The laws of the jungle

Having been away from home for much of the last month, it was time this week for a few grandparental pleasures. After the F1 engine announcements, there were inevitable grumblings from the manufacturers and some worthless sabre-rattling, so I enjoyed a day out looking at the back end of ostriches, mean-looking leopards and lazy lions at a safari park, with a young lady who pretends that the cupboard is an aeroplane and flies to Canada in three minutes, complete with safety demonstrations.

Back in the real world, there will be more grumbling next week when F1 starts getting serious about cost-cutting. This is not new. Ferrari built an Indycar back in the 1980s to try to convince F1 that it was serious about quitting the sport. But no-one believed them then and no-one is going to believe them now. If Ferrari is mad enough to leave F1 it will get what it deserves. If that sounds harsh it is because the team has been spoilt for too long and should accept to be treated fairly, rather than always demanding an unfair advantage. Half the world supports this supposed mystique, but it makes no sense at all. It’s like supporting a boxer who insists that his opponents have one hand tied behind their backs but still wants people to think he is the best. The truth is that the team cannot even win when it has such advantages, so one does wonder why the fans care more about the brand than they do about the moribund (and wasted) Bugatti or the busted flushes like BRM or Lotus.

At the moment Ferrari lacks pretty much everything that is worth supporting, most of all charm. Sergio Marchionne may be a magician in the car world, although one wonders if his house of cards will withstand a stiff breeze, but when it comes to racing he has yet to be convincing. Under his watch he has allowed the Ferrari F1 team to become aloof and arrogant in the presumed hope that it will perform better if it wastes no time on the media. Good for them. They have got a little closer, but now have less sympathy in their failure. It is getting towards 10 years since the team won an F1 title and there is no reason why they should get advantages that other great teams do not get.

If they fail, they fail. That’s the law of the jungle. Ask a lion.

The FIA, the F1 commercial rights holder and current (and potential) Formula 1 manufacturer representatives met in Paris yesterday to reveal the plans for F1’s engines in 2021. The goal of the regulations is to reduce costs, while retaining some road relevance, improving the sound of the engines and attracting more manufacturers to the sport. The proposed rules will feature 1.6 V6 engines, which will rev 3000rpm higher than the current units. There will be design parameters to control development costs and to discourage extreme designs. The MGUH (which recovers energy from heat) will be removed but there will be more powerful MGUK (which recovers kinetic energy). These will be controlled more by the drivers and they will be allowed to save up energy over a series of laps in order to add a tactical element to the racing. There will be a single turbo within new limitations while the energy stores and control systems will be standardised. There is also a desire to develop tighter fuel regulations and to have designs standardised more so that engines and transmissions can be switched around more.

The key point about the announcement is that it is quite vague and this is believed to be deliberate, in order to stop the manufacturers starting work instantly and investing hundreds of millions immediately so that they would have an advantage in 2021. By delaying the details, the development will be shortened and this will give everyone more of a chance. The plan is to have a definitive set of regulations by the end of 2018

The 2021 power unit is an example of the future way the FIA as regulators, F1 as commercial right holders, the teams and the manufacturers as stakeholders will work together for the common good of the sport,” says Ross Brawn. “The proposal presented today was the outcome of a series of meeting which took place during 2017 with the current teams participating in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the manufacturers who showed their interest to be part of the pinnacle of motor sport. Also, we’ve carefully listened to what the fans think about the current PU and what they would like to see in the near future with the objective to define a set of regulations which will provide a powertrain that is simpler, cheaper and noisier and will create the conditions to facilitate new manufacturers to enter Formula 1 as powertrain suppliers and to reach a more levelled field in the sport. The new F1 has the target to be the world’s leading global sports competition married to state of the art technology. To excite, engage, and awe fans of all ages but to do so in a sustainable manner. We believe that the future power unit will achieve this.”

The next step in formulating the future shape of Formula 1 will come next week when the Formula 1 group will unveil its plans for a budget cap and a redistribution of F1 revenues from 2021 onwards. It is expected that the proposal will be to have the teams getting equal shares, allowing for come benefits based on performance, but also the creation of a budget to develop the sport, this will require everyone to reduce their share of the take, but should result in an significant overall increase in revenues in the years ahead. The goal of the new financial structures will be to unite the teams in a common cause, give additional value to their assets and to provide funding so that F1 can go to the places it wants to go to and not to the places that offer the most money.

