Summer break Q&A Part 2 – James Allen responds to readers’ burning questions
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Aug 2017   |  9:04 am GMT  |  80 comments

In the second part of this Summer Q&A with James Allen we will address questions including: F1 drivers, manufacturer engines, the thin end of the wedge opened up by the Halo, what would have happened if Mercedes had stuck with McLaren, SKY F1 and why the F1 teams didn’t take up the offer to buy shares in F1?

Red Bull pitwall
Brendan: “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?”

Well, Brendan, in the current climate the answer is no. Clearly the change to hybrid turbo engines gave the manufacturer backed teams a real grip on the sport and only Red Bull, as a customer, has managed to win six races since 2014, with all their mighty resources.

However the next step will be interesting as the new F1 management is committed to improving the competition and simplifying the engines. This will be delicate and is all tied up with cost control measures and an attempt to attract an independent engine maker in, like we used to have with Cosworth. It’s a long way from where we are now to something like we had in the 70s, as well as at times in the 80s and 90s, but if the journey is carried out successfully then at that point it might be possible for a team to win a title with a non-works engine.

As for Red Bull, they were close to a deal with VW/Audi group before the US emissions scandal broke. Porsche is certainly looking closely at F1 and the political barriers to entry have gone now with Bernie Ecclestone no longer running F1. I would see them partnering with Red Bull as a common sense approach on both sides, especially given all the history of talks between the two groups and the fact that no other team could give them a chance to win straight away and Red Bull could get out of its Renault deal easily.

Andrew Zarb1: “Which driver do you think has improved the most this season?”
Thanks for the question, Andrew. It’s a good one.

You have the younger drivers who are still developing, the mature ones who still have some areas they can improve on and then drivers like Raikkonen, who is having a better season because the Ferrari is a good car and the handling suits him better than in other years.

Carlos Sainz looks to be continuing on his linear progression, but I’d be looking at two drivers in particular: Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon.

Bottas started slowly; he was quite a bit off Lewis Hamilton in race pace in testing and at the start of the season, but since late April he seems to have got a pretty good handle on a tricky Mercedes car. He still has the odd race like Bahrain and Hungary where his race pace isn’t quite there, but his qualifying performances have been strong and he certainly has proved to himself now that he can do it at the highest level. He just needs a bit more consistency of race pace.

Ocon has been a revelation when you consider that he is still basically a rookie. He did half a season with Manor last year (Spa was his debut) and from the outset of this season he has been right with Sergio Perez on qualifying and race pace. Perez has the edge; he’s scored more points and has qualified ahead, but the Mexican is also driving the best he has in F1 and these 2017 cars are not easy for inexperienced drivers. Ocon has also learned from mistakes he made early in the season.

Bottas, Hamilton

I have a little tester I do in Montreal, where I go out to the first chicane in the woods and stand by the side of the corner entry. It’s a great place to show a driver’s commitment and technique and Ocon stood out there, as have other drivers who have gone on to do do great things.

I’m not saying he will do that, but he has shown me he has the talent and the commitment and from my conversations with him I see a sportsman who is here to learn and to improve. He’s in exactly the right team for that; with a car fast enough to be able to mix it in the Top ten and score points and with chief engineer Tom McCullogh to guide him, who is one of the very best guys for helping F1 drivers to understand what they are trying to do and for bringing them on.

And to answer Bob Dubery’s related question about how Force India evaluated Ocon and Pascal Wehlein , the answer is that they were able to give young driver day tests to both of them over 2015 and 2016 and saw more potential in Ocon. The simulators tell them something too, but in this case it was track days and debriefs in factory etc that told them which way to go.

Paul: “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?

I have to say I’m no fan of the Halo. I understand the problem of drivers’ heads being exposed and I understand the FIA wanting to do something about it. They have a duty of care, they take it very seriously and I respect that.

In terms of the push-back, I guess it’s a but like the 1970s when Jackie Stewart was trying to bring in safety measures and the old guard all said he was soft and should just get on with it as motor racing has always been dangerous.

I don’t think my age has anything to do with my feelings; my two sons are teenagers and they both hate the Halo, as do their F1-following friends at school.

I’m sympathetic to the need to protect the driver but the Halo cuts the driver off from the fans and is pig ugly.

I’ve just made two films for the Motorsport Network, one on the legendary technical journalist Giorgio Piola and another on Amalgam Collection that makes those exquisite 1/8 scale models. I was thinking as I edited it, ‘How would an F1 car with a halo spoil how great this all looks?’ and the answer is ‘a lot’.

