For the recent Autosport International Show at the NEC in Birmingham, I produced a sample version of World in Motorsport Magazine for a series of meetings held over the course of Thursday and Friday.

Below is an edited excerpt of the prologue that introduced the Autosport Show sample.

Well, it’s been a while, but this has been a most epileptic few years. When World in Motorsport debuted with a WRC special too many handfuls of months ago, grand plans were considered, reconsidered, replaced, annulled and then considered again.

And then 2020 happened and COVID-19 hit, felling the world as governments floundered, exasperated that policy and decision had been snatched from gilded hands. Like a boxer smashed across the chin in the final round of a devastating bout, the world blinked into its own concussion and private little hells of isolation beckoned and bellowed, as time slowed dramatically.

Amidst the stasis, existence stuttered and life became a suspended knot, dithering as it phased and faded, before speeding up as the shock of the hard canvas floor approached fast. I have often heard it said that one’s senses perform strange little tricks on you when you are involved with a traumatic accident.

This is the same for society too. The impression of time slowing down, pirouetting, and then speeding up again as the elastic of awareness and consciousness stretched and danced upon the edge of physics before pulling back sharply.

This was something never fully appreciated until a road accident several years ago left me rather damaged. Ripped from the seat of a bicycle, I looked on in slow wonder, attempting to comprehend why my backpack was overtaking me in mid-air – and then the elastic pulled time back, life sped up and the sound of everything ramped to a brutal level before a sickening crunch broke all sense of noise, just as it broke several bones.

A lifetime onward and the world has moved, although occasionally there are some things still move in slow motion, but that may have more to do with stuttering economies than anything medical related.

With life moving, the next volume of World in Motorsport is in the latter stages of production – a few additional works are undergoing evaluation, editing, reevaluation, redrafting or completion.
Following that, the next step is to have upcoming volume of World in Motorsport signed off by a sub- editor, who will no doubt have a very busy red marker.
Much of this will become possible with the next round of funding, and so work is commencing to ensure that is in place.

Life has been tough for all over the past few years and one can only hope that 2023 will be better. Let’s just hope World in Motorsport can be a small part of what brings some joy back to all of our lives.

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“The End of One Road; The Start of a New One”

From January 1st 2023, WorldInMotorsport.com will become the primary output for my work.

With that, TheMotorsportArchive.com will cease publishing posts, although the archive will remain live.

World in Motorsport is a publication dedicated to delivering the best in feature interviews, in depth studies from the world of motorsport – whether Formula One, Indycar, DTM and beyond – as well as delivering high quality sporting, technical and industry analysis.

As both a stylish A5 coffee table style “bookazine” and website, World in Motorsport contains essays, interviews, studies and dissertations examining critical and important areas in motor racing. A video channel is also to launch in the foreseeable future.

While World in Motorsport Magazine is priced at £10 for the physical copy or £5 for the digital version, works on worldinmotorsport.com and the World in Motorsport Substack page – which act as introductory windows to the magazine – shall remain free to read.

Alternatively if you are happy to just stick to the site, then please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. With your generous support, World in Motorsport can continue to bring you exclusive works and content, while diving deep into the avenues of motorsport that make the wheels turn.

Debuting in April 2008, TheMotorsportArchive.com has been a steady portal for race news, coverage and updates; however, as my work has moved further from reporting toward extensive feature-length work and studies, the relevance of TheMotorsportArchive.com has decreased.

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“Grosjean: ‘Getting Back in the Car Was Just Normal’”


This is an excerpt from an extensive coming feature in the next volume of World in Motorsport.

In the third of three interviews with Leigh O’Gorman, the former Formula One racer and now IndyCar driver Romain Grosjean discusses life, psychology and the tools to survive at the peak of motorsport.


Around this time two years ago, Haas Formula One driver Romain Grosjean was preparing for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Within moments of the race start, he had crashed and crashed hard. But just as it seemed as if it was all about to end, America called.

“It’s a busy, busy universe. Okay, good times.”

Romain Grosjean has certainly been busy. For he and teammate Kevin Magnussen, 2020 had been a very difficult season and Grosjean was examining options for the following year.

Having spoken with him just a few weeks earlier, he did not seem to be in the best of mindsets. From when I first interviewed him in 2011 – a time when the Swiss-born Frenchman was buzzing with enthusiasm and energy – to 2020, some elements of the man had remained constant, but there was little doubt, the mood had darkened.

Slips of humour were still ever present, but the wit had become sharper, pricklier and cut more finely, particularly as his F1 career appeared to be spinning beyond his control.

Within moments of that race in Bahrain starting, the Grand Prix was marked with a fiery crash that nearly claimed Grosjean’s life. As the field wove through the opening turns and underbodies scrubbed the road, showering followers with clipped sparks, Grosjean linked wheels with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat, pitching the Haas machine hard into the barrier.

The near-instantaneous destruction of the VF-20 chassis and the ensuing explosion shocked the racing world, but amidst the deep orange. red and black haze, Grosjean emerged, singed – albeit with second-degree burns across his hands – but relatively unscathed given the ordeal.

