Green Notebook from another airport lounge

The Jeddah weekend was dominated by the explosion that occurred on Friday evening, five miles to the east of the circuit, at the Saudi Aramco North Jeddah Bulk Plant, close to the King Abdulaziz International Airport. This happened a few minutes before the first F1 practice session began and a huge dark cloud of oil smoke was visible, although this had no impact on the circuit, as strong winds were blowing from the north. So you can safely assume that any report you may have read about smoke blowing across the circuit was written by someone who was not there.

The other amusing giveaway were the reports that this had all happened 16km (10 miles) from the circuit. These probably derived from people using Google Directions to figure out the distance and not bothering to look at how far it was as the crow flies, rather than in a car. Figuring out what was happening was not that hard. One found a street that lined up with the source of the smoke and then used Google Earth and simply followed the direction of the street until one found an oil facility. Readers of this blog may remember back in December that I accidentally dropped by the “fuel farm” at the airport in Jeddah – on my way home – so when things went bang on Friday, I had a pretty good idea of what had happened and where. The Houthi movement in Yemen has been firing missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia for months… and they soon claimed responsibility for their successful strike.

To be honest I was not overly bothered by all this. Having grown up in London in the 1970s and 1980s, one was used to bomb attacks caused by the IRA.  One day, if I ever write the story of my life, I might relate adventures that I had as a result of this, but today is not really the moment.

Anyway, when I stopped to think about it, by far the scariest thing in Jeddah were the driving standards, which offered a much more immediate threat to life and limb than any explosive device. I am not kidding. After years travelling the world, watching drivers in action, I have reached the conclusion that while some drive too quickly, and some drive without sufficient competence, the two elements are rarely combined.

In Saudi Arabia every journey to and from the circuit (and it was not any great distance) seemed to include seeing at least one shunt – and a number of near-misses. The statistics bear this out. In 2010 there were only 250,000 drivers in Saudi Arabia, today there are three million, so in 12 years the number of people with driving licences has multiplied by 12. According to a recent survey by MDPI (whoever they are) Saudi Arabia has one of the highest death rates caused by road accidents, with about 130,000 people each year popping their expensive clogs and not coming home from missions to the supermarket. It really is quite shocking. I decided at one point that I might have finally found a plan for how to get rich. I shall write a book called “How to use Indicators” and have it translated into Arabic, so that the drivers of Saudi Arabia, of which there are believed to be around three million of the 35 million people in the country, will be able to spend more time on Earth before disappearing off to some garden in the sky.

If you check out the website Expatica.com, which is designed for foreigners who want to settle abroad, there are some useful tips about driving in Saudi, the first of which is: “grow a pair of eyes in the back of your head”.

I guess that if chameleons could get driving licences, they would be safe in Saudi Arabia, as each of their eyes can pivot and focus independently, allowing them to observe two different objects simultaneously. I cannot say I saw any chameleons driving in Jeddah, but I did see an awful lot of absolutely hopeless driving, most of it at very high speed and often with the driver squinting into a mobile phone, adjusting his dish-dash, or preening his beard. It seems to be a society in which bearded men show off their masculinity by driving with a machismo that would cause even Spanish bull fighters to blanch. The Saudis tailgate, undertake, text at 100 mph and never (ever) use indicators.

Expatica also warned that one should watch out for camels at night, although I cannot say I ever saw one, probably because they have all become road kill. The civic planners of Jeddah have adopted the roundabout for some junctions, but the locals have not yet grasped the concept of priority and assume that this is dictated by the size of your vehicle. The bigger you are, the bigger your priority.

Weirdly, they have also adopted the Brazilian ritorno concept, where in order to turn across a major road one has to go past the junction you want and then hang a uey to go back to turn. This means that after your uey you have to cross four or five lanes with cars barrelling along at daft speeds, the drivers in whichever lane they fancy. They say that safety standards are improving rapidly, but I didn’t see much evidence of this.

