Wake up to more of Montreal’s capricious weather: where one forecast predicts cloudy but dry skies, another has heavy rain all day; In the end, it’s a bit of both. An idea of the fickleness of the region’s weather pattern can be gleaned from two Race Director notes issued just over 12 hours apart.
On Friday, the note read: “According to the official weather service provider’s weather forecast, no additional sets of intermediate tires will be available per driver before P3.” A later note read: “Based on an updated weather forecast from the official weather service provider, a set of intermediate tires will be made available to each driver before P3.”
Once in the circuit, I am clear that FIA Technical Directive 39 continues to draw ire among team bosses, some of whom suspect that the decision to allow additional stays and aerodynamic adjustments are designed to benefit Mercedes, as since the recent departure from the FIA of Peter Bayer, F1’s chief executive of the governing body is Shaila-Ann Rao, formerly a special adviser to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
In the F1 paddock, such perceptions easily go haywire. These are solid suggestions and so I hope the crew chief’s press conference on Saturday will be spirited, and it shows, with the two main topics being TD39s, there is little sympathy for Mercedes on display, and the future from Oscar Piastri, whom he suggested could join Williams as soon as Silverstone as a replacement for underperforming Nicholas Latifi.
It turns out to be a fun session though and I enjoy joking with Otmar Szafnauer, but the main takeaways are that the team bosses believe that TD39 is not the best decision by the FIA, that Mercedes should solve their problems through set-up. and that Piastri is going somewhere soon, but those details have yet to be fully worked out.
Therefore, there is no need to check analysis last week while we wait for the next move. The Australian is certainly a young man in demand, being Alpine’s reserve driver while he is on call for McLaren and, it is said, Mercedes; in fact, sources are convinced that he has worked on a simulator at Brackley and has a set of equipment…
After the FP3 session, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali calls a meeting of team bosses. There were two main themes: The 2023 calendar, still far from being ordered, depending on the decisions of South Africa over Kyalami, and China waiting for open borders. No schedule is expected before the summer break and anything beyond a stated desire to stage 24 races, the team’s unanimously allowed maximum, is pure speculation.
The second theme is ‘bouncing’, also known as ‘porpoise’, and multiple sources say Wolff aggressively attacked his teammates, accusing them of playing politics while the safety of drivers is at stake. He maintains that at least one driver per team has complained, it’s true, although the biggest complainers have been the silver car drivers, but he was given little heed, with the resounding message: “Get your car in order… “
It was the first such gathering Netflix attended, so Wolff’s table-banging crusade was shot in full Technicolor, so it should be a spicy viewing this coming February, but the question remains: Why? what to make fans wait so long? and again later?
Over lunch I chat with Mexican photographer Rafael Gisholt, whom I met in 2019 when he exhibited a series of 1:43 scale models at his home run. His collection then numbered around 950 cars representing every season since 1950, all neatly displayed and labeled in cabinets a total of 25 meters long. The account is now close to 1,000, a goal he aims to hit this year once the 2022 network has been added. True dedication.
After qualifying and subsequent media sessions I head to Mercedes for an update on ‘bounce’ – people there are convinced it’s not an aero problem that can be fixed by setup, but caused by loopholes in regulations that require current cars to be run extra rigidly; the fact, however, remains that some teams suffer less…
While I’m there, I see the team’s technical director, James Allison, who is attending his first race since October. It’s always good to catch up with James, Head Coach during the team’s recent hegemony. James points out that he now has a strategic role within the team and is not involved in current F1 projects; still, he must be in Canada for reasons other than tourism…
As I leave the circuit, I reflect on the mess that is the much-heralded 2022 regulation: designed by F1 over a three-year period through a highly-skilled technical group working with winning cars on their combined CV, the proposals honed extensively during an extended series of technical meetings involving all the teams, then ratified after extensive analysis and rule writing by the FIA’s main technical delegates for an introduction in 2021.
Covid caused a 12-month delay, which provided more time to resolve issues; however, a full renovation is now required in the name of driver safety. The blame game has already started: F1 points out that regulatory matters are the responsibility of the FIA; the governing body, however, is chaired by different executives after last year’s presidential elections (and the Abu Dhabi debacle); meanwhile, 10 teams childishly discuss wire supports…
You couldn’t make it up…