Green Notebook from Tongerlo

Having no defined plan beyond a lunch on Tuesday “somewhere between Antwerp and Hasselt”, I set off on Monday morning from the place I was staying near Malmedy with no destination in mind. It had been a long, long night, working to finish various publications and I would happily have retired to bed, but as I couldn’t stay in the hotel I decided to see where Fate took me, beginning with a tour around the Spa circuit to see the carnage that had been created over of the weekend – and to work out which roads had been closed, so that in future I know all the rat runs on a Grand Prix weekend. One could tell from the steel barriers and attached road signs – that had yet to be collected up but had been pushed aside – which roads could have been used. And, no doubt, it will be the same next year.

The traffic jams had been bad at Spa all weekend, but early morning starts and knowing a few tricks had meant there were no real problems until Sunday morning when I arrived to find access from Malmedy jammed at 07.15. The Belgian police force does not command much love and affection in F1 circles, but on this occasion one officer came to my rescue, having noticed my F1 Personnel parking pass on the windscreen. He created space enough for me to squeeze through to a closed turn-off and then moved some bollards to let me past. I was surprised, but very thankful as he saved me hours of sitting in a jam for no reason, when there was work that needed to be done.

At the nearby checkpoint before Burnenville they told me not to even try to go up the normal road to the circuit because there was a mud bath and everything was blocked. It would take hours to get through to the media parking.

So it was time to get creative and I tried various ploys to get into the correct parking area. After being turned away at my first attempt I embarked on an entertaining rally stage on a gravel road and found my way to Francorchamps village, and the job was done. All that was required before I started bashing the computer keys was to nip down to the test centre for a quick nasal rape and then I was being productive again.

Others journalists drifted gradually in, each with stories to tell of their adventures.

An hour spent touring around on Monday seemed a sensible investment for the future. I slipped and slithered through muddy places and bounced along rocky roads but learned a great deal, and then I went a little further afield looking for places where it might be good to stay in the future. This led me gradually to the north where I began to see evidence of the recent flooding in the Vesdre valley and its tributaries. More than 40 people were killed when intense storms drenched these hills in July. To give you an idea, there were 10.69 inches of rain in a 48 hour period in the Jalhay district, next to Spa, an all-time record for Belgium. Spa recorded 8.5 inches. During the race weekend I bought a booklet about the floods, in part because the money was going to help rebuild the area. To give you an idea about the flooding, there was one photo in the booklet which showed a 40-ft steel shipping container on top of cars outside a Peugeot dealership in Verviers. This container had come from seven miles up the river in Eupen and had been washed over, under or through a number of bridges.

In the end, I found myself in some of the areas which had been hardest hit. I’ve never seen anything like it. Six weeks after the floods there were still crushed cars, smashed buildings and road surfaces that had been torn away by the flood water. Along the river the branches of the trees that had not been torn off were draped in flotsam and jetsam, like strange Christmas tree decorations.

Many roads were still closed but it was a sobering experience.

Mother Nature is a very troublesome and dangerous woman. In my column in GP+ magazine in the Spa issue, I included a picture of Glenn Close from the movie Fatal Attraction, attacking Michael Douglas with a knife. I used this because I was trying to explain what Spa is like. I’ve been coming to races here for 35 years and some of the moments I have spent here have produced magical memories.

“For many racing folk Spa and Monza are the celestial cities,” I wrote. “The perfect places where you see drivers at their very best. It is a place of highs and lows because with the thrills of Spa, one must also accept the darker side of the sport. On a good day Spa is warm and seductive, on a bad day it leaps chillingly out of the wardrobe with a knife, or boils your pet bunny. When you set off for Spa you pack shorts and heavy jackets, sunglasses and gumboots. But, early in the morning, with the pine forests clothed in a sunny mist and the sound of engines cutting through the still air from the distant hillsides, it seems like the most wonderful place to be.”