However, one has to say that most Saudis are very friendly, although some of the ruling classes seem a little haughty and arrogant, with a sense of entitlement that one often sees in pay-drivers in the motorsport world. Because they have tons of money, they seem to think that this somehow transforms them into masters of the universe.

Perhaps it does…

F1 is in Saudi Arabia for one reason alone. We can pretend otherwise, if we wish to be delusional, but the truth is that we are in Jeddah because the Saudis pay more than other places. A lot more. A shed-load more. F1 doesn’t talk about who pays what, but the biggest paying races each year are in the Middle East and Asia, and Saudi seems to pay the biggest fee these days, although perhaps Qatar has gone beyond that. There is also a major global partnership with Saudi Aramco.

Ultimately, the actual numbers are not important, but one must understand that most of the decisions made are liable to be swayed by the impressive number of noughts on the F1 bank statements.

F1 needs to deny this, of course, because these days everyone wants to ride the band wagon of social awareness, to please the younger generations, who seem to think that companies ought to have a broader purpose, rather than existing solely in pursuit of profit. This is a concept born from the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, which demonstrated that there are drawbacks to the pursuit of profit for its own sake. Today companies are supposed to achieve more if they are seen to be a positive force for good in society.

The inclusion of Saudi Arabia in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship was always a risk, but the powers-that-be believed that the financial returns from such a relationship would outweigh the potential damage of the association with a country which is often portrayed as being authoritarian and ultra-conservative, which has long attracted criticism for its strict interpretation of Sharia law, its excessive use of capital punishment, its poor human rights record and its role in the Yemeni civil war. One must say that there is some evidence that change is happening and the younger people in Saudi are keen to move forwards, but not everyone is broad-minded.

And changing the image of a country is not helped by mass executions or doing away with critics in medieval style. This is why F1 had to consider its position after a drone attack. You can call it a coincidence if you like, but coming a few months after a bomb attack on the Dakar Rally, which some misguided folk have tried to pass off as an exploding compressed air canister, one must ask the question whether it is sensible for the sport to go to such a place.

It is quite hard to describe the Houthi movement in Yemen. The Saudis call them terrorists, the Houthis say the same about the Saudis. In the West, where oil is important (more so since Vlad the Invader decided to send his armies into Ukraine), governments tend to stick their fingers in their ears and go “la-la-la-la” when Yemen is mentioned. This is why the Houthis have been sending missiles and bomb-laden drones into Saudi on a regular basis for the last few years. They want people in Saudi to feel uncomfortable and they want to highlight their arguments.

The British proved with the IRA that the solution is to talk and try to address grievances. Today we walk the streets of London without fear that we will be blown into pieces by explosive devices.

Formula 1 has always risked being a target for terrorism, because of the high profile it enjoys around the world and if you read shareholder information about the sport, you can find this listed as one of the risk factors involved.

“The general risk of a terror attack has increased recently in a number of the countries in which events are held,” the F1 group advises, without naming names. In other words. We are going to dodgier places.

The proximity of the explosion, which was clearly not a coincidence, led to uncomfortable feelings and lots of folk saying: “What if?” Terrorists are (usually) quite clever people, who do what they do because they have a cause they believe in. Their attacks are designed to deliver a message. When they use sophisticated equipment, such a mercury tilt switches, they are telling the authorities what they can do. They do not usually embark on indiscriminate killing, as this usually does more harm than good.

News of the Dakar attack was suppressed by all those concerned, except by the people who were blown up. They were French and the French government decided that if no-one else would take action, it would investigate. So the Parquet National Anti-Terroriste (PNAT) sent a team to Jeddah to examine the events and the machines.  No report has yet been published in France, but leaks to the media indicate that the investigation concluded with 100 percent certainty that the explosion had been caused by a bomb. The fact that the report has not been published suggests that the government is now in “la-la-la-la” mode and so the policemen leaked the details to the media.

