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2018 F1 season
Summer Break: James Allen responds to F1 fans’ burning questions – Part 1
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Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Aug 2017   |  8:53 am GMT  |  123 comments

Over this week James is answering fans’ burning questions on F1, while the sport takes a summer break.

We’ve had a big response already with lots of questions on the Mercedes vs Ferrari battle, the future of Fernando Alonso, the F1 calendar, young drivers, TV paywalls, F1 rules – the list goes on. Please keep them coming in.

Here is the first batch of answers.

Craig Taylor: “What’s really going on behind the boardroom doors at McLaren Honda? Will there be a customer Mercedes engine in the McLaren chassis next year and if there were to be, where would that leave Honda?”

I think that possibility has receded, Craig and now it’s either stick with Honda or move to Renault. As the Renault is the least performing of the rival engines, it’s a bit of a case of ‘better the devil you know’; also you are back to being a customer in the Renault scenario and with Christian Horner and Red Bull likely to get their elbows out ahead of you in the queue, it’s not a great platform for growth.

Staying with Honda is the only way to succeed, but it’s a question of how badly damaged the relationship is due to the way Honda deceived McLaren about the performance and reliability of its new engine before it ran in the car for the first time and how the two sides have moved forward from there.

Michael Schumacher 2000
Aelfwald: “When you look at the current grid it seems there’s a lot of top level drivers. Yet in Schumacher’s day he stood head and shoulders above the rest, with only maybe Hakkinen being on a similar level.

My question is are there really that many top level drivers today compared to the Schumacher era or has the bar been lowered and today’s drivers are actually more comparable to the Alesis, Montoyas and Villeneuves of the Schumacher era?

What a great question! You are right that Schumacher was head and shoulders the best, with Hakkinen able to sustain a challenge to him for a few years only 1998-2000, Prost and Mansell moving on early in his career and Senna passing away. The red sea parted a left him a path to greatness!

Alonso came along and gave him a hard time at the end of his career, but in between it was all Schumacher. Ferrari had also built a hell of a machine around him, with every single detail taken care of to give a competitive advantage. So it probably made him look a bit better than he was. But he was top class, clearly.

We now have a four time champion, a three time champion and a two time champion as well as some very exciting younger drivers.

My view is that Hamilton and Alonso in their prime are a match for Schumacher in his. None of them are perfect but they are all exceptional and, on the whole, consistently so. Vettel is also exceptional and works very hard, but has a slightly narrower operating window in the way he needs the cars and the rules to be, as 2014 and 2016 showed.

Verstappen has all the tools to be exceptional, but is still only 19 and needs to focus all his energies on developing into a champion. It is not a given that he will do that, but he certainly ought to. Ricciardo has the tools also, but needs a season or two in a winning car to build himself up into a real force. He’s not quite as quick as Verstappen but he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve and he takes the chances and the half chances that come his way.

Raikkonen had all the tools to be another Hakkinen and he managed one championship, but while still entertaining, he’s not the driver today that he was in his 20s. Montoya I would class in there, he didn’t make the most of the tools he had.

Kes: “Hello! Is it true that Vettel is hedging his bets and is willing to sign only one year contract for 2018 with Ferrari, with the red team pushing for a multi-year deal?

That is the word, but Vettel is also extremely canny and is waiting to see how things develop with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. The Brit has another year on his contract and it’s all about what happens at the end of 2018. Hamilton may decide to stop or he may decide to continue.

I suspect that if you gave Vettel the scenario where he wins the world championship for Ferrari and then can see out his career at Mercedes he would snatch your arm off. But engineering that isn’t going to be easy.

If he signs a new three year contract with Ferrari he’ll be 33 at the end of it and could then move across, but he’s also smart enough to see that there are others like Ricciardo, Verstappen, Ocon in the mix and likely to get stronger as they mature.

Rob: “With manufacturers leaving other series in droves to focus on Formula E, what will the field looks like in 2-4 years’ time? What will it take for Formula E to de-throne F1? What will happen to LMP and DTM as budget and interests wane?”

I wrote about this in the Weekend Debate post on Saturday, but your question also takes it further.

Formula E is attracting the manufacturers because it’s affordable and it answers a lot of the right questions for them about the electrification technology and the direction of the automotive industry.

The manufacturers for whom motorsport has always been a priority want to continue that philosophy of proving the technology and at the same time gaining a marketing angle from their success on the track. The question is whether Formula E is actually motorsport or whether it is something else and should be approached and marketed as such?

The budgets are low in comparison to F1, LMP1 and even DTM. It costs £25 million maximum to be a front runner, while F1 is £300m and more, LMP1 is £150m and DTM is about £80m, I believe. F1 is still head and shoulders above the rest in terms of audience reach and engagement.

Le Mans is bulletproof, but the LMP1 category will need to halve the budget to have a future, while DTM looks like yesterday’s series.

Formula E is likely to gain audience and reach thanks to the promotion that manufacturers like BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and Jaguar will give their participation in it, as F1 did in the 2000s, using the new tools of digital and social media to reach a segmented audience that they want to reach.

I’m sure McLaren would like to do it too, but the problem is that they won the contract to supply the batteries for Season Five and so they would have a bit of a conflict in the eyes of other competitors if they entered a team in 2018!

Fernando Alonso

ArmchairF1: “In the modern era, do frontrunning teams plan, (or have to plan) too long term to, although an outstanding talent that he is, give Alonso a one or two year swansong”?

That’s a good question! Does the sport centrally have a responsibility to ‘place’ its super star drivers for the good of the show? Alonso is a wonderful character for our sport and a top class driver, but he’s made a series of bad decisions which have put him where he is – I don’t necessarily mean decisions which team to drive for, but decisions while driving for teams that have made top teams wary of using him.

He is 36 now, but pretty exceptional and versatile so maybe could squeeze two or three more years out of his peak and as far as I can see he has only two options: to stay at McLaren and pray it comes good in 2018 and 2019 or to have a last roll of the dice with Renault.