The muddy fields and abandoned vehicles I saw on Monday attested to the struggles that went on beyond the circuit fences. In time, I am sure, the fans who lived through this will be happy telling stories about how they were there to see the 2021 disaster. Those who were naive enough to suggest that the fans should be given their money back, do not perhaps understand that if that was to be the case, the future of Spa would be placed in financial jeopardy, which could mean that we would lose the track from F1 forever. Even if those who earn money from the ticket sales, directly or indirectly, agree to pay 4.5 percent of their annual salaries (representing one of the 22 races), the track would still be left with the bills that would have to be paid for the preparations for the event. We know that Lewis Hamilton is a generous fellow, so perhaps he could start the ball rolling by handing over a couple of million which some argue he did not properly earn at the weekend. You see, it’s a complicated business asking for refunds. And Alfa Romeo, which made similar crowd-pleasing noises, might not be happy to hand back the millions they will eventually take home from Spa…

On Sunday it was anything but wonderful, but what happened could not really have been otherwise. I think the FIA handled things very well, but I understand – as they also do – that the outcome was anything but perfect. There were no other options. Now, in the aftermath, rules can be tweaked so that if there are ever similar conditions, there will be a better route to take, but it was what it was. Imperfect and unsatisfying. And we all felt for the fans, who were the ones who really suffered.

With a car well-caked in mud, I set off for a drab lunch in a drab Liege and then headed north, passing a closed section of motorway that was piled high as far as I could see with debris from the flooding. I headed up towards Zolder, but I didn’t stop. I was feeling rather weary and so pulled into a motorway rest area and had a snooze and then visited in search of a place to stay on Monday night. I ended up in town called Westerlo, for no reason other than the hotel looking nice enough.

Westerlo is in the Flemish part of Belgium, in a region that the locals call De Kempen and the Walloons call the Campine. It’s a flat area with much heathland, pine forest and soggy marshes. The soil is sandy and not very useful for farming. This region became a place where the local big wigs built big castles and monks settled to pray and brew beer. Before the invention of TV, everyone had time to dream up bizarre folklore, including the bokkenrijders, who were brigands who rode through the sky on flying goats (Yeehah!), and legendary gnomes called kabouters, who were led by a king called Kyrië. The kabouters helped the local farmers, while the bokkenrijders ran what amounted to a protection racket.

Don’t you love folklore?

Westerlo also featured a rather grand castle, owned by the de Merode family. The name seemed familiar and I remembered that Prince de Merode was an FIA President back in the 1970s. The family was also related by marriage to the de Vogüé family, who also had an FIA President at one point. That was how it was done in that time…

It’s a bit different these days.

The green notebook from Spa had very little in it because the press is not being allowed to enter motorhomes and that makes life rather difficult because people don’t want to come out and chat on rainy weekends. It’s frustrating to see how some folks don’t abide by the protocols, but insist that others do, which is the sort of hypocrisy that one sees in politics… If there is one rule for one group of people, there should be one rule for everyone.

The media in F1 are not super-spreaders and have been far better-behaved than many others.

The news that Sergio Perez has re-signed for Red Bull is effectively a confirmation that George Russell is going to Mercedes – and that Valtteri Bottas will likely end up at Alfa Romeo. Even if they won’t say it out loud, Red Bull would grab Russell in a heartbeat if they thought he was available, as he is out of contract at Williams. If Mercedes didn’t want him, George would be available… so you can assume that it is only a matter of time until that news breaks. I have been sure of this for several months.

Bottas could, in theory, go back to Williams but it would probably not pay as well as Alfa Romeo and would, in any case, be a step backwards for him, while joining a manufacturer-backed team is enough of a fig leaf to protect Valtteri’s delicate sensibilities, if there are any. That was effectively what Kimi Raikkonen did when Ferrari shunted him out to Alfa Romeo…

So, that leaves the question of what Williams does for a replacement for George and what Alfa Romeo does about its second driver. There is no doubt that Fred Vasseur would like to see Theo Pourchaire in the team, but it is still a bit early for the young Frenchman and so the second seat at Alfa Romeo may need a stop-gap for a year, which would mean that Giovinazzi might not be a bad idea. The team needs to focus on building a good car for 2022 rather than worrying about drivers, because finishing ninth in the Constructors Chmapionship having invested a pile of money is really not awfully impressive. Team owners don’t like such things.

