Up and about and read the executive summary of the events during last season's finale in Abu Dhabi – the press release had arrived shortly before Saturday qualifying and rather than skim through it, I'd decided to hold it over.
Whilst the consensus in the paddock is that F1 should look forward and not back, the fact is we need to study the past to understand the present in order to guide the future – and thus the findings of the investigation are crucial to F1's current and future credibility. So, what did I learn during the hour I spent studying the report?
In a (four-letter) word: ZERO. From the executive summary I have no idea who compiled the report, no idea who or how many players the authors interviewed, and, above all, no idea why Michael Masi was relieved from his role save for a suspicion that it was to appease Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
The key line in the summary has it that the process of identifying lapped cars had been manual (resulting in higher risks of human error); thus, software has since been developed for this purpose. Given that unlapping of selected cars was the crux of the matter, the question is: was Masi dumped because the FIA had insufficient systems in place?
A lawyer could have a field day with that, and I foresee Masi returning to Australia with a huge settlement…
I'm sorry, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, but until the full report is released and all authors and interviewees revealed, the overwhelming suspicion is of an internal hush job, one not becoming of an international federation that has promised full transparency.
Head for circuit – it's both a working and Grand Prix day, so roads are busy, but traffic flows easily. Once parked up, Aaron, Sandor and I stop by the catering marquee for an early lunch before taking the underpass to the media centre situated on the edge of the paddock.
Day's activities planned, I seek out opinions of various Sporting Directors about freight and logistics under current global circumstances combined with an ever-expanding calendar that includes back-to-back trans-continental hops and more double- and triple-headers than ever before.
A full analysis later this week but suffice to say there are (justified) fears that incidents such as Haas' delayed freight during testing are unlikely to be isolated.
Meet with Robert Reid, FIA Deputy President for Sport and thus Ben Sulayem's right-hand man on such matters. I've known Robert a while, so it is more of a re-acquaintance in his new role and it is clear he is working extremely hard to understand the nuances of the federation after being in the role for just three months – which proved a fraught period given the introduction of F1's 'new era' and the Abu Dhabi report.
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During his 2022-2025 tenure, Robert - World Champion co-driver with Richard Burns in 2001 - oversees F1's transition to a 'newer era' in 2026 when F1 switches to a 50/50 electric/sustainable fuels future, with his priority being to make those regulations sufficiently attractive to entice at least one new engine supplier plus another team or two. In addition to growing global motorsport in all directions… no easy task, for sure.
Heartbreak time: I'd agreed to meet with a superfan desperate to get into F1 via her medical degree. She holds non-UK and -EU nationality – which precludes her from working for a team.
I explain to her that although F1 professes to 'race as one', the slogan applies not to its global fanbase but only to selected passport holders – as evidenced by F1's recent STEM bursary programme, open only to EU/UK nationals.
The sad reality is that F1 is a closed shop - at any level - for over 85% of the world's passport holders – regardless of their passion, drive and qualifications… yet calls itself a World Championship.
Head for grid – the best part of Grand Prix weekend as it allows me to observe pre-race preparations of all 10 teams crystalised into a crucial 30 minutes. The walk enables me to check out the demeanours of drivers - plus quirks and rituals - and chatting to folk who I may have missed in the paddock, particularly at 'hot' races where many seek refuge from the sun.
I chat with Prof Gordon Murray, the legendary Brabham and McLaren designer, who is hard at work on his own range of supercars. We're from the same South African city, were members of the same motor club and attended the same college - when awarded his honorary professorship the college invited me to moderate the ceremony - so it was good to catch up with this fellow Durbanite for the first time since pre-Covid.
Then I exchange thoughts with Red Bull F1 consultant Helmut Marko, and he smiles when I mention that the current cars weigh about the same as the roofed, magnesium-chassis, 5.0-litre flat-12-powered two-seater Porsche with which he won the 1971 Le Mans 24 Hour classic…
Race over, it is time to record all the drama in the words of those who experienced the best and worst moments – a process that takes about two hours. Then I collect the traditional Bahrain number plate souvenir - I now have 16 - have dinner (in an adjunct to the media centre) and head back to my aparthotel in the city.
Talk to you next week from Jeddah…
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