There once was a time when you could make some sense of winter testing times. The only real guesswork was who was running massively underweight to grab headline times in order to seal a sponsorship deal before reality set in. But you almost always knew just about where the major players stood for the beginning of a new season. These days of course, the teams cannot even get down to the minimum weight limit, let alone under it, so that weight limit has to be raised a week out from the first race. Now everyone has to figure out who is going slow on purpose and why. Is the New Mercedes really a Coca-Cola yo-yo? Is the Williams really three seconds slower than a Haas? And at the other end of the spectrum, is the Haas the second fastest car leading into the first race?

Mercedes W13 - note the size zero sidepods

  The answer of course is that nobody knows. Not even the teams because no-one knows what the others have been hiding. Fuel loads, engine mapping and untested aero upgrades are all well kept secrets that we will only see on Friday, or even maybe Saturday. The reports from trackside regarding the porpoising issues noticed at Barcelona were for the most part, much reduced by most teams. The exception to this does appear to be Mercedes who’s W13 seems to be even worse with the unveiling of it’s size zero sidepod. It is now reported to be suffering from loss of downforce even through some of the medium-fast corners resulting in under-steer, front brake locking and then snap oversteer, which when added to being bounced about like a brat on a pogo stick would make for an uncomfortable ride at best. Or are they bullshitting? And if so, how much? And if not, how long will it take for them to sort it out? Or will they ever fix it, perhaps it’s a 21st century Lotus 80 that looked the biz back in ’79 but behaved in a similar fashion and was dumped after only a few races. The big problem for Mercedes is, if it is a Lotus 80, they can’t go back to last years car and would either have to blow the budget on a new design or eat crap-cake for a least a year while everyone else has a head-start. Great time for Russell to join the squad. Wonder how he would feel if they got out-qualified by a Williams? Probably not very likely but one can dream.

A Coca Cola yo-yo  Max and the Red Rag is the obvious favourite going into Bahrain after their chart topping test time but the sublime Ferrari and the unporpoising (is there such a word?) McLaren seem to be their major rivals. McLaren may have been down the list a bit in the second test but they were held back by brake temperature issues and only one driver on hand with Danny Boy off crook with TTBV (That tedious bloody virus). Speaking of which, news has just come through from Aston Martin that Vettel, Seb Vettel has also come down with TTBV and Nico Hulkenberg is being flown in over-night Thursday to partner Moneypenny. Good thing for them then that Haas chose to go with the returning Kevin Magnussen to replace the ousted Mazepin and not the Hulk. Interesting that they are both returning to F1 at the same race, I wonder who will be sucking who’s balls at the end of Sunday night? Speaking of Haas, wouldn’t it have been cool if they could have replaced Mazepin with a Ukrainian driver? Oddly enough I can’t even begin to think of one. Surely there is one somewhere. Drop me a line if you can come up with a name.


The Hulk replaces Vettel  The rumours are getting louder that the board of VW are getting much closer to committing to the new engine formula in 2026 and joining forces with Red Bull. The best part of that is of course that they will have an already competitive internal combustion engine already through Red Rags Powertrains to add to so a lot of the initial cost would not be needed. It does however remain to be seen which of it’s brands will be the badge. Porsche and Audi are the obvious candidates but do not forget that VW also have other brands with a proud racing heritage. They do, after all, also own Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini. Although a Red Bull Ducatti would be a bit odd. They could just go with VW badging as they were very big in Formula 3 not too many years ago. A Red Bull Beetle then? Paint it off white and bung some flowers on it and hey presto, a 21st century Love Bug………



Sam Snape


For full Sakhir testing times go to; 2022 F1 (mmmsport.com.au)



   After the utterly farcical conclusion to the 2021 championship it should have been nice to look forward with anticipation to the start of a new era in F1. OK the first “test” – known as a shakedown and therefore not allowing any TV coverage – did not really provide any clear indication of the cars relative performance, it did give some hints. And those hints suggest that things may not stay quite as they have been over the last eight years. And this can only be good for the sport. Unfortunately a lunatic decided that the best way to ensure peace in Europe was to go to war, and the death and destruction in Ukraine casts a dark shadow over the enjoyment of any sporting contest.

