Green Notebook from Oudenaarde

Memory is an amazing thing. As I drove past a sign to the village of Oudenaarde, bells rang in a dusty corridor in my brain and a messenger came running along shouting the words: “Marlborough” and muttered something about Spaniards and Austrians. It has been a while since I last heard the name – about half a century – and I had no idea exactly why the Duke of Marlborough was marching armies around a very flat part of Belgium, but I concluded it was all something to do with quibbling European nations and Kings with boots too big for their feet. And I pondered that, in the overall scheme of things, little has changed since then (whenever then was) and that the world remains driven by greed, ambition and, of course, sex. I had a conversation on this very subject with an Alpine PR man in Spa, who was trying to convince me that the Oscar Piastri business was all about money.

I argued that it was probably not, because ambitious young drivers often break contracts in order to get into a place they consider better than previous choices. It is normal behaviour and one can say the same thing about Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. They all did things which resulted in tut-tutting in the F1 Paddock, but they got where they wanted to be.

Whether the choice of McLaren over Alpine is ultimately the right thing to do remains to be seen, but it is probably a wiser choice than leaping from Alpine to Aston Martin. Still, when it comes to career moves, there is a reason that Fernando Alonso won fewer championships than the eminent list above…

Anyway, Spaniards and Austrians were much in discussion in the Paddock in Spa, with regard to the F1 silly season, rather than the impact of said countries in Belgian history.

Of course, when it comes to simplicity, Belgian does not win many prizes. It is an amazing country. In 2020 it broke its own record for the longest period for a country without an elected government after 592 days. The record had previously stood at 541 days back in 2010 and 2011. Is it any wonder that organising a sensible traffic plan around Spa-Francorchamps is a bit of a challenge. Of course, in addition to Belgium’s three federal police forces, there are 185 local police forces – the latter being in charge of maintain public order and traffic for big events.

Who knows how many police commissioners were involved in Spa’s traffic plans. It does not really matter because none of it worked (again). I am a big advocate of posting the local police chief(s) to Outer Mongolia (on a permanent basis) to help with law and order there and asking the Mongolians to work on a new traffic plan for Francorchamps, as they can hardly do a worse job.

This seems to be the primary reason that F1 decided that it had had enough of Spa, particularly after the non-race mud-bath of 2021. The race promoters seem to have found the cash to keep the race and have invested a fortune in upgrading the circuit, to allow for MotoGP events, but no-one thought that it might be wise to drive a four-lane highway straight into the circuit. Having spent my weekend driving through winding forests, going backwards and forwards to a hotel in Germany, there does not seem to be a problem with cutting down trees…

The reason I was staying in Germany was that there has been a very nasty outbreak of naked greed in the Spa region and hotel prices have reached insane levels. The same is happening with lots of race at the moment but the Walloons are really gouging their visitors. Yes, I know, it’s supply and demand and that is why I went to Germany: to give them some money and not spend it in Belgium. This meant that by the end of the weekend I was rather weary as I was setting off each morning in the dark and returning each evening in the dark, the only way to avoid wasting time and polluting the universe by being part of a traffic jam. I did at one point consider stealing an old tank that was sitting in the middle of a roundabout in Butgenbach and driving it through the forest to the paddock, thus creating the path for a new road, although I suspect some folks might say this would be a horrible thing to do.

Anyway, it was worth noting the appearance of Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on the grid (and podium) on Sunday. This was a first and very significant. De Croo is Flemish. The race is in Wallonia. These things matter in Belgium…  One wonders what brought him to Spa, but I suspect that a new five-year deal is in the pipeline and Belgium will remain an F1 nation if the PM agrees to do all the right things, whatever they may be…

The F1 calendar is proving complicated this year, which is what happens when you try to squeeze too many things into a small space. Each promoter has its own wishes and requirements, some of them written into contracts. Others have ambitions that they cannot meet, or bosses they cannot control. It is clear that Belgium is back on the calendar in 2023 because South Africa is gone. It remains to be seen if a race can be put together in ZA in 2024 but otherwise F1 is going to start looking at other options in Africa.

