Green Notebook from Chickenville

Motorway service areas, known as aires in France, are generally not very interesting. They are named after the local hamlet or sometimes a fancy local chateau. Some have wistful names, such as the Soleil Levant (the rising sun), others have odd names such as Chien Blanc (white dog) while others act as promotional tools for the region: the aire des Volcans d’Auvergne is one. And then there is the aire du Poulet de Bresse, the aire of the Bresse chicken. This features a very large monument to chickens. If that seems a little odd, one must remember that gastronomy is important to the French and they are immensely proud of their culinary reputation, prowess and traditions. And they are very protective and object to anyone trying to copy their products. There is an elaborate system of certification for authenticity, known as appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) and one cannot legally sell Champagne or Camembert unless it comes from the right place.

Back in 1957 the first animals to be granted AOC status were the chickens of Bresse, and it would be 50 years before they were joined by the salt marsh lamb of the Baie de Somme.

The chickens of Bresse are the gallinaceous version of Wagyu beef and they are spoiled rotten before they fly off to the great coop in the sky. Each one must have 10 square metres of land for their own use. They cannot be stuffed with corn and have to live off the land a bit. Most chickens can only ever dream of a future as a golden nugget, but the chicken of Bresse are royalty. They are quite nationalistic and must have blue feet, white feathers and red combs. They are small-breasted because of their energetic lifestyles make them lean and tasty, and not chubby like their boosted supermarket-ed colleagues. They are at the top of the pecking order. Michelin chefs get starry-eyed about them. Presidents wish to devour them.

The Bresse is a region to be found at the foot of the Jura mountains, where the plains of the Rhone begin. At the centre of this is Bourg-en-Bresse and on the Monday evening after the horribly-named Made in Italy e dell’Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, I found myself dining in the Bresse, where they even flavour their mayonnaise with chicken juices (and very nice it is too).

I had had a pleasant enough weekend in Imola, despite the poor weather, nervous Race Directors who seemed more besotted with red flags than Chairman Mao used to be, and some very muddy car parks. It had been a Red Bull rout in the end and the tifosi went home down in the mouth, rather than frothing. On Monday morning I set off to drive the 1,200km home. It had been a long night of work and I knew that I was not going to get home in one go, but I hoped that I might get to Avallon or Auxerre before night fell.

I was steaming along and happy that the traffic was light when I approached the town of Novara, to the east of Milan, where a million years ago I spent a day or two at Novamotor, watching the engine wizard John Penistan rebuilding a Formula 3 engine, and asking intelligent questions such as “What does that bit do?” I was thinking of John when there was a sudden odd vibration. A change of surface? No, it got worse and I knew it was time to get off the road as my left rear tyre was clearly falling apart. Fortunately I managed to do this before things got nasty and found myself on the hard shoulder.  So I donned my gilet jaune and set about solving the problem, digging out the space-saver spare from deep in the bowels of the boot. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I have done this a few times as French rural living does cause occasional punctures. This was a pretty impressive failure, but despite keeping a wary eye on approaching vehicles, I was able to jack up the car and loosen the wheel nuts by jumping on the tyre wrench. My plan was to drive into Novara, find a gommista (I learned a new word if nothing else) and then get back on the road again. It was then that I discovered that it was Italian Liberation Day, a national holiday, which explained the empty roads. Everything was closed. I pondered holing up in a hotel until Tuesday morning and then driving home, but that meant I would lose a day at home. Time is precious in F1 and so I decided that the best option was to head for France with the spare, driving at 50 mph up to the Mont Blanc tunnel. It was about 120 miles away, which is a bit further than one wants to go on a space saver, but I knew if I drove gently it would not be a problem. France would be open for business and I could do a quick pit stop and be on my way again.

The upside of it being a national holiday was that I was able to potter along, with my flashers on whenever an Italian approached at vast speed (speed limits in Italy seem only ever to be consultative numbers) and after about two and a half hours and no major incidents, I got to Mont Blanc and popped out of the big bore near Chamonix. Fifteen minutes later I was at a tyre dealership which had the tyres required and 15 minutes after that I was en route again. It wasn’t quite an F1 pit stop – and F1 drivers never have to show a credit card – but I was happy enough. The tyre fitter shrugged in the finest Gallic fashion when I asked why the tyre had failed. He didn’t know and he didn’t much care.

