Susie Wolff c/o James Moy Photography

Susie Wolff
c/o James Moy Photography

Susie Wolff will retire at the end of the season. By the manner in which this news has been greeted, one would imagine the announcement had been made by one of the all-time greats. There has been an outpouring of emotion, of platitudes and sadness.

But to pretend Susie Wolff’s career has been anything but ordinary, would be to serve the very cause she champions a disservice.

Susie Wolff had a dream. That dream was to drive a Formula 1 car. It is a dream she has fulfilled, and there are not many of us on this earth who can be as content as to say that we have achieved our life’s ambition. For that, one can only be happy for her. Susie is an incredibly warm and likeable person. She is sincere and charming and I would hazard has not a bad bone in her body. How can one not be happy for such a person achieving their dream?

And she did so nobly, not simply driving a Formula 1 car but taking to the track competitively in timed practice sessions, comparing favourably with team-mate and multiple race-winner Felipe Massa. While we will never know the difference in their programmes, and thus fuel levels the two were running, the history books will forever show she lapped within 0.2 seconds of the man who, for half a minute, was the 2008 Formula 1 World Champion.

Susie and Toto Wolff c/o James Moy Photography

Susie and Toto Wolff
c/o James Moy Photography

Wolff’s very appointment, however, created controversy. When she first signed for Williams back in 2012, detractors of course pointed to the part ownership of the team of her husband Toto Wolff. Why else would a team with the competitive desires of Williams, employ the services of a driver who had, in seven years of competing in the DTM, finished in the points just twice, it was asked. Admittedly those two seventh place finishes left her ahead of Grand Prix winners David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher in the championship table, but her junior career in no way merited a promotion to an F1 development driver role on skill alone.

Of course, Williams went to great lengths to point out that the board had approved Susie’s appointment and that Toto Wolff had removed himself from that particular discussion and vote. But to those looking simply at performance, her appointment simply didn’t make any sense when so many talented junior series champions and race winners had been overlooked.

Her appointment came not long after Maria de Vilotta had been announced in a similar role at the Marussia F1 Team. Women drivers were back en vogue in the F1 paddock and so naturally Susie’s appointment was seen as a good news story. At the time, one could not have imagined that her many hours spent in the simulator would prove so worthy to the team and would result in her getting actual track time. Nor could anyone have foreseen what a fantastic ambassador she would become not only for Williams, but for Formula 1 as a whole.

At the same time, she worked incredibly hard with the FIA on its Women in Motorsport programme, becoming a mentor to young girls coming through the ranks and sitting on influential panels at the highest levels of the governance of our sport.

But her very position at the table due to her Formula 1 seat is something which, if I am honest, I cannot say sat easily with me. For me to do so would be disingenuous.

Wolff took part in 2 practice sessions in 2014 c/o James Moy Photography

Wolff took part in 2 practice sessions in 2014
c/o James Moy Photography

She has been heralded as a ground-breaker, a pioneer and a role-model for women. A latter-day Nomex-clad Emmeline Pankhurst of sorts. But if one is to applaud her on track achievements so loftily, we must ask why we do so. We do not claim Channoch Nissany to be a pioneer of Israeli motorsport, nor Adderly Fong a champion for Hong Kong. Why then does Wolff deserve such praise? Like them, she achieved very little in an otherwise ordinary racing career, and yet had a light shone upon them when taking part in a practice session on a Grand Prix weekend.

If we laud her simply because she is a woman, is that not in itself incredibly sexist? Does that not defeat the entire purpose of the fight for equality? If we are ever to achieve a day in this sport where women compete on equal terms with men, then it follows that the barometer we use to judge success must also be equal.

Susie, whether we dare to admit it or not, formed one part of a triumvirate of women over the past 5 years who found a role in Formula 1 in spite of, not because of, the talent they had shown to that point in their careers. Maria de Vilotta, God rest her soul, should never have been put in a Formula 1 car. Carmen Jorda, after a year at Lotus, has thus far only been allowed to sit in a simulator.

If we take it back to a question of equality, would any young man with the racing pedigree of Maria, Susie or Carmen be looked at twice by a Formula 1 team? Our answer is clear. And is a definitive no. Unless, of course, they could bring either some form of substantial sponsorship or be commercially appealing to the squad in some other way.

Those who call for equality in Formula 1 and for women to be judged on equal terms as men decry the outdated use of promotional girls on the grid or the podium. But if someone like Carmen Jorda, with a pitiful junior racing CV, is appointed to a Formula 1 team to spend the majority of her time being filmed doing nothing in an F1 garage while wearing team kit, in between talking to sponsors in the Paddock Club, how far away is she from the promotional girls which those battling for equality in the sport wish to see removed?

Carmen Jorda c/o James Moy Photography

Carmen Jorda
c/o James Moy Photography

And so we must ask… Does, or has, the promotion of these women to official driving roles at Formula 1 teams, in spite of the fact that their talent level in no way merits such a position, actually detracted from the fight for women to be seen and to be judged as equals in the sport? Because if they truly were judged as equals, one could argue they wouldn’t be there.

The irony is that there are women out there who are good enough and who could and perhaps by now should have been given a chance not just to test, but to race in Formula 1. It is very easy to pour scorn on the idea, but Danica Patrick is an Indycar race winner, she led the Indy 500, and ten years ago would have been worth giving a shot. Simona de Silvestro is a Formula Atlantic Vice Champion and an Indycar podium finisher. Sadly, she became caught up in Monisha Kaltenbourn’s 2014/2015 driver pool of madness and lost out in the biggest possible way having put her Indy career on hold to follow her F1 dream.

Alice Powell is a multiple championship winning racing driver, who has, through lack of funding, had to turn her sporting attentions to hockey, whilst assuaging her thirst for speed with a Bob Skeleton.

But young women are coming through the junior formulae. Tatiana Calderon is just one name to keep your eye on. In Florida last year she took on the boys and won, in a field that comprised none other than F1’s man of the moment Max Verstappen. Just last weekend, she finished on the podium in three of the opening four races of the MRF championship in Abu Dhabi.

Tatiana Calderon c/o

Tatiana Calderon

These are the achievements and these are the kind of racers we should be championing. And it is worth pointing out that Tatiana Calderon is just one of the drivers to have benefitted from Susie Wolff’s commitment to the future of women racers through her work at the FIA.

Susie Wolff achieved her dream of driving a Formula 1 car. Her time at the Williams F1 team went far beyond the vast majority of expectations in the ultra-critical world of the Formula 1 paddock. I’d wager it probably exceeded hers, too. For the position in which she now finds herself, is a far more important one than the role of which she dreamed as a child.

And as such, we should perhaps hold back on lauding her career just yet.

For if we do so on the basis of her achievements as a driver, and we do so in glowing terms, we are being false to ourselves, false to you and potentially detrimental to the perception of women in motorsport and the pursuit of equality.

When we first see a woman climb to the top step of a Formula 1 podium, or clinch her first F1 world championship… and we will… and in her post race joy she talks about watching Susie Wolff at Williams and how it inspired her to follow her own dream, then we can praise her achievements with sincerity.

But not today.

Susie’s calling has only just begun.

Good luck Susie c/o James Moy Photography

Good luck Susie
c/o James Moy Photography


Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 17.47.49



Will Buxton will host a lively evening for fans: welcoming motorsport personalities, sharing stories and insight into the world of racing, and passing out exclusive racing memorabilia as coveted door prizes this year including signed memorabilia from Formula 1 teams and incredible and exclusive donations from Graham and Leigh, Paul Oz and more.

