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IMG_1737Motor racing has always existed to push forward automotive technology. There are, of course, stagnant pools in that flow, where the goal has been to make money and put on a show, but in general terms, the sport has had a raison d’être other than just greed and having fun. The list of inventions that have flowed from the sport to the industry over the years (and continue to do so) is impressive. Perhaps I am unusual, but I see this as a key element for the sport to maintain relevance and interest. Thus, when I heard that there was a Formula E race I could get to easily, I jumped at the chance. I am not about to invest and fly down to Uruguay for a one-day event, but a race in Paris on a weekend when there was no Grand Prix, was worth a couple of Metro tickets. I haven’t had a home race since the French GP disappeared and so this was a pleasant change.

It was all pretty relaxed and, in fact, the very first person I saw when I wandered down towards the Media Centre was none other than Alejandro Agag himself. The CEO of Formula E is a clever guy, charming and plausible and he talks a good game. I have always felt that Formula E was not a very sustainable business model, but Alejandro insists that there are more people wanting to buy shares in the Formula E business than there are shares available. The series is still making a loss, but it seems that this year – the second season – it is bringing in a great deal more sponsorship revenue than was previously the case. I am glad to hear that. After saying hallo, I wandered into the Media Centre, in what the French call a hôtel particulier (which means a very grand town house). This dated back to 1708, and was the Paris home of various dukes, counts, cardinals, marshals and ambassadors until the 1920s when the government bought it and turned it into a conference centre for scientific conventions. IMG_1734In comparison, the racing facilities were a little Heath Robinson. There wasn’t really a paddock, beyond the large tent where the teams ate meals, and the pits were cramped tents, with some unusual features, not least lamp posts that went through the canvas roof (right). This was odd because there was plenty of space behind them, but I presume Paris did not want its grass to be trampled… You always have a few efficious little jobsworths, but on the whole the organisation was fairly laid-back.

The one thing that struck me – and it seems almost every French person involved – was the miraculous nature of the event. France has a reputation for red tape and it seemed amazing that it was actually happening, particularly given that it was around the historic Les Invalides military complex, in the very epicentre of the city. Given that this vast building is the home of some fairly sensitive military organisations, in addition to being a tourist attraction, it was all rather astonishing. To put this into perspective, there were races on the streets of Paris until 1898 when the authorities made such a fuss that all further events took place outside the jurisdiction of the city. In the first weeks after World War II racing returned to Paris, it was good for morale, and the Coupe de la Libération on a track in the Bois de Boulogne, at the Porte Dauphine, attracted a huge crowd. That track was used on and off until the Grand Prix de Paris of 1951, after which the race moved to the Montlhéry autodrome. Since then the authorities have stopped any and all attempts to take racing to the people. And there have been many attempts. There have been a few demonstration runs, but that is it.

Successful events usually end up with having a lot of people claiming that it was their idea, but it was interesting to hear Jean-Francois Martins, the deputy mayor in charge of Sport and Tourism, who said that the FIA requested a venue “on the edge of the city” when the first discussions were held about a race. Martins said that when he and the mayor Ann Hidalgo thought about it and decided that the race should be in the downtown area.

“We decided to set it up in Paris, for symbolic purposes,” he explained, “placing electric mobility at the heart of the city.”

This makes sense because Hidalgo has dramatic plans to cut traffic flow in Paris and is keen to promote electric transportation. The city is a disaster when it comes to traffic, but Hidalgo plans for much more investment in public transport. Those who do want to go on driving in Paris will have to deal with much more expensive parking and more restrictions on the routes available. In July this year cars that were built before 1997 will no longer be allowed into the city (these cars are reckoned to account for around 15 percent of the traffic). She has cut the speed limit on the celebrated périphérique to 70 km/h and soon the non-stop riverside expressways, built in the 1960s, which allowed cars to get from one side of the city to the other quickly, will be pedestrianised and Parisians will once again have access to the river.

An electric race, she says, is “a means to dramatically develop electric mobility, which is essential for our cities”.

