More dramatics from the triple World Champion and future American venues for F1, were the key topics of discussion here in Austin. And yes the whole row about testing in Spain or Bahrain…
Well Thursday witnessed a groggy press room, and what was worth noticing is that the pressroom is shrinking towards the end of the season. Well most flew from Japan to here, the rest probably flew back to England and back here. However, I hadn’t attended Japan, so my route was standard as last year: Pune – Abu Dhabi – Los Angeles, a break in San Diego and then from there to Austin- my jet-lag is as good as gone.
Coming to the topic of a shrinking pressroom, The Circuit Of the Americas track media centre has the capacity to host 621, and last year it was bustling with people. Lewis wrapped his third title here, and we were amidst the hurricane Patricia, with the weather playing spoiler and leading to atleast two cancelled sessions (FP2 and qualifying). This year the pressroom looks scantily populated, few empty rows, and many popular figures missing. Reasons being, it is becoming a two-car championship, preferably not a title deciding race, and the long-haul not feasible for publications.
One of the biggest talks in the press-room, the might be no fleet street journalists next season, or if there are any there will be very few. More opportunities for people like us in F1? Lets see how that unfolds off-season.
The triple champion and his dramatics- Well in Japan he snap-chatted throughout the press conference, and snubbed a few questions from journalists as he was pre-occupied. When they criticised him particularly a few from the fleet street lot, he walked out of another press conference at the team hospitality. His defence- the format of these sessions is boring.. it’s the same thing every time.. fans should ask questions instead of you guys. Woah, thats a lot to throw at a press thats been there for a longer time than he has. A fellow colleague revealed, earlier in the season, he thought the journalists earned similar six and seven digit salaries like drivers did. It’ll be nice to see him show respect to a lot of them who are most of the time giving him good press for his on-track performances, and are probably disinterested in his offtrack dramatics.
Nevertheless in the Austin drivers press conference on Thursday, some journalists took questions by fans from twitter, and threw them at him. To add further to the drama, a lot of prominent key British journalists (often writing good on his performance, discounting his bad luck), were blocked on his Twitter, Instagram and snapchat accounts. When asked why he would do that, he said he had no idea, he doesn’t even have the app on his phone, its usually his team of people posting it, or cleansing his accounts. The blocked list comprises of top editors, some commentators, and fleet street journalists.
Off to the other topic of discussion, which is more American venues in F1, Liberty Media is said to have commented saying they are trying to add Las Vegas and Miami to the calendar sometime in the future. In the press conference on Friday, the topic was re-iterated and the Team Principals had various opinions on it. (View Friday press conference transcript). On the provisional calendar for 2017, there are 21 races like this year but three remain unconfirmed, namely Brazil, Canada and Nurburgring. Nurburgring and Interlagos (BRZ) remain unconfirmed due to financial problems and Montreal is due for renovations and upgrades. In 2018, Las Vegas could be a possibility, as Bernie has been negotiating with authorities. But a problem with American races is government funding, promotion and support. COTA being a private circuit is a stable one to have on the calendar for now.
Coming to a sight I thought was weird- Walked into Red Bull Racing hospitality to get a cappuccino after FP1 and at a corner table there was Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Newey and Christian Horner having a long chat. What could they have been talking about? Pirelli tyres, Vettel cribbing about Ferrari or just an old family gathering. Well it definitely seemed more than an old-family gathering. Seemed as though Vettel was explaining something to them. Hmmm..!!
In Friday Practice, the first practice session saw Max Verstappen with some good sprint pace on the medium tyres, and Lewis Hamilton looked like he was on a comfortable run. No matter how good Red Bull look on Friday, on Saturday Mercedes turn up the engines into qualifying mode and it is a two car competition again. But we are hearing that after Lewis’ engine blow-up in Malaysia, Mercedes have stopped turning up the engine. The new updated engine was to be supplied to customer teams by the Japanese GP, but due to reliability concerns and the incident in Malaysia, Mercedes have recalled the plan to do so.
In the second practice session although Rosberg topped the time-sheets, when it came to long-run pace or race pace, Ricciardo was the fastest on track. Sprint laps in a practice session don’t matter much, due to unknown fuel loads and engine power modes. However, long-run simulations int he second half of the FP2 usually are a indicator to who is better prepared for the Sunday. The Ferraris have almost become irrelevant now, since they are out of the fight and have lost their second place to Red Bull. The only way they might make it up in qualifying agains the Red Bulls is if they turn up the engine in Q3, which cannot be done on the Renault engines. The Ferraris on the whole looked scrappy in FP2, and one can only hope they find that one lap pace in FP3 tomorrow.
Ideally my prediction for qualy tomorrow would be a front-row lockout for the Mercs, second row lockout for the Ferraris and third row for the Red Bulls or a scenario with one red bull and one ferrari in each (second and third row). The Force India’s and McLaren’s might follow with maybe one of the Toro Rosso’s added to the mix to round up the top 10 on grid.
More fan-style gossip:
America being Lewis’ favourite country, is a big PR zone for him promoting the sport. Over the weekend he has been giving interviews to lifestyle publications in NYC and he made an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show. According to him thats the amount he promotes the sport to audiences, that are not aware of F1, as compared to other drivers on the grid who do very little to promote the sport. Yes, the other NYC activity of his, he went on a bowling date with Lindsey Vonn on her birthday. So thats the ‘nth’ lady this year and he has admitted he is not interested in romance at the moment (courtesy- Ellen Degeners show). Lindsey joins the list to his other lady friends this season – Rita Ora, Gigi Hadid, Chanel Iman, Winnie Harlow, and Barbara Palvin. Some we’ll see at the races, and some partying with him from Barbados to NYC. Phew, one hell of a list for this season alone.
Well thats it for a Thursday plus Friday roundup…Till then Adieu Amigos!!