For our fourth annual event, we invite you to come enjoy the sights and sounds of Austin from one of the hippest rooftop patios on West 6th Street: Rattle Inn. This intimate, split-level venue has a little bit of something for everyone, with a side of Texas-kitsch to boot. Doors open at 19:00, and make sure you’re there early as the first special guests are due on stage at 19:30.

With Buxton on the mic, you never know who will drop by. In fact (humble brag), who remembers the call he took on stage from the one and only Mario Andretti before he stopped by and graced the stage? This year, a number of active F1 drivers have already confirmed their attendance.

Our always-entertaining, fan-oriented fundraising event benefits Meals on Wheels and More of Austin AND Justin Wilson’s Children’s Fund this year, so we are collecting a $10-$20 suggested donation at the door, however if you’re feeling generous you can donate however much you wish. Will and his crew put the $23,547.35 that YOU helped raise to work last year by delivering meals to clients on our weekly delivery route the Monday after the race! Over the past three years we have raised over $40,000 and every cent has gone to charity.

We can’t wait to see you at Rattle Inn to kick off Formula One racing’s fourth United States Grand Prix in Austin this October!

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McDonalds Yokkaichi via

McDonalds Yokkaichi

I love Japan. I love the culture, the people, the food, the countryside. Our annual trip to this seemingly magical place has become one of the highlights of my year. From the primary root of a language based upon an entirely different set of characters to those used in the West, to the intricate web of social hierarchy and interaction, from clothing styles to music, car design to self-opening and flushing toilets… Japan is perhaps the one place on earth that, despite over a decade of travel, still to me feels truly foreign. It is absolutely unique. Down to the smallest detail.

In Yokkaichi there is a small McDonalds at the train station. We make a point to visit at least once a year. You may ask why, when one finds oneself in a country responsible for some of the most beautiful, fresh and incredible tasting food in the world, we should choose to avail ourselves to this most Western of mass-produced muck. But the answer is that what is produced is, as far as I’ve experienced, the most beautifully crafted piece of muck on earth.

The concept of fast food simply doesn’t exist in a Japanese McDonalds. On opening the cardboard container you are met with a perfect likeness of the image of the burger that adorns the illuminated menu above the counter. Piping hot and meticulously prepared just for you, it’s a Big Mac. But it’s the best damn Big Mac you’ve ever tasted.

This pursuit of perfection, or Kaizen as it is referred to in Japan, lies at the very heart of the culture of this tremendous country. It is a guiding life principle. And it is as true in an individual’s personal pursuit of betterment as it is in business. In the workplace, Kaizen is about learning and using experience to continuously improve process and to strive for a never-ending stream of enhancement in the end product.

The concept, though, has major drawbacks. For to assume that one can continuously improve, suggests that one must constantly consider changing the very foundations of what is already established. Kaizen, as taught by Taiichi Ohno, is all about changing the way things are. So to do Kaizen continuously, one must set a standard, and then change the way in which one goes about achieving that standard in order to improve the end result.

Of course, this will lead to countless mistakes. It is a messy concept, because failure is integral to its path and every bit as important as success. For in failure one learns. Without failure one cannot understand and one cannot improve. As such, Kaizen rests hand in hand with another core Japanese life principle, that of Hansei – self reflection. Humility is key to the betterment of the ideal, as only through trial, error and self reflection can one truly find the path to perfection.

Jenson Button - McLaren Honda 2015 Japanese Grand Prix James Moy Photography

Jenson Button – McLaren Honda
2015 Japanese Grand Prix
James Moy Photography

As I took another bite of that beautifully prepared burger in Yokkaichi on the Monday after the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, the ideas of Kaizen and Hansei played heavily on my mind after what had been an inglorious weekend suffered by Honda at what should have been their triumphant return to Formula 1 on home soil. The posters for the race had featured the RA272 in which Richie Ginther had won Honda’s first F1 race and the all-conquering McLaren Honda MP4/4 in which Senna and Prost had dominated the 1988 season. With such a past, Honda’s great return was the most almighty disappointment. That 12th and 14th on the grid seemed like a success was indicative of the trouble in which McLaren and Honda have found themselves this year. In the race itself, Jenson Button found himself being overtaken for position as though he was being lapped, and Fernando Alonso slammed his power unit as being like a “GP2 engine,” before letting out a pained, raw, animalistic scream.

It was an embarrassment.

The thing is, Honda will get it right. There is quite simply no way that it won’t. Honda has not simply forgotten how to make engines. And, due in equal part to Kaizen and Hansei, when Honda does get it right, because they will have failed so desperately along the way, they will perhaps understand the concept better than anyone, and produce a better end product than anyone. That same pursuit of perfection will, ultimately, produce the results they seek.

How long McLaren is willing to wait, or indeed how long their drivers will be prepared to wait, is another matter.

Thoughts of Kaizen and Hansei and the concept of success through failure, while noble, lies in direct contrast to the prevailing Western trend of immediate success. How different a world we live in where one’s sole focus is the end product, rather than the Japanese focus on the path to achieving said aim. How different, I thought, the approach from Honda to that of Red Bull. For the four-time champions there was no introspection, no decision to work with an engine partner through failure to find the path to perfection. Instead, the sole focus was on the end product. If that which they have was not good enough, it must be swapped for another. No effort to fix or improve what exists. Reflective perhaps of the throw-away nature of Western culture, replace what does not work with something new. Can this process ever lead to perfection? Perhaps not, according to Japanese culture.

Honda has a long road to tread to achieve success however. For at the heart of Japanese culture lies the concept of respect and hierarchy. Much was been made of the difference in methodology between East and West in the collapse of the works teams from both Honda and Toyota in Formula 1. And the same issues which stopped those teams from achieving success as manufacturers, may yet hamper Honda’s development.

Takahiro Hachigo, Honda CEO, with Fernando Alonso Japanese Grand Prix 2015 James Moy Photography

Takahiro Hachigo, Honda CEO, with Fernando Alonso
Japanese Grand Prix 2015
James Moy Photography

Harmony within a group, or Wa, relies upon the acceptance of co-operation and that each person within the infrastructure of a hierarchy understand their role and position. When this is achieved, the whole group benefits. Decisions take longer because consultation of all those within the group is an intrinsic part of Wa. That doesn’t mean that consensus requires unanimity, but consultative decision-making is deemed crucial in order to ensure effective information exchange, reinforcement of group-identity and thus a smoother implementation of the decision.

Much of this is due to the fact that the very concept of social order in Japan has, at its roots, the Confucian theory which became part of the prevailing Chinese influence on cultural changes that affected Japan in the sixth Century. Confucianism preaches harmony between heaven and earth, humans and nature, via an acceptance of one’s role within a given society and the promotion of social order by proper behavior. It’s why the Japanese find a lack of behavior or conduct unbecoming of someone’s position within a hierarchy to be so awkward.

In Japan, order within companies and organisations is often referred to as “diffuse order,” because responsibility is collective precisely due to this group decision making. The leader of the group is as much part of the group as his apparent subordinates and this is a key factor in weakening the concept of leadership as we might think of it. Leadership in this sense does not call for strong and forceful management and instinctive decision-making, but for tact and sensitivity. A mixture of Giri (duty) and Ninjo (compassion) are the hallmarks of a good leader in Japanese businesses.