The word is that Belgium will take the July 23 slot, fitting in the week before Hungary (July 30). This will follow on from a double-header in Britain (July 2) and Austria (July 9). The Dutch will take over the current Belgian date (August 27) and Italy will follow on September 3. Singapore will have its usual September 17 date and logically Japan would be a week later.

The front end of the calendar seems settled now with Bahrain opening the season on March 6, followed by Saudi Arabia on March 19 with Australia a fortnight after that. April is complicated with Imola and Baku likely, but the possibility of China is still floating. Qatar did want to be up front as well but it has just demolished the pits at Losail and the new buildings will not be ready until the autumn. This is clear confirmation that the planned street circuit in Doha is history (at least for now). Why? Who knows? Perhaps Doha did not want to be seen copying what Jeddah had done…

Doha will probably follow on from Singapore and Japan. There will then be the races in Austin, Mexico, Sao Paulo (a triple header?) and Las Vegas, with the season ending on the last weekend of November in Abu Dhabi.

Canada will have its usual June date and Miami will stick with its May 5 date, and Monaco (if it happens) looks like being part of a triple-header involving Imola and Spain. But how it all fits together with the floating races remains to be seen. Draft calenders were flying around all weekend, like confetti in June.

Talking of confusions, the announcement that Audi will be entering F1 as an engine supplier in 2026 was celebrated by the German firm’s CEO Markus Duesmann standing next to an Audi-branded car, which was a massive piece of mixed messaging, suggesting that Audi is not just planning engines but also a full factory operation. Given that soon after the Audi announcement Alfa Romeo announced it is giving up the title sponsorship of Sauber at the end of 2023 it pretty much confirmed what will happen. By the start of 2024 Audi will own 50 percent of Sauber, according to my sources, and so Alfa Romeo will no longer be welcome.

All things considered the Audi announcement was pretty odd as the brand’s sister firm Porsche is also planning to race in F1 and the Audi announcement came just a few days before Porsche boss Oliver Blume takes over as chief executive of the entire Volkswagen Group, Audi’s parent company.

Duesmann was a rival for that job, but in the end lost out. It may just be a coincidence that the Audi F1 announcement came just a few days before Duesmann got his new boss…

It has been rumoured for a long time that Volkswagen would have two brands in Formula 1, although on paper that is strange when the automotive industry is always focussed on creating synergies and saving costs, but the announcement of the Porsche IPO should come in the next few days and the word is that this will raise $85 billion, so there will be some money sloshing about.

However there have been whispers inside and outside the paddock that Porsche and Red Bull may not go ahead as planned because Red Bull might have got a better offer from Honda. In one of his answers in Spa, Duesmann said something interesting (not much of it was).

“We will have completely separate operations,” he said. “We will have our operations in Germany and, if Porsche enters, they will have their operations in the UK.”

Duesmann thus confirmed the Porsche project, but at the same time cast doubt on it with the word “if”. Given that he is neither the boss of Porsche nor the VW Group, this is strange behaviour although the Audi contingent present at Spa were keen to bang the drum that all is perfectly harmonious in the VW empire. It does not feel that way. Still, I guess we will find out soon enough. Today (Thursday) Blume ceases to be Duesmann’s rival and becomes his boss… One wonders if there will be some fireworks.

Talking of fireworks, one place where there were none at all was in the McLaren company’s half-year results, up to June 30. This made pretty grim reading with sales and revenues significantly lower than the same period last year. The firm blamed this on semi-conductor shortages but sales of only 850 cars – down 24 percent – is not great. Revenues were down 23 percent from £350 million in 2021 to £258 million this year. The company thus booked a loss. However, McLaren did get a new CEO in Michael Leiters, who joined in July. He is believed to be planning to follow the current trend for such companies and create a McLaren SUV.