Notebook from Iztacalco

In the days of the Conquistadors, this place used to be an island in Lake Texcoco, not that you would know it today. The Spanish drained much of the valley, but there remained a complex maze of chinampas, artificial islands created to provide protection for the residents, and to grow food. These appeared to be like floating gardens and they gradually disappeared and today the area is just another neighbourhood in the vast urban sprawl that is Mexico City. Around 20 million people now live here, in the valley in the shadow of the volcanoes of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. It is a high plateau, over 7,000 ft, higher than Ben Nevis, Mont Ventoux and even Vesuvius, and it has the rather colourful name of El Valle de los Malditos, the Valley of the Damned. In this chaotic city there are ancient pyramids and palaces alongside the cathedrals, bull rings and plazas that the Spanish built.

You have to have a few days to spare if you want to learn the history of the Ciudad de México for it covers the Maya and Aztec civilizations, the Spanish conquest and colonial era and then revolutions and doomed empires, a period when the French were in charge, civil wars and military rule. Today Mexico is a complicated place where the rich and the poor live side-by-side and brutal drug-trafficking cartels engage in bloody warfare. At the same time, it has long been a playground for Americans, who head south to enjoy cheap entertainments of various kinds. Mexico makes around $20 billion a year from tourism and, with the peso trading at around 25 percent below its 10-year average, one would expect the trade to be booming, but the violence has led to a US State Department travel advisory in August, warning US citizens not to go south.

Even before that happened, Mexico was looking at ways to build up its tourist trade, based on its wealth of culture and its spectacular sights. The Mexican Grand Prix is part of that process and the Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) festival is a big draw. Celebrating the dead is deep-rooted tradition in Mexico and rather than being sombre or melancholic, it is joyful, celebrating life with music and dancing yet also remembering the departed. It was particularly poignant this year because of the recent earthquakes. There are all kinds of traditions, including orange marigolds, cookies for the dead and a skeletal lady with a big flowery hat, known as La Catrina (right), who is an integral part of the festival. Perhaps it was these bizarre traditions that made Mexico seem such a cool place for creative types, back in the 1920s and 1930s when the likes of DH Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Malcolm Lowry all found inspiration for their great literary works. More recently life has imitated art with the authorities in Mexico City deciding to create a big Day of the Dead parade, after one was featured in the James Bond movie Spectre. This was the second year and around half a million people turned up to watch ghoulish floats, giant skeleton marionettes and hundreds of actors, dancers and acrobats, dressed in macabre costumes.

The Day of the Dead festival was the theme in the background at the Grand Prix and one grew accustomed to bumping into people made-up to look dead, notably at the welcome desk in the Media Centre (left). After several weeks of mad travelling around the world some of the F1 circus didn’t really need the make-up. We’re getting towards the end of the season and Mexico was to be the race at which the Drivers’ title would be settled, the Constructors’ having been done in Austin, a week earlier.

The Mexico 2017 pages in green notebook begin with notes about the rather dull question of track limits, following the series of unfortunate events in Austin where Max Verstappen was deprived of a well-deserved podium after he passed Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari on the last lap with all four wheels over a white line. One cannot fault the decision of the stewards if one follows the rules to the letter, but there is no doubt that the five-second penalty that knocked Max back to fourth place ruined the spectacle. It was a head-on collision between two very different cultures: the spectacular heroes of F1 and the folk who live by red tape. The FIA argues that it must uphold the rules and the buccaneers say that they are there to put on a show. Both are right and both are wrong. It was a clash that happened again on Sunday when Sebastian Vettel ran into the back of Lewis Hamilton at the third turn. Hamilton suffered a right rear puncture. Vettel was clearly to blame, Hamilton was the victim. In the past similar mistakes have been punished because of the impact they had on other racers, but the teams argue that the stewards should not get involved and allow the racers to race, and so they must accept this for what it was. Vettel’s mistake went unpunished and one was left with the impression that the stewards in Mexico did not want to fall into the trap into which their colleagues in Austin jumped feet first. They didn’t want to ruin the show. At the end of the day, Lewis won the title and didn’t care about the incident. He laughed and said he was not interested. In Austin red tape won, in Mexico it was the day for the buccaneers.

