Green Notebook from the Rapi:t

Travelling in Japan is never dull, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes: you know where to go, and what to expect. For many in the F1 world, travelling in Japan means taking a train because it is more efficient (and cheaper) than chauffeurs or hire cars. This often means that one visits the station at Shiroko, close to Suzuka, which is on the Kintetsu Line, between Nagoya and Osaka. You then take the train in whichever direction you require, changing to the Tokaido Shinkansen at Nagoya if you want to go to Tokyo.

The trick at Shiroko is to buy a ticket on a Limited Express. When you first hear that you think that the Limited Express may not be as fast as an Express. The reality is the opposite, a Limited Express is faster because the number of stops is limited.

It is one of those funny quirks one has to learn…

Your ticket tells you all you need to know: exactly where you should sit, the departure and arrival times and the price. Japanese trains are never late and so you can get off with confidence at the station you want, based on the time on the ticket. In 37 years of visiting the country I’ve only ever been on one train that was late, which is something that railway workers in other countries really ought to consider.

Anyway, 90 minutes after the Kintetsu Limited Express for Osaka leaves Shiroko, it pulls into Namba station. The tannoy plays some soothing music and a female voice says: “Namba desu”, which translates as “This is Namba”.

What she does not tell you is that Namba is not one station, but rather six, all linked by underground tunnels, escalators and stairways, with a multi-storey department store called Takashimaya and shopping malls called Namba Parks, Namba City and Namba SkyO, each of which has multiple levels. The result is a labyrinth that would warm the heart of even the most cold-hearted of moles. Somewhere in these tunnels you can find almost everything that a modern urban dweller could possibly want. Of course, for a gaijin (the word that the Japanese use for “foreigners” – although I have also seen it translated as “alien”, which I much prefer) it can be a little overwhelming. This is to be expected if one comes from a world where stations are two-dimensional and trains line up side-by-side from Platform 1 to Platform 9 ¾.

Japan is not like that. 

Perhaps you have heard of the Dutch artist MC Escher, who made the initials MC cool long before Mr Hammer (aka Stanley Burrell) rapped on the door of Celebrityville and they let him in. Escher created drawings of buildings that were impossible but looked right, using tricks with perspective. Escher may have designed Namba Station. The weird thing about it is that it becomes more complex the more you know about it.

It is often flooded with streams of busy people, who all seem to know where they are going and who all seem to be travelling without any luggage. However, if one follows the signs and keeps calm it is not so bad. Trying to explain it to others is more complicated than teaching a German to understand the rules of cricket, but when you get to know Namba, you realise that it is quite brilliant. In Japan they don’t have grimy railway arches, with lock-up garages inhabited by dubious folk. They have shiny shopping malls.

The goal when navigating Osaka Namba is usually to get to the Nankai Railway’s Rapi:t service, which is an evil-looking train, which goes from Namba to Kansai International Airport (otherwise known as KIX). It is retro and at the same time futuristic. In fact, it looks like Darth Vader after he has fallen into a pot of dark metallic blue paint (which looks a little purple in some lights). It is fast and very convenient, although perhaps I should add that the name is pronounced “rapido” not “rapit” for reasons that were probably logical to Japanese people 30 years ago when Darth Train first rolled his wheels.

It has been three years since we were last in Japan and it seemed initially that a great deal had changed. The rush hour no longer seemed very rushed. Trains were half-empty. People were staying at home more. The whole place seemed a little unkempt and run down. Everyone was wearing masks, even if they are no longer compulsory. Without the bustle, Osaka seemed to be lacking energy, and I felt the same way when I got to Suzuka. There were still the eccentric fans (of course) but the Paddock did not have the zing one is used to. I couldn’t work out why this was until a chance remark from someone in the F1 group came like a bolt of lightning. The problem at Suzuka was that Suzuka hasn’t changed from three year ago. And F1 has. There are times when the endless throbbing music in the Paddock can get on your nerves, but it is energising. Suzuka had none of that energy.

The other point I discovered is that Suzuka may not feel like a small event, but it is.

The media who attended the race were few in number, because of restrictions entering the country, but there was nothing to stop the Japanese fans buying tickets. The place seemed pretty full, but then you realise that the grandstands are concentrated in the same area and so it feels crowded, but the numbers do not bear out that impression. To give you an idea, the three-day attendance figures in recent months have been Canada (338,000), Silverstone (401,000), Austria (303,000), France (200,000), Hungary (290,000), Belgium (360,000), the Netherlands (305,000), Italy (336,000) and Singapore (302,000)

In Japan, with no reduced capacity and no requirement to wear masks outdoors, the total was only 190,000 over three days. Despite this there were some pretty awful traffic jams during the weekend. It probably did not help that during the three pandemic years Suzuka Circuit Motopia, the amusement park alongside the track was closed. In an effort to cut down costs, the hotel at the track closed many of its facilities and quite a lot of rooms were demolished, which meant that people had to find alternative accommodation.