Talking of McLaren, it is clear that fairly soon the company will announce that Oscar Piastri is joining the team. The Contract Recognition Board met on Monday and there will be a result by now, but these things are secret and so the first the world will know is when either McLaren confirms Oscar, or Alpine signs someone else. The result of the CRB is really only to establish whether Alpine should be compensated, although the board does not deal with money. That is up to the teams. The word I heard was that while Alpine says Piastri signed a contract in November last year, he may not have actually signed a long form contract. This would explain why Alpine says he signed a deal and Piastri and his management say there is nothing binding. He signed a McLaren contract on July 4 and so clearly believed he was free to do so. One can perhaps theorise that Oscar signed a “heads of agreement” document but this is, by nature, a tentative document, which is usually considered non-binding… It could also be a question of wording but whatever Oscar signed it could not have been to race for Alpine in 2023 because the team at that point did not have a seat available to commit to Piastri. Thus the wording of any deal would have had to be a commitment to provide Piastri with “a Formula 1 drive” or something along those lines.

If the car was not specified there is an argument that this could be deemed unfair in a regular commercial court… As we do not know these things, we can only guess. What we do know is that his relationship with Alpine is broken.

In fact, McLaren may end up in a stronger financial position now that a settlement has been agreed with Daniel Riccardo. The team was due to pay Daniel $16 million in 2023 but the whisper in the paddock was that a settlement was reached at $10 million. That sounds about right. However, it does mean that McLaren will have $6 million more to spend on driver budgets… Piastri will be cheaper than that (for a while) and so there might even be some cash left over to sort out the mess in Indycar where the team has a problem securing the services of Alex Palou. A couple of million might help convince Ganassi that a bird in the bush is worth more than one in the hand. Still, these kinds of dealings do not help to foster trusting relationships…

So who will Alpine get? That is a good question without an obvious answer. There has been much talk of Pierre Gasly but this may just have been because Alpine went asking around about who was available. Red Bull’s Helmut Marko is not averse to stirring up excitement in the media, either just for fun or to make noise at a time when there are other things going on. It’s a classic F1 strategy: make a large bang and when the media runs off towards it, do whatever you are trying to do without anyone noticing. That was a favourite trick of Mr Bernie Ecclestone. It does not always work with judges…

The Gasly theory is sensible in that he is the best option given that Ricciardo is disheartened and Alex Albon has been quickly re-signed by Williams. Esteban Ocon says he would like to see Mick Schumacher in the team but that seems pretty unlikely given that Ferrari and Haas have made it clear that they are not interested in him and so it is hard to imagine that Red Bull would be.

There is also no reason that Red Bull would want to let Gasly go early, unless there is a suitable replacement. Pierre was confirmed in June on this basis and nothing has much changed. He is there if he is needed. He does a decent job for AlphaTauri but he is not part of the long-term Red Bull plan. Still it is better to have him on the books, rather than letting a rival team take him. Marko does not seem overly impressed with his current crop of youngsters in Formula 2. Most of been disappointing this season, although Ayumu Iwasa has generally made a good impression. Marko’s latest focus seems to be on Formula 3 racer Isack Hadjar, who has been fighting for the FIA Formula 3 title in his first season. He will move up into Formula 2 next year.

The other difficult problem with Gasly is that while some folks say he does not get on with Ocon, they fail to understand the level of friction between the pair. Ocon (or rather his Dad) bought his first kart from Pierre’s brother and, at the age of eight or nine, Pierre and Esteban were best friends. The problem was that they fell out at about 11 and while both can be professional and say the right things, the hurt is still there and the relationship could crumble quite easily. There is also the question of Alpine marketing goals. Car companies go racing to sell cars. Alpine is a Norman firm, based in Dieppe. Ocon and Gasly are Normans as well: one from Evreux, the other from Rouen. It will be great news for Alpine sales in the region, but it is doubtful that Alpine will sell much in Outer Mongolia (unless the Belgian police chief wants one). It would be better to have someone more international… One possible option might be Nyck de Vries, although he is more likely to sign for Williams and ditch his WEC contract with Toyota and his Formula E drive with Maserati.

Alpine’s next young driver is Jack Doohan, the Australia. He has qualified for a Superlicence and is starting to come good in Formula 2. He would be a risky option for the team, but the aim of a junior team is to provide a cheap supply of drivers, who are integrated into the team’s ways over time. Thus he should not be excluded as an option… If he can do more good things in Formula 2 in the next weeks perhaps he has a chance. 