And so I ended up in Chickenville, as I reached a point at which it was unwise to go driving as I had worn myself out and the risks-versus-reward calculation made no sense. As I sat down to dinner I watched a McLaren transporter whizzing past. When I had breakfast the next morning there were a fleet (or at least a flotilla) of F1-branded trucks, lugging equipment home.

Risk assessment is a big part of Formula 1 these days, not just in terms of race strategies but in all decision-making and I suspect that some of the teams probably have chief risk officers, who sit in offices and worry about how things can go wrong. If I was CRO at Mercedes, I mulled while watching a coypu frolicking in the pond next to the hotel, I’d be worried now about Lewis Hamilton. It’s a difficult thing to predict because it is based on emotions, but I would nibble my nails about Sir Lewis walking away. Just as Nico Rosberg famously did back in 2016, catching everyone on the hop. Lewis had been asked the question at Imola and said he was 100 percent committed to the team, and Toto Wolff had said the same to me when I asked if he was worried. I feel that Lewis would not dump the team in it because he is always banging on about everyone being responsible. It was hard to imagine him walking away mid-season, as some have done in the past. “It will be a painful year that we will have to ride out together,” he said. That was an interesting comment, because it basically said that there is no real chance for the team to fight back. After Imola, Ferrari has 124 points and Mercedes 77, and that gap had been achieved without Carlos Sainz scoring in the last two races. In the Drivers’ Championship, Chuck Le Cluck (nothing to do with chickens) had 86 points, with Lewis on 28, a gap of 58 points.

Given the normal levels of F1 reliability, where cars rarely break down and drivers are so good that they deliver week after week, closing big gaps is not easy. With the budget cap getting in the way of massive splurges, the CRO might argue that the best thing to do would be to give up on the W13 and focus the resources on the W14.

This new generation of cars are not yet fully understood, and that means that there is potential for big gains as the engineers get the hang of the 2022 cars. But that is true for all the teams, not just Mercedes. There is the added problem that there are several other teams ahead of Mercedes in terms of pace and so collecting big scores is slowed because others are getting those points, which helps Ferrari and Red Bull pull further away. If you put this into perspective, if Lewis starts dominating in Miami and Leclerc finishes second on all occasions, it will still take Lewis until the summer break before he can get back into contention – and it is pretty safe to say that this isn’t going to happen. So really the big question is whether Hamilton has faith that the team will do a better job in 2023 and give him the chance to win an eighth title, or whether the time has come to admit that at 37 he might call it a day and change his lifestyle and go do all those things other things he wants to do, like becoming a shareholder in a soccer team, fashion design, or whatever.

I think it would annoy Lewis to have to leave the record-breaking eighth title on the table, having beaten all of the other F1 records, but there is the also the possibility that he might become a driver who stayed on too long, as Michael Schumacher did.

On the other hand, Lewis might look at his old rival Fernando Alonso and conclude that the Spaniard is competitive at 40 – so why not continue.

All the signs in the paddock are that Fernando will soon sign a new two-year deal with Alpine, which will mean that he stays until the end of 2024. After that the French firm may wish him to move into its LMDh sports car programme. Fernando is a smart cookie and knows that dumping him would be a negative thing for Alpine, but with Oscari Piastri sitting uncomfortably in the wings, Fernando needs not only to perform but also to get support. He has just announced a personal sponsorship deal with Castrol, Alpine’s oil sponsor, which makes it harder for Alpine to move him on. A clever move.

So, with Esteban Ocon under contract until the end of 2024, Alpine needs to find Oscar a job, before some else does… The Australian has marked himself out as a major future talent in F1 with victories in the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup, the 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship and the 2021 Formula 2 Championship. These three titles (each in a rookie year) are mightily impressive, particularly when you compare them to Charles Leclerc (GP3 and F2 in 2016 and 2017) and George Russell (GP3 and F2 in 2017 and 2018). Neither managed three titles in three years – and now they are the future stars of the F1 game. So Alpine needs to find Oscar a home for a couple of years so that he can be trained up and then step into a top drive in 2025 (hoping that Alpine is a top drive by then).

The obvious choice would be a two-year deal for Piastri at Williams, which needs a stronger second driver than Nicholas Latifi. The team does not need funding these days and wants two competitive drivers as results will pay as much as the Canadian’s sponsors will do. The team is happy to take young drivers who might go on to better things (a la Bottas and Russell), but it also wants to build up its own driver squad. In this respect Piastri does not fit in and the team would be better off going with Nyck de Vries, a Mercedes Formula E champion, who is looking for things to do in the future as Mercedes is leaving the all-electric series soon and will sell its team to McLaren. De Vries used to be a McLaren driver and was ditched by the current management in 2019 and so he would rather look for a job in F1, if there are any options available.