As for the second part of your question, I’ve learned over the years that in F1 everything matters and also that everything that gets introduced has unintended consequences. So yes, there is a risk that we will be starting down a certain pathway here.

F1HERO: James, given the high profile takeover of F1 by Liberty Media and the ongoing discussions with the teams about the sport’s future why haven’t any of the current F1 teams taken up the offer of shares in the business? It seems a little at odds with all the positive public statements made by both ‘sides’ regarding future mutual support and recognition of which direction the sport should be going i.e. fan engagement, engines, etc. Is there something else in the background that we don’t know about? Why would the teams turn down an opportunity to own and potentially profit from F1’s future?”

The new owners offered F1 teams the opportunity to buy discounted shares in its new parent company; the idea was to give teams added financial incentive to support the sport and to stay in it. Team owners were quite luke warm on the proposals and in particular were wary of the 10-year lock-up period for shareholdings.

While it would be good for stability to have the teams holding some shares, you must never get to a situation like with CART in the USA in the 1990s, where things became too democratic. Motorsport doesnt work unless you have a benevolent dictator, who acts in the best interests of the sport. Teams will always act out of self interest. Liberty have a very hard negotiation ahead with the top teams like Ferrari and Mercedes and it was perhaps ambitious to think that teams would undermine their own negotiating position by taking a shareholding with a 10 year lock up, which would mean that they couldn’t threaten to walk away if the deal on the table from F1 wasn’t right.

But one team principal told me it was also naive to believe that the hard-up midfield teams had the cash required to take up the offer. The share sale was taken more seriously by some teams, such as Williams, which are focussed solely on F1. But they didn’t have the money spare.

And as we have over 200 questions that have come in, here are some shorter answers..

Anand R: “Hello James, Do you think if the whole Spygate scandal in 2007 hadn’t occured, Mercedes would have not had a separate team – thereby making the McLaren-Mercedes combo the most potent team in 2014-onwards?
Possibly, the mess over the Spy scandal and the $100m fine certainly didn’t help the relationship. There was also tension over the road car programme, I believe. But I think what pushed Mercedes into doing it was the chance to buy Brawn in 2009, having slimmed down the workforce after Honda pulled out. It was in the teeth of the credit crunch and F1 had taken a reality pill (didn’t last long) and Norbert Haug persuaded the board that F1 could be done more cheaply in future.

Fulveo Ballabeo: “I think most fans who love the sport yearn to see beautiful open-wheel/open-cockpit F1 cars, that sound awesome, allow for racing/passing, and are a handful to drive (so we can see driver talent make a difference).
Instead we repeatedly get garbage like the Halo, tipped noses, shark fins, T-wings, vacuum-cleaner PU’s, and elimination qualifying. How can so many smart people, get it so wrong, so often, for so long?

That’s a great question and almost exactly the same wording that one of the top F1 team technical directors posed rhetorically, in a chat we had a couple of years back.

It’s a very long story but I think it has to do with the divide and rule methods of Bernie Ecclestone and some of the moves he made to stay at the centre of power in the last few years of his reign. The teams, as always, were disunited and the FIA didn’t want confrontation, playing the long game, which seems to be working out for them now with Liberty coming in.

That’s what F1 was, we now have new leaders, new thinking and a once in a generation chance to get it back on track with well considered rules, fairly applied. Let’s hope they take that chance.

Sarsippious: “James whats the magical number that Sky has to give you to be the face of their F1 coverage?”
Ha! I’m really happy with the plans I have with Motorsport Network, which is digital-first company that is building up a very strong position in this sport. I have a chance to play my part in shaping that and in pursuing the content production ideas I’m most interested in, as well as developing this blog on a global platform.

I still do some linear broadcasting, but I’ve commentated on over 300 Grands Prix for ITV and BBC with big audiences, so I don’t have a burning need to keep doing the same thing over and over again. I’m more fascinated by the challenge of the digital transformation of F1.

I have respect for the SKY team, of course including my old team mates Ted Kravitz and Martin Brundle, but I’m a little concerned about the backlash that will come when F1 goes exclusively behind a paywall in the UK and hope that Liberty can find a way to avoid disenfranchising millions of F1 fans here.

James will answer more burning questions from readers tomorrow

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Hi James,
I have always wondered how are support races like GP2 run alongside F1 on the same weekend? Are there separate pit garages for GP2 teams or do they use the same infra which is used by the F1 teams (in which case, do F1 teams vacate the garages for the support race?). How does it all work?