Perhaps the strangest of the Spa rumours was the one about Colton Herta becoming an AlphaTauri F1 driver. The Californian does not have a Superlicence, he has yet to prove himself in F1 terms and would obviously need time, and he has a contract with Andretti Autosport in IndyCar next year and is one of the team’s biggest assets. It is always possible that Marko might like the look of him, but getting him would not be easy.

Elsewhere, I did hear that Brazil’s Felipe Drugovich is talking seriously to Aston Martin about a reserve driver deal and is believed to be supported by a Brazilian bank, while it has been also been suggested that Ricciardo’s best move might be to become reserve driver at Mercedes, to help build up his confidence again…

One Alpine driver that has not been seriously considered by the rumour-mongers is no less a figure than Jacques Villeneuve. I am joking, but Jacques, now a commentator, is to test a 2021 Alpine next week at Monza, to give him an insight into how the modern cars are. JV has already been in the simulator and is excited about the chance.

While on the subject of unusual stories in Italy, Emerson Fittipaldi is going to be standing for election to the Italian Senate, as a candidate for the Fratelli d’Italia, a national-conservative and right-wing populist political party  led by Giorgia Meloni, who is a sort of Italian version of Marine Le Pen…

On Monday after Spa, I did not – sadly – go pottering off around Belgium, as the plan had originally been. Instead I went back to Paris because the Japanese decided that anyone who wants to go to the Grand Prix in Suzuka must now have a visa, which was never the case before. So rather than a leisurely life, I had to rush home to lots of Japanese paperwork which the embassy looked out and handed back to me as being not relevant, and then headed north again…

…which is how I ended up in Oudenaarde.

66 thoughts on “Green Notebook from Oudenaarde

  1. Red Bull will get compensation from Alpine if they agree to let Gasly go now while he is under contract for 2023. If Red Bull keeps Gasly, he will become a fully unrestricted free agent after 2023 and then Red Bull won’t get a nickel from anybody if he decides to move to another team.

    1. By ‘unrestricted free agent’ I assume you actually just mean ‘out of contract’?
      Please – the last thing F1 needs is NFL-style contracts that restrict who can go where, when and for how much!
      F1 has always been a ‘free-market’: A driver and team sign a contract, and that contract is seen through – unless a ‘get-out’ clause is triggered by either party or compensation is paid to a driver to relinquish his seat.*
      * This would seem to be the more common scenario (Ferrari to Raikkonen, McLaren to RIC, etc) but I believe it’s occurred the other way too (Button to Williams?)

  2. First of all, thanks as always for your notebook and insights which are extremely informative – I always look forward to them after each and every race.

    For clarification, are you implying that Williams are going to drop Latifi and replace him with Nyck de Vries (which is realistic) for next year? And is it safe to rule out Logan Sargeant as an option for Williams in 2023?

    Also, you seem to have indicated that Mick Schumacher won’t remain with Haas next year, but no mention of any possible replacement. Is it likely to be Giovinazzi, who is going to have 2 FP1 sessions in Monza and Austin or any other names you may have heard?

    1. I wouldn’t rule out Sargeant before his SL situation is guaranteed.
      Concerning Mick’s possible successor should he leave Haas, Gio is an option, but not necessarily their first choice, especially since a better alternative like Ricciardo is available, so they’d be somewhat foolish not to try & get him.

  3. Regarding the 2023 calendar the Australian organisers have announced 2 April as the definite date for the race.They are about to start selling tickets.
    So the first 2 races will either be 12/19 March or 12/26 March.

  4. “there is a reason that Fernando Alonso won fewer championships than the eminent list above…” Based on history that is a very valid statement Joe, but could the blind pig get lucky this time and root out a truffle? Do the Aston investments have momentum? More importantly what is it that everyone sees as a downside to Alpine?

    1. Of the 4 who do powertrains and chassis, Renault/Alpine seems to be consistently behind. Check their Constructors standing over the past 5 years including being only 20 points ahead of McLaren at the moment…

  5. Joe,

    One can speculate for silly season rumours (and what fun it is!) forever.

    My speculations;
    A. Red Bull stays with Honda for RBPT, including into the 2026 era, with;
    B. AlphaTauri becoming Andretti-Honda (Gasly and Tsunoda driving in 2023, with Herta replacing Gasly in 2024).
    C. Porsche rebadges the new 2026 Audi powertrain and partners up with either Aston Martin (so Aramco has their “factory” engine) or Williams

    Do you think any of these are likely (greater than 75-80% chance of happening)?

