I am back home now (just for a change) and I’ve been catching up on the latest news that has been generated in the name of Formula 1. The biggest story by far, indeed I would say that it should be front page on every newspaper in the world, is “Christian Horner expecting child”. It is odd that when I saw Christian in Suzuka there was no sign of a bump at all… If men can now have children, there is definitely a bit of medical history going on in F1 and the sport should jump on this and use it to promote higher attendances in countries where miracles are still believed. The other big stories attracting a lot of readers were about an Ecclestone breast-feeding (thankfully Bernie was not involved) and someone called Barbara Palvin, a Hungarian lass who seems to be well-suited to life as a bra model, who had been hanging out with Lewis Hamilton but is now partying further afield. There were the usual post-race “he-said-she-said” stuff, rehashed from press releases and a lot of tosh from the bottom-feeders about an FIA Steward allegedly inciting a Mercedes protest against Max Verstappen’s driving in Suzuka.

If one knows the procedures (which you can read in the regulations) you know that this story is complete hogwash. All investigations are announced by the FIA, none was. Thus stories of one steward being outvoted by the others lie somewhere between supposition and utter fantasy. I did look into the whole thing and it appears that the steward (Garry Connelly) met Paddy Lowe of Mercedes in the Paddock a couple of hours after the race was finished. Lowe seems to have expressed some frustration that Verstappen had not been penalised. Verstappen was spoken to by the stewards after the race, but in an unofficial manner. He then departed the track. Connelly seems to have told Lowe that if a team does not agree with a steward’s decision they have a right to protest (as long as the protest is made within a hour of the decision). The Provisional Race Result is deemed to be a stewards’ decision and it was decided by Mercedes Persons Unknown to embark on this process. When this was announced in the Media Centre there was a sense of disbelief because it was obvious that no hearing could take place because both of the drivers had already left. The hearing was announced for Austin, but then Mercedes withdrew the protest.

So what had happened? Inevitably, journalists began asking questions and a German publication, known for its close links with Mercedes top management, later ran the story about Connelly. Having looked into it, my conclusion is that this a case of a Chinese whisper passing from English to German and coming out rather differently than the discussion that actually took place. Telling someone that they have a right to protest is not at all the same as telling them to protest, but clearly this subtle distinction was, as they say in Japan, lost in translation.

Blaming the media is as popular in F1 circles as chasing foxes with horses and hounds used to be with the English landed classes in the 1920s, and just as daft. OK, I will not defend some of my colleagues on all occasions, because they can be well out of order and some of the scribblers have very active fantasy lives, but the majority of hard card holding F1 journalists are decent people who do a decent job. It is only when the ripples on the pond of modern media get away from the source that things get distorted. There was some discussion during the Suzuka weekend about whether or not Hamilton is having a bit of a meltdown with his behaviour with the media. This is a point worthy of consideration because it really was not wise to do what he did. One can sympathise a little as it must be hard to deal with some of the more extreme stuff that is written, but it is (unfortunately) a part of the game. If one has problems with individual journalists one can ask for explanations, but deciding to stop cooperating and playing with Snapchat during an FIA Press Conference and then walking out of a Mercedes one, were not the actions of someone who is being well-advised. “VIP’s feet not on ground” is not exactly an original storyline and hasn’t been since the days when Mary Poppins first took off under parasol power and had supercalifragilisticexpialidocious adventures. Lewis may well be having that much fun, but the basis of his fame and fortune is driving F1 cars and telling the world about his sponsors, and it is best to stick to what you know.

It is going to take some luck for Lewis to win the title now (and Lady Luck has been off canoodling elsewhere this year). Lewis can win all four races, but if Nico is there behind him in second place on all occasions, the mathematics are simple: 280 plus 100 = 380 ≠ 313 plus 72 = 385.

IMG_0051It’s Monday night here in Osaka and I am sitting on the Nankai Railway’s wonderful Rap:it Express which will shortly depart from Namba Station to Kansai Airport. Now, it’s not likely that you will meet Eminem, Ice Tea, Slick Rick or Snoop Dog on this purple Darth Vader on rails, but it is the coolest train you will ever meet, and amongst the most efficient as it rattles through the Osaka suburbs before turning right and crossing
a bridge that leads to the man-made island in the bay where the airport is located. Last night – and tonight – it will be like the F1 Paddock.