Ferrari's beautiful F1-75


  Fortunately, for once, the FIA has shown enough balls to tear up the Russian Grand Prix contract – unlike their pitiful groveling to the Bahraini government in 2012 when they allowed the race to continue despite the brutal crackdown by security forces on demonstrators, including the shooting and arrest of health workers attempting to save the injured. Perhaps the fact that F1 is now “owned” by a US company – Liberty Media – has had some role in this. If so, kudos to them. Even so, the FIA still hasn’t done themselves any PR favours by allowing Russian teams and individuals to participate under a neutral flag. What a bloody joke. Yet again, they should be following the lead of the International Olympic Committee and other sports in banning their participation completely. The FIM (motorcycles version of the FIA) have done so. Several nations, led by the UK and Germany have also barred anyone with a Russian or Belorussian license from competing in any event in their territory. Actually, the FIA should be leading these sanctions not following, but what can you expect from this organisation with its history of just chasing the cash? While I feel for some athletes who have condemned their own countries actions, I have no sympathy for those who haven’t.  

  Kudos too, to the Haas F1 Team for cancelling their sponsorship deal with their Russian sponsoring company and their contract with Nikita Mazepin, whose father owned said company. Any time a team takes a moral stand that costs it many millions of dollars it must be applauded. It has been announced that team reserve and test driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, will fill in for the test at Sakhir coming up later this week. Whether or not he gets the race seat for the rest of the year is still to be decided as the team may want a driver with more experience to help with the car’s development. Names that have been bandied about include Ferrari backed Antonio Giovinazzi, if they can get him out of his Formula E commitments, and Nico Hulkenberg who currently has a reserve driver deal with Aston Martin. We should know by the end of the week.  

Aston Martin AMR22

  One of the pleasing aspects of the regulation changes this year is the appearance of the cars themselves. With all the high and stepped noses and the hideous clutter that abounded on F1 cars for the last decade or so, they were just immensely ugly. When the first images of a real 2022 car, not the computer generated or show cars used in the initial launches, I was delighted by their beauty. First the Aston Martin which looks way better without the pink was a stunner. Then came the McLaren and the Williams, which has taken an entirely different take on the sidepod area than the others. This was hidden in the launch photos under a standard gently tapering sidepod bodywork, but when it got on track the sidepod was almost eliminated rear of the air intake at the side of the cockpit. Whether this works or not is still to be seen but its still very pretty and its nice to see that not all the cars will look identical this year. And then came the Ferrari.

  Wow, is about the best word I can use without swearing. Stunningly beautiful. Not just the shape of the nose and the delightful scooped sidepods with the ventilation gills but with the discontinuation of Phillip Morris (read Marlboro) backing they have gone back to their traditional dark, almost blood red, colour. None of the others have disappointed either so at least this year will be a visual feast.

Williams FW44

  It will be interesting if the teams sort out the ride height problems, known as porpoising, come this weeks test. Porpoising was a fairly common phenomena back in the late seventies and early eighties with the initial versions of ground effect cars. Basically this occurs when the downforce created by the cars undertray sucks the bottom of the car onto, or so close to, the surface of the track causing the airflow to stall at which point the downforce is lost and the car rises to the highest point of its suspension travel. The downforce then is regained and pushes the car down again until the airflow stalls once more. Sort of the way you can see a porpoise swimming in the wild, hence the name of the effect.  In extreme cases this rise and fall can happen every five or so seconds which not only leads to a very uncomfortable ride for the drivers but can cause stability problems if the loss of downforce and therefore grip occurs just when the car needs it most, ie through a very fast corner. McLaren seem to have not suffered nearly as much as some of the other teams while Mercedes and Ferrari were some of the worst. Not as bad as Alfa Romeo though, whose porpoising was so bad it was causing damage to the cars floor and resulting in vastly reduced running. Indeed, apart from Robert Kubica’s measly 9 laps on the first morning, the driver with the lowest laps in the test was Valtteri Bottas who managed just 54 laps. Guanyu Zhou didn’t fair much better, 4th lowest amount with 112 laps.