“F1: The More You Do, The More You Understand, The More You See – Grosjean”

Now racing with Andretti Autosport in America’s Indycar Series, one would be forgiven for thinking that Grosjean would not consider getting back in the car, but the now former-F1 racer has found a happy place.
“Honestly, getting back in the car was just normal,” he says. Indeed, despite suffering second-degree burns to his hands in the fire, Grosjean was back in a car within three months – with hands heavily bandaged to protect blisters from bursting – as he tested Indycar for the first time at Barber Motorsport Park. “I just wanted to wait the first lap of the first race back in the car and if that lap felt normal, I would carry on; if that lap felt not normal, I would stop racing.”

Grosjean’s career has had a somewhat haphazard path until now. Initial success at Formula 3 and GP2 level brought him to the attention of the Renault Formula 1 team {note 1}, who enrolled the junior racer as a test driver in 2008. This became a race driver in the 2nd half of 2009, when Nelson Piquet Jr was fired; however, with the team reeling from the Crashgate scandal and Grosjean ill-prepared for the rigours of F1 {note 2}, the Frenchman too was dropped after not scoring in seven races.

In the wilderness at the tender age of 23, Grosjean went back to the drawing board and picked up drives wherever he could, including stints in the GT1 World Championship – which included an unsuccessful run at Le Mans – and Auto GP, before returning to GP2 to win both the Main and Asian Series’ in 2011 {note 3}.
Learning quickly has become a standard for Grosjean, a talent he required for when he crossed the Atlantic. “The new series was a challenge because you get to discover new cars, new tracks, new atmosphere, new people, new rules, new everything. That was like being a rookie again and discovering everything, so you have to learn every time we go on track.”

“Conor Daly: The best part about Indycar right now is that we put on a great show.”

After an initial season with Dale Coyne Racing, Grosjean was initially booked to race at just the road and street circuits, but two-thirds of the season made his oval debut at Gateway Motorsports Park. This year saw the Frenchman run the full schedule, including the Indianapolis 500. “There is definitely a different approach, a different mindset, a different way of driving as well, so it’s a completely different skill that you need to build and I guess that’s why you see guys that have been doing it for a long time that are very, very good at it. [Helio] Castroneves is a good example.”

Grosjean admits that prior to his Indycar move, his lack of experience caused him to view oval racing in a somewhat derogatory light but acknowledges his eyes have been opened now that he has had the opportunity to race and test at several oval venues. “There’s so much information to gather. There’s a risk involvement as well. You know, the cars are getting safer and safer, the walls are getting better and better, but still, when you do 230 miles an hour next to a wall, if things go wrong, they go wrong badly.
“It’s surprising, because I looked at it from Europe back in the days and thought it was all kind of boring and easy, and then you start doing it and you realise that it’s definitely not easy and every oval is different.”

Although this year’s Indycar calendar comprised only five races over four oval rounds (Iowa was a double-header) {note 4}, Grosjean was impressed by the variety to hand. “They all require skills and adaptation and I think that’s something we definitely see wrong in Europe, thinking that they all kind of the same thing and just turning left, it’s a little bit more complex than that.”

Grosjean finished higher in points this year than he did in 2021, although this is partially attributed to his competing throughout a season, which proved, at times, difficult, particularly as relations with teammate Alexander Rossi fractured.
Arguably, there was greater consistency across the breadth of the season for the former-F1 ace, but the Andretti-Autosport team struggled compared to previous campaigns but sees a team still hungry for success, but given how the competition is in Indycar, that is a tough call. “I like the fact that to make a pass, you have to build it up and go for it and that’s just the racing that I enjoy. It’s not like you can go back in the back of the field and fly through like the Mercedes would do in Formula One [in] the first few years of the hybrid era. It’s definitely different and I like that.”

For now, Grosjean and his family are enjoying life beyond the gates of the west. Having settled in Florida, the Frenchman comes across as far more settled and content than he was in his latter Formula One days, while simultaneously hungry for future success. “You could go on the beach every day and enjoy the sun and do nothing and drink a pina colada, or you can push the limit and always try something new. I go to the beach when I want to have some time off, but I’m also someone that always tried to be active and push things forward.”

Indeed, when asked if there was anything he would change, Grosjean makes a nod toward the off-season, noting, “It is too long,” he ends with a laugh.

{note 1}
Now competing as Alpine F1 Team.

{note 2}
In a 2020 interview, Grosjean told The Motorsport Archive that, “I wish I would know in 2009 everything I know now. I wasn’t ready to come to Formula One in 2009 and I was missing key people around me, which is really very important for young drivers to step in and have people that can help them.”
When asked whether competing in junior formulae does enough to prepare drivers for Formula One, Grosjean is quick press home difficulties. “No, no, no… you’re not ready. Even though you think you have won Formula 2… I don’t think you know what’s coming.”