But they say in life you should never go back and he’s already gone back to the Renault life raft once after the failed 2007 McLaren-Mercedes experiment. By 2008 Renault were already not the championship force they had been in his previous stint there and that is true again today. I think they’ll need the rules to come towards them in the next few years to have a chance to win again. As there isn’t much clarity on that yet, it’s a big gamble for Alonso.

It depends on whether Alonso feels betrayed by Honda’s deception at the start of this year to the point where the relationship is broken. If they can give him something to believe in, he might stay. But he has heard it all before..

2017 Australian Grand Prix
Michael G: “What would your vision of F1 for the future be. From a fan perspective”?
Big question, Michael. I think there are some fundamentals that most people in F1 feel are not quite right at the moment and many of them have a knock on effect on each other and the competition.

First and foremost we need greater competition; we need that huge gulf between the top teams and the rest to close right up. If you look at the race history charts in our UBS Race Strategy Report after each GP, you can see this huge space, representing time, where the leaders have become completely detached from the midfield.

To close that up will take a careful plan, dealing with the simplification of the power units, which will also make them louder and cheaper. So that’s three areas right there. Controlling the input and output side of the F1 team budgets is also important. I’d emphasise the latter, making it harder for the rich teams to make a difference through money alone.

Chassis side the rules need a tweak to make the cars have a greater wow-factor, while also addressing the ability to follow and pass each other, which DRS has helped with, but it’s sometimes too powerful. I would also ask Pirelli to make softer tyres, with the balance as it was in 2016, where we saw a nice mixture of all three compounds used in races.

They now have to build in the Halo, unfortunately, which is very ugly and sets back the aesthetics a lot and separates the fans further from the drivers, which is a very bad thing. But as it’s a safety item I can’t see them rowing back on it now.

I can’t wait to see what Liberty do with the OTT (over the top service) video platform they are building. They can put lots of F1 content on there to feed the fans’ interest in the sport. I’d like to see F1 move to a direct media relationship with fans, rather than TV behind a paywall, which doesn’t work for niche sports, unlike football.

Another fundamental problem is that there are only 40 hours of F1 racing action each season; that’s about the same as one weekend of action in the English Premier League (and they have 38 weekends!)

So I would certainly explore the idea of a sprint race (for points) on Saturday afternoon, you could have qualifying for it on Friday afternoon after a Friday morning practice, or just start with reverse grids (Monaco could be a problem as it’s impossible to pass). Then qualifying could run on Saturday morning, for Sunday’s Grand Prix. That gives fans at the track plenty of bang for their buck and with the right platforms for serving up the coverage of it on TV and other streaming and highlights platforms, fans at home can slice and dice what they want to see.

I suspect younger fans would appreciate the sprint race and it would, in time, lead them into watching the full Grand Prix to see ‘what happened next..”

Thanks for your questions. JA will answer more on Thursday.

If you would like to have your F1 question answered during this mid season break from racing, leave it in the Comments section below. If you want to comment on any of the points raised in this post, please do so in the Comments section.

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RE Your vision for F1 from the fans perspective?
From your keyboard to Libertys’ ear James!! I hope they read your blog.


I’ve never been to an f1 race in the modern era but as an armchair fan reading about the lack of engine volume debate I was wondering how annoying are the helicopters buzzing down the front straight?

The Grape Unwashed

I agree with James regarding Schumacher, but I would put it a slightly different way: Schumacher raised the performance bar and was clearly the best driver until Alonso led the new wave of drivers capable of operating at that level. Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel are all Schumacher-level talents. I would put Hamilton slightly higher than all the others, except possibly the new boy Verstappen – once he’s knocked the rough edges off, Verstappen will be a Hamilton-level talent or higher. Ricciardo is clearly in this group, but at the lower end of it – closer to Vettel than Hamilton.


Cars are still a lot slower than MSC era..


Thanks for the great answers so far, James!

My question is: Monaco is clearly no longer an appropriate venue for a race. Given that F1 is by its nature about evolution, how long before the PTB say enough is enough and stop going there?


G’Day from DownUnda JA …
The next “era” of F1 is currently being pondered over and planned by Liberty / FOM with a view to moving away from road relevance and full hybrid / electric technology. Isn’t it time the overbearing relationship with the FIA and it’s all-encompassing safety measures is left behind as well? (I’m thinking about the sanitation of F1 through Halo, bitumen run-offs, no refuelling, high tyre pressures etc etc etc)
We now have great minds such as Ross Brawn’s at the helm. Is it necessary for the new F1 to be dictated to by an old-school organisation which aligns itself squarely with the automotive manufacturing industry when F1 is looking towards a more fan-friendly, sports and entertainment orientated DNA, rather than the road relevance DNA?
I feel that, if F1 was regulated by a group of specialist, motor sports minded “referees” and 3 full-time stewards at the circuits, it would instantly become more spectacular and fearlessly gladiatorial than it can ever be under a politically biased automotive organisation with industry related road safety agendas.
After all, this F1 racing, THE PINNACLE … not taking the kids to school in an 8 seater mini-van!


To me its simple get back to noise from real engines that do not cost a bazillion dollars to develop ,if a company like Honda can not figure it out we are lost in this sport.Leave the saving of the world to the e teams manufacturers are going to that because the cast is peanuts compared to F1.


Hi James. Thanks for the Q&A.

Obviously a lot of talk has been centred on next years driver line-up, but with so many open contracts – for me at least- 2019 is of much greater interest.

Care to throw out some predictions…?


Thanks for the opportunity James!
I have a question but it isn’t a burning question, it’s an urgent one. It concerns the device known as ‘Halo’. I really don’t know who devised/orchestrated the testing of it but the physics used were totally incorrect. As far as any urgency is concerned, how would, let’s say, Mr. Stroll react if his son were badly hurt, simply because some ‘stunt crew’ got it wrong?

