Yes, I know that’s not how you spell cemetery, but what can you do? That’s the way it is. Mr Dunkin didn’t know how to spell doughnuts, but that didn’t stop money being made. Planet Earth somehow manages to keep on turning despite bad spelling and stray apostrophes. Whoever created the sign for this particular boneyard (see below), maybe 150 years ago, was rather better at carving than he was at spelling.
Jolly Cemetary is so-named not because it is a happy place (except perhaps at Halloween) but rather because it is in a place called Jollyville. Now you might think that this would mean it ought to be called Jollyville Cemetary, but a little research revealed why this is not the case. I assumed that Jollyville was a scenic place with a name derived from the French language, as “jolie” means “pretty”, but I discovered that it is actually named after a former Confederate soldier from Tennessee named John Jolly.
He was looking for somewhere quiet to live after the war and found a large chunk of land in the middle of nowhere, away from humankind. The land was next to a trail that headed north and there were some passers-by and so he built a general store and opened a forge. Later he gave some of his land to build a school and a graveyard which was named after him, while the settlement became known as Jollyville. The trail became the Jollyville Road and went on to become US Highway 183, although it went nowhere interesting through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska before stopping in a one horse town in South Dakota.
These days Jollyville has been swallowed up the voracious city of Austin but the greedy hoteliers in the city have forced anyone without a trust fund to leave town and seek refuge in over-priced dives in the suburbs.
Until the 1960s Jollyville was barely a village. It was quiet, a place with horse ranches and pecan plantations and plenty of old oak trees. Today it is very different and developers have made piles of money building houses. The area boasts a rather odd area where the streets are name after English things: there is Heathrow Drive, Shakespearean Way, Sherwood Forest and I even found Downing Street.
The reason I know all this is because the dive in which we stayed backed on to Jollyville Road and the name sounded interesting. Readers of the Green Notebook will probably know that I love the United States, my son is actually a US citizen. I think of the States as an amazing country, but some of the people who live in this great place have very some strange views of the world. Having said that I believe that something like 38 percent of all Americans have never had a passport and another 26 percent no longer have a valid passport which means that around 210 million Americans either never travel or have not travelled recently. This means that their view of world is formed entirely by the media. I am not saying it is wrong not to travel if one is happy with one’s own country, but it does lead to some odd attitudes and behaviours because the more one travels, the more one learns and the more tolerant one is to new ideas and different cultures.
This unworldliness was highlighted on Thursday when we went to check into the aforementioned hotel and were told that the fact that we had paperwork indicating that there were two rooms booked, confirmed and guaranteed was irrelevant because there was only one available and if we did not like it there was nothing that they could or would do about it.
After many years of travelling, I have had a few adventures with booking problems. My favourite (if one can have a favourite nightmare) was when I turned up one year for a weekend at Monza to discover that I had been booked into a place for three nights. The problem was that it was a restaurant, not a hotel…
On another occasion something had gone wrong and so the hotel staff converted their boardroom into a bedroom. They were people who cared about doing the job properly. The receptionist in the Jollyville dive – let’s call her Brooke – was different. She said it was because there was an F1 race and there were few rooms available in town. Yes, we said, we are aware of this. It is why this booking confirmation was made many months ago. Not having a room was stressful, of course, but the worrying thing was that the only alternative would be to pay the going rate elsewhere – and that would be thousands of dollars. It is not unusual for unscrupulous hoteliers to cancel reservations in order to get more money, but you cannot cancel confirmed reservations that are guaranteed. Well, Brooke decided that she could. It was just tough. We should have come earlier. She accepted that the reservation did say that the rooms were confirmed, and guaranteed without pre-payment, but said these terms did not refer to the hotel. This was patent nonsense, of course.
It was clear that she had sold the room because someone else came along willing to pay more money and she figured that we could somehow be brow-beaten into accepting the situation. She even threatened to cancel the second room if I did not stop telling her that her behaviour was unprofessional. This, she said, was disrespectful. We pointed out that we too felt a lack of respect and made the point that two hard-bitten world travellers are not going to be bullied by some rank amateur and refused to accept such a situation. She had to fix it. At one point she slammed the door of the office in an act of frustration that we would not accept her diktats. She then decided to call the police, on the basis that we were being “rowdy”. Our response was: “You’re kidding!”