And yet, in spite of the collective decision-making and diffuse order, leaders are still expected to assume responsibility for any shortfallings of the group. Even if they have had no direct involvement in the unfolding situation, they may still be required by convention to resign their position should the failure be great enough to merit such.

One wonders how long Arai-San can hold on.

But one must also question the actions of certain individuals within the hierarchy and the role they are playing. In particular, Fernando Alonso.

Alonso himself has claimed many times to be a student of Japanese teachings, in particular Bushido, the way of the warrior, and has stated that he is inspired by Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s 18th Century spiritual guide for the warrior.

Bushido itself is the code of the Samurai, and in the Western world is a concept we would most closely align, perhaps, with chivalry. “The way” originated from Samurai moral values and is an unwritten and unspoken code, which had to be mastered in order to become Samurai. It revolves around eight values: those of righteousness, courage, benevolence, respect, sincerity, honour, loyalty and self-control. At least three of which, the two-time world champion let slip during his outbursts in Suzuka.

Fernando Alonso's Samurai Tattoo c/o twitter @alo_oficial

Fernando Alonso’s Samurai Tattoo
c/o twitter @alo_oficial

Alonso has a tattoo on his back of an ancient Samurai, and after the Malaysian Grand Prix this year told Marca “My tattoo is a way for me to remember who I am, where I come from and the strength I possess. The Samurai take everything to another level: one must fight, things don’t just happen. It also reminds me of something important that happened to me: the Samurai in the drawing is kneeling, almost in defeat, but always looking up.”

The Hagakure, the teachings upon which Alonso claims his tattoo is based, provide many transferable passages which the Spaniard might do well to remember in his current difficulties. Maybe one of the most relevant is the following:

“There is something to be learned from the rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”

Walking through the rain Japanese Grand Prix 2015 James Moy Photography

Walking through the rain
Japanese Grand Prix 2015
James Moy Photography

Is Alonso, then, a Samurai as he might like to think? His public outbursts of late are not the actions of the chivalrous warrior under Bushido. What, then, is he? A Shinobi? Certainly his actions in the spygate scandal of 2007 would lend themselves to those of the covert assassins of Japan’s feudal age.

Perhaps, a Ronin. A Samurai with no lord or master. With Flavio Briatore banned from the sport, is Alonso a warrior forced to walk alone due to the shame placed upon his former master and as such, an aimless, wandering sword for hire? Is his path one of an avenger as the Japanese legend of the 47 Ronin? Or has his public admonishment of his superiors disgraced him enough to lead him to walk the path of the vagrant and become Ronin by his own actions?

The Hagakure states that “it is unthinkable to be disturbed at something like being a Ronin. People used to say, ‘If one has not been a Ronin at least seven times, he will not be a true retainer (Samurai.) Seven times down, eight times up.”

Perhaps this is the line Alonso cares to treat most favourably of the teachings contained within the pages of Hagakure. For that, he may like to think of himself as Samurai. But for his courage, he seemingly falls short.

Perhaps that’s why the team needed Jenson Button on board again in 2016. As the 2009 world champion stated after the Japanese Grand Prix, he felt “like a Samurai warrior without his armour and sword.”

Defenceless, perhaps. But honorable.

Jenson Button Japanese Grand Prix 2015 James Moy Photography

Jenson Button
Japanese Grand Prix 2015
James Moy Photography


The following was written as a comment on Reddit by Santiago Paz, who alerted me to his words via twitter. I really loved the continuation of the theme, and so I include them here for everyone to enjoy:

“I come from a city in Peru called Arequipa, which lies right next to a volcano. And we say “not in vain, we are born at the feet of a volcano”. We are strong headed and short tempered. And that costs us a lot, sometimes. Nando has the raw will to come through all dificulties. But his hot head plays against him sometimes. In this case I belive that he is voicing his thoughts on the radio to bring shame to Honda on purpose. Because he wants them to see that the current version of the approach is dead wrong. Because maybe he knows that the current management is doing things WRONG. And due to the corporate culture, no one below Arai can question that. So the only one who can stand up and fight for those unable to voice her concerns is NANDO. So he’s doing what we can, without angering Ron or his fans. The weak spot in this is that we all know that he only wants to win, as any other F1 driver. So thinking he’s being the defender of those who can’t talk is a bit romantic. But I like to think that, much like a certain type of Ronin, he brings shame to himself, in order to do right to others around him. Truly honorable”

Lewis Hamilton 2015 Italian Grand Prix c/o James Moy Photography

Lewis Hamilton
2015 Italian Grand Prix
c/o James Moy Photography

I’m getting a little tired of this.

It’s hard enough to escape it on twitter, but then it starts to permeate one’s facebook feed, posted and pushed by those you’d considered might have a slightly better handle on reality.

Another week, another witty article, hilarious meme, wistful video of halcyon days past. Oh it was so much better in the 80s. The 90s too. Don’t forget 2004. That was the best. Scary fast cars. Scary sounding cars. Not like today. Today’s crap.

The latest video to do the rounds hit social media and the nadir of reasoned debate on Friday afternoon and soon after had permeated almost every stream of online motorsport-based consciousness. If you haven’t seen it already, and I doubt very much that if you’re reading this you haven’t, it was a side by side “comparison” video of Juan Pablo Montoya lapping Monza in 2004 in the Williams BMW FW26, and Lewis Hamilton taking to the same track in his Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid this very year.

Oh how people sneered. Montoya had long since passed the line to close his lap by the time Hamilton exited Parabolica to complete his own tour. “What is happening to our beloved sport?”, people asked. Where did we go so wrong? Won’t somebody think of the children!!???

Let’s start with a dose of reality. The lap chosen to highlight those apparently flawless days of the mid 2000s was, of course, the fastest lap recorded in Formula 1 history. Set in pre-qualifying and averaging almost 163mph, it remains one of the most viscerally staggering sights in Formula 1 history.

The lap chosen for the “comparison” was from this season’s Free Practice 2. Lewis Hamilton was bedding in a brand new development of his Mercedes power unit in a session regularly used to conduct race runs on heavy fuel. The majority of drivers improved their FP1 to FP2 best laptimes by over a second in Monza this year. Hamilton, under half a second. We commented at the time on the NBCSN broadcast, Mercedes never looked as though they were pushing.

So we’ve got a car bedding in a new engine, with brand new tyre camber and pressure parameters meaning the teams are still trying to get a handle on changed grip levels, on heavy fuel, in a session where they’re not pushing. And this is the lap chosen as a fair comparison with the fastest lap in the history of Formula 1?

It’s very difficult to paint an accurate picture when you’re working with a pallet of limited colours.

Nico Rosberg 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix c/o James Moy Photography

Nico Rosberg
2014 Brazilian Grand Prix
c/o James Moy Photography

How about we take the 2004 pole lap at Interlagos set by Rubens Barrichello, riding high on the emotion of the adoring crowd and at the wheel of the all-conquering Ferrari F2004, the car seemingly of choice in many people’s “Dream Team” as per’s recent poll. Widely regarded, along with the McLaren MP4-4, as the greatest F1 car of all time, it still holds the track and pole position record at the majority of circuits raced in that season.

Barrichello was on pole by 0.204 from Montoya, with the Brazilian setting an unbeatable lap of 1:10.646. Unbeatable in 2004. And a record that stood for a decade.

Finally beaten last season by Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid with a time, over half a second faster. 1:10.023.

Where’s that comparison video? It doesn’t exist. Because it doesn’t fit the lazy narrative that the sport is a woeful shadow of its former self.