If the above reads as rude and/or disrespectful I hearby apologise. It is something I feel strongly about as the test was no test. Consider if you will, a coin about to be flipped. The coin; a wheel and tyre combination bouncing aimlessly across the track; the stored energy of a racing car; a confined thumb suddenly released; a thumbnail or halo striking the lower edge of the coin or wheel tyre combination. Heads or tails?… Need I ask?


Hi James,
I’m still puzzeled ’bout the “pit under SC” and “pit under VSC” scenarios. What works, what doesn’t, how are the numbers, how position on track matters, etc. Also how the VSC delta’s work .. meaning how are they determined, when and from where are they send to the driver. I think there were some controversial or “hard to get” scenarios in the past; I asked this question before 😉 Think I’m still waiting for the answer, or did I miss it ? Tnx!


James, how do the teams evaluate drivers? Force India were able to get Wehrlein and Ocon into their simulators last year (and picked Ocon), but that’s unusual these days.

So how do they decide who is hot and who is not? Or does selection just come down to hunch and who is available?


Hi James,

If each team were to have 3 drivers (thus more seats opening) but only top two qualifyers (from each team) could race, would it transform the competition? It would certainly spice up the grid every weekend! Your thoughts please.


James, now that there’s no going back on the halo, do you see it as the start of a slippery slope? Maybe to fully enclosed canopies and maybe even enclosed wheels?
Thanks for a great read


“Monaco could be a problem as its impossible to pass” – the same was for Hungary.

James would the adoption of a Dual DRS system work on the Front Wing of the following car?

For example close all the gaps in the Front Wing of the folling car, when they are say 2 seconds behind then enable the orignal DRS in the 1 second window?


Thank you for answering my previous question. How deep do you think is Mercedes rooted in F1? They’re commited until 2020, but what could happen next? Eddie Jordan once famously suggested they could leave the sport at any point, with the quote being immediately denied by Toto Wolff himself. So what’s the story, is F1 already embedded in their DNA or are they there just for the benefits?


maybe, because, he’s not the driver today that he was in his 20s 🙂


James, Kimi gave Schumi a hard time before Alonso too, and could have won one or two championships ahead of Schumi if the McLaren was not so unreliable. You seem to ignore Kimi as you do not even mention him along the other champions on the grid now. I’ve seen this dismissal of Kimi before from you. I wonder why?


maybe, because, he’s not the driver today that he was in his 20s 🙂


James, can I just say great segment and good questions. I definitely think they hit a number of the big topics.


James, a question that pops up repeatedly on here is “how much do the teams spend?”


Oh and how many people work at each team! Thanks.


My view is that Hamilton and Alonso in their prime are a match for Schumacher in his. None of them are perfect but they are all exceptional and, on the whole, consistently so. Vettel is also exceptional and works very hard, but has a slightly narrower operating window in the way he needs the cars and the rules to be, as 2014 and 2016 showed.

Only Alonso in his prime would have been a match for a prime MSC. As for Vettel and the narrow operating window – I agree, to an extent. But would also put Lewis in that category. It seems the dominant Mercedes cars have blurred our vision 🙂


This also tends to be my opinion on the matter of all time great drivers (which is something of a hoppy of mine).

Alonso is definitely up there with Schumacher, Prost and Senna (and Fangio, Clark and Stewart if we go back further). But Hamilton is a bit tougher to gauge. I would agree that Hamilton at his best is undoubtedly on the highest level, but he also has much poorer consistency. That, as well as benefiting from the best reliability rate of any world champion, might hold me from putting Hamilton with the top tier of greats with Schumacher.


I’m sure mainstream opinion will wait on your final decision, regarding Hamilton. 😃


Thanks so much for your contribution.

If you’ve nothing constructive to add, best refrain, thx. I wasn’t rude to you.


I don’t believe I was rude to you either. Just pointing out the truth that majority opinion is different than yours. No need to be so sensitive.


You speak for the “majority” do you?


If I sound sensitive its because you belittled my opinion. Some might consider that rude in a place where people come to exchange opinions.

It’s also a bit disingenuous of you to suggest as a fact what the majority opinion is. I doubt the majority on this forum would agree with your premise about Hamilton.


You’re free to hold your opinion. Such rankings might be a hobby of yours, but it doesn’t make your opinion any more important than anyone else’s.

I find it hard to believe, 30 years from now, that people will be making the case that the driver with the 2nd most wins & podiums all-time, and most poles (barring some catastrophe) doesn’t count as an F1 great. The sheer weight of the numbers will tell. But that’s just my opinion. 😉


Oh no, I definitely agree with you on that. He is an all time great.

Let’s end it there on a positive note!


With all the technical advancements on the simulation-side, is it possible for the teams to forecast the absolute top-time of a car on a circuit, and then measure a driver’s performance against the theoretical performance? And if that’s the case, do drivers sometimes outperform the simulation?


Many thanks for answering my question!


Do you think nominating a single engine mode, maybe declared by FP3 would increase the racing and show. Not investing in qualifying modes could save millions in development, mix up qualifying, provide extra race day overtakes, and give the midfield a podium chance. Was Stroll robbed on the line by an engine mode boost in Baku for example?


You raise an excellent point regarding qualifying modes. That technique has always struck me as return to the concept of the qualifying engine; as you point out, developing these modes surely adds costs. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the incremental cost of developing and deploying these qualifying modes roughly equals what it would cost to swap engines between practice and qualifying.


Who do you feel has the best chance to become F1 champion for 2017?


We all know that Esteban Ocon beat Max Verstappen to the F3 crown, but do you think Ocon has the talent to beat Verstappen in F1 if they are given similar cars?


Parity in F1 is an emotional topic for fans. Everyone says the FIA needs to set the rules to make things more even. Why hasn’t F1 made more of an effort to attract more manufactures? What are the roadblocks to this and why should we water down the rules and place restrictions on spending? I have long felt that there are teams in F1 that would never survive under a normal business model if they have to obtain major bits like PUs from their competitors. How about a third party power unit?


