Green Notebook from Route 66

Yeah, I know. Route 66 does not go through Florida. In fact, if one is being 100 percent accurate, Route 66 no longer exists. It was removed from the US Highway System in 1985, decommissioned because it had been replaced by new Interstates along its entire length.

But it takes time for legends to die, a fact I was reminded of on Sunday – the 40th anniversary of the death of Gilles Villeneuve – in addition to being the first Formula 1 race in Miami.

The latter was, of course, treated on social media as the sporting equivalent of the Red Sea parting and Moses putting a pass around his neck and leading his flock on to the grid…

It seems that every commentator from Boca Raton to Sausage Gully in Australia overlooked the fact that this was not the first Miami Grand Prix. There were 11 IMSA races that used the Miami Grand Prix name between 1983 and 1993, not to mention a string of GrandAm races in the Noughties. Never mind. Media inexactitude was in fashion in southern Florida, which might have been a good thing given Formula 1’s pretty awful history in the United States.

The good news (I think) is that we are entering a new age. And while some of the Old School F1 types might hrmph at the idea that the Miami International Autodrome is not a patch on the old Nürburgring, or laugh at the idea that it made perfect sense to build a fake marina, the whole thing passed off pretty well despite the fact that southern Florida is flat as a (European) pancake and utterly featureless, it’s only saving grace in physical terms is a string of beaches, and some (but not all) human bodies which appear on them to catch some rays.

Anyway, to return to the point, US Highway 66, known as Route 66, was an important road that linked Chicago to Los Angeles, from 1926 until 1985. It became one of the great American icons, symbolising progress and optimism, not to mention the sense of freedom that came with the automobile.

It was more than just another highway. It unified the US and encapsulated the American Dream.

What does it have to do with Miami? Not much, except that today there is a sense of optimism and excitement across the United States about another great automotive activity… Formula 1, big news thanks to Netflix’s Drive to Survive.

The race was held on the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby and that would not have got as much coverage if it hadn’t been won by an 80-to-1 outsider, which was the equivalent of the Haas team winning a Grand Prix.

I find myself on Route 66 because F1 lives are complicated. They leave relatives and friends strewn around the globe, although the sport also provides a means by which one can see them from time to time, even if it means more time away from the homestead.

Unlike most of the F1 circus, I didn’t hightail it to the international departure lounge as soon as the chequered flag had been shown, but stayed on and joined the queues on Monday in the domestic terminal, and listened to Americans on their ways home. This isn’t difficult because Americans often talk very loudly and express their feelings for all to hear. Everyone had bought merchandise to reflect their support of one team or another, or the race itself, and it was fun to sit, plain-clothed, and watch all the interactions. The message was clear, they’d all loved it. It was cool, it was friendly and it had been fun. For many it was their first race – and they said they’d be back.

As there were not any VIPs on the flights I was taking, I didn’t hear the complaints about the poor quality hospitality experience. F1 can blame the promoter for not using Do&Co, the experts who know what it takes, but in truth a share of the blame should go to the sport itself, for not insisting that the Austrian firm be used, in order to ensure the highest standards and justify the wildly expensive Paddock Club tickets. A three-day ticket cost $12,000 a head, although they were changing hands on the black market at up to $35,000, a clear sign that the people buying were not there to go racing, but rather for some other ego-related activity.

Being there was what mattered.

To give you an idea, a Monaco GP Paddock Club ticket will cost you $8,000, while the average European race will mean about $4,500 for the privilege. It felt like every VIP in Miami was there to be seen to have been there, perhaps with a selfie with a driver, or the ultimate prize, a selfie with Gunther F*cking Steiner.

The crowd capacity was only 82,500, but only around 50,000 were in grandstands. The rest were VIPs. And everyone was paying a lot. One had to be impressed by the scale of the event. It must have cost a fortune to create the whole concept, but it will pay back massively over the next 10 years, once they sort out the glitches. The track was terrific (but needs some work) and the hype was mad, but that is America for you. The Miami Grand Prix was a festival of self-absorbed people, getting ready to tell their friends that: “You really should have been there”.

The sporting event was the peg on which they hung their overpriced hats.

From those of us from more reserved cultures it all felt a little much, but it was kind of magnificent in the same way. F1 often says it wants each F1 race to be like the Super Bowl, and this was definitely a step in that direction.

The paddock access, one can argue, went too far, which meant it was harder for those working. There was no possibility of quiet chats with team bosses because they were run off their feet by TV crews, selfie-seekers and VIPs who needed to be adored. Some of the team bosses, who don’t need the adulation, took to hiding in their cramped hospitality units. And we all began to wonder what on earth it is going to be like when F1 goes to Las Vegas next year, where they have elevated such activities into an art form.

The great news in all of this is that Formula 1 is healthier than it has ever been, and its getting healthier all the time. OK, it isn’t very chic, but in the end, who cares? This is the modern face of F1, brassy and filled with social influencers filming themselves and big watch-jangling types chest-bumping and talking about yachts. In the future, with a little more work on transportation, the crowd in Miami can grow considerably and there really is no reason why racing fans cannot enjoy themselves alongside the party animals, mermaids and fake body parts. They may not start screaming when they see a driver (which seems to be a hallmark of the new F1 fan), but they can see the stars working their magic on the circuit.