{note 3}
Having previously raced with Renault (2009) and then Lotus (2012-15) – albeit with a gap in the wilderness between the teams – the move to Haas in 2016 was a risk, but given Lotus’s crumbling finances and weakening position, it was probably the right one.
Grosjean scored several podiums with Lotus and reached 7th in the standings in three years earlier and his stock had risen, despite his quick, but somewhat erratic 2012 season; however, Lotus’s downturn affected Grosjean’s reputation too and when the opportunity came with Haas, the risk probably seemed like a better option than stagnation.
In Formula One, nothing survives stagnation. It sucks the oxygen out of a team and grinds them to a halt. Then still aged 29, Grosjean had plenty still to give. Yet after a couple of solid first three seasons with the American squad topped with a best of 4th at the Red Bull Ring in 2018, Haas began to drop off fast as money tightened and come the of 2020, they had only scored twice – a 9th for Grosjean at the Nürburgring and a 10th for teammate Kevin Magnussen in Hungary. Even had it not been for the Bahrain crash, there were strong rumours that Grosjean was to be dropped following the end of that season.

{note 4}
The four ovals on Indycar’s 2022 season were as follows:
Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile quad-oval, with progressive banking of 20-24 degrees;
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5-mile superspeedway circuit, with 9 degrees of banking;
Iowa Speedway, a 0.875-mile D-shaped oval with 12-14 degrees of banking and 10 degrees of banking on the start/finish stretch;
Gateway Motorsports Part, a 1.25-mile hairpin shaped oval, with progressive banking of between 9-11 degrees.

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“Truth, Noise, Botox and Formula One”

With four Grand Prix remaining in 2022, Max Verstappen has already claimed his 2nd World Championship crown.

Apart from the merest of blips, the Dutch racer has been as imperious, as Ferrari have utterly incompetent. Both elements played their part, but is the real story being played off track?

Even from a great distance, one could almost feel a sinking feeling of despair emanating from the offices of Formula One Management come the end of the Italian Grand Prix.

Such was Verstappen’s colossal advantage over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc come the end of the European season, the Red Bull man could easily have claimed the world championship title in Singapore. It didn’t happen there, of course – one of Verstappen’s few blips at a Grand Prix upended by changing weather and cool conditions – but he did take it the following weekend in Japan, albeit in bizarre circumstances.

And yet, where his 2022 title looked assured and certain, complaints about his first championship crown continue and – for once – the grumbling is not about the circumstances of last season’s closer at Abu Dhabi.
With rumours about a possible cost cap breach by Red Bull, hyenas, still upset from last year’s debacle under the desert sunset, began to circle with sharpened teeth. When it was confirmed following the Japanese Grand Prix that Red Bull had committed a minor overspend breach, those hyenas began to rub the paws together with glee.

In all the recorded outbursts concerning the cost cap, one could not help but get a whiff of Drive to Survive in the air – the lamentable Netfllix “documentary” series, which – if one is to be honest – bears a closer relationship to Married at First Sight than it does Panorama.
The show makes no bones about it though. It is “reality TV” in all its scripted excesses, while possessing all of the remarkable trappings of the unreal mixed with the implausible.
In many ways, Formula One and Netflix are perfect for each other. With Drive to Survive, Netflix possess an indelicate and epileptic psychodrama disguised as a modern documentary, that has opened doors for similar projects tailored for salivating sporting CEOs with prefabricated dirt waiting to be upsold.

Netflix has the money and the deals, although no one is sure whether syringe contains Botox or heroin, and few are willing to ask.

Drawing from the inevitable ripple effects of the Singapore revelations, every mouthpiece and their dog made themselves available for television interviews, if only to unwittingly announce in very roundabout ways that they knew nothing about auditing or accounting practices.
Whether they were aware of their own lack of knowledge is another question, but one suspects that if you wish to never learn about a subject in Formula One, one needs only listen to the talking heads to ensure nothing of value is absorbed.

Several claims generated much eye-rolling; others, meanwhile, were frankly laughable. In particular, the claim from Ferrari’s Team Principal, Mattia Binotto, that the top end of minor breach – $7.25 million – is the equivalent of gaining half-a-second per lap is the stuff such astonishingly fantastical bullshit, that only a professional bullshitter could possibly come up with it {note 1}. One could almost admire the audacity – almost.
It really is quite difficult to point out exactly where truth end and nonsense begins but suffice to say the former is present only in the form of sand particles blown in from Texan deserts. Alas, who needs truth and honesty when gripping headlines will do instead? As the Grand Prix weekend at COTA begins in earnest, an overspend figure of $1.8 million had been floated in media reports, although while the number is clearly important, what was done with it is key.

In the centre of this melee is the FIA. Having overseen the botched 2021 season finale, pressure is being applied to enforce a significant enough penalty for this minor overspend breach, so as to make the Cost Cap a meaningful device that has teeth.
But the governing body has not had a pretty ten months. Having acted with a bout of belligerence in the days and weeks after Abu Dhabi, the FIA drew away quietly to consider options and actions that would eventually see them largely absolved, while former Race Director Michael Masi was hung out to dry.