Interestingly, the driver steward in Mexico was Tom Kristensen, the multiple Le Mans winner, who is also the head of the FIA Drivers’ Commission. He is quietly campaigning to have a definitive solution over the question of track limits, with the drivers being allowed to have a voice in the decision-making. Whether this is done by returning to traditional track-side grass (which would be expensive for the circuits) or policed using electronic means (which is possible) it would at least mean that drivers would know where they stand.

There was much discussion in the paddock about Verstappen’s new deal with Red Bull, with whispers which suggest that the no-longer-teenage Max has a contract which, when all bonuses are included, is in the same league as the contract that Hamilton enjoys and is worth around three times what he was previously being paid. That was reckoned to be around $15 million a year, so triple that and you have a good guess at Max’s new deal. The big question now is whether Red Bull is going to keep Daniel Ricciardo when his contract runs out at the end of 2018. Daniel seems to be a good fit for the team and is almost on Max’s pace. He could go to Ferrari but Sebastian may say he doesn’t care but will no doubt remember that Danny Ric had the measure of him in 2014 when the Australian finished third in the World Championship with three wins and 238 points, and Vettel was fifth, without a victory and scoring only 167 points.

Ricciardo says he would like to take on Hamilton at Mercedes. Lewis says that he wouldn’t mind that battle, but added that Daniel really needs to beat Max before thinking about getting signed elsewhere. The word is that Daniel will stay at Red Bull and there is talk of a $10 million deal. Elsewhere in the Red Bull empire, Desperate Dan Kvyat has been cast into the abyss because he didn’t do quite enough and now Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly are expected to be the Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers in 2018. There were rumours in Mexico that Kvyat might be able to find Russian sponsorship and so could perhaps become an option for Williams, although at the moment the choice remains: Felipe Massa, Paul di Resta, Robert Kubica and Pascal Wehrlein.

There was plenty of talk about the big meetings about the new engine and, coming soon, the plans for the redistribution of revenues. Lots of journalists have been slapping “exclusive” on their stories and claiming different things, but it is clear that there is change coming and that the big teams are going to have accept what is on offer, or they will need to walk the walk. Formula 1 being the powerful tool that it is for them, they don’t really have a choice, although ego can sometimes overpower logic. One subject who has been much discussed in recent days is Sergio Marchionne (right), the boss of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), who is the man who really calls the shots at Ferrari. There is talk that he will eventually flick team principal Maurizio Arrivabene into a skip branded with a Prancing Horse, and the whisper is that Mattia Binotto, the technical chief of Gestione Sportiva, may be given the role, but others think things will be a little different with Arrivabene perhaps staying on until early 2019 when Marchionne retires from FCA. Perhaps he has ambitions of his own to be team principal at Maranello, in addition to being chairman and CEO. Others say that we should keep an eye open for a lady called Lucia Pennesi, who is commercial and marketing director at Gestione Sportiva, in whom Marchionne seems to have great confidence. Might there be a female Ferrari team principal, or is that too radical a suggestion for a company that has only 12 percent of its customers being women, but has ambitions to attract more lady buyers in the future. For now, that probably belongs in the file marked “wild speculation”.

Something else that turned heads on the grid in Mexico was the presence of NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, his second visit to a Grand Prix in four races. Gordon retired from NASCAR at the end of 2015, but came back for a few races last year to help the Hendrick team. This year he is working as commentator and a sponsors ambassador, but it should be remembered that he is also a Hendrick shareholder and many see him as being the man who will take over for Rick Hendrick when the 68-year-old when he decides he has had enough. Hendrick’s only child Ricky was killed in a plane crash in 2004. Gordon (46) has always been keen on F1 – he did a car swap test with Juan Pablo Montoya back in 2003 – and no doubt he and Hendrick will have noted the way in which rival NASCAR owner Gene Haas has created an F1 team. The fact that the Formula 1 business is now US-owned and managed and that there are big plans to push into the US market might perhaps add up to an interesting story in the future. But again that is one for the “wild speculation” file.
What is not wild speculation is the fact that Mexico is really into F1 at the moment. There were 6,000 VIP guests in the Paddock Club at the weekend and the locals even joked about needing the army to be sent in at the end of the weekend to get the last of them out of the building. This fixation on F1 has impacted rather on Indycar and Esteban Gutierrez. The US racing series wants to have a race in Mexico City but has yet to find the funding to do the deal, while Gutierrez is keen to race Indycars but needs money to land a deal.