The whole complex is owned by Honda and while they are keen on F1 – particularly as they are winning the championship this year with Red Bull, it is clear that Suzuka is a pretty rural place. There are paddy fields between the houses and even stretches of open land, which is rare indeed on the flat in Japan.

Anyway, access to Suzuka is difficult and even if everyone loves it, the track is not keeping up with the way F1 is developing and while there are no serious rivals among the other Japanese circuits, there may soon be rivals because Japanese cities are waking up to the idea of hosting F1 races as a way of reviving visitor numbers (as noted in the last Green Notebook). It seems like Osaka is not the only city interested, and outside Japan there are a string of projects across Asia, all hoping to become part of the F1 circus – and willing to buy a stacks of gambling chips to be allowed to sit at the F1 table. In many ways this is a good thing because it means that F1 can be a little bit more choosy and more demanding. They can get more money and facilities they want to fit requirements, such as public transportation, which is now something essential for F1 as it seeks to be carbon neutral. The biggest problem for any sporting event these days is how people get to the venue. The crowd numbers mentioned above are only impressive if the fans all travel on mass transportation systems (or bicycles). F1 may be designed to sell cars, but it does not want people to use them…

In any case, the great circuits of old, the classic venues, are not really fit-for-purpose these days. Monaco, Montreal, Albert Park, Singapore, Mexico, Zandvoort and even Baku are good. Monza, Suzuka and Barcelona do have railways that pass nearby (although the capacity is small in all cases). The Middle East tracks do not attract many spectators, but places like Silverstone, Austria, Paul Ricard, Spa, Hockenheim, the Hungaroring and the Nurburgring are not much good. Such places can survive (perhaps) if they buy great chunks of Amazonia and do not cut down the trees, or they can do what Le Mans did and convince the local authorities to put in mass transit systems, but they need to do a lot in other respects to remain interesting.

One of the big talking points after the Japanese GP was that of recovery vehicles. It is not really surprising given that in 2014 Jules Bianchi died after colliding with a tractor at Suzuka. Recovery vehicles frequently share the track with racing cars when a race is running behind a Safety Car (as was the case in Suzuka) but this also requires the drivers to act in a responsible manner if they are not in the peloton behind the Safety Car. So, normally this would not be a problem. But if conditions are difficult and visibility poor it is not a good idea to send out tractors until everyone is moving slowly. After Bianchi’s accident the FIA appointed a panel to look at how to avoid the problem again. This was chaired by former F1 engineer Peter Wright, then the President of the Safety Commission. The panel, which produced a 396-page report, included Ross Brawn, Stefano Domenicali, Eduardo de Freitas and GPDA President Alex Wurz. They concluded that “it is imperative” to prevent a car ever hitting a service vehicle and made a number of recommendations, including avoiding races taking place during local rainy seasons. Their ultimate conclusion, however, was that the blame for the accident rested with Bianchi because he was driving too fast. There were many changes made after that crash, including the introduction of the Virtual Safety Car, but it was only good fortune that avoided a similar scenario in Suzuka this year.

So, it was correct to punish Pierre Gasly for exceeding 125 mph on “multiple occasions” and 155 on one occasion, but it is clear that other solutions must be found to stop any possibility of it happening again. The use of the red flag has increased in F1 (and it is not always popular) but the drivers have said that there should be no risk of such a thing happening in the future, which could increase the number of red flags. One understands why drivers want to minimise risk, but then watching them racing in those early laps after the restart (when they could see almost nothing) does make you wonder about their self-preservation instincts. It is a thorny question. However, it is safe to say that using big heavy tractors in such conditions is not smart. Using cranes is not really the solution because that adds to the risks for circuit workers and one might argue that perhaps the best idea is to not race at Suzuka in October. Still, there is little we can do to control the weather, unless we have indoor Grands Prix.

Now there’s an idea…

It is, of course, easy to blame the FIA for everything. This is the usual fall back position for folk who don’t really understand the federation. To be fair, this attitude betrays a basic ignorance of what the FIA is and why things are happening. People do not understand how much work goes into trying to ensure that everything is safe, balanced, easy-to-understand and consistent. It is a real Sisyphean task and some might even suggest that anyone wanting to do it has masochistic tendencies (let’s not dwell on that too much…), but it is a job that needs to be done, and it is not easy. Could it be done better? Of course, one can always improve things. That concept is at the very heart of F1 thinking, but so much depends on the people involved. Those who say that F1 should break away from the FIA and regulate itself (and few intelligent people in the teams do) simply do not understand what it takes. There are lots of people who think they know the answers, but many of their solutions have been tried before and are not used because they do not work. The idea of having a permanent steward is one such concept. That was tried and within a year teams were complaining about bias. Having a lot of different stewards meant that few knew all the rules and few had experience which is why the system of having a small pool of stewards in constant discussion is the best idea. There are of course differences of opinion, but that is normal among any group of referees.