The news that there will be another two series of Drive to Survive and that Formula 1 itself will buy a piece of land in Las Vegas is all good for the sport.

I guess that the number of VIPs is a measure of how good an event is, a bit like finding a good breakfast in the United States. You can go to a fast food joint, but the best way to find a good place is to look for police cars. The more police cars there are, the better the breakfast – unless it is a crime scene. There were five police cars at the place I chose on the first day in Miami and the breakfast was excellent…

Inside the F1 Paddock there was not much time for meaningful chatter, amidst all the goings-on. There was the jewellery issue, which is obviously about safety and not about freedom of expression. The drivers banging on that drum need to spend more time in the real world. There was Sebastian Vettel showing off his crown jewels by parading in the paddock with his underpants over his overalls. If he wanted attention (or perhaps sponsorship from an underwear manufacturer) he succeeded, but it did not add much to the argument that F1 drivers be protected in case of fire.

And then there was Michael Andretti doing the rounds of the F1 big cheeses, hoping to be allowed a sniff of the action. It will not be an easy task to convince everyone and it is not being helped by the fact that it is all being done in the public domain, largely due to Michael’s father Mario, who seems to be happy to talk publicly about the project. At one point Mario told Sky they were able to pay the $200 million to enter. “You get nothing for that… But we are ready,” he said.

This is not strictly true. The $200 million is an anti-dilution fund which opens the way for a new team to immediately begin collecting prize money. This is valuable and means that new teams do not have to soak up pain for several seasons before being allowed to join the club. It also means that the teams will likely survive those early times, which was not the case before when most new teams went to the wall, when the owners found themselves running on air, like Wile E. Coyote, and then plunged to become a distant cloud of dust at the bottom of the F1 canyon.

This money is (in theory) divided between the existing teams, to offset the loss of prize money that would occur if they agree to divide the funds 11 ways, rather than 10. This effectively means that they must each agree to take a 10 percent cut and gain another rival. So there is little motivation to make their own lives more difficult, particularly among the smaller teams. There are other less obvious problems that would result from an 11th or 12th team. Additional space is needed and additional freight must be shifted. Thus facilities and logistics operations have to be expanded.

There is a stupid argument that Andretti might take legal action and that the anti-dilution provisions are anti-competitive. It is possible they are, but finding this out will take years of legal battles, will cost a fortune and will mean that if a team does eventually win, it will arrive in F1 one day with no friends, in a sport where alliances are important. So that is a non-starter because the important thing is to get an entry, which the $200 million does not buy. To get an entry one has to convince the FIA and the F1 group that what you are bringing to the party is worthwhile and (most importantly) will add to the show. Andretti has therefore to convince everyone that he brings value, helping to build the sport in the US. The Andretti brand is widely-known in the world of motorsport and has enjoyed a fair amount of success, winning the Indy 500 five times in the last seven years, but has not won the IndyCar title since 2012, although the team collected four titles between 2004 and 2012. It has enjoyed more success in Indy Lights, where the opposition is less intense. The team runs various other operations in other championships. However, much of the brand value of the Andretti name derives from Mario’s exploits as racer, albeit many years ago.

An illustration of the value of this came for me in Australia when I was asked to chat to a group of kids who are keen to get into F1. They had won the right to visit the F1 Paddock (a great prize). In the course of the chat Sir Jackie Stewart appeared, in his trademark tartan trousers, in the company of Mark Webber. Jackie gave a few cheery words of encouragement and then continued on his way. The kids seemed none the wiser. So I asked: “Does anyone know who that was?” The response was 100 percent negative. “Has anyone heard of Ayrton Senna?” I asked. The response was the same. For traditional racing fans this might seem appalling, but this is the reality of the modern world.

Success in other formulae and having loads of money does not guarantee success in Formula 1. 

The first step in the process is to get the FIA and the Formula 1 group to agree to open up a tender process. The team must then win that process. No-one in F1 wants a team that is simply a passenger. The business model is key in this process and Andretti seems to be trying to create a team that operates from a European base, but using a US-built chassis. The Haas model relies on Dallara to manufacture the cars in Italy and that firm cannot supply two teams, so Andretti must either build its own capability (which will cost a fortune and take time) or find another partner to do that work. There are specialist firms that could do it, but none of them has a proven track record in Formula 1, nor the level of infrastructure needed for F1. And this is where the project runs into trouble because building all this – and sustaining it all for a number of years – would require so much money that it is still a better idea to buy an existing operation and get rid of all these problems.

Andretti says that there are no teams available, although this is not strictly true as what he means is that there is no team available at a price he wants to pay. Audi is also in the market and obviously has more available cash.

If Michael was coming in with a US automobile brand behind him then he would be very attractive, but it is not likely to happen.

