Green Notebook from Miami

Having spent the week between Austin and Mexico on the West Coast, perhaps I ought to have considered spending the days between Mexico and Brazil, on the East Coast… but in truth my visit to Miami was not some clever ploy to visit the Hard Rock Stadium to check out the work being done in preparation for the new Formula 1 race in 2022, but rather because flying to Miami was the most cost-effective route. Being armed with an NIE (National Interest Exception) an I Visa (for media) and an ESTA, plus two valid COVID-19 tests, I reckoned that I had all the bases covered.

I didn’t, of course, predict that my plane from Florida to Sao Paulo would be delayed 13 hours, or that the only other available flight that day would go technical and be delayed even longer, so I got to spend a night in an airport hotel at Miami with $24 in vouchers to live the high life. It is always a bit depressing when things like this go wrong, but a couple of gin & tonics made the world look a much better place and so I flew down the following day on a plane that had only a couple of dozen passengers, about a quarter of them being Formula 1 folk… in a hurry to get there to set things up for the race. People don’t often think about the logistics nightmares that go on in the background in Formula 1, nor the amount of work that needs to be done. F1’s first intercontinental triple-header (which many hope will be its last) is tough on the workers. The trouble is that they are so good at what they do that they keep on achieiving the almost impossible and so the F1 organisation becomes ever more ambitious with the calendar as a result.

One day, perhaps, it will all go wrong, rushing things from race to race, and there won’t be all the cars, the people or the TV equipment and a race will not be able happen.

It is interesting to think that a few years ago, if one had suggested three consecutive race weekends in three different global regions, one would have been laughed out of the room, and yet here we are, doing it.

Anyway, the Mexican GP weekend was a busy one, with a vast crowd (bigger than the US, no matter what Austin claims). Still, it is all rather irrelevant when one considers that the last GP in Adelaide had a cumulative total of 520,000, which still leaves the current races in the dust…

Things are pretty quiet in Formula 1 at the moment for a couple of reasons. The first is that everyone is too busy getting from one place to another than there is no time for mischief or doing deals… Christian Horner and Toto Wolff have been stirring one another up with gags about pantomime dames and villains. If they are not careful, people will start thinking that they are a real pair of Widow Twankies…

There continue to be whispers about who will drive the second Alfa Romeo but recently the idea that this will be Guanyu Zhou seems to have gone really quiet. Antonio Giovinazzi does not seem to be likely to stay (but you never know) while the noises being made about Theo Pourchaire suggest that he needs to wait another year. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the picture, because although Alfa Romeo might like to get Oscar Piastri, Alpine are not going to let him go and the only way the Australian will get a drive other than at Alpine is if he is still attached to the French team with a strong piece of elastic. If there was a two-year deal on the table perhaps something might be possible but with Valtteri Bottas signed and he team wanting Pourchaire in 2023, the seat is only open for a year. We will see what the final decision is soon…

With only reserve driver roles available in F1, the major rumours about the driver market are outside F1 with, for example, Nico Hulkenberg testing for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team last week. Dani Kvyat is also on the prowl and interested in either IndyCar or NASCAR, although jumping straight into the NASCAR Cup Series would probably be too risky and he would need a year doing the Xfinity Series or the NASCAR Truck Championship, both of which are regular steps for young drivers on the way up.

Another Russian who seems to be looking at diverting from his goal is Robert Shwartzman, who looks like he could be heading to the Ferrari LMH programme because there is no space in Formula 1 for him and a third season in Formula 2 probably won’t help much. Many of the big Formula 2 drives are already gone but with Christian Lundgaard heading off to IndyCar and Piastri and Zhou both likely to leave F2, there is a gap in the Alpine Academy and the word is that Formula 3 runner-up Jack Doohan will be replacing Zhou at UNI-Virtuosi (although it probably won’t be called UNI any longer) and that the Australian, son of bike racing legend Mick, will become a member of the Alpine programme, having decided that Red Bull has raher too many youngsters all aiming for F1. It is not yet certain how mant Red Bull youngsters will be in Formula 2 next year, but it will probably be five as Dennis Hauger is joining Prema, Juri Vips will be at Hitech, Japan’s Ayumu Iwasa will be a DAMS and Liam Lawson will be at Carlin. It is expected that Jehan Daruvala will also be on the Red Bull roster but it is not yet clear with which team he will race.  The Indian is currently with Carlin, but he could get the second Prema seat…

With most of the F1 drives decided and the calendar in place for 2021 and 2022, the rumour mill has been a bit quiet, although the engine rules for 2026 are now a talking point. If all goes to plan, the new rules may result in Volkswagen deciding to enter Grand Prix racing with two of its brands: Audi and Porsche. Rumours about Audi buying McLaren make a lot of sense but McLaren’s primary owner, Bahrain’s Mumtalakat, which owns more than half the shares does not seem keen to sell – and believes that the car company can be turned around with new models. Whether this is part of a negotiation is difficult to say because McLaren is in debt and needs for investment if it is take market share away from its rivals. One might even argue that McLaren’s situation is not dissimilar to the predicament in which Enzo Ferrari found himself in the late 1960s when he offloaded the Ferrari car company on Fiat, but kept the racing team. It is true that it is not the best time to sell an F1 team because the value of these organisations is expected to rise in the years ahead but it seems that Audi boss Markus Duesmann is keen to get involved in F1 with the new 2026 rules. Duesmann knows all about F1, as he was a BMW F1 engineer on his way up the slippery pole of the German car industry. Interestingly, his former rival from those days Ola Kallenius (who ran Mercedes Ilmor) is now the top dog in the Mercedes car company and remains convinced that F1 is a good thing for selling cars, even if Mercedes has reduced its shareholding in the Mercedes F1 team. There is no reason why there could not be a similar arrangement with Audi, after all McLaren does still need its own engine – or an exclusive partner – if the team wants to challenge for the World Championship again.