      1. Especially with the new announcement that Aramco is set to purchase 20% of Renault’s ICE production division, along with Geely, who is set to purchase 40% of said business.

        This falls in line with De Meo’s 2021 Renaulution plan where it was announced that Lotus and Alpine will be developing road cars together…and it further bolsters what Joe has been saying the past few months, that Renault has been looking for a partner to help share the funding of the F1 project.

  6. Hi Joe, you say the Oz GP will be on March 26, but there was an announcement a few weeks back it was going to be on April 2nd. Are you expecting it to be brought forward a week?

  7. Great to have you back with us!
    Always interesting reading your thoughts and insider knowledge.
    I agree that Gasly can’t be a serious option in Alpine’s minds. 2 Frenchman, and 2 that don’t get on? Let alone thst Gasman would need to be bought out of his RB contsct. Hmmm..
    Re Alpha Tauri, Iwasa needs another year in F2 surely?
    Liam Lawson has had a tough year with many issues out of his control ruiming his campaign.
    But his talent and resilience has been clear recently with convincing performances in France and Belgium which underlines how much potential he still has.
    Re Herta, there is definitely something in him that is worth mentorimg, but from what I can tell, Pato O’ Ward is a real star in the making. He has arguably unrivalled confidence on cold tyres and car control to conjour with. AMSP are probably holding him back. In a lot of ways he is
    Reminiscent if Gilles or Juan Pablo in their prime..
    There maybe an argument to suggest those qualities are irrelevant in modern F1. Hey ho.

    1. F1 is going to eventually get rid of tire blankets (as it is, they have been lowering the maximum temperature allowed with them). So, skill on cold tires will be relevant in F1 again.

      1. Yes, I understand that it is a registered political party in Italy, but I thought Fittipaldi is a Brazilian citizen.

  8. What’s the story with the IP of the Red Bull 2026 engine?

    Is it nailed on that it will be developed in the basis of the Honda F1 engine IP, which was sold to Red Bull?

    And if so, are Porsche or Honda trying to buy (or buy back) the IP and further develop the engine in house? Or is it also definite that RB staff will be doing the work and that any outside partner will just be paying to brand it?

  9. If McLaren were going to pay Danny Ric $16 million in 2023, why has everyone reported his salary as $20+? Higher weighting in year 1 and 2? Seems strange…

    Great article as ever.

  10. Thank you for the update Joe, that was a very long month for us loyal readers. I really do need to pull the trigger and subscribe, I’m on year two of F1TV so signing up for your paid service makes sense. Mick cut ties with Ferrari officially today and while I like him a lot as a person and driver , my gut feeling is that Ferrari decided not to renew his involvement and kindly let him be the one to say that he was leaving the nest Michael helped build there for him.

    Herta would be exciting, but I fear a Michael Andretti 2.0 situation unless Colton can adapt his style substantially and calm it down.

    Forza Fittipaldi!

    1. > that was a very long month for us loyal readers.


      Especially with all the driver market chaos.

      We’re glad you’re back.

  11. The Battle of Oudenaarde was fought during the War of the Spanish Succession. The *second* War of the Spanish Succession is being fought over who replaces Alonso at Alpine…

  12. If I was DR I think I would take a season off and try and come back under Audi/Saber. Audi has a strong history of being competitive in Motorsports and that might work out for him well and with a season off could give him some real drive to be back in the sport.

    1. ‘A strong history of being competitive in Motorsports (sic)’ means nothing when entering F1 – just ask Toyota!!
      Although, I have to admit I hope they do well – but it’ll likely be too late for RIC to benefit.

    2. Audi has a strong history of being competitive in motorsports in good part by entering series in which they are able to massively outspend the opposition (see also: endurance racing; Porsche; Porsche in endurance racing).

      I know I’m being a bit unfair (see also: Toyota). And Audi may very well be successful in F1. But either way I don’t think their history elsewhere is particularly predictive.