Down at Williams, they quite like the look for the strong-jawed Dutch imp.

The other problem is that while getting Piastri for a couple of years might be possible, it is not much good for him if the Williams is not very competitive… and he might think that a stopover at Haas would be a better option.

Ferrari has some influence at Haas but does not have the right to nominate drivers, as once it did when it lumbered Sauber with the ageing Kimi Raikkonen. Mick Schumacher is a Ferrari future project and he looked half-decent last year but the arrival of the Viking Kevin Magnussen has been a shock for Mick and he now needs to prove that he can he play at the big table. The only way he can do that is to beat Kevin – and Magnussen has still some more preparation to do before he gets fully up the speed, as he jumped into the seat at the last minute and was not really fit enough. If Kevin shows Mick the way around this year, Ferrari might give up the dream of “Schumacher II – The Sequel” and look for a new idea.

Australians are pretty excited about F1 at the moment, although Daniel Ricciardo seems a little lost at McLaren and there continue to be rumours that in 2024 (if not earlier) Daniel will be replaced by Colton Herta, the American who Zak Brown believes could open the gates of Formula 1 to corporate America. We will have to see if Herta has everything needed to be an F1 star, but he seems to have the speed, whether he can go on being a drummer in a rock band called Zibs in his spare time remains to be seen, as F1 is a fulltime job.

Anyway, Australia is excited about Piastri and having had a massive sell-out crowd a few weeks ago, the talks are now ongoing about where the race should be on the F1 calendar as a stand-alone intercontinental flyaway is not the best option for Formula 1, which wants to cut is costs by twinning Australia with an Asian race. That might be possible if China came back in the spring but the way things are going in Shanghai at the moment suggests that it may be a while before F1 goes racing in China again.

The alternative would be to move the Australian GP to the end of the season, but that would require the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to move to earlier in the years, as both  events are organised by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and so a clash needs to be avoided. The days when Australia opened the season are gone as Bahrain is now believed to have a deal for years to come.

The calendar chat at the moment is largely related to which event will replace Russia in September and my understanding is that it will either be a second race in Singapore, or it will be nothing at all, as Qatar seems to have dropped from the equation. Still the Qatar race will be back in 2023. I did hear whispers that Saudi Arabia would like to throw its financial weight around a bit more and thinks that a Grand Prix at each end of the season would be a good thing: with one race in the spring in Jeddah and the other in the autumn up in Riyadh. The F1 group may not like the idea much as there are sufficient Middle Eastern races now and there are other priorities, but the Saudis do have an awful of money and, as the old song goes, this is what makes the world go around.

F1 fans in Europe are increasingly worried that the number of races in F1’s traditional homelands is going to reduce. This is almost certainly true, but I am not sure it will go much lower than eight, even if Monaco gets put in the corner with a hat marked with a big D for one year, if the Monégasques fail to recognise the danger of not agreeing to a deal that is less dismissive of what F1 does for the Principality.

I have been hearing for some weeks that the Germans are getting more and more ambitious and want to get a 10-year deal for a race. This is probably only going to happen at Hockenheim as the Nürburgring finds itself in a troublesome situation as it is owned by a Russian oligarch and F1 is not about to do a deal with one of those folk. It is bad for the share price. It is also doubtful, by the way, that the Nürburgring will be able to get an international circuit licence as the FIA does not seem to be keen to dole these out to anyone with Russian connections.

Russians can complain about that if they like, but sadly the actions of President Putin and the lack of opposition to his activities at home have meant that Russia is no longer a big player in international motorsport.

Germany has a few things in its favour, even if the German drivers are not setting the world on fire, and no-one in Germany sees Mercedes as being a German team. It is the home of Audi and Porsche and the word continues to be that they will both come wading into F1 in 2026 if the sport can get its act together and produce some rules. This needs to be done quickly because time is short. It is fairly clear that Porsche is going to come in alliance with Red Bull, while the Audi rumours flit about from week to week. Last week it was McLaren that Audi will buy, this week it was Sauber, next week it will be Aston Martin. Whatever the details, the word is that the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD) is very keen on putting Germany back on the F1 map and while there is some regional money for the track, the best hope may come from federal sources as the new finance minister is a fellow called Christian Lindner, who loves cars and I am told is a Porsche freak – with a competition licence.

