Green Notebook from a state of confusion

The last three weeks have been a bit of a blur of European countries. I’ve driven close to 5,000 km since setting off to go to Spa and in the interim I have been to various countries, including Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy and I’ve driven along the Swiss border a couple of times on the way to the Mont Blanc tunnel.

Driving a lot gives one plenty of time for thought and it struck me that such travels can be very confusing for those embarking on similar voyages for the first time, because of the strange European habit of having cities called by different names. To use technical terms, there are toponyms (place names), but these can be endonyms (which is what the locals call a place) and exonyms (which is what other people call it). As an example, I once caught a train from Milan to Monaco and found myself en route to Munich. Italians call Munich Monaco, while the Germans, who should know best, call it München. Still, as the Bavarians call it Minga and the Czechs call it Mnichov one can fully understand why the Poles call the city Monachium. And the Germans called Milan Mailand – probably to get their own back.

When it comes to places like Belgium, where they have several languages, things get really confusing. The city which the English call Ghent, is Gent to the Flemish and Dutch, but Gand for the French and Walloons. Lille is Rijsel for the Flemish. And then there’s Liège: the locals call it Lidje, the Flemish Luik and the Germans Luttich.

If you ask a Frenchman for directions to Aix-la-Chapelle you’ll end up in Aachen, if both parties got things right, although a local will call it Oche. Antwerp is also known as Anvers and Eupen as Neau. When you cross the border to Holland (as the English call Nederland) things can become really confused as the port of Vlissingen is called Flushing by the English. If you go to den Haag, you will find some folk who call it s-Gravenhage, but the French call it La Haye. Logically the English should call it The Hedge, which is the literal translation, but they insist on The Hague.

Go figure…

In motor racing there have been a few people who went to Nürnberg rather than Nürburg. This is a big mistake. Nürnberg is the German name for Nuremberg, where there is a race track called the Norisring, but Nürburg has a rather famous Ring called the Nürburgring. And if anyone mentions the Nuremberg Rallies or the Nuremberg Trials, they are not talking about motorsport events.

I could go on at length about these strange habits: Styria in Austria, is Steiermark, Cologne in Germany is Koln, Trier is also known as Trèves and Napoli as Naples. The Italians call Paris Parigi, and Nice Nizza.

Lakes and rivers have similar problems: Lac Leman is Lake Geneva while Lake Constance is Bodensee. The Danube is the Donau in Germany and the Duna in Hungary. Rivers, of course, pass through various countries but what amount of arrogance is required to call a city by a name you like, rather than what the locals want you to call it?

Yes, I know, in the Polish version of Scrabble, the letter Z is worth only one point, but one can at least try to say Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski or Tomaszów Mazowiecki.

Of course, there also have been bits of Europe that were once invaded and so the Aosta Valley in Italy is full of places with French names and the east of France, which has been regularly invaded by neighbours, has lots of places with names such as Krautergersheim.

All things considered, one can get hopelessly lost in Europe, even if you follow the road signs.

All this is a bit like trying to figure out the Formula 1 calendar for 2023. Each week we try again and each week there are things that have changed – or changed back. The fleeting appearance of Prince Albert of Monaco in company with the Automobile Club de Monaco President Michel Boeri may have escaped most people because they were not trying to be noticed, while the likes of Sylvester Stallone were only too keen to be on camera.

This led to reports that a deal has been struck with Monaco. At the time of writing (6pm on Wednesday), this was not true but it might easily be true by 6.05pm. Both sides want to agree terms, but neither wants to give way in the negotiations, so we get into a Liege/Luik situation. The question is not about money (at least not totally), it’s also about TV coverage, trackside signage, hospitality rights and track design. There is also the question of attitude at the ACM, which seems to upset most people who are not members (and some who are), although to be fair the organisers of the Italian GP at Monza also seem to think that because their race has been around a long time, they know how to organise races better than anyone else. But I guess if you want to have paddocks that smell of overflowing drains, one should follow their lead.