If there is enough money, F1 is not a closed shop as Lawrence Stroll (Aston Martin), Dorilton Capital (Williams) and Finn Rausing (Alfa Romeo Racing) might all sell. McLaren says it won’t, but it might if the numbers added up to a big enough total.

From an F1 point view, it is clear that the popularity of the sport is not dependent on a team, but rather on a successful driver, so what is really important for US growth is to find an American driver to get the country excited (as Max Verstappen has done in Holland, Sergio Perez in Mexico etc etc). Michael’s prize asset in this respect is Colton Herta, but the youngster seems to be a path to join McLaren in F1, while Andretti is also about to lose the last F1 American driver Alex Rossi, who is expected to join the McLaren IndyCar team in 2022.

On Sunday Michael was accompanied on the grid by Mark Walter, the CEO of Guggenheim Partners and Daniel Towriss, the CEO of Guggenheim Life, the parent company of the Gainbridge insurance firm

But money is only important if you spend it. The fact that money does not help much in success is also highlighted with a couple of other stories kicking about in the Miami paddock. One suggested that Williams is looking to change drivers for the second part of the year as Nicholas Latifi has not done a good enough job. Things are complicated by money that the Canadian brings and by contracts, but if it happens, expect Nyck de Vries to take the drive.

The other story along these lines is that of Audi, which is looking to buy a team. This has now been confirmed by VW group boss Herbert Diess. It is clear that Porsche will join forces with Red Bull and will effectively badge the Red Bull Powertrains engines in 2026, and there is speculation that there will be some kind of long-term option for Porsche to take over the whole team, if Red Bull decides that it has done enough in F1. Audi might come in sooner, because it has more to do, but it will be very difficult for the German firm to brand an existing team because of the current engine arrangements.

If, for example, Audi was to buy Aston Martin, it could not run Audi-Mercedes cars, as the two firms are clearly in competition in the real world. Ferrari is unlikely to agree to Audi badging one of its engines, Renault says it is not even thinking about such matters, while Red Bull Powertrains has a deal with Honda which precludes any customer arrangements before the rule changes in 2026.

Audi could build a current engine in addition to 2026 one, but that would be a little silly given the timescales involved and the best course of action would be to become a silent partner of a team and get things ready for 2026.  Audi appears to be focussed on acquiring either Aston Martin or Sauber. In both cases the branding would change but Audi could not be used because of the engine situation.

Buying the Aston Martin team does not make a lot of sense, unless the current owners wants to offload the car company – which may be the case given that neither the team nor the car company are doing well at the moment. Aston Martin’s Q1 results for 2022 make grim reading, particularly when compared with previous predictions of a resurrection led by the DBX, which was first unveiled in November 2019. Production began in July 2020 and Aston sold 1,516 DBXs that year. In 2021 the firm sold 3,000 DBXs, of which 746 were sold in the first quarter. This year that fell to 421, a drop of 44 percent, which suggests that demand is easing off. Other indicators are also not good. Overall sales in Q1 dropped 14 percent while net debt rose from £722 million a year ago to £957 million. The only real bright spot in the story was that sales of the expensive specials meant that overall revenues went up four percent. Although the company says that things remain on target it has dumped CEO Tobias Moers and has appointed the 76-year-old Italian Amedeo Felisa as his replacement.

The word is that Stroll and his investors are now actively looking for ways to sell the firm to Audi, which will give them a fig leaf of having saved the firm and handing it on to an industry major. The racing team is also very disappointing. The team was in a mess in 2018 when Lawrence Stroll bought it (largely to provide his son Lance with an F1 drive) and the 2020 results were good because the team copied the Mercedes design, which resulted in Sergio Perez winning a race, but since the transformation into Aston Martin the team has failed to deliver, dropping from fourth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2020 to seventh last year. This year it is currently ninth.  Lance is quick from time to time, but is not the full package and has been overshadowed this year by Sebastian Vettel, despite the fact that the German missed two races with Covid-19. Vettel is seen in F1 as being well past his best and prone to mistakes. Stroll is buying in talent and investing in a new facility which increases the potential value of the team.

The word is that Audi is now leaning more towards Sauber, which is for sale if the price and conditions are right. There is one key reason why this may be the best option. Sauber was owned by BMW between 2005 and 2009. It did well and was a World Championship challenger in 2008 before BMW pulled the plug after the global financial crisis. The people who were at BMW at the time thus know that the team could be a contender with the right leadership and the right resources. Audi CEO Markus Duesmann was one of the BMW F1 engineers in that era, and last year he appointed Australian Adam Baker, another ex-BMW man to formulate Audi’s motorsport strategy. Another man who was involved was Mike Krack, who is currently learning how to be a Formula 1 team principal with Aston Martin…

Many of the big names from Audi’s glorious motorsport past have retired now and the new generation have yet to prove their worth and there are some in Germany who think Audi’s reputation may now be a little overblown and the attitude a little bit too arrogant. Still, the people at the top understand the task in hand and seem to have the money to do the job… and they also know that Hinwil can produce competitive cars.