You can easily find the answer yourself. Pitlane is shared, garages not. Just type "F1 GP2 share garages" into google.



where can I see your pieces on Amalgam and Piola? I can't find them, are they for Prime users only?



Which new drivers do you expect to see in Formula 1 next year? And which would you like to see come 2019?

The Grape Unwashed

I hope when F1 goes behind the paywall they keep race highlights on UK terrestrial. I've been following the sport for over 20 years, but I won't be forking out for a Sky subscription, so F1's owners will have forced a long-term fan out of the sport - which seems a pretty stupid 'development' strategy to me.


I'm with you The Grape Unwashed


The question asks whether highlights will be kept FTA.

The question I have is how important are these highlights to all but the casual viewer?

Are dedicated fans, unable or unwilling to pay, going to enforce a digital blackout in order to maintain the suspense of watching the (abridged) race unfold in front if them?

I suggest some will, but the majority will not. From there it's a slippery slope; if you know what happens are they going to really care as much about higlights?

I've already started missing races and highlights because I don't have the inclination to avoid social media channels or the news wires for 6-8 hours on a Sunday, for the sake of maintaining interest.

It's untenable that the sport can maintain, let alone grow in popularity with this model in place.


Here is what either BERNIE or CHASE said about F1 being behind paywall and continuing to go there.

Your mission - guess which one said this.....bunch of gibberish that in summary means: squeeze these sucker fans for as much money for our product as we can! And remember - we're doing it for YOU the FAN!

“In terms of the television arena that we deal with, I guess the way to describe it is that there are three or even four potential arenas that we are engaged with, Traditional free [to air], pay, digital and then our own probably more direct 'over the top' product. To some degree what you have is conflicting goals across them.

Probably the economic premium paid gets higher as you go up the ladder, but the reach gets less. For us the goal is to maximise long-term growth, not to find a short-term pop. So I think we’re trying to balance what is the right mix of reach and direct economic value.

Clearly there are impacts on other partners we have – for sponsors the fan engagement is obviously very important. So if you’re energising the sport I think we want to make sure we continue to position it for long-term growth that finds a balance between that reach and those economics as opposed to just where you can get the biggest buck?

“It’s more and more heading to various forms of digital platforms. I don’t think it will happen as fast as some people think – because some habits die hard, and there is a value in volume and choice.

I think on the programming side there’s still value in reach. I think directionally it’s going there, but it will take time.

I think there’s no question that there will be a lot more ways that content will continue to be offered to consumers that I think will benefit consumers on both ends of that.”


Formula 1 is doing to digital streaming what it did to hybrid.

F1 was nearly 2 decades late to the Hybrid show and is now here when Hybrid is quickly becoming irrelevant.

F1 is going to be 2 decades late to the streaming show too.

In the mean time, there is a lot of revenue we need to squeeze out of these fans, let's squeeze it all and dump the freeloader leaches that don't want to pay to watch. Why would we accept a TV rights bid from a free to air broadcaster? That would be outrageous! Let's just use them to drive the bid price up.


The key word there Sebee is "choice". The ability to choose the method you watch the race is a "choice" many fans are prepared to pony up their hard earned for.

Here in Aus we pay up and over of $120 per month or around $1200-$1300 per year to watch all the race sessions of a GP with very minimal choice of how we view it. There are a few options of "choice" provided in that we can access live timing, a single cars on-board footage for the entirety of the race (not of our choosing mind you) and a live tracking screen. We unfortunately are lumped with the Sky commentary team whether we like it or not.

Now whilst it is better than the days of the race only being broadcast, as was the case for many years, its still hardly what I would describe as a premium service even though the price suggests it is one.
How much of F1's early growth was by chance, those that just happened to come upon a race inadvertently and thought "Wow, what have we here"? That doesn't happen with a paywall though.

The "premium content" should be the thousands upon thousands of hours of archival footage in Bernie's vault (or is it Liberty's vault now?).
Now that's the stuff I'd be prepared to pay money for. The kind of footage we saw in the Senna movie that many of the sports hardcore fans hadn't seen or even knew existed.

The sport is facing a crisis that threatens its very existence and its not helped at all by this need to charge anyone insane amounts of money to watch what are rather sterile and mundane machines quietly chug around even more sterile circuits.

I"d be very surprised if Liberty returns this sport back to what it was in the halcyon days of the 80s and 90s and when us older guys say it was better back in the good ole days, its because it was!

My prediction for Formula One's future, 'DOOMED"!!