      TL;DR: F1 is much, much tougher than anything Audi have done up till now IMO

    3. He’s 33.Age is not his friend with regards to future F1 prospects particularly as last memories would be of the 2 terrible McLaren years.

  13. Porsche never wanted to be part of Volkswagen Group. In fact Porsche originally (and foolishly) tried to buy Volkswagen – and were dismayed when VW turned the tables and bought Porsche.

    Porsche are planning to fully separate themselves again through an IPO in the coming months. So while Porsche and Audi are currently ‘reluctant sisters’, soon they will be independent competitors.

    Porsche would like to acquire the whole of Red Bull Racing – and the Red Bull families are minded to swap their illiquid RBR shares into liquid New Porsche shares, thus underwriting the IPO.

    But Horner is resisting that, as he prefers to run his own little empire. Watch this space.

      1. Does that say alot about Lando, Joe? Or does it say alot about Lando and McL talent at building peaky cars that sometimes allows drivers like JB to maximise their driving talent versus the undeniable speed of Hamilton?

  14. Why would the Bahrain & SA GPs not form a double-header like this season? This double worked perfectly, so having a weekend between them would be unnecessary.
    I doubt Baku would return to April partly because this would require a temporary structure build-up process starting in the winter, which Rahimov has said was unideal.
    Trying to hold the Chinese GP in April rather than in the post-Monza flyaway phase would risk another cancellation given a shorter lead time for entry restrictions ending in time, so also weird unless the Qatar situation affects the above matters.
    Qatar GP following Singapore & Japanese GPs would be risky as the Gulf region is/can still be unbearably hot in October’s opening quarter.
    The fewer triple-headers, the better, if at all, but one involving Imola, Monaco, & Spain wouldn’t be overly unideal as long as the specific order would be ideal for travel, i.e., either Spain-Monaco-Imola or Imola-Monaco-Spain.
    The Emilia-Romagna GP would at least occur after Miami GP rather than before.
    Now into driver matters for a bit: Ricciardo to become a Mercedes reserve? I’d be surprised if this actually happened, but stranger things have happened in F1, so never say never.

  15. Great news that Spa is retained for next year, at the very least, and July is a better guarantee of a dry race. The flip side is that it is easier now and safer for drivers [always important] but a winner will not have faced the challenge of yester year.

  16. Hi Joe, glad to have you back.

    I picture that holidays, for someone that spends your hours on the road, will involve a large Honey DO list. I hope you managed some down time, especially with the sprint to the end that we are now on.

    For the fans of F1 I see no advantage to more car companies building engines, it adds nothing to the race or the grid. They have actually forced through the building of less efficient PU’s, so we are really going backwards to appease them. I am not convinced that any car company building or looking to build SUV’s is interested in efficency.

    I was really disappointed when they raised the cost cap. They say it was because of shipping cost, but we still see the ridiculous hospitality buildings at the races. 50 years I have been an F1 fan. However, with the fires burning and floods raging around the world I am finding the extreme and blatant waste of F1 and the planet eating lifestyle of the people in the Circus, a little hard to stomach.

  17. If only Alonso picked his teams as good as he picks his girlfriends. Based on his past form, I suggest Alpine to be world champions next year…

        1. “Still, when it comes to career moves, there is a reason that Fernando Alonso won fewer championships than the eminent list above…”
          It is easy in hindsight, but not everyone is lucky as Lewis or Vettel.
          Alonso had enough of Ferrari, costing him championships even, with poor strategy. Look at Leclerc’s plight there now. Alonso was convinced Ferrari couldn’t deliver another title. So he left, did he have any other choice than McLaren at that point? It was not like Mercedes offered him a seat and he refused.
          Regarding his current move, I guess he felt disrespected by Alpine when they didn’t offer him a longer deal, even when he is clearly performing at a great level. He would have been so much ahead of Ocon if it weren’t for bad luck.
          And AM really wanted him…who knows maybe AM will beat Alpine next season…let’s see..

  18. The received wisdom is that
    – Norris is a very good driver, on par with Bottas, Sainz and Russell;
    – Ricciardo is past his sell-by and is therefore being shown the door
    – The 2022 McLaren must be good, as the 2021 car won a race.