Naturally though, it goes beyond this. While it is tempting to imply the removal of Masi has calmed initial jitters, the criticisms of Race Control this year have not tempered, as every single decision comes under scrutiny. It was hoped that the arrival of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas as interchanging Race Directors would remove some of the heat, but this has not been the case and – if one is to be realistic – that was never going to happen.

For a race – any race – to endure a wait of several hours to discover if race winner Sergio Perez would receive a penalty for a breach of safety car procedure (Singapore) – a breach easily identifiable by the data recorded live by Perez’ car – is unnecessary in the extreme and insulting to the fans, media and competitors.
More serious, however, was the befuddlement over the number of points on offer following the conclusion of the Grand Prix in Japan – a confusion that rendered all at sea as to whether Verstappen had won the title or not.

Even more astonishing than that was the accepted risk for competitor’s safety by allowing clearance vehicles trackside without a completely neutralised field.
Pierre Gasly, rightly, took criticism for travelling at excessive speed under red flag conditions (approximately 250 kph), earning a mere 20-second penalty for his troubles, but this should not excuse the brain fog from Race Control – a decision which appears to have cost Freitas his position as co-Race Director.

At a time when Formula One should be doing whatever it can to reduce the bombastic fumbling, the sport is doing what it can to swim in its own mire. With Japan an old memory at two weeks, background events at Texas are already overshadowing the US Grand Prix.

Through all this, the cost cap argument refuses to dissipate. There can be no worse result for the FIA than to be forced to impose a penalty on Red Bull that would change the result of the 2021 Driver’s Championship, but as one cannot truly follow the spend chain, it may be impossible to ascertain how the overspend may have altered the development path of the car, if at all.
If Verstappen were to retrospectively lose his first title due to the overspend, it would be a great shame, for his was utterly brilliant for much of the season; however, if the penalty is deemed too soft, then a precedent will be set and the Cost Cap will be dead in the water before it has truly worked its way into F1’s bloodstream.

Following some initial bluster Red Bull’s team boss Christian Horner, the Milton Keynes-based squad is reportedly engaging with the FIA in order to negotiate an Accepted Breach Agreement (ABA).
This is essentially a plea deal in which teams admit that they have committed a breach, allowing for lesser penalties to be applied, such as a public reprimand (utterly pointless), suspension from one or more sessions of a competition (most likely loss of FP sessions, qualifying or both) or additional limitation of aerodynamic or other testing beyond the limits already in place.

Should Red Bull decide not to accept an ABA and challenge the FIA’s findings – presumably with a view to reclassifying costs as listed in their accounting period – then a Cost Cap Adjudication Panel will be created to hear each individual case.
If found guilty in that, Red Bull can still appeal to the FIA International Court of Appeal; however, a loss of the case at this stage could cost Red Bull Constructors’ and Drivers’ championship points from their 2021 – the latter of which would almost certainly cost Verstappen his first title – and a reduction of allowable cost cap for the present season. Penalties from an ABA sanction can also be applied.

No doubt, the machinations of feverish accountants may one day get their own Netflix Drive to Survive-esque special, but for now, as Russell Crowe’s Maximus Meridius fearsomely announced in the movie Gladiator’, “Are you not entertained?!”

Actually, I’m not sure that I am.

{note 1}
Where? How? What circuit? Long circuit? Medium length circuit? Short circuit? Dry weather? Wet weather? Love downforce? High downforce? Medium downforce? What about air density? New development or minor upgrade? (Etc., etc., etc.)

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“Motorsport is a Fat Country, and Our Colony is Tainted”

Last year’s COP26 carnival in Glasgow told the world two things: people and countries will do what they feel they need to do to survive, while others will do what they need to prosper.

In a world governed by the cloudy nausea of perception and positioning, how long before the very existence of international motorsport becomes a challenge to be answered?

There is a moment in David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, where Tafas – T.E. Lawrence’s guide across the desert to Prince Faisal – asks if Britain is a desert country, to which Lawrence replies, “No: a fat country. Fat people.”

It is certainly a quote pertinent for modern times, particularly morally egregious Westernised societies, and their alliances, whatever that means.
We are fat, in a sense. Not a strict or specific reference to culinary gluttony by any means, but we are fat in thought and obese in desires. If “wanting” is a skill, we have mastered it.

Formula One is obese – that is no surprise. In rich and developed nations, we consume and horde furiously and sniff aggressively at those who covet our bounty – but it is not just food that we keep to ourselves. We consume energy endlessly; absorb consciousness; drain fashion and materials as well, and if we could own happiness, we would probably claim that too.

Our sport’s continued expansion plays into that. There is money to be made and we will make it: the how’s, why’s and wherefores are for others to discuss over nibbles that become meals, while reason loses its balance to drunkenness. For and to the world, the right words are spoken, and the correct allusions are made and yet, the growing calendar does not sit easily alongside promises of sustainability.
Such consumption and the desire for more has brought us to the precipice of human destruction, but the roots and foundations for these wants do not end at our borders, particularly when the materials for our product wealth are mined at a pittance from poorer lands around the world.

