Depart apartment for circuit, making a detour to the local outlet shopping mall, which, as I previously discovered, offers my kind of kit at reasonable prices. Two pairs of shoes are the result – when is one is on the go as much as we are during race weekends, comfy footwear is a must.
Arrive at circuit; surprised at amount of traffic. This points to bumper crowds and/or slack traffic control – the former possibly bolstered by threats that this could be Spain’s last grand prix for some time (ever?). I reserve judgement until I’ve checked out the stands during qualifying. As it turns out, they’re far from spectacularly full, so responsibility for my idle time rests squarely on the shoulders of local Plods.
Catch up with various paddock folk, during which Liberty CEO/chairman Chase Carey walks by, shakes my hand and quips: “You’re retiring me early”. This is obviously a reference to our report that Toto Wolff had been sounded out on relieving F1’s spectacularly-moustached CEO of his role come the new-look 2021 F1, enabling him to concentrate on NASDAQ-facing activities.
Since we published the report, numerous folk in the know have provided further information, and I am now even more convinced that some form of offer was made. At no stage did we claim that Wolff would take up the role, only that he had been approached.
I eagerly await the Mercedes team principal’s post-qualifying media session…
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After a predictable final practice session I receive a call from Tim Bampton at McLaren, inviting me to meet Scott Young, Sky TV’s Australian F1 boss. Over (seriously) the best caesar salad I’ve ever tasted and an equally delicious crema catalana we make our acquaintances. F1 is all about networking, so thanks Tim for making the intro.
Meanwhile the televisions are playing an interview with James Key, McLaren’s new (ex-Toro Rosso) technical director with whom I’ve enjoyed very helpful chats in the past, and it’s good to see James moving ever upwards.
Post-qualifying interviews, and I start with the Toro Rosso (Daniil Kvyat in a much better mood after his fine run in qualifying), then remain in Red Bull’s Holzhaus for Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly.
After that I return to McLaren for a particularly significant instalment of their regular Meet The Team session. As usual it’s drivers first, then the team executives, among which newly-appointed (ex-Porsche Motorsport) managing director Andreas Seidl is officially present for the first time. The team’s restructure is falling into place, and the cars have been going better on the track so far as well.
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I arrive at Toto Wolff’s media debrief and begin with a question relating to Lewis Hamilton and the battery problems he experienced in qualifying. “Good to see you, Dieter,” begins Wolff, “good to see you’re still in a Mercedes shirt, Toto” I reply…
Our exchange opens the door for Reuters’ Alan Baldwin’s follow-up about Toto’s future plans. In the interests of disclosure, here’s his full reply:
“Dieter wrote a wonderful story that triggered massive headlines. I guess that is [his] job! And what I said to Dieter when he approached me