Arrive at the circuit at 10am, and immediately it's apparent that major traffic issues loom: F1 personnel are directed to overflow public parking lots. That, though, is a problem for later as the associated delays mean I just make the 10:30 FIA press conference, where the two main topics are, as expected, Aston Martin’s so-called 'green' Red Bull and the budget cap dilemma suffered by the major teams due to runaway inflation.
Both topics were covered in yesterday's diary so no need to expand here, save to state that during an exclusive chat with Christian Horner between the two sessions, he stresses that further action will be taken should they be able to prove 'leakage' of IP, particularly as a number of senior engineers recently crossed from Milton Keynes to Silverstone.
He's also bemused by the fact that sister team AlphaTauri's design is most unlike that of the Red Bull, despite both teams sharing numerous permitted components, while a competitor's car seems a direct copy. He clearly fears Aston Martin could deprive AlphaTauri of prize money, in turn impacting on group revenue. That said, on the basis of the green car's qualifying performance, there seems to be little cause for concern.
"IF," a media colleague later stresses as he summarises Aston Martin’s 16th and 18th on the grid, "one copies, one needs to understand what one is copying…" The team's problem is, of course, that 2020 saw them convicted for illegally using tech partner Mercedes' brake ducts, while team CEO Martin Whitmarsh was embroiled in the McLaren Racing CEO at the time the 2007 'spygate' scandal. Perceptions die hard in F1.
Plans for F1 2023 taking shape
After my chat with Christian, I spy a director for one F1's major ticket agencies, and he tells me demand across the globe has gone absolutely crazy, with most Grands Prix sold out. The big problem now, he says, is scalpers, who are driving prices to ridiculous heights. His advice for 2023 – albeit too late for this year – is for fans to book tickets as soon as the calendar is finalised. After all, why should touts benefit at fan expense?
Talking of the calendar: pre-FP3, the FIA and F1 executive called a team boss meeting, during which F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali outlined the sport's plans for 2023. The season is scheduled to start a week (or even two) earlier, with races increasingly clustered on regional and/or common routing bases to reduce F1's carbon footprint. He's also off to South Africa soon to try break the deadlock over a race at Kyalami.
That said, as outlined here, I have my doubts about a SAGP unless some sort of joint venture is struck. The precedent was set by Las Vegas – and allegedly Miami, although folk keep stumm about that one – so the concept could possibly be extended to South Africa.
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Fans raise concerns over Barcelona venue
That F1 is serious about sustainability becomes even more evident when I chat to Bruno Michel, CEO of the F2/3 series, who tells me they're eyeing a form of ("over 50%") biofuel element for F1's feeder series for 2023.
"We tested 18-inch tyres for F1," he smiles. "So why not fuels as well?" Indeed: the potential of F1's feeder series could be expanded beyond driver development to encompass technologies and even engineers.
During the day I receive various messages about the terrible experience fans are subjected to, with stories of queueing in baking sun for hours at entrance gates or refreshments huts abounding. As my evening tweet – and many responses – makes clear, on current evidence this circuit is no longer up to F1 standards, whether the factors be parking and traffic, catering standards or overall fan experiences.
If a venue deserves to drop out as F1 expands across the globe, it's Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, unless it seriously jacks up its act.
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