Thus the locals wanted this to happen. But it could only happen if it was for electric cars.

According to Agag, “the assembly of the track, which is a very difficult matter, has been absolutely incredible. We are very impressed with the work of everyone involved”.

IMG_1745There was not a huge amount of room allowed for spectators, with a crowd of no more than 20,000, and most paid very little. This meant that there were a lot of people who have no idea about how to spectate at motor races. With only a few grandstands, on a first-come-first-served basis, there were inevitably a few selfish numbskulls (above) who could not find seats and so decided to stand at the top of the stairs, thus blocking the view for everyone else. No-one removed them and they rather spoiled the show. Obviously, if there are to be more grandstands in the future, they will need to be better policed and perhaps it would be wise for numbered seating. There were some big screens around the track, but where we were they were not big enough. However Turn 1 was a good place to be and we saw much of the action. The cars are slow (when compared to F1) but it does not matter that much because they are still spectacular on a street track, particularly as they are not nailed to the ground with downforce and can be slid around by the drivers. The noise was odd, but once you got used to it, it really wasn’t a problem. It was a shame that the race ended under yellow because it was building up to be quite a fight, but it was good entertainment nonetheless. It was nice to be able to get a train home without too much drama and, of course, this helped the environmental credibility because what any big event wants is fans using public transport. People like to say that cycling is a green sport, but ironically the Tour de France is probably the most polluting sporting event in the world as a big percentage of its 14 million spectators, drive to see the race go by.

The decision to hold a race in Paris was taken before the terrorism attacks last autumn, but the event took on new significance as a result. The number of visitors to Paris is down significantly this year and that has an economic impact. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who turned up for the race, hit on this as an important theme. He said that such events are “the best response to the attacks”.

“This is a celebration of sport, technology and the environment as well as a festival, so it’s everything to make people happy and proud,” he added.

They say that much of the necessary infrastructure for the event was delivered to the site by boat, using the River Seine, although I have to say that I saw a lot of trucks around on the Friday. Ecologists tried to make a fuss, but they made little or no impact. Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen were both involved and had large numbers of guests.

The weather was pretty miserable, but at least it did not rain but despite this I think the event was a huge success. It can be better, of course, but it was a good start. I think that other big cities may look at what Paris has done and say “Why not?” because it really was a spectacle. It was interesting to not as well that in order for the race to take place about 300 metres of the circuit had to have a temporary tarmac surface put down over the top of historic cobblestones. These were covered with a plastic film, then sand and then tarmac (see below). In the days to come it will be removed and the cobblestones will re-emerge.Cobbles

I have been wondering whether Bernie Ecclestone might have travelled to Damascus of late. Admittedly, it is not a likely venue for an F1 race given that it is in the middle of what is best described as an ugly civil war, but I use the expression in relation to what appears to be a very sudden conversion to new ideas. The reference to Damascus, for those who don’t get it, is based on the celebrated conversion of Saint Paul from being a rather nasty and zealous Christian persecutor, into one of the leaders of the Christian movement, after an apparently dramatic moment “on the road to Damascus”.

Bernie said the other day that he now understands the need for F1 to be more active in social media and it is clear that things are happening in this respect, with F1 film clips popping up every day on Youtube and other activity, notably on Facebook. In the words of Saint Paul, “Amen!” This is very good news for the sport because it means that there is now a chance that new fans can be found, even if they have get their wallets out to watch the sport behind its paywalls.

Bernie has also said that, “really and truly we need at least six” races in the United States of America. Now, it is no secret that Bernie wants to push up the number of races to 25 (which is easy if you don’t attend them) and dangling the carrot of a US invasion would make this easier to achieve with the F1 teams. However, it is still rather airy-fairy concept as there are not the promoters out there to do this, nor would the F1 teams countenance 25 races without a vast amount more money. So if F1 is to invade the United States, we need to lose a few of the less strategically-important events elsewhere.