That is precisely the same as me. I have even been working hard to indoctrinate my children in to following the sport. As things stand, Liberty have bought an asset that they are contractually bound to prevent a significant proportion of their UK audience following in a couple of years. At the expiry of that contract and when I can perhaps purchase a direct subscription to watch on the device of my choosing, I wonder if my appetite for F1 will still be there...

While I was never as taken with MotoGP as I am with F1, I would watch live races when they were on TV. Now I can scarcely be bothered to watch the C5 highlights show, which is surely as much as we will get on terrestrial TV after next year? Maybe a more specific Now TV package could be launched between now and then, but I will still have misgivings and it would somewhat undermine the reason for Sky's purchase of F1 rights in the first place.

The Grape Unwashed

Same here Matt. If I lived in London I'd probably find a pub to continue to enjoy the sport, but I live in a rural area with mediocre internet speeds and a limited disposable income. I love the sport, but I think my days may be numbered!


Likewise. I've watched F1 on TV since it was first on the Beeb. In those days the highlights were just 45 minutes late on a Sunday night—no live coverage—and the number of F1 followers was tiny. Hardly 'fans'. I won't pay £18+ a month for one or two races so, unless highlights continue, that will be the end of my interest in F1.


Same here!

Plus I got into F1 when I was 10, but my parents and siblings weren't really interested. Nonetheless I could watch it by myself on a Saturday and Sunday and develop my interest - since then i've been to many races live and no doubt seen many thousands of sponsor logos!

I really doubt that if I was 10 today (a) I would even know about F1 without FTA coverage or meaningful access through youtube etc, or (b) could have convinced my parents to drop that much cash on a Sky subscription.

Liberty will ultimately regret continuing Bernie's approach of milking the 35+ existing fanbase (and as evidenced in recent years, severely over-estimating their attachment to the sport) at the expense of bringing F1 to millions of potential new fans.


Well avoided James although a nice answer all the same.

We've been very fortunate here in Australia to have you a part of Channel Tens F1 coverage for many years. As you'd be well aware the sport is also on the verge of being completely behind a paywall here and whilst I, like many other avid Australian F1 fans, do pay for the premium content available with the Sky led coverage, its concerning to think of a whole new generation of potential fans that will miss out on the exposure to the sport free to air broadcasting provides.

Surely the short term monetary gain the sports owners receive through PTV only broadcasting is detrimental to the sports long term longevity and popularity.
Bernie made some very smart and astute moves in the 80's and 90's to bring F1 to the masses, much of which however was undone by equally dumb and shortsighted ones over the past decade or so. Hopefully Liberty have a long term vision that incorporates the move into the digital age (much like the area's you are keen to delve into) whilst maintaining the ability to connect with the average Joe/Joanna's on a tight budget.

I look forward to seeing where you take this site, and indeed your career on a personal level, over the coming years.


And, here in the U.S. we are (effectively) already "behind" the (cable) pay-wall with NBC's approach, and the counter-balance of having Hobbs and Machett to the corporate face is the best feature. The best solution is to avoid the "live" broadcast, record it and then fast forward through the uninformed parts of the earlier broadcast. Saves time and allows for other more productive activities using that approach.


I agree Garrett that recording the races is certainly a wise option at times however the issue I have is the inability to avoid the 'result' being shoved in your face by one of the many social media networks in play these days.

Also I remember as a young kid setting the alarm and getting up in the early hours of the morning whilst the rest of the family slept, quietly grabbing a packet of corn crisps and a bottle of coke out of the fridge, and settling down on the couch to watch with baited breath and an elevated heart rate as those lights went out and highlight of my fortnight began.

For many of us it became a fortnightly routine that even now as an ageing man I find hard to break even if its not as palatable as it once was.


Please James say no to SKY & the sith Lord Murdoch !!
Sky is the Darkside !!
The F1 paywall killer.
In two years from now F1 will be as obscure as any youngster trying to name any world boxing champion .
Theyll all be watching Rally Cross and into Formula E and Vitual Game Olympics.
Bernie (the quick buck king) has sold out F1 to his mate Darth Siddius Bad Murdoch.
Liberty will realise F1 will be on a downward viewing spiral.
Maybe then theyll kick Sky into touch 🏉``...🏃 one day. Like Cricket has recently.


Hi James, what do you think about the situation between the relationship between the Red Bull team and its drivers? Do you think the team is showing favouritism to Verstappen? Does Ricciardo see the writing on the wall?


The platform MotoGP is using to stream and view content appears to be successful. Correct me if I'm wrong.
If F1 was to move to this model and include lower formulas and all FIA content I would be happy to pay the fee, rather than subscribe to a cable or satellite channel. It would promote the lower formulas which at best are hard to find in most countries.
They would loose the large tv rights revenues they are enjoying now. But as no one really likes the present situation it could be a win win.
Good or bad idea?