Anyway, the Italians have a strong tradition of complicated and slow-moving bureaucracy, although they do seem to be pretty hot when it comes to building permits. It would be useful if they turn this speed into rebuilding Monza access roads. The Formula 1 group (no less) ran into trouble this year with its plans to construct a Fan Zone behind the main grandstand at Monza. Work had to be stopped until a permit was granted and as a consequence, things were still being finished when the race meeting began. A little further down the main straight, a group of 80 Dutch fans decided on an odd idea for the famous campsite that is located next to the first chicane. They arrived from Holland (or should I say Nederland) with tents, orange shirts, flares and copious amounts of beer – and tons of scaffolding. Having staked out their plots they then began to build their own grandstand. This drew them to the attention of the local police and at vast speed they were ordered to disassemble their structure.

The Dutch are beginning to make the tifosi look sane and sober, although I did spot a few red flares on Sunday at Monza. The good news, however, is that Monza remains on the calendar for now, despite the encroaching Imolese… And long may that be the case. Monza is 100 years old and wonderful and should always be on the F1 calendar.

The calendar problems are caused not only by Monaco but also by the Chinese. They want to get back onto F1 calendar, but they want a date in the autumn because they are still locking down cities every so often because someone tests positive to COVID-19. The problem with this theory is that only date available is October 8 and that is also the only date that Doha can manage because the Losail circuit is currently rebuilding its pits and cannot be ready in the spring, where it really wants to be. There is also a problem with Baku not wanting an April date – and insisting on a race in June (presumably because drains smell less at that time of year). This all means that races which can slot in anywhere are just floating about at the moment, so we don’t really know what will happen with Imola and Spain until the other problems are solved.

But then we have races that want to change their dates with one another and we have had two them, with the British and Austrian GPs having agreed to switch: Austria moving to July 2, with Britain to July 9. This is something to do with tennis. The Belgian and Hungarian GP, which were scheduled for July 23 and July 30, have also agreed to switch, in order to avoid a clash of the Belgian race with the country’s National Day on July 21. This means that the annual Spa 24 Hours, scheduled for July 30, will now have to move elsewhere.

However when you boil it all down, there is a very simple reason for the problem. There are too many pieces trying to be fitted into a complex jigsaw puzzle and it might be wise to throw a couple of pieces away so that it all fits nicely…

There seems to be a similar (but not unusual) problem of there being too many drivers for the number of available drives in 2023.

The German media is spending much of its time trying to work out what will happen with Mick Schumacher and is ignoring the fact that he has not done enough to be retained by Ferrari and thus has no real possibility at Haas, as the team is looking for an experienced driver, such as Giovinazzi or Nico Hulkenberg. There is speculation that Schumacher could sit out a year before joining Sauber when it comes under Audi ownership. The argument is that the sport needs a German driver, now that Sebastian Vettel is retiring.

But, if Mick had done enough, Ferrari would still be interested…

Much of the ongoing driver gossip relates to the situation at Alpine where Fernando Alonso is departing to join Aston Martin and Oscar Piastri will join McLaren. Esteban Ocon has a three-year contract until the end of 2024 and has been doing a good job, up against Alonso, but the team must now decide what to do next. Alpine boss Laurent Rossi says he is in no rush to make a decision. There are some in the team who understand that a Gasly-Ocon line-up would be too risky given the history of the two men. Doohan is considered too risky because he needs more time to develop. Alpine had planned to put Piastri into a Williams for a year or two, but he was not interested in that and so ran off to McLaren.

Williams is not too keen on taking on those who are contracted elsewhere and so Nyck de Vries is a good fit, but he has to give up a Toyota WEC contract and a deal to race for Maserati in Formula E if he wants to be an F1 driver. Having said that he did a great job at Monza to score points on his F1 debut, when he stepped in at the last minute for Alex Albon. If anything, this drive was the evidence (if it was ever needed) that Nicholas Latifi needs to look for other things to do in the future. With Albon and de Vries Williams would have a great driver pairing. Of course, the team has a young driver programme as well, which could mean that American Logan Sargeant might step into F1 next year, but it would be a little early for him… The same is pretty much true at Alpine where the team has Jack Doohan (who is keen to land the empty Alpine seat). If one was looking for ironies, it was rather extraordinary when Doohan and Sargeant tangled in the Formula 2 race at Monza on Sunday and dented one another’s F1 ambitions… although to be fair neither was really to blame.