Other stories worthy of mention from Miami, include the suggestions that the FIA has now agreed to the plan to have six F1 Sprint races in 2023, although it is not yet clear where these will be.

Calendars remain the source of much F1 discussion at a time before the Silly Season really begins and the sport has still to finalise a race to replace Russia in the autumn. This will be Singapore – if it happens at all. The plan is to have a two-day race meeting on the weekend before the main event, with the first race taking place in daylight, the second at night. It is a good opportunity for F1 to trial a two-day event.

Interestingly, night and day are becoming an issue in Grand Prix racing for a rather left-field reason. There are some races that are stuck with certain dates and do not want to change: Miami, Monaco and Montreal being three of them. This means that F1 must fly backwards and forwards across the Atlantic, rather than adopting a more sensible strategy and creating a US “swing”, with several races paired up to reduce costs and wear-and-tear. In a perfect world Montreal and Miami would be linked, but Montreal does not want to move forward from its summer-opening festival and Miami doesn’t want to move earlier because of tennis.

Australia might like to regain its season-opening date, but the teams prefer to go to Bahrain so they can test and race in warm weather, without being too far from home, which means that when things go wrong, they can get stuff back to base more easily.  The night and day problem is because of the Muslim practice of Ramadan, the 30-day period during which they abstain from all the fun stuff and focus on religion and clean-living, at least during daylight hours. Going racing in Ramadan is obviously not a good idea. This year Ramadan was from April 1 until May 1, which meant that the Grands Prix in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia both took place before it began. The problem is that each year Ramadan moves and next year it will begin on March 22 and end on April 20, which means that the two races need to be on March 12 and 19, with the pre-season test on March 5. But the teams want a break after Bahrain to avoid what is in effect a triple-header and that would mean that the season would need to start in February in Bahrain, in order to get both races done before Ramadan. F1 argues that if the racing is at night, that would be OK, but this pragmatic approach might not square with all Muslim believers. And things are more complicated in 2024, 2025 and 2026 after which Ramadan will not be a problem again for F1 until the mid 2030s, when it will be happening in November.

This may explain why there is much interest in a race in Africa at the moment, because South Africa could, for example, take over pre-season testing and the first race at a time when the weather is best and there would be no jet-lag, and then F1 could return to the Middle East after that. The sport used to go to South Africa at the start of each year, although it has also started the season in South America in the past. One idea that is kicking around is a race in Colombia with a very solid project under development in the city of Barranquilla. The word is that this is funded with private money and will not need public funding, although perhaps the authorities will be asked to kick in some cash for infrastructure work. I heard in Miami that this would be called the Caribbean Grand Prix, which would create a race that could move around the region over time, if other projects can come to fruition. This would operate along similar lines to the European GP title, which has been applied to different events in different countries. Colombia has a couple of young drivers beginning to climb through the ranks: Sebastián Montoya (son of) and Nicolás Baptiste, who is a protege of Fernando Alonso. This event might also help F1 with its problem of fitting in races in the US time zones as it could twin with one of the US events, or with Brazil, to streamline the calendar a little.

The signs are that the new race in Las Vegas is going to take Austin’s date in early November, rather than being held at Thanksgiving, which will mean that it will go back-to-back with the Mexican Grand Prix, which will keep its Day of the Dead holiday weekend. This means that Austin will have to move to somewhere else on the calendar, and could be switched to the spring, to be twinned with Miami, because the end-of-season is becoming more and more congested with races in Asia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Brazil and potentially Australia as well. Teams don’t like triple-headers and so an Austin-Mexico-Las Vegas swing would not be popular.

The Las Vegas at the end of next year and will be promoted by Liberty Media itself and so the profits generated will go straight into the F1 bottom line, without a promoter taking much of the loot and paying a fee. This is an important step as the Q1 figures for Formula 1 show just that these fees and hospitality earnings are important. This year the sport raked in $360 million in Q1, compared to $180 million in the same period last year. There were two races this year, rather than one in 2021. These were both held without any major crowd and hospitality restrictions, which was not the case last year. Hence the big increase. F1’s cash pile has also grown from $2.074 billion last year to $2.265 billion but the sport is about to splash out $240 million buying a 39-acre plot of land in Vegas, where it will build a permanent pit lane and paddock complex. If that sounds profligate, it is clear that there is more to this than meets the eye and we can expect to see the land being used for other things as well.

The investment sends a strong message to Las Vegas that F1 is serious about the relationship, which is currently just for three years. It also adds the asset to the F1 balance sheet (which is important for the bean-counter types in Colorado). The whisper is that the land – which is located between East Harmon Avenue and East Rochelle Avenue, and between Koval Lane and Kishner Drive – will feature permanent facilities that will give F1 an all-year presence in Las Vegas, converting into garages and hospitality units for the race. This could be an F1 showcase which would highlight the history, heritage and power of the sport with permanent exhibitions, although there is also obvious potential for such things as convention space and even may hotel facilities, in addition to retail outlets. If you think NASCAR Hall of Fame with garages, offices and so on, it is probably what will happen.