Ferrari's beautiful F1-75


 For full results of the shakedown test at Catalunya go to - 2022 F1 (mmmsport.com.au)


 Sam Snape




  A little birdie landed on my fence this morning and in the midst of it’s twittering informed me that Alex Albon has been informed that as of Friday, he will be the Red Rags test and reserve driver. Because the team has signed Sergio Perez for 2021 and beyond along side Max Verstappen. If Alex had read the tea leaves he may have guessed the jig was up when it was announced (a little surprisingly) that their existing test driver, Sebastien Buemi, who hadn’t driven in their cars since 2014, was getting a run in the end of season test. Sounded a bit to me like a “have a drive as a thanks for your years of service, but we won’t need you next year” sort of arrangement.Sakhir winner Perez joins Red Bull for 2021

  One can feel some sympathy for Alex as he had been tossed right in the deep end of the Red Bull pool when he was switched to the main team after only half a season at Torro Rosso in F1. It was always going to be a hard ask to go up against the flying Dutchman that early in his career but he never quite got to grips with Max’s pace of the cars foibles. And as Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly know, the twine that holds the sword of Damocles over your head at Red Bull is very brittle. When you look at the basic numbers it is hard to fault Red Rags decision. In qualifying Alex did not beat Max once all year. Alex’s best position was 4th on four occasions while Max was 4th or lower on just three. The only times Alex finished a race ahead of Max was on the 5 occasions that Max retired. 214 points with a pole and two wins compared to 105 points with 2 thirds. Sadly for Alex there is nothing there that points to anything except a bit of a flogging and when the team wants to be in contention for drivers and constructors titles, you need to be a lot closer to your team leader than flogged.

  This is not to say that Alex is a bad driver. Pierre Gasly didn’t look too flash against Max either but look at his form this year, especially his win at Monza. In another team, it could well be that Alex could prove his worth as a F1 driver just like Pierre, but F1 is a ruthless bastard of a sport and it may be that Alex’s days are over. Just as it looked for Sergio when Racing Point made what I still think was the unfathomable decision to dump him for the seriously under-performing Sebastian Vettel next year. Like Alex, Seb has been seriously flogged, both this year and last, by Charles Leclerc. Vettel’s performance this year is the worst full season by a Ferrari driver since Jody Scheckter in the horrid 312T5 in 1980. Slightly skewed stat as Poor Ivan Capelli, in the equally horrid F92A had a worse year in 1992 but was dumped a few races before the end of the season but you get my drift. Seb was outscored in the points this year by Leclerc by slightly less than 3-1. (98-33). If you used the same scoring system in use in 1980 Seb would have scored a measly 5 points yet Racing Point’s justification was that Seb will bring a winning mentality. For their sake I hope so BUT…………

  The guy they so ruthlessly dumped just completed his finest season in F1. 4th in the drivers championship with 125 points (that is 92 more than Vettel) with a wonderfully emotional win in the Sakhir Grand Prix and outscoring his team-mates (plural) by 40 points. This is also the guy that put in train the events that saved Force India from financial collapse and it’s rebranding to Racing Point. Surely a little more loyalty might have been shown to their best driver in well over 20 years. But no, as I say, a ruthless bastard of a sport. But Racing Point/Aston Martin’s loss is Red Rags gain and a wonderful opportunity for Sergio to finally have a real front running car and exhibit his undoubted talents. Will he be a match for Max? I guess we will see in about 14 weeks or so.

  On the topic of the Flying Dutchman (or at least on an obscure angle thereof) remember the good one-liners that came out after Max’s dad Jos’s Benetton went up in flames at Hockenheim in 1994? The Frying Dutchman. The ignited colours of Benetton. Not so correct in these days but still funny.

