Wake up to capricious Montreal weather: where one forecast calls for cloudy but dry skies, another has heavy rain all day; in the end it’s a bit of both. Some idea of the fickleness of the region’s weather pattern can be gleaned from two notes from the race director issued just over 12 hours apart.
On Friday, the note read: “Based on the official weather service provider’s weather forecast, no additional sets of intermediate tires will be made available per driver prior to P3.” A later note said: “Based on updated weather forecasts from the official weather service provider, a set of intermediate tires will be made available to each driver before P3.”
Once on the circuit, it is clear to me that FIA Technical Directive 39 continues to anger team bosses, some of whom suspect the decision to allow extra stays and aero tweaks are designed to benefit Mercedes – since the recent departure from the FIA of Peter Bayer, the FIA’s top executive. F1’s governing body is Shaila-Ann Rao, previously a special adviser to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
In the F1 paddock, such perceptions are easily unleashed. These are strong suggestions, and so I expect the team boss’ press conference on Saturday to be lively, and it proves, with the two main topics being TD39 – there is little sympathy for Mercedes on screen – and Oscar Piastri’s future, which we suggested could be linked to Williams from Silverstone as a replacement for underachieving Nicholas Latifi.
It turns out to be a fun session though and I like joking with Otmar Szafnauer, but the main takeaways are that the team bosses think the TD39 is not the best FIA decision, which Mercedes should address its issues via configuration, and that Piastri is going somewhere soon, but those details have yet to be fully sorted out.
It is therefore not necessary to revise last week analysis waiting for the next move. The Aussie is certainly a wanted young man, being an Alpine reserve driver while similarly on call for McLaren, and, it is said, Mercedes – indeed, sources are adamant he has done sim work in Brackley and has a set of team kit…
After the FP3 session, a team bosses meeting is called by F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. There were two main topics: The 2023 calendar, still far from being sorted, being dependent on the decisions of South Africa about Kyalami, and China pending the opening of borders. No timetable is set before the summer break and anything beyond a stated desire to hold 24 races – the maximum allowed with the team’s unanimity – is pure speculation.
The second topic is “bouncing” – aka “porpoising” – and Wolff has reportedly aggressively attacked his peers, accusing them of playing politics while driver safety is at stake. He argues that at least one team driver complained – true, although the loudest complainers were the silver car drivers – but he was overlooked, the resounding message being: “Sort your car…”
It was the first such reunion Netflix attended, so Wolff’s Crusade was recorded in full Technicolor, so should make for a spicy viewing next February, but the question remains: why keep fans waiting so long, why not spread these images topically and even later?
Over lunch, I chat with Mexican photographer Rafael Gisholt, whom I met in 2019 when he showed off a series of 1:43 scale models during his home run. His collection then numbered around 950 cars representing every season since 1950 – all carefully displayed and labeled in cabinets totaling 25 meters in length. The tally is now close to 1,000, a goal he aims to achieve this year once the 2022 grid is added. True dedication.
After qualifying and subsequent media sessions, I head to Mercedes for an update on ‘rebound’ – the folks there are adamant it’s not an aero issue that can be fixed by setup, but is caused by technical details in the regulations which require current cars to be run very stiff; the fact remains that some teams suffer less…
Over there, I see the team’s technical director, James Allison, who is attending his first race since October. It’s always good to reunite with James, technical director during the team’s recent hegemony. James clarifies that he now has a strategic role within the team and that he is not involved in current F1 projects; he still has to be in Canada for reasons other than tourism…
As I leave the circuit, I reflect on the mess that is the much-heralded 2022 regulations: Designed by F1 over a three-year period via a highly trained technical group working with winning cars on their combined CVs, the proposals have been extensively refined during an extended series of technical meetings involving all teams, then ratified after exhaustive analysis and rule writing by the FIA’s top technical delegates for introduction in 2021.
Covid caused a 12-month delay, which gave more time to fix the issues – but a total overhaul is now needed in the name of driver safety. The blame game has already begun: F1 stresses that regulatory matters are a matter for the FIA; the governing body is, however, chaired by different executives following last year’s presidential elections (and the Abu Dhabi debacle); all the while, 10 teams are childishly bickering about the leftover thread…
You couldn’t invent yourself…