The price for the land is high as the current owners 3D Investments, which is run by the Daneshgar Family, paid $130 million in 2019 for the land and another adjacent 21-acre parcel, on which the Harbor Island apartment complex sits. The project they had went west with the pandemic, but they will make a killing on the F1 deal and will still be able to develop the apartment complex into something nicer. As for the Las Vegas race itself, work is needed rapidly to get everything done and the word is that the F1-owned promotion firm will be headed by Renee Wilm, Liberty Media’s chief legal officer, with the day-to-day management being done by F1’s Emily Prazer, who has been Head of Commercial Development of Race Promotion up to now.

Finally, I hear that the project will include a facsimile F1 paddock area on land north of Caesars Palace casino on The Strip, where the public will be able to get a feel for the sport, up close and personnel, without disrupting the actual operations.

This is good news for the battle-hardened F1 folk who fought through the Miami weekend…

82 thoughts on “Green Notebook from Route 66

  1. Yeah, I can see Stroll Sr. is maybe seeing a dose of F1 reality in how difficult it really is to compete, and is looking at his spreadsheets for AM the team and AM the car company and seeing the ability to leverage the F1 team to get the car company sold at the same time and exit with a modicum of grace.
    Audi/VAG might think Aston Martin will go along nicely with Bentley and Lamborghini in their portfolio and not interfere too much with Porsche sales.

    1. I just did an analysis of AMLs Q1 financials, its not at all pretty. I don’t see Audi being interested in the car company and all of its baggage. Much easier just to buy the race team.

      1. Whilst not arguing with your financial analysis in any way, is there a chance that Audi might see value in adding the marque to their already impressive list and taking AM ‘back’ to it’s low volume, hand-built, niche-market days?
        Or are they long gone and unlikely to be ever seen again?

  2. At least the people Bernie invited to the grid were just your usual run of the mill criminals and despots!

    1. As far as I could make it, the Miami grid was full of “influencers”. They don’t actually do anything – they just have You Tube blogs, and they go around companies asking for their products (most commonly clothes) that they show off on their You Tube blog, to intice their subscribers to buy it. They get paid by the companies according to how many subscribers they have. It’s pretty vaccuous stuff, and indeed, there were a great deal of these pretty vaccuous people on the grid on Saturday, as witnessed by Martin Brundles excruciating Miami grid walk.

  3. Good heavens, the rattle of Lewis’s jewellery over those curbs in Miami ! And this intriguing idea that they can’t be taken off. They can only be “hacked” off!
    Who will blink first, I wonder, FIA or the former champion?

      1. He’s already answered that question – he says he has had several and the one supposedly unremovable item is platinum, so does not affect it

    1. Perhaps you could explain why it is that you are singling out Hamilton for criticism only, even though we have had confirmation that he is not alone in wearing jewellery in the car.

      Magnussen has confirmed that he would normally wear his wedding ring whilst racing, whilst Gasly would wear a chain with a cross on it – are you going to complain about their behaviour as well?

      1. Exactly!! And whilst I understand the significance to many of a wedding ring or crucifix (or any other kind of religious symbol), if – as the FIA state – it’s a safety matter, then there can be no exceptions as safety doesn’t recognise marital status or religious affiliation!!

    2. Perhaps go elsewhere to make comments like that Al? Plenty of Ver/Ham places you can do that sort of thing without contaminating this excellent haven for non-children.

      Does feel like an example is being made after Abu Dhabi that the Stewards are in charge though. Think there should be some degree of common sense and a liability waiver – Hamilton’s nose stud, Magnesson’s ring (no sniggering at the back), and Gasly’s cross or whatever it is. It’s come across as very petty and should have been have behind closed doors on both sides.

  4. Great insight as ever Joe, thanks! Just a thought, but would it make sense for Audi to buy Alpha Tauri? It will not create headaches with the current engine supplies (assuming Red Bull does the deal with Porsche), and already have a structure in place where both teams chave a close cooperation.. Any thoughts on this?

    1. The problem with that is that it would leave RB with only one user of its engines. Having at least two teams running an engine is seen as an advantage in terms of data to aid development.

  5. Interesting stuff overall & here are my notes with a long post warning:
    I wouldn’t rule out Pato from possible future Mclaren race drive considerations yet.
    He’s, after all, been with them longer than Herta.
    Concerning Williams driver lineup, any change would only happen for next season rather than during the ongoing campaign, as per Capito’s words on honoring existing contracts.
    I’m still not quite sold on De Vries, but time will tell.
    From my understanding, the possible extra Singapore race would start an hour earlier, i.e., 19:00 locally & thus run through dusk unless the timing plan has changed on this front.
    Racing entirely in the daytime would be weird.
    Suzuka (for Japan’s annual Sports Day on 2nd October Monday) & Mexico City are the only clear-cut cases with certain days or month phases for preference.
    Monaco & Montreal have invariably shifted within May & June, respectively, so they aren’t so black-&-white.

