I hope that the freezing weather conditions across the northern hemisphere will not impact on the reader’s ability to take in complex information because this column will require a certain amount of neural electricity. My apologies, but I don’t make the rules…
F1 is all about freezing conditions his week – and not just when it comes to the weather forecast. The F1 Commission meets on Thursday and there is much discussion about the delicate question of the engine freeze. Oh, and I dare say there will also be some discussion about how to deal with the pandemic…
The voting structures are all secret (and decidedly) arcane, but we are just relying on leaks of information about it all works.
There are 12 members of the commission (on most occasions), but this can be expanded to 16 with the addition of one representative of each of the four engine manufacturer, when the vote relates to power units. In reality, this means the same 12 people, but some of them gain extra votes. Thus, for example, Toto Wolff will have two votes: one for the Mercedes team, and one for the Mercedes engine. So you would think that 12 plus four equals 16… and so a majority would be eight votes. Ah, no…
If only life was so simple. A simple majority does not actually mean a simple majority because while each of the teams gets one vote the FIA and Formula 1 each get 10 votes apiece thus creating a total of 34 votes.
So 17 is a majority? Ah… no. Because the simple majority refers only to the 10 votes of the teams. Thus to win a vote one must win 27 of the 34 votes. Are you still following?
Of course this does not take into account the practical politics involved which means that it would be unwise for a customer to go against the engine supplier, on whom they rely for their horsepower. So in practical – but not absolute – terms the aforementioned Big Bad Wolff can really call on five votes, while Renault can scrape together just two. Ferrari effectively has four and Honda three.
Anyway, all of this is fun and games but does not take into account sensible realities. An engine freeze is a good thing for Formula 1 because it means that car companies can spend their money on developing new engines for the cheaper engine formula in the future, rather than on the expensive power units of today. And if they agree to the freeze, these new engines can come a year earlier than planned. If Ferrari and others think this is unfair, it is because they are not competitive and one can only say that if they had done a better job in the past they would not be in this mess.
For those who might not know why engine freezing is important, one should add that the two Red Bull teams will take over the Honda engine project at the end of 2021, if the engine development is frozen from the start of 2022. If not, there is a chance (and how big a chance one cannot say) that Red Bull will fold up its teepees and take its sponsorship off to a hovercraft racing or bicycling on mountain ledges. And F1 really needs Red Bull to stick around. So, for the good of the sport we need an engine freeze.
Now some might leap in at this point and say: “Ah, but Ferrari has a veto” which is true, but the terms of this veto (which are even more secret) have certain conditions that make it difficult to use. The veto can only be exercised if it is not “prejudicial to the traditional values of the championship and/or the image of the FIA” and that the new regulations were “likely to have a substantial impact” on Ferrari’s “legitimate interest”.
Given the secret deal between Ferrari and the FIA last year over what Ferrari did with its engines in 2019, I think the word “legitimate” might create some arguments.
The best solution would appear to be to freeze the engines in 2022, 2023 and 2024 and let everyone have another go wit the new engines in 2025. This, aligned with a change in chassis regulations at the same time, would be far more likely to create a new pecking order than any expensive development race between now and then.
The plan is for the new engines to be considerably cheaper as well and that will impact of the decision-making, as it will mean a much more cost-effective F1.
Anyhow, that is the thing of the moment.
My apologies for the quiet period before the recent TV viewing figures and the announcement that Lewis Hamilton is staying where he is for another year. To be honest neither is a great surprise. I was having some time off.
The thing that all fans should be waiting for is Liberty Media’s announcement of its 2020 Q4 figures on Friday, February 26. Once we have the Q4 figures, we have the Full Year figures and once we have those we will know the scale of the disaster that the COVID-19 pandemic will have wrought on the sport.
Why is this important? Because all the financial calculations for team revenues from the commercial rights holder are based on the annual revenue figures of the previous year. Once we know that number then calculators can start fizzing and teams can work out how much they are going to get. The signs are that it could be as much as 50 percent less than last year. But we don’t know for sure.
Generally-speaking, stock market listed companies tend not to play with their numbers too much and work to what are called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) standards, but that does not mean that firms cannot work hard to make their numbers look better in order to keep their share price up.