I would love to see a Saturday kart race in equal machinery since many of the proper tracks have an international spec karting circuit within the confines of the circuit. In equal machinery over a decent distance, the fans really would get to see the driver skills and make their own comparisons. Any chance something like this could ever happen?


Scary thought, what happens if/when an F1 driver gets injured in a kart crash and can’t race in the GP?


Great idea. Or maybe a different theme every GP, depending… karts one week, quad bikes another, Ford Fiestas another… remember the BMW Procar series when most of the then current F1 drivers took part.


Once again no mention of the legal mine field and in the US the home of the litigator.


Why, because the US justice system right now is not clogged up to the gills with piles of civil, criminal and class actions related to careless driving, criminal car behaviour, defective cars that kill their drivers with airbags or fires?

Did I mention that 1.3m people are killed each year in car accidents?

If you reduce that to 300,000 – a huge improvement, is that better for humanity? Sure, it is not ideal but such a reduction is a HUGE step. And as a result, how much less litigation can be expected with 1m less deaths and probably 10s of millions less injuries?

Seriously, there is not not a single draw back to automation and electrification vs. current system.


James, Kimi has complained years previous, that the Ferrari’s balance didn’t suit his driving style. He now seems to have a car that does suit his style, and has been quite quick this year compared to Vettel especially in qualifying. Did Ferrari develop this car with mostly his input, and do Seb and Kimi have similar driving styles?


Hi James, How do you rate the Ferrari Junior drivers, and are they going to get a shot at Ferrari in 2018?


Which driver do you think has improved the most this season?


James, this is quite simply the best content about F1. On any platform. It is pure reading pleasure. Thank you. Mario


Excellent article, as usual, James. Thanks a lot.

I was very surprised to see you use “deception” and “betrayal” in connection with Honda and McLaren and Alonso respectively.
The fact that Honda’s performance has been terribly below par this year is beyond dispute, yet the insinuation that they knew about it and pulled the wool over McLaren’s and Alonso’s head is something I have not read before.

Can you elaborate a bit more on this point ?
Is it clear from where you stand that Honda knew well in advance what a debacle this year was yet again going to be and yet portrayed a very different story not only towards the press and fans but also towards their partners ?

Thanks and keep up the food work


Eerrmmmm . . . . keep up the GOOD work . . . . . is what I meant to write, of course


James you are an international journalist but with a strong UK base. Are you worried about the impact of F1 going behind the Sky paywall next season? Speaking personally I’ve watched every F1 season since 1973 and even though I love the sport I will not give Murdoch any money so this is my last season.


A little more context since I sound like an old codger: 1973 sheesh!

I was four when I got hooked on F1. I watched every race with my dad. I remember The Chain, Murray, the dreadful graphics, James Hunt’s lagubrious commentary. For some reason I vividly remember Giles Villeneuve driving back on 3 wheels at the 1979 Dutch GP – probably because Murray made it impossibly exciting.

I was never a nationalistic supporter. I supported the best driver, which to me meant the most exciting, the bravest, the one that could do the impossible; with an important caveat, that they also be the most sporting.

As much as the drivers I was also thrilled by the audacious inventions. I loved the ground effect cars. The Brabham-Alfa fan car was amazing! The 6-wheeled Tyrrell wow!

I attended a few GPs over the years but this was very rare and even rarer in the last two decades. I have experienced F1 through the TV. The BBC mostly in the 70s and 80s and then ITV with you JA in the 90s and 00s.

My strongest memory, the pinnacle of my love for F1 was that I was lucky enough, through the happy circumstance of being at Uni in Nottingham, to be at Donnington Park to see “Senna’s lap”.

As I did when cricket went paywall I will find something else I suppose. But F1 has been a deep and abiding part of my life. It makes me very sad that kids like me will not know its thrills, its tragedy, its valour and its honour. Somehow F1 at its best is a distillation of what it is to live.

Thanks James for your excellent service. It is much appreciated.


@drplix – a couple of years ago BT outbid Eurosport and the Beeb for MotoGP. They put it behind a paywall and soon discovered they were not getting anywhere enough viewers, so they now ‘sell on’ the race to Channel 5, who show it a day later. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sky doing something similar with F1. I’d prefer it if they couldn’t find a broadcaster who wants stale F1. That may put pressure on LM to force a return of F1 to FTA. No way am I going to give £30* a month to watch F1 on Sky.

* £30 on the basis of £18 for every month, including 5 months when there isn’t any racing.


In a perfect world we’d have for reading about F1, and then for watching F1.


James you are an international journalist but with a strong UK base. Are you worried about the impact of F1 going behind the Sky paywall next season? Speaking personally I’ve watched every F1 season since 1973 and even though I love the sport I will not give Murdoch any money so this is my last season.

Sky have exclusive rights from 2019 not 2018 . Chancel 4s agreement which it took over from the BBC last one more season after this. Agree on all the points you make though.


I agree man.
The Halo is the last nail in the coffin for me.
I’ll help F1 by dropping the audience as I don’t plan to follow F1 so closely anymore.


James, in equal cars, pit crew,…etc. If you had to, which driver would your bet the house and life savings on to winning a championship against the other drivers?

Maybe an answer for the current generation and an answer for all the drivers since the start of F1.


Yes. Excellent question. Please answer both current and then all time drivers James.


My question James:
Does everything taste better with bacon?


So that’s the secret to Ricciardo’s shoe… 🙂


Yes, it certainly does, for every body, except the poor liitle piggy.


Personally I think F1 needs to look at what Dorna has done with Moto GP. From the height of the fiscal crisis where teams pulled out and they had only Yamaha, Honda and a weak Ducati left facing a grid of 14. They went through the pain of having a class within a class for privateers with certain concessions and then brought them up while pegging the manufactures back (with a spec ECU amongst other things which was a big thing in Motorbike racing). The resulting drop in budgets and increased competitiveness has seen KTM, Aprillia and Suzuki enter the class and has brough Ducati back to front along with Yamaha and Ducati.