Mexican GP promoter Alejandro Soberon recognises that he is on to a winner with the F1 race and has responded to suggestions from Austin promoter Bobby Epstein that the Mexican GP be moved to a June date, by saying that as much as he likes Epstein, “it will make even more sense to have Canada and the States, which are closer, together.”

Soberon said that it is impossible to move the Mexican race. “The Day of the Dead holiday has just become a big festival in the city,” he said.

It was interesting to note that Chloe Targett-Adams, the global director of promoter relations at Formula 1, spent a lot of her weekend with three gentlemen from Argentina. Federico Gastaldi, once the deputy team principal of Lotus, is a well-known figure, who used to promote the Argentine GP back in the 1990s, but Marcelo Figoli of Fenix Entertainment is less known (for the moment). Fenix is a big music promoter in Argentina and has promoted the Formula E race in Buenos Aires, but now has ambitions to get a Grand Prix once again. That would require government backing but recent legislative elections have made it possible for President Mauricio Macri to have more freedom of movement, with the opposition Justicialista party having suffered serious losses.

Macri wants a race in Buenos Aires in order to boost Argentine tourism and as a former mayor of the city still has influence with Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who is now in charge. Much has been done to the Argentine economy since Macri took over and one can envisage a race down there in 2020, as the event in Brazil is now struggling seriously.

Another race that could be struggling is the Spanish Grand Prix which could get caught in the crossfire in the ongoing constitutional crisis in Spain. The race has long been the brainchild of the Generalitat de Catalunya, which joined forces with the Reial Automobile Club de Catalunya (RACC) and the town of Montmelo to fund the construction of the Circuit de Catalunya nearly 30 years ago. The Grand Prix is promoted by the Circuits de Catalunya SL company 72 percent owned by the Generalitat, with the remaining shares being split between the RACC (18 percent) and Montmelo (10 percent). Much depends on who is in charge, but will the Spanish in Madrid want to continue funding an event which has always aimed to promote Catalonia?

Things change in the world and it was worth noting the presence of Fredrik Johnsson,the CEO of the Race of Champions in Mexico to recruit for the next event. Johnsson is planning to hold the next ROC in Saudi Arabia in early February 2018 in the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. Things are changing in Saudi Arabia with the arrival in the summer of 32-year-old Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as the new Crown Prince, who is the first in line to the throne, which is currently held by his father 81-year-old King Salman. He seem to have behind the move to allow women to drive and to let them attend sporting events.

Max Verstappen won a brilliant victory for Red Bull Racing in Mexico City – but he wasn’t the story. At the third corner Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel brushed as they fought for the lead. They both lost momentum and Lewis Hamilton went to the outside to pass them both. He couldn’t get Max, but he was ahead of Vettel… and then Sebastian drove into the back of Lewis, puncturing Lewis’s right rear. Some though it deliberate, but that made no sense at all. Vettel needed to win the race to keep his slim World Championship hopes alive. The accident ended all chance he had. It hurt Lewis, but it hurt Vettel more. He was the architect of his own downfall (again) and it seemed a strange thing to have done. The FIA Stewards decided that Sebastian was out of control and was unable to avoid the rear of the Mercedes and did not consider that an investigation was required. Vettel had ruined his own chances. There was a little inconsistency here because the FIA Stewards have often seemed to investigate the opening of envelopes, but the edict these days (except last week in Austin) is that the drivers should be allowed to race. This is what the teams have asked for and so no-one can really complain. All this meant that most of the coverage of the race was the battles that Vettel and Hamilton hed to get back to the front, rather than Vertsappen’s super drive. He enjoyed it, but he barely appeared until the last lap. It was great entertainment. The sort of thing that a World Championship showdown should be…

– We look at the question of track limits

– We ask Paddy Lowe how he can fix Williams

– We interview rising star Charles Leclerc

– We remember the wackiest of all motor racing events

– JS explains his feelings about Lewis Hamilton’s fourth title

– DT praises the passion of F1 folk and of the Mexicans

– The Hack gets a little teary-eyed at a new movie

– Peter Nygaard and his team capture Mexico

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine. It comes out before some of the F1 teams have even managed to get a press release out. It is an e-magazine that you can download and keep on your own devices and it works on computers, tablets and even smartphones. And it’s a magazine written by real F1 journalists not virtual wannabes… Our team has attended more than 2,000 Grands Prix between them. We’ve been around the block a few times and we know the history of the sport and we love to share it all with out readers at a price that is a real bargain. We believe that by attracting more people at a sensible price we can achieve so much more than all those who exploit the fans. In 2017 you’ll get 22 fabulous issues for £32.99, plus the 2016 season review completely free of charge.

