Monday ruminations

Everyone is watching Paris today to see if the FIA decides to take any further action against Sebastian Vettel, but more important things are happening elsewhere. Sources at Silverstone have tipped off Britain’s biggest vaguely-serious newspaper that Silverstone is going to action the break clause in its British GP contract and bring the race to an end after 2019. Well, that’s the theory. The reality is that this is a negotiating ploy to bring the Formula One group to the table. Given that there are three years before a new British GP promoter is needed, I doubt this will have much impact, indeed it gives the Formula One group the option to shop around. The folks at Silverstone think that they are the only game in town and, to some extent this is true. The Circuit of Wales has blown up in the last few days and I doubt it will ever happen. There is no interest from Donington Park, but there are some possibilities in the London Docklands and I see this being the most likely route for Chase Carey and his gang, with Silverstone as a back-up plan for 2020. That might upset the traditionalists, but imagine a Singapore-style event in stodgy old London. Silverstone is a great event and attracts a big crowd, but it cannot compete with F1 fees as they now are, unless the government helps. Does it make sense for Carey to lower the fees? It is an interesting question. But it will not come to this for a while yet as the British GP remains until at least July (or late June) 2019.

Elsewhere, as expected, there is still no new team principal for Sauber, evidence that F1 is not as easy as some financial types might think.

And there is the question of Jolyon Palmer. For some time there have been rumours that Britain’s other F1 driver may be in danger of losing his seat at Renault, having failed to get close to Nico Hulkenberg on most occasions this year. The implication has long been that the team would stick with Jolyon until the British GP at least, and that still seems to be the case. However the race in Baku was a big setback for the Enstone team, with all its rivals scoring and its goal of being fifth in the Constructors’ Championship beginning to fade. Williams now has twice as many points as Renault and while there are still a lot of races to go, it is clear that the team needs two drivers both capable of scoring points at all races if it is going to beat Team Willy. Chucking out Palmer makes no sense unless there is a clear improvement, so there is little logic to have a Sergey Sirotkin, for example. There’s no time to teach new boys how to do things. The team says Robert Kubica is not a possibility and it is hard to get excited about any of the other options with suitable F1 experience.

So the best option would seem to be to go after a driver from a rival team. There are a few who are unhappy and would like to move on, but who could actually move? McLaren wants to hold on to Fernando Alonso and are not about to give him away, but if offered money might they part with Stoffel Vandoorne? It all seems pretty unlikely. Romain Grosjean could be of interest, but does Haas want to release him? Why would they?

The best option would probably be Carlos Sainz, for a number of reasons. Toro Rosso can always use money (or a reduction in its engine bills). Carlos has been there for three seasons and he has done well, but Red Bull has nowhere to take him, unless Max Verstappen or Daniel Ricciardo departs – and neither is showing any sign of being able to do that. Red Bull has a hungry replacement for Sainz in Pierre Gasly, who is waiting for his F1 chance. Gasly might be an option for Renault, except he has no F1 racing experience and so the only really sensible conclusion is for Renault to go after Sainz. A Renault deal offers him a solid future (which Red Bull cannot) and Toro Rosso/Red Bull has things to gain from letting him go… That, surely, offers the basis for a negotiation.

The option is to leave things as they are and hope they improve, but in this age of team principals as football managers, it might not be wise for Renault’s folk to do that…

We will see.