I like the current situation, far superior coverage compared to FTA previously.


"I’m a little concerned about the backlash that will come when F1 goes exclusively behind a paywall in the UK"

A little?

The product quality keeps deteriorating continously, while the fans are being asked to pay more and more for it.

What kind of a foolish business model is this? No sale!

The Grape Unwashed

Agree Seebee, from the little I've seen of Sky's coverage it is pretty crap (except for Ant Davidson, who is superb). Worse than that, it's really long-winded crap. Not my idea of a 'premium' package by any means.

I've just looked online for a Simon Lazenby clip where he stomps round the paddock looking like he wants to punch Rosberg / cry. It was enough to make even a Hamilton fan wince.


My problem with sky, apart from the paywall, is that they talk alot of rubbish and miss things. They also try to create drama where is none which is my major bug bear with them...They Just need to report the facts and stop with the insinuations all the time. Pity i can't get the australian feed.


oops pressed submit too soon - all I was going to say is that I preferred the Eurosport commentary but the BBC coverage as no ad's. so I mixed and matched.


I wouldn't argue with you about Sky trying to create drama where none exists. They do it all the time and it's irritating. But talking rubbish and missing things is no different than it used to be in the 'good old days'. Murray made a career of it - I used to watch the BBC coverage as they had no ad's and listen to Eurosport commentary


The previous FTA coverage was terrible, James aside of course. No coverage of qualifying or practise, no driver interviews, no post race analysis like Ted's note book. Delayed, not live and no commitment, for example if he race was delayed or ran overtime due to rain they would stop the coverage at the predetermined time. If there was another major event on we often did not get coverage until the next day. Subscription coverage is so much better that there is no comparison.


stop the coverage at the predetermined time

They still stop it now. I was listening to quali on Radio 5 live via the BBC app a few weeks back as I was travelling back through Europe. At one point there was a red flag which delayed the end of quali by a few minutes and they turned off coverage as the top 4 were just about to start their final runs in Q3!!!
I understand that people don't tend to like PPV but I agree with you that the coverage is excellent. Sure, some of the commentary can be annoying but I bet there are just as many who like them as don't . Overall Sky coverage is massively superior to the 'good old days'. It's not even comparable in terms of the access and information we now enjoy.


That is all a function of popularity.

If F1 was popular it could be sustained by advertising. But since it isn't, and curling or lawn bowling or Martha Stewart cooking bumps it from FTA because of ratings it is a simple decision for those broadcasters in terms of value. In a way the fact ratings are so weak that only paid channels can support broadcast is funny.

In North America I've seen F1 bumped off primary paid sport channels for other events even this year as I have to search channels in the gym for F1, so even there it dies by ratings against other sporting events.


Dead right on the deteriorating quality. I've witnessed a few of Sky's f1 productions and it's certainly a case of quantity over quality. What's worse is that they are indicative of a shift towards a more 'opinion led' form of broadcasting as opposed to the informative analysis that most f1 fans would prefer. This is reflected no more than Martin Brundle who has gone from probing and insightful pundit from his ITV days to a tabloidesque relatively careless and opinionated personality. It's not just Sky doing this for sport and f1 - we all knew the reasons why the excellent Gary Anderson left the BBC's coverage a couple of years back because apparently none of us wanted to know about the engineering brilliance of the sport. It was a real kick in the teeth for die hard fans of the sport.

As well as that we have to put up with the corny and forced 'pallyness' on display by Sky as if we're interested in their on and off screen relationship. Jokes fall flat and I can't be the only one who cringes when referrals to 'Crofty' and (even worse) 'Pinky' are made.

Kieran Donnelly

Spot on, Peter! The pallsy-wallsy nature of the Sky presentation is hard to put up with. To be honest, I don't mind the Channel 4 show although these days I don't really bother with the build-up or post-race analysis. I like when Mark Webber is there (my wife does even more so) and I think Karun Chandhok is not a bad analyst. You never know what EJ might say which adds a little bit of looking at it through your fingers while cringing but sometimes he has a few nuggets. Anyway, point being that it costs nothing and delivers all that is necessary. I do occasionally use someone else's Sky Go account to watch the race live or in highlight form when times on Channel 4 do not suit; Sky do offer a more condensed highlight show that is best suited to modern races where often very little happens and this is, for me, the best part of what they do. These days I usually turn off the race once the first couple of cars have crossed the line and watching the race itself has gone from being a sacrosanct activity to being something that I have on in the background while I do other stuff. I'll never pay for Sky but, even for free, I'm not remotely as bothered about not seeing a race as I used to be. I contrast that with, say, watching the Indy 500 this year where I was glued to the seat while the racing was happening! The Channel 5 MotoGP highlight show is also usually much more rewarding than the Sunday afternoon slog that embodies most F1 races.