There was an announcement that the Chinese Grand Prix deal has been extended until 2025. In fact, this is not quite how it seems as it is simply a continuation of the current contract, with the three races that will have been missed (or will be missed)  in 2020, 2021 and 2022, being added to the end of the existing contract, so that deal now covers 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Over in the US, it is interesting to see that IndyCar was announced that it is going to take its Detriot Grand Prix back to the downtown area, after years of being on Belle Island. That will happen in 2023 and the race will be on streets that were used by F1 in the 1980s. I guess the folks at IndyCar have recognised the value of Liberty Media’s philosophy of taking racing to “destination cities”. Work goes on (quietly) to try to get F1 Grands Prix into places like London, Paris, New York and San Francisco… We’ll just have to see what pops up in the end.

Finally, probably the most important announcement of the Mexican GP weekend was the launch of the FIA’s Safe & Affordable Helmet, which aims to reduce the number of people suffering head injuries in motorcycling accidents around the world.

And so, on to Brazil…

16 thoughts on “Green Notebook from Miami

  1. Speaking of Adelaide, the gov of the day there is/was planning on pulling up the track, they have already sold off all the infrastructure to hold races, the removeable stands and such, as they decided not to host the local V8’s anymore. To me it sounds like a very short sighted thing to do.

      1. I always considered Adalaide and the Las Vegas downtown street circuit (on the old strip, the one year it was used by Champ Car) to be the two best street circuits ever designed.

    1. “To me it sounds like a very short sighted thing to do.”

      What’s happening with the Adelaide street circuit isn’t that surprising when you look at the facilities they’ve built 100km up the road at The Bend.

    2. Actually, after a push by a local residents group asking the Adelaide City Council to look at tearing up the now unused track section, in order to restore the area of green space in the parklands and to reduce the heat footprint in the city area, the ACC voted against the idea and are now planning to investigate how they might be able to have it heritage listed, which would provide protection so that it will remain in place permanently.

  2. Hi Joe,
    There was a report this week in the Straits Times (Singapore) that the Anderson Bridge and nearby Fullerton Rd/Connaught Drive were to be turned into pedestrian zones and closed to traffic.As you are no doubt aware this forms a key piece of the GP circuit.Any idea what impact this will have on next years race. Thanks for all your insight in to the world of F1.

    1. The new pedestrianisation announced over part of the Singapore F1 track will I’m sure be designed to be easily removable. Currently a lot of the track that runs parallel to the Padang and in front of the Cricket Club is semi-pedestrianised already with removable paving.
      I had thought Singapore was signed up for the 2022 season, but a report in today’s Straits Times indicates negotiations are ongoing… quote “Singapore is in talks to continue hosting the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix next year, said Transport Minister S. Iswaran on Monday (Nov 15).”

  3. It might be ‘safe’ and inexpensive, but as a motorcyclist and having unfortunately witnessed the results of a fairly innocuous looking slow speed spill where the rider was wearing an open-face helmet there’s no way on earth I’d ever wear one!!

  4. I Would think that the Chinese GP in 2023/4/5 will depend heavily upon the common sense (or lack of) of the POTUS incumbent at the time, if not before.
    Glad I do not live in Taiwan. But I guess the communists want the treasure back (Taken by Chiang Kai-shek when he fled from Mau and his mob, it can take days to view it all) just as much as they need to show their their strength.

  5. “One day, perhaps, it will all go wrong, rushing things from race to race, and there won’t be all the cars, the people or the TV equipment and a race will not be able happen”

    It appears that has now happened… there’s been a delay in freight due to inclement weather, Haas currently have no engines and the Thursday curfew has had to be suspended to allow them to prepare their cars.

  6. If you had to place a bet on who will get the 2nd Alfa Romeo drive, given Fred has already said it has been decided and will be announced Tuesday, whos your money on? I think Nyck De Vries is the perfect solution. You know Toto well Joe, why can’t he do a deal with Fred. I thought they were best buddies. Toto didnt have a problem with Albon ( a Red Bull driver) driving a Mercedes Powerplant so why is it a big deal that Nyck a Mercedes Junior drives a Ferrari powerplant. If anything Ferrari should be all for this as they can tap into Nyck’s Mercedes knowledge. Why is nobody in F1 ( namely the parties involved) getting this over the line, its a win for everybody involved…

  7. I read somewhere that Guanyu Zhou wanted a multi-year deal since he is bringing big bucks, but Alfa Romeo is uncomfortable with this because they want Theo Pourchaire in the car in 2023. Guanyu Zhou’s sponsors probably have problems with a one year deal because there is no Chinese Grand Prix next year. They will not be able to get their money’s worth if there is no home grand prix for their driver.

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