It being the second race in seven days, the gossip in the paddock in Suzuka and the lounge at Kansai was rather more intense than at Sepang a few days earlier, because F1 people had had time to sit around for a couple of days and dream up trouble.

img_2984Thus there was an awful lot of chat about Force India, Williams and Renault, which are the next teams in the F1 pecking order now that the big teams are done. The chit-chat in Suzuka was largely about Renault, which has now kicked into action, having been turned down by Sergio Perez (and James Allison come to that). Perez and his sponsors are staying at Force India on a one year deal, on th basis that ther might be an opportunity for Sergio at Maranello in 2018. If one ignores the question of why anyone would want to go to Ferrari in 2018, it is almost logical because Ferrari is Ferrari. You get to wear red overalls and, so they say, lot of girls throw themselves at you if you wear the uniform. I have never asked the Ferrari girls if it works in reverse as well, but I expect they will be in the airport too…

I could write a thousand words (at least) on the subject of Ferrari at the moment and why the other teams are all quietly giggling, following the departure of James Allison. This was about as stupid as sending the team off to Asia having absent-mindedly tagged the engines to go to Keflavik International Airport, on the basis that in the car industry they do things differently. What Mr Marchionne needs to understand, and will soon understand (if he survives long enough in the job) is that being a suit from the car industry is about the worst possible qualification you can have to make decisions about F1. Look at the history of F1 (hell, who looks at history these days?) and you will see some spectacular crash-and-burns when arrogant car people turned up in F1, knowing all the answers and left with their suits in tatters and their pockets emptied of play money. One thinks of a string of Ford execs in the Jaguar Racing era, of Renault fonctionnaires through the ages and of all the Toyota types who should have contented themselves with jobs selling Cedrics in Kyrgyzstan, rather than trying to be F1 team bosses. In the F1 world no-one even remembers the names of these transient mega-stars…

Anyway, that’s 210 words and I’ve not even scratched the surface of the problems at Maranello. There is a hint of the trouble ahead with team boss Maurizio Arrivabene telling the media that Sebastian Vettel needs to justify his place in the team at the end of next year. That’s a bit like telling a prima ballerina that her bottom is getting a bit too big. She’ll be off to the Bolshoi in a flash of theatrical powder. Perez, who some believe has never won a crossword competition, would be perfect for Ferrari in this circumstance, although he may have to one day be content with a career record not that different to Jean Alesi. Still, everyone loves Jean, and we ownder sometimes what he might have achieved if he had joined Williams in 1991, rather than following his Italian heart to Ferrari.

The word is that Renault (and let’s not go into what that word means because there are a string of claimants to the title of being team boss) has made generous offers to a couple of drivers, having failed to extract Carlos Sainz from his seat at Toro Rosso. Instead, it seems, Renault now wants Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg. Bottas would probably quite like a well-paid three-year deal with a manufacturer team, but Williams needs him alongside Lance Stroll, to give the team an outside chance of on-track success. But how good will Williams be? The team is not rich, but it should be doing better than Force India, which has a similar Mercedes deal, but less impressive facilities. One could dig into the different scenarios in the future of Williams and Force India, but with Renault you know you will have manufacturer support, even if that manufacturer is rather less than functional in F1 terms. One team member described the situation to me as being “a battle”, but I think I prefer the term “civil war” because I am not sure we know how many sides are involved at the moment.
The problem with offering Bottas and Hulkenberg big deals is that both men already have contracts for 2017, although in both cases, it might be better for the team if the pair went on their way as the subsequent vacancies could be filled with men with financial support. In the case of The Hulk, the team does not want to get in his way, while in the case of Bottas, Williams does need him. It might take a Felipe Nasr instead but we’re still not sure about a lot of drivers in the midfield. At Force India the financial problem has been eased by the confirmation of Perez, but money Is always useful (particularly if you have team owners who owe billions). It is fairly clear that Vijay Mallya and the other bloke who has spent a lot more time in jail than he has in a Formula 1 paddock are going to have to sell the team. If F1 was not in a state of political flux, that would probably have happened by now. The problem is that no-one has yet told Mallya not to be silly and that his team is worth $1, rather than the $300 million he think he should be able to get. The team is an amazing operation and works wonders with very little money, but that cannot go on forever. Mallya is betting that there will be a cost cap before the team ceases to be competitive. Maybe he is right. The best bet for the team would probably be Kevin Magnussen because he is quick and he seems to have access to some substantial sponsorship from the Jack & Jones brand, a clothing company from Denmark. A lot of people think that Mercedes will place Psacal Wehrlein there, but it is clear that Mercedes wants to be paid for its engines, rather than taking a loss in order to slot in a driver. On name that will not be seen is that of Alex Rossi, who has now signed a three-year deal to be an IndyCar driver with Andretti Autosport. That’s a logical thing to do given that he is now an Indy 500 winner (which is not a bad career move when it comes to raising money). As I understand it, Alex will have a get-out clause to leave if an F1 deal comes along. Not very likely, you may say, but an American driver is a good idea and Honda, which likes Rossi a lot, might one day see the value of trying to parachute him into its second team – as and when that happens. I expect action soon on that front, but I doubt Rossi will be involved early on.

Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 11.06.46.pngThe Japanese Grand Prix was done at the first corner, to all intents and purposes. Nico Rosberg made a decent start from his pole position and held off a challenge from the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. Lewis Hamilton stumbled off the line and dropped down to eighth. Oh boy. Lewis seemed a little distracted and spent much of the weekend getting himself in the newspapers – for not wanting to be in the media. This seemed like a strange waste of time and energy, as racing drivers (and their employers) do not generally try to avoid the spotlight.

The race itself was the story of faster cars trying to get ahead of slower cars and it was not a great race. There was a lot of whingeing going on in various cockpits and there was not a huge amount of passing. The closing laps did see Hamilton closing in on second-placed Verstappen, having fought his back up to the front, but he still couldn’t quite get the job done. When he tried a pass, the uncompromising Max blocked him, which is to be expected. As usual, Ferrari did not have the pace to do much and various penalties meant that the red cars started too far back to mount a serious challenge. Fourth and fifth was the result. Daniel Ricciardo, the Force Indias and the two Williamses all looked rather tepid and the McLarens were out of the points. Nico now leads the World Championship by 33 points with four races left and the important is that if Lewis wins them all, he will collect 100 points, but Nico can finish second in all of them and collect 72 points. So, Rosberg can now cruise to the title. It’s doubtful he will do that, but he is going to take some beating, if the cars remain reliable…

Also in GP+ this week…

– We look at Lance Stroll, the man heading for Williams, although no-one will confirm it…
– We ask whether the 2017 F1 calendar is sensible and conclude that it’s not!
– We look at the progress being made with Honda’s F1 engines
– DT and JS mull over how the sport should deal with the media
– The Hack remembers sabotage attempts in F1
– Plus the usual fabulous photography from Peter Nygaard

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine. It comes out before some of the 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 have attended more than 2,000 Grands Prix between us.

GP+ is an amazing bargain – and it is designed to be, so that fans will sign up and share the passion that we have for the sport. We don’t want to exploit you, we want you to join the fun. You get 23 issues for £32.99, covering the entire 2016 Formula 1 season.

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

This is what Martin Brundle thinks of what we do…

MB's GP+ tweet.png

Some people give me a hard time about banging on about the way in which journalism in F1 (and in general) is disappearing beneath the throngs of amateurs, who pretend that they are in the F1 paddock, undermining the professionals in the business. The latest development in this disastrous trend is the news that Haymarket Media Group has agreed to sell its motorsport brands to the Motorsport Network. This includes my alma mater Autosport, in addition to Autosport.com, F1 Racing (the UK edition plus 14 international licensed editions), Motorsport News, the motorsport photographic agency LAT and the Autosport International Show and the Autosport Awards. It is not clear how much was paid for the acquisition, but the Motorsport Network has tried to buy lots of things in recent years, but never seems keen to spend much money.