Still the investment will probably work out OK in the end as the budget cap has meant that the teams now have much more value that once they did. More of that in a minute. Let’s finish the drivers first…

Williams is believed to have been talking to Perez (again) about 2022 with the Mexican hedging his bets in case Red Bull decided not to keep him, but now he’s gone, Williams need to think carefully. Latifi is there next year and team boss Jost Capito said that what the team wants is to decide on whether they want experience or potential, but added that the key deciding factor is that the driver will fit with Williams’s long-term thinking. I took this to mean that they want youngsters around which to build a great future.

What is not widely known is that just before the Belgian Grand Prix, Nicholas Latifi had a COVID-19 test that was unclear and while the Canadian had to go through the process of more tests to get the all clear, Williams needed to look into replacing him for Spa.

The word is that the first choice to take the role for the weekend was Alex Albon, currently Red Bull’s reserve driver, who has immediate experience in one of the top F1 teams. With Perez staying there at Red Bull in 2022, the Austrian drinks company has nothing worth for Albon that is worth having, unless they change AlphaTauri, which is not likely. Thus Albon has little reason to stay with Red Bull if there are other options available. This was shown when he turned up at the recent IndyCar race in Indianapolis, where there were rumours that he might take over Romain Grosjean’s drive when the Frenchman moves to Andretti in 2022.

The other point to consider is that Russell will no doubt vouch for his friend Albon if Williams asks who is the best choice for the team. George knows how good Alex is… Nyck de Vries might also be under consideration by Williams but his long-term future would be linked to Mercedes, not to Williams, so Nyck’s not quite what Capito said he was looking for.

If I was making decisions at Williams I don’t think I would sit around waiting for things to happen, and I doubt that Capito is really doing that. Right now, oddly, no-one is talking about the obvious choice for a team looking for a young driver. Oscar Piastri is an Alpine driver but Alpine has nothing to offer him, having just re-signed Alonso. So Piastri, who looks like winning F2 at his first attempt, should be available. Alpine has no customer teams and so cannot incubate the youngster elsewhere and so Oscar’s only choice is to move. Joining Williams as a reserve driver in 2022 with race drive in 2023 and beyond is an obvious deal for all concerned. And in the middle of it all is a bloke called Mark Webber, who knows the right people at Williams and helps to guide Oscar’s career. I don’t gamble on driver movements in F1, but this seems a sensible move. If Piastri wins the F2 title this year he will have won three consecutive junior titles at his first attempt, following his championships in 2019 in the Formula Renault Eurocup and in 2020 in the FIA Formula 3 Championship. That is a better calling card than Charles Leclerc and George Russell had when they broke into F1.

In recent weeks there have been some suggestions that Mick Schumacher could be moving in 2022 to Alfa Romeo. These are not true. Schumacher has done well this year at Haas, better than many expected, but in recent weeks Nikita Mazepin has begun to beat him, as the Russian driver’s confidence has grown, largely due to a change of chassis at Haas. Schumacher has had a long-term deal with Ferrari in recent years and that is currently being renegotiated. I would hazard a guess that this will be announced in Italy next week when Ferrari usually makes announcements. If he does well in 2022 with the Haas team, then Mick could (not would) move up to replace Carlos Sainz Jr in 2023. It’s a big if and Carlos is doing a good job, but that seems the most likely scenario.

