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Mexican Grand Prix 2022

Dieter's Diary: Driver transfers, 'extreme' paddock and Red Bull's Sky battle

In part two of his diary filed from Mexico City, RacingNews365 Editorial Director Dieter Rencken reveals more on the Ricciardo rumours, provides insight to paddock overcrowding, and talks Red Bull’s Sky TV snub.

Saturday

As I walk into the circuit I’m beckoned by a source, who tells me Aston Martin have signed ex-F1 driver and reigning Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne - the current Mercedes/McLaren tester - as development driver alongside F2 champion Felipe Drugovich. I follow up with the green team, and the bottom line is that I expect an announcement soon.

Suddenly all the Ricciardo rumours fall into place: With Stoffel on his way to Aston Martin the Three-Pointed Star requires a tester, and who better than a proven race winner with knowledge of Mercedes F1 power units?

The team boss press conference is mainly about budget cap matters, and from some of the comments made the sooner this rather polarising issue is put to bed the better for F1 - provided lasting lessons have been learned by all concerned, including F1 (which drove the regulatory process) and the FIA.

During my walkabout one thing is clear: Even at this early hour the paddock is too crowded, with some team members concerned that the manner in which drivers are jostled could pose safety issues. Ricciardo says the disrespect shown by pass holders could interfere with driver preparations, while McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl dubs the situation “extreme”. Certainly, something must be done - as outlined here.

Shortly before FP3 I’m part of a group taken to chat with Alejandro Oberon, boss of Ocesa, the giant entertainment group that promotes the Grand Prix. He tells us his company stages 3000 events annually ranging from gigs to full-on superband concerts, and clearly knows his business. The grand prix is not supported by the government, but rather a consortium of businesses who understand the benefits of a race.

On my way back to the media centre I spy a Bell helmet bag in Jimmy’s booth – it turns out to be Lando Norris’s, and when I ask what colours it will be painted Jimmy says, “He’s asked for a mix of luminous colours, but seeing your orange shirt has given me the inspiration to start with that.” You judge the result.

After Qualifying we have the usual media sessions - albeit with much jostling and shouting – and then I head for the Legends Dinner held in honour of the veteran drivers invited to race in the support event for 500bhp DTM-style saloon cars. I’ve known Mark Blundell a while, so take a seat at his table before moving to that of NASCAR and Indycar star Casey Mears. We enjoy a great chat about the differences between F1 and his series.

While at dinner I receive a message that Max Verstappen refuses to be interviewed by Sky F1 after Ted Kravitz made some comments that Red Bull took exception too, so follow-up before sending the information back to base for early Sunday publication. Our scoop turns out to be the biggest story of the weekend, bigger even than budget cap stuff.

Sunday

Once at the circuit I discover that all Red Bull Racing staff have also been instructed to snub Sky outlets – English, German and Italian – then learn that various teams, including Haas and Ferrari, have previously boycotted the broadcaster. When 30% of the grid have issues with a TV brand one wonders why…

Thereafter I receive a call from an F1 spokesperson who advises me they are working on the pass issue, having experienced overcrowding problems in the Miami paddock in May.

“F1 has been working on these issues since earlier in the season with a number of changes implemented and further work being done,” he tells me. “We will always assess issues and work on solutions that arise at any event.”

Post-race we have the usual sessions, then it’s time to head for my hotel to record our podcast before preparing to fly back to Europe early Monday. Thus ends my North American sojourn, and great fun it was.

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Is Red Bull's cost cap penalty enough of a deterrent to others?

RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the key issues from the United States Grand Prix, including whether Red Bull's cost cap penalty will deter others from breaching the budget limit.

F1 2022 Mexican Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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