these two great champions want to use the platforms they’ve achieved to make some kind of positive impact beyond driving in circles while promoting brands they’re actually doing more to rehabilitate the sport’s record than it perhaps deserves.

    If it helps, think of them as the equivalent of the holes in air boxes and 5mm floor steps after Imola – a necessary gesture to ward off public opprobrium for a sport whose political (not to mention environmental and public health) contribution to the world is already deeply in the red.

    One with a passing chance of actually changing a few minds and perhaps thereby improving the lot of some people that could do with it further down the line.

    You might say they are to the political record of the sport what hybrid is to its environmental record. A necessary rebalancing in today’s world.

  23. Fred Vasseur and Toto Wolff have a long friendship which may affect where Bottas goes next year. Do driver managers (agents) have similar ties with teams? It would be interesting to know more about managers and who their clients are. I know Toto and Todt Jnr are managers, but beyond that, I have no clue.

  24. Joe, with apologies for adding to the general noise level re- politics:

    Some months ago you published a comment I made on the subject, in which I pointed out that there appears to me to be a fundamental error made by over-many social warriors in assuming that the populations of the countries and societies that they criticise share the desire to live in a western style democracy, with all the freedoms and personal rights that this entails.

    Having been fortunate enough to spend nearly half of my 40 year working life living outside of the UK employed on infrastructure projects of various flavours, primarily in the Middle East and Asia, I have learned enough to know that this is far from being the case. The differences in cultures, especially in respect of individuals’ expectations from region to region and (critically) their attitudes to the way westerners conduct themselves, are immense – factors that I suspect are not in any way understood by those who have not experienced them long-term.

    In my opinion – and, of course, I expect people to disagree with me – to seek to impose ‘our’ standards on others is inappropriate, misguided and, by extension, downright arrogant. One could say that such campaigns mirror the ‘we know best’ colonial attitudes of the past that their supporters claim to abhor.

    The final irony, at least from where I view the world, is that the very freedoms that are supposedly part and parcel of western democracy are being rapidly eroded by the constant cacophony of complaint made by those who try to ‘no platform’ or ‘cancel’ those with views they oppose. Who, in their right minds, would buy into that world if they had the choice ?

    Discourse over, I’ll retire to my cave now….

  25. Joe, I’ve read every note book since 2009 and love them still so thank you so much. A question if you will, why doesn’t Alfa Romeo rebadge the ferrari engine and simply let the team be called Sauber-Alfa Romeo? Seems it would be cheaper and give them that presence in F1 they desire. At the minute there’s a Sauber car at the back called Alfa Romeo with a ferrari engine in it. Seems bonkers to me, no wonder they aren’t performing it’s so confusing!

  26. As the father of a 9 year old boy, who was given lessons in LGBQT at 5 years old I do have objections to how LGBQT is taught at schools. I thought he was too young to have this taught, and feel it would be better done in secondary school i.e. 12 years old when they have also been given the skills to consider things more for themselves. I do think that tolerance of race, gender, etc is vital to be taught at school without a doubt.

    There’s a line between education and guidance/influence that is very individual to where a child is at in development. No easy answers, but primary children should not have this in the curriculum as compulsory, but teachers should be trained in recognising children who may not be clear in their minds, and of course parents should be fully aware for their own child.

    There are life skills that parents and school need to teach, but it needs to be age appropriate. This isn’t an anti LGBQT rant, I have gay friends, the daughter of a friend is changing from a girl to boy, both of which I neither have an issue with or am supportive.

    I’ll read a bit more about Hungary’s law. Easy to have a knee jerk reaction to say it’s a bad thing, and some of it I’ve seen so far is anti LGBQT to a level I’m not comfortable with.

    1. I absolutely agree with you that 5 years old is the wrong age to be teaching children this, and agree that early teens is correct where broadly children have started to mature and converge as they become young adults. If a 5 year year old is being given this information we may as well let them make easy decisions like vote!!

      From what I have read on the 🇭🇺 law, it’s trying to stop it being in the public domain alltogether, except as the government wants it to be portrayed.

      The head in the sand approach is as bad as forcing education they other way. A sensible balance, instead of the “Hollywood” narrative where in each friendship group they is a mixed race, disabled and LGBT group or not at all.

      1. Regarding a suitable age for bringing up LGBTQ+ rights with children. (Otherwise known as ‘treating people fairly, and as people, rather than as a set of genitals’)
        It doesn’t have to be about sex, reproduction and the complexities of there being more than just XX and XY chromosomes in humans. (and XX and XY chromosomes don’t always express physically as conventionally male and female respectively)

        Teaching small children about LGBTQ+ is about teaching them to accept that not everyone choses to live in the way that their parents do. Indeed there will usually be children in most schools, or even year groups, with direct experience of LGBTQ+ members of their own families, so a bit of gentle “not everyone is like you” is a good thing at 5 years old.

    2. I think you’re making the common mistake of conflating gender questioning/fluidity with sexuality. They are completely different. Every transgender person I know was convinced of who they truly were well before the age of 5. Maybe your child isn’t implicated at that age, but someone else’s child is.

  27. Hi Joe, Pourchaire sounds like a real talent, I know that commented last year around this time that Giovinazzi was well supported inside of Ferrari, but with the fact that apparently they now do not have a first pick on drivers, can you see Alfa taking the plunge? In regards to Ocon he led a GP pretty much start to finish with a champion behind him, an excellent effort – how do you view Fernando’s return, have you see more or less of what you expected?

      1. Joe, was Alonso not greatly helped by a track where it is next to impossible to pass? Any other track [bar Monaco] and Ham would have had him with a bag of chips.

        1. Looked to me like Ham had several very good chances to pass but was repelled by the positioning, skill and eagerness of the Alpine driver.
          Circuit layout helped but the car worked very well around there anyway.

  28. Yet another fascinating round-up from you, Joe. I love the history you inject into current stories.
    Keep up the good work👍

  29. Joe, I enjoy your blog but you are wrong that “sport should remain above politics.” You might as well be saying “sport should remain beneath politics.” Obviously sports are part of the world, hugely part of politics, and athletes—being the reason sports exist, not the owners, not the Minister of Culture—have historically been in a position to call out injustice in ways that ordinary people, and certainly the victims of injustice, have not been able to. Should Muhammad Ali not have protested against the Vietnam War then? Are you of the opinion that Lebron James should shut up and stick to basketball? We should be proud of Lewis and Seb, and we should hope they continue to speak out on behalf of the victims of racism, oppression, homophobia, and any of the social ills that pollute the world that Formula 1 is inextricably a part of.

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