Grid, Sochi, 2018

Paddock Diary: Russian Grand Prix day four

2018 Russian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 must learn the value of simplicity, reflects @DieterRencken in the final edition of his Russian Grand Prix Paddock Diary.

8am Sunday

Chance of a short lie-in while I catch up on Sunday news, then I’m up and about sorting morning formalities and packing ahead of checking out. I recall the first race here in 2014, when circuit security initially refused access to F1 personnel with baggage other than rucksack or briefcases. Eventually sanity prevailed and the policy was reversed – I’ll take my kit to the media centre, then depart for the airport from the circuit.


My shuttle is delayed, so eventually arrive at Sochi Autodrom shortly before 11am, just in time for chats with various folk. I’m chasing material on F1’s TV business model for a column to be published Wednesday, and my sources come up trumps. I’m also after information about last week’s Strategy Group – and, save for mooted changes to qualifying and points tables, we’d covered the main points.


Head for Toro Rosso, where I’m invited for lunch. I dine with the media folk, then team boss Franz Tost joins us, and we reminisce about the “good old” days. The Austrian and I first met back in 2000 when he was BMW’s F1 track operations manager, supplying Williams, and I believe we’ve maintained good relations since. Certainly, I’ve nothing but praise for the way in which he runs Red Bull’s junior team.

Buffet consists of pasta, meats and salads, with a strong cappuccino adding the final Italian touch. En route to the media centre I pop in at Williams and grab a (locally produced) Magnum – Unilever sponsors the team, and thus its ice cream brands are well represented.

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Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2018This race is an anomaly in that it starts at 2:10pm rather than the almost universal 3:10pm slot due to sundown (the cut-off except at night races) being at 6pm, and FIA regulations specifying a total race time of four hours.

Thus the pit lane opens at 1:30pm, so I ready my Fanvision and prepare various documents before heading to the grid. I’ve said it before: the pre-race atmosphere is utterly intoxicating and a real privilege to experience at close quarters.

However, as I walk from the back towards the start line the driver name boards highlight just how jumbled is the grid due to penalties. F1 simply doesn’t understand that simplicity is all, and complication just that. In the corporate world it’s called KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid – and there’s no reason why this philosophy can’t apply equally to F1 without diminishing the overall lure of the sport.


I reflect on that thought again as Mercedes seeks every excuse under the sun to justify the team orders that awarded Lewis Hamilton the win over Valtteri Bottas’s expense. None of the explanations sound sincere and, regardless of how they’re dressed up, I leave the media session with the distinct impression that the only way Bottas could have won today’s race is if Hamilton had retired.


My Russian Grand Prix is officially over; now starts the long wait: my flight back to Belgium, where I’ll spend a night at home before heading for Japan, leaves at 4am, taking me via Istanbul. Thus I have six hours to kill to earliest check-in. I busy myself with preparing Wednesday’s column.


Depart for airport, hoping all flights are on time as I can’t afford any slippage. Russia honed its immigration procedures for the World Cup, so formalities are a breeze compared to 2014. Simplicity really is all. Talk to you from Suzuka on Thursday.

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2018 Russian Grand Prix

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4 comments on “Paddock Diary: Russian Grand Prix day four”

  1. That’s quite a lot of back-and-forth travelling.

  2. I’m glad you had a nice lunch at Toro Rosso, but honestly I don’t see the point of writing this column, which is the same for every race and really tells us nothing.

  3. Would have thought one would fly onto japan rather than travel back to Belgium. Or could it be those air miles rewards?

  4. In the corporate world it’s called KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid

    In school I had a professor who hated when we used this phrase, he would implore us that it’s actually “Keep It Short and Simple”

    Fun read @dieterrencken! Hope your Japan travels work out as planned with the storms they’re having. Remember your galoshes!

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