When exactly was that Ron photo taken? He looks on top of the world. I'm going to say early 2007. SLR in production, Alonso and Hamilton in a winning car. Little did he know he would get taken down so quickly. I really miss the guy. I wonder if he misses F1?

And what's with the SKY team photo? Why not a retro photo with ITV team and you in it...along with Murray perhaps? We can handle nostalgia you know.


I particularly miss Ron as well, he was the kind of character that made F1 what it is.


He was like a Bond villain, but instead of villain it was good OCD.


Ron has climbed every mountain in F1. I don't know there is anything left for him to do.



Tornillo Amarillo

The photo of the 3 F1 leaders is ridiculous and hilarious. What have they wanted to show ?


That is indeed ridiculously hilarious.

The whole dynamic is funny. It's funny how we rank human beings by the amount of money they accumulated and even more funny how they see themselves when they do so.

I heard someone say something fascinating when talking about the TV show "Hoarders". Usually it features people that can easily be described as having a mental disorder. Some hoard items, some dead cats. Bottom line, hoarding is considered a mental disorder and we consider people who hoard to be mentally unwell.

Except of course when the thing they hoard is money. Then we idolize them.

Ain't that something?


DYK - that Ron had the McLaren HQ designed to have the cafeteria at a lower atmospheric pressure to prevent food smell for escaping to other parts of the building? It's not just 21C that this many had OCD over.

I wonder in all honesty when asked how Ron feels about the F1 vs. P1 or other new McLarens. I bet you he still thinks he got it right the first time around. I mean the bloody thing had a V12 in it and came in at 2500lbs. P1 added a 1000lbs of fat on it!

Andrew Halliday

I reckon you're right about the photo being from 2007. I'd go a step further and say that it was taken during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend in October 2007.


I don't know Andrew. China would have been after Spygate. Just look at this cover of one of my old Red Bulletins from Sept 14th 2007. I mean, how could he smile after that? And I strongly believe McLaren surrendered the WDC that year voluntarily, as winning it would have been a big stain as well.


I imagine I'll lose interest next year when F1 goes behind a paywall. And I suppose this blog consequently could lose readers. Hopefully liberty will allow subcription based services on multiple platforms and providers, like Netflix or nowtv.


I don't blame you.

Imagine a magazine where 83% of the pages are covered in Mercedes adverts. That's what F1 has been delivering to fans the last 4 years of the PU era.

Oh sure, there is an occasional issue with another team on the cover, but just like Oprah's O magazine that always features Oprah on the F1 "magazine" is now essentially Mercedes magazine. It has been hijacked with these fake fuel saving PUs, and I don't see Mercedes willing to fall back out of the spotlight. Meaning - they will pull out or sell the team.

....maybe to Ron? 🙂


Add you to all those that will gag at sight of Halo and it could be like a Tyson 1-2 punch for F1.

Liberty is living up to its name, liberating fan's time around the world!

Use the saved time for good. Give your lady some extra attention and love. Your ROI on that time will be amazing!


Even if liberty offer a subscription service, it is unlikely to be at a price point that i am willing to pay. I'm will not willing to pay anything more than a handful of pennys a month, and they would likley be looking for pounds per race.

I object to the whole principle of paying for sports coverage, so if it leaves free to view, I'll be lost as a viewer.


Can you help me understand why you reject on principle rather than price?


That was always the contract: We'll put up with all the brands and logos and adverts and you feed this TV commercial disguised as a sport to the viewers for free.

Somewhere along the way these TV channels started to climb over each other to get the right to broadcast. Fortunately, more and more they are not getting ROI on their investment. And youth in general is tuning out of sports more and more in favour of other activities. Paid TV in general is going away in favour of on demand. TV no longer tells us when to watch, we tell it. Is "appointment" television being impacted by this behaviour? You bet!

This all means they will all come back beggin' in the future to fan to watch them again for free. Consider that in US, like 200-300K fans watch a Grand Prix. Seriously. That's how pathetic it is. However, by then the fans are likely to be too far gone. And what will they use as a hook to get us interested? Electric cars? Yeah, that will work.


james , dont you think opening tyres régulation so any manufacturer could come in with "fia qualified tyres" would make a better show . it should be same as brake system , use those you want . now its just taking tyres manuf money for advertisement and no real good tyres dont u think ?