The Miami-based company, which owns Motorsport.com, is trying to consolidate as many motorsport readers as possible and then sell advertising on the basis that it has x million people wanting to look at online ads. The margins in this game are tight and funding all these operations means that the number of journalists involved will inevitably reduce, in order to save money and be more cost-effective.

Motor racing has been part of the Haymarket empire since slightly before the dawn of time, when Michael Heseltine bought Autosport, back in 1967 when it was owned by the British Printing Corporation. This had acquired the title in lieu of unpaid print bills. The magazine was housed in “a seedy room over a dirty bookshop in Paddington” until one day a man with a mane of blond hair walked in and started noting down the number of chairs and typewriters. It was Michael Heseltine and he had just acquired the title. In its heyday, Autosport was a solid earner, producing £1 million a year in profits. It was the place where many of the best-known motorsport writers began their careers, learning the trade from old hands and working hard but getting experience thanks to Haymarket paying the travel bills. In later years, Haymarket increased its motor racing portfolio, but a drift towards sensationalism in Autosport, in a misguided effort to attract new readers, led to the erosion of the old hardcore fans. The switch to online activities have clearly not arrested that decline because if they had, Haymarket would not now be offloading the magazines. Probably, a lot of the staff will be “rationalised”. It remains to be seen how many of the titles will survive, but if motorsport.com can sell advertising across all the brands then the major names will survive.

The competition authorities need not be involved because GrandPrix+ still exists and intends to continue to record the history of motorsport without resorting to sensationalism…

IMG_0051Good grief. It’s Thursday evening and I have been writing virtually non-stop since the chequered flag fell on the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. I have also flown the 3000 miles between KL and Japan, but that is a mere skip and a jump to the people in F1. The other day, I discovered a thing on the Emirates website that allowed me to download my entire history with the airline and was amazed to see that in 10 years I have completed 915,000 miles of flying with Emirates, and I have never paid for more than Economy (which means that one gets much lower mileage than the folk who fly Business and have their tickets paid for by their companies). So what? Well, it is true that I am not aiming to be a George Clooney-esque member of the 10 million mile club, but it still means that I’ve been racking up the miles at just under 100,000 a year, although these days they don’t count the real distances involved…

Anyway, since arriving in Japan we have been on the fabulous Namba Express from Kansai to Namba and then on the Kintetsu Line to Shiroko, on a Limited Express. This is a curious concept in Japan which can be very confusing. For us, an Express which is limited goes slower than an Express, no? Well, not in Japan. A Limited Express is faster because it stops at a limited number of stations…

Anyway, here I am in the Comfort Inn, which sounds like it should be a brothel. In Korea, it would be, but here in Japan, it’s a small business hotel, which lacks any discernible character, but where everyone is incredibly polite. There used to be a life-sized cardboard cut-out Western person to encourage you to eat weird stuff for breakfast, but I see that he has disappeared this year. That’s a shame because it’s always nice to see someone you know – even a cardboard person!

I have slept a few hours, here and there, but never for very long and I have eaten two meals a day, although the chances of me fading away with malnutrition are, at worst, minimal. My diet has been sashimi and white wine, with the occasional bit of “beef streaky”, which is something that comes from a cow but disguises itself as bacon. This is because “the flesh of swine” is frowned upon in Muslim cultures. So forget pork chops…

For most of the time, however, I have sat in front of a computer in a hotel room, where my air-conditioning protected me from the sweaty world outside. Don’t let anyone tell you that life as a Formula 1 journalist is all private jets, pink champagne, pork scratchings, and nymphomaniac flight attendants. How depressing is that?

The problem, of course, is that in order to fly around the world a great deal, an F1 hack needs to produce words as a combine harvester produces grain, and one needs also to find people willing to buy (and actually pay for) these streams of prose.

We are constantly reminded by bank managers and credit card companies that F1 is fueled by money and we get ripped off pretty much everywhere we go as prices are hiked when the circus comes to town. It is a joy to have normal hotel prices from time to time if I go on holiday… We have just been sent a quote for our regular Canadian hotel for 2017, a place which was chic when Roger Moore was James Bond, and we will not be staying there again…

There are times when I feel that with Liberty Media talking about increasing the F1 calendar to 22 races in 2018 and 23 in 2019, it might be a good idea for F1 journalists to learn how to drive combine harvesters because we may all need to in the future. People will always need grain, but words about F1 spout from the ground everywhere and very little of it is derived from the inner sanctum of Formula 1. The real reporters of Formula 1 do our best, but there are only 26 hours in every day. At least, that is how it feels.

