Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
French Grand Prix
Scenes around Melbourne the day after the race
Scenes around Melbourne the day after the race
Posted By:   |  30 Mar 2009   |  1:34 pm GMT  |  55 comments

I’m sitting in Melbourne airport in the departure lounge waiting for a 1am flight to Kuala Lumpur. I’m not alone, there are plenty of F1 people milling around, rather bleary eyed waiting for the plane. Ferrari are on the flight, along with some French and English journalists, a few photograpers and others. It’s an eight hour flight and it will be tiring, but it’s not a bad flight to catch as it gets in to KL at 6-30am, so you don’t lose a whole day travelling.

I was rather surprised at the check-in to see Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali with both of his drivers, travelling as a team. I was quite impressed actually, I’ve not seen that before. I don’t know whether it’s just circumstance or whether there is some kind of edict that they should be together. Ferrari as a team has always been good at sticking together to travel, not for them the private jets for the senior management, there are no obvious signs of hierarchy. But the drivers are not normally a part of it.

Felipe Massa, his wife and his manager were together, while Kimi Raikkonen had one of his Finnish mates with him, the pair with their distressed baseball caps worn at an angle, making cracks in their own private language about people they saw, laughing like teenagers.

It was a shocking weekend for Ferrari, with reliability once again the problem. They also have to catch up to Brawn or hope that the appeal against the diffuser succeeds. I’m hearing that they have two parallel development programmes going, one with a copy of the new ‘double decker’ diffuser and with a new gearbox, the other a development of the car they have. McLaren are also flat out building new parts and they will be flying out packing cases full of kit to Malaysia this weekend. Both teams are chucking money at solving the performance crisis.

I’ve also heard of teams who were about to lay off staff from the aerodynamic department, who have delayed the move so that they can accelerate the development of their own ‘double decker’. It rather makes a mockery of the whole cost-cutting mantra we were hearing over the winter! Brawn has got the big teams on the run.

I bumped into Jenson Button twice today, at lunch and dinner. The Melbourne race winner was in a very relaxed mood, hanging around near the beach, just savouring the moment and looking forward to the next. He enjoyed a long lunch with his new girlfriend Jessica.

He was saying that his main emotion before the race was excitement, rather than nerves. He struggled to control the excitement, but now that he has the win under his belt he knows he can start to build momentum. He has to capitalise while the big teams are down.

He feels that the Red Bull is the biggest threat at the moment and certainly until Vettel crashed into Kubica, he had kept Jenson honest. Jenson added that the tyres were quite tricky on Sunday, especially towards the end as the temperatures dropped, but the Red Bull seemed able to stay in touch. I wonder if it will be able to on Sunday.

It is such a graphic illustration of the fact that in F1 you really are only as good as your car. Jenson was not a tosser last year, although he struggled with motivation at times and was outperformed by Rubens Barrichello.

He has the car to get the job done and the team has developments in the pipeline for Barcelona. He should have his nose well in front by then.

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Thank James! I just love the blog, more of the stuff we don’t (or can’t) see or hear i.e. what you see at the airport, on the aircraft, behind the scenes at the race, lunches and dinners etc. It’s so interesting to hear from you how the F1 folks “hang-out” in real life. Like The body language between Alonso and Hamilton after the Press Conference in Oz, Ferrari at the airport check-in, mood of the Ferrari drivers versus Rubens on the flight to KL, who is staying at what hotel, more of this please……love it.

Keep up the great work on the blog!


James, I’m just loving your insider descriptions of the scene. Just brilliant and more power to your elbow and wifi connections. 10 out of 10!


Hey James Allen!!! We missed you on Sunday! We sat here in South Africa……………..and said it is not the same without you. Thanks for the blog though.



Distressed baseball caps! Love your commentary, James, but that description smacks of the grammar nazis who don’t like text message shorthand. If Kimi wants to be a homey, your distress is probably why he and his mate are giggling in Finnish.


Miss the commentary of you and martin,but at least also can read your blog and itv-f1 column

Hope can see you again in Shanghai next month (if you remember last year thursday in paddock 🙂


James, given your privey to ‘inside info’ – care to stick your neck out with a predicted team pace heirarchy when they get to Malaysia on Sunday?

go on..!