The rumours about Audi buying Sauber seem to have come to the attention of Alfa Romeo, as Imola saw the appearance in the F1 paddock of Carlos Tavares, the president and CEO of Stellantis, which owns the Alfa Romeo brand, and Alfa’s own CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato. They have been funnelling some money into Sauber in recent years, dressing the Sauber-Ferrari up as an Alfa Romeo but obviously no-one really believes the team is actually a factory Alfa Romeo programme.

This has made very little obvious difference to Alfa Romeo sales, which are pretty poor given that 2020 was a bad year for everyone and 2021 was supposed to be the year when things bounced back. Alfa Romeo sold 63,000 cars in 2020 and then bounced back to 55,000 in 2021…

This is not good. Imparato says that the brand will be selling 200,000 a year by 2027 and I’d love to see that but they need to find a way to make Alfa Romeo look like a sexy brand if that is going to happen. Dressing up Sauber-Ferraris is probably not the right answer. Alfa Romeo has a great history as a firm that was once known for its luxury, technology, Italian style, high performance and racing passion. It is an obvious brand to try to use in F1 but it looks like Tavares will need to be a big more serious about F1 if that is going to happen. The good news is that Swedish billionaire Finn Rausing would be happy to sell the team to someone with sensible plans in F1 and so there is potential for a proper Alfa Romeo team. With new engine rules and budget caps in F1, there is an opportunity for all car manufacturers to get involved in F1 with technologies that are quite useful when one considers that the take up of electric cars is not going to meet predictions and F1’s move to synthetic fuels is a good way for a car company to paint itself green. F1 is a brilliant marketing tool, if you do it right, and the popularity of F1 and the development of new, younger and global fans, is something that is causing car companies to think about the idea. Tavares is (quietly) a racing nut and has competed in some pretty exotic machinery over the years, but he is always careful not to let his passion put him in a difficult situation within a car company, as he does not want accusations that his passion caused the company to lose money. There are plenty of clever engineers within the Stellantis motorsport ranks and the company has money if it wants to spend it. The company chairman, by the way, is also pretty keen on racing, as Jon Elkann’s other job is as chairman of Ferrari. At Imola he was in Ferrari gear, Tavares and Imparato were wearing Alfa clothing. Rausing was in plain clothes as usual.

Passion is what drives the sport and if you want evidence that Tavares might do something with Alfa Romeo, you need only to look back to his days at Renault, before he left from Peugeot and then worked the deal to merge with Fiat Chrysler to form Stellantis. Tavares thought that a bloke called Tony Fernandes was manna from heaven when the Malaysian turned up in 2011 suggesting that Renault and Caterham create a joint venture to build road-going sports cars. The Caterham version never appeared but Renault decided to push ahead without Fernandes, to develop the Alpine… which is now a Formula 1 brand.

I was reminded of the importance of passion at Imola where I kept bumping into old friends from the days when I was a Formula 3 reporter back in the early 1980s. We went to Imola in 1983 and many of those who raced that day went on to big things in F1, or won big in other championships, or headed teams or manufacturer departments. As I walked through the paddock I met three of the top six from that European Formula 3 race at Imola in 1983 and we discussed who else might have been there. Stefano Domenicali seemed like a good bet. Imola is his home town and he started out young as a racing fan.  I bumped into Stefano and asked him the question: “Yes, I was there,” he said. “I was organising the parking in the paddock…”

109 thoughts on “Green Notebook from Chickenville

  1. Bravo Joe! This Green Notebook, and the Imola Grand Prix Plus, absolutely some of your best writing. Love the historical perspective that only a journalist of your experience can provide. I am old enough to remember all these events too, and love being reminded of them.

    Thanks for the terrific work.


  2. Always an interesting read I wonder if the car market changed so much now that majority of buyers (or leasers) don’t really care about a company’s sporting heritage or Motorsport performance and connection to F1 as everyone seems to want an SUV (not me thanks)
    If you buy an Alfa Stelvio, Aston DBX, Mercedes GL something A-S does that reasonate with F1?. Of the manufacturers Alpine and McLaren make only sporty road cars, even Ferrari will have a truck soon.
    Is the link between success on Sunday and Sales on Monday broken by the type of cars mainly being offered by manufacturers?

  3. At least it puts to bed the debate over Hamilton being the GOAT. He was only the potential GOAT in a dominant car – now he cannot overtake backmarkers or get anywhere close to his teammate. Subject closed.