  For latest race results & the drivers test go to; 2020 F1 (mmmsport.com.au)

  16-12 2020

  Sam Snape


  Once again I admit to being wrong. Very wrong. Unbelievably, mind bogglingly wrong. But for a minute or so I believed I was horrendously, tragically right. When Grosjean’s Haas speared into the barriers and exploded my first thought, like many of you out there was’ “fuck me!” The second thought was that even if he had survived the impact then the widely loathed Halo would prevent him getting out without at least Lauda type internal and external burns. Or even worse, we might have been witnessing the first poor soul being burnt to death in a Formula one car since Riccardo Paletti in Canada in 1982. Now that's just plain weird

This seemed to be exactly the type of accident that we all feared when the Halo was mandated. Many of us, myself included, condemned it as being not just hideously ugly, but an unacceptable risk in a fire and not designed to prevent injuries such as those suffered by Felipe Massa when struck by smaller, but still lethal, debris. And yet, within 30 seconds, Romain was incredibly out and safe. It took the FIA a few minutes to confirm that everyone, not just Romain, but also the track marshals and the medical crew, were all relatively fine. In that time, as always, there is a blackout of information and footage so that if there has been a tragedy the horrible news can be managed properly. That does, however, leave the viewer in a shocked void where the worst is expected.


  Immediately after the words regarding my opinion of the Halo had passed my lips we had the pictures of Grosjean sitting alive, albeit a little dazed, in the medical car. Relief was palpable. Then we saw the images of the monocoque where it had pierced the barrier and at once I new just how wrong I had been. It was quite clear that the Halo had withstood the impact and had in fact parted the barriers as the Haas struck them and had driven them away from Romain’s head. Without the Halo, this accident would have had an outcome very similar to that which befell Helmuth Koinigg in 1974 when he was decapitated by the barriers at Watkins Glen. I have never in my life, been so delighted, to have been proven so wrong.

  It’s still bloody ugly though.

  Huge respect to Dr Ian Roberts, the FIA’s chief medical officer, Alan van der Merwe, the driver of the medical car and an unnamed (from what I can tell) fire marshal who crossed the track (safely – unlike the twit at the end of the race) who all risked their own safety to save Grosjean. All three came together in perfect synchronicity to assist Romain in his escape attempt. Without the quick thinking and actions of the marshal directing his fire extinguisher at exactly the right angle, Dr Roberts would not have been able to run towards the flames and pull Grosjean over the barrier while van der Merwe had retrieved the extinguisher from the medical car to spray the retreating duo and put out some small flames on their overalls. It needs to be remembered that although wearing fire proof race suits, Roberts and van der Merwe wear open faced helmets, so running so close to a massive fire, to save another’s life, and risking serious injury is an extremely heroic (not a word I use lightly) act.

  Then on Tuesday, as if this week had not been dramatic enough, it was announced that Lewis Hamilton had tested positive for the bloody tedious virus. One of my first thoughts, having as I do a somewhat evil sense of humour, was how funny it would be if he had given it to Verstappen on the podium while weighing the trophy. I really must stop thinking such nasty thoughts, I promise to try harder. All of a sudden we were looking at all sorts of driver changes for this weekend. Who would drive the Merc? And the Haas? I feel immense sympathy for Stoffel Vandoorne, who apart from his Formula E duties has been traipsing all over the place, away from his family, to be Mercedes “Official” reserve driver. And when the opportunity arises the team decides he is not the right chap for them and replaces Lewis with George Russell. No doubt George, being a Mercedes junior academy driver, will do a good job, but he was doing that at Williams anyway. I know I’m being a bit old fashioned but I believe a contract is a contract and it should be respected in both directions. Mercedes agreed a contract with Stoffel to be their reserve driver and so he should have been. However, now that they have not lived up to their own word, this has opened up an opportunity for Jack Aitken who will stand in for Russell at Williams. Please note that Aitken is Williams Official reserve driver so at least one team is honouring their contracts.