Also they really promote their Moto 2 and Moto 3 categories (read GP3/F3 and F2 here), there are designated as world championships and regarded as such. They are always packaged together with the main event and it creates an entire weekend of race track action for the fan at home. Also if the main event is a bit of a bore (always a risk in sport) you hopefully get a bit of action out of the lightweight categories to use.

I think gimicks like saturday sprint races and the like should be treated with great care – the formula as it stands works and has done for many years. Changes to “spice up” the show etc. are rarely well recieved by the hardcore fans and generally do little to attract new viewers. The best way is to increase competitiveness and the on-track action through behind the scenes rule changes that apply to the technical elements of the cars – things like simpler engine, aero rules, standard diffusers like LMP1 to allow them to follow more closely etc. etc.

Furthermore they could look at rules that force the manufacturers to give customers full access to the qualifying modes etc. Also F2 could look at bringing in something very similar to the F1 engines but are much cheaper like a 1.6 Turbo with a standard KERS that would bring manufacturers in and give them a gateway into the top Formula.


@Gavin Campbell – MotoGP had a lucky escape. At one time Bernie Eccleston owned it.

Dorna went down several dead ends to get where it is today. They sold their soul to Honda, who continue to have far too much power in the sport. Dorna are not as greedy as Bernie and haven’t got the massive debts that LM are lumbered with. LM can’t afford to make any poor decisions, they could lose everything in a very short time if they hit the buffers due to ill thought out ideas.


Bernie never owned Moto GP, CVC owned it prior to taking over F1. They were allowed to take over F1 only on the condition they sold the rights to Dorna.

Honda like Ferrari have always been the team with the most power – the oldest team in the paddock. CRT and Open were stepping stones rather than final solutions to bringing in other teams.


Thanks for the insight James. Without dedicated journos like you we the fans would be even less informed about the inner workings of F1. As I am a motorcyclist first and an auto enthusiast second I wish the person I consider your counterpart in MotoGP (David Emmett) had the resources you have. Nevertheless you both provide us with the most comprehensive coverage of the best motorsports in the world. Please keep up the good work and good luck in your latest endeavors.


Thank you


Gena Haas has recently commented on the frustration and possible confusions as to why there is such a large gap for them when they buy so much of the Ferrari product including engine. What is missing from Haas that they need to do? Better designers, more aero, better innovatios… what part of the magic sauce are they missing?


Easy – A red livery 🙂


@ James…so early on in the thread and already you are showing just how good this site really is. Your comments are deeply appreciated. Well done.


F1 is in an interesting place right now. At the same time that there is still optimism over Liberty’s takeover and what it might mean for the future of the sport, we currently have a formula that could also alienate fans ……. the halo that only a selection of drivers seem to think is a good idea (and opinion among the drivers is far from unanimous on the need for this device that could potentially cause as many safety issues as it supposedly cures); cars that make passing virtually impossible; only two or perhaps three teams that have a chance to win on any given Sunday barring rain or calamity to the front-runners; iconic corners being sanitised in the name of safety; Mercedes dominating year after year [thank goodness for the Ferrari challenge this season!]. Frankly I’m getting to the point where I often wonder if there isn’t a better use of my time than watching practise sessions and the rest. It’s only the presence of Ross Brawn that gives me some hope for the future.

Given the uncertainty over F1’s financial situation …… i.e the expense of operating a competitive team; disparity in distribution of funds so that the rich keep getting richer, making it harder than ever for the mid-field teams to close the gap to the top …… is there much interest right now from new teams entering the sport? Could we see a larger field again in the future or is F1 going to be lucky to keep 20 cars on the grid without moving to three-car teams? Will F1 make the climate more welcoming for new teams or will those teams continue looking at Formula E as a better marketing option?


I feel some of the problems of F1 today is a lack of competition{ passing} and high costs .
One solution I feel is to standardise front and rear wings , under tray and diffuser which have been designed for close racing .This would close up , the field and reduce costs and at the same time manufactures[ teams] would be spending their development in areas which has relevance to todays cars .
Appreciate your comments , thanks .


How long would F1 remain the fastest formula in the world? Also the aero lobby is strong. Think of the personnel, computers, tools and everything else associated wih the design and manufacture of the aero stuff – not sure but probably on a par with the ICE element?
(Nice idea though – i like the thought of big beasts being wrestled round the track three abreast!)


They’d probably spend the rest on other parts of the car. £1million on a wheel nut 😵


“What would your vision of F1 for the future be. From a fan perspective”?

I agree with a lot of the points in your response, James, but one thing I don’t like is the idea of a Saturday sprint race. I miss going to races in the late 90’s-early 2000’s where Saturday afternoon qualifying was a bit mysterious. You’d sit there in the grandstand with an eye on the timer, knowing that the lesser teams would be out first and that the big guns would be out later to put in a very quick lap. Plus, each lap counted towards the grid, unlike the current qualifying where drivers really only need to make sure they’re just good enough to get through Q1 and Q2.

The Sunday morning F1 warm up was always good because you’d get a taste of the F1 cars when you first arrived at the track. A lot of people (not me!) only go to the race day of a grand prix and they have to sit around until 2pm before they see an F1 car. I remember my first race (Australia 1998), we only went for the race and I got 30 minutes of these loud, fast cars driving past and I couldn’t wait for the actual race to begin a few hours later. It really added to the excitement.

Unfortunately, the halo will significantly detract from the look of future F1 cars. If they want to improve the look, I’d strongly suggest modifying the front wings so they look less like ploughs.


James given how unspectacular Kimi’s return to Ferrari has been would it in your opinion would he have been be retiring after his Lotus spell instead of having delusions of grandeur and re-signing with Ferrari before being well beaten by Alonso and Vettel as teammates? Would you prefer if Kimi move aside for 2018?