    Next season’s Miami GP could take place on 9.4 at the earliest, with Miami Open planned for 20.3-3.4 based on what I found.
    Ramadan timing indeed complicates matters for the upcoming years since next season’s Bahrain & SA GPs have to occur before 22.3, meaning 12 & 19 at the latest (25.2 & 3.3 in 2024, etc.)
    Ironically, Abu Dhabi GP timing could get impacted in the mid-2030s.
    Interesting note on Barranquilla.
    Concerning LV, one scenario I’ve thought about is COTA-Mexico-LV on 22.10, 29.10, & 5.11, respectively (or the other way round with COTA & LV), but apparently, not.
    COTA could realistically only move to Northern Hemisphere spring as the Austin-Elroy area can get unfavorably hot in June for a Montreal pairing (this already became evident back in 2011 when the COTA US GP debut for the following season got announced).
    The late-season flyaway phase indeed is congested, so slightly problematic.
    BTW, I’m unsure what Tams are & couldn’t find a suitable meaning or acronym for this term.

    1. The Montreal contract states the race has to be on one of two weekends in June. So the shifting is very limited.

      1. Sorry for the late response, but the Canadian GP date isn’t necessarily super-specific.
        The event timing has invariably changed, mainly from roughly June’s opening quarter-turn till before the midway point (for example, since 2004, the race days have varied within the 7th-13th range bar 2006 with 26th as the race day) with this season’s event beyond the month’s halfway point in the 3rd quarter.
        Otherwise, the race wouldn’t occur beyond the month’s midway point this year either, nor would it have shifted so much within the above range over a given period.
        Only Japan & Mexico are specific per se.
        Claiming similarly about Canada is inaccurate when looking through the race days over time.

          1. Not that I don’t believe people, but I’m slightly confused, given some contradictions appear in this thing.

  6. WOW. That’s an incredible wealth of information Joe. It sounds as if you’re in need of anew pair of shoes, having been up and down the paddock for the entire time you were there. Thanks for that.

  7. Hi Joe, thank you for the brilliant green book. As a fan who watches each race religiously and has done so for decades … I am enormously frustrated at the TV feed becoming increasingly interested in showing celebrities and shot of the crowd – usually coinciding with some good track action being missed. I don’t think I’m along in my frustration. It does seem to have got worse since Liberty took over. We seem to be witnessing the Americanisation of F1 in this current era.

    Just an observation.

    1. I don’t have the Sky feed but F1 TV and it’s not often you can say Will Buxton got it right, but his poor man’s grid walk was so much better than Brundle’s which I watched after the furore After MB spoke to Mario it was all over. .

      I recall watching Serena Williams giving an interview to possibly Sue Barker and she was banging on about good manners, if how she treated Formula One royalty in MB was well mannered I would hate to see her when she is being self centered and ignorant.

      Sadly the TV execs think we all interested in these people. To me if you are not a Springbok rugby player (and not the wife or girlfriend) or can peddle a racing car with aplomb, I really don’t care.

      The latest season of Drive to Survive was a disappointment as they played up Susie Woolf who at least knows a thing or two about motor racing with Old Spice in some of celebrity stunt. I would not even be interested in Gunter’s wife’s wife, although you can bet she at least has something interesting to say that would be relevant, just with less bleeps.

  8. Great read as always Joe.

    I’m unsure whether more races is the answer. I liken the situation to one-day/T20 cricket that generates a lot of money for the administration but each event is very quickly forgotten. These modern tracks are also unimaginative and doesn’t help. It seems the formula is for super long straights now with multiple DRS zones. The circuits look incredibly generic, and the world doesn’t need more Grand Prix circuits.

    These new generation of cars are step forward to improving the racing, but they are too heavy, and look awkward and lazy at low speed.

    I wonder whether the Drive to Survive effect will last, once people realise there are more boring races than super exciting ones. The race in Miami was fizzling out before the safety car.

  9. Excellent background on the sport, Joe. Makes interesting reading and fills in all the holes we don’t ever get to hear about.

  10. Joe, Another exceptional piece of writing. I always look forward to every Green notebook whenever it is out. Been following your writing since 1988 with Autosport. Also felt at that time you were one of the very few Brit writers who were not biased against Senna!

    Do you plan to have one of your talks this year in Singapore? I’ll be first to sign up!

  11. Very much appreciate the breadth and depth of your insights Joe, the Green Notebook is head and shoulders above anything else published with free access.
    Interesting to read your update on the Andretti saga. Although they appear to have several items in place including engines from Alpine, the chassis challenge you highlighted sounds problematic. Attempting to litigate their way out of the $200m payment would be so damaging to them and F1 that I can’t believe it’s a consideration.
    You again mention the possibility of a second Singapore GP. I agree it’s an option, but the disruption with the roads likely to remain closed between the races, is significant. Plus they don’t appear to have got everything ready for the scheduled race; as yet there’s no title sponsor, and no word on the musicians signed up to fill the stages and draw the crowds. I guess the delay could be due to them working on a two race schedule, but I’m not so sure.