The weekend in Malaysia was hot and sweaty and, the inner sanctum of F1 quickly developed inner inner sanctums where the F1 people hid from the heat. In consequence things were pretty quiet in the Paddock. Ironically, indeed I would go as far as to say bizarrely, the coolest place in Sepang was where usually the air is hottest – the F1 Media Centre. There were, of course, the usual individuals spouting hot air, predicting the future of F1 and offering written advice to Chase Carey.

Let me tell you, the day that millionaire businessmen give up paying consultants, who haven’t got a clue about F1, and start listening the journalists who give their knowledge away for free, will be quite an event. I expect that we will be treated to delirious scenes with ISIS fighters and US Special Forces dancing jigs around the ruins of Mosul, holding hands and singing “Knees up Mother Brown”. Baseball fans in Boston and New York will wear one red sock and one white sock; Donald and Hillary will be found snogging in the broom cupboard and the Greeks and the Turks will agree that today is Thursday.

Hell, Darth Vader will be attending parish garden parties and handing out chocolate cornflake cakes which he himself made, between intergalactic conflicts.

The truth is that no-one knows where F1 is going right now – but we hope it isn’t North Korea.

The driver market has been stalled for weeks because Sergio Perez and Force India were trying to decide what to do next year. That is now sorted and Sergio will stay for one more year. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the Mexican wants to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, although there are more than a few people in the F1 Paddock – including (perhaps) a couple of red-suited drivers – who are wondering why anyone would want to go to Maranello. The team seems like a ship that has lost its navigator (James Allison) and a lot of folk are expecting to see other Ferrari engineers start departing soon.

One of the things that backs up the theory that all is not rosy in the garden is that the team’s PR efforts make the Invisible Man look positively “front of house”. If you are not a TV person or don’t work for the newspapers that still exist in Italy, you are of no use to them. Still, what can you do? As I always say when a Ferrari F1 car blows up: “That’s it. I’m never buying a Ferrari now.”

There are a lot of folk in F1 who see Sebastian Vettel’s recent string of accidents and incidents as being a sign of desperation, as he begins to realize that going to Maranello might not have been the smartest thing he ever did, although I am sure his bank manager would possibly not agree. Vettel went to Ferrari to win, just as others have done before him, and perhaps now he understands why Fernando Alonso seemed miserable all the time, until he joined McLaren. Fernando is a bundle of laughs these days in comparison to his time spent “in the red”, and this is despite the fact that the wranglers at Honda seem to have lost a lot of their horses out on the range (where the deer and the buffalo roam) and have spent the last couple of seasons corralling them into the V6. Fernando hopes that the Honda cavalry will be ready to charge in 2017.

As for Vettel, I think he was fortunate not to get an even bigger penalty after smashing into Nico Rosberg at the first corner in KL. If Seb had been taken out by such a move by another driver, I can only imagine the griping and bitching that would have gone on afterwards. He seems to have become a bit of a whinger these days. Nico was philosophical on the subject: “I got T-boned by a four-time World Champion, out of control” he said succinctly.

Raikkonen is currently ahead of Vettel in the World Championship, which seemed to be unthinkable a few months ago, and one wonders whether Sebastian, now aged 29, is wondering why he did not stay at Red Bull and share champagne from Dan Ricciardo’s boots. The Australian would probably have been shovelled out of the door by now if Seb had stayed on, because Dr Helmut Marko would have surgically removed him when Max Verstappen arrived on the scene. Such are the swings of roundabouts of Milton Keynes in F1 these days. But a 1-2 finish in KL was a great result for them, although one should be careful not to get too carried away because this was entirely due to the fact that Nico had to catch up and Lewis was in the lead and his car expired. That was tough and Lewis was widely quoted as suggesting he was being sabotaged. I think that perhaps these remarks have been blown out of proportion somewhat. It is true that Lewis did ask questions about why it is always his Mercedes that goes wrong: “Someone has to give me some answers,” he said. “It’s just odd. There’s been like 43 engines from Mercedes and only mine have gone wrong. Something or someone doesn’t want me to win this year.”