At this point, I think we also should point out – and praise – Lewis Hamilton for having been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016. This is really quite an achievement for a Formula 1 driver and it underlines the fact that Lewis’s unusual lifestyle is good news for F1 and critics should really stop grumbling and saying that it affects his competitiveness. Lewis is a big star and we should appreciate what he does. I see no real sign that his lifestyle affects his performance. Yes, Nico Rosberg has won all three races this season, but Lewis has not been lucky and I am sure that it won’t be long before we see him fighting back.

It is also worth noting that being named by Time has been great for F1 in other respects. The subject of Hamilton came up on the CBS News This Morning show, which may be the third high-rating breakfast show in the States behind ABC’s Good Morning America (around 5.1 million) and NBC’s Today show (4.8 million), but it still attracts around four million people every day. The co-host Charlie Rose is already a huge Lewis fan and the programme wheeled in Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine to explain who was on the list and why. Obviously, there was a question about Hamilton, because F1 is not big news in the United States. Gibbs explained it thus: “Formula 1 may not be the most-watched sport in the United States, but that is not true in the rest of the world and if F1 ever becomes a big thing in the US it will be because of someone like Lewis Hamilton.”

Charlie Rose closed the segment with the words: “we need more F1 races in this country and American drivers in them.”

Amen to that as well.

To put all this into perspective, British Prime Minister David Cameron was not on the list, although France’s Francois Hollande and Germany’s Angela Merkel were, both being deemed to be more influential.

This all coincides with rumours that things are happening for F1 in California, while Ecclestone has talked (as usual) about something in Las Vegas. It is clear that no permanent circuit in the US can afford the work required to be up to F1 standards, except if one of the big circuit-owning companies were to be involved (which is unlikely given their links to NASCAR), so F1 will have to rely on temporary circuits, unless there is another Circuit of the Americas out there somewhere…

Aux Invalides…

 Les Invalides, which is short for Hôtel National des Invalides, which roughly translates as National Residence for the Invalids, is hard to miss. It is a shining golden dome in the centre of Paris.  Once a retirement home for military veterans, a bit like The Royal Hospital Chelsea, today it is a military complex, with offices, various museums and no fewer than 17 courtyards, with two churches and the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, which is considerably larger than the man himself. One is tempted to say that holding a motor race around it is not so very different to performing stunts with cars in the vague vicinity of the Cenotaph in London, but the French media are not as silly as their colleagues, a tunnel away. For them, this is an historic moment, a motor race on the streets of Paris, something not seen since the post-war days when there were races in the Bois de Boulogne and at Saint-Cloud. For years people have talked of such things, but no-one could make it happen. So congratulations to Formula E (who got a LOT of help from FIA President Jean Todt, and his political pals, notably the mayoress of the 7th arrondissement, Rachida Dati) for really taking the sport to the people.

Psychological warfare is, by definition, a good thing. It is a weapon that wins wars, without large numbers of people being killed. It is the victory of the intellect over brute force. Winning hearts and minds means that one does not have to win battles.

In another life, when I was a student, I spent a lot of time learning about such unorthodox subjects. My degree was in history, but somehow I ended up as a specialist in very contemporary politics and covert activities. When I sat my exams, I wrote about things that had happened only a few days earlier in Beirut. I then went off to the happy-go-lucky world of motorsport, but I did not forget what I learned about psychological warfare. The key to success in psyops is perception. Perception is reality, because while the truth is important, what is more important is what people believe the truth to be. Ironically, the most effective  propaganda is the truth, because it cannot be disproved. It can be attacked and the people delivering the message can be undermined, but if a story is right and credible, the message is more easily accepted.

The other key point about propaganda is that it must be used both at home and abroad. If your own people do not support what you are doing, a war will ultimately be lost. The enemy will try to undermine you, and so you, in turn, must try to undermine them.