I’ve got no issue with a debate over whether the current regulations are the right path for the sport. I think it is fairly obvious that some changes need to be made. But the overwhelming negativity towards today’s cars and the narrative that things were so much better in past eras is growing tired and dull. Particularly when the examples used to highlight the apparent disparity between what was and what is, are drawn from such selective grounds as to make them pointless and risible.

You want a direct comparison between the early 2000s and 2015? In 2002 Michael Schumacher had sewn up the title two calendar months ago. In July. At Magny Cours.

Montoya’s 2004 Monza lap was good, but it meant nothing. Barrichello still took pole and won the race. Trotting the lap out as an example of how great the sport used to be, merely highlights that even in a car that fast over one lap, he had no means of competing. Faster lap times don’t necessarily equate to better racing. Formula 1 back then had far more competitive issues than it does today.

But hey, let’s just keep on banging that old tired drum shall we?

Lewis Hamilton in Parc Ferme 2015 Italian Grand Prix  c/o James Moy Photography

Lewis Hamilton in Parc Ferme
2015 Italian Grand Prix
c/o James Moy Photography

The fallout from the Italian Grand Prix will likely continue to make headlines until we next convene for racing in Singapore. The focus will, quite naturally, be on the procedural grey areas around the taking of tyre pressures, the definition of what constitutes the “race start” and the manner in which the increasingly convoluted set of technical and sporting regulations are written.

Of course, this all stems back to Spa a fortnight ago and the tyre failures which befell Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. Pirelli blamed debris on track and called for a universal method of track cleaning. Positive meetings were conducted in Monza between the drivers, teams and Pirelli in which a greater understanding was reached between all parties on expectations and solutions for the future. The most likely thing we will see is the return of tyre testing in 2016, to be conducted by today’s actual race drivers and today’s actual cars.

With Pirelli still experiencing a mysterious increase in the level of cuts and debris on their tyres in Monza, and with tyre safety in sharp focus throughout the weekend, the moveable feast that was the company’s recommended parameters of camber and pressure was a talking point throughout the Italian Grand Prix. These guidelines are and were enforceable by the FIA on the grounds of safety.

Some have said that rules are rules and as such Mercedes should have been thrown out of the Italian Grand Prix. Others, that the timing of the checks and the circumstances surrounding those checks were inconsistent with procedural regulation and open to question. This, as stated, will likely be the focus of changes going forward and, one hopes, the start of a clearer routine for these type of examinations.

Pirelli was again under the spotlight 2015 Italian Grand Prix c/o James Moy Photography

Pirelli was again under the spotlight
2015 Italian Grand Prix
c/o James Moy Photography

On Sunday afternoon there were debates over the differences between regulations and directives, suggestions and recommendations, the enforceable and the unenforceable. For example, the regulations themselves have upwards of eight different Articles and Appendices referencing race starts and each has a distinctive definition and purpose. But it must be noted that in Monza the Stewards sided with Mercedes in the debate over the FIA’s own procedural inconsistencies and regulatory vagaries.

The Stewards come in for a lot of stick, but there is a deep-seated frustration within their ranks over the wording of the regulations they are tasked with enforcing (both technical and sporting) and the wide array of interpretations possible within their application. Not only that, but it is impossible for them to act without first being called to action by a referral either from the Race Director or Technical Delegate.

Whether Mercedes was guilty of a breach of regulation or whether the FIA’s procedures were incorrect and need amending, however, misses what to me is a far greater issue.

The tyre pressure parameters were put in place for the Italian Grand Prix by Pirelli in the interests of safety following the fallout from the Belgian Grand Prix and two catastrophic tyre failures.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the manner and the timing of the checks made to the tyres, the FIA found both Mercedes cars to have tyres which were, according to Pirelli’s enforceable guidelines, outside an operating window mandated on the grounds of safety. And yet the FIA’s Technical Delegate Jo Bauer failed to notify Mercedes that their cars were running tyres which were, according to his examination, unsafe.

FIA F1 Technical Delegate - Jo Bauer c/o James Moy Photography

FIA F1 Technical Delegate – Jo Bauer
c/o James Moy Photography

We’re not talking about finding a wing is a centimetre too wide. We’re not talking about potentially increased performance. We are talking about the only part of the racing car which is in contact with the racing surface, and a mandated minimum tyre pressure required on the grounds of safety.

Whether the reading was erroneous or taken at such a time as to be unrepresentative, why was the team not informed immediately that their tyres had, in the FIA’s view, fallen below the minimum safe pressure? If the FIA believed these tyres to be unsafe, as is evidenced by the subsequent reporting of the team to the stewards on the grounds of being outside the mandated limits, why did it take over an hour for this report to reach the stewards?

The reality is startling clear. The FIA allowed the Italian Grand Prix to start with two cars on the grid which it (rightly or wrongly) believed, due to information it had gathered and held privately in its possession, were running tyres that fell below the minimum safety requirements.

What if the FIA had been correct? What if those tyres had fallen below the minimum safe pressure and Mercedes had been unaware of this? Imagine, for a moment, that one of the Mercedes rear left tyres had suddenly lost pressure and let go in the opening laps of the race, resulting in an accident.

The parameters were put in place on the grounds of safety, not performance. As such, the FIA’s failure to inform the team of their discovery on the grid could arguably be seen as a breach of the duty of care that it holds towards not only Mercedes, but every team and driver on the grid, the circuit workers trackside and the paying public in the grandstands.

Lewis Hamilton 2015 Italian Grand Prix c/o James Moy Photography

Lewis Hamilton
2015 Italian Grand Prix
c/o James Moy Photography

All it would have taken was for an FIA representative to have spoken with Paddy Lowe, Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda or any team member for that matter on the grid and informed them that their cars’ rear lefts were under the limit and could they please just ensure all was OK. The tests were done over five minutes before the start of the formation lap, leaving ample time to make any amendments if deemed necessary. But instead the information was withheld, taken away and then slowly and slovenly written into an accusation of wrong doing. Over an issue, I repeat, not of performance but of safety.

It’s akin to seeing someone walking down the street with their shoe laces undone only to pull out your phone and start filming them in expectation of the inevitable moment when they fall over, rather than tapping them on the shoulder and letting them know they might be about to hurt themselves.

It smacks of irresponsibility.

Spa and Monza have shown the world that the FIA faces an urgent need to get its house in order as regards its governance of Formula 1. Its own Stewards have been forced to side against it due to an inability to uphold and enforce poorly written regulations. Its own procedures have been proven to be confused and inconsistent. Priorities have become misplaced.

Because in Monza, it appears that an attempt to punish was placed before the thought to protect.

Fans pack the grandstands Belgian Grand Prix 2015 c/o James Moy Photography

Fans pack the grandstands
Belgian Grand Prix 2015
c/o James Moy Photography

Since uploading my piece yesterday about track limits, I’ve seen and received many responses regarding the wording of the actual regulation.

Article 20.2 of the 2015 Formula 1 Sporting Regulations reads as follows:

20.2 Drivers must use the track at all times. For the avoidance of doubt the white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not. 

A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track. 

Should a car leave the track the driver may re-join, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any lasting advantage. At the absolute discretion of the race director a driver may be given the opportunity to give back the whole of any advantage he gained by leaving the track. 

A driver may not deliberately leave the track without justifiable reason.

I felt the need to go back and write today’s article because there exists a justifiable confusion over what is written and what is enforceable.