The Houthis clearly want to attract attention but, at the same time, they want to avoid international outrage and so an attack in the proximity of a big event makes more sense than blowing up the event itself. The goal of both attacks was probably to try to get the events cancelled and thus create a bigger story that would hurt Saudi’s programme of using sport to forge better links with the world. When that did not happen, the Houthis did a clever thing and declared a three-day ceasefire to take advantage of the publicity generated from F1 by the attack. This ensured that the racing teams did not need to worry about further attacks. It was a very neat piece of propaganda. Very few F1 people ran off to the airport, with the notable exception of German TV.

The real question now is whether F1 feels it is worth continuing the relationship, hoping that Saudi Arabia will be able to provide a safe and secure venue for motorsport in a short space of time, or whether it might be better to pause and come back to Saudi when the country has sorted out more of these problems.

Stefano Domenicali has made much of late about the demand that exists for F1 races and so replacing the Saudi race will not be an issue, although perhaps the F1 bank account would have a few fewer noughts.

In any case, the majority of people in the sport think that F1’s expansion has gone far enough and it would now be wiser to expand the audiences at every event, rather than expanding the number of events.  There are still too many races which have small crowds, because they don’t need to promote, because the governments pay for the races to happen.

Having too many races creates a lot of problems, both with scheduling and with logistics. As I mentioned last week, F1 is already dancing on the rim of the volcano when it comes to freight and the war is going to cause more trouble as freight-handlers are under pressure. F1 might be wise to do a deal with one company, rather than shopping around, and that way it will become a valued customer, as opposed to an occasional user. I did hear at some point last year that there could be a deal in the pipeline with Qatar Airlines, as part of the agreement to have a Grand Prix in Qatar. Qatar Airlines has an enormous cargo fleet including 83 Boeing 777s, the plane that will become F1’s preferred choice in a world of declining Jumbos. It seems also that the teams now all have freight containers that has been designed for 777 freighters.

The other thing that needs sorting, both from a scheduling and an environmental point of view is the calendar, which often makes no sense at all. F1 is keen to promote a green image and yet here we are this summer with a five-week period which will include the British, Austrian, French and Hungarian GPs in that order. It is incomprehensible because Britain-France and then Austria-Hungary is much more efficient, and when your fleet consists of close to 300 40ft trucks, all pumping out diesel fumes, going backwards and forwards across Europe, it really isn’t very smart.

The big news for me in Jeddah, apart from things going bang, was the plans that will soon be announced for the new Grand Prix of Las Vegas. The first will take place on 24 November 2023, on America’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If you look it up, you will find that this is a Saturday, the day after Black Friday, the first day of the Christmas shopping season.

This is not a mistake  as the race, which will take place on Saturday night under lights on The Strip in Las Vegas, will hit the US television markets at peak hours – and will be broadcast at a sensible hour on Sunday morning in F1’s traditional markets in Europe, and later on the Sunday in Asia.

The other big innovation is that the race will not have a local promoter, but will be organised by the Formula 1 group itself, working closely with the city of Las Vegas. Thus the race will not pay a race promotion fee, as other events do, but rather will contribute all of its revenues to the F1 coffers.

This has been done before by Bernie Ecclestone, the last time being in Austria, when he worked closely with Paddy McNally to run an event. It was not a great success. The problem with this is that while there is potential for big profits, there is also potential for losses, so there is a risk involved. But with F1’s new popularity, the risks are significantly reduced, as a race in Las Vegas is bound to sell well.

It is worth noting that a circuit design which has been circulating in the United States in recent days, is not at all what the track will look like. The F1 circuit will run down The Strip from Caesars Palace, crossing Flamingo Road and passing the celebrated Bellagio fountains and the Eiffel Tower, until it reaches the Cosmopolitan Casino, where it will go left on to Harmon Avenue. It will then work its way north, through the existing roads and empty land in that area and will end up looping around the soon-to-be-completed MSG Sphere and then run along Sands Avenue, passing The Venetian and rejoining The Strip near Wynn Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, down in Miami, the word is that the folk at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will create a small lake inside the circuit, in order to ensure that the track does not look like a facility laid out in car parks.

Much work has gone into landscaping the new facility to give it character and the lake, complete with yachts that cannot go anywhere, will help this to happen.