It is really not that different from brand building and political spin-doctoring. A spin doctor is a psyops officer without the uniform and a brand agency could be a propaganda unit tomorrow. The goal is to sell a message. This has become rather more difficult in the modern era because the Internet is a mess and there is much clutter that gets in the way of delivering messages. Information, right or wrong, is travelling faster. Social media played a major part in mobilising, informing and influencing public opinion during the Arab Spring. There was much disinformation (deliberately untrue stories) and a wide variety of fake or doctored photography. Who do you believe? It is all about the credibility of sources. People trust sources that have not failed them in the past. Good information is power.

Bernie Ecclestone has some unusual opinions, but this does not mean that he is right and saying that he believes “Vladimir Putin should be running Europe”, that he sees no economic benefit from the European Union and that women cannot drive F1 cars is counter-productive when one looks at the aims of the Formula One group and the sport itself. We have established, beyond reasonable doubt, that the primary goal of the Formula One group is to make money for its investors. They do not care about the sport. They just want to maximise revenues. Russia is one country in a calendar of 21 and, whether people like it or not, in the majority of these other countries, Putin is not seen as a good guy. Much of the world believes the Russian leader to be a dangerous threat, who will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals and has ambitions to rebuild some kind of Soviet-scale power. Thus F1 is doing itself no favours by being linked with Russia in any active sense. F1, as a whole, wants to be in the Russian market. They want Russian people to buy their products and they want the Russians to watch F1 on television. In a perfect world, they would probably like to see the Russians more prosperous because  people with money buy more things, and are less radical in their politics.

Putin works hard to have the Russian population see him as the strong man who is keeping Russia strong and giving it a presence in the world. He has carefully nurtured an image for himself as a manly kind of man, on the basis that this will be appreciated by the people. But Russians are not fools and they look at politicians as we look at our leaders. At the moment, so they say, the television is winning the battle with the refrigerator. Putin is still very popular, but if the fridge has nothing in it, eventually his popularity will erode and people will start asking questions. For now, he attacks the Western media when it is required and tries to create confusion about any facts that do not serve his purpose. Blaming foreigners is the oldest trick in the book, although one can also blame minorities, particularly successful immigrants. State-run television and other Russian media blame the West for Russia’s economic situation, while in the West some trace the country’s economic ills to a time before sanctions and low oil prices and say that investment started to dry up in 2012 when Putin announced that he would standing for the presidency again. Russia’s constitution prohibits a person from serving more than two presidential terms in a row, but sets no limit on non-consecutive terms. Putin served two terms, between 2000 to 2008, and then stepped down to become Prime Minister, leaving the role of President to his protégé Dmitry Medvedev. The length of each presidential term was increased from four years to six and so Putin could be re-elected and serve until 2024.

Putin was confident enough once he was back in power to embark on the low-risk strategy of taking over Crimea. It made him look strong and made Russia feel like it was a global player again. The Formula 1 race is part of that same strategy. The Crimean occupation was Bad Guy 101. Special forces were sent in to “assist” pro-Moscow activists in order to take over Crimea’s parliament and government. It was all very deniable, even if the Internet was filled with evidence that Putin was staging the whole thing. Moscow then justified attacks in Ukraine by saying it was defending Russian citizens and Russian speakers with ethnic ties to the country.

The West recognised what was happening and reacted to it. Countries around Russia are worried. They believe that they are under threat. Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have all raised their military spending in the course of the last year, Poland by an impressive 18 percent. Russia is once again seen as a threat, which it has not been since the days of the Cold War. Russia uses the lame argument that this military build-up is unjustified and a threat from the West.

Who do we believe? How do we judge what is right and what is wrong?

We must use our brains. No Russian has yet explained to me why NATO countries would want to invade Russia. They all have far too much to do at home to be worrying about expanding. Germany has spent years pouring money into the old East Germany to such an extent that this has held back its own economic development. It is just not intelligent to think that it make sense to invade the east. In history only power-crazed lunatics have done that – and they have lost. And remember, we did not invade a few years back when Russia was unable to defend itself. All that happened was that Western companies rushed in to Russia to try to make money. That did not work very well for most of them.

