In the heart of motorsport (UK), the weekend kickstarted with an exciting event in the streets of London, and lots of following stories from the Austrian GP weekend. Lewis Hamilton’s absence from London event, Vijay Mallya in the paddock, and a lot more talking points as we kickstart the British GP weekend…
Silverstone to pull out in 2019
When it comes to tracks running into losses, after Malaysia, Silverstone has been the latest to join the list of tracks quitting the calendar. It has been an iconic circuit with a lot of history attached to it, but when it comes to making profits, it hasn’t had the same innovative ways of luring the audiences as other tracks, when it comes to concerts, or fan zones. Location wise, it is far away from London or any prominent city in the United Kingdom, and it is the one of the most inconvenient ones when it comes to finding accommodation or even getting to track. The closest towns to stay at are are Brackley, Towcester, Northampton or Milton Keynes which are atlas 20 mins of a drive from the track. When it comes to innovative concerts, if Britain would not have been the home to motorsport, it would have had the least turnout in terms of concerts, because the circuit offers the least recreation (apart from track action) in the fan village compared to its European or International counterparts. There are very few pre- or post race events, no pitstop challenges or alternative entertainment, probably an area the track owners have not bothered to look into. Although last year there was a turnout of a 100,000 + people, it was at the cost of going for volume by reducing the prices of the tickets. It will come as a big blow to motorsport in the UK, but for an F1 centric country there isn’t a lack of alternatives. In the past the British GP has switched between venues such as Brands Hatch and Donnington Park. This year after the race the track released a notice to all of us about the turnout on the respective days and the figures were as follows:
Thursday: 24,000 people (it is usually media day and track walk for general admission ticket holders)
Friday: 80,000 (Free Practice days)
Saturday – 103,000 (FP3 and Qualy day)
Sunday – 137,500 (Race day)
A total fo 344,500 people attend in the four days, and after viewing these figures, when Silverstone says its running in losses or isn’t making profits or wants to pull out, the whole claim feels like negotiating tactic. The British system does impose tax on them to his an event of this magnitude, just like an Indian one would, but sadly the turnout is too huge for Britain to not want a GP in Silverstone or likewise. With the outcry made by the GP promoters/circuit owners or organiser, one can only expect Liberty Media or the Formula One Group to understand the tax zone and probably reduce the Race fee.
F1 hits London streets
In an attempt to lure F1 audiences and create new fans F1 made another innovative effort by hosting an ‘F1 live show’ in the heart of London city at Trafalgar Square, on Wednesday. Apart from Lewis Hamilton, the whole grid was present at the event along with reigning champion Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button who flew all the way from LA for it. Formula 1’s approach was more than successful, and the event was kept almost a secret for sometime for security reasons and maybe to keep a surprise element. The drivers did burnouts and donuts in old V8s and new cars, and Daniel Ricciardo was quiet the star of the event. With more than 100,000 people turning out at the heart of the city to attend this coveted event, they had a music concert by Kaiser Chiefs that followed as a treat. Most drivers found the interaction with their fans and the event the success and described it as a spectacular experience. Maybe, if Liberty media had to do events like these at past venues say Turkey, India or even Malaysia, it might just tap into the millennials into following the sport.
Lewis’ absence from London event-
Apparently one of the weird rumours doing the rounds was Toto attended Seb’s 30th birthday party, therefore this was Lewis reaction to that. According to that rumour, Lewis is supposed to have not liked the fact that Mercedes were cheering Sebastian, since the German has been associated with a hand-shake deal with the team. Where was Lewis? Well he was out on a two day break to Mykonos in Greece with model Winnie Harlow, and some of his friends. The fan reaction on his absence was the crowds booing when his name was mentioned, and he came out in his defence saying he needed a break after a break in Baku and Austria. This is not a new trait of his, in the McLaren days Jenson would show up at promotional events and it would be the same story with Lewis. When it comes to Lewis and his fans, he is probably the most marketable driver on social media, etc. But at a place where he was needed the most on his turf, he seemed unavailable for reason that intrigue most.