While that might seem bizarre, it is not the first time it is happened in F1, as the lake in Albert Park in Australia features much the same idea, with yachts positioned to appear on camera during the races, to add a little of the Monaco-like glamour.

After the difficult times in Saudi Arabia, F1 returns to Australia in 10 days, the first visit since the Australian GP was cancelled at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Melbourne seems to be a complete sell-out and other races are enjoying similar surges in interest. There are also signs that China is beginning to show a bit more interest in the sport. This is usually the case when a country gets an F1 driver and it is why F1 is looking for an American racer at the moment. The Holy Grail, of course, is a woman racer, as that will attract the interest of around half the world population…

Anyway, Guanyu Zhou is already having an impact, although the fact that there will not be a Chinese GP this year will not help matters. Zhou’s impressive debut in Bahrain, which resulted in him scoring a point for 10th place, was a very good start and, although he was promoted by the retirements of the two Red Bulls and Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri, he is only going to improve. And it may not be long before he will be up to speed with team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who managed to finish sixth in Bahrain.

What is interesting is the reaction in China to Zhou’s F1 debut. The race took place late at night in China, but within eight hours of the finish the Chinese social media platform Weibo, has registered 120 million people, reading about his achievement. China is F1’s biggest TV audience these days, with around 73 million viewers every race, so we can expect to see that improve.

Otherwise F1 is quiet enough. Some of the drivers don’t want to go back to Jeddah in the future, but if push comes to shove they will because they have contracts and they don’t want to hand over their cars to reserve drivers. No-one expects the FIA to do anything, particularly now the president is from the UAE, and so the only way things are going to change is if the F1 Group ignores all the noughts and concludes that the race there does them more harm than good. And that is about as likely as Greenland starting a space programme and putting a man on the Moon.

67 thoughts on “Green Notebook from another airport lounge

  1. How come no sponsors on the upper surface of the rear wing of the Ferrari? And if the potential sponsors can’t afford you, leave them black? Not even in Ferrari red?

    Location aside, excellent race, with on track passing for the lead.

  2. Your comments on driving in Jeddah bring back memories of our12 years in Dubai and the insane driving. While we were there we had F1 on TV and bin Saleyam was a local hero and we went to watch him driving in the desert and wadis when big events were held. One time a Maclaren MP4 appeared on its side on the roadside down town as an apparent marker for some event, but not motor racing… but the cars the locals drove, wow a complete catalog of the world’s super cars and custom specials. And at the end of our street was a roundabout which very late in the night hosted a competition where the young dudes got their cars up on two wheels and lapped the roundabout as many times as possible to “win”.

    Personally, after watching the race on tv I think the F1 track in KSA is an invitation to a racing disaster as in much of the track there isn’t much time or space to avoid any kind of spin or shunt in the event of close racing. Plus, the track appears to be difficult to clean up after a wall banger. We’ll see how it all played out…

  3. Joe, during this past weekend of the Saudi GP there was talk about the contract for the GP and had the figures of 10 year contract worth $900 million (starting from 2021).

    To the best of your knowledge, is this quite accurate or pure nonsense?

  4. Great column Joe, I always look forward to the Green Book report. Re: “the lake in Albert Park in Australia features much the same idea” – true but the lake was there for 120 years before the AusGP in ’96.

  5. I think your autobiography will be a best seller, Joe.

    Thinking back to the IRA bombing campaign, I’m reminded of an incident in 1976 when I was working as a messenger using the London Underground, and saw a suspicious cardboard box on a tube train. I called the guard (as we were advised to) and this somewhat scruffy looking uniformed lad not much older than me came along, took a glance at the box and said “Ah, that’s not a bomb” and gave it a kick. When he turned round I and everyone else in the carriage had dived to the floor…

    1. Reminds me of working at the Motor Show at Earls Court, when we noticed a metal office cupboard had appeared behind our stand. We called security and waited for the PA announcement “Will Major General xxx please go to stand number yyy” (which was the bomb squad code.) This did not happen, but two security bods turned up and levered the cupboard open to find it empty, while we hid around a corner. Contrarily a bag left unattended on the stand was taken away and blown up as was the normal procedure back then. No sympathy for the idiot owner who turned up later.