Open tyres is a can of worms, for example what happens if one tyre company is contracted to one team and they have the best tyre? That one team wins all the time. Conversely a team is contracted to a tyre company that supplies rubbish for a couple of seasons while they catch up? They have no chance of winning. What about a tyre that works at one type of track but not another? A tyre that was the "best" last race is now second rate because the competition made a break through? Catch up time for a few races, means their team/teams are uncompetitive.

Tyres are a huge factor, highly variable and cost a lot of money to develop. A control tyre eliminates that variable and helps the lower profile teams with less budget to spend on developing tyres.


as i said no contract. like brakes


@ gary..You make some very good points but i don't believe having a control tyre is in the best interests of competition. It takes away the unexpected and it also plays to the strengths of some teams to the exclusion of others. Some cars will perform better than others on certain compounds and the teams have no say in that. Whilst we are on the subject of tyres the rules that force teams to use two compounds in a race is quite ridiculous. Teams should have the freedom to select whatever tyre they race on irrespective of compounds. If they choose to run, say a supersoft throughout the entire race with how many tyre changes as they need then they should be free to do so. The stupid rules about quali should also be done away with. Quali is quali and is a separate race within a race. All teams should be able to choose whatever compound they like to start the race on, not what they used on in Q2. That is just plain stupid. Tyres are such a determining factor that no one supplier should be used for obvious reasons. The FIA could simply lay down a general specification and then the suppliers could work around that as individuals with individual advantages/disadvantages.


James, seeing Ron's picture... where do you rank Ron in F1? Is he as legendary as Frank? Up there with Enzo? Or was he just a guy in the right place, right time, having access to Marlboro money and Gordon Murray's talent?

Maybe a feature on Ron would be fitting to answer this... 🙂 And must we count him out of racing altogether?


IMHO Ron is as legendary as it gets in F1.


I miss Martin Whitmarsh! Always thought he came across very pragmatic and seemed to have a high sense of corporate responsibility. I thought he was one of the better guys that F1 should have tried to keep around.

Kieran Donnelly

True JSL - I didn't like him at the time but now, in hindsight, I think I respect his approach a lot more. I think Ron's return helped in that reappraisal.


James, would you tells us few more of the "special" places on the current tracks where you like to go and watch drivers showing their best, or where the cars show their peculiarities?


I feel the real championship would be untie the drivers from manufacturers and keep them in rostrum to taste all cars and adapt to them in race weekends. FIA should take care of driver remuneration based on voting by manufacturers.


Hello James, With tire fatigue having found to be a more immediately dangerous threat to human health than tail pipe emissions from road cars, how long can F1 continue to accent tire degradation as a primary factor in racing success or failure?


Hey James,

do you know anything about what Ross Brawn and his engineering team do currently?
If not, could you maybe try to get in touch with them and find out what they are analysing or what basic ideas they came up with?



Mr. James,
My gripe with current F1 is over-regulation and the politics of environmentalism. When promoters suggest louder noise from the engines, sorry PUs ! - how foolish they must think F1 fans? While l miss the wail of a normally aspirated v12 at 20,000 rpm, it is not decibels, it is the missing beauty of unrestrained mechanical symphony. Because the current small displacement hybrid favored by manufacturers for marketing reasons is faster in the corners, it is not of course, due to the engine, but the result of regulations on tires and aero downforce. Those components are also the outcome of the regulators, in this case based on competitiveness, or leveling everyone out. Everything is. I fully believe a head protection system designed by the individual car designers could offer as much safety as the prescribed one-size-fits-all halo. Every regulation to make the cars slower or safer can be worked around by a creative designer. Lets set the performance standards, and let the designs win out on the track.
If Jim Clark or Ayrton Senna or Lewis Hamilton jumps out to a big lead for the whole race, it is not necessarily a boring race. If NASCAR restarts a race 3 times trying to level everyone back out, and Martin Truex Jr. does not win the final leg, that is a boring race.
Do you think there is any hope of again seeing the days of actual competition on many fronts?


James I'm so glad you mention the pay wall. I hope that liberty do find a solution. I'm not a sky subscriber and don't intend to be. I am however an f1 fan but for how long more I don't know


Just wanted to say that these features (the reader Q&A as well as the mid-season reviews) are really informative and make a nice bridge over the mid-summer break when most other F1 sites are either shuttered or posting very light "stories".

I appreciate the effort and hard work, thank you!