Returning to the question of team ownership, we should address the rumours that Michael Andretti wants to buy an F1 team. I want to buy diamonds for my wife but  I cannot afford it and so there is not a lot of point in discussing it… However, the Andretti F1 rumours have come because Michael launched a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Andretti Acquisition, back in March aiming to raise $250 million on the New York Stock Exchange. Hidden away in the pages of financial prospectus are two things of note: the first is that McLaren’s Zak Brown is listed as a non-executive director of the firm. One might suggest that this could lead to speculation that Andretti might buy into McLaren, as the firm is selling a lot of stuff at the moment. However, a SPAC is not a licence to print money. There are very clear rules, including having to explain what the money is intended to be used for. According to the Andretti Acquisition prospectus the money is intended to fund the firm’s activities in the world of electric mobility. And F1 does not (yet) qualify at electric mobility (thank God).

Elsewhere, the new calendar features a TBC which will be in Qatar. The reason it is a TBC is probably that the Qataris want to make their own announcements about the race, rather than it being revealed in an F1 calendar revamp press release.

Right, that’s it for now. I’m off to Holland tomorrow but right now I’d like to drop in to Tongerlo Abbey, which is just up the road from here, as I have read that it contains a perfect copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which is in a far better conditions than the original. I’m told that they also have a beer there called Tongerlo Abbey.

90 thoughts on “Green Notebook from Tongerlo

  1. Do you think at any point F1 and Penske discussed hosting a 2nd US race at Indianapolis to fill the gap in the calendar?

  2. No mention on TV that cloudbase was too low for Medical chopper to operate if needed. Assume it was clear for the two laps ?

  3. I’d be fascinated to know how the comments from Alfa Romeo and Hamilton avoid being classified as “bringing the sport into disrepute”…

  4. “the FIA handled things very well” – apart from:

    – allowing Q3 to go ahead on Saturday
    – ruling Perez out and then back in again on Sunday
    – dancing to FOM’s tune on with the pretend ‘race’ for commercial reasons (TV & promoter contracts)
    – granting ‘points’ when there was not one second of ‘green light’ racing
    – staging an absurd ‘podium ceremony’

      1. Fair enough, but perhaps explain how you support granting ‘points’ when there was not one second of ‘green light’ racing please?

        1. It has been explained that the race was live from when they exited the pit lane at 18.17. The intention then was to try to clear the track using the cars. If that had been possible they would have raced. It was not. However the Race had been live and so points were awarded. OK it wasn’t perfect , but it was by the book. Maybe the book needs tweaking.

          1. Vettel’s radio transmissions make it clear that he thought that, when the cars were being sent out at that time, there was no intention of trying to clear the track and restart the race and that it was “just to get the TV money”.

    1. Sorry, Joe, but listening to Michael Massi say “No” to Red Bull, then get convinced in 10 seconds, say “oh I’ll talk to the stewards”, then an hour and a half later a decision gets made didn’t come across as “very well”. It’s not like they had to look at track limits or any collisions. Similarly, the Montreal 2011 time limit rule seemed to be applied at random. The first job of being a referee is to know the rules of the game…

        1. In the past cars have been “retired” with a problem, that is then worked on and the car goes out again and runs like a test session.

          Is the only grey area here that the car did not get back to the pits under its own steam (or electricity these days!!) Sort of parallels with Brands Hatch in 1976. I think under this scenario the Stewards made the wrong decision and Michelle Massi should have stuck to the original decision.

          1. Article 38.1 of the Sporting Regulations states: “Any car which does not complete a reconnaissance lap and reach the grid under its own power will not be permitted to start the race from the grid.” Thus, a pitlane start for Perez seems to be correct to me.

            1. Under these unique circumstances as if he had crashed and the car put at a place of safety until after the race, the opportunity would not have been there.

              I guess the Stewards deal with the situation as it stands, although in my precedent similar example, Hunt was ultimately excluded. At least in this case the point is mute as Perez had no impact owing to how the “race” played out. But perhaps a loophole to plug for the future

  5. Honestly I believe that the drives should contribute some of their pay for Spa towards a fund to refund the fans. Almost all of the drivers have more money than god and a gesture like this surely is more meaningful than the canned words before races or symbolic gestures made by some of the drivers about equality. Many of the drivers could donate their entire pay packet for the spa race and never miss it. It would be a lot easier to take their symbolic political actions seriously if they took this opportunity to repay the punters, even though it was no fault of their own. Whether they believe it or not, they are more than wealthy enough to be “that rich guy” and they should be giving back this time.