Daniel Ricciardo Belgian Grand Prix 2015 c/o James Moy Photography

Daniel Ricciardo
Belgian Grand Prix 2015
c/o James Moy Photography

If we take the regulation to the letter, then it stands that track limits are strictly confined to the area within the painted white lines at the edge of the circuit. This is an area which does not include the kerbs.

As written, the only time a driver will be considered to have left the track, and thus be outside or to have exceeded track limits, is when “no part of the car remains in contact with the track.” In other words, all four off.

The problem for the stewards, as I see it, is that in the wording of the regulation there is no guidance provided for when such an infringement becomes punishable.

Indeed, and as highlighted in yesterday’s piece, only in the third paragraph is there any mention of what might occur in the instance of somebody flouting the regulation although, again, this is dealt with in an overwhelmingly vague fashion.

The wording essentially states that should a driver break the regulation by exceeding the limits of the track, all they have to do is return to the confines of the track in a safe manner and without gaining “any lasting advantage.” It is at the “absolute discretion” of the race director as to whether or not to give a driver the opportunity to hand this advantage back, should they be deemed to have gained such a benefit and not handed it back of their own volition.

There is, therefore, absolutely no explicitly defined offense in exceeding track limits. For while the regulation is worded that a driver must use the marked track at all times, the only time at which he will be adjudged worthy of punishment is in the event that he has done so, gained an advantage, and not rescinded the unfairly gained benefit.

As such, it is easy to see how both the stewards are hamstrung and the fans frustrated by a poorly worded regulation.

Felipe Massa Practice - Hungarian Grand Prix 2015 c/o James Moy Photography

Felipe Massa
Practice – Hungarian Grand Prix 2015
c/o James Moy Photography

Were we to take the wording of this rule and attempt to apply it to other sports, we would immediately see its core problem.

Let’s take tennis as an example. Like Formula 1, we are looking at a playable surface within clearly marked boundaries. If a ball bounces outside those lines it is judged to be “out” and the competitor who played that ball loses the point. Simple. The advent of “Hawkeye” allows greater precision in the adjudication of which balls are within the limits, as being even slightly on the line counts as being “in.” Just as in F1, then, 100% of the ball just as 100% of the car needs to have exceeded the playable surface.

But if we were to apply Formula 1’s Article 20.2, then one could conceivably argue that so long as the opponent of the competitor who had played the foul ball was able to return said ball, then the initial competitor would have done nothing wrong as he or she had gained no advantage from exceeding the outer extremities of the marked court. Play would continue. Only in winning the point via a ball being played outside the legal limitations of the court and the opponent being unable to return it, would the advantage be “lasting” and thus the competitor lose the point for playing a foul ball.

If that seems ridiculous, it’s because it is. And yet it follows the very same logic which is at the basis of Article 20.2.

So how do we proceed?

Yesterday we talked of the possibility of a grass strip either side of the track, preceding as wide an asphalt run off as the governing body deemed safe before the barrier. It’s cheap, environmentally sound and would do the job.

Astroturf still catches drivers out Marcus Ericsson - Belgium 2015 c/o James Moy Photography

Astroturf still catches drivers out
Marcus Ericsson – Belgium 2015
c/o James Moy Photography

Another option might be to place astroturf behind the kerbs and white lines. This should be a natural deterrent, as evidenced when Marcus Ericsson put his rear right onto the plastic grass at Pouhon during practice at Spa and was promptly spat out into the barriers. Then again, it didn’t stop drivers exceeding track limits at Turns 3 and 4 in Hungary this year, and it didn’t stop drivers exceeding track limits at Stavelot or, indeed, on the exit of Blanchimont.

What about the high abrasion run off we see at Circuit Paul Ricard? Run over that too many times and your tyres will get chewed right through. It would be an effective deterrent, but if it chews up tyres then it follows that it would also chew up bike leathers and human flesh in the event of an incident in two-wheeled competition and as such would be a hard sell to most multi-purpose circuits.

If determining the correct type of run-off is so hard, then perhaps it simply falls down to policing track limits effectively. Some have called for Formula 1 to embrace Britain’s strict MSA rules. Introduced in 2014 in direct conflict to the FIA’s own regulations, the MSA stipulated the following:

Regulation Q14.4.2: Drivers must use the track at all times and may not leave the track without a justifiable reason.

Q14.4.2.a The white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track.

Q14.4.2.b A driver will be judged to have left the track if any wheel of the car either goes beyond the outer edge of any kerb or goes beyond the white line where there is no kerb.

Penalty System:

First offence: Reprieve
Second: Black-and-white warning flag
Third: Five-second penalty
Fourth: Drive-through penalty
Fifth: Black flag

MSA track limit guidelines

MSA track limit guidelines

This system is black and white. To many it is too extreme. To others, it is absolutely correct. And its intention is clear. Using the kerbs is acceptable to a point, but track limits must always be respected.

Ultimately Formula 1’s problem falls down to a number of factors, from the continual extension of drivable run-off in the pursuit of greater safety and a driver’s nature to use whatever advantage he or she can to drive faster, the failure in the first instance of Charlie Whiting and the FIA in clamping down on the excessive use of this run-off when it first became an issue, to the fine line one can draw between a black and white enforcement of principle and the grey area that exists in the excitement derived from those who go over the limits to pull off bold and brave overtaking moves.

But at the root of it all is the Sporting Regulations.

Until we have a better written set of rules, with clear parameters of acceptable driving, what constitutes the racing surface and what punishments will befall those who continually flout the rules, Article 20.2 and the concept of track limits will have absolutely no meaning in the so called pinnacle of motorsport.

Rosberg's tyre failed in FP2 Belgian Grand Prix 2015 c/o James Moy Photography

Rosberg’s tyre failed in FP2
Belgian Grand Prix 2015
c/o James Moy Photography

The 2015 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps created much controversy, with both Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel suffering catastrophic tyre issues. Both experienced rear right failures at high speed, but it is here that I believe the similarities end.

Rosberg’s failure was one of the strangest I have ever seen in Formula 1, an opinion shared by Mercedes AMG Technical Director Paddy Lowe who confirmed to NBCSN on Friday afternoon that he had never seen a tyre failure like it. When the tyre let go, it did so almost perfectly along the centre, circumferential line. The carcass sheared nigh on precisely in half, with the inside half tearing itself off, leaving just the outside edge of the tyre on the rim. Pirelli believed that the failure was caused by a cut, picked up on track, and the cleanliness of the failure and what remained would give credence to this. Mercedes ran checks on its own floor to ensure that nothing could have rubbed the tyre and created the issue. Pirelli stated the team was running its tyres well within the prescribed camber and pressure recommendations. Indeed, their adherence to these parameters was described as “exemplary.”

The cause of Vettel's ire Belgian Grand Prix 2015 c/o James Moy Photography

The cause of Vettel’s ire
Belgian Grand Prix 2015
c/o James Moy Photography

Vettel’s failure is the one which has now taken the focus of the story. His expletive-laden post race interview with the BBC could, one might argue, be excused given his disappointment in a potential lost podium. In truth, it was anything but a certainty given the freshness of Romain Grosjean’s tyres in comparison to his own. Yes, Vettel was still running competitive laptimes, but the overriding feeling is that Grosjean would have taken the position regardless.