    1. I come here for sensible stuff. Probably best you return to one of the other blogs or forums where the Max vs Lewis children are?

    2. I’m a big fan of George but I find it hard to believe that he was that far ahead of Lewis on pure talent. I suspect that Mercedes, in an effort to better understand their car, put each driver on drastically different setups, and unfortunately Lewis ended up with the short straw.

    3. GOAT is illogical as it’s comparing apples with peanuts with engine oil with trees with weather patterns to work out what the greatest milkshake is

      The sport has been in series and there have been out and out people who have shone in era’s of the sport. Lewis Hamilton is head and shoulders above everyone in this era, before him was Schumacher who could have been challenged by Hakkinen but he did not have the longevity (we could even say desire), before that Senna and Prost, Piquet was close to joining them. Before that probably Lauda as the best driver of the generation. Before that Stewart, then Clark, then Fangio. In between there were interlopers Moss and Peterson and who knows if Lauda would have dominated in Fittipaldi did not screw up in the name of national pride.

      It is impossible to say that Hamilton would have beaten any of those named. But we know by how he dominated every team mate, except Alonso and Button that he is the greatest of this this era. And I am no Hamilton fan at all, but I recognize his achievements on the circuit for what they are, brilliance that us meer mortals can only achieve in our dreams

      1. William Court posited the existence of the “Master Driver”, naming them as Ascari, Fangio, Moss, Clark and Stewart before the book finished, then throwing in Mario Andretti to muddy the waters a bit.

        1. Which is why these comparisons are illogical. Mario could have been the stand out driver of the 70’s if he had committed to Formula 1. I know Ken Tyrrell said the car was champion in 1978 but Mario still had to drive it.

          There are others who don’t get onto people’s lists like Jack Brabham, yet he had such longevity and with reliability could have been world champion in 3 seperate decades. Jody Scheckter is under rated too because he drove for the championship in 1979 but he was mostly ahead of all his team mates except Gilles. Jacques Villeneuve is another like Fittipaldi. Others showed such promise in junior formula and never truly made it like Norberto Fortana and Jan Magnusson (maybe even Pedro Diniz 🤣🤣).

          I think if we could equalise time and have a race between all these named over my two posts, it would be impossible to name a winner. But I’ll have a punt and say, Ronnie Peterson, with Jimmy Clark on his exhaust pipe. After that who knows.

          1. Troo dat, though Court’s point was that Mario was successful in F1, Indycars, sports cars, sprint cars, NASCAR, etc and, moreover, etc. He’d probably have been pretty nifty at lawnmower racing or 2CV-cross too. Most of the young whippersnappers of today wouldn’t even recognise a 2CV and now I’m turning into my dad watching “Top Of The Pops*” 😉

            * until Blondie came on, obv

            1. Mario may just be the best all rounder the sport has seen, although Stirling Moss was similar in his prime. It was interesting how Moss could beat Fangio in Sports cars but not in F1. Jimmy Clark was also versatile but only really in the Lotus family.

              It’s interesting how many drivers were good but ended up being great in other disciplines too (Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell, Henri Pescarola, Sebastian Buemi) for example.

              Formula 1 is the pinnacle and being good is not enough, you need timing to be on your side. Look at Hamilton without that move to Mercedes Benz he would be a single world champion.

  4. Alfa R are very lucky boys this year with the superb rocket of an engine provided by Ferrari. What a contrast with the slow mules Ferrari gave them in previous years. And look at Kevin Magnusson putting his Haas among the leaders, at least for early parts of a race.

    Alonso is enjoying his twilight years. He is looking more and more like his namesake Fernando Rey (the smooth baddie in French Connection)

  5. 3 of the top 6 at the 1983 European Formula 3 Imola race, I’d say you met Pierluigi Martini (1st) Emanuele Pirro (4th) and Gerhard Berger (6th)? More quizes please

      1. This made me go and look at the race result as I was very young in 1983 and we used to get Autosport about 3 months after publication, so I followed Senna/Brundle but recall there were other drivers who went on to good things like Allen Berg, Davy Jones, David Leslie and then also the European championship with drivers I knew less of. But you look at how many did great things. Interesting that of the 3 mentioned by Joe, Berger was probably the least likely to succeed yet achieved the most. Pirro seemed stand out in those days.