I feel for Lewis and I understand his frustrations. And it is true that he has had a string of failures which other Mercedes engine users have not. Some think that there is a man with a big white moustache, who wants to see a German (albeit a Germano-Finn who has lived most of his life in Monaco) win the World Championship, and so sits in a bunker somewhere beneath Stuttgart and every so often presses a red button that somehow causes Lewis’s V6s to fry themselves, at which point Dr Moustache sniggers like Muttley in the Wacky Races and then wanders off to try to sell more A-Classes to men on bicycles in Sum Ting Wong in China and fellows with gun racks and Vote Trump stickers in Naked City, Indiana.

I am afraid that I don’t buy that one and I am absolutely sure that no-one at Brackley or Brixworth would do anything to stop Lewis. And that means that it can only be down to bad luck, or Fate, or whatever you want to call it. Lewis is a spiritual man and, perhaps, will one day see this as a test and conclude that he is currently undergoing 40 days in the wilderness. I tend to believe that, somehow, still he will rise, for he is a racing driver who has earned his fame in the pantheon of stars. Winning World Championships with one team is an achievement, winning them with two teams is something for legends.

Finally, to finish off with KL, there is the story of the Australian budgie-smugglers. A group of young men from Australia attended the Grand Prix and after Dan Dicciardo’s victory they stripped off their clothing to reveal that they were all wearing “budgie-smuggler” briefs (the kind of beachwear that Flavio Briatore might – unfortunately – sport in Saint-Tropez). These were made from material printed with the Malaysian flag. All good harmless fun, you might think, but no. Not a great idea. They were all arrested for bringing the budgie into disrepute, or some such law. So much for liberty in F1…

Now, while I won’t defend them on the grounds that one should try to respect different cultures, I do think all of this is a little harsh. Several nights in jail because they had some harmless fun does not seem awfully sensible. I don’t suppose that the women of Malaysia, who were hardly flocking to the track on Sunday, saw anything that they have never seen before, juging by the number of squalling children I have encountered in recent days, they seem to have a pretty good idea of what is going on under the dishdashes. Added to that, if you are an Australian who wants to go on holiday and have a good time (Australian style) are you really going to consider Malaysia, where you can’t get pork chops and you get thrown in jail if you wear budgie-smugglers and drink from a boot? A bit of a disaster on the old public relations front, I would have thought and a black eye for the tourist industry in KL.

Still, they did get a lot of media coverage of the Prime Minister attending the event. He is a man much in the news these days, in case you have not noticed. There has been a lot of articles written all over the world about a civil lawsuit announced in July by the US Department of Justice, relating to a international conspiracy to launder $3.5 billion misappropriated from the Malaysian state investment fund, known as 1MDB. The lawsuit claims that this included the funding of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, which ironically is about large-scale financial corruption. The lawsuit lists a “Malaysian Official 1” as having received, via various front and offshore companies and intermediaries, $681 million into a personal bank account. This was part of a $3 billion bond issues raised by Goldman Sachs for 1MDB, with the money supposed to be invested for the greater good of Malaysia. Najib says he is the victim of a political smear campaign and has been cleared of wrongdoing by his own attorney general. No sniggering in the back row, please.

Why am I writing about this when I am supposed to be an F1 reporter? Well, because an Abu Dhabi businessman called Khadem Al Qubaisi (you don’t need to know how to pronounce it, because he won’t be seen in F1 circles again) has been arrested during the investigations in six countries into the 1MDB scandal. These have revealed that a Virgin Island company called Aabar BVI, which is not related to the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund of the same name, but which received money from Aabar and from 1MDB, somehow ended up depositing the missing $681 million into bank accounts allegedly owned by Najib in an account at Falcon Private Bank in Singapore. If that name sounds familiar, think of it as a Scuderia Toro Rosso sponsor. This – and most of the other Toro Rosso sponsors in recent years – were all controlled by Al Qubaisi, who had $470 million from 1MDB which he handed over to the Edmond Rothschild private bank in Luxembourg to manage. This money funded the acquisiton of 25 percent of Scuderia Toro Rosso, which was then funded by CEPSA, Nova Chemicals and Falcon Bank, which were all companies under the control of the unpronounceable gentleman, who enjoyed himself attending F1 races. I don’t suppose that he ate porky scratchings and wore budgie-smugglers, but this does not seem to be entirely in line with doing business under sharia rules.