Quite often those who criticise do not even know the difference between the Race Director and the Stewards. They are not the same thing and have very different roles.

There was enormous confusion at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix about whether or not Max Verstappen has done enough to win the World Championship. Neither he, nor the Red Bull Racing team, was certain and for around 15 minutes after the chequered flag was waved no-one really knew. There were a string of different issues that caused this to happen. The first point is that new regulations were introduced this year, following the Belgian Grand Prix debacle last season. However these changes were not included in the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations at the start of the year, and did not appear until the end of April when “Issue 6 “of the rules was published. So you needed the right rulebook…

Secondly, you needed to remember that there were points awarded for the last four races, (thus a maximum of 104 points for four wins and four fastest laps) but a lot of folk forgot that one can also score points this year in the one remaining Sprint race…

And then there was the question of how many points should be awarded for the Suzuka race. Logically, there was a new sliding scale to cover various lengths of race. But these were ultimately irrelevant because the wording meant that if a race was red-flagged and then restarted, the event would be for full points – even if it lasted for only three laps without a Safety Car. So, the scales of points in the later version of the rulebook were all irrelevant because the race ended under a chequered flag (as opposed to a red one) because the time limit was reached. The Japanese GP ran to only 52 percent of the planned distance, but the wording meant that full points had to be awarded because the race had resumed after a red flag and had not ENDED under a red flag. This makes no sense at all, but it is what the rules say. How did that happen? Well, writing rules is not easy because one needs to imagine every possible scenario and if you miss something that could happen, you can be left with your trousers round your ankles. One must consider not only what the rules say, but also what they do not say.

So, yes, one can blame the FIA for a rule that did not cover what happened in Suzuka, although it should perhaps be added that the person who wrote the rule (whoever it was) has probably already gone from the federation because there has been a great deal of change since Mohammed Ben Sulayem was elected to the post of FIA President in December last year. Matters were not helped by the fallout from Abu Dhabi 2021, then the Ukraine Crisis, not to mention some fairly serious internal political battles within the FIA, not just between the old and the new. The new people who have been brought in since the change are still finding their feet, and not every call they have made has been right, nor has the federation communicated things well.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and you cannot rebuild Rome in a day. Change is afoot but in the interim there is a state of flux that needs time to calm down. The signs are that there will be a new more egalitarian and sensible FIA in a year or so, but there must first be a vigorous flushing out of bureaucrats that Jean Todt loved to have around him. In my experience most of the people who work for the federation in F1 (with a few exceptions) are very competent and work hard. They care about what they do. The stewards do it for free, but they are always working amongst themselves to make things better. They are constantly slighted and disrespected by almost everyone. They are an easy target.

When it comes to decisions about the F1 rules these days, most of them are made in close consultation with the teams. The budget cap rules took an age to finalise with all the legal people from the teams involved at every stage. The reason that the penalties are vague is that this is what it took to get the agreement through. The cost cap is an essential element for F1 and one which will bear fruit for the teams in the years ahead, but it is an agreement that still has some sharp edges that need to be rounded off. Like most things in life, a little time and work is required to get a perfect fit. And in case you wish to fire off accusations that I am defending the governing body because I am worried about keeping my permanent F1 pass, you can get lost. I’m simply trying to explain why things are difficult and how they came to be as they are.

The key point about the financial regulations is that they are doing what they were intended to do.  Yes, there are some discussions about how Red Bull has defined certain things – and these have been creative. But if you look at the Mercedes AMG Petronas financial returns for 2021 which show that revenues rose from £355 million to £388 million, from additional F1 “prize money” and  from additional sponsorship, which comes because the sport is growing. The team dropped its spending from £325 million to just under £300 million, reflecting the new budget cap rules despite an increase in the number of races. This meant that the design and engineering staff had to drop from 906 to 831 as the team sought to be more efficient. Some were redeployed in other parts of the empire, some took early-retirement, I believe.