    1. Was ‘Dustin Hoffman’ there both times too? Ravaglia would have been in ’83 but he’s not normally seen at F1 events

      Back to present day, Joe do you think the Alfa could be the best car behind the RB and Ferrari?
      Seems they just need to sort the qualy set ups out as it goes like stink on raceday!

        1. I’m stunned that more aren’t noticing that all the Ferrari engined cars have gone up the grid and that the Mercedes engined cars have gone down the grid and seeing the common theme. Yes, Haas has produced a better car, and yes the W13 is a dog, but the engines are a big factor in this.

  6. Every time I read one of your articles I always think that you should be a writer… lol.
    I don’t know how you do it, but dang- you’re the best.
    Thanks again.
    P.s. Had your Prius died yet? If not, how many kilometers are on it now?

  7. Nice intro on the Aires. My personal favorite is the Aire de La Chaussée de César, between Bourges and Vierzon on the A71 heading north only. I have often wondered if poor Julius arrived in Britain semi shod and with a slight limp! Maybe that was why he passed that way again the next year, still looking for his shoe?

  8. Hi Joe, an unrelated question re Haas if I may?

    They appear to underperform in the strategy area. Is this because they’ve never been in this space before and don’t have the data / talent or am I being unfair?

    1. Something really nice so far this year is the performance of Haas and K-Mag. He looks so happy to just be back again. And he still has fire!

      He is also making young Mick look a bit overrated.

  9. Why doesn’t Sepang ever get mentioned as a potential replacement for Russia? It’s only 4 hours up the road from Singapore. Is it a money thing, as in not enough of it?

      1. Since you had a two stop strategy on the way home, did you you find the first Pirelli grained up or just let go and threw the tread?

          1. Michelin do make good tyres. Worth the extra!

            I do wonder if Pirelli actually get anything out of F1? Difficult job, hamstrung by the call to make them fall to pieces over previous years. Soft tyres still grain so far this year, but probably hard to avoid as surface rolls over itself. Never been a fan of comedy tyres in F1, and don’t think they should be as big a factor as they are.

              1. Awful long time ago I used to make moticars and Michelin tyres were, by a long way, the best quality, never a reject. They also lasted twice as long as any other. Could be a little tricky in the wet, were dearer, oh and MIRA was obviously kinder than Indianapolis.

            1. When Bridgestone were in F1 I only fitted them on my daily driver. Since Pirelli took over the monopoly I have only fitted them.

              Sample size of 1, but there must be others.

  10. A pleasure to read as always. Anything on the new prospective F1 entries? Andretti with a partnership with Alpine seems to make sense given my incredibly limited info.

  11. I think for Mercedes 2022 at the moment is all about developing their 2023 car, as until they understand what they need to do with the one that have, there is little point in designing a new one. So maybe the ‘best’ of both world’s.

  12. Joe,
    You seem to assume that the returns on development are the same for the faster teams as it is for the slower teams. Likely they will be significantly less for faster teams as they refine to the point of optimization. IE Diminishing Returns. Thus as was done by McLaren, it is very likely Mercedes will find a way to stiffen the floor and the risk taken with zero sidepods suddenly comes good with a faster car than the more conventional designs can achieve. All seems a little premature to right off a season yet! You always caution about deciding championships based on winter testing. What about writing them off after four races? We have seen Lewis pout before. He has an uncanny ability to bounce back. The big question is does Merc have the budget under this year’s cap to design a very stiff floor and tune it to the suspension? If they can’t expect a steady roll out of ideas to improve things with a big revision over the winter. The only thing we have learned is that George Russell is willing to take more punishment from the cars ride than Lewis.

  13. A way of supercharging Alfa Romeo’s profile in F1….

    Iron Lynx has the budget, a Ferrari relationship and the ambition of taking a female star to the top level.

  14. Joe, as ever, your pages are well worth the read.
    Several years ago there was a mini-scandal in Italy caused by a motorway operator giving the MPs with constituencies in its patch a list of the secret speed cameras they would need to slow down for!

  15. This is not about the Notebook, which was quite interesting, but a question. Are you planning to hold your audience in Montreal this June? We just received our tickets for the race. Your friends in Chicago – Jeffrey and Marilyn

  16. as for rumors and reasons why VW Group are delaying their announcement of coming into F1 are quite simple – they have wait for current arrangements to expire so that one is not called Red Bull Honda Porsche and as for another one, rumors of buying likes of McLaren, Sauber, Wiliams, Aston, Haas are all wrong. Instead of buying a ”midfield” team they are aiming for the top one – their entry will be named AMG F1 with AMG standing for Audi-Mercedes-Gesellschaft

  17. I feel your pain with regard to space-saver spares, Joe, having once lunched a tyre on my hire car deep in the Colorado Rockies and having to do 120 km of I-70 – including the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass – to get the thing back to Eagle.

