The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association met at Monza to discuss their response to the crash which claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert last week.
Prepare for day ahead, the first activity day of the last European round of the year. It is absolutely incredibly how rapidly this season has flown past; it seems like just yesterday that we went to Monza in anticipation of a home victory for Ferrari that eventually turned out not to be. Indeed, the last Ferrari victory in the Temple of Speed was Fernando Alonso’s 2010 win – and it’s simply ages since he last wore in red.
I hear tales of woe: BA offered to reimburse up to €100 of €250 taxi fares; a TV colleague enquires at a car rental desk for a four-day hire, having had to cancel his Milan booking. €800 – upon which he says he’ll consider his options. Ten minutes later he returns to do the deal, to be told it’s shot up to ‘€1200, take the last car we have or leave it……’
Where once cab drivers were the scourge of F1, it is now car rental companies who rip the ring out of us. The difference is that taxi cons cost us tens of bucks; with car hires the rip-offs can run to thousands.
Pull up in the (muddy) forest that doubles as a media car park, and head for paddock, catching up on gossip along the way. Until the driver market finally washes out, that will be the main topic of discussion – it seems essentially two seats remain: one at Haas, which could be retained by Romain Grosjean; another at Williams alongside George Russell – likely to go to Nicholas Latifi, providing he gain the necessary licence points, which shouldn’t be a problem given his F2 performances this year.
True, the second 2020 Alfa Romeo cockpit remains theoretically vacant, but the word is Antonio Giovinazzi will stay in situ at the insistence of Ferrari despite the team’s wishes to seek elsewhere, so that leaves Nico Hulkenberg and Romain scrapping over the black and gold seat (or whatever colour the Haas cars are next year). There may, though, still be some drivers yo-yoing at Red Bull.
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Bump into Julian Jakobi, the legendary driver manager who did and does handle the careers of many of the sport’s greatest names – including Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost (for a time simultaneously) – and we swap notes on various issues. Julian is always good for a snippet.
FIA Press Conference time, and clearly the teams are divided on some of the provisions of the 2021 regulations, particularly those relating to standard or prescription parts, with Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto suggesting standardisation of certain components could even be a ‘risk’. This one seems set to run.
Thereafter I lunch at Ferrari: salads and some of the finest prosciutto ham I’ve tasted. It sure fills the spot until dinner.
While wandering the paddock I meet with Tomas Scheckter and his brother Toby – both here in celebration of their father Jody’s 1979 world championship victory here. I had worked closely with Tomas during his F3 days, and it’s great to reminisce. He now produces pet foods, processing around 20 tons of top-class feed per week.
Interview time, and once again it’s a bunfight as we all scramble for sound bites due to restricted and clashing interview slots, but we manage to get some good stuff in the can.
I’m told an intense Grand Prix Drivers Association meeting is scheduled for after the drivers’ briefing, with the main topic being, of course, Anthoine Hubert’s fatal crash at Spa last week. In the end it runs through to around 7pm, with the main focus being education of young drivers to ensure they respect the regulations, particularly with regard to safety.
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Delayed (due to the GPDA meeting) ‘3-2-1’ interview with Lando Norris. The ‘3’ are myself plus an Austrian and a Finnish journalist. A 20-minute slot becomes half an hour, with McLaren’s rising star being in an extremely chatty mood. Indeed, the team later tell us it’s the best interview he’s ever given.
I’ve known Norris, who’s making his appreciation of Italian Moto GP hero Valentino Rossi very clear this weekend, for almost three years. In that time I’ve seen him develop from a rather shy F3 racer to full-on F1 achiever. His insights into the cross-over between real racing and E-sports are particularly incisive.
I stay on in the McLaren Brand Centre for dinner with British American Tobacco. Refreshingly there is no talk of vaping or tobacco; simply a relaxed get-together over a superbly prepared and presented dinner, being a starter of burrata, followed by (medium-rare) beef fillet and a crème brulee and compote dessert.