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Dieter's Diary: F1's latest controversy looks set to run and run

RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken reports directly from the F1 paddock at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where drama has erupted off-track.


Unusually I'd booked to fly to Barcelona on Wednesday evening, so the flight and car rental delays that abound in the travel industry did not affect me as much as they did many colleagues on Thursday. Tales abound of cancelled flights, non-existent car rental and hotel bookings and general shoddy service. The industry blames a return to travel Covid, but that overlooks that they had two years to sort their systems.


Colleague Aaron Deckers, who has an interview scheduled with Sauber's Zhou Guanyu, is one who suffers delays and thus I'm asked to stand in – a pleasure it turns out to be: the first Chinese F1 racer, as opposed to token Friday tester, is proud of scoring a point in his debut race but comes across most humbly. He took a lot of stick when his drive was announced, but certainly deserves to be in the sport. Next up, I sleuth about for information on the budget cap: with post-Covid inflation running at close to 10 per cent and energy prices tripling, some teams are battling to operate within the permitted $140m restriction. In the course of my chats, I obtain startling statistics which I'll soon be sharing. Needless to say, folk will be laid off in various teams unless some slack is cut. While awaiting my final formal task of the day - a chat with Daniel Ricciardo, the clown prince of F1 - I wander up to Williams to see my old friend Jost Capito, but could not have done so at a 'worse' time: Alex Albon, who supports the charity housing 2,500 orphans, also sponsored by Jost's brother Volker in Alex's Thai homeland, is busy 'Albonoing' everybody about: spraying their hair red. Of course, I'm a candidate… The background is that on his way to Australia in April Alex popped in to visit the orphanage and they dared him to spray his hair red – which he did, and promptly scored a point in Melbourne, following up with ninth in Miami. Hence his hopes that my reddened scalp will assist him this weekend, although my B&B host was none too pleased about the pinkish hue on her towels.

Back, though, to Dan: the Australian makes very clear during our interview that his nickname camouflages a very serious racer when the chips are down, as evidenced by his eight wins, some against and in the same car as Max Verstappen. However, I can't resist putting to him that as his tattoo tally increases, so his win rate decreases, but he counters that he had a tattoo added last year during the (very wet) Belgian Grand Prix weekend, and promptly won in Monza a fortnight later. I ask about his comment during a (sponsor) Hilton Hotel gig in Miami that he'd trashed a hotel floor. It seems for once Dan's jokey approach backfired: he says the scribe who reported the 'incident' should have known better; that it was tongue-in-cheek on-stage banter, and such an incident never occurred. My Thursday in Montmelo ends with dinner/quiz at Aston Martin, where I form a quarter of a team. We finish third overall thanks to some nifty knowledge about James Bond (naturally given 007's links to the brand) on the part of my colleagues. Well, it beats coming fourth, but is not as satisfying as first or even second, but a fine fun evening was enjoyed by all. Thanks Matt Bishop and Co. As I leave the hospitality unit I can't, though, resist flashing a photo of a green Red Bull can to Aston Martin team members; needless to say that given the furore caused by the startling similarity of the AMR22 B-spec car to the current (winning) Red Bull, my rather graceless antic raises little more than a wry smile. This one is bound to run… and run.


The first thing that strikes me as I walk into the paddock is a massive screen wall behind the interview pen: all part of F1's overhaul of its TV tech. As the day unfolds, so more innovations are revealed to me: this race marks some tests with drones - technically forbidden by FIA regulations, clearance was granted - while I'm told helmet cams, as tested by Bell helmet users recently, will be compulsory for all drivers next year. During the FIA press conference, my ears prick up when Fernando Alonso accuses the stewards of "incompetence" and I wonder whether any action will be taken against the Spaniard for (arguably) bringing them (and the sport) into disrepute – as was once routine under FIA President Max Mosley, who regularly threw the Article 151c book at anyone who dared criticise the FIA. The contentious article has now changed, as outlined here , but I'm not surprised to later learn that Fernando has been referred to the stewards.

Lunch time, though, proves a massive disappointment for the media centre: where before teams generously hosted the media, their sponsors have cut back, so no more open lunches. On the flip side, the circuit has repurposed the suites that previously served as our canteen, so we are forced to trek to the other side of the circuit where an (unairconditioned) suite with standing room for no more 30 guests at a time is situated. By the time most of the 250 media members made the journey, the offered fare was either stale or finished. The official excuse is that the media centre was unaware that teams had ceased hosting the media – but that was down to their generosity and never a given right. All in, such shoddy treatment of working professionals is unacceptable. Post-FP2, it's time to pack up ahead of some badly needed dinner and then head for the B&B – where I'm pleased to note my towels have been changed…

RESULTS 2024 F1 pre-season testing - Day 2