Robert Kubica, Williams, Singapore, 2019

Paddock Diary: Singapore Grand Prix day four

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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Will Robert Kubica have a place on the grid for the 2020 F1 season? @DieterRencken picks up rumours about the soon-to-be ex-Williams driver’s future in the Singapore paddock.

11am

Hotel check-out is midday – over eight hours before the race starts. I finish packing, head downstairs and square the bill, but there’s obviously no hurry to get to the paddock. I catch up on the Sunday papers.

2:45pm

As expected, the queue to enter the paddock takes longer than usual. Many F1 personnel, myself included, have brought travel luggage in addition to work rucksacks, which means we all take longer to clear the security checks.

I use the 15 minutes or so to catch up on chit-chat amongst teams. Higher-paid employees are extremely concerned about the looming budget cap, for those outside the (exempted) top three earners in a team are potentially in the firing line.

One makes the point that with administration costs excluded from the cap, an IT or finance manager earning $300,000 is okay, while engineers on the same money – viewed as a performance cost – stands to be a retrenched. “That can’t be right…” he says.

Another source reckons F1 will gradually be dumbed-down as the best engineers will move out of F1 when salaries are contained to maximise team headcounts within the cap. We’ll see.

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3pm

Singapore, 2019The paddock is eerily quiet as most folk have not yet arrived, and those present are either in team buildings preparing for the day, or in their garages. In the heat and humidity coupled with time shifts it’s easy to forget that mid-afternoon equates to 9am on a ‘normal’ grand prix Sunday.

4pm

The afternoon drags on: Still over four hours to go until the race starts. I hear Esteban Ocon has been relieved of all simulator duties. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff indicated in Monza this was coming.

Ocon served both Mercedes and its associate team Racing Point, but with his move to Renault for 2020-21, the Three-Pointed Star decided it needs to protect secrets at both teams, particularly as the French outfit is a grid competitor of the pink team.

7pm

A frisson hits the paddock as the engines are started ahead of a two-hour battle on arguably the toughest circuit on the calendar – at night. An immediate perkiness is discernible as folk go about their business methodically and guests raise voices in response to revving engines, which, even as hybrids are truly awesome to hear.

I follow up with those in the know about various sponsorship activities, including the saga surrounding Polish oil company Orlen and Robert Kubica. It seems McLaren (whose fuel and lubricant deal with Petrobras ends this year), Racing Point (without an oil brand) and Haas (ditto) – were in the running, but McLaren dropped out after making clear they had their own roster of simulator drivers and no interest in employing the Pole.

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7:30pm

Singapore, 2019Head for grid – it’s always special, but the spectacularly lit evening skyline makes Singapore’s pre-start walk doubly so. The city is one of very few – if not the only – venues that could pull off such a race, borne out by the fact that it remains the only true night street race in global motorsport.

11:30pm

The Singapore Grand Prix ends with the traditional explosion of fireworks. For the fifth time in its 12-year history, Sebastian Vettel is the winner, though the manner in which he came out ahead of team mate Charles Leclerc provokes much debate. Nonetheless, Ferrari have much to cheer about, having unexpectedly scored their first one-two of the season at a track where they expected to struggle.

Post-race it’s quiet as most team bosses departed left, either due to the late hour or to catch midnight flights that land mid-morning due to the east-west time zone advantage. As the sessions wind down I head for the hotel, from where a cab whisks me to Changi Airport and my 2:15am flight home via Qatar ahead of Wednesday’s flight to Sochi.

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2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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Fireworks, Singapore, 2019

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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15 comments on “Paddock Diary: Singapore Grand Prix day four”

  1. Another source reckons F1 will gradually be dumbed-down as the best engineers will move out of F1 when salaries are contained to maximise team headcounts within the cap. We’ll see.

    I have to wonder where they’ll go then, is there a sport that will reward them better?

    I think some might move to smaller teams, injecting those with more talent, but yes, in the end, the budget cap will mean the top teams have to let people go.

    1. I wonder how much of that is just scaremongering over budget caps. Talented engineers and aerodynamicists can already earn more working in less sexy fields than F1, that’s nothing new. It’s a high profile sport that many people want to be a part of.

      1. Indeed @bosyber, @jonathan there aren’t that many sports left, certainly not motorsports, where all these high paid engineers could go.

    2. @bosyber @jonathan @bascb Why does it have to be a sport? There are many other applications they could apply their knowledge to. Areas such as Hypercars, aeronautics, boat/ships/luxury yachts and probably many others.
      Pigeonholing people is a limit of the perceivers imagination.

      1. Exactly. And many of those jobs are perceived as less glamorous so they’re better paying as a result.

      2. Sure @johnrkh. Because the best paid engineers are going to fit in just nicely at the likes of Dallara, Automotive giants’ huge design infrastructure, or aerospace / defence projects.
        It will really thrill them to have to go to engineering meetings for days on end, having artificial deadlines imposed, hearing how this and that is too expensive or just that the boss doesn’t like it. That will really rock their competative boat, won’t it.

        And when we talk about these kind of salaries, where do you imagine an engineer would get that kind of money? They aren’t either glamorous, nor though, do they pay better – since you will be part of a corporate structure @jonathan, they won’t even be able to pay you that, even if they might want you.

        1. @bascb: Indeed. F1, transitioning from the meritocracy of motorsport to the mediocrity of media-sport.

          1. The budget cap is coming and it will result in staff reductions. This is a reality and everyone, inside and outside the F1 inner circle will have to live with it.
            As with so many other technical sporting endeavors, F1 is a training ground for technical excellence. Some sacrifice and stick with it, others live the dream for a period and then move on.
            Not just engineers, but software specialists, logistical personnel, materials and fabrication specialists (pretty much anyone on a Team) will have gained experience in the motor racing world and gone to other fields and excelled. Heck, some even go into marketing combustible drug administration technologies … or is it the other way round.?

        2. @bascb Sure @johnrkh. Because the best paid engineers are going to fit in just nicely at the likes of Dallara, Automotive giants’ huge design infrastructure, or aerospace / defence projects.

          Yes.

        3. @bascb Deadlines and costs are part of the engineering challenge and would absolutely exist in F1. I’m really not sure why you might think that they wouldn’t?

          They key difference I think would be the turn around time in F1 is much faster than most places; but most of us have to work in the real world so I don’t really have much sympathy for that.

          1. Where do I say they don’t @justrhysism?
            My point Is that the deadlines are logically induced by the race calender. In business deadlines are more often rather arbitrary.

  2. @bascb

    In business deadlines are more often rather arbitrary.

    They certainly seem that way when you’re not high enough to be provided the bigger picture. Not to mention that without some form of deadline, engineers would almost work in perpetuity on a problem for the ultimate solution.

    1. Bah! Was sure I was replying properly… where’s the delete/edit button!??!

    2. They often seem even more so when you are high enough up and ale to see who sets Them and why.

    3. I agree that work normally needs a deadline – otherwise we would hardly get anything done. The problem in larger organisations often is though, that deadlines are set according to a more or less general framework that is enshrined in internal procedures, but don’t always make sense (anymore) due to changes in the whole process/time line / suppy chain.
      And then you have more and more meetings to coordinate stuff, find scapegoats, for managers to present their grandure etc.

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