The conclusion we reached while we waited for the police to arrive was that Brooke was completely out of her depth and not meant for a career in the hotel business. Officer Kim (number 6789) duly arrived and seemed a little astonished that rather than finding himself faced by gun-toting rednecks there were two calm and lucid international visitors, who explained in a coherent fashion that the hotel was in breach of a contract and was unwilling to solve the problem. Officer Kim was an intelligent fellow and tried to find a solution although clearly there was no solution possible. So we ended up sharing the one available room for that night with no guarantees that we have two rooms for the weekend.
In the morning, within a matter of minutes, without Brooke, the problem was solved and apologies made. We did not see her again and hopefully she is now working in a job to which she is better-suited. Shovelling manure in a stable might be a good career path… but if she wants a reference for any job I am very happy to give one, but she might not like what she gets.
This was all rather stressful and down at the Circuit of the Americas things were a little tiresome as well. The big story was the dull cost cap. Otherwise there was some vague interest when the Ferrari drivers put on cowboy hats, although it would have been fitting if other team members had been made to look like cowboys, given some of the team’s adventures in recent years.
Daniel Ricciardo rode a horse (complete with a pass in the name of Horsey McHorse) into the pit lane, before riding off into the sunset…
Zak Brown and Mario Andretti drove old McLarens around, the old boy showing Zak that owning cars and driving them quickly are two entirely different things. Zak may have been feeling a little bit uncomfortable, not because fitting into the car was probably a bit of a challenge, but rather because a legal letter had landed on his desk from Red Bull, which was of the opinion that an open letter Brown had written to the FIA President was a direct public accusation of cheating. There were a couple of things amiss with the letter. Firstly, the FIA President should not be involved in any way in the cost cap discussions, so Zak’s letter looked a lot like a PR stunt; and secondly defamation is not limited to literal and obvious meanings but includes inference which an ordinary, reasonable reader would draw from the words. In his subsequent remarks to the media he was rather more circumspect, saying that he did not know the facts of the case and that his letter was based on the idea that ‘if these types of things have happened’ it would not be right.
“I didn’t mention any teams. It was a general response,” he said.
Christian Horner was obviously not impressed, nor were Red Bull’s lawyers.
“It’s tremendously disappointing. For a fellow competitor to be accusing you of cheating, to accuse you of fraudulent activity, is shocking,” Horner said. “It’s absolutely shocking that another competitor, without the facts, without any knowledge of the details, can be making that kind of accusation.”
He made the point that Red Bull had been on trial by the media and that this had been stirred up deliberately by rival teams.
My view is simple: how can one have a sensible opinion if no-one actually knows the details? They are confidential. The whole affair has been spun into a whirlwind of controversy, more of a dust devil than a tornado, but a lot more than the sport needs. We all want the sport to be fair, rules to be respected and to see punishments that fit crimes, but in this case there has been far too much spinning and briefing going on, and it looks like a serious attempt to undermine and discredit Red Bull, in order to weaken their challenge in the future, rather than being a discussion about what is right and wrong. They are angry about this, and you can understand why.
Most of what you will have read is information that is being leaked to a hungry media by people with agendas. Everyone sensible wants this issue to go away. It isn’t good for the sport and it is fairly normal that there might be a few “grey areas” when there is a new regulation that is quite vague in terms of details. Interpretations can be different and so the accusation that this is all deliberate is really not helpful. The FIA has already said that the team has been cooperating all along the way, it is just that they do not agree on interpretations that have emerged since the accounts were submitted.
The good news is that there will not be any back room deals, as we have seen before (allegedly) because FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem campaigned on the basis that “transparency is vital to good governance and accountability”. Most fans are really not interested in financial details: about differed corporation tax, how unused parts are categorised, argument over health benefits and catering costs. Dull stuff.