For all our impressions of growth and humane maturity, the roots of our old colonial thinking still very much exist and is practiced at our behest. We conquer not for land, but for market share: wealth and prosperity – as long as we are the ones who are prosperous – and as we do that, illusions of betterment are made.
The illusions are so important. A Grand Prix is many things: an event that excites, drives, and inspires; a national painting that captures beauty, essence, and wonder; an experience that incites, provokes and assaults the senses.
But they are illusions, portraits that disguise the dirt, the blemishes and, also, the hurt. Irrespective of where the sport goes, it ignores corruption, harm, and brutality and – on few occasions – attempts to lay claim that Formula One’s mere presence will help solve deep seated problems. Alas, such issues are rarely so easily uprooted.

And thus, we eat and consume and eat and consume and when we eventually pull our faces away from the trough, we sniffle noisily at the iceberg to which we are drawing toward.
Such has been the slow burning nature of spinning politics, volatile economics, and burning climates, we have spent years moving slowly to that iceberg, but not appreciating the evolving danger. However, the current has picked up pace and when we next look up, so close are we to jeopardy that we could easily identify the rivets on the iceberg wall.

There are so many questions as to how the future will be shaped. We enjoy a pretence of futuristic ambition dressed in technology that will shift the global picture; however, it is an indulgence that we are allowed, for questions as to whether there is enough scope in what we do to be truly game changing are pressing.

In a way, Formula One is a monarchy. Our way is undisputed: it rules from afar, touring the world, gently and gingerly waving to its subjects from a balcony. There are cheers, there is adoration, there is the unseen sweat and muscle that built this land, but the soil is tainted, and half-measures will not cure it.
If that sounds defeatist, it isn’t really. This is merely an acknowledgement of where we truly are in the world, and it is only when we grasp that, can we begin to envision wider dreams. And right now, the dream is not to get banned, for when the winds begin to burn, even something as frivolous as Formula One and its perceived royalty may not survive that.

The sport has great aims, but when push comes to shove, there may be a need to be truly radical and right now, I don’t know what that is.

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“Notes: Very, Very Lost in Monza”

Getting lost in an unfamiliar park following a day at the races is far from ideal, especially when evening shadows collide with lingering darkness.

In theory, navigating one’s way out of Monza should not be unfeasible and yet, it was a feat managed with indelicate ease. It did not take long to become very, very lost.

In the ‘manual of men’, the thing to do in this scenario is to carry on regardless and keep walking. Eventually a way out will be found, unless it isn’t found, [by which point] it’s dark and you are surrounded by ominous trees, treacherous grass and fearsome shrubbery.

Under the deepening blue tinge of sky, whimpers slip from cold breath that colours the [small] space [ahead].
The thing with darkness is that it doesn’t descend upon you [easily]. If anything, it closes in and slowly, sluggishly wraps its arms around you. These dark limbs hold lightly at first, but then the grip tightens and pulls you slowly to the ground. Its caress is long, loving and eternal; the sleep that comes with it is deep, as all that is dear drifts forever.

This being a GT meeting, there are no [large] crowds to follow, because no one bothers to watch this stuff. Goosebumps rise upon the skin, particularly when [foreign hands] tap on the shoulder, in the [empty and] wide open greenery.

The sudden ‘yelp’ probably alerted the new companion that all was not perfect. ‘Signore, ti sei perso,’ the main in a dark uniform queried.
[Speaking Italian is not my forte; understanding when it is spoken is even less so.]
‘Mi scusi?’
‘Ah, Jack Charton?’
‘Yes. Toto Schillaci?’
‘Si. Are you lost?’
‘Yes, quite very.’

Having been found wandering rather aimlessly by a park police officer, this bout of clumsiness would strike hard again shortly, but for now – having been pointed in the right direction, evening time had long since fallen.

Passing the Royal Villa of Monza, dwarfed from the ground up in a temperate yellow light, could not detract from the biting winds passing in from the north. Those who could, went inside and closed their doors for the night; those who couldn’t found doorways, bus shelters or the train station.

Emerging into the lights of Monza town, one homeless man straggled – his face cracked and broken with trauma that belied his age and betrayed his experience – as he wept quietly, while a local businessman shouted, laughed, and cackled from behind, having just thrown a bucket of freezing water over him for “fun”.
Crossing the road to find another shadowy corner, a ragged throw – the homeless man’s sheet for the night – glistened briefly, as pearls of cold water seeped further into the old and worn cotton.

Laughing and whimpering, hand-in-hand – a reminder that not all horrors happen in war. Some of our greatest horrors occur amidst great affluence, when greed replaces violence and belittlement replaces barbarism.

Even the coffee counters – a nominal religion in the region – which keep all warm in the cold evenings, had closed. And tonight, it was very, very cold.

© Leigh O'Gorman
© Leigh O’Gorman
© Leigh O'Gorman
© Leigh O’Gorman

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“Colton Herta, Red Bull and the Re-Invention of Super Licence Qualifiers”

In the unlikely event Colton Herta earns a Super Licence dispensation from the FIA, it would prove an interesting workaround for an unintended consequence.