The guy who does seem to have it all sorted is the new Aston Martin reserve driver, F2 champion-in-waiting Felipe Drugovich. Aston Martin might not be the obvious choice at the moment but Drugovich is bargaining on two things happening: the car has to be better than this year (it could not be much worse) and the team’s new signing Fernando Alonso and current incumbent Lance Stroll are going to produce fireworks, one way or the other, as Stroll’s dad is going to run into grief whatever happens. One driver is inevitably going to be faster than the other…

The next big thing in the silly season is a private Alpine test, using an old car, in Budapest later this month. The team is not saying who is driving but it is being billed as a shootout between de Vries, Doohan, Colton Herta, and Schumacher. Whether they all appear remains to be seen.

There are some who think that the whole Colton Herta business is a giant smokescreen to keep the media amused while Porsche and Red Bull fall out of bed with one another.  Without all the speculation about Gasly and Herta, the Porsche and Red Bull relationship (which looks like a fling that ran out of steam quite quickly after Red Bull met Porsche’s parents) would have been front page news. Now it isn’t. 

The Gasly-Herta shuffle was all rather unlikely with Herta under contract to Andretti next year, only 10th in the IndyCar championship this year – and not the holder of a super licence. Trying to change the super licence rules makes no sense at all because F1 does not want to create precedents and undermine the structure that means that that the sport has more top quality drivers than ever before.

Anyway, Porsche now needs to look at other alternatives, but these are thin on the ground. The Red Bull engine programme was always going to be a badging exercise using Red Bull Powertrains power trains and so Porsche was not going to invest in its own engine programme. The obvious thing now, if Porsche really does still want to join F1 would be to work with Audi and share technology. The latter has publicly committed to F1 in 2026, but it has been working on the programme for some time and has laid the groundwork for such a project, by buying dynos and doing a (supposedly secret) deal with Sauber. Porsche has done some design studies into F1 engines, but there is a big difference between building prototypes and manufacturing competitive engines.

There are good reasons for Porsche to want to be involved in F1, specifically because of the firm’s interest in synthetic fuels, which F1 will adopt and sharing technology makes total sense in the modern automotive world where it happens all the time between sister brands. The two marques already share a couple of automotive “platforms” in an effort to save money… However, things will go quiet for a while now until the Porsche IPO is out of the way.

The Renault group is also likely to share its F1 engine platform in the years ahead, or at least it is open to do so. The firm’s own F1 brand is Alpine and there are big plans to develop this into a wider technology firm. I hear that Viry-Chatillon, where Renault designs and develops its F1 engines will not be hived off into or other of the planned production power unit divisions (known as Horse and Ampere) but will stay as part of the expanding Alpine unit. However, Renault is happy to share its technology with the new partners in Horse – Geely, the Chinese firm that owns Lotus – and Aramco, the oil company that is in bed with Aston Martin with the plan to build F1 engines together.

Elsewhere, I hear that Alfa Romeo bods have been banging on the door at Haas, offering the team the same deal that Sauber has had, which is sponsorship to go with a Ferrari engine. I am not sure that this will happen because I also hear that there is a massive title sponsorship deal coming soon for Haas from a big American corporation, which will fund the team for at least the next three seasons and perhaps beyond that. One can only guess who this will be, but I don’t believe it is an OEM.

Alfa Romeo’s parent Stellantis (the merged PSA Peugeot-Fiat Chrysler with a fancy marketing name) has a lot of shareholders in common with Ferrari. The Ferrari President John Elkann is also President of Stellantis and so one can imagine some badge engineering going on with Ferrari technology as well – which makes sense. Alfa Romeo is being pushed upmarket by Stellantis and is aiming to make a dent in the luxury sporting market sector, taking on BMWs, Audis and Mercedes. Cynics may say that trying to crash into that market might dent Alfa Romeo more than it dents to market. But if there was a real (pretend) F1 programme it might help.