I’ll chip in with my tuppence. It’s a hard one, I am a Raikkonen fan but I like to think I can be objective. There is no doubt he is keeping a potentially better driver out of a top seat. However he also has a huge number of fans, would those fans be turned off if he left? Also given how Ferrari seem to be 100% back to their old No1 / No2 operating procedure, would it matter anyway, whoever is in the 2nd car won’t be allowed to win unless No1 retires.


You may be upsetting a few Vettel fans with this piece James


We all know James has his favorites. Since Baku some of the posts on this website look like they could have been written directly by HAM PR team. If VET wins the championship this year he will have done so with a weaker car, without asking his teammate to move aside every other race, and have dominated his teammate in equal equipment. Such statements can not be made about HAM. If ALO was in the Ferrari we would hear every week about how he gives 120% and he outdrove the car how great the Merc are and what a dog of a car The Ferrari is. VET does not self promote the way HAM and ALO do which some interpret to mean that he is a lesser driver.


The Ferrari is not a weaker car. You sound as though you are trying to magnify Vettel’s performances by falsely making out he has some kind of car disadvantage. Helmut Marko actually thinks the Ferrari is the best car on the grid. This is what he stated ” I believe in Vettel, because I know his mental strength, and Ferrari has raised its game.Ferrari was clearly the stronger car in the first half of the season and only due to various circumstances could they not materialise all their chances. Silverstone, I would say, was an exception.”
Vettel also has stated the Ferrari is the best car and that they should have won all the earlier races. And Kimi is clearly number 2 at Ferrari. He was sacrificed to help Vettel in Hungary & Monaco. At least Bottas is allowed to compete for the WDC and is given the same chances as Hamilton.


That is completely unfounded, we are impartial and probably more so than any other comparable site.

Read back through the balanced coverage of all the races, the drivers and the teams so far this season


Sebastian has said it nicely…. ~You are not as good as some say and you are not as bad as some say. You get it, I guess.


I would suggest that James verdict on Vettel was bang on. If the car is built for him he excels, if it is outside his comfort zone he declines. What I found much more interesting was twice James cites “Honda’s deception”. Honda have publicly said lack of correlation between one cylinder simulator and six cylinder engine. James seems to suggest that Honda knew this lack of correlation before the season started and failed to tell McLaren. I would expect that the level of Honda support for McLaren will have to go up to compensate next season if that is true!


Re Vettel fans -i think it’s an unfair assessment as well (and i’m no Vettel fan). Tell me a driver who still wins when a car is not to his liking? Yes sure, people say that ALO “outperformed” (whatever that is) the Ferrari. But no driver in reality can win a WDC without being at one with the car. James himself has described Hamilton as not being as aligned with the car as BOT this year (on occasions).
The fact that Vettel was on another level in 2011 and 13 (in particular) should not mean that when he’s not, he’s just average. It should be a credit to the hardwork that he did with his team (IMO he’s the most studious driver in the field).
So why say (sic) Vettel operates in a narrower window?
Could he not just have been beaten by a better or more motivated racer in 2014 (like Lewis was last year?) or have been coming to terms with a new team in 2015 and 16 -like Lewis was in his first years at Mercedes?

Now calm down LHFC!

I’m making the point that it’s conveniently brit-centric to say that about Vettel, when you can say it about any of them…My guy Danny Ric had trouble coming to terms with the RB for the first handful of races, and so he struggled.
So why say it? Or why not say it about all of them?


I have always rated James’ objectivity. If you have read Mark Hughes’ assessments they are not substantially different. IMO these two journos are the best. 2014 was a very telling season as far as as VET was concerned. RIC outperformed him on the back of VET’s 4 WDCs which immediately diminished the value of his achievement. His weakness remains but that doesn’t diminish his other qualities one of which is mental strength.


I agree with your comment – JA and MH are both very fair in their assessments. Don’t know if you are aware but MH is ‘wingman to Crofty and Brundle during their commentary – whispering in their ears if there is something interesting going on. Personally I would like it of Sky put him in front of the camera more often or at least handed him a microphone during the races.


that it’s conveniently brit-centric

Funny how you accept JA’s opinion without question when he rated Ric as the best driver in 2016, but when he says something you don’t like –
conveniently he is Brit-centric.


C, I don’t have to accept JA’s opinion on everything and neither do you. You also mis interpret my intention on his objectivity. I don’t think there was really anything startling in what I said… I just happen to think Vet gets a bum wrap….some of it might be deserved at various points in his career, but I disagree that he struggles anymore than anybody else when his car isn’t set up to his liking.


I don’t have to accept JA’s opinion on everything

No argument from me there, but then you cannot reasonably call JA forward as your expert witness one minute and then in the next say he isn’t always right. His ranking of Ric as the best driver of 2016 has been a fairly consistent go-to argument from the DRFC but when he says something you don’t like; suddenly he is biased. You cannot have it both ways L – he either knows what’s what or he doesn’t.


Thanks for the defence, but it’s like this with all the talked about drivers

I’m biased towards Hamilton, I’m anti-Hamilton, I’m biaised towards Max, I’m anti-Max

It comes with the territory but over time people realise that there is a balanced view here and when someone does something amazing we call it and when they mess up or miss an opportunity we call it. That’s all we can do


James, not sure if you are aware – but when you reply to a comment I don’t get the usual email notification. Is that something which can easily be ‘switched on’? It would be handy if it could.


James also said Alonso would beat Vettel too, strange that James isn’t accused of being Latino-centric 🇪🇸


To be honest, I almost didn’t bother to reply as it was fairly obvious that LKFE was fisching. But in a fit of magnanimity, I thought what the heck….. why not point out the glaring double standards in his observations 🙂


Comparing Vettel/Ricciardo in 2014 to Hamilton/Rosberg in 2016 is nonsense, Hamilton would have beaten Rosberg over the season if their reliability was equalled, Vettel was beaten on performance/pace.