Far too much of the ongoing process has been conducted in public, when these are supposed to be confidential matters. What is important is to discover how other teams got to know what was in Red Bull’s submissions. Somebody, somewhere has been leaking information. This is wrong. Similarly, using such information to create bad impressions is very dubious behaviour, particularly as the “facts” are very woolly. So there is work needed on getting the Cost Cap process properly defined and executed, although I am confident that things will be better in the future. Regulations often need tweaking.
This was a point that the FIA made in what was a very good report into the happenings at Suzuka, where no punches were pulled and good explanations given about what went wrong, who was at fault and how things can be fixed. Hopefully, this will become the norm in the future.
The big news was that Brad Pitt was wandering around. He looks good for a 58-year-old and if Tom Cruise (60) can play a Super Hornet F/A 18F pilot and Daniel Craig can still be James Bond a 54, there is no reason that Pitt cannot be a fictional F1 driver at his age, although it will make Fernando Alonso look like a spring chicken.
Brad and some of his crew met with F1 team bosses and others to explain their movie plans, which will feature Pitt as an old driver struggling against a young charger. The filming is due to start next year with the three US races likely to be heavily featured.
A successful F1 movie would, of course, be of enormous value to the sport as it gets cooler and cooler to US viewers. F1 is now so cool that I spotted Liberty Media boss Greg Maffei wearing an F1-branded shirt, which is something I’ve not seen before, as he likes to be incognito. The problem with movie-making is that sometimes films are not the hits that Hollywood folk think they will be and F1 really needs to avoid a Sylvester Stallone-like disaster 20-odd years ago when he produced an IndyCar film called “Drivel” – Oops, sorry, I meant “Driven”. That film was truly awful although IndyCar has done better since then, notably with “Turbo”, an animated feature about a radioactive snail who wants to win the Indy 500.
I know that sounds like a dead cert disaster, but for kids under the age of eight, radioactive snails are clearly very interesting, as “Turbo” has been a big hit.
I did hear an interesting story that Pitt was in town not only to chat and do some subtle promotion, but also because he is rather keen on Liberty Media kicking in some investment money for the movie. Given that Liberty recently spent $240 million to buy a plot of land in Les Vegas, on which to build a pit lane and paddock area for future Grands Prix, this is a pretty sensible thing to do, as F1 wants the movie to be made and they are never averse to a little profit if such a film becomes a success.
Pitt is big star, but one got the impression that F1’s new mega-star Gunther Steiner is nearly as big these days. Everyone wants a selfie with the bemused Steiner, who is still trying figure out how he became a sex symbol. The Haas team produced some Gunther Steiner teeshirts for the weekend – the first team principal merchandising in the history of the sport, so they believe – and the website blew up as squillions of fans scrambled to get their hands on one…
The paddock was awash with money, with billionaires two-a-penny and mere millionaires being the new working class. There are reckoned to be more than 3,000 billionaires in the world today and while I’m not a great celebrity watcher, nor indeed a Hello magazine reader, I would guess that there were dozens of them present in Texas. At one point I did see the bizarre sight of John Elkann, the chairman of Stellantis (the merged Fiat-Peugeot) and Ferrari, doing a selfie (below) with someone I didn’t recognise.
I asked around and no-one seemed to know, but after a few moments I asked a passing billionaire who this person might be and was told that he was none other than Andrea Casiraghi, the son of Princess Caroline of Monaco, and fourth in line to the throne (or whatever it is that Princes sit on) of Monaco. That was the kind of paddock Austin was with loads of rich people, some tubby social influencers with silly hats on, lots of school leaver-age people wearing shirts that said “F1 Experiences Expert Host” and a sprinkling of scruffy media types. I am not quite sure how one qualifies to be an “F1 Experiences Expert Host” but if there’s money in it, I might have to offer my services…
There does seem to be piles of US money being spent in F1 these days and the new ESPN TV deal is a nice one for F1, as it is rumoured to be worth 16 times more than the current deal. The new deal will bring in around $4 million per Grand Prix with an average live US viewership at the moment of about 1.2 million. This is rising all the time while NASCAR’S numbers are sliding downwards from year to year. These days the American stock car series averages around 2.9 million live views a race, for which it earns in the region of $22 million per event. This is an interesting comparison because there is clearly potential for another massive hike when the new ESPN deal ends in 2025. Just suppose, if F1 earned half of what NASCAR does per race, the revenue from F1’s US TV rights in 2026 could be $246 million a year…
This is why the deal is for only three years.