      1. When I worked at a major utility company in Leeds in the ’80’s a suspicious package turned up and was gently placed in a forecourt behind our portakabin.
        The army came and blew and and disarmed a box of Turkish delight sent from an ex-colleague expat… a bit of a gooey mess was left.
        No jokes needed though, I do know people affected by the Warrington bombings from our Manchester office. As Joe alludes, many of us are old enough to remember those days and chapeaux to the negotiators on both sides of the Good Friday Agreement. The American chairman George J Mitchell spoke at my daughters Masters Graduation at University of Ulster close to 2000 and he was a most highly invigorating and inspiring chap. Top bloke.

  6. The Saudi FormulaE was also in close proximity to a missile attack.

    Let’s hope the FIA/F1 fo the right thing and find suitable small print to say goodbye to the Saudis.

  7. This is one of the clearest article I’ve read on the Saudi – Yemeni issue that doesn’t seem to be biased towards any party. The middle east is a weird place. So much glitz, lights, and uneasy tension. There is almost no society that can lay claim to saint – hood of which middle easterners are yet even further from such a claim.

    Society really doesn’t care much and ignores a lot that goes on, unless there is something to be gained.
    At the previous race the concern was for the Ukraine with the drivers puting up a colourful display.
    This time around it was for self preservation, with none seemingly interested in the plight of the yemenis, which is yet another part of our distorted reality.

    As for the standard of driving in the Arab world, just hold on to anything you can get your hands on.

    It is nice to read stories written with a clear head and no pretend anguish.

  8. I don’t understand the concern regarding lack of runoff areas? Monaco, Singapore, Azerbaijan, all with no or limited runoffs. Are rhe speeds at Saudi track that much greater?

    1. Average Pole Position Speed:
      Monaco: 170km/h
      Singapore: 189km/h
      Baku: 213 km/h (but appart from the huge straight line, it’s pretty slow)
      Djeddah: 252 km/h

    2. Yes. Last year pole at Monaco averaged 106 MPH. Last year in Jeddah the average was 157 MPH. That a big difference.

  9. Enjoyed your blog Joe. Given all the ‘hoo har’ regarding human rights et al in Saudi I would expect the same, if not larger, F1 fraternity to boycott any proposed return to China due to their many faceted approach towards Western ideas concerning morals. It’s my contention that F1 should not get involved in local politics whenever possible. They should simply arrive, race and then leave. Certain drivers attempt to use whatever leverage they can extract to promote their own brand and this is blatantly wrong…IMO.

    1. Or you could see it as Lewis and Seb are comfortable enough in life to actually stand for what they say? Fed up with people being offended that they have an opinion they share. Both back up their words with concrete actions too, Don’t you see the work Hamilton does away from the track? If he offends you don’t listen to him.

  10. Good piece Joe. Harsh reality is F1 should not be here in a country with so much human rights issues, not to mention its killing of journalists. Overpaying for F1 to appear credible on the world’s stage while actively in war with Yemen under the pretense of fighting terrorists is massively hypocritical. American owners of F1 are turning it into Indycar for the world. The racing may be mildly more entertaining with DRS but the drivers of old would not have raced. RIP Niki

  11. Thanks for the update on the likely Las Vegas track route. As someone who’s spent a lot of time there, the first map I saw made no sense as most of that route would be obscured by I-15.

  12. Put me down for a copy of the autobiography.

    I have a question about Max’s technique of “crowding” or driving parallel to the leader at restarts (Leclerc this weekend and Hamilton at last year’s final race). Is that legal? It seems like there’s even occasions of temporarily passing the leader as they accel/brake which I thought they couldn’t do. Not to mention if Max is on the outside of (the start) of a corner, I’d want to be located there if I’m planning to actually start (and use all the corner). Or is this a case of the letter of the law vs the spirt of the rules? Why haven’t we seen this before? Driver’s too worried about contact or is just Max genius/ballsy enough to recognize and take the risk?