  12. Is America really becoming keen on F1 or is it becoming keen on the Netflix “Drive to Survive” soap view of F1 with its manufactured rivalries and so on. F1 as Eastenders will certainly work in America, but is it really good for the sport, if that’s what it is still.

    1. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”
      or
      “There’s only one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about”

  13. Aston Martin’s target demographic for the DBX was 35 year old women named Charlotte. I imagine the laws of supply and demand have some relevance here. And the only Charlotte I know prefers motorbikes anyway.

  14. Excellent observation Joe. Miami GP looks promising.

    However, I am concerned about the ticket prices at Miami. It is at a level that I think it makes it difficult to afford for the long-term. An economic downturn can make this a mess.

    For me, it’s back to Canada next year or Europe to catch a race. I think I can do it economically.

  15. Great insight Joe thanks. I find it ironic that an American owned sport’s calendar is going to be heavily influenced by the Muslim religious calendar. I noticed that almost no one was wearing a mask. Only person in the paddock I saw wearing one was a Ferrari mechanic. While there has been a decline in them being worn over the last few races I couldn’t believe the dearth of them in Miami. Was this due to some edict by F1 to not antagonise a former president who lives in Miami?

    1. Do people not realise that wearing a mask only prevents you spreading it, not catching it… Unless everyone wears a mask then you are still just as likely to catch it through surface contact points.

      A bit like travelling to Japan pre-covid – the Japanese only wear masks when they are ill to stop others getting ill, not because they think everyone else are germy little dirt bags!

      1. Absolute BS. Wear an N95 mask correctly and it offers darn near perfect protection from viral aerosI don’t know why people spread such ill-informed rubbish.

        1. Or maybe the time has come to ditch masks and live with this, unless you actually have this Chinese origined lergy.

          I hate to use a Boris line, but it’s “time to take back control” “of our lives and liberty.”

          The real enemy is now those that will not vaccinate to create herd immunity.

          Having lost a relative and good friend in a week before my age group opened up, I registered and was vaccinated in a week of being eligible. I was recently helping an elected official and I kid you not he said (and absolutely believes) that the vaccines being used in the west all have tracking agents in them. He is waiting for the Russian vaccine to be licensed as that doesn’t track you. I am not a medical person, but I am smart enough to know these vaccines will be built up using similar “ingredients”. When I pointed this out that is just wrong apparently. I gave up as I try and not argue with idiots, they drag you down to there level of stupidity and beat you on experience.

          Another elected official told me everyone who has the vaccine will be dead within a year, I’m in my last 3 months!!

          1. No need to put tracking devices in vaccines anyway, even if “They” could make one small enough to pass down the bore of a hypodermic needle. Just dress your tracker up in Shiny and people will queue overnight to *buy* the latest iteration and then carry it around voluntarily without even being asked.

            Sent from my Shiny Thing with location services built-in.

            1. I know, and when you point out they collecting data from you all the time they don’t believe you. I say swipe right and you get the news how do they know what news you want to read possibly if you have never told them.

              Africa has 17% vaccinated and many doses donated by the west because the serial do gooders in society banged on about it. It’s so bad in parts of South Africa the government were considering paying people to be vaccinated. You honestly cannot make this up. And the number of people who use sheep tablets (and are educated) is staggering. I heard of another guy who refused the vaccine and got COVID and died, but he was on Ivermectin.

              Yet I would have happily paid to be vaccinated as soon as it was available.

              Bonkers

      2. True of cloth masks, but N95/FFP3/FFP2 offer some degree of protection to the wearer.

  16. As far as the Miami race and coverage was concerned, then it was entirely aimed at the American market and worked well.

    For the rest of the world, although I can’t vouch to speak for everyone, the general consensus on social media platforms was sheer bemusement – it was tacky, cheesy (to resuurect a word, it was “naff”) whilst both the track and the race were one of the dullest in recent memory. The first car crash was actually Martin Brundles grid walk.

    I mean it’s not as if the Americans can’t get it right. The Texans have got it generally spot on with the right mix for everyone. But this………..

    So Liberty got what they wanted as far as the American market is concerned – more coverage and interest. But as far as the rest of the world is concerned, it completely seems to have turned us off. I’ve made a mental note to possibly give this race a skip next year.

    1. IMO each race should celebrate and communicate the culture of that area. You don’t have to like it, but just accept it for what it is – a bit of colour . As long as this style sticks where it belongs and doesn’t bleed into all things F1, then I don’t see the issue. You know, celebrate diversity and all that.

    2. I actually didn’t think the race was bad, there were some interesting dices through the field and what was interesting was how Verstappen was able to get close enough in the fiddly left right left to use DRS to pass, but LeClerk was not able to.

      I long ago gave up the side show. I watch the race only usually.

  17. As a Canadian, I was saddened by Sky’s failure to mention the 40th anniversary of GV’s passing. Perhaps I missed it between the shots of mermaids and marinas? Also, did I miss the We Race As One moment? Given Florida’s Uber conservative governor, no one took a knee. Will Miami be under water in 10-15 years with the ice caps melting?