For more information, go to www.grandprixplus.com.

With Austin being six hours to the west of the prime meridian, the deadlines that an F1 journalist faces at the United States Grand Prix are much shorter than for races that happen in the east, where one has extra time to get everything done. This means that the pressure is on, with some forced to write reports as the race develops, in order to hit deadlines back home.

We crashed out our e-magazine GrandPrix+ in a little over six hours and then headed back to our hotel, stopping to buy remarkably unhealthy (and unappetising) food at a garage on the way home. The rest of the F1 circus might be dancing at Pete’s Piano Bar (or wherever) but we worked through until dawn and then on to breakfast time. It was brutal, but a visit to the local café in Austin (our hotel doesn’t have one) usually perks us up on the day after the Grand Prix.

It is a weird and wacky place where a very thin man called Daisy wanders around in multi-coloured clothing and a pork pie hat, taking orders for tofu, vegetable and nutritional yeast scrambles, served with hemp seed patties, and sweet potato hash, rather than the traditional corned beef version. They even do weird stuff with pork bellies and scrambled eggs. But this is Austin and Austin is meant to be weird. You expect the unexpected. So what if your bartender has purple hair and a psychology degree? Who cares that on an election map the vast majority of Texas is Republican red, with just an island of Democratic blue around Austin. The people of Austin, Texas, pride themselves on being different and years ago, a local business alliance adopted the slogan “Keep Austin Weird”. It was perfect.

But then, let’s face it, F1 is not exactly crammed with non-weird people, so Austin is a very popular venue. In my green notebook one of the first notes reads “258,000 over the three days”, which was the crowd figure, slightly down on last year, but still a very acceptable number. This is really important in Texas because the State Government needs to justify its annual grant to the Circuit of the Americas and so there is pressure on the track to hit big targets. And, after trying with F1 alone, COTA reached out (don’t you hate that expression) to the world of music for help, shipping in Taylor Swift last year and Justin Timberlake this year to bump up the numbers and to try to generate new fans from their followers. Bobby Epstein, the CEO of COTA, says that he wants the race weekend to become more of a music festival, but still centred on the Grand Prix.

This is a bit odd. In early October, Austin has a huge music festival called as Austin City Limits, which brings in 450,000 spectators over two three-day weekends. Having another music festival a week after this makes no sense at all, and adds to the argument that perhaps COTA really ought to look for a deal to run the race back-to-back with Montreal in June, and let Mexico become twinned with Brazil. This makes a lot of sense because in the autumn in the US the competition for live TV viewers is intense, with the mighty NFL and the NASCAR Play-Offs all happening at the same time, not to mention college football, which is huge.

Austin claims to be the “Live Music Capital of the World”, and perhaps it is, but then one can never be sure because the baseball world has a World Series that only allows US teams to play… It seems that people think the world ends when the US reaches the oceans on either side, and that there is nothing out there beyond the horizon. This is one of the reasons that F1 has struggled in the United States, because sport is so very foreign and people from Kansas City don’t really know who to cheer for. F1 is still what the Americans might call “a gourmet item”, which means it is foreign, expensive and rather exotic. In culinary terms that would be foie gras aux truffes. A few folk like it (some say its a criminal offence because some people do nasty things to ducks), but a lot of others are quite happy with NASCAR, the motorsport equivalent of burger and fries.

Trying to turn F1 into a popular sport is not going to be the work of a moment, but now that it is American-owned and NASDAQ-listed, things are beginning to change to get Americans excited. In Austin the Formula One group decided to try a little NASCAR-style show business, with some old buffer called Michael Buffer from the world of boxing, introducing the drivers with that unique way they do things over here. The F1 stars emerged on to the grid on a red carpet from a tunnel spewing dry ice and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders jiggling about within their upholstery. F1 fans, being a conservative lot, seem not to have much liked this, judging by the ranting and raving on social media. Frankly, I am all for a bit of glitz and jiggle. I went to a rugby game not so long ago in Paris and they used flame-projectors to get the atmosphere buzzing. And it worked… I’ve also seen that done in the elegant gardens at Versailles, which one might think should only have string quartets. There is a place for razzmatazz in any activity, if you want to keep the people happy. One doesn’t often read quotes from the Roman poet Juvenal in motor racing publications, but what people want is panem et circenses (bread and circuses). So let’s not be snobbish and give it to them.