      1. Some manufacturers don’t even put room in the vehicle for a space saver, let alone a proper spare. All I got was a bottle of expanding foam!

    1. IIRC (and I’m Joe will correct me if I’m wrong) one of the reasons for the summer break being introduced was to ensure that team personnel get at least 2 weeks away from work and have a chance to re-charge their batteries.

        1. Random one, but has Viry Chattilon, or Ligier/Prost over the years always worked through the summer, or followed the French August shutdown?

          Seems inconceivable to shut down for a month, but also inconceivable that the french would accept working all through August.

  18. Wow, organising the parking in the paddock, that is brilliant! Stefano is good guy, glad to see him back in F1 running the show.

  19. Great read as always Joe, thanks. The road trip section lulls you into the pastoral life style and then ” De Vries – strong-jawed Dutch imp” jerks us back to reality. Simply lovely (to quote someone else!)

  20. Piastri replacing Latifi I definitely see as a viable option, but I have doubts about De Vries.
    Williams didn’t want him for this season, albeit this was because they preferred someone with at least some previous F1 racing experience, but still, the F1 ship may have sailed away from him consequently.
    I doubt any Haas or Mclaren movements would occur, but these are secondary for now.
    Even if the Chinese GP still couldn’t re-occur, holding the Australian GP as the season-opener, either on March 5 forming a triple-header with the early-season Middle East rounds or as a standalone seven days earlier, would be better for travel & jet lag than standalone succeeding the Middle East duo like this season.

    The post-Monza flyaway phase paired with Singapore would work, although Melbourne can get quite chilly in September.
    Concerning the Russian GP replacement, most recent signs indeed point towards either an extra Singapore race or nothing.
    Riyadh doesn’t even have a track, not to mention that city (SA & the Middle East generally), like Qatar, is equally too hot for outdoor activities in September.
    The fact some people even began thinking about Qatar in the first place despite this well-known critical climate aspect + World Cup preparations beats me.
    If Hockenheim returned as a regular, this would effectively mean both Circuit Paul Ricard & Spa-Francorchamps getting axed rather than one of these two as no space for all at once supposing China could finally re-hold a race.
    Of course, without China next season, one would have room even with Hockenheim.

  21. I am curious to know why you think EV sales will not match expectations? Most conventional car sales aren’t matching what they did last year. You mention Alfa’s sales were down 12% on a pretty poor year. VW, Ford and GM all sold fewer cars last year than in 2020. VW EV sales were up, which may indicate the chip shortage manufacturers quote to explain sales being down only seems to affect cars which use fuel.

    If EV sales do match expectations, what is the future for F1? If manufacturers are selling mostly EVs why would they hang around in F1 showing off their willingness to burn petrol?

    1. F1 will be fine. All sensible predictions I have seen are far slower than governments think possible

    2. If you are in the motor industry as a supplier, one thing you learn is that, motor manufacturers never, ever, sell the number of cars they predict, especially the figures given out at supplier conferences or press events.
      Most manufacturers have cut back production drastically due to the lack of components. The blocking of China as a major supplier of all sorts of base components has created a vacuum while waiting for US and EU suppliers to catch up. (though their costs will be very much higher than the Chinese, due if nothing else, to the red tape factor which holds Europe together) Fortunately this has disguised the drop in sales. Electric cars are far too expensive, battery technology needs a shift into the next generation and another beyond that before electric cars can be sold at sensible prices. But where will all the electricity come from to charge the cars? (We need local Thorium salts reactors) We can only hope that the development of hydrogen gas powered cars speeds up; this is where F1 can have a major influence in kicking off the hydrogen ICE as the F1 engine, with loose design parameters to start with. (Gas engines are not new, I remember using one in my college days some 55 years ago.) (My first meeting with a planimeter) But there will always be the need for oil for lubrication and its many everyday material derivatives. Several years ago I unwisely invested in a company called Stanelco who produced an entirely plant derived form of plastic, but the eco pressure was not there at the time and to company failed. To duplicate the vast range of types of plastic, resins etc will take many years yet so oil will live on as an essential. Ironically the inclusion of alcohol in our petrol is very bad inefficient use of agricultural land. Not too good for the engines either, but of course raises tax revenue as consumption is higher.
      I await the onslaught 🙂

  22. Hmmm your statement about Ferrari lumbering Sauber with Kimi doesn’t correlate with the fact both Ferrari and Raikkonen’s management deny Ferrari had any influence in his return to Sauber.