    1. They stopped the We Race As One moment and taking of the knee since the beginning of this season.

      1. Simon Lazenby mentioned it very briefly in the equally scant reference to the passing of Tony Brooks. Both great drivers deserved better respect.

        It seemed especially disrespectful on a show with an extended grid walk mainly devoted to ill-mannered idiots incapable of stringing two meaningful sentences together. That said, the lovely moment with Mario Andretti and Zak Brown was one of the TV highlights of the year.

  18. I’m really keen for a US driver in the sport, and more teams. The ’90s were great with 26 cars. 30% more action seems a no brainer, plus you get to create more spaces for junior talent like Ricciardo, Ocon, Bianchi and Alex Rossi.

    But I’m yet to see the greatness of Andretti as a constructor, or Colton Herta as a driver if I’m honest.

  19. For a true, unadulterated, taste-of-America breakfast in the US South, head over to a Waffle House. Big portions that look very much like the pictures on the menu.

    1. Did the length of it back in 2016. There’s still plenty of it unburied ‘neath the Interstates but a decent guidebook is a must if you are to avoid orbiting central Missouri for half the afternoon looking for places mentioned in the rubbish one you bought instead because the good one was only available in the UK secondhand, from robdog rip-off merchants.

  20. I recall that drivers used to wear their Rolex on one hand and an ID chain on the other with their blood group. Drivers died frequently, often burned to death. Something needed to change.

    I also recognise that the world has moved-on and wearing half a gramme of gold, or platinum in your nose, or ear is part of people’s identity.

    A compromise is needed and it can’t be one where a wedding ring or crucifix is deemed acceptable but Lewis needs to be treated differently.

    Ocon stating the bleedingly obvious that a Techpro barrier was urgently need, but, somehow, was ignored despite the agreement of other drivers and Carlos getting injured the following day, however Lewis was given a 2-race reprieve to fix his particular problem.

    The FIA seem to have a very great difficulty in judging the right pathway. They tend to always get things wrong.

    1. In the aftermath of the Chris Rock / Will Smith incident the other week I had a very illuminating chat with a Black friend as to the significance of hair (mainly women) and jewellery (mainly men) to many Black people. It opened my eyes a bit.

    2. Back in the olden days Christian Danner wore a small stud in his left ear but I could only find one picture with him rocking the stud/racing togs combination, so I’m guessing he took it out while actually in the car.

      1. Things have moved-on since the millennium.

        For the last 10-years drivers have been wearing small items without incident. The rules need to be modified, very slightly, to accommodate this reality. Otherwise the We Race as One message will be nullified.

  21. I read somewhere about Guggenheim people being involved in a bid for FC Chelsea. Here the name appears again. As if US money are looking to be spend on to European sports at large.

  22. Hardly need to say, another excellent Green Notebook!

    From the various driver’s comments it seems we are missing Charlie more than ever! The FIA has clearly not applied the same standards since his passing.

    Liberty appear to have run out money, after buying all the bling, razzle and OTT Americana/ridiculana of Miami.
    So much so that is an “itinerant tarmac consultant” must have offered to lay the track with some stuff left over from another job, probably for cash and no questions asked. (Brown envelope preferred) “No, we couldn’t get the heavy roller it’s still locked in the compound at the previous job, but never mind, the boys will stamp it down so it looks flattish!” (“Whatever you do, don’t drop any hydraulic fluid on it, that will really knacker it!”)

    I would guess that many might agree that Charlie would not have allowed either the track surface composition or its bumps, nor the blatant lack of safety barriers.

    Miami has reminded us of one thing more than ever, Liberty are a showbiz company.

      1. I have read afterwards that the bloke responsible for the track laying was embarrassed by the driver’s comments.
        Perhaps in future there should be a new rule that the person responsible for the track should be driven round it in the Safety car at full chat for 10 laps and see how they feel about the surface they provided after that. Not as dramatic as in an F1 car but getting to feel where it hammers the back and buttocks that the drivers endure for the whole race.
        Mr Alonso has voiced the feelings of many now; though perhaps a little aggressively, but let’s put that down to the language barrier. Perhaps the absence of Tech-pro barriers was because the Americans are so used to concrete walled ovals and think that they are safe to crash into.

        Where did talk of the FIA opting out of running F1 originate?

  23. Joe, considering your doubts about the long term future of Red Bull and their involvement of Red Bull racing & Red Bull Technology, (well justified, an energy drink business, however fantastic or disgusting it may be, cannot justify this as part of their core business) I am curious as to why you are so certain to make sure AlphaTauri is not grouped in with the other potentially ‘available at the right price teams’?

    I would have thought there is more chance of them being available due to the duo ownership. Every knows Sauber is available and Stroll has certainly had a rude awakening. Both Williams and McLaren have just received fresh investment, therefore I would think that AlphaTauri would be prime for someone like Alfa Romeo/Stellantis to pick up?

    Curious to hear your thoughts

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