Pirelli insists that a one-stop strategy at Spa was risky. But their post-race media strategy of releasing a statement highlighting that they had requested two years ago to have a mandated maximum percentage of a race run on each type of tyre, seemed an odd route to take. It took the focus of the story too far away from the case in point and that, in Pirelli’s opinion, Vettel’s failure was down the fact that the team had taken a gamble on tyre wear and it had not paid off. To pretend that this is somehow a new phenomenon or something unique to Pirelli would be disingenuous. Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen can tell him all about pushing tyres beyond their lifespan. His badly flat-spotted Michelin front right eventually lost pressure and caused suspension failure on the last lap of the 2005 European Grand Prix. A race he was leading. Just a few years ago one might remember only too well Bridgestone’s issues with tyre failures after they began “chunking” and the belts tore away from the carcass.

Sunday was not the first and won’t be the last time we see a tyre fail when pushed beyond its limits.

Ferrari insists their strategy was not risky. Vettel has now made his own statement to also say that his team’s strategy “was never risky, at any point. The Team is not to blame.” This, in spite of the fact that 13 laps before his tyre blew he had radioed the team and told them to think about making another stop.

But if we accept that the team is not to blame, and given that nobody else encountered a similar issue in the race, one might ascertain that the fault must therefore lie with Vettel himself. Because if it is not the tyres and it is not the team, the apportioning of blame has few other avenues.

Vettel repeatedly exceeded track limits at Raidillon, running all four wheels past the white line and pushing his tyres over the kerbing at the top of the hill. What can be in no question is that moments after running all four wheels off track, and his rear right riding the edge of the kerbs, the tyre surface began to let go on the precise outside section which moments earlier had been riding the angled top edge of the kerbs.

Within track limits? Belgain Grand Prix 2015

Within track limits?
Belgain Grand Prix 2015

Vettel insists he respected track limits. Visual evidence belies this.

Perhaps though it is not Vettel who should take the blame for the tyre failure. If we conclude that, while perhaps not being the sole cause of the failure, running over the kerbs and outside track limits did not help maintain the integrity of tyres that were 27 laps old, it follows that those who permitted Vettel to run outside track limits must also accept their share of culpability.

On arrival in Belgium for 2015, a new kerb had been placed on the inside of Raidillon. In Friday practice it was well respected by all the drivers as riding it would have caused massive instability precisely at the point where a driver needs the greatest control of his car. And yet on Saturday the kerb was removed, reportedly because of some incidents in which cars were launched in the GP3 practices session. But these incidents were caused by the white bump kerbs perpendicular to the track, not the orange sausage kerb that was removed. The kerb in question was, it now seems apparent, removed due to concerns that should anybody make a mistake through Eau Rouge and into Raidillon in the wet, the kerb could act as a launch pad.

And yet the weather forecast for the weekend was bright sunshine, with no chance of rain until 17:10 on Sunday. Ubimet was wrong. The rain arrived at 17:20.

So the kerb was removed and drivers’ lines through Raidillon instantly changed. An FIA statement was released on Saturday morning which said that track limits would still be monitored, but that “a report will only be made to the stewards if a driver has exceeded the track limits (principally but not limited to the areas behind the kerbs in Turns 4 [Eau Rouge] and 15 [Stavelot]), and is suspected of gaining an advantage.”

Yet what we saw through qualifying and repeatedly during the race was drivers seemingly cutting that very corner. Why, then, was nobody penalised? Why were drivers repeatedly allowed to exceed track limits without being taken to task for it?

Charlie Whiting c/o James Moy Photography

Charlie Whiting
c/o James Moy Photography

The problem lies in the fact that Charlie Whiting and the FIA have only one means of policing track limits, and that is via the third paragraph of Article 20.2 of the Sporting Regulations. That paragraph features the caveat that in order to be judged to have broken the rules for exceeding track limits, a “lasting advantage” needs to have been gained.

Kimi Raikkonen cut the very corner in question three years ago in qualifying, but the data as seen by the stewards said that no advantage had been gained. Indeed, it showed that running all four wheels off track had actually slowed him.

It is important to recognise that the stewards have far more information at their disposal than you or I. Our track timing is split into three sectors. The stewards have timing loops every 100 metres. They can trace velocity, entry and exit speed and are privy to enough real time information to make an instant and informed call. They saw no advantage had been gained.

In the race itself, again, no penalties were handed out and we only heard one warning message being broadcast, that to Dany Kvyat. But from a television perspective, we saw repeat offenders at Raidillon and, to a lesser extent, at Stavelot.

Why were they not punished? If one looks at the wording of the regulation it would follow that in all likelihood nobody was reported and no penalties were handed out because no “lasting advantage” was gained. But it is possible to argue that if the majority of drivers cut the corner in question, then each would have been advantaged or disadvantaged to the same extent and so it follows that no advantage would have been gained. But that doesn’t mean that exceeding the track limits is right.

Quite simply, it appears that the FIA has fallen back into the old argumentum ad populum which it employed in July of 2014 when it was widely understood that the reason Kimi Raikkonen had not been punished for his re-entry of the track on lap 1 at Silverstone was because the governing body believed that any other driver would have rejoined the track in the same manner. In other words, if everyone is doing something then it becomes acceptable.

And this is something I cannot and have never been able to accept.

To me, it falls down to the fact that Charlie and the FIA should have been far stronger, far earlier.

Of course, the great irony is that track limits are only able to be exceeded at all because of the sport’s constant drive towards greater safety. If gravel or grass still existed on either side of the track through Eau Rouge and Raidillon, nobody would dare to cut the corner. Were this so, the challenge of the corner might revert to its old majesty but then so too would its inherent specter of danger. It is thus a tough balancing act.

Verstappen on Nasr approaching Blanchimont

Verstappen on Nasr approaching Blanchimont

Would Max Verstappen have dared to put his wheels on the grass in passing Felipe Nasr around the outside of Blanchimont, or was that incredible move only possible because of the additional asphalt? He only had two wheels off at that point and so was theoretically “within” track limits, but on exit he placed all four over the white line to take to the kerbs. Indeed, did he only avoid punishment because the Sauber pitted at the end of the lap and thus any “lasting advantage” of the Dutchman’s move was impossible to verify?

Verstappen was, of course, reported to the stewards for his move on Valtteri Bottas at Les Combes given that, in the midst of his passing move, he slid wide and put all four wheels off track. But again, possibly because he was already past at his point of leaving the track, it was considered that no advantage had been gained. A few years ago in Hungary, Romain Grosjean was not so fortunate and was reported and penalised for passing Felipe Massa around the outside of Turn 4 because he had exceeded track limits on corner exit.

Grosjean’s move on Massa all those years ago in Hungary, just as Verstappen’s on Nasr at Blanichimont on Sunday, was one of the moves of the race. Gutsy as hell. But, if we are sticking to the letter of the law, it was only possible because he exceeded track limits.

Verstappen puts all four over the line on exit of Blanchimont in his battle with Nasr

Verstappen puts all four over the line on exit of Blanchimont in his battle with Nasr

As such the policing of track limits is a very difficult line to walk. Do we want to stop these kind of great, daring moves? Do we stand by the black and white position that track limits are track limits? For if we are dismayed by what the drivers were doing through Raidillon, how do we balance that with our excitement at what Verstappen did at Blanchimont?

Both current and former drivers have suggested that a few metres of grass either side of the track should be enough to keep drivers inside track limits. Put as many miles of asphalt as you want between that grass strip and the barriers. Perhaps this is something the FIA should start to give greater thought to. But the problem is that tracks cannot simply alter their run-off depending on which championship is racing that weekend, and two-wheeled racing these days requires the extensive run-off areas which have so blighted the challenge of the Eau Rouges and Parabolicas of the world.