“I think it was amazing,” said Lewis Hamilton, a man who is not averse to bling and kitsch, after the race. “It was great to see something different. For many many years, the whole 10 years of my F1 career, it’s been the same old boring thing on the grid. I think this one was just much more like an NFL game – which is exciting, with the fireworks and everything.”

There is a note in the green book that says that most of the drivers were looking self-conscious and what was missing from the pre-race show was sufficient energy from the participants. Add a little of that and the whole thing will be a great deal better.

Having former US President Bill Clinton and Usain Bolt on the grid along with a bunch of other stars from different walks of life can only be seen as a good thing, but if you think that this is all a bit over the top, allow me to quote a preacher saying a prayer not long ago as part of the pre-race ceremonies at a NASCAR race: He praised the Lord for “mighty racing machines”, for Fords, and Chevrolets, Dodges and Toyotas. He even praised the Lord for “Sunoco racing fuels” and rounded it all off with thanks for his own “smoking hot wife” and that well-known religious exhortation: “boogity, boogity, boogity, Amen…” which I am told means that it is time to go racing.

F1 has a long way to go before it gets “too American”… although having a mechanical bull in the paddock was an interesting leap in that direction. I am sure that some F1 tried this, but I never saw it in action because F1 people already have plenty of other ways to fall on their faces…

Ask Ferrari.

The World Championship stayed alive for another week and there was controversy over whether or not the FIA Stewards are numbskulls for having ruined Max Verstappen’s fantastic charge to third place, by penalizing him. The rules say that he did wrong, but lots of people think that there are times when, for the good of the cause, such things should not be applied. Admittedly, that sows the seeds for troubled waters, but in this modern age there really ought to be a way to keep the drivers off the track limit lines. The old school in the F1 paddock says that walls should be built, but it is clear that Jean Todt and the Zebra Crossing Brigade would consider this to be dangerous. So perhaps there should be some kind of electronic system which would cut horsepower if the drivers went off the GPS-limited race track.

Oddly enough, they probably wouldn’t do it…

Max’s drive was a thing of wonder and he also won the prize in Austin for springing the biggest surprise when it was announced that he has extended his Red Bull contract until the end of 2020. This was not expected at all because everyone thought (including the teams concerned) that Max would leave Red Bull at the end of 2018 in order to join either Ferrari or Mercedes. By agreeing to stay with Red Bull until 2020, Max had done a number of things: he is in a team where he is happy and is still developing his talents. He is earning a lot of money (rumoured to be around $15 million a year), but that is going to go up significantly now, with the suggestion being that he will make $30 million a year in 2019 and 2020. This may be a very clever move because the advent of budget caps in F1 (which are coming) will mean that driver salaries are going to be affected and so doing a deal in advance of this means that Max is likely to bank more… By the time he comes on to the market again, he will still only be 23, while Hamilton and Vettel will be getting up to retirement age. This means that Max will not have to accept any kind of compromises over driver status, as is the case for the current Ferrari and Mercedes “number twos”.

There has been a lot of talk in F1 circles about the new ideas that Liberty Media is developing, with stories about two-day race meetings and so on. This does not sound very logical given that their plan is to try to develop week-long festivals around each race. Obviously there is some resistance to increasing the number of events AND increasing the length of each one, but the best solution to that would seem to be to restrict the number of events, make them bigger and better and charge the cities more for them…

I am told that the engine rules for 2021 are now pretty much done and will be presented at the end of the month, prior to being dusted by the FIA in December. It seems that there is broad agreement which will see the 1.6-litre V6 formula continuing, but with very significant changes to the hybrid and associated systems, many of which will be standardized, in an effort to reduce the costs involved. Teams will be allowed to buy and sell certain of their technologies, but the number of so-called listed parts will remain in place. It is expected that the sport will try to expand to have 12 teams, 24 cars.