The Russian population turned to Putin only when they realised things were not working out and they began to yearn for the stability of the old Soviet days, when they felt more secure and less threatened. They might like for the prosperity and freedoms of the West, but they did not want to be in a free market because that meant being competitive.

You can argue that I am wrong and I am sure that some will say that I should stick to motorsport etc etc etc. That’s fine, I don’t need to be right. It is what I believe, based on the evidence put before me. It is my opinion and if you wish to share that’s fine. If not you can have your own opinion and that’s fine too.

The one point which is important, however, is that I believe that F1 is best without too close an association with Putin.

Having said that, Bernie Ecclestone’s seal of approval is not necessarily a good thing. Not all publicity is good publicity and over time Mr E has created an image of having quirky and controversial views.  The response of a spokesman of the board of Deputies of British Jews summed up this up rather well back in 2009.

“Mr Ecclestone’s comments regarding Hitler, female, black and Jewish racing drivers are quite bizarre,” he said. “He says ‘Politics are not for me’ and we are inclined to agree.”

Bernie’s recent blanket-bombing of Formula 1, when he suggested that he would not take his family to an F1 race because the show is so bad, simply added to the same image.

So, in a way, Ecclestone supporting Putin is more negative than positive for the Russians.

 

 

 

 

There was a very interesting invitation during the Chinese GP to spend half a session in the back of the Mercedes AMG Petronas garage, in a viewing gallery for the team’s VIPs. This allows them not only to see what is going on in the pit, but also to listen in to team radio and to enjoy the team’s augmented reality technology that has been provided by partner Epson, in order to give the visitors access to more information.

Most of us think of Epson as a manufacturer of printers, but today the Seiko Epson Corporation has diversified into a number of new technologies including new generation projectors, sensing systems, industrial robots and  smart glasses. The company introduced its Moverio technology to F1 in Australia, which meant that the Mercedes VIPs can not only watch the team in action, but can enjoy a range of user-selected content, ranging from Hacks.jpgpersonnel information to videos explaining different aspects of the team’s activities and live social media feeds. The content is overlaid on the lenses of the glasses and this means that the team can use it to explain such things as the anatomy of a pit stop, who is who in  the garage and much more.
Motion sensors in the Moverio BT-200 eyewear allow the viewers to select what they want to see using eye tracking technology. This explains why the various F1 journalists pictured above (including me) all appear to be looking in different directions, either watching the garage activity, or trying out other features such as the time sheets that appear in the glasses as well. It is certainly a fascinating technology and one can imagine it might be used not only for VIPs, but also in the future to help engineering teams to identify problems and find mercedes02.pngways to fix them. If one imagines a mechanic looking at a complex assembly, with glasses fitted with a camera, he might, for example, be able to get access to images of how the various parts work correctly or advice from engineer who could be watching the same footage on the other side of the world at Mercedes in Brackley. The idea is already being used by some Epson service engineers when they are out on the road.

The other thing that could come from such a system is access to the same technology for F1 fans at home in front of their TVs. There is still plenty to be developed, but the concept is certainly fascinating.

 

 

IMG_0051The paddock in Shanghai is a triumph of design over function. The architect (a Mr Tilke) liked the idea of having a maze of walkways and bridges around a lake (which was probably required because of the dodgy drainage) with vegetation shrouding as much as possible. The truth is that the design is hopeless for a sport where those involved are trying to interact with one another. In Shanghai one can go through an entire weekend without seeing people you want to see. If you turn up at one hospitality unit, the person you are looking for is always in the other one, or you see them in the distance but can never find them. The good news, so they say, is that when the next Chinese GP contract is negotiated, the Chinese will be asked to make some changes, including putting hospitality units on the back of the existing garages and digging up the centre of the existing “parade ground” paddock and fencing off the units in the back of “the swamp”, in order to create a more efficient working area for the sport.
Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 15.40.59The good news is that there is increasing evidence of a bigger and bigger following for F1 in China, although it is still a price-sensitive market when it comes to selling tickets for the race. The paddock is always quiet in Shanghai and it is generally a VIP-free event. This year, some bright spark at Renault decided to wheel in a heavy-hitter and invited Fan Bing Bing, China’s biggest star. Bing Bing (her family name is Fan) is a singer, actress, fashion icon and producer and she is recognised by that once-reliable source Forbes to be the fourth highest paid actress in the world. She’s big news in China, even if she hasn’t made much of an impact in Neasden. It is good to see Renault playing the celebrity card as this is an obvious way in which F1 can get more engagement with relative ease, as stars usually have something to sell and F1 can provide the conduit to do that, as countless evening talk shows do in countries all over the globe. F1 has singularly failed to grasp the concept.