    1. On restarts Max is just prepared not to be a sportsman, but that’s his prerogative as it’s not against the rules. Good to see his racing style has been reigned in this year though, seems clear that the new rules on overtaking have buffed off his dirty driving – F1 will be all the better for it as seen with Max vs Charles so far in first two races – epic racing with no one being pushed out of the track. If Massi had the cojones last year it could have been like this too…

      1. I’ve been assuming that damage to the edge of the floor is a much bigger performance penalty under the new design regs, hence they’re all being a bit more careful about side swiping each other

    2. I am similarly interested in Max’s restart technique…I watched this happen for a second time thinking that it must be tempting for the leading driver (Hamilton/Leclerc) to suddenly jam on the brakes, thereby inducing a full overtake and a penalty for Max.

      Logically, if the technique is used through the whole field, we’d end up with a full karting-style two-by-two rolling start – exciting, but likely to end in a crash at some point.

      I don’t like it (seems unfair on the leader, who could be pushed onto the marbles), but I suppose we should applaud Max for pushing the boundaries and ‘stress-testing’ the rules..?

      Application of the ‘no-weaving’ rule seems to also have suffered from erosion of late.

      1. /it must be tempting for the leading driver (Hamilton/Leclerc) to suddenly jam on the brakes, thereby inducing a full overtake and a penalty for Max/

        It could violate the rule that ‘drivers must proceed at a pace which involves no erratic acceleration or braking nor any other manoeuvre which is likely to endanger other drivers or impede the restart’ and result in a penalty for a leading driver.

      2. > it must be tempting for the leading driver (Hamilton/Leclerc) to suddenly jam on the brakes, thereby inducing a full overtake and a penalty for Max.

        Springing the offside trap? 😉

      1. You* might very well think that, given that the 2022 Aston appears to be a total shed, der Fingerflingenkind’s case of COVID-19 is going on rather longer than is strictly necessary on medical grounds. I couldn’t possibly comment.

        * Not “you” personally…

  13. In all honesty, I love the Jeddah track because it’s genuinely fast and dangerous. It may seem crass to talk in such a way but these things matter and that track looks like it takes a brave driver to win.

    Also, it’s a relief to hear some measured talk about the bomb and the IRA, I have to say that that was the first similarity to pop into my head.

    1. Many years ago I had the misfortune to work for the London branch of a USAnian company, whose HQ was in the World Trade Center complex (though not in either of the towers). When the bomb went off there in 1993 our US cow-orkers phoned us all in a tizzy. I’m almost ashamed to relate that our first reaction was to fall about laughing, even though it came ten months after our disaster recovery test had been scuppered by the Baltic Exchange explosion. “It’s only a bomb, ya great wusses!”

  14. Lovely piece of writing as always.

    This middle east situation is a joke.
    The greed for money is embarrassing.
    BLM apart from when your the slave labour used to build and maintain these countries.
    They would happily pay any money and not be bothered if anybody turns up, just so they can have bragging rights over the next tin-pot dictatorship.

    Strange how Russia has been shown the door by the power of people speaking up.
    Yet Saudi is greeted as a holiday destination and 3 monkeys, hear no evil, see no evil and say no evil.

    Total and utter joke how so many can turn a blind eye all so they can increase their bloated bank accounts and not offend sponsors.

  15. Hello Joe

    Interesting notebook.

    I lived in “The Kingdom” for years, both in Riyadh and in Jeddah, and your description of their driving style is spot-on. The only time it was safe to drive was during the war, when SCUD missiles were raining down on Riyadh and most of the Saudis went to Europe, leaving the city populated only by westerners and east asians.

    I only had one car accident though. A Saudi drove into my rear while I was stopped at a red traffic light. The police declared that the shunt was my fault as “it wouldn’t have happened if you were not in the Kingdom.” So I had to pay a few hundred to fix the (wrecked) front end of his Toyota. My Cadillac was undamaged.

