Formula 1’s Contract Recognition Board will rule on a prize money dispute involving Haas and Racing Point at which tens of millions of dollars is at stake. @DieterRencken gets the latest from the paddock in Hockenheim.
With a sparse support race programme and no F1 action until 11am it makes little sense to rush to the circuit, so I spend an hour catching up news such as the Circuit de Catalunya’s ongoing aspirations to retain its race in the face of efforts to save the Mexican round. Any wonder that we’re nearing F1’s summer break, and still no mention of the number of 2020 races, let alone their sequence?
Arrive at circuit after a 10-kilometre, 30-minute stop-start journey epitomised by a queue-jumping black BMW which eventually ends up behind me, then catch a shuttle from car park to media centre.
As first practice starts I’m in discussion with various folk about the 2020 F1 driver market, which is hotting up ahead of the summer break. Now is the time to discover who is talking to whom.
It’s clear the key to the current driver market is held by Mercedes: once the fates of Valtteri Bottas and third driver Esteban Ocon are decided, the other blocks are expected to drop into place.
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The FIA team principals’ press conference is an increasingly bland affair as the amount of time given over to floor questions has been steadily reduced. The conference used to be held after second practice, at which time it ran to 45 minutes or more. But the present lunchtime slot, necessitated by later starts to programmes, means the conference has been cut to 30 minutes of which half is taken up by ‘vanilla’ questions from the moderator.
I do, however, learn Haas’s demand for Column 1 money – usually not paid to new entries for two years, but apparently paid to Racing Point after it took over Force India despite that being officially a new entry – continues to rumble away in the background, with F1’s Geneva-based Contract Recognition Board set to arbitrate the issue shortly. The case potentially holds profound implications: either Haas scores up to $60m, or Racing Point loses the same amount.
I then head to McLaren for a scheduled catch-up. Communications head Tim Bampton kindly offers me lunch: a perfectly prepared steak with chips, grilled asparagus and hollandaise.
Following his heavy crash at the end of second practice, Pierre Gasly decided against attending his media briefing. The shunt is an untimely setback for him after a decent weekend at Silverstone.
That aside the post-practice interviews proceed as normal. The overwhelming view is that the hot day of running will be rendered largely meaningless by the rain which is expected to follow from Saturday.
I then return to McLaren, where driver equipment supplier Sparco hosts a demonstration about its products for a select group of journalists, with Lando Norris on hand to talk about his kit.
It’s difficult to fathom, but a full driver suit complying with every FIA safety standard and sporting every sponsor logo weighs just 600g. Incredibly, that is a kilogram less than it was just five years ago. Given the lengths F1 engineers go to, to shave a single gram off the overall weight of a car, such weight savings are a bonus. Equally, a full safety harness weighs 400g, mainly due to carbon belting and titanium fittings.
As mentioned in yesterday’s diary, Norris took me on a high-speed tour of the Hockenheimring in a McLaren road car ahead of the race weekend. Here’s how it went:
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I head for Ferrari where I’ve been invited to a quiz evening for Belgian and French correspondents. More wonderful food is supplied including pasta, delicious roast beef brisket, followed by pears in red wine; afterwards we tackle questions covering F1, Germany and music.
This being F1, prizes are handed out. Our trio finish second – ‘first among the losers’, Ron Dennis would have called it, though as the leading three-person team I consider we’re actually first in our class. Ferrari hand out leather travel bags to each of us. Thanks to Silvia and the rest of the red team for a fun evening.
Afterwards I head for the hotel. As I park up I check the temperature read-out: 31C at close to midnight. Another stifling night beckons, but tomorrow