Ill get you started..

Brawn GP


Jenson added that the tyres were quite tricky on Sunday, especially towards the end as the temperatures dropped,

And that is NOT going to a feature in most races. Most races are going to be mid-day, local time (ish), so the temperature is going to be “in the window”. That is going to help everyone, but especially Brawn GP.

Jenson drove really well to be #2 when Dave Richards was in charge. Then Honda dropped the ball and replaced DR because of Buttongate. Since then Honda went downhill. Everyone seems to forget than Jenson was, has been and is a great driver. Now all of a sudden they say he is great.

Jeez. Short term or what?

The guy can drive. When you hear former or current drivers talk about his style, it is that he is fluid, smooth, calm, turns in once, turns out once, is on the power etc.

I’m not a pro athlete. I’ve always been good at the sports I do. The single thing that unites all sports that I do, or that I watch, is that the best people are beutiful to watch (and I don’t mean beautiful as I’d I’d give her one), they are elegant, smooth, streamlined, no jerky movements (with a few exceptions for a very, very few excepional atheletes), and no splash (for swimmers, because splash indications wasted energy).

The number of times I get into a pool and see strong people going slowly, well i can’t count it, because its all the time, But then you get folks like myself, not obviously strong, visibly putting less effort in, going faster. Its technique, pure and simple. Doesn’t matter what the sport, pretty much, its true.

If it looks good (where good is smooth, elegant, graceful) then it generally is better, even when you ramp up the power output.

Jenson is in that tradition, as was Schumacher (although more angular), Alonso, Hamilton and Raikonnen and Rubens. The difference is Jenson has never had the car to shown it (except for when DR ran Honda).

Changing topic: Loyalty.
Jenson has shown steller loyalty, more than any other driver I can think of.

Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, last year said he’d happily race for McClaren for life. But recent repots say he said he’d consider talking to other teams. What a cheap, shallow chav! Absolutely stunning. How can you go from one to the other in 5 months? – not the time since the remark, but the time since they gave him the title. That is unforgiveable.

BTW. I’m not a Hamilton detractor – passionately wanted him to dethrone Alonso (not because he is Asturian, I love Asturias, I play gaita, but because I didn’t like Alonso’s attitude).


Why is Vettel being penalized? This is what makes F1 stupid.


I hated the commentary during that last race from legard and was quite pleased to notice a petition online to get JA back in the box. I specifically came online to google to see if there was a petition available.



More great insights into the shrouded world of F1….thanks James…oh and by the way, the guy who took your job alongside Martin Brundle….he’s rather dull – the Beeb should have hired you….


Agree with all the above comments on Trulli/Hamilton. McL are just dishonest. Final proof ?

PS From your earlier blogs: do we know what Williams’ protest against Ferrari was about ?


James interested in the performance of the soft tyres.Ferrari showed that after 5 laps they were absolutely useless. In the case of brawn waited till 7 laps from the end to change on to them rubin’s car ,are these standard from now on or will bridgestone bring out a different tyre for sepang.With the temps there being far greater than aussie teams will be lucky to get 2 flying laps out of them they were never this bad in past seasons.As for the diffuser fiasco amazing there told to cut cost, fire staff save save save but spend millions on making new parts after the first race. Makes a mockery of Max’s 30mil teams what would they do in this situation trolley around for the season keeping out of everyone’s way cause they can’t break there cap.Also has Mr Branson any idea how much these guy’s spend on updates if mclaren & ferrari claw back their loses in the next two races and brawn’s mid pac how keen will he be to shell out 10mil so the car can go 200’s a sec quicker a lap. He didn’t become one of the riches men in world by throwing his money away this could end in tears.


Hello fellow James Allen Blog reading buddies!

Somebody commented on the piece earlier asking:

“Do we really want James at the BBC? Would they let him keep this blog etc…”

Here’s what I would like:

James back in the saddle next to Brundle

Part of this blog to continue

The other half should be in F1 Racing magazine

I pay good subscription to that mag and James isn’t in it enough. I almost feel bad that I am getting to read such great F1 journalism for free in this fantastic blog.