    1. I think this god fella through his enterprises on earth has more wealth than the formula 1 drivers. Just off the top of my head he has prime land in Westminster, the city of London, adjacent to River Seine and even his own country in Rome.

      When you go to Spa you know the risks. In 2006 I think it was I arrived at circuit in heavy rain, by the end of the day it was sweltering.

      What next refunds at races that could put an insomniac to sleep? Sadly many go to the GP for only one of the offerings, you cannot say none of the other races took place as they did. People saw racing, just not the headline act. It’s why at 5 day test cricket matches days 1-4 admission is high and day 5, a token amount. You may turn up for a few overs play. They only refund if the game ends before day 5. Obviously harder to do in a single day event, but at Spa the risk is always a rain affected race.

      1. The cricket comparison is a bit more complex than that. The old malpractice of squeezing in a couple of overs to defraud the fans went out long ago. Usually refunds are on a sliding scale based on the number of overs played in the day (though by no means is this ‘end to end’…the cut off point is nowhere near a full day, more like half). The big grounds that host internationals have found insurance markets willing to cover the odds, which while not cheap does at least allow for financial certainty.

        I’ve had both refundable and non refundable fifth day tickets in my time so that practice seems to vary.

        I don’t recall ever having refund arrangements for domestic matches.

        1. I was using my experience of cricket. I booked Day 4 and 5 at Trent Bridge and Old Trafford (not the same year);a few years back and as I recall it day 5 was £15 for me and £7.50 for my son. If it ended on day 4 we got some form of refund for that day as it was a lot more expensive and all of day 5. But if they played on day 5 we got to go home early and no refund. I did actually booking knowing the risks of only seeing play on one day (or in Manchester none at all with their unique climate). Although I was booked on specific trains back to the big smoke, so we would have to amuse ourselves for the rest of a day.

          It was more to show that in a single day scenario it’s difficult to formulate a fair refund, particularly when it’s weather related and some action has been seen.

  6. Hi Joe! Nice to read another green notebook from you. A real treat for a real F1 fan!
    Also nice to read that you were in my neighbourhood (Westerlo). Hope you enjoyed it. If this piece of calendar (Belgium- Netherlands just after each other) continues in next years, I can always give you more nice ideas to stay over. We have lots of nice hotels, restaurants and history in the region. Even some racing drivers: Marc Goossens en Jan Heylen from Geel (next to Westerlo) who were both active in the USA in NASCAR and ChampCar.
    You probably knew that.
    Enjoy Zandvoort next weekend!

    1. I see lots of signs for Heylen, which seems to be some kind of estate agent. I wondered if they were related.

  7. Thanks. I am sure everyone felt sorry for the fans. I wasn’t there nor do I drive the cars so I can’t comment on the weather.

    At the very least can F1 at least work on adjusting the schedule to find a clean 2 hours running? Or, come up with options to go to Monday?

        1. Other than TV commitments for the few countries that still are on terrestrial television; at a double or triple header it would knock the next event out of sequence. The support team are in a race against time even when everything runs to schedule to be set up in another country in time for Friday morning. Joe has done a piece (perhaps in GP+?) On the logistical challenges of moving F1 around Europe. From memory his pience was Red Bull Ring to Silverstone.

  8. That sounds like eventful few days Joe! Your insights are appreciated as always. Your point on Lewis and refund comments is spot on. I am not sure how much noise there was about that from the fans themselves. Plus, half points or not, Max has won and many in the grandstands would have been happy with that. He could have easily lost it, had the race gone ahead properly.

  9. I was keen to read your views on the race and compare it to UK newspapers reports, some of which, whilst very scathing of the handling of the race seemed to be written as a fan watching tv. Are you able to say which UK newspapers actually send journalists to the races and which don’t?