  So Aitken will become the first driver of Korean ancestry to drive in a Formula One race. There has been a few obscure records this year. Alex Albon has become the first driver of Thai ancestry to a) score a podium finish and b) lead a World Championship race although Prince Bira of Siam (now Thailand) did score many wins in non-championship races either side of the war. Shh – don’t mention the war. I did but I think I got away with it. Another will occur on Friday when Pietro Fittipaldi becomes the fourth member of his family to participate in a World Championship Grand Prix after brothers Emerson, Wilson and Wilson’s son Christian. That will put them one up on the Brabhams (Jack, David and Gary) and the Villeneuves (Gilles, Jacques and the other Jacques). Joining them shortly will be the Schuamchers when Mick joins Michael and Ralf. The remarkable thing is that there are 22 duos on the list. In alphabetical order they are: Mario & Michael Andretti, Lucien & Jules Bianchi (who almost make the trio list with Mauro driving in non-championship F1 races), Ernesto & Vittorio Brambilla, Corrado & Teo Fabi, Damon & Graham Hill, Jan & Kevin Magnussen, Kazuki & Satoru Nakajima, Chanock & Roy Nissany, Jolyon & Jonathan Palmer, Reg & Tim Parnell, Andre & Teddy Pilette, Nelson (both of them ) Piquet, Pedro & Ricardo Rodriguez, Keke & Nico Rosberg, Ian & Jody Scheckter, Jean-Louis & Jo Schlesser, Ayrton & Bruno Senna, Ian & Jackie Stewart, Hans & Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jos & Max Verstappen, Graham & Peter Whitehead and finally Manfred & Marcus Winkelhock.

  Aren’t you glad you now know that?


Sam Snape

3-12 2020



Hello again

I apologise that I couldn’t make our last session. I caught a very nasty virus.


Oh god no – not that bloody tedious covid thingy. Much worse. Russian porn spammers managed to hack into my c-panel and created a sub-domain which was pumping out naughty emails.

Took ages to get over that. Mind you, I was very relieved that “unrasiertem teengirl” didn’t mean what I thought it might.

Anyway, all better now and we’re not here to talk about me.

How do you think things have been going since our last chat?


What do you mean by that?

Yes I remember Twin Peaks. What the giant said to Cooper? Ah yeah – “It’s happening again” Yep I get you.Gasly soaks up the emotions at Monza

Mmmm 2016 does seem a long time ago. The last time that Lewis was seriously challenged. Even so you’ve got to admit he has been in imperious form. Well yes, there has been a bit of luck, but five wins from the last eight races is not just down to luck, nor six poles. And all eight starts on the front row. He is just at a level that Bottas can only occasionally match. I’ll concede that winning on three wheels at Silverstone was lucky but the rest? Of course Bottas was unlucky where on the track he lost his tyre that day but he was never going to beat Lewis. Or at most of the other races, and he never should have finished behind Max in Spain. When he’s on form he can be unbeatable but he’s just not as relentless as Lewis, there’s not many that are.

 Well there is Max I suppose. Hasn’t finished off the podium so far and that win at Silverstone was right out of the top drawer wasn’t it? Apart from the two retirements in Italy he has totally maxed (yep pun intended) the potential of that car. Hasn’t done Alex any favours. Unfortunately his race performances seem to be dropping off now and that used to be his saving grace. He just can’t seem to put it together in qually can he? I mean, only twice on row two while Max has only been lower than row two twice. Mugello apart, and that was a pretty weird race, his results have been drifting downward all year, and only tenth in Russia? Good grief Charlie Brown. An even worse race at the Nonburgring, only in the top six for a few laps and then clattering into others, just not good enough, was it? Have you noticed that Christian’s supportive comments seem to be disappearing and now Helmut is hinting at the Hulk being a possibility. Apparently he has until Turkey to show a marked upturn in form but, and I hate to say it, I’m just not sure he has it in him at the moment. He seems thoroughly demoralized, although I think he has the talent to be in F1 but it is a cruel world for Red Rag drivers. Just ask Danii. Not entirely sure I like his chances either. Oh, you hear that Red Rag are thinking of taking the Honda engine in-house in ’22 now that Honda are bailing out again? Apparently it all depends on an engine freeze coming into effect that year or not. They’ll have to decide fairly shortly as they will need to know if it’s Honda or Renault before they start work on the ’22 cars design. And of course Renault will need some time to ramp up to supply two more teams.