I have often appreciated your commentary as being very insightful and the most well balanced with very little of the bias one sees almost everyone else. I now consider your site to be my most valued source for F1 news and commentary.

Great work!!!


As regards a "customer's" ability to win the championship. I think it is highly unlikely this is possible. Though Red Bull are often seen to have disproved this could one not say they were effectively Renault's "works" Team - abeit they were paying. It is different now as Renault have their own works team - going forward Renault will certainly give their best spec engine to their works team - though they will have to improve their chassis to beat Red Bull who usually build outstanding cars.


James, Hello had put forward a question earlier which I'm still hoping you'd answer. Or my take on it is.. If you had an F1 team and could only choose one driver purely to achieve the best results for year, which of the current F1 drivers would you put in the seat? And secondly, same question but this time you get to choose from any F1 driver of all time. Thanks!


Relating to your last comment above -- am still not sure where the "future" of your blog is going to settle down. Hopefully, it will stay as a stand-alone and relatively free-market opportunity. Not sure what a "digital-first" focus is or what that term really means.

The format you have established and the moderation for most 'fan-natical' comments is appreciated, even with the 'popularity' based issues/rants from some reader comments.

Thanks for all the good work in developing the most readable and accessible organ around. We see what "media-specific" and politically motivated 'reporting' based on specific ideologies has done to the industry in the U.S. and your approach is a great counter-point to that model.

Also, if shifting to requiring a 'face book' based response process or similar approach is being considered, that model is not conducive to open dialogue and, more to the point, exposes readers who might choose to use that way of responding to unwanted invasion of privacy.

Thanks for listening.


Why are the FIA and rulemakers so anti- ground effect when it came to the 2017 (and presumably 2020) rules? From what I've heard it will solve the dirty-air problem nicely.

jonathan powell

One of the things Ive always liked about you James,and Martin Brundle aswell,is that you tell it like it is!Your not afraid to say the halo is pig-ugly when it obviously is!

Keep up the great work and ive thoroughly enjoyed these Q&A sessions!


F1 is going to shoot its self in both feet when it's solely Sky, millions of viewing figures gone, and no way of attracting new viewers to the sport unless they pay. Advertisers will see this drop and will either pull out or when the contract ends demand a lower fee. When does the deal end? Is Liberty looking at ways of getting out of it?


Separate pit facilities mostly.


What is the way to stop Halo/Shield/whatever nonsense you want to call this? Is there a legal approach?


Hi James,

Do you know if Liberty Media are taking the recent Motorsport Network fan survey seriously?


Should the Motorsport Network be the online streaming service for F1, I'd pay to watch F1 like that then giving money to Rupert Murdoch.


Choosing out of current drivers, drivers who aren't currently on the grid (but a sensible age, i.e. Kubica, di Resta, Buemi), and young drivers (Leclerc, Giovinazzi, Gasly), what would be your ideal 20-24 driver grid?


Hi James you mentioned the drivers who impressed you, I was wondering anyone this year who have been disapointed by?


I was told (accurately or not I can't say) that Ross Brawn has bought the liquidated material from Manor. If true wonder why, and really what is the value in old F1 property?


What absolutely sticks in my craw is the 'double taxation' that paywall TV presents. First I must pay to watch, then I must be subjected to endless advertising.

A digital-first approach should surely be to offer a free to air ad-subsidised model, or an ad-free premium whereby you get the show, the whole show, and nothing but the show.

Ideally without having to buy countless other TV bundles and sports packages to access it.


Hi James:

While that digital stuff is very cool I don't see the boob tube going away any time soon. The fact is good high speed internet with streaming is hard out in some of the rural areas in the US.

We can stream over 4g and do have fairly good speed but data is limited. If I lived in the city I would stream everything. Of course this is only 10% and those older people that don't like change.

The rural areas will always exist because we supply the cities with food and every other resource. In the US most in cities don't even know where their food comes from.

It's the future though. Digital media has been around for some time but a lot aren't taking advantage of it where available.

Everyone in rural US loves racing. I wonder what an F1 car would do at Bristol. That would be a good NASCAR track to demo one. Maybe they ought to make a special one that has a back seat to take lucky winners around a track before a race. Maybe Honda could do that haha. But good luck with the digital stuff.


I'm one the disgruntled F1 fans who after 2018 will no longer be watching the races as I am a pensioner on a limited income and cannot afford the monies that Sky will be charging. I have been watching F1 since it was first shown on TV, I just hope that there will some chance of watching after the event has happened a bit like happens with Motogp and the WRC.

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