Who knows what will happen? Car company executives are a strange breed (based on some of the characters who have gone before). Experience has taught me that quite often when someone expresses confidence in someone else, it usually means that they have no confidence at all and that the person is about to be ousted.

Thus, if I were Mattia Binotto I might be looking over my shoulder because Ferrari chairman John Elkann felt the need before of Monza to say that: “We have great faith in Mattia Binotto”. Given that Ferrari screw-ups this year have not been in short supply, and Max Verstappen is in a situation where he can win the World Championship in Singapore, if I was Binotto I would be taking occasional glances in the mirror to make sure no-one with an axe is anywhere close.

But then again maybe Elkann is different…

Right, I’m off to Parigi…

72 thoughts on “Green Notebook from a state of confusion

  1. Wow, that was so very informative. Once I learned about dual names sometime in my teens, I was was really fascinated by that because there’s no analog in the US or UK. It’s even more interesting because of this article, I had no idea that some places have many many different names. At least there’s GPS now. I’m sure certain types always on the prowl for something to be offended by will call it cultural appropriation in the unfortunate instance of a using the wrong name with the wrong culture. With the championship lead so large, the real drama is going to be 2nd through 5th and who lands in the remaining vacant seats. Thanks for the informative update Joe, stay safe in your travels.

    1. Maybe not in the US but there are certainly plenty of places in the UK with dual names – in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, many places are known by both the local name and their name in the English language.

      Similarly, if catching the train from Wales into England, you may hear announcements for Llundain Paddington, Manceinon Piccadilly and others…

  2. Hi Joe,
    Do you see a possibility of the F1 circus returning to Portugal.
    I live in the Algarve about half an hour away from the Autodromo International do Algarve, Portimao. Obviously we, locals, all think it’s a great track and many of us go to track days in our road cars for the craic.
    I missed the last and only F1 race there as I was on holiday. The general feedback, locally was that the drivers and teams enjoyed the circuit and facilities !!

  3. Are you saying that (as I expect) de Vries will choose Williams over Alpine?

    I’m betting on Alpine ultimately signing Latifi

  4. Even if Binotto is replaced, there has to be a question mark over Leclerc.
    Can he succeed where Vettel and Alonso failed?
    Will Ferrari get behind their second driver?
    Doubtful doubtful doubtful.

    1. With Scuderia politics for LeClerc to succeed I think they need a similar setup to when Michael Schumacher was there with Team Principle, Designer and Driver almost joined at the hip. They perfected subservient No 2 racing and now they cannot get the basics right. I still think Stefano Dominicalli would have succeeded if he was not such a gentleman around

  5. A certain German journalist whom you may recall from your F3 days used to cause amusement by pronouncing Slough as ‘Slug’.
    Somehow I think he may have been right!

  6. Holding the Qatar GP at the season’s end with Abu Dhabi GP on consecutive weekends for one season before moving to the early-season phase shouldn’t be an issue.
    Yes, short distance, but the Spa-Zandvoort distance is even shorter & they’ve been on consecutive weekends for two seasons now without attendance getting affected.
    Therefore, not much excuse in this regard, not to mention less bad than risking unbearably hot weather in October’s first quarter.
    This Gulf region pairing would only be a one-off thing before shifting to early-season anyway, so I don’t really get the fuss.
    I didn’t see The Belgium-Hungary order switch coming, even though I was somewhat aware of when is Belgium’s national day.
    Fair enough & not the first time Hungarian GP wouldn’t be the last pre-summer break race, with the most recent such occasion occurring in 2016 when Hockenheim was the final preceding venue seven days after Hungaroring for some reason.
    Overall, while next season’s race calendar situation might be unclear & changing all the time, everything will become clear eventually.
    While Mick’s Ferrari relationship ending itself doesn’t automatically mean he couldn’t continue at Haas, I also doubt he’ll continue anymore after having believed in his continuation for a while before first finding out about his Ferrari association conclusion.
    Finally, now that Gasly seems set to honor his RB contract until the end by staying put at AT as confirmed post-Canadian GP weekend, Mick could have a more realistic shot at joining Team Enstone.
    Who knows, maybe Danny Ric gets a return chance after all that has seemed off the cards recently. Time will tell.