Of course, there will be implications of all of this and the major push at the moment is towards putting in place a budget cap, which is expected to go before the F1 Strategy Group in the first week of November. This will propose a top limit of $150 million, reducing over time to $100 million. This will affect a number of the big teams, but will also make F1 much more attractive to other manufacturers. It will also mean that it will be a lot easier for teams to become profit centres and, as a result, their value will grow exponentially. We also expect Liberty to propose that all the teams get the same share of the revenues, allowing a small amount more for those who are more successful than others. What is likely to follow all of this, is the argument that teams no longer need as much of the revenues as previously and that the payments should be reduced, not to become the profit margin on the NASDAQ, but rather to be invested so that the sport can go where it wants to go, and not where it has to go. Thus, for example, if F1 wants to go a specific city and needs money to make that happen, this money could come from a new central fund created for that purpose. The goal, of course, would be to increase the revenues by building up the races.

There is a note in the green book about New York, one of the primary targets for a race. This notes that things may start happening more quickly once the mayoral elections are done on November 7. Bill de Blasio, the current mayor, is expected to win a significant victory…

There is a lot going on in the TV world as well, with Liberty Media keen to get switched over to direct-to-consumer coverage as quickly as possible, rather than using TV companies (effectively middle men) to provide the money. The potential rewards of such a move have been highlighted by the recent successes of Netflix and other such “over the top” services. For the moment, the sport is still working with broadcasters, but it is beginning to become clear that they are going to be less interested to pay for the rights if they see the sport becoming a rival. This is why no deal was possible with NBC for 2018 and why F1 coverage is switching to ESPN/ABC. This deal is clearly only a stop-gap solution and from what I hear ESPN/ABC will simply take Sky F1’s coverage. A similar deal has just been done in radio, with Liberty-owned Sirius XM internet radio having done an F1 deal to broadcast races live, using commentary provided by the BBC’s 5 Live. Liberty is expected to put together its own content and commentary teams for the planned streaming services.
Another note in the book suggests that we are about to get some surprises in Formula 2, with McLaren’s rising star Lando Norris tipped to be joining Carlin, which is not currently involved in the series. This means that the Prema Racing drives in F2, or at least one of them, is still available…

Lewis Hamilton won his ninth victory of the year – his 62nd career win – in style in Austin, under the watchful eye of former US President Bill Clinton, and Usain Bolt. Lewis was dominant, although he was beaten off the line at the start by Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton hunted down the Ferrari and took the lead on the sixth lap. Vettel could do nothing to stop him and as Lewis ran a one-stop strategy, Sebastian stopped twice and had to work hard to get back to second by the finish. He was aided in this by Kimi Raikkonen, who allowed him to take second place with five laps to go, after Vettel had bundled his way ahead of Valtteri Bottas on lap 51. It kept the World Championship alive, but Ferrari will need to be far more competitive in Mexico if it is going to stop Lewis winning the title. With Lewis winning and Valtteri fifth, Mercedes won its fourth consecutive Constructors’ Championship, with a lead of 147 points, and a maximum of only 129 available. Lewis’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship is now 66 points ahead, with 75 available, so he needs only nine points more than Vettel to win his fourth World Championship. There was controversy behind the leaders as Raikkonen was jumped on the last lap by Max Verstappen, who had driven through the field from 16th on the grid. The last gasp move was a stunner, but the FIA Stewards ruled that Max should be given a five second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. That was harsh because Max deserved his podium. Raikkonen and Bottas, who finished third and fifth in the end were both not really very impressive, but further back there were good performances from Esteban Ocon and Renault’s new recruit Carlos Sainz, who finished sixth and seventh, while Sergio Perez was eighth, ahead of Felipe Massa and Danii Kvyat

– We look the Haas F1 team

– We follow Brendan Hartley’s big weekend

– We look back at the United States Grand Prix of 1966

– JS explains why he loves Austin

– DT remembers Denny the Bear, 50 years after his World Championship victory

– The Hack writes about F1 vegans he has known.

– Peter Nygaard and his team capture the many moods of COTA

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine. It comes out before some of the F1 teams have even managed to get a press release out. It is an e-magazine that you can download and keep on your own devices and it works on computers, tablets and even smartphones. And it’s a magazine written by real F1 journalists not virtual wannabes… Our team has attended more than 2,000 Grands Prix between them. We’ve been around the block a few times and we know the history of the sport and we love to share it all with out readers at a price that is a real bargain. We believe that by attracting more people at a sensible price we can achieve so much more than all those who exploit the fans. In 2017 you’ll get 22 fabulous issues for £32.99, plus the 2016 season review completely free of charge.