    By couldn’t the reality be
    – Norris is actually a bogey driver, on par with Hamilton, Verstappen and LeClerc in raw pace;
    – Ricciardo is as fast as he ever was, and Norris is inconveniently faster;
    – The 2022 McLaren is a dog, and is only high in the mid-field because of Norris (especially) and Danny Ric have dragged it toward the front.

    I feel like everyone is still operating on the assumption that the 2020 version of Danny Ricciardo was – of course! – faster than Lando Norris. And so the events of the past 18 months say Ricciardo has lost a step…forgotten how to drive… etc. But maybe that assumption was wrong: Norris was faster than Ricciardo from the first race in 2021. And thus Norris was and is vastly underrated, even by his own team, which keeps giving him awful cars to drive. And the 2022 Ricciardo is still respectably quick (just 0.3 sec/lap slower than Norris in Q2 at Spa last Saturday).

    Anyway, the relative success and reputational rehab of Gasly and Albon with their current teams, compared with their nightmare stints with Red Bull should encourage Ricciardo to take a seat at Alpine, Haas or even Williams in ’23 to re-boot his F1 career. Everybody loves a comeback, including Netflix.

    1. In your scenario that either makes Sainz a towering talent, or Max only as good as his cars.
      Referencing Ricciardo of course…

  19. From ANE: Geely, oil group could take stakes in Renault engine company, report says.
    Also from the same source:
    Aramco could take stake in Renault combustion-engine unit, report says.

  20. First things 1st. Hope you enjoyed your time off.

    “If” you have any pull. Please tell SPA they need to develop some “transit” between sections of the track. I remember some years ago at Montreal they had transportation from one section of the track to the other. It was cool. But I think it was in the 80’s.

    All the best Joe..

  21. Hi Joe,
    Any chance Nico Hulkenberg could end up back in a seat when the music stops? I’ve seen Haas mentioned a few times? Outside chance at Alpine? He’s got history with Otmar after all…… It’ll be a shame if he never gets back on the grid full time.

  22. “It does not always work with judges” 🤣🤣🤣 absolutely brilliant link to Bernard’s latest woes.

  23. In 2004 and 2005 I went to the Belgium Grand Prix,, first year we parked down the hill from Les Combes and it took about 30 minutes to get from the motorway. But I would say attendance has more than doubled in the interim based on how many people sit in general admission section from the top of Eau Rouge to Les Combes.

    My brother went this year in anticipation of there being no more races and he said it took about an hour including making a mistake, so perhaps a bit of improvement when compared to the traffic increase, but not good enough. Silverstone used to have a terrible reputation and I remember struggling to get out of the circuit after the 1992 WSPC and imagined how bad it would be with 20 times the number at a GP, but with the road upgrade and slick traffic management the last time I went to Silverstone it was slick and probably 15 minutes longer than you would take on a normal day.

    1. Spa is surrounded by narrow country roads, so entry and exit is never going to be straightforward, but this year, on Saturday, it took one and a half hours simply to get out of the Green parking downhill from Les Combes, due to (i) a total absence of marshalling/police (ii) a total absence of barriers near the exit, encouraging the formation of about 5 streams of traffic going towards the exit (iii) another car park exiting onto the same narrow road away from the circuit, only 20m downhill from my car park exit. Sunday was OK for us, but only because we left 5 laps before the end of the foregone conclusion – the Belgian press reported people stuck for 5 hours and fights breaking out in the car parks. A total disgrace and it takes the enjoyment out of the day if that is how it ends.

      The best part of the car parking organisation was when we used the remote car park at Moviemills at Malmedy, which was served both ways by an impressively regular fleet of buses. I won’t be using the car parking at the circuit again – the risk of total parking paralysis is just too great.

  24. Great stuff Joe, as always!
    Interesting times. The Porche/Piech VW story is still evolving, now the IPO is up for a month’s review, or “Opportunity to show interest.” I have a lot of reading to catch up with having finally got my GP+ password stored correctly. So if you have not already done so, a detailed explanation of that family car history would make a good article.
    How much do you think the possible F1 involvement of Porche depends upon the IPO going ahead and the resulting re-organistion.

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