      1. I meant literally at the season’s end in November-December, as the last two races, on November 26 & December 3rd (triple-header with LV), or December 3rd & 10th.

  7. Loved the opening section, Joe. My whole adult life was formed by ” From our Continental Correspondent” in Motor Sport (RIP) and I get the same from you. Without context, nothing is particularly relevant or meaningful.

  8. Hi Joe – Is Daniel Ricciardo still in the frame at Alpine? Or his options are basically Haas, Mercedes Reserve or Sabbatical?

  9. So, regarding Alpine – you are suggesting that Nyck de Vries would have a good chance of getting the seat and be a logical choice, or have I misunderstood you (which I’d be happy to admit straightaway)?

    And assuming he were to join Alpine, who would join Williams in place of Latifi (if we assume that Latifi is to leave Formula 1 at the end of this season)?

      1. Thank you for your reply, much appreciated – we look forward to the market developments playing out over the next few weeks!

        As always, keep up your immensely good work which is appreciated by so many.

  10. i don’t think Elkann has to chop Binotto. what they need is to chop the head of strategy – their recent race strategy chats are just a joke – would you want this, what do you think of that . . . and another thing i don’t get is that all potentially incoming oems are wrestling to buy existing teams – once one is so rich to build a pu then why not add few more quid and start own team? yes, they ‘d need to employ hundreds more people to actually run the cars they build but i don’t see that as a major obstacle, the main thing is perhaps to get the best people as they all work for others already.

    1. I’m guessing setting up an engine factory is substantially less cost than to build, outfit and find employees to run a competitive F1 team. To me the first problem is finding 600, or so, new people of F1 ability. It is easier to replace Verstappen than Newey.

  11. Hi Joe, did you or any of your journalist colleagues get wind of the utterly chaotic situation for fans at Monza? I’ve been before so a bit of disorganisation was unexpected, but this year it was downright dangerous at times, and probably the worst organised mass event I’ve been to. Sadly I won’t be going back in a hurry, even though the Autodromo is an amazing place. Many of us are still suffering a form of PTSD at the word “token” and “queue”.

    1. Totally agree. Even by Monza standards it was a farce. They were completely unprepared for the increased crowds and thankfully I had stand seats.

      I queued on the Saturday for 1 hour 20 mins for the tokens and had 80 (€120) individually counted into my hat! Fortunately, I had cash as the card machines were broken. Others weren’t so lucky.

      On the Sunday I got the train to the lesmos arriving at 8.30. The queue, I’m not joking stretched all the way to the brick wall at curva grande (in 2019 it was a small queue from the station)! I carried on walking and was able to enter after the first chicane. I got fortunate as I came from the side, but another queue was huge up a hill on a street with brick walls. This was around 9.45 and all security checks were by now abandoned!

      I will go back to Monza, as it’s a special place, but not for a few years!

  12. Joe could you really envisage a Porsche badge on a Honda derived engine? I’m sure that’s been blocked contractually, or maybe not?

  13. Mick is currently up 11-5 on KMag in race finishes and frankly he’s been comfortably faster since Canada.

    I’m stunned he might be out of a seat.

  14. Random question Joe – Should the FIA not be concerned about de Vries not being able to get out of the car unassisted at the end of the race? From memory drivers need to be able to exit the car within 5 seconds from being seated and strapped in. Not a good predicament if he had a Grosjean-esque crash.

    Ironically I doubt Indycar drivers would have the same issue given they don’t have power steering!