    1. In Spa, we had The Sun, The Mail, The Times, The Grauniad, plus PA, which I believe covers The Telegraph. There was also a man from AP. That’s it.

  10. I was just starting to think that under Liberty F1 was finally dragging itself out from the miasma of greed and corruption that characterised the Ecclestone years and this non race happens. They’ve put Domenicali, one of the old faces, in charge and right away it’s same old, same old. They put the cars out behind the safety car for two laps purely so they could declare a race, despite not having any racing at all, and thereby satisfy certain contractual requirements. In the process they have hopelessly corrupted both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships and will pay a heavy price in fan goodwill. Hope it is worth it.

    1. I completely agree on the distortion of the points standings. Too me they have awarded points for qualifying in a sport where “the points are made in the race”. And they did not race.

      The young superstar, Russell, being rewarded for a brilliant qualifying and Verstappen able to close the drivers championship gap after some brutal luck. It turned out to be a good podium for the FOM marketing department and that to me, as a fan of 50 years, whether intentional or not, smells poorly.

      I do think Hamilton is going to have both hands full with Russell.

        1. First of all, I completely agree that racing was not possible in these conditions and want to stress that this was no one’s fault.

          The race did go green at 18:17, when all cars left the end of pitlane (where there was a green pit exit light). They did a couple of laps behind the SC, so this triggered the regulation that half points should be awarded since they did more than 2 laps.

          The Article in the Sporting Regulations states: “If a sprint qualifying session or race is suspended under Article 50, and cannot be resumed, no points will be awarded if the leader has completed two laps or less, half points will be awarded if the leader has completed more than two laps but less than 75% of the original sprint qualifying session or race distance and full points will be awarded if the leader has completed 75% or more of the original sprint qualifying session or race distance.”

          Everybody acted according to the current regulations, which is best proved by the fact that no team protested the results (as far as I know). However, these current regulations will probably be tweaked after all what F1 has learned in Spa.

          For me personnally, a 2 lap minimum in order to be awarded half points is not a good rule. However, when you put it at 25% for example, which means 11 laps in Spa, there might be cases where there were some really good overtaking moves, the race is stopped and nobody gets rewarded for those moves. Drivers will have put their lives at risk during those 11 laps and they will then not get any rewards. So, I am pretty sure people will cry faul about that then too… so it is not always as easy as one might think.

          The podium ceremony was a bit over the top to me, but on the other hand at least the fans that paid expensive tickets for the main grandstand got to see their heroes on the podium… Once again, it is not black and white. There are always 5.000 shades of grey (as with most things that happen in the world).

        2. The problem is that the rules about the awarding of points were written decades before safety cars were legislated for in F1.

          The rules were written with a clear presumption that if cars were on the track, they were free to race for at least the majority of the circuit.

          And when the rules were redrafted to allow for the use of a safety car…no-one remembered to edit that part of the rule book.

          Hence the pretty widespread agreement that what happened was both the only thing that could be done given the existing rulebook and nevertheless also a shambles that mustn’t be allowed to happen again.

          The only people who brought the sport into disrepute were the FIA. Given the enthusiasm with which the FIA forced Michelin out of F1 after the 2005 US GP (for which they could legitimately claim force majeure since the track resurfacing created issues they had no prior warning of), it’s a pity that now they’ve created a much worse shambles entirely of their own, everyone gets to shrug it off.

          1. The people of FIA 2005 are mostly not the same people of FIA 2021. Furthermore, Technical and Sporting Regulations in every Series or Championship around the world, are a constantly evolving thing. Each season, things are learned and implemented in the following year’s regulations. Motorsport is a very complex sport if you compare it to other sports, such as football or tennis. Why does it always need to be somebody’s fault?