Speaking of whom, haven’t Renault been coming on strong lately. Danny boy has scored more points since Spa that anyone except the Merc lads. And after his podium last time out Cyril now must decide just where he gets his painful piece of body art. What do you reckon it will be? Honey badger in lederhosen drinking from a race boot? I do hope we get to see whatever the final result will be. Dan’s another one not doing his team-mate any favours this year isn’t he? Ten to one ahead in qually and nine to two in the races. More than twice as many points as Esteban so far. I remember some clot in the pre-season suggesting that Ocon would destroy Danny’s reputation. I wonder if Cyril now thinks it was such a good idea to drop the Hulk. And hasn’t he just produced some super performances while subbing for Racing Point. Third on the grid at Silverstone was simply stunning. And things aren’t about to get any easier for Esteban when King Fernando returns next year. Another one for utter relentlessness is the old royal. Those four are probably worst team-mates you could have as they will just grind you down in the end.


 A few years ago you might have added Vettel to that list but now? Seb is lucky that we don’t still have the points system they used in the 70’s and 80’s. He would have scored just 1, single, solitary point so far. Seventeen sounds much better. Mind you, Charlie’s sixty three shows just what a crap season Seb is having. Never finished in tenth before in his career and he has done it three times already this year. Just one point since Spain and that was six races ago. In that time he has been outscored by Raikkonen and Grosjean, and matched by Giovinazzi, all in cars with the same rubbish motor and whose teams are operating with budgets hundreds of millions of dollars less than Ferrari. Not entirely sure I understand Aston Martin/Racing Points decision to dump Perez for him but maybe he’ll prove me wrong. It has been known, you know. Me being wrong that is.


 One thing I am most definitely not wrong about though is the undoubted feel good high point of the last fourteen months or so. After being demoted by Red Rag and then losing his close friend, Antoine Hubert, in the space of about a month, you could have forgiven Pierre Gasly to go through a Danii type downward spiral. Instead he dusted himself down and fought back hard. His podium in Brazil may have been handed to him via Lewis KO’ing poor Albon but winning the Italian GP at Monza, while mildly fortuitous, showed just what a talent he is. Seeing him sitting alone on the podium after all the others had left, just soaking it all in, was what all sport is really about. I cannot even begin to comprehend the range of emotions he must have been experiencing, but I know what mine were. And yes, I shed a few tears of joy for the kid. Whether or not he will ever be allowed the opportunity again, or if the history books will consign it as a weird fluke, it was one of the most wonderful, wonderful moments in any sporting contest in history.


Isn’t it nice that the TV directors have moved on from the 80’s when they would just show the leaders churning round and around? These days we do get to see that almighty midfield brawl that has been enthralling this year. Eleven races in and from Danny in fourth to Sainz in eleventh place is just 27 points. There is just four points between Perez, Norris, Albon and Leclerc. Six points between Racing Point, McLaren and Renault. Apart from the top three, seven drivers have made the podium so far this year. You just never know which of those teams will hit the sweet spot at each race although Ferrari is still sliding out of that group. With Alpha Tauri just 13 points behind it could well end up that the lowest three points scoring teams could all be using the Ferrari engines.


Unless Williams scrapes a point or two. On which topic, it was sad to have to say toodle-pip to Sir Frank who was one of the most highly regarded fellows in the paddock. A constant for over fifty years, from the early days of customer cars and a shoestring budget, to the pomp and glory of the 80’s and 90’s and the eventual slow slide, Williams was probably the team that everyone, always, wanted to be competitive. He was, well still is, it’s not as if he has carked it, a sort of latter day Ken Tyrrell.  Lets hope that the new owners can bring the team back to the right end of the grid and build on his great heritage.


Sam Snape


14-10 2020.