    1. Very many years ago I was competing in a double heat F3 race at Croft. Don’t remember the number of laps but it wouldn’t have been too many, the cars were an easy drive and the weather was nothing exceptional. At the end of the first heat I had to be lifted from the car. Second heat no prob, never such a problem elsewhere.
      These things happen from time to time and DeVries was a debutant though like all of today’s drivers much fitter than we would have been. No doubt the instance will have been noted but too much interference should not be encouraged.
      There must be multiple instance of such things in different classes, maybe not talked about, but I’m sure they occur.

  15. Fernando Alonso seems to have demonstrated, yet again, his almost wilful inisistence of joining the wrong team at the wrong time, given the team dynamics he will parachute into, and the parlous state of the Aston Martin car manufacturing brand………………..

  16. Love the story about the Dutch scaffolding. At least being Dutch sports fans they will have had their hi-vis orange on. I remember walking behind a bunch of Dutch fans at the Austin GP a couple of years back. Some local hecklers called out to them “Are all y’all the Max fan club, or the construction crew?”

  17. Joe

    Interesting what you wrote about Monza and permits in the days before Bernie “professionalised” the sport there are videos where you see makeshift grandstands people climbing advertising hoardings for a better vantage point and by the last lap crowds were on the track to get to the podium. There is great footage from 1977 when Mario won of marshals trying to hold up people from crossing the circuit during the race. All a bygone era.

    M pretty certain I read that Nigel Mansell had a row with Peter Warr one year, but then there was not much love, when Mansell backed off as there were crows between him and the chequered flag. I think he was beaten to the line by the Irishman Jack o’Malley 🤣 who had no problem keeping his foot flat to the line

    Different days

  18. You always write with an excellent English sense of humor Joe, of the finest lounge in cheek variety, but this week it was particularly sharp and enjoyable! Much to digest here. With regard to Alfa knocking dents into the premium sport(y) car market, we have been there before on many occasions. I love the brand and have gleefully entered showrooms, wearing my Tazio Nuvolari wristwatch, to put my money where my heart lies. But as they move into the electric hybrid market I am increasingly worried. The wonderful sound of those twin spark engines will be lost, whilst the trademark electrical glitches which assured you that you had bought a thoroughbred Alfa might not work well with battery powered motors…

  19. Another unparalleled segue from your opening topic to F1, Joe!!
    I’m hoping you might be able to help me out regarding a discussion/argument that keeps cropping up around the ‘net – how much input (if any) the ex-Mercedes PU guys have had in this year’s Honda/Red Bull Powertrains PU?
    Have any of them actually started work yet at RBPT or are they still on ‘gardening leave’ from their ex (or soon-to-be-ex) employer?

  20. Dear Joe,

    Your latest letter brought memories of my drive through Sweden in1967 on my way to compete in a World dinghy sailing championships in Finland .Land Rover with dinghy on roof and two on a double deck trailer astern . We arrived at the Swedish border the day before the driving was changed from ‘On the Left’ to ‘ On the Right ‘ Road signs had been up rooted on our Left side and new signs planted on the other side of the road . In navigating we had to look behind at signs indicating where we had been to get an idea of where to go ahead ! That had followed our drive from the ferry to find some road signs had been obliterated In the Flemings and Walloons conflict . Did no one want us ! .

    Thanks for your most welcome notebooks

  21. How has Barcelona found the money and need for F1 to keep on the calendar? Seemed they were for the chop a few years ago.

  22. Excellent as always, thanks Joe!

    Do you think that Mick Schumacher might be improving too late in the season to save his chances of getting a drive for next year? And if he sits 2023 out, do you think he’ll be back in 2024?

  23. Great read.

    IMO, Liberty Media has done a great job of marketing F1. Has there been any survey’s or studies to see if the demographics of the attendees at races have gotten younger? I am curious since the price of the tickets can be in the stratosphere.

    1. Did you read what Silverstone has done Steve?

      Prices are determined by demand on the 3rd party sales website. Read this as the prices go up and up the less tickets are left. Same as airline industry. Won’t help, but thin end of the wedge for popular events, so don’t participate in this greed. Set the price and stick with it Silverstone!