      1. “Russell, being rewarded for a brilliant qualifying”

        Actually it was chance, as Williams’s Dave Robson has since confirmed. Russell went for a second consecutive flying lap which managed to switch the tyres into their performance window – whereas all other drivers opted for a single flying lap, before an outlap to re-power the battery, which didn’t get tyres into the window. Robson also said that if the race had taken place, there was no way Williams would have been on the podium – so being awarding points is sketchy.

        1. That’s disappointing – I was hoping to see him in F1.
          Is it purely because Ferrari don’t have the influence at Alfa that they previously had or is there something more to it?

  11. thank you, Joe !
    there is no other contemporary source of F1 coverage in such overarching, detailed, all-encompassing, substantiated fashion & style — independent PRINT/ONLINE Journalism still is KING

    1. [ when people stop buying newspapers, like books & magazines, instead enhancing their screen times, at some stage print media ought to be state-subsidized, I believe, partially; otherwise soon there won’t be any newspaper anymore. Or some state-issued media vouchers per household / month, for non-digital titles — just dreaming, sorry ]

  12. Once again, a fascinating report. Full of nuggets of information on F1 and some lovely colour from your route to the Netherlands. Keep it up, Joe. Sure you will👍

  13. Joe, on TV since Silverstone, Lewis looks very uncomfortable around Max and seems to absent himself at the first opportunity when they appear together. Max by way of contrast seems completely unfazed. Am I imagining this or is it a real thing?

  14. Another here who strongly believes no green light racing equals NO GP which means NO points and NO trophy.

    I am not saying FIA , Liberty Media or F1 did anything wrong on Sunday, they tried there best and seemed to follow current regulations.

    I am just saying lets get those regulations changed so it cannot ever happen again in the future. A grand prix win should be a grand prix win and not a deeming precession behind a safety car with absolutely no chance of overtaking.

  15. “The Grauniad”: top drawer, lol.

    If I could ask, what publications are you preparing for? I tend to look out for your name popping up, I see your articles in Autocar from time to time, this blog and GP+ (obvs, and thank you), but any where else that I might add to the search?
    Sadly, the jsbm is beyond my means.

  16. It strikes that whilst F1 has been logistically quite brilliant over this covid period. That is why was surprised at the lack of alternative strategies for a race weekend where rain has been forecast for the whole weekend at a track notorious for its fickle weather. Surely contingency plans could have been made for start time changes (earlier or later) or a Monday race if properly pre-planned (All the track personell needed to run a race makes this very hard but not impossible).
    Like your views on Piastri, he shows some real race craft and campaign planning. Doohan showed something similar in how he ran race 1 on the weekend. Doohan shows real promise, but Piastri strikes me as someone special.
    I am new to your Blog and simply wish to say thank you for a good and interesting read.

  17. Indycar can and does postpone a race to Monday on occasions when Sunday is a wash out. But all the F1 people consider Indycar to be inferior. Maybe they have much to learn from their “inferior” counterparts on how to run a race weekend to the FANS’ satisfaction, rather than their own wallets.

    1. Indycar is a much smaller enterprise – apart from the Indy 500. It is a lot easier to reschedule their races. In a perfect world F1 might do that but it would require professional marshals and a lot more cost. And you can be sure that would be passed on to the race promoters and to the fans. So if you want to advocate higher ticket prices, that’s up to you. This was a once in 71 years event. It raises questions, but don’t jump to conclusions that may not be best for the fans.

    2. Sometimes, one has to accept that not all in life goes according to plan… I am not in favour of doing races on Mondays. Logistically it seems difficult but maybe not always impossible. However, as far as track and pitlane marshalls are concernd, it would be far more difficult to have enough people (remember Spa is about 7 kilometres). Finally, there would be almost no public I think.

      They could have maybe swapped the timetable around to race when conditions were at its best. If the TV coverage prevented them from doing so, it might have been a possibility to have the race at, for example 11h00, and broadcast it “delayed-as-live” at the original broadcast time of 15h00.

  18. Joe,

    I found the piece on McLaren the GP+ interesting. It’s shame to see more British intellectual capital and business ending up in the clutches of American PE/Hedge Funds, a sentiment that’s growing quickly in the UK right now with a number of tech and defence acquisitions having taken place in recent times.