People keep saying Hamilton would’ve beaten Rosberg if not for reliability, and they sight the more number of wins he had but still ended up 2nd. The truth of the matter is that Rosberg didn’t need to win any of the last races. He did the least that was required, and that was finish behind Lewis. If the roles were reversed I’m sure Lewis would’ve done the same. Rosberg had a lot more to lose by trying to battle it out with Lewis over the last few races for the ‘wins’


“The truth of the matter is that Rosberg didn’t need to win any of the last races.”

Rosberg has already said he wanted to win those last races, that he wanted to finish on a high, but the pressure got to him, slowed him down and affected his driving. And Rosberg did try to win those races. He went all out to qualify on pole because he knew, which ever Merc driver emerged ahead after turn 1, usually won the race. Hamilton simply beat him fair and square in those last races.


A reasonable argument, but why exactly did Rosberg have such a large lead in the first place to be able to play by so cautiously? Because of Malaysia. Also, it’s not like he was a comfortable 2nd in every race, he was running 3rd in Austin until the late race VSC and 3rd in Brazil until Red Bull made the wrong tyre call with Verstappen. That doesn’t suggest to me someone just comfortably padding their way to the title.

If Malaysia hadn’t happened Rosber would have had to have won 3 of the last 4 races that Hamilton won to be champion. Could he have done that? Possibly, but the odds would have been against it.


Rosberg started the season strongly, 100 points from the first 4 races. And except for China he beat Lewis fair and square?

Also, if Nico had finished lower than 2nd in any of the last few races, as you point out that he wasn’t finishing comfortably 2nd in all races, don’t you think he would have taken more risks and challenged for the win? And no one can say for sure that he couldn’t have taken pole or the win in any of the last 4 races if required.

If reliability tells us anything it is that every driver will adjust and react in the next races appropriately. As in if Lewis had no reliability problems and the title race was much closer, Nico would have gone for the poles and wins. Whether he would succeed or not is all conjecture and better left for bar debates over beer


He didn’t beat him “fair in square” in Russia either, where Hamilton had an engine failure which ruled him out of Q3 and forced him to start 10th.

And no, you can’t say for certain that he wouldn’t have taken pole or the win at any of the 4 races if he needed to, but without Malaysia alone he would have had to win 3 of the last 4 races, as I said. He very rarely beat Hamilton at that ratio in a short space of time on merit (the end of 2015 springs to mind, when Hamilton had already won the title).

And yes, it is conjecture, but just because it’s conjecture doesn’t mean it’s totally uninformed; their past history together as teammates suggests there was a much higher chance of Hamilton becoming champion than Rosberg if the Malaysia engine failure hadn’t happened than the other way around.

And who says I’m not drinking beer as I type anyway?!?


Hamilton lost over 50 pts to Rosberg due to the various moments of unreliability that affected his car (China, Russia, Belgium, Malaysia). If their reliability was equalled out, then Hamilton would’ve clinched the title in Brazil. If Rosberg needed to win in Brazil, then he would surely have found himself in the wall. He almost spun out as it was, as he was just trying to keep it on the black stuff.


Not true. If you look at the reliability stat over the course of three years Rosberg had more issues.

And also did Rosberg not let Hamilton pass in Monaco whilst Rosberg was fighting Hamilton for the title. which competitor lets his opponent win.
People like you conveniently forget such things.


I was talking about 2016. But if we looked through their 4 years together, and included unreliability in qualifying, gearbox and engine penalties, then I doubt Rosberg would have the same.

The fact remains, however, that equalling out reliability in any given season would not have seen Rosberg finish ahead of Hamilton.


Their total reliability issues over 3 years (although actually they were teammates for 4) is irrelevant, I’m talking about how their reliability in 2016 affected their standings, which clearly put Rosberg over the top. Also, assuming each instance of unreliability is equal is inaccurate – for example Hamilton’s engine failure in Malaysia cost him 25 points and a net 28 points to Rosberg; Rosberg’s retirement in Hungary 2013 cost him two points gross and net.

And let’s assume that Rosberg didn’t let Hamilton through in Monaco, he held on to 2nd (a rather dubious claim considering after letting Hamilton through he slumped to 7th) and Hamilton 3rd. The points swing for that (24 – Rosberg gains 14 points and Hamilton loses 10) is less than the points swing from the Malaysia engine failure alone, let alone taking Belgium/China/Russia into account.

I have not forgotten the things you pointed out, I just (correctly) realised that they are irrelevant to my overall (correct) point.


Not sure Nick was saying it was an unfair assessment, so the “as well” was presumptuous.

I wouldn’t say Hamilton was beaten by a better or more motivated driver last year. Unreliability beat Hamilton last year, simple as that. That’s how Hamilton topped the team principals Best Driver poll, while Rosberg was only third, the lowest any WDC has scored in that yearly poll.

Can’t compare that in any way to Vettel getting properly spanked by Ricciardo in 2014. In the first half of 2012, Webber was legitimately outperforming Vettel. He couldn’t adapt as well to the car.

Every driver will have “off” races here and there. When it’s consistent through a stretch of races, then it speaks to an inability to adapt. Button’s first half of races in 2012 (from Bahrain to Britain that year) is a great example. McLaren were made to change their floor after China that year, and afterwards he was nowhere, until more new parts arrived in Germany. As such, he was a servant to the car. Now don’t get me wrong, we all know they are all servants to the car to various extents, but it seems some are more than others.

I would make a comparison to the career Grand Slam in tennis. Both Federer and Sampras are/were great players, but I believe most would regard Roger as clearly better, as he was able to win the French, with clay being the worse surface for both of them. Being able to win when out of your comfort zone is noteworthy and deserves praise.


I would make a comparison to the career Grand Slam in tennis. Both Federer and Sampras are/were great players, but I believe most would regard Roger as clearly better, as he was able to win the French, with clay being the worse surface for both of them. Being able to win when out of your comfort zone is noteworthy and deserves praise.