12976804_1138504832846810_181103276508672250_oFIA President Jean Todt flew in to Shanghai from New York, where he had been addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, or at least the chairs that are used by them, as pictures (put out, amazingly, by the FIA itself) bore witness to an almost empty room. These things do happen in the world of politics but, when they do, one would expect the spin doctors to only send out pictures that are suitably edited to show the leader looking presidential rather than unpopular. Clearly, Todt has a lot to do in UN circles if he is going to make an impact in road safety. The bad news is that time is short. His current appointment is not a UN role per se, but rather a personal appointment by the current Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the latter’s term of office finishes this year. Whether the next Secretary General wants Todt to stay on is another matter. The word is that frontrunners include former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. Others being mentioned are UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and former Slovenian President Danilo Turk. The eastern Europeans are in abundance because it has been something of a tradition in recent years to rotate the job around the global regions and Eastern Europe seems to be the place to come from. Whether that happens this time remains to be seen because there is also pressure to nominate a female secretary-general, as all previous eight SGs have been men. Todt will need to convince whoever takes over that he is doing useful work (and not costing the UN any money). There is, of course, also the question of whether his two roles are compatible as some think that the FIA role is an organisation that supports the manufacturers, whereas the road safety gig is in conflict with them. Personally, I think there are enough road safety organisations and I think all FIA money should be spent on the sport, which is where the money comes from. Still, Todt is not alone in taking money out of the sport, the commercial rights holder CVC Capital Partners is still sucking every penny out of the business. Interestingly, I hear that JT and CVC’s Donald Mackenzie got together in New York for a bit of a pow-wow without Bernie Ecclestone being present.

Also popping up in China was Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who was in China for the launch of Jeep production in China at a plant in Guangzhou. That was on Monday and one hopes that the excitement of this event overcame Marchionne’s discomfort at seeing the two Ferraris clonking one another at the start and both dropping down the order. We can only wonder how close they have really got to Mercedes.

In the world of F1 politics it was a quiet weekend. The teams had a meeting to discuss Pirelli’s proposal to have 25 days of tyre testing next year. This seems rather a lot but Pirelli wants to be sure than it does not have any more messy weekends with tyres popping because someone got their sums wrong. It is worth noting that it is looking less and less likely that there will be any form of settlement regarding the 2017 rules by the end of the month because no-one is going to agree on anything. Mercedes’s Toto Wolff has already started to argue (quite rightly) that changing the technical rules in 2017 is not a smart thing to do. Rule changes generally favour the biggest teams while stability tends to result in the convergence of the teams and thus better racing. Speed and noise are really irrelevant because the cars are loud enough and the speeds are still increasing as the new technology is developed. Thus, stability is a better choice than making changes. It would also allow for other manufacturers to have a stable enough rule structure to let them commit to the sport. One can argue that stability would suit Mercedes and that this is the only reason Wolff is putting forward the argument, but the truth is that he’s right. It is stupid to change the rules when we have good racing, a decent field and so on… Obviously some do not want things to be too stable lest more manufacturers appear and thus the power of the commercial rights holder and the FIA will weaken because there will be a stronger alliance between the car manufacturers. We will have to see if that really happens or if a way can be found to divide them. In the interim, former FIA President Max Mosley has told The Times newspaper that Todt needs to have a more confrontational approach if he wants problems to be solved.