This meant that not only did Mercedes not have to put any money into the team, which makes it a slam dunk to keep going because of the value F1 brings (internally and externally) for the team. It also meant that the team made a profit of £68 million, a big hike. This meant that there was money to buy the land on which the factory is located from previous owner Adrian Reynard, thus removing rental costs in the future. This is why teams now have huge valuations and that the sport is so healthy. Anyone who is serious about getting into F1 needs to make an offer to an existing team that is impossible to refuse. There are a few teams that are overly laden with debt and need more cash, others where circumstances are changing. There is very little logic in starting a new team because it will cost more to get it to a competitive state than it will if one buys an existing team. There is a lot of delusional thinking going on amongst those who think they should be allowed to have entries. In many ways they are being protected from themselves, just as the super licence rules exist as they do to stop people who are unqualified for the role of being an F1 driver being allowed to come in an embarrassing themselves.

Anyway, the driver market is all but done now and attention is beginning to turn to what could happen in 2024.

Alpine has taken the plunge with two French drivers who have not always got on in the past. Time will tell if this is wise but I am told that in an effort to keep friction to a minimum both drivers have been informed that they can have family at only two events a year, and that the two families cannot attend the same races…

We have just two drives to settle (for now): the second Williams (which must wait until Abu Dhabi because of licence questions) and the second Haas, which will probably be announced in Austin, where Haas has a big event planned to reveal a new sponsor. It would be logical to name the second driver then…

110 thoughts on “Green Notebook from the Rapi:t

  1. Excellent read, as usual Joe. Many thanks for the time taken to keep us informed. I’m also pleased to read that my view about the FIA matches yours. I had difficulty imagining what possible alternative the teams or even Liberty could find to replace it (if the gossip led media is to be believed) Am I correct in thinking that only the FIA can confer “world championship” status to a racing series? Were the teams to branch out alone, I presume with Liberty, could the FIA ban participants from competing in other FIA sanctioned events?

  2. Those who think F1 should breakaway from the FIA (as noted above) need just to look at NASCAR stateside and the numerous inconsistent and maddening decisions it has made for decades serving as both the sanctioning body and competition, including two notable incidents in the past week involving the Stewart-Haas team.

    Great reading as always, Joe. Much appreciated.

  3. Some people are hopeful for Ferrari’s prospects next year. They seem to be putting most of their eggs in one basket: Leclerc. And sure as eggs are eggs that will be proved unwise.

    He crumbles like biscuit whenever the stakes are high and the pressure is on. We’ve seen it time and time again. The last lap blunder as he’s chased home, that’s his speciality.

    Sainz, by contrast, is handicapped mainly by bad luck and his nerves are more steely.

    As far as I know, and I may be wrong, they have no young aces coming through the system, and that is lamentable.

      1. It’s not enough to be quick. You also have to stay in-between the white lines, and finish.
        Leclerc has a great right hook and smart upper cut but a chin that’s made by Lalique. It’s in plain sight for everyone to see.

        1. One the most ridiculous and untrue comments I’ve read on the internet. That is really saying something…..

    1. Sainz, by contrast, is hadicapped mainly by his not being as fast as Charles.

      Sainz is easily one of my favorite drivers on the grid. But this year seems to have shown that Charles has something special. I’ve wondered if that “it” factor can be learned or is innate? If it can be learned, I hope Sainz does. It has to be mentally difficult for a driver to drive a perfect lap and still be slower in the same machinery. Eats at you like the professor in Good Will Hunting.

  4. Is this how we can expect the accounting process to play out every year? How open is it, in terms of teams being able to see what others did?

  5. Apropos indoor races I was reminded only yesterday about an article I saw about 25 years ago about a proposal to build an indoor one-mile oval track some place in the NE of USAnia. In spite of being touted as “the greatest thing since axle grease” nothing further has ever been reported. I think we may have to wait a very long time for indoor F1…

  6. Obviously the bulk of the driver market is sorted – bar Haas and Williams.

    It seems clear Williams are after Logan Sargeant but are waiting to ensure he gets his Super Licence (hence why I assume you mentioned it will wait until Abu Dhabi).

    As for Haas, do you still stand by your view that Mick Schumacher will be dropped and replaced by Nico Hülkenberg? There seem to have been a few reports that Mick might be re-signing with Haas – do you think they’re simply being optimistic and not reading the full picture?

    Thanks for always for your very informative blog.

  7. As RBR have been caught cheating, Verstappen won 2021 in a financially-enhanced car. As with Lance Armstrong when caught cheating, he should lose his title.

    But no doubt the FIA will cave in, thus leaving two asterisks against his name in 2021.

      1. At Tesco’s 🤣🤣

        Where the cost cap is illogical is that it includes repairing accident damage as I understand it. The real way to demonstrate a “performance advantage” would surely be by showing how the overall budget was spent, as opposed to a crude measure of you spent the cap +X.