I’m going to guess you never saw Sampras play, also Fedrer only won the french open when Nadal was out injured.


Nadal was not injured in 2009, the year Federer won. Soderling beat Nadal, Federer beat Soderling.


Of course I watched Sampras play. Courier, Agassi, Chang, Wilander … all those guys. I’ve been watching since Borg/McEnroe in the early 80’s.

Sampras won only one Masters-or-higher clay surface tournament, that being the 1994 Italian Open.

His French Open stats read as 1 SF & 3 QF appearances in 13 tournaments, with a match record of 24-13.

Contrast that to Federer who has won 7 Masters-plus clay surface tournaments. His French Open stats read 1 win, 4 runner-up, 2 SF and 4 QF appearances from 17 tournaments. His match record at Roland Garros is 65-16.

To put it mildly, it’s not even close.


Can’t compare that in any way to Vettel getting properly spanked by Ricciardo in 2014. In the first half of 2012, Webber was legitimately outperforming Vettel. He couldn’t adapt as well to the car.

When people say this it amuses me, it’s better to take the pain and get the car right in the long term than drive around the problems.

When early on in the season he was doing that Webber looked good, the moment he got it sorted, Webber could not touch neither could anyone else.

Same goes for ’14, the regulations didn’t change for ’15 and if you compare the two years he does not seem like it was the same driver.


Hmm, I don’t think your portrayal is accurate. It wasn’t like Vettel’s problems were just setup related in 2012. It was the ban on EBD’s that was hurting Red Bull. Coanda effect and all that. Mind you, they still had a great car, especially in race trim. But Vettel couldn’t get the max out of it, and basically had to wait until RBR developed their DDRS. After that though, the car was a rocket ship, and Seb went on to lead 205 consecutive laps and win 4 straight from Singapore to India. Which all still heavily points to Vettel being more of a servant to the car than Alonso or Hamilton.

That 2015 Ferrari was a very good car. It’s no wonder at all that Seb did well with it. Still would have been nice to see a Ricciardo or Alonso alongside him in that same car, rather than Kimi. Kimi is not top tier, and I wonder now if he ever really was. Certainly he no longer has the hunger to be his absolute best, and that’s perfectly fine by Seb, which is why it’s said that Kimi staying is one of Seb’s conditions for re-signing.


I wanted to ask the same thing about this deception. An accusation like this would warrant some facts. In particular I would want to know when this supposed deception happened, because the severity of the problem was public knowledge by December/January, so James’s “before it ran in the car for the first time” is too imprecise to know what to think.


“I’m sure McLaren would like to do it too, but the problem is that they won the contract to supply the batteries for Season Five and so they would have a bit of a conflict in the eyes of other competitors if they entered a team in 2018!”

Last I heard McLaren supply all the ECUs for the teams in F1, which is kind of the same thing. Besides, as it would only be a problem if they were winning I’m thinking that’s a problem they would welcome right now 🙂

As for the idea for a spring race, I would welcome it – more racing is always welcome – but if it happened what are the chance of the sprints being an appetiser on FTA with the races being the main course on pay TV?

As you said, could be a way to interest new fans (not to mention keep us old ones).


Not exactly the same thing as yes, they supply the ECU, but not the mapping of it. Anyone can map as they like.


If team budgets are to be ‘controlled’ to even-up the competition why would the major manufacturers want to carry on supporting the formula? It would lose its so-called ‘pinnacle’ status and simply be making the best of technology which had lost its leading-edge lustre.

The ‘way forward’ for a louder, brasher, more exciting F1 is a Goodwood Festival tie-up.


Even with some form of expediture cap major players will still hold significant advantage over backmarkers in F1. I doubt that performance parity is a goal for Liberty. They need to address the sustainability problem though. Spending a hundred million quid just to be at the rock bottom of results table is hardly acceptable for anyone and without properly addressing that issue we’ll never have more that 10 teams in F1.


I think the play here is to start shaming big spending. If a Manufacturer wins, but is by far the biggest spender, the link should be made that they bought their success.

If you and I are competing about who has the fastest car and you are a billionaire and I am not, I think that competition is quite lame, right? It is stunning that fans watching F1 don’t see this. Or perhaps they do, and that’s why 130m fans dropped the sport since PUs.


Reason they lost viewers is paywall rather than PU (though PU didn’t help). In football no one cares if success is bought – opposition fans mock but would swap places in a heartbeat.


You really think that in last few years 175m fans turning away (130m in PU era) is all due to paywall?


No of course not. And you presumably don’t think its because some teams pay more on development than others. Of all the reasons people might switch off, this is possibly a drop in the very vast ocean of discontent. I think much bigger reasons do include the paywall that has crept in globally, DRS, lack of overtaking, single manufacturer dominance and the less spectacular PU sound.


Woohoo. Thanks for answering my question !!


Hi James. My question is this:
If Kimi does get retained for another year, what are the possible career moves for Perez? Considering he’s been the most consistent & successful midfield driver for about 2 years, can he see himself in a top team ever?


Perez isn’t some new hotshot driver just waiting for a top spot to open up. We’ve been here before, where Perez was scoring steady points and proving opportunistic scoring some podiums in the past. He went to a “top team” and it was a resounding failure. He was dumped for a rookie.

I don’t hate Perez, but we’ve already read his story. He’s a midfield guy, like an Alesi or Fisichella.


I think you answered your own question..” Considering he’s been the most consistent & successful midfield driver for about 2 years”

Two years in the midfield.

Doesn’t sound like a Senna, Schumacher, Vettel or Verstappen to me….


In the current climate (and realistically in the near future) is it possible for a non works team to win the championship? Was Ron Dennis right about this? Should Red Bull push for a Honda team up or really push to get the VW group involved? What would encourage more manufacturers to get involved in F1?


I doubt any new Engine Manufacturer will enter F1 before 2021 when the new engine rules come into existence.

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