“Todt is terrified of being sued,” Mosley said, “but the only thing you can do is to go to litigation and arbitration. Todt is all for peace and compromise but you have to be prepared to risk litigation or you can’t do anything. You have to be prepared to go full steam ahead.”

The latest rumours regarding Sauber suggest that an Alfa Romeo takeover of the Swiss team is pretty unlikely, but that might be worth watching Haas F1 as a Haas-Alfa Romeo pairing would be a good call for both parties, as each seek to boost their sales using the sport. Sauber in the interim is looking to increase its non-F1 engineering consultancy work, in order to create a more solid financial base for the team, as Williams and McLaren have done. Elsewhere, more Italian names have apparently popped up in the Panama Papers, with one suggestion being that the list of people who established offshore companies also includes Flavio Briatore. There is nothing wrong with setting up companies in tax havens, but the Panama Papers will lead to endless numbers of investigations to make sure that these companies were not being used for tax evasion or money-laundering.

Down in Italy, there is some bad blood flowing around Monza at the moment as the Italians try to save their Grand Prix and Bernie Ecclestone plays the game to try to get changes that he wants to see made. It seems that a deal has been reached over money, but Ecclestone wants some improvement in the facilities at Monza and this is the current problem. The regional government of Lomardy has promised to provide cash, but the actual money has yet to turn up. Ecclestone is not the kind of man who accepts “the cheque is in the post” type of argument. So no deal will be done until that cash appears. Things are not helped by political upheaval within SIAS, the operating company of Monza. The shareholders will meet on April 27 to dismiss the current chairman and his CEO. This is a foregone conclusion because SIAS is owned by the Automobile Club of Milano (ACM), and this organisation wants the current people out because they have clearly no understanding about running circuits or negotiating with people like Ecclestone. The ACM also pay 25 percent of the fees required for the race, the rest coming from the Automobile Club d’Italia, which is well-funded by car sales taxes and by successful insurance operations.

IMG_1686If all goes to plan Monza in September will see the first use of TV drones at a Formula 1 event. This is a great idea to create better coverage but there has been some discussion with the FIA over where such machines will be allowed to fly because the federation does not want drones crashing down on to the racing circuit. In Shanghai there was another new idea being tried by the Formula One TV folks with a handheld multi-axis camera stabilization device that allows a cameraman to work at speed, moving with the subject of his filming, without any hint of camera shake. Further new ideas are expected. This is a good sign as it shows that FOM is waking up to the need to create better TV and there is evidence too of more development going on in the world of social media. It is long overdue, but we should celebrate the fact that it is happening, even if the coverage resulting will probably be behind pay-walls.

While all this is going on, there are a lot of people who are beginning to wonder whether Formula 1 should be doing more thinking about the future, in other respects. The car industry’s rush towards electric, connected and autonomous cars is going faster than many people expected and the sport should perhaps be asking itself what happens when self-driving machines take over the roads. Where will Formula 1 be?

The irony is that the F1 cars are the most connected automobiles in the world, with every aspect of the machines being measured and recorded and sent around the globe. I was told that each weekend a top F1 team collects around eight billion data points, that will then be analysed and used by the engineers to improve performance. How ironic would it be if F1 was to miss the revolution that is happening around it?

But we should not worry about F1 becoming irrelevant. Horse racing survives and I rarely see people riding horses on the roads… even in China

India’s Enforcement Directorate announced on Monday that a court in Mumbai has granted its request for an arrest warrant to seek Mallya. The agency wishes to question him about allegations that a $135,000 loan from the IDBI bank was used to buy property overseas. Mallya’s UB Group put out a statement saying that the warrant was “unjustified,” saying that it would provide details to account for the money.

Last week, India suspended Mallya’s diplomatic passport at the request of the Enforcement Directorate. The tycoon left India on March 2 and has been in England ever since

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