It may even force a badly needed re-evaluation or even dissolution of the entire Super Licence Points System, although without some humility, that change is unlikely.

While it may have had relevant foundations in 2015, as it currently stands, the Super Licence Points System is no longer fit for purpose.

Following Max Verstappen’s lightning-fast promotion to Formula One, the Super Licence Points System was designed as a qualifying measure for younger drivers aiming for a seat in Formula One via the numerous single-seater categories globally.

With a myriad of championships available, the single-seater route was deeply complex, requiring expert navigation and determined partners, and while there were opportunities aplenty to race, the unregulated nature of the Formula One ladder left that route unfocussed.

Formula One’s then primary feeder categories – GP2 and GP3 – were beginning to struggle against their comparative peers. They had become bloated and expensive, with precious little seat time compared to rival categories, such as Formula Renault 3.5 and the European F3 Championship, both of which absorbed talent, as they offered extensive seat time and heightened competition.
In the melee, junior driver programmes also began to look away from the standard Formula One feeder categories, preferring their drivers race in more challenging series’ away from the immediate eyes of the world.
It was hugely successful and between 2011 and 2014, Formula Renault 3.5 proved a final stepping-stone to Formula One for Daniel Ricciardo, Jules Bianchi, Jean-Éric Vergne, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz among others {note 1}, while several drivers moved from European F3 to Formula Renault, rather than move to the Formula One junior paddock.

“Is Nikita Mazepin Good Enough for F1? Well, It’s C

Despite these successes, the FIA Single-Seat Commission looked at ways to tighten up the route to Formula One, while also reinvigorating the accepted pathway to the top of the single-seater pyramid. This drive was deepened when Verstappen jumped from karting to a Formula One drive, via Formula Three, in the space of fifteen months.

To tackle this, the Single-Seat Commission created the Super Licence Points System to force young drivers to spend at least two-to-three years tackling the lower rungs, with a view to promoting experience over fast-track moves {note 2}. At the same time, the FIA also introduced a minimum age limit of 18 years for drivers hoping to bag a seat at motorsport’s top level.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Super Licence Points System was not created to keep desperately unqualified drivers out of Formula One; however, that has been a consequence of it, particularly with the haphazard way it applies points standards to well established international championships.

With AlphaTauri potentially losing Pierre Gasly to Alpine, attempts by the team’s parent company, Red Bull Racing, to import Colton Herta from Indycar as replacement look set to fail.
Herta does not currently qualify for a Super Licence via the traditional method, as he falls eight points short of what is required. Red Bull have argued that Herta should have points from his excluded 2018 Indy Lights campaign instated {note 3}, but it appears that rival teams have rallied against this exception.

“Some Super Licence Points Pointers”

For Red Bull and Herta, timing is everything. The original framework for the Points System was to capture points collated over the course of three calendar years, although during the period of disrupted racing from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was altered so drivers could calculate their best three seasons over four calendar years {note 4}. This has not yet been repealed.
The latter point is critical for Herta, as this exceptional ruling brings his 2018 Indy Lights season into the frame. Should a decision be made that favours the inclusion of that campaign, Herta would then have the additional points necessary to qualify for a Super Licence; however, that 2018 count expires on December 31st of this year.

This means that, if successful, Herta would need to apply for a Super Licence before the end of this calendar year, thereby obtaining a 2022 Super Licence, all the while knowing that a drive in 2022 is not the goal. However, Super Licences are granted annually and to take part drivers must renew those licences at least two weeks prior to the opening round of the next World Championship.
If Red Bull’s request is granted and Herta earns the Super Licence points, he will need the Super Licence approved for 2022 in order to reapply on January 1st for a 2023 entry into Formula One.

But it must be asked, why is this even a point of discussion? Given IndyCar’s position as an internationally recognised single-seater category, Herta’s exclusion does raise the question as to the relevance of placing top-level championships within the Super Licence Points System.
Indycar is, after all, an extremely competent category with some of the fastest racing machinery in the world, populated by competitors who are either ex-F1 drivers, greatly experienced continental racers, or drivers who have already completed the well-worn route to Formula One, only to find the door closed on the other end.

Were an Indycar driver look to move to Formula One, there is little reason why a competency test, with specific structured tasks, could not be conducted to ensure competitors operate to a reasonable standard on track.
The same could also be said for the likes of Super Formula and Formula E – the latter of which is an FIA world championship, that possesses its own variation of the regulated licence points system.

“The Folly of Licence Points Systems”

There are other qualifiers within the Super Licence Points System that raises questions as to its application. So far apart are they from Formula One, it makes little sense that categories such as WTCR, DTM, NASCAR Cup and National, Super GT500, WEC and IMSA GT, and international GT series’ appear in the Points System, given their vaguely distant relation to Formula One.
Many of these entries smack of additions for the sake of addition; an acknowledgement of a series’ existence by placing it within a framework that bears little relevance to the championships at play.

Adding the likes of Indycar, Formula E, Super Formula and the above tin-top categories to the Super Licence Points System is tokenism at its finest. They deserve better than that and so too do the competitors therein.