For more information, go to www.grandprixplus.com.

Max Verstappen is the key figure in the future of Formula 1. The next megastar. The man who everyone hopes will bring a new generation of fans to the sport. Already, at the age of just 20, he has an army of tens of thousands of fans, who travel around Europe to watch him in action. There is orange is every grandstand and the numbers of Verstappen in places like Austria, Belgium, Italy and Britain are impressive. These are fans of all ages, few of them being his own generation, but Formula 1 hopes that Max’s precocious success will lead to younger fans. The problem is that the Verstappen generation is, according to sociologists, rather different from the generations that have gone before, which makes them more difficult to attract to a sport like Formula 1. They do want heroes, as can be seen from the cult of celebrity that exists today. They want to know about people living interesting lives, but they are not a very sociable bunch. They do not remember a time when there was no internet and so their lifestyles and social interactions are radically different to previous generations. Their social life is their phone and they are supposed to be more comfortable online than out partying. They appear to like phones more than they like people. Statistics show that meeting up with friends on a daily basis is down more than 40 percent compared to 15 years ago and when they do get together, some cannot stop using social media. They sleep with their phones on their beds and researchers say that it is a lonely and dislocated generation, sleep-deprived and more prone to depression. The number of them who are dating is significantly down compared to the previous generation, fewer teens are having sex, the teen birth rate is at an all-time low, down a whopping 67 percent compared to 25 years ago. Kids no longer get driving licences because it offers them freedom, nowadays they do it to stop their parents nagging. All of this is troubling, but at the same time, it shows that opportunities exist to engage with them and get excited about Formula 1. The sport has been slow to adopt social media, but things are changing and Verstappen’s generation is interested in him. They may not sit through a Grand Prix, but they want to know how he is doing. Perhaps they will pick up on others of the same generation as a result, but one must understand just how ahead of his peers Max actually is. Verstappen is 20 and the next youngest winner in F1 at the moment is Valtteri Bottas, eight years his senior. The Vettels, Hamiltons and Alonsos are in their thirties. There is hope that the Vandoornes, Sainzs, Ocons, Wehrleins, Strolls, Leclercs and Norrises will add to the appeal of F1, but right now Max is the locomotive of his generation.

And while it is good to see his army driving around Europe, it is entirely logical that the Formula One group is keen to cash in on Max’s success and hold a race in the Netherlands. It would be a sellout, no question. The country has a population of only 17 million, but it seems as though most of them are Verstappen fans.

Ask a Dutchman about reviving the Grand Prix (which has not happened since 1985) and most will laugh and say it is impossible and yet for a decade Rotterdam hosted a major street demonstration event every summer in the Cool district (really), which attracted up to 500,000 spectators and many of the F1 teams took part. Rotterdam currently say that nothing is possible because of roadworks going on in the area for a couple of years. Amsterdam’s bureaucrats say that racing should take place on race track, not on roads.  Amsterdam attracts around six million international visitors a year and ranks seventh of the European cities, behind London, Paris, Rome, Prague, Milan and Barcelona. It is ahead of Vienna and Venice. Rotterdam is a long way behind in terms of numbers but has now overtaken The Hague as a tourist destination. In other words, Rotterdam would benefit more from a race

The Netherlands has a reputation for being  eco-conscious, a paradise of windmills, cycling and recycling, and this certianly caused some problems for Zandvoort, the country’s primary racing circuit, back in the 1980s. It is true that there are hopes that by 2018 the country’s trains will be powered by wind-generated electricity and the nation is the only one in Europe where there are more bicycles than people. But, at the same time, Dutch carbon emissions per capita are amongst the highest in Europe, almost double the figure of the French and 50 percent more than Britain. And the share of energy coming from renewable sources is below the figures in Germany and Denmark. So it is not that green a place.

Zandvoort could be rebuilt if money but could be found, but that would be a major project and access would remain a problem, unless spectators arrived only by train, which is quite possible and happens in other places, such a Melbourne, Montreal, Singapore and Monaco. There is another circuit at Assen, famous for motorcycles, but it is a bit out in the wilds and would require modification. Building a circuit might be possible, but the Netherlands is not a big country. It’s a maximum of 194 miles long and 164 miles wide, so empty land is in short supply. However, there are areas which have been reclaimed from the sea where big new facilities could be built, if someone wanted to fund them. There is an opportunity here, let’s see if anyone will grab it.