    On another subject – if I understand it correctly, for three races this year, the declared pole-sitter will not necessarily start the race on the front row. How does that make any sense???

    Alan

    1. “The police declared that the shunt was my fault as “it wouldn’t have happened if you were not in the Kingdom.””

      I heard this is the way it is in Thailand also, which also has a wretched driving record. It’s always the foreigner’s fault no matter what, because if he wasn’t visiting the country, the accident would not have happened.

      1. I was rear-ended in Bahrain last week, while sitting at a traffic light. No-one blamed me and the police were helpful.

        1. I have also lived and worked in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar as well as in “The Kingdom”.
          Bahrain seems to be different (much friendlier) to anywhere else in the Middle East, and I don’t really understand why.

    2. Having little interest in the Sprint Races (if it was a separate championship it might be different) I had to do some searching to find what you were referring to with the pole position comment. All I can now say is – just when you thought the FIA/Liberty couldn’t make themselves look more ridiculous…

  16. Hi Joe, entertaining AND educational as usual.
    As far as the schedule is concerned you’re bang on – UK-France-Austria-Hungary would make far more sense. But I’d go further, who on earth thought that Italy-Miami-Spain-Monaco-Azerbaijan-Canada was a good idea? Sure ticket sales might drop fractionally if the US, Canada and Mexico races were held in a ‘group’ – but it would go a long way to assuring people that the FIA and the commercial rights holder are serious about their green intentions.
    I realise that tradition, ‘preferred dates’, local holidays, etc may well be involved when planning the schedule, but if Domenicali is correct and there are people/tracks/countries queuing up to host a GP then perhaps the FIA/Liberty should flex their muscles to ensure a more efficient schedule?
    Do you have a point of view on the F2 Sprint Race fiasco? The first thing that came to mind for me was ‘…meet the old boss, same as the new boss…’!!

  17. Joe, do you think that David Richards might now be having “buyers remorse” from helping Bin Saleyam’s leadership bid?

  18. has anybody suggested the following: let the drivers use DRS when they want to, but for the race limit the usage to “n” amount of times. (like the Indy car push to pass number of seconds limitation). no detection zone, no 1 second behind the car rule. just get on with it!! also what amuses me is the British TV commentators who say ” and now he has the DRS FULLY open”, can it be anything else except open or closed?

    1. Varying reports, bomb or drone strike. One involves ground based sabotage, the other is very much more expensive.

    2. Your last point is one of my weekly beefs with the SKY commentary team. And it is usually preceded by

      “DRS – thats the DRAG REDUCTION SYSTEM”

      SKY control the UK premier league football matches. I cannot believe that the commentator screams “That a penalty, now they will place the ball on the white spot in front of the goal and have an unimpeded shot at goal”

      I really wish that they would engage brain before opening mouth. Brundle knows better so one can only assume that it is their producers that require such banal comments.

      Even, “let us be your F1 guide”, Drive to Survive do not stoop to such a pitifully low level.

    1. Michigan lefts are well documented and arranged by the construction of the junction in the USA.
      What Joe is talking about is an extremely dangerous practice carried out in Saudi and in the UAE.
      I have tried it myself, once, in Abu Dhabi. Never again.

  19. I have been reading your column for more than a few years now, and have to say, this was the funniest.

    Maybe an out of context comment, but while I enjoy F1, this pursuit for profits with “dirty” money needs some bounds. There has to be some sense of what is morally right. That said, as investors in stock market, we too should be prepared to invest in companies which are not in pursuit of profits at all costs. Maybe harder done than said.

  20. There’s a lot of anger about “sportswashing” because Saudi Arabia and Bahrain torture people and execute people. The United States execute people. The United States torture people- there are still people detained in Guantanamo Bay. As for killing journalists, it’s best not to look too closely at state involvement in the UK murders of Pat Finucane and Daniel Morgan, nor the UK police in London using strip searching as a punishment against children. I’m not so sure anyone in the West can throw too many stones at the Middle East.