A “Hawkeye” style system is one suggestion that has been raised, along with the concept of a three-strikes policy for drivers exceeding track limits. Note that there is no mention here of gaining an advantage. It would simply be for going all four over the white lines.

Lap 1 at Eau Rouge Belgian Grand Prix 2015 c/o James Moy Photography

Lap 1 at Eau Rouge
Belgian Grand Prix 2015
c/o James Moy Photography

With Sebastian Vettel claiming his tyre failure could have led to a serious accident there is, perhaps, more at stake here than the simple concept of advantages and discipline. One can maintain the actual racing surface in adequate racing condition, but once one leaves the confines of the outlined racing track, one finds oneself in the unknown. We know that drivers will seek out any advantage they can. They’re racing drivers. But we saw in Belgium that drivers pushing outside the prescribed limits of the track could, arguably, add an unpredictable variable into the safety debate.

The track limits argument is one which requires resolution. The long and the short of it is that the regulation, as it stands, is unfit for purpose.

Formula 1 drivers are supposed to be the best in the world. They are supposed to set the example to junior formulae. And yet while junior drivers are penalised for exceeding track limits, F1 drivers are increasingly getting away with sloppy discipline because of the wording of a regulation.

Police it, or change it. Because if Spa showed us anything, it’s that it isn’t working.

This weekend changes have been made to the regulations regarding race starts. This clutch issue seems to have got everyone flummoxed, with any number of complicated engineering explanations of how the systems work and what is or is not permissible under the new regulations for this weekend.

As such, I thought a simple (or as simple as possible) explanation in layman’s terms might be appreciated. No doubt I’ll get pulled up by the engineers out there, but what the hell. I’ll give it a go…

Imagine you are in a manual road car. To pull away, you depress the clutch with your left foot, select first gear and depress the throttle with your right. You raise the revs and partially release the clutch until you feel engagement. This is the bite point. Thereafter you increase the revs gradually, whilst at the same time gradually releasing the clutch fully.

In a Formula 1 car the concept is precisely the same, only it happens in a much shorter space of time. The requirement is to send power to the rear wheels as quickly and efficiently as possible. The problem is that in a Formula 1 car there is no foot-operated clutch. Instead, two paddles exist on the rear of the steering wheel, both of which play a role in the engagement of the clutch.

Both paddles are engaged on the grid, with first gear selected, the driver’s right foot buried to the floor and revs at max. When the lights go out, the driver fully releases the left paddle. This is, in effect, what your left foot does in lifting back from your road car’s foot clutch up to the bite point. But rather than being the gradual movement that we make with our foot, the dropping of the left paddle engages the pre-set bite point in an instant. The driver then gradually releases the right paddle, which is in effect what your left and right feet do in your road car as you increase the revs and lift off the clutch.

The F1 team, over the course of the weekend and especially on Sunday afternoon via a practice start on the way to the grid and on leaving the dummy grid for the formation lap, will have sifted through reams of data pertaining to the clutch, the tyre and track temperatures etc to ascertain the perfect bite point setting, which the driver is (or was) able to select via a dial on his steering wheel. This bite point setting will ensure that the driver gets the best possible launch and engagement when the lights go out, so that he does not either bog down via revs set too low, or encounter wheelspin via torque being too high.

The only real difference is that, as of this weekend, when the driver leaves his garage on Sunday afternoon, he is no longer allowed to touch that dial and the team is no longer allowed to change the bite-point setting on the car. That’s it. If his practice start at the end of the pitlane isn’t fantastic, that’s as good as it is going to get.

The process of what the driver does when those five lights illuminate on Sunday afternoon, remains exactly the same.

The idea that the driver will, all of a sudden, be entirely responsible for the quality of his race start is false. The only control he has over the start remains over his control of the right paddle operating the final release of the clutch. The bite point remains preset and determined by the data amassed over the course of the weekend.

For many of the teams, the hardware and the operation of the 2015 clutches simply won’t allow such a complicated system to suddenly become entirely controlled by a human.

Some starts will be good, some will be poor, but none will be entirely due to a driver’s feel. For that, you’ll have to wait until 2016. Which is arguably when this regulation change would have been most effective.


The summer break granted me some much overdue reading time. You’d think with all the long haul travel involved in a season of Formula 1 that I’d be much better read, but I find it incredibly hard to focus on a book in the air. That, and who can resist watching Laurence of Arabia for the 17th time?

I took three books away with me, all with a work-related tone. And I devoured each one.

I began with two works by dear friends and colleagues. “Where the Writer Meets the Road,” is everything you would expect from the incomparable Sam Posey. His turn of phrase is nigh on poetic and his words flow as readily from the page as they do from his tongue. A collection of articles, profiles and familiar broadcast introductions, this book is a “Best of Posey” of sorts and a fabulous read in easily digestible chunks.


Next up I finally got round to reading Steve Matchett’s “The Mechanic’s Tale.” I must admit no small amount of embarrassment that I had never turned its pages before, as I feel I must be one of the only fans of this sport never to do so. But in a way I’m glad I waited as long as I did. For knowing Steve as well as I now do, it felt more like a conversation. I could sit and listen to Steve regale stories for days, and I found The Mechanics Tale to be one of the easiest and most joyous books to read.

It’s a fascinating, engaging account of how a road car mechanic with a dream ended up winning the Formula 1 world championship, all told in Steve’s inimitable style with great heart and humour. It doesn’t bog down in detail, allowing the narrative of the seasons to prevail. I could almost imagine each chapter in conversation over a pint in The Chequers in Chipping Norton, or a Martini in a Steak House in Austin.


So having waltzed joyfully through two books in two days, I opened my third and final work and one which would take me the rest of the week to complete.


Max Mosley: The Autobiography – Formula One and Beyond is not your regular Formula 1 book. If you want a race by race history of Formula 1 as seen through the eyes of a racer, team owner and eventually FIA President, then this is not the book for you. Weighing in at 481 pages, only the first 93 go into great depth from a racing perspective.

But that’s not what excites about Mosley’s story. Mosley was born into politics and has lived a life ruled by politics. As a student of the subject, I wrote to him when I decided to write my University thesis on The Politics of Formula 1 back at the start of the 2000s. He replied to every letter and answered every question. It impressed me at the time and does so even more today when I think back on it. If only I’d had this book 15 years ago. It would have filled in an awful lot of gaps.

From page 94, this thrilling book becomes an in depth and utterly compelling political history of Formula 1 from the very inside of the FISA-FOCA war. It charts the methods and strategy employed by Mosley and Ecclestone in wrestling control of the sport away from FISA and Balestre, how Mosley positioned himself within the FIA to take control of the body and the sport, and how Ecclestone leveraged his own position to not only place himself at the commercial heart of the sport, but how he turned Formula 1 from a sideline and niche motorsport into the most popular racing championship and one of the richest and most watched sports in the world.

The strategies employed and explained are fascinating. His awareness of which battles to fight, who to trust, when to hold and when to strike are utterly Machieavellian.

There is a lot of honesty contained within the pages of Mosley’s book, too. I found particular interest in his fears that Bernie Ecclestone would engage in a “scorched earth” policy at the end of one of the periods of agreement, in order to lower the bargaining price of the sport. Mosley’s suggestion of such a tactic of course holds particular relevance today when one questions the reasoning for the occasional negative comment on the state of the sport by the man charged with its promotion. Again, it’s the political machinations that one finds so intriguing.

Over your years in the sport, you hear a lot of rumours. Some of which have found their way into the book and I couldn’t help but smile and on a few occasions laugh out loud that there was truth behind some of the more outrageous stories that had become F1 folklore.