Of course, there are other occasions when one might want to make the numbers look worse and so they pile all the bad things into a mediocre year and then they will very look good when they bounce back a year from now. And you really have to know about accounting to see what they do. There are lots of ways to overstate and understate assets and liabilities, using such things as contingent liabilities, revenue acceleration and using subsidiaries, ownership investments, and joint ventures to boost assets. Usually this is done to give the appearance of a solid business so that credit can be obtained at low interest rates or better terms for debt financing. This may all sound a bit dodgy, but most of it is entirely legal.
This was all explained to me many years by a very clever forensic accountant, who said that it was a waste of time for non-financial journalists (and wannabes) to try to figure out what is really happening with companies based on the income statements and balance sheets, because if one does not know the what the accountant was trying to achieve, it is very hard to spot the tricks that they can use.
So I don’t waste too much energy on analysing cooked books each winter, but rather I enjoy the delights of cookbooks.
In the summer months we F1 types don’t get much time for delightful things such as families, gardens, cooking and pastimes that do not involve noisy cars. So when there is a lull in the action, it is a great chance to fill the days with such pleasures and not worry too much about the number of page views that one is generating (or not).
February is troublesome in some respects as gardens are generally hibernating at this time of year; and spending afternoons sketching waterlilies at Giverny is not really an option in driving rain. And having the little ones round requires bidding against rival relatives…
Sitting in front of a fire reading books might sound like a good project, but if one is catching up on sleep there is an inevitable conclusion before the end of each chapter and so one needs something that involves a bit of action, warmth and enjoyment. My conclusion, many years ago, was that cooking was the best answer and so in the winter months I cook a lot.
My own library of cookbooks is quite extensive and multilingual, including tomes on pies, crumbles and chowders, on the goodness of garlic and, of course, the chronicles of St Delia. There are even books about how to cook Chinese and Indian food because I have lived in remote spots where getting a takeaway meant hours of driving. In amongst all this are two automobile-related recipe books: the first called Racey Recipes and the second Manifold Destiny.
The latter is a cult publication – and a work of genius – which tells you how to cook using the engine in your car: where to place a dish (wrapped in aluminium foil of course) and how far to drive (and at what speed) before the meal is ready to be eaten. This is utterly splendid, all the more so because it certainly doesn’t work with electric cars, which have all the culinary romance of microwave ovens. My favourite recipe is Upper Class Roadkill, which begins with the most splendid sentence ever seen in a recipe book: “First run over a small deer…”, although it is rather American in its culinary tastes, and I am not sure that Alain Ducasse, Raymond Blanc or Guy Savoy would be very interested in “corned beef donuts”, not least because the spelling is horrid…
To my twisted brain, Racey Recipes sounded to me a little like some advanced form of cannibalism probably because it was clumsily billed as “The Ultimate Motorsport Celebrity Cook Book” which I took to mean ways to prepare motorsport celebrities. You know, Lewis and Lentil Pie, Daniel Avocado, Fried Grosjean Brains and Toto Wolff Waffles. That sort of thing.
However it turned out to be a compilation of the favourite meals of people in F1 (back in about 2000). So it is clearly a little out of date.
However Eliza Acton and Isabella Beeton are still selling so it is clear that while recipes go in and out of fashion (I mean, who eats jugged hare these days?), they don’t really age.
I was idly pondering if in the post-Netflix era of F1 whether the new demographics of the sport would mean that thousands of fans (male, female, non-binary transgender androgyne and all the rest of them) would like to buy an F1-themed cookbook. Perhaps, I argued, there is a gap in the market. I am sure these things are very difficult but when you boil it all down (or perhaps I should say reduce) all you need is a publisher and an iPhone for photography (right). It honestly doesn’t matter if the recipes are disgusting because who buys a cookbook twice? If a recipe goes wrong people generally blame themselves, as it is assumed that the author has some clue what they are talking about. One thing I have noticed is that there are an awful lot more cookbooks in bookshops (and online) than there are titles about motorsport, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, when everyone is agonising about what to buy for relatives.
It struck me that Grand Prix Grub (the name of the book, not the description of the author) would sit very comfortably on the shelves between The Poacher’s Guide to Vegetarian Cuisine, Fiddly Finger Food for Fulham, Pretentious Aussie Tucker and The Use of Tofu in DIY.
I am not sure which is my favourite cookbook, but The Jungle Hiker comes close. Published by the Royal Air Force in Ceylon in 1944 it has everything you need to know about surviving in a jungle after being shot down. (“First cut yourself from the wreckage…”). This includes the splendid recipe for “Fricassee of Lizard”, which I am keen to try if I can ever find a non-lounge lizard…
Onward to the kitchen…