        1. It merely encourages teams to get drivers that do not crash! This will affect some more than others. There is also the matter of driver’s luck. Some driver’s luck improves with experience, others not so. (No names, no pack drill!)

          1. But when a driver is involved in an accident not of his making it still costs the team money from its overall budget. That is where it is unfair

    1. Every team in sports “cheats” to some degree. Some get caught. Some don’t. Some get caught and have their file sealed…

      From what I understand, Red Bull’s cars might have been enhanced by overspending on Nutella.

      1. Money is fungible. RBR can pretend the overspend was on ‘catering’ but the fact is, had they kept to the budget cap, less would have been available to the car. Likely they would have had less upgrades during the year, so Max gained an unfair advantage = cheating.

    2. I’m not sure you can say they have been caught cheating. While no expert it seems to me this is about interpritation of the rules. Red Bull think one thing the FIA think another. We see this with technical regs all the time.

      It might go through the whole process and come out that Red Bull are correct in which case all the teams will do the same in future much as they did with the double defuser.

  8. Hi Joe, regarding the attendance figures of last weekend: do you think that other circuits/organizers have exaggerated their numbers?

  9. can someone explain why does F1 have full wet tires if F1 NEVER race in full wet conditions(was Fuji 1976 the last time they did?)? maybe they can attach some form of mandatory mud flaps for very wet races?

  10. Excellent piece, as usual.
    I feel there is just one issue missing in description of post-race confusion – Max couldn’t become the world champion before the stewards handed Charles the obvious penalty for last-lap infringement. I know that you know, but some readers might overlook it.

      1. If only the Stewards always had the ability to make decisions so quickly!
        Too often it seems to be ‘…will be investigated after the race’ – which only leads to the conspiracy theory fanboys/girls having a field day!

  11. Worth pointing out that the oddity with full points being awarded despite the short race was also present in the previous rule, it being added some time in the 90s when there was no race time limit (added in 2012 after Canada the previous year went on over four hours in the rain). Seen people (people in very respectable publications in fact!) try to “blame” Michael Masi for writing the rule badly, which totally misconstrues the collaborative way in which the rules are written Masi may have drafted an initial version but the final wording is hashed out between the FIA, FOM and the teams in great detail, and no one thought of the situation that happened in Japan. Will be an easy fix for next year, as is always done when unforeseen circumstances expose holes in regulation!

      1. Michael Massi has been crucified more time than the Arab fella. We disagree on Adu Dhabi, but I think on a tally up he got far more right than he got wrong proving he is human. My personal view is the new fella’s have made more mistakes in one season than Massi did in his time in the role.

        I think much like the Tin Can alleged budget breach, people should stop blaming Massi just out of malice.

  12. If as I think I recall drivers cut adrift from the peloton (or who have just unlapped themselves from it) are allowed to drive *much* faster than the safety car (is it 80% of their previous average speed across the lap??), then.. that’s what they’ll do, whether or not it’s safe.

    Partly because they’re naturally competitive.

    Partly because if they don’t, they’ll be branded a loser and get dropped.

    Driving balls out in the zero visibility is just what F1 drivers *do* … unless they and their teams know they’ll be penalised for it.

    I assume Gasly exceeded the 80% (or whatever) threshold, in which case he deserved the penalty.

    But given the footage of other cars also apparently coming within a few metres of the tractor, it seems to me that this whole approach needs to be rethought.

    Either a) once the safety car comes out, everyone drives to safety car speed (electronically reported to their in car displays) and the race is neutralised with the existing gaps maintained…

    …or b) the marshalls and tractors don’t come out on to the circuit until every driver has caught the pack

    b) doesn’t work if a driver is trapped in his car (& so needs immediate attention) and doesn’t allow for the fact that the current allowed speed for cars in free space may not be safe if the crashed competitor car itself is in a dangerous position, so there would still need to be more thought about the appropriate speed differential to allow between the safety car and the ‘loose’ cars. I’ve thought for a long time that the current rules are too lenient.

    By contrast, a) would massively reduce the unfairness and randomness of the safety car process, and let drivers who’d built big gaps keep those. It would give F1 more integrity as a sporting competition but reduce the spectacle and the opportunities for random reversals of fortune. (So obviously it won’t happen…)

    1. Who actually deploys the recovery vehicle. I think that is where responsibility lies as removal / recovery of the race car was not critical and life threatening and if it means a few more laps while the field bunches up. Bearing in mind we lost Jules Bianchi at the same circuit where that was also not a life threatening situation before the accident but about getting back to green. Whoever deployed the tractor is the guilty party, Pierre Gasly is just an accessory because he probably rightly believed the circuit was safe, otherwise it should have been a direct red which it became with his near miss.