A black sheep in the Bull Pen
Carlos Sainz has been a driver that has even grabbed the eye balls of three time World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Son of an ex-rally champion, Toro Rosso driver and maybe future Red Bull protege, the Spaniard has come along way and impressed audiences with his performance and talent since the days when he first debut alongside Max Verstappen. However, lately there has been speculation around his drive for 2018, and also his future in that ‘Bull Pen’ (its a nickname I’ve given the Red Bull and Toro Rosso garages). Coming to the trouble Sainz has gotten to lately has even his comments in the media saying ‘no chance of staying at the team in 2018’ and beyond, and so on and on so forth. These remarks came in at a time when the ‘Bull Pen’ had just renewed his contract, and our probably going to retain him at Toro Rosso instead of the promotion to Red Bull Racing team. The remarks were complimented with radio rants, and things said about the car not being good. According to grapevine, this behaviour hasn’t gone too well with Helmut Marko, with the grid being really tight and reigning GP2/F2 champion Pierre Gasly in the wings, Sainz Jr. needs to be careful with his outcry, else he’ll end up securing Daniil Kyvat’s career and jeopardising his own. Kyvat and him have not shared a great relationship either to make his time in the bull pen any easier for him, the latest run-in at the Silverstone GP has left him disappointed.
Kyvat has collected penalty points to his super-license but the two drivers have had several run-ins over the season, to only make it difficult for them to get along with each other. The one driver Sainz shared a special relation with was Max Verstappen who got promoted to Red Bull, after which the Spaniard has had to settle for Daniil as his team-mate. Sainz talent might go unquestioned but the Red Bull young drivers program is probably the most ruthless one, and a foot-in-the-mouth disease is what no driver there can afford, as even gassy has got into trouble over it in the past. What he says though cannot be denied or isn’t correct, knowing his talent is at a peak, and that he needs a better drive than a Toro Rosso. However if its Ferrari or Mercedes hiring him, he might be released out of that contract, but if its a mid-field team that has asked for him the Bull Pen might not release him easily. It is also rumoured that Renault had approached him before Robert Kubica cam into the picture. There has been a recent statement by Christina Horner thats says if someone is ready to pay they might release him and the rumoured price tag is said to be 8 million USD. But the question is where he fits in, in the whole grid shuffle for next year and who will be ready to pay that price.
Vijay Mallya in the paddock
Dr. Mallya’s presence doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us, as Silverstone GP is the only race he can attend with his passport revoked. However coming to the point he said similar stuff about Force India and its name change, as to what I had said on the radio show interview I did with BBC Radio Asian Network ( Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08v92dp). Did he give out any more details? Well he did confirm that Esteban is signed for a multiyear deal, and they are in talks with Checo (Sergio Perez) to renew his contract and retain him before the summer break. About his cases back home, his reply was that there is no hard evidence and the proceedings are on. He seemed confident that it will be a long procedure and that the allegations are all just ‘allegations’, ‘claims’ and that there is no evidence yet.
Sauber’s new Team Principal – Another Hoxit
Sauber has appointed Frederic Vasseur as its new team principal or Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure. However what is next in store for the Swiss team?
Honda had made the deal with Monisha and not Sauber group,so with her stepping down, the deal is now off the table according to latest reports from he paddock. However, what does Sauber do now? Well they could re-negotiate a Mercedes engine deal using Pascal Wehrlein as a negotiating point, but will Marcus Ericsson’s backers who own half the team want that. Because that would mean equal fas for both and at the moment there have been all kinds of claims about the two not having equal cars. It will also mean treating both drivers equally which hasn’t been the case so far. As i wrote in my previous blogpost, Toto Wolff his Mercedes protege Pascal, have been at the centre of the Sauber mess when it came to Monisha stepping down and the reasons behind it. This could be their chance to get more leverage in the team and not be in a helpless condition, in comparison with the Swedes. With a Vasseur being Toto’s close friend (known fact) they might even be able to pull this deal of.