All of this is great for F1, of course, but thank god the PM wasn’t wearing budge-smugglers. He might have got into real trouble…

Onward we go. It must be time for sashimi, again.

Screen Shot 2016-10-02 at 13.20.43.pngThe Malaysian Grand Prix was one of those races that could be dissected in different ways, with controversy and conspiracy theories about what happened and what might have happened. Lewis looked set for a win, but Max Verstappen – on a different strategy – was going to run him close. Could the Dutchman have won? The strategy helped him in the early part of the race, but then circumstances made it a hindrance. Max was stuck behind his team-mate, when he needed to be ahead. Then Lewis Hamilton’s V6 blew up and Red Bull had to decide whether to stop one or both of its drivers. Ricciardo was ahead. So it was Verstappen who suffered, although not by much… And then it looked like there would be a straight fight to the finish, but the action seemed to lack urgency and there were suspicions about radio messages about drivers being sure to drink… Some said they were fighting, others thought they were cruising. The team said there were no instructions, but then Red Bull has a bit of a history of this sort of thing. You couldn’t prove it either way.

Down at Mercedes, Hamilton was asking why it is always his engines that fail when no-one else has the same problems. It was a good question. Was it Fate or was it something more earthly… More controversy.

There was a daft first corner accident caused (again) by Sebastian Vettel. Then Nico Rosberg was given a 10-second time penalty for bumping into Kimi Raikkonen while overtaking him. There was plenty to yack about… and the paddock was yacking.

Also in GP+ this week…

– We look at some secret numbers from the world of F1 finance
– We ask whether Bernie is right to say that Alain Prost was the best F1 driver ever
– We tell stories from the Grand Prix circuit at Dieppe
– DT mulls over his 500th Grand Prix – and calls a spade a spade
– The Hack wonders about Alonso’s choices – and MotoGP races
– JS thinks that F1 can learn some logic from crash test dummies
– Plus the usual fabulous photography from Peter Nygaard

GP+ is the fastest F1 magazine. It comes out before some of the 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 have attended more than 2,000 Grands Prix between us.

GP+ is an amazing bargain – and it is designed to be, so that fans will sign up and share the passion that we have for the sport. We don’t want to exploit you, we want you to join the fun. You get 23 issues for £32.99, covering the entire 2016 Formula 1 season.

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

The 2017 calendar revealed

The FIA World Council meets today and there are whispers before the official announcement of the 2017 calendar. It looks like there will again be 21 races, although I hear that Brazil may be listed as a provisional race because of ongoing financial troubles in Sao Paulo.

The word is that there will be a late start in Australia, to give the team’s maximum time to prepare the new cars. The race is slated for March 26 in Melbourne and will be followed a fortnight later by China (April 9). This will be followed by Bahrain on April 16 – Easter Day. This is a sensible back-to-back. There will be a two-week break before Russia (April 30) and then the European season will begin on May 14 in Spain, followed by Monaco on its traditional last weekend in May. There will be the same Canada-Azerbaijan back-to-back on June 11 and 18 and then the super-tough (and expensive) Austria-Britain will follow on July 2 and 9. Hungary will be on July 23 and Germany (at Hockenheim by all accounts) will take place on July 30. The usual summer break will follow.

Belgium and Italy will be back-to-back on August 27-September 3 and then there will be a two-week break before Malaysia on September 17. There will then be the same daft two week break (presumably forced upon the date-makers) before Singapore on October 1. Japan will follow a week later on October 8, with the U.S. GP on October 22 and then a Mexico-Brazil back-to-back on November 5-12. The season will finish off in Abu Dhabi on November 26.

It’s certainly not perfect, being very little different to the current calendar, but we can hope for changes in 2018 when perhaps we will see some new thinking.