        1. Who falls under the Race Drector?

          Interesting teams who react in real time get penalised for mistakes, yet officials can blame the drivers.

          I agree Pierre Gasly was speeding but he expected lessons learnt to apply in this situation and was not the only car to be close to hitting a vehicle that should not have been there

            1. Wasn’t he the only one out of position and detached from the peloton? Or were other drivers in a similar position but (much? Or only slightly?) more cautious?

                1. Thanks, Joe.

                  So it’s not a surprise that Gasly was the only guy going fast.

                  The 2003 Brazilian GP had a big impact on my thinking on this. Unless Race Control imposes limits backed by strong sanctions, F1 drivers are going to let rip regardless. Just how it is.

  13. Re Stewards and accusations of bias (from teams and fans). Surely the technology exists today to shut a permanent Steward away in a dark room and to “anonymise” any footage and telemetry to simply be a red car / blue car / black car with anything to identify team or driver masked.

    Decisions would be as consistent as the human condition allows and remove accusations of bias, either conscious or unconscious.

  14. Hi Joe, how long does it take you to write the average notebook article and I’d you don’t mind me asking do you do it in transit or when you are returned or are at your next destination. Curious on the process, as you obviously have other deadlines for the business newsletter And GP+

    1. Both. I often write while travelling on planes. Cannot do it in cars! But usually I pull it all together at home, or in a hotel room

  15. Hi Joe, excellent as always. You keep excelling yourself, The Japanese would call it “Kaizen”. On the FIA – agree, they are an easy target and the main stream media such as SKY fuel it. Then on Gasly, also agree with you; he was speeding under a red flag! Say Sainz needed medical attention and it was an ambulance on track, then the vehicle has every right to be there.

  16. “the best idea is to not race at Suzuka in October.”

    Why constantly schedule races in monsoon/typhoon season and then seem surprised when the races are interrupted or shortened due to (heavy) rain? In addition, why start races in these locations at a time when any delay will mean decreasing daylight in poor conditions towards the end of any racing?

    1. Money
      The current start time puts the race early in the morning for European TV viewers who are big big founders of F1. Move the race forward 2 hours and it’s middle of the night TV with very low viewership/add revenue.

    2. It’s scheduled on a long weekend, with the Sports Day holiday on Monday. Most Japanese public holidays aren’t set to be on a Monday or Friday, they can fall on any day of the week. Marine Day is the third Monday of July, but it’s extremely hot and humid in July and typhoons are common in July. Respect for the Aged Day is the third Monday of September, but typhoons are also common in September. That’s the typhoon season, not the rainy season. The rainy season is generally from June through July (so followed by the typhoon season). That means that a Japanese race would have to be scheduled before June to take advantage of the nice spring weather. It couldn’t be scheduled during the Golden Week holidays at the beginning of May, so it wouldn’t be possible to schedule it so that it is always on a long holiday weekend.

  17. p.s. THANK You Joe for explaining THAT clear of role of the FIA and Stewards and Marshals and all Others involved for all they do and try to do to make F1 as safe and at the same time as interesting as possible

  18. Thanks as always for the interesting read Joe.

    I’ve read in a few places that the chequered flag was shown a lap too early as Max started his last lap with time still on the 3 hour clock. It’s probably largely academic and the only person likely to have been disadvantaged by it is Mr Alonso but I thought if anyone would know it would be you and your trusty lap chart! Were we robbed of one last racing lap?

  19. Hi Joe,

    Thanks again for such an insightful piece.

    I wanted to comment on Gasly’s mid-race quarrel.
    Though I’m sure it was exaggerated by the broadcast (and cross-examined to the enth degree by the bored Sky pundits), but I did find his criticism hypocritical given the lack of caution he exercised in the conditions. Further, I felt he showed some immaturity in the situation.

    I completely understand he would have a closer connection to Bianchi’s accident than most (save for Charles), and I do agree with the basic driver consensus re tractor on track in those conditions.

    However as you have identified, driving too fast for the conditions was a factor in Bianchi’s crash and a regular Grand Prix watcher would reasonably expect Pierre to be aware. Also, immediately ahead of said tractor was a Ferrari F1-75 parked on track facing the wrong way, so the danger on track that the tractor posed was relative to that.

    I’m probably being harsh on Pierre in the circumstances, being an armchair critic and all.

    Regardless, I thought it was an interesting foreword to Gasly the experienced factory Alpine-Renault driver, partnered to a long time bitter rival…

  20. As usual an excellent Green Notebook. My only issue being your comments about the F1 Super License. The rules as they presently exist, mean that neither Kimi Raikkonen nor Max Verstappen would qualify for a Super License today.