  24. There is a suggestion for Colton Herta to go and compete in Formula Asia Regional Championship to gain the points that he needs to qualify for a Super License.

    This is actually what Guanyu Zhou did before his final Formula 2 season. He won the series and got all 18 points.

    Only problem is that by the end of the Formula Asia Regional season, it will already be February and might be too late for an F1 team to decide on its drivers. Still Herta can do a conditional deal with a team that is prepared to wait and have other plans in place if he doesn’t get the points required.

  25. “There are some who think that the whole Colton Herta business is a giant smokescreen to keep the media amused while Porsche and Red Bull fall out of bed with one another.”
    Hard to argue with that today.

  26. Hi Joe.

    Any thoughts on the sheer volume of safety cars these days? You’ve been around a long time. I started watching in the 80s, and realised lately that safety cars have spoiled way more races than I thought. They’re so prevalent that almost all races have one or more. The rules aren’t fair on racing normally at a safety car, just chance, and I don’t like that in F1 – being able to change tyres should be stopped for example.

    Most are called to remove a broken down car rather than a crash – F1 needs to get a grip, and ask the teams to make the cars make more effort to get back to the pits if hobbled. Sod the PU units, etc. Grid penalty for those who could have driven back and don’t.

    Also pick an empty straight, make the cars line up very slowly in the right order, stop all this letting cars by to unlap, etc. Then go back to crawling around behind the safety car and get back to racing with one lap’s notice.

    Just so much that could be better. Safety cars are not exciting, but they’re needed for safety of course. Make it safe, fast, and fair. Make a working group, get it done F1!

  27. Dieter Rencken reckons Nyck De Vries to Alpine is the smart betting based on meeting his father but a lot of the internet, trusted sites like L’Equipe says Nyck has signed for Alpha Tauri and met Marko. Which side would u place your money on or who to trust? Thanks

    1. Alpine needs the best option it can get. There are lots of opinions about who that choice should be. Opinions are not news. They are just opinions. I trust Fred at L’Equipe, although I prefer not to use media sources. Gasly seems to be the right choice for Alpine, but I struggle with the idea that they will put Gasly and Ocon together. That is like wiring up explosives and saying “It’s only dangerous if you push this button…” Why would Alpine hold a test if a decision is already made?

  28. Joe, good day to you. You wrote re Colton Herta “Trying to change the super licence rules makes no sense at all because F1 does not want to create precedents and undermine the structure that means that that the sport has more top quality drivers than ever before.”

    I have been watching F1 for over 55 years and in that time many rules have been changed for the better – in life you change rules that are bad, and in this case a rule that is bad for the sport because in part it make the point that the FIA controls the flow of drivers in a flagrantly biased manner. The FIA got it wrong by pitching the rules of Indy car super license points awarded at almost the same level as F3 and F.E.

    40 SL points for 3rd place in F2 but only 20 in Indy…. Biased maybe? Yes the FIA’s little scheme controls the number of drivers but I dispute your accolade of “top quality drivers” to some of the printing press of European F2 and F3 is putting out.

    Frankly, it’s a joke that Latifi or Mazepin for example should be awarded a S.L. but Herta with 7 Indy car wins isn’t. Just watch some on-boards of an Indy car driver going around Laguna Seca and you get the idea when you compare it with say F2.

    1. There is an argument that drivers who come through the US system are less likely to succeed in F1 than those who come through F2 and F3. Why? Because it is not just about speed and race craft. Being successful in F1 is about so many other things that make a driver hardened and ready to compete. Probably far more than you (or they) can imagine. The goal of the rules is to avoid drivers, who are not ready, arriving in F1 and failing. F1 wants US drivers, but it is no good for anyone if they fail and go home beaten because they did not understand what was required.

      I’ve seen a lot of promising US drivers arrive in Europe and be totally shocked that it’s not like at home. It’s different. It is not a boys’ club. It’s brutal.

      I don’t think history helps much because the world changes, so talking about what happened in the past is not always useful. Every case is slightly different. However, look at Michael Andretti if you want an example of what not to do in F1. Michael was a very good driver, but he failed in F1 because he underestimated the task. He took advice that was not helpful to him.