Yes that’s right, I am willing to pay to read this blog James! Please tell me you have a permanent fixture in the pipeline for F1 Racing. Remember when Ricky Gervais started charging a small pound for his podcast? I would have NO problem doing the same for this blog and for the upcoming podcast you have mentioned you’ll be doing.

And again, please get into F1 Racing James. Don’t get me wrong I love the magazine, it is always well written and informative, its a great magazine. If you were in it, it would be greater!

People may vomit with all the praise I am giving, but I don’t give a s***. Your quick written and well composed blog is pumping out more genuinely good stories than all the other sites put together. Crikey you may even make F1 Racing obsolete at this rate!

F1 is my religion, amen.


Why has Hamilton not admitted that he slowed down and as a result Truli passed him?


James, thanks for the best stream of info on F1 today. Keep it up!


You always see the strangest people in airports and wonder what their stories are, and should you be worried if they are on the same plane as you.

Very strange that Ferrari are allowed all to travel on the same plane. Even in the SMB I worked for, no two directors or principle people were allowed to travel on the same plane in case of a fatal crash.


Once again things have deteriorated due the the Steward’s interpretation of the rules.

Lewis accidentally overtook Trulli when Trulli went walkabout, then McLaren told Lewis to let him back past in case Lewis was said to have overtook under the safety car. This caution on the part of McLaren, Lewis pulling over and slowing, caused Trulli to re-take Lewis resuming his position (keeping Lewis safe) only for it to be interpreted by the stewards as Trulli overtaking under the safety car! Followed by penalty!

Some heads need knocking together again in the steward’s den.

Yes BTW I am a Lewis fan and he drove brilliantly to take fourth from near the back of the grid. Trulli however did not deserve to be penalised, his only other option would have been to pull up and stop behind Lewis.


James, there are many of us (myself included) who thought you were a little “loud” in your early years and to be honest, were not that sad to see you go.

I take it all back now though. Not only did I miss you but Jonathan Legard is no good.

You and Martin are the best partnership and you are one of us really: just a massive fan of F1!


James. You’re excellent at this job, why did you not go to the BBC?? why why why?? Please tell us.


I was pleased with the pace of the Williams in the practice and quali sessions. Just a shame they fell off the pace during the race..

Great blog by the way !


James, did you take any picture from your travels at the airport? would be intresting to see F1 teams on the move at airports etc. Not something we often see.

All so great website, one of the best places i found to be kept upto date on F1 news in detail.


Jenson has always gone slower than his team-mate in slower cars. I don’t think it’s motivation – it’s just his style requiring a balanced setup.

All that was missing at the chequered flag was a James Allen style “AND JENSON BUTTON… WINS… IN AUSTRALIA!!!”


Just wanted to say how great your blog is. It is incredibly insightful and it really does make the whole F1 experience a lot more enjoyable and accessible. Please continue to keep up the good work, it really is fantastic.

You thoroughly deserved your Autosport award…Why the BBC did not hire you I shall never know.

Thanks again James.


James and all readers of this blog, I thought I’d make you aware of this. It’ll make you smile!

Bring Back JA petition


James, did you see Trulli re-passing Hamilton under the safety car? There’s a transcript of an interview out there where Lewis says the team told him to yield. Trulli said Hamilton had slowed and moved over to one side – if this is the case, the penalty is really unfair and the comments that Martin Whitmarsh made after the race even more so!

Trulli did absolutely everything to deserve third place, so I’d be interested in seeing whether or not the story is as is said. If it is, I would hope that Toyota’s appeal (the way they have gone about which being quite clever) is successful and the penalty overturned.

As for the Brawns, all I can say is wow! Jenson did absolutely everything perfectly this weekend (okay, he made some slight mistakes, which he admitted to) to deserve his victory and hopefully it will be the first of many this season. As a huge fan of Rubens, I was a little sad to see him making some uncharacteristic mistakes, but was glad to see him take second place in the end. Imagine the battle between the two Brawn cars had both drivers got away well! 😀

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