Brendon Hartley testing the Mercedes in 2012  Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river goes the song although it was also apt for Friday in Suzuka as the heavens opened in time for practice two and the fastest racing was with paper boats down the pit-lane. And that big wheel did keep on turning as Jolyon Palmer joined Pascal in the spittoon with immediate effect. He will be replaced in Austin by Carlos Sainz who will be replaced at Toro Rosso by Daniil Kvyat, being sucked back up out of the spittoon (possibly only temporarily) while Dannii’s replacement, Pierre Gasly will be replaced by Brendon Hartley who had been in Red Bulls spittoon since 2011, as Pierre will be chasing Super Formula Championship glory in Suzuka. Got that? You, the spotty boy down the back picking your nose – have you been paying attention?


  So to re-cap. King Fernando will stay at McLaren because they are getting Renault engines because Renault are getting Carlos Sainz because Toro Rosso are getting Honda engines and Kvyat is being replaced by Gasly who is being replaced by Hartley because Palmer is being replaced by Sainz who is being replaced by Kvyat. There will be an exam on this last period Friday. Hartley, who had been Red Bulls and Toro Rosso’s reserve driver back in 2009-2010 before being dropped from their junior programme also tested for Mercedes in 2012 and has since solidified his reputation with an excellent few years with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship culminating in a World Championship victory in 2015 and a Le Mans win and probably the World Championship again this year. Brendon currently leads the WEC (along with co-drivers Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard) by 39 points from the lead Toyota entry of Nakajima, Davidson and, ironically former Toro Rosso driver, Sebastien Buemi with just 52 remaining from two rounds. Hartley will become the first Kiwi to race in a Grand Prix in 33 years, the last being Mike Thackwell in the lamentable RAM 01 Hart turbo in 1984. Considering the population size of New Zealand they have been exceptionally well represented in F1 over the years, especially in the 1960s. You had 1967 World Champion, Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren who at one point was the youngest ever Grand Prix winner (1959 US GP in a Cooper) before setting up one of F1’s greatest teams, Chris Amon, Ferrari team leader and 1969 Tasman Series Champion, Howden Ganley, BRM and Williams driver, Tony Shelly, Graham McRae, John Nicholson and Thackwell. Scott Dixon also tested for Williams before heading to the States to become one of Indycars all time greats. Not bad for a nation with a population the size of Sydney, just 0.06% of the world’s population.


  There is also a new game in town. It’s called Cyril Says. A bit like Simon Says except you have to figure out what will happen when-ever Cyril Abiteboul makes an announcement. For example when Cyril said that Robert Kubica’s first test was just a bit of fun and not a serious test to evaluate Robert for a 2018 drive it meant that they were going to test him again in a few weeks. When Cyril said that there were no plans for Kubica to test the current car after the Hungarian Grand Prix it meant that Palmer would not be driving the car and that Kubica would put in 142 laps and end up sixth quickest. When Cyril said that he had personally assured Palmer that he would remain in the Renault F1 seat for the remainder of the year, as per his contract, it meant that he was going to be sacked before the US Grand Prix so they could put Sainz in the seat. See where this is going? So I hear that Cyril has said that Palmer has Renault’s commitment to help him find a drive for next year. So what do you think this means for Jolyon? Answers on a post card please…


  It would seem that Ferrari should check the treads of the tyres on their trucks as it appears that they have (as per the old superstition) run over a Chinaman. They have left the Asian leg of the championship having shot themselves in both feet, ankles, shins calves and knees. For the entire season Vettel had lead the championship until Ferrari’s underperformance at Monza but still looked odds-on for a championship win. Then Vettel’s crassly stupid swerve took out both drivers in Singapore, both had turbo failures in Malaysia (Vettel started at the back of the grid and Raikkonen not at all) where Vettel managed to salvage fourth place only to retire in Japan from a spark plug failure in Suzuka while Kimi copped a grid penalty for changing a gearbox after stuffing it into the wall in practice and could manage just fifth place. I cannot remember the last time I had to write in Spark Plug as a reason for retirement, quite possibly not since the 1980’s. Mean-while Hamilton has taken two wins and a second to command the drivers title chase, while Mercedes with four podiums, including two wins and Red Bull, with five podiums (one win) have been feasting. Indeed Ferrari are now more in danger of loosing second place in the constructors championship to Red Bull than they are of catching Mercedes for the win. Come to think of it Ferrari didn’t do too well in China either so they must be hoping that they Asian curse doesn’t follow them to Austin.


  On the Kubica come-back topic, Robert completed what Williams described as a “successful” test at Silverstone in a 2014 FW36 but did not release any times or other details. We hear that he will be up against di Resta in a two-day test in Hungary this week in what is basically a shoot-out for next years seat along-side Lance Stroll. It is very likely that Felipe Massa will be retiring from Formula One, permanently, this time.


Sam Snape