      I have no doubt that Herta is fast and clearly he can win races in IndyCar, but then so could a lot of other drivers who did not succeed in F1.

      So rather than saying that rules are anti-American, perhaps you should try thinking that they exist to protect Americans.

      1. Joe

        This is a brilliant explanation of the need, I guess it’s just a pity that a level of flexibility cannot be brought in. Having said that once there is flexibility, then it falls apart as the lawyers will exploit it.

        While I think Herta is quick, he makes a lot of unforced errors and F1 is as you say brutal. I also don’t think the “sink or swim” approach of the Tin Can Academy would work for him. Other than year 1 in Indycar be has had his dad, who was prett quick peddler himself engineer him. Even that is a relationship in F1 that has to be cultivated.

        There are a lot of drivers stateside who have the ability, I just don’t think they prepared to make the sacrifice, which was part of Michael Andretti’s problem, he did not base himself in Europe. It may have worked in Mario’s day, but the world moves on

  29. Thanks for your reply Joe,
    Yeah I understand your point very well. However it doesn’t alter the fact that there are some F1 drivers that do not deserve their place and some US, Mexican, South American or Spanish drivers that do deserve a place in F1.. What this means is that the system is broken and not fit for purpose. All of this has arisen because in season-testing is banned.

    1. I’m afraid I disagree. If one gains a superlicence one has earned the right to race in F1. If it was east to do that, Herta would have a licence, wouldn’t he? It isn’t easy, and it is not wholly dependent on money. The system is not broken.

    2. As a 50 year fan it’s my feeling that, overall, this is the best field of drivers we have had in F1. With the teams all being profitable, probably for the first time in the sports history, the last of the pay drivers are set to disappear.

      Indycar is a great series and certainly competitive but that does not mean the drivers are all top notch. Power, Newgarden, Dixon, an average age of 38 and they are still the ones to beat. How is it that 10th place Herta is getting all this attention? I’m guessing Dad’s connections and his marketing potential in the US have more to do with it that his skills.

      And I agree with Joe, if he can’t cut it then it will make it harder for any real contender coming through the Indy series.

      1. You might like to look up Herta’s junior career. He raced with Lando Norris and was at a similar level but less consistent. he is no mug and has experience of the European scene.

        A direct quote from Norris: “I grew up with Colton [from the] end of 2014-2015, my first season of single-seaters, I mean, his nickname is Hooligan Herta because there’s one place he was extremely strong and that’s high-speed corners.

        “I feel like I’m decent, one of my strengths is pretty high-speed corners. But he was just like, another level in some sorts.”

  30. Colton Herta is the youngest driver ever to win an Indycar race, in his rookie season. Younger than Parnelli, Mario and A.J. Foyt. He has won 7 races. Obviously less qualified than Marzipan and Latiffi. Kinda like that chap that was the youngest F1 winner. Some guy name Max who crashes a lot and his dad used to be a driver.

    He would have qualified as an F1 driver except the year he raced Indy Lights, there weren’t enough backmarkers in the series to make it legit. Because you need lots of backmarkers to make a real series, even if there are only two guys fighting for the championship.

    1. He’s still not good enough. He’s not beating never has beens from F1 in a spec series car. I’ve watched a lot of Indycar in last two years – he absolutely doesn’t stand out. Indycar racing is entertaining though, and apart from interminable stops under caution it’s good to watch.

      1. Hi Joe.

        Do you think Daniels time is done?
        Is it the pure pace of Lando Norris or something as simple a fact that the Covid lockdown and his enforced absence from Australia and his family have subconsciously diverted his attention away from F1?

  31. Joe, great reporting as always.

    Can you shed any more light on the new Haas sponsor?

    You mention it will not be an OEM, does this mean an entity outside of the automotive world?


  32. That’s an awesome notebook Joe, thank you. Loads of insight. How can I contribute again? I don’t see the GP+ Ads now but great writing shouldn’t come for free. Let me know what’s best. Thanks again. Dan

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