    1. So Kimi and Max would have gone to F3000 / F2, they would have won it, and then gotten their SL. Kimi going to F1 was 21 years ago. That was another time. It’s like saying in 2001 “oh, remember in 1980, the rule was different ?”. Regarding Max, that’s because of him accessing F1 directly that they’ve instaured that SL rule.

      So seriously, can all the Colton Herta fanboys stop referring to Kimi and Max blablabla ? It becomes really annoying. If Herta can not finish in the Top 3 of Indycar, who’s to blame ?!

  21. Joe, as a well versed racing historian, are there any circuits, either formerly on the calendar, or that have been used by other series (not F1) that would fit the bill for the modern demands of an F1 circuit?

    Certainly, in the European markets, a traditional F1 stronghold, it does seem like we always talk about circuits that cause issues such as the French/British GP. However there must be more circuits like Zandvoort, that with facilities upgrades, have the local infrastructure to become a fixtures on the calendar. Same for Asia I suppose…

    Portimao obviously springs to mind, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on that/others such as the Buddh International Circuit 😀

      1. Sepang would be fairly easy to go to, assuming the Malaysians can stump up the money. Would have that as much as a destination as Montreal or Singapore.

  22. Good read as usual Joe.

    As for the Rapit being pronounced as rapido this is because of how the Japanese alphabet works. A, I, U, E, O are the only “single” letters. The rest are a combination of two or three letters. So from a Japanese point of view rapit is pronounced as ra-pi-do.

    As for the traffic, imo it wasn’t bad at all. I’ve visited suzuka twice by train before and while it was busy, I wouldn’t say it was ever worse than what you can regular expect in Japan if you ever go to any big event, holidays or rush hour in the more populated areas. Busy but nothing too crazy.

    This year was the first time I went by car and apart from getting to the highway on Sunday evening it was pretty good. Came in from Osaka on Saturday and around 10~15 minutes of slow moving traffic into the city but nothing else. No traffic at all on Saturday evening on our way to Kyoto and also nothing on Sunday morning into Suzuka.

    Maybe it was mostly people using the unofficial parking near the main road. I remember coming by train the road the main gate always looked pretty clogged up.

    Anyhow I don’t understand why so many of the F1 folk stay in Tokyo. Osaka and Kyoto are much better for getting to the circuit and I dare so much better places to stay in general unless massive cities are your thing.

    1. You obviously weren’t stuck in jams for hours or had to walk miles to get to the hotel because shuttle buses never arrived. I did…

      1. I was not. Neither was anybody else that used the circuit parking at the side of the circuit opposite of the main gate.

        I don’t know what happened to the shuttle busses. They should have been there on Sunday (they had a dedicated lane for them) but there were non on Saturday (as announced in advance).

        The station is only a 20 minute walk from the circuit so I’d say that is always the better option if you are able bodied. Getting to Tsu station can be a bit of a wait but from there on it’s usually smooth sailing. At least in my (limited) experience.

        1. Take a look at the blog. This is not a traffic jam that I imagined. I took the photo on the Saturday night. I walked 4km on the Friday. I’m not making this stuff up. If you didn’t get stuck in a jam, good for you. Walking to a station that doesn’t go where you need to go is pretty pointless…

  23. Namba is so big because it is not just a train station for one railway but multiple railways. They are Kintetsu, Nankai-Electric and of course, JR.

  24. “The signs are that there will be a new more egalitarian and sensible FIA in a year or so…”

    Like focusing on Hamiltons jewellery instead of safety of drivers?
    ensuring the championship didn’t have an anticlimactic end amid confusion?
    governing a swift action to punishing budget overspend?

    It’s embarassing your need to defend a petty and incompetent organisation

    It’s embarrassing how you feel the need to

    1. It is strange that you feel the need to comment. It will not change my views, which is a point I made in the piece. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. It is really simple.

  25. Thanks as always, Joe, it’s refreshing to read considered views from an experienced pro who knows where things have come from and understands that a future, different to how things are today, is not only possible but inevitable.

    The issue of punishment for the RBR cost-cap breech is, of course, a sensitive one, but for the sake of precedence and protecting all the dividends from the cost-cap, surely the FIA really have to take a tough stance? In my time following F1, the two instances that seem somehow comparable to the 2021 RBR breech, in terms of assault on the sporting integrity, are so-call Crash-Gate and Spy-Gate. Don’t you think that the redress for this should be in line with the punishments dealt out on these two previous occasions?