      1. Accuracy is what separates journalists from bloggers, Joe.

        Ferrari could nominate one seat and they appointed Giovinazzi.

  23. Superb writing again! I always appreciate your views from the races. It trumps writers/commentators that produce material but are not on the scene. For me you got be there to write/broadcast about it.

  24. Joe, why does your pass say no access to pit lane or grid, considering the dross that we see there?

    1. Because F1 prefers to make VIPs feel important. Journalists can still go to the grid, but it’s no longer automatic. It’s one of the things that the pandemic changed. Access to some motor homes is the same. They don’t seem to care about the media any more. Im OK with that.

  25. Very little “news” as such, but what a fascinating read and some really amusing wit.

    As usual a great read.

      1. What I meant there were evolutions of things like the Russian GP replacement, not new news, but a fascinating read with how’s it’s unfolding and then the wit and humour.

  26. Hi Joe! Great read and super informative stuff, so thank you for that? Do you know how soon Saudi Arabia would be looking to add a second race?

    1. Quite pointless to think about such things that won’t happen, especially in a month that’s too hot for outdoor activities.

  27. Also, does anyone else see the title of this piece and start hearing John Cooper Clarke performing “Evidently Chickentown”?


    Just me, then. As you were…

  28. I really hope Piastri ends up somewhere and sits in reserve driver limbo until he is forgotten.I think Alpine thought Alonso would be retiring at the end of 2022 but it appears that isn’t going to happen.
    I worry if he doesn’t get a seat in 2023 it may all pass him by.

  29. This writing Joe is Michelin 5 Star work. Amazing getting the F1 news and an enjoyable story around it. Thank you so much!
    P.S. – try to find a full size rim for your car at a scrapyard and then get a matching tire. I do this with every new car and it saves the pain of using an emergency donut at a fairly reasonable cost.

  30. Joe hi

    I think this could be apex F1 ? The promotion and communication stable, the drivers having more voice, the cars being so good. The drivers are as good as any, headed by statistically the GOAT. They have changed the demographics wonderfully well. Surely this is now peak F1?

  31. > no-one in Germany sees Mercedes as being a German team

    Really surprised to hear that. Because the chassis and engine are both built in England, or some other reason?

    I thought it wa just me that thinks the engines are Ilmor and the chassis most likely Reynard (you I think would suggest Tyrrell?)

  32. On the Alfa Rome front, to you agree they would be better to concentrate on developing their TCR car or a rally car that closer matches their range. I believe that would create more direct interest in their products.

  33. So is Nyck de Vries still on the radar at Williams? He’s not having a great season in FE so far.

  34. Hi joe.
    Your writing is the written highlight of a GP weekend and I thoroughly enjoy reading it every few weeks.
    It’s incredible how many times this weeks instalment has been reposted on other websites. At least you were credited but it still pretty amazing that they copied you so blatantly. .
    How do I subscribe to your weekly newsletter or other publications? I can’t find links anywhere.

  35. Your story broken in the previous Green Notepad about Porsche / Audi confirmed today I see Joe.

      1. What I meant was your blog is “Free to air” and you as good as broke the story as far as I am aware. It may have been picked up by bunk bed “journalists” but i don’t even look at them and only two weeks later was reported after an effective confirmation by Porsche. I meant that with your history of getting the story right I’m surprised no one followed up with something similar. I have read this blog for probably 10 years and I may not always agree with opinion, I cannot remember a single story I read here first that did not substantially play out. That was what I meant and that it no-one credible picked it up.

  36. Toro Rosso Has not been mentioned as one of the teams Germans are looking at but with red bull going to Porsche & Toro Rosso was always for sale to the right team , makes sense for VW to do the deal with Dietrich Mateschitz

  37. Thanks Joe for this green notebook. They’ve been so great it has inspired me to re-subscribe to your digital magazine. Keep up the good work!!

  38. Wow, F1 apparently spending $240 million on land at Vegas to build a pit and paddock complex. What on earth is the business case for that? Of course witless be an asset on the books and not lost money, but… Thought it was a joint promotion between F1 and locals and profit or loss shared? Must be confident of $20m profit every year and a long term deal.

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