The other big announcement in Austin was Haas’s new title sponsor for the next three years, MoneyGram International Inc, a money-transfer company which is in competition with similar firms such as PayPal, Western Union, Wise, Green Dot, WorldRemit, Remitly Global and Skrill. It’s a tough market with plenty of competition. The F1 sponsorship is a major push from Moneygram following its acquisition earlier this year by a private equity firm called Madison Dearborn Partners for $1.8 billion. This included paying off MoneyGram’s debt of $800 million and taking it off the NASDAQ stock exchange, to allow the firm freedom to grow and not waste its energy on pleasing investors and reducing regulatory, governance and accounting rules and costs. How much of this was down to the Haas brand? And how much was thanks to the Gunther brand?
Dear God, we’ll have Steiner-branded underwear and loo seat covers next…
There were various other smaller announcements including a McLaren deal with a company called Seamless Digital, which will introduce a system that will allow branding to change on parts of the cars DURING races. This is a clever idea which has been around since it was developed by the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 20 years ago. It has never been used on F1 cars because of the weight of the film of “electronic paper” which can change where “electronic ink” appears. With the in-car cameras of today McLaren is going to use it in very small areas, such as helmets and haloes, to get sponsorship that can change from one shot to another. It is still only available in black, white and shades of grey, but there are hopes that one day the concept will be able to change multi-coloured images.
Elsewhere, there are suggestions that F1 will come up with a scheme to replace the W Series in an effort to help develop young female racers. F1 is not keen on the idea of segregating women in their own championship, believing that it is better for them to sink or swim in the mainstream. It was offered the W Series several times, but declined to buy it for this reason. However, the sport does not want to be accused of not doing anything in this respect, as happened the other day when Lewis Hamilton started talking about how some of the money being generated by F1 should be used to “help out in that space”. Rather than using the existing cars, the word is that F1 could make it compulsory for existing Formula 2 and Formula 3 teams to each run a pair of Formula 4 cars in order to create a championship that would run concurrently with F1 events. This would include an age restriction to avoid the problems that the W Series has of older drivers dominating but not being good enough to move on. This will provide women with track time when they need it most and potential role models for girls to be inspired by. Formula 1 people generally have a very open view on the subject and believe that if a women with the right skill-set comes along and is quick enough she will be welcomed in F1 with open arms. The problem is finding the right girl(s). The idea being floated seems to be a cost-effective way to continue the search.
The Chinese Communist Party Congress in Beijing, which has been taking place in the last few days, saw a very clear statement that the Chinese government is going to continue with its zero-COVID policy. This means that it is almost inconceivable for there to be a race in Shanghai in 2023 because of restrictions on spectators and, more importantly, the quarantine requirements that the F1 circus would face, which are currently impossible to fulfil. If the government makes an exception for F1 it will stir up discontent in the population, which the leaders want to avoid. In short, until the government eases off on restrictions it is unlikely that a race will happen. If it drops from the calendar in 2023, China will not be replaced.
And while it was a sad weekend for Red Bull, with the death of Dietrich Mateschitz, who has been a key member of the F1 world for many years, this all overshadowed the death of another man who had a similar impact in the sport half a century ago. Aleardo Buzzi, who died at the age of 92 was the man who called the tune at Marlboro from the very first stickers on Jo Siffert’s March in 1970, to the successful times with McLaren and Ferrari, not to mention the funding dozens of young drivers, many who made it into F1. Buzzi retired from Marlboro in 1992.
People forget very quickly.
I guess if you want your name to live on after you go, the best thing to do is to have a cemetery named after you.
A Jolly good idea.