    Anyway, this is clearly a strategy to clean up the balance sheet for a McLaren IPO in 2022.

    Happy travels to Zandvoort!

  19. How about a plan B for rainy days? Remove the rear wings, put a round nose cone with no wing ( maybe a nerf bar) and 4 inch wide heavily treaded tires. Turn the engines down and let the drivers put on a show, with minimal spray. See who’s who.

  20. First off, thank you for a delightful read – it is always a pleasure to read your delicious prose. It looks like there is an abundance of talented drivers currently but not enough teams for them to compete in. Do you think that with potential investors like Andretti – with all the caveat you carefully added in your post – there is any chance we go back to the days before 2012 where we see more than ten teams competing or is it a very unlikely scenario ?

  21. Joe – This question is a non sequitur, but throwing it out there regardless. There has been lots of discussion that Ricciardo has been struggling to adjust to the characteristics of the McLaren, but no details about what those characteristics are. Any insights? I’ve wondered if teams consider the type of handling a driver prefers when making their driver decisions. Is it better to have two that like the same handling characteristics, or better to have two drivers of different styles?

    1. I have seen an article somewhere explaining some of that. Can’t post links but Google “ Why adapting to McLaren’s 2021 F1 car has proven difficult” and you should find some fairly transparent stuff from Andrea Stella who’s been very open by F1 norms.

      1. Thank you! Just read the article by Edd Straw, and it all makes sense. It does make me wonder a bit about the driver choice of Ricciardo, but assume they expected him to adjust, as Sainz did. However, I still question a bit the wisdom of choosing a driver whose inherent/preferred driving style is at the opposite end of the spectrum from your car’s characteristics.

        In terms of when creating this type of car started at McLaren, I wonder if it goes back to when they converted to Honda and were so far down on power. Being underpowered could make you focus on straight line aerodynamic efficiency to compensate, and try to reduce the difference in straight line speed.

    2. I would think you would want a wider window to adjust the car for performance. Gives you more drivers to pick from ? But then I am not F1 engineer 🙂

  22. Joe, how many drivers of the Kimi Raikkonen persuasion have you met over the years?

    His retirement is not unexpected, yet it still shreds the heart, as I have idolised him since he started at McLaren.
    Not just his incredible heroic drives in the Maccas of 2003 and 2005when he was up there with the Ascaris and Clarks and what have you, but also his demeanour, sportsmanship, total honesty and refusal to play the cheat a la Schumacher.
    We won’t see his like anytime soon.

  23. Might as well throw my two euros in, then. I was looking forward to Spa, always do, it’s a major highlight of the F1 season for me. Disappointed to not get to see a race. In such atrocious conditions, though, and with recent happenings up Raidillon, it was unquestionably the right decision.

    As for how the rules were figured out and applied, well, it is what it is. There are positives and negatives, as there would have been if no points had been awarded. Ultimately, I’ve been invited to watch, not to dictate what the rules should be.

  24. It was not ideal, but you can bet no-one wanted this outcome or were expecting it.

    I don’t remember this kind of outrage in 1991 when the 🇦🇺 Grand Prix ran for about 14 laps and we were very lucky no driver was injured or worse. 1989 was another bad day in Australia although it was almost dry by the end. I always remember the “Jaws” footage of Ayrton Senna going into the back of Martin Brundle’s Brabham, seen from the backward facing camera on the Brabham.

    Because we are all more risk averse nowadays the race ended up being what it was. Perhaps they should have given it more than minimum distance to be classed as a race.

    I think Indianapolis in 2006 is still a far worse PR disaster by comparison because that could have been resolved in a number of ways. Unless Stefano Domenicali had a hot line to the fella who makes the weather, this race had no alternatives. It was either call off or have a race in the record books. I just hope either Hamilton or Verstappen win the drivers championship by more than the points gained in this race.

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