    I don’t think politics exists in its own silo, and I’m not one to think sport and politics can be separated. But best not to fling rocks unless your own house is in order.

    Saudi and the UAE are in Yemen at the invitation of the Yemeni government, just as Iran are in Yemen in support of the Houthis. A mess of a situation.

    “Sportswashing” works both ways, as you say Joe. The Saudi GP has got people talking about Yemen. You can’t really miss a burning oil depot.

    As for Russia, they invaded another country, which is always the crucial difference.

    1. Every time the ‘human rights’ argument is splashed around I’m reminded that ‘human rights’ were defined by ‘western’ countries, and their culture as to what is acceptable behaviour for a government. Not all cultures agree with what the ‘west’ likes to think of as ‘obviously right’.
      This same argument applies to alcohol, nudity, public behaviour, and online moderation. We have not yet been able to define a set of universally applicable standards for any of these. And whilst I disagree with capital punishment (I guess this is my personal red line), I can see that every culture has a right to define its own standards.
      As for Seb and Ham (and the others) speaking out at racing events, that’s just fine. Go ahead, fill your boots (ooh, free speech, another thing that not every one agrees on), but don’t expect that the locals will necessarily like it, or accept it, or do anything about it.

  21. Great piece Joe, and one of the few, if not the only, journo to address the Aramco/Saudi gov link with the beheadings.
    Thanks.

  22. Great as always, though having grown up in Bournville before Cadburys sold out I don;t think companies having a purpose beyond profit is a new thing. Indeed, as a trainee auditor, who went on to co-author an ISO standard on corporate governance, I was heavily influenced by the Cadbury Report that pre-dated, and perhaps predicted, the crash of 2008

      1. Most of the Society of Friends (Quaker) companies, of which there were many, formed about 150 years ago were hugely successful and worked with a human face or social conscience, however you wish to call it. I believe they were labelled benevolent autocracies.
        The Quaker companies included Cadburys, Frys and various other goodi manufacturers, Allen & Hanbury and various other ethical pharma companies, Barclays and Clarks shoes and, no doubt, many others less prominent and well known.
        A new and first non Quaker main board member of one of the above at his first board meeting was very surprised at the orderliness of the contributions. One director would make a point, the others would then sit in silence for a finite period to ponder the matter before another would then contribute.
        Shame that most are now owned by others generally with much less integrity.
        I am neither a Quaker nor have I ever worked for any of the above. Just know “some as does/did”.

  23. I can think of one mistake with that Las Vegas date. That weekend is the absolute busiest, most congested, headache filled weekend in America for traveling. Then, on top of that, the high likelihood of a major winter storm in the Midwest or East causing domino effects nationwide on numerous flight cancellations. I abhor traveling on Thanksgiving weekend, whether for family, or in this case, F1 reasons.

  24. Any news / updates about Andretti F1? Don’t understand when the F1 management would not be keen to get more teams on the grid especially if they have good financial backing & are willing to pay the $200 million entry fee?
    Would love to see it increased back to 13 teams and Chadwick or another female driver given a seat too.

  25. Fun fact, a survey in the ME region was undertaken a few years ago and more than 80% of respondents (male mostly) view using the indicator while driving as a sign of weakness…. that’s local culture for you. lol

  26. I would ignore MDPI. Saudi Arabia does have a very high road death rate but the total number of road deaths in 2020 was 4,618, according to the government. 130,000 sounds more like the total number of deaths from all causes.

  27. “In 2010 there were only 250,000 drivers in Saudi Arabia, today there are three million”
    I know, females probably not allowed to drive, millions of poor migrant workers from Asia, too poor to own a car, but still, not a very impressive amount on a total population of around 37 million.

  28. Many years a friend gave me this advice for driving in Chicago: “Turn signals are an excellent way to show your intentions to surrounding drivers. This gives your opponents an advantage, so never use them”

    1. Advice for driving pretty much anywhere “assume half the people on the road are incompetent, and that the competent half are actively trying to kill you”

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