{note 1}
Graduates from the early years of Formula Renault 3.5 and its previous iterations – World Series by Nissan and World Series by Opal –include Robert Kubica, Sebastian Vettel, Heikki Kovalainen, Justin Wilson, Tiago Monteiro, Franck Montagny, Marc Gene, Narain Karthikeyan and Jaime Alguersuari. Fernando Alonso also won the category in 1999, before moving very briefly to International Formula 3000.

{note 2}
When signed by Toro Rosso in August 2014, Verstappen was still only 16-years-old having – at that point – only competed in two-thirds of a European F3 season, as well as taking part in a five-weekend stint in the once-off Florida Winter Series. Beyond those few races and some Formula Renault 2.0 testing, the young Dutch racer was incredibly green, but the talent was obvious.
After a brief tussle between Red Bull Racing and Mercedes, the latter reportedly offered Verstappen a place in a GP2 programme with a top team, whereas Red Bull could place the teenager directly into the Toro Rosso F1 team. All that was needed was to eject Jean-Eric Vergne.
While the FIA could do nothing to halt the Verstappen debut – the Super Licence had been earned pretty quickly in those days – they saw an opportunity to create a barrier to stop such a move happening again.

{note 3}
Herta’s cannot currently claim Super Licence points for his runner-up position in the 2018 Indy Lights series, as the category did not achieve the minimum number of competitors to be considered viable. To be considered eligible, a category must comprise of a minimum of five race weekends, held on a minimum of three circuits, with sixteen full-season entries and a minimum of twelve at any given event.
If a series signs up between twelve and fifteen full-season entries, then 75% of the Super Licence Points are awarded, but if a series only possesses eleven or fewer full-season entries, then no Super Licence points are awarded.
While the 2018 Indy Lights season met the first two criteria, it did not meet the final one, as the series ran only between seven and eight drivers during the campaign.

{note 4}
The exception ruling was introduced part of the way through the 2020 when it became clear that drivers were missing out on championships due to VISA issues. Some made different arrangements, but the driver most affected by the change was the then Red Bull junior, Jüri Vips.
Having secured a Super Formula drive with Team Mugen, Vips was due to race in Japan, only for that to fall foul of the COVID pandemic regulations. Ultimately Vips was unable to obtain a VISA to enter Japan, but meanwhile entered several Formula Regional European Championship (FREC) rounds, before replacing an injured Sean Gelael in Formula 2.
Vips’ Formula 2 appearances caused him to miss several FREC rounds. Having not raced in Super Formula and only taken part in partial FREC and Formula 2 campaigns, Vips did not compete in enough rounds of any of these championships to earn Super Licence points.
Aware of the potential of this growing issue, the FIA issued an exception rule allowing drivers to use their best three seasons over the past four calendar years. It is a rule that still stands.

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“Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo and The Ravages of Honesty”

Lando Norris’ comment regarding his lack of sympathy for drivers on the edge of losing their drive may have come across as brutal, but it was nothing if not honest.

To admonish him would betray the truth exposed on track and Norris deserves better than that.

“I don’t feel like you have to have sympathy for any driver because they’ve not been able to do as good a job. People will probably hate me for saying it.”
– Lando Norris (August 25th, 2022; Spa-Francorchamps)

Even if the result had been a foregone conclusion for several weeks, the split between Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren was always going to set tongues wagging.

A conclusion had to be reached and – it would seem – the team having grown tired of Ricciardo’s disappointing performance results and the Australian’s desire to be bought out of his contract, that finality came in the form of a mutual break-up.

Yet for all of the prepared statements, Lando Norris’ unfiltered response to Ricciardo’s departure cut significantly. He continued: “It’s not my job to focus on someone else. I’m not a driver coach. I’m not here to help and do those kind of things. I’m here to perform at my absolute best. And that’s about it,” before adding, “It’s also the case that if I don’t perform well for a few years that it can also be the end of my career and the end of me driving in Formula One.”

Some words are always going to bite. There is little comfort in dressing them in a kindly preface, designed to soften blows, when a brutally exposed truth – from an honest base – can circumvent faltering discussions.
The online response was typical and expected. Norris – a young man ravaged by honesty, then savaged by social media. Is it little wonder that few are prepared to be true to themselves, let alone anyone else when the internet’s reactionary hellfire burns all who breathe?

“Alonso, Vettel & Piastri: Making a Story Out of a Story”

At these times, one could almost understand the desire to be an actor, where one wears a façade and dresses themselves up as another, shadowing all evidence of self from light. From this point on, anything goes, as part-time personalities address audiences, revelling in the virtue of the masquerade.
Sportspeople do not have the luxury of such concealment. They wear themselves and their souls always, even when we don’t want them to and when they spill words that do not fit into the audience’s framed impression of them, those at the other end lash out.

In the context of the audience view of motorsport, racing drivers are mannequins, with near empty bodies and souls. Where the audience can, a picture of a personality is formed, based on extracts, non-contextual snippets and soundbites, as public traits are blurred and misunderstood to be private notions of consciousness.
Personality and individuality is buried and the human inside is reset with a narrative that chimes better to the watching eye. A being – not a person – in constructed and placed within the prism of our belief system.