    And so what if RBR walk away? Somehow they seem to have become a somewhat malign force in the paddock in recent years, despite all their obvious technical brilliance. Was it a surprise to anyone that it is this one team who broke the rules? Would it really be a poorer place without the trinity of owner, puppet-master and puppet spreading their bile? I’m sure Porsche, Andretti and others wouldn’t object to a top team coming onto the market…

    1. One man’s bile is another man’s honey.

      Seriously? Red Bull should be forced to sell the team? Next time you are hanging out “in the paddock,” you and Toto should float this idea past Christian.

    2. Crashgate? Funny how the only guilty party for that not now a regular in the pit lane is Nelsinho…

      1. No, Briatore is not forgotten. He’s slimed his way back up to a point, but everyone knows he’s pond life…

        1. What an insult to pond life, for comparing them and how they have evolved to Briotore who has many of the worst traits of a human

  26. Nothing wrong with having a recovery vehicle on track or runoff areas simultaneously with racing cars, especially in dry conditions, as long as this happens under full SC neutralization, which has always been the case post-2014 Japanese GP.
    Red-flagging has fortunately been far rarer this season than in the last two, but red-flagging for a mere car recovery would be overkill.
    Otherwise, we might as well abolish not only VSC but even SC altogether since most SC deployments feature recovery vehicle use if a mere appearance out of an orange hole was enough for a stoppage.
    For example, no one complained in Monza when a recovery vehicle went on track to recover Ricciardo’s car.
    Reaching full race distance could/would also become more uncommon, even if a race is fully dry, so people should be careful with what they wish for & think through unintended consequences.
    The only issue in the last race was that race control didn’t wait until everyone had passed Sainz’s car before informing the relevant marshal post that recovery vehicle use is okay, which they otherwise do, so only a one-off, but still.
    Any other measures besides not repeating this mistake would be unnecessary.

    Interesting & slightly weird requirement for Gasly & Ocon, though.
    Respective families only at max two events & not on the same ones.
    I couldn’t have expected something like this, nor do I necessarily see how both parents being in the Alpine garage simultaneously could be problematic, considering they’d be on different sides anyway, not that I really care, as this aspect is pretty trivial.

  27. Great article, Joe.

    Will we see a book from you sharing some details (good/bad/secret) from F1 that the average fan does not see?

  28. What’s the carbon footprint of setting up a street track each year, vs turning up to an existing one?

    How many trucks and workers does it take to build Montreal or Singapore?

  29. Silverstone “not fit for purpose” and “not much good”, yet more than 400,000 attendance over three days. I think I lost your thread somewhere along the paragraphs – perhaps you were referring solely to attendants’ access and egress which has always been awful. As a driver’s circuit it’s one of the best in my humble old aged view which goes back to the good-old-bad-old-days of the British GP alternating between Brands & Silverstone. Great Green Notebook read as usual.

  30. Anyone else old enough to look at that train and think the cab looks like a repainted, repurposed Outspan Orange car?

    Just me, then

  31. Hi Joe, thanks as ever for your informed and entertaining journalism, it’s the delayed highlight of the race weekend for me.

  32. Thank you Joe for your insights which I always look forward to after each race. I am hoping to also go to Japan soon!

  33. Thank you as always Joe. As all cars have a pit lane speed limiter, would it be practical to have a safety car related maximum speed limiter. I can see some disadvantages but it would stop 155mph happening.

  34. Thank you Joe for the post race drug fix. I really need it after each race.

    One item not mentioned in your green book or in the comments from your readership is the truly rubbish TV coverage from Suzuka. I watched the UK Sky feed and there was not a single shot of Alonso regaining places after his late stop for tyres. We missed the incredible last corner to line dual with him and Seb. It really was rubbish. They though it better to show a repeat of “choker” Le Clerc going off at the final chicane.

    I love Suzuka but the TV coverage is from the last century.

  35. Joe, if the CRB ruling was that Alpine never actually had a contract with Piastri at all, why is McLaren saying that they can’t start working with him before the end of the season because Alpine haven’t released him?

  36. I’d like to propose a suitable penalty for over-spending. (obviously for the future- you can’t bring in rules after the fact for last year).

    However much you over-spend in the measured year, whether it be $20 or $20,000,000….
    1) Your next years budget cap is reduced by the amount of previous over-spend.
    2) Your fine is to provide that same amount to every other team (ie. it costs you 9 times the over-spend) AND the other teams get to spend that money you gave them OVER THIER BUDGET CAP without it causing them to be in breach…. (this fine can be additional non-budget cap spend for the penalised team)

    It’s elegant, easy to understand, and is light punishment for little mistakes and heavy punishment for gross rule breaking (intentional or not).

    Add in sporting penalties as well as financial if necessary?

    I think the addition of not just costing you cash, but costing you in the development race against your competitors would provide adequate incentive to avoid penalty?

    How do we get such a suggestion in-front of the rule-makers?

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