Mosley goes to great lengths to convince he has a good relationship with Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton (a case of the lady protesting too much?), especially in light of the Spygate scandal of 2007. Mosley clearly still holds great resentment that Dennis and McLaren stood by their insistence of innocence, but in his retelling of the story does amusingly confirm that it was Ecclestone, and not him as is often rumoured, who had jokingly uttered the immortal line that Ron had been “fined $5 million for the offence and $95 million for being a c**t.”

I know that there was much that Mosley had written which was taken out by the lawyers. Which is a shame. And as an autobiography, Mosley himself is always going to come out on top. While he does admit culpability and fault in some cases, one will never receive a totally rounded reflection of his successes and tenure in office from a self-penned work. It can feel self congratulatory in places, and at times it is difficult to reconcile Mosley’s fight against the teams when in a position of authority when one remembers that a decade or so earlier he had been in the polar opposite position. The anti-establishment hero had become the very establishment he sought to remove, a fact which at times seems lost on him.

The final chapters are spent detailing The News of The World’s campaign against Mosley and his waging of war against the paper and, latterly, his influence in initiating one of the greatest changes to the power of the press ever witnessed in the United Kingdom. It proves once again what a brilliant legal and political mind exists within Mosley, and from the perspective of British legal and political history, again provides an important account of a time of real change.

It made me wonder if I had been fair with Mosley at the time of the allegations, and forced me to go back through what I had written back in 2008. I believe I was. But with the aid of hindsight, and knowing what we now do about the case, one cannot help but feel a few pangs of guilt that one’s compassion over the breach of the man’s inalienable right to privacy was perhaps not as great as it should have been.

In conclusion, then, did the book make me reassess Mosley’s Presidency? Yes it did. Did it make me reassess Mosley the man? Undeniably. But always with the awareness that Mosley is, by training, by experience and by reputation a charming, persuasive and astute politician. There are great gaping holes in the story, and elements to many of the political scandals which rocked the sport under his watch that I wish had been delved into far deeper. Perhaps one day all those pages the lawyers thought should remain unprinted will see the light of day. I certainly hope so.

If you want a racing history of Formula 1, this isn’t the book for you. But if you, like me, are fascinated and excited by the thrill of politics, law and finance as the backstory to the creation and development of a sport you adore, then this is essential, if heavy, reading.

It’s not a racing book. It’s a political history. And a damned fine one.

As with the beautiful works of my dear friends Sam and Steve, it comes with the highest recommendation.

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram

Happy Monday folks!

The F1 break is at an end, and in a few days we will be at one of the world’s greatest racing tracks to reconvene the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship.

It’s been a much needed and hugely enjoyable few weeks off. I’ve tried to resist looking at the papers or the twitter, but it’s fairly tough these days. However I made myself a promise that for as long as the teams were on an enforced break, I should do the same. Tweets to a minimum. No writing.

On returning to the keyboard, I was going to write a piece about how much I’m enjoying Lewis Hamilton’s 2015 instagram adventures, but apparently I’ve been well beaten to the punch on that one. It seems his Barbados exploits split opinion down the middle, from those like me who seemed to enjoy seeing him so at ease, to those aghast that he should dare to let his hair down, have a drink and dance with girls.

I landed in Barbados a few days before Lewis, for I imagine precisely the same reason as the world champion. The island is, as far as I’m concerned, the most relaxed and welcoming place on earth. And it was a happy coincidence that the weekend of arrival should fall not just over the island’s Emancipation Day celebration, but of Kadooment and the Crop Over street parade to celebrate the end of the sugar harvest, a tradition which extends back to the 1700s.

If you don’t have a plastic goblet in your hand filled high with either Mount Gay rum punch or the local Banks beer, and if you’re not jumping around to the Soca music blasting out of the lorries, I’d hazard you’re possibly not human. It’s impossible not to have a good time. That Lewis took a pasting in some elements of the press for inappropriately dancing with numerous women on the parade merely shows the preposterous levels some will stoop in order to have a dig. Taking a look at photos sent in by paps from the comfort of your London desk, it must be very easy to write a story. But if a picture can paint a thousand words, it can also be true that every one of those words is rubbish.

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram

I can vouch first hand that as a man on Crop Over you have zero choice over being danced with. The Carribbean gave the world a dance known as the “Whine” or “Wine”, which I guess today we’d call “twerking.” Standing road side and watching the parade, women in grand costumes just run up to you and start jiggling away. An awkward glance across to your girlfriend, see that she’s in hysterics over the whole thing, and the wiggly woman in question has already danced off up the road.

It’s just a bit of fun. Some people really do need to calm down and find something a bit more important to write about.

Perhaps its merely a reflection of the fame of Lewis Hamilton that so much of what he does should be poured over not just by the sports editors but now by the society columns and The Daily Mail’s celebrity pages. Hanging out with his newest breed of celebrity friends does, however, seem to have shifted his social media strategy. He is far more engaged and being far more open, something of which the younger generation of celebrity seems to be at far greater ease than those, dare I say it, of Hamilton’s age.

The Gigi Hadid’s and Cara Delevingne’s of this world are almost a decade Lewis Hamilton’s junior, and are perhaps acutely aware that in today’s throw away society, Andy Warhol’s idiom that everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes has perhaps never been so true. It seems to me that fame, for today’s famous, has never been more fleeting. Making the most of it while you’ve got it and thrusting every element of your life into public view appears from the outside to be the manner by which these young celebs attempt to extend their tenure in high society.

Lewis Hamilton does not need to do this. His sporting prowess and success will more than account for his fame and ensure his longevity. However as a public figure, brand ambassador… celebrity… these are the people against whom he has to fight for column inches and shards of the spotlight.

If there is indeed a strategy behind his social media, it’s a smart one. And it is working.

Sitting on a little boat in Barbados with some other guests from the hotel we were staying at, en route to a bit of snorkelling, a British lad no more than 10 years old pulled my arm and pointed at a stunning house on the coast, no more than 100 metres up the beach from where we’d left.

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram

“Lewis Hamilton’s staying there,” he grinned, apropos of nothing. He had no idea I worked in F1. Why would he?

“Wow, that’s so cool!” I smiled.

“Yeah. I can’t believe he’s so close. He’s amazing.”

Later in the week, two Jamaican women on holiday started talking to us about a photo of Lewis they’d seen on instagram and did we know he was staying around the corner. Again, apropos of nothing.

It really gives resonance to Bernie’s comments about Lewis Hamilton being the world champion that Formula 1 needs. He is a true global megastar.

There were also a few times in Barbados that some lovely folks came over to talk F1. I hadn’t realised it, but many Bajans get their F1 fix through NBCSN. It made me tremendously proud that their first words were ones of thanks to the entire crew for bringing them coverage of the sport they love.

And, with Lewis Hamilton probably off on a paddleboard with Roscoe and Coco, it reminded me once again how incredibly fortunate I am to call this sport, and my passion, a job. And how, from within the bubble of the paddock we can pour over the minutiae and pull the sport apart over what we think it should or shouldn’t be, but that outside the narrow confines and narrow mindsets of we, the “insiders,” the sport still resonates, it still excites. It stirs passion. It thrills. As it always has and always will.

So yeah, I’m gutted the holidays are over. But I cannot wait to get back to work. Because it’s the greatest job and the greatest sport in the world.

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram

c/o @lewishamilton Instagram


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