As soon as the personality steps out of that prism, they are punished. By commenting on Ricciardo’s situation in the way he did, Norris stepped out of the prism and the audience reacted in parallel.
Was Norris right to not feel sympathy for Ricciardo’s plight? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter; Norris is a piece on the board – a key one, but still a piece, but as his prowess and reputation have grown, the weight of his words has grown.

“Daniel Ricciardo, Tangled Webs, and the McLaren Conundrum”

While Norris’ comments may appear to have come across as brutal, but they are no more cutting than those made by team CEO Zak Brown Sky Sports’ online show Any Driven Monday following the Spanish Grand Prix in May. “We’re trying everything we can,” said the American. “Short of [Ricciardo’s victory at] Monza and a few races, it’s generally not kind of met his or our expectations, as far as what we were expecting.”

Brown also remarked about the closeness of teammate at various other teams in the field, noting that his expected Ricciardo’s performance to be far closer than that off Norris on a regular basis.
Yet this has not happened. Ricciardo has been out-performed regularly, and often by significant margins. At a time when McLaren sit atop a midfield fight that is at its tightest since the World Championship’s inception, the Australian’s lack of results has cost the team dearly.

“F1 – Renault Driver Selection is Symptom of Banality Disguised as Ambition”

Despite that brilliant win at Monza last year, the one-sided nature of McLaren’s point-scoring record did a great deal of damage to the team’s run at 3rd in the Constructor’s Championship – a position they would eventually lose to Ferrari, as the Italian’s soared in the final quarter of the year.
The situation is tougher in 2022, but with Norris once again pulling the vast majority of McLaren’s points again, the team is in danger of losing the battle for 4th with Alpine. Given the huge investment McLaren have made with Ricciardo over the past two years and the significant pay-out that is still to come, the return has not been good enough.

Daniel Ricciardo is still a quality drive and a fast one at that, but this relationship with McLaren has not worked out for either party. This is not to say his career in Formula One is finished, for he may still gel with another team and rebuild his reputation, but given how advanced his career is, Ricciardo’s chance for a top seat is long gone.
Should he get another driver for 2023, he will likely be bidding for scraps.

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“Alonso, Vettel & Piastri: Making a Story Out of a Story”

Pulling enough interest out of the recent Sebastian Vettel/Fernando Alonso and Alpine/Aston Martin story to keep one awake was tricky business.

Until Oscar Piastri blew French waters apart.

“Jesus, this is a tepid stuff.”

In the aftermath of Sebastian Vettel’s retirement announcement and the post-Hungaroring revelation that Fernando Alonso was moving from Alpine to replace him came a river of turgid, meandering words.

Not that there was anything mundane about the transfer of talent itself following on from the retirement announcement of Vettel, but rather it was the execution of the various stories that lacked inspiration.

Traditionally at this point, analysis follows although the depth can be rather shallow. For all intents and purposes, this is a meat-and-two veg story (alter where appropriate for specific dietary options, such as vegetarian, vegan or gluten free) and while vacant-minded press statement would be passable, an individual quote full of colour and emotion would be gravy.

“Guess Work is Not Good Work, Even If It Makes Sense”

Stories, like the Alonso move, are dangerous, because the run that line of becoming box-ticking exercises. Beyond the announcement and the ripple-free platitudes of the press statements, this kind of story can, and usually does, devolve into the territory of race analysis, season review and career look back.
Often these are words for the sake of words – a duty to fatten a piece up to make it seem worthwhile, but without any deep insight or individual touches. With these stories, such depth is rarely possible due to the constraints of control enacted by the parties involved.

Unless you are Oscar Piastri.

The French youngster was announced as Alonso’s replacement at Alpine for 2023 onward, only for the young man to contradict that on Twitter, revealing this evening (Tuesday August 2nd), “I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year. This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year.”

And with a single brief statement, the story has been turned on its head. From this point, conjecture and supposition build and accelerate into self-perpetuating spin, with arguments based on thin air and gut feeling; neither of which have any link to the parties involved.

No matter what way one examines this development, it is a very brave move by Piastri. There had been some speculation that the Australian had been in discussions with McLaren to replace Daniel Ricciardo, although that matter is complicated by the fact that Ricciardo has insisted that he is remaining with the Woking team, despite his poor efforts this year.

For Piastri to make that move, Ricciardo would have to move and that is before one considers McLaren’s US-based chargers, Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta.

“Daniel Ricciardo, Tangled Webs, and the McLaren Conundrum”

But so much of this is speculation and once the various tales intertwine, they soon become stories for the sake of stories, joining an endless array of theory and gut feeling-based filler that says little, understand less and reveals nothing.

In the next few days, we may hear lots about options that may or may not have been actioned prior to July 31st (a common option date in the calendar year) and how those options – whether actioned or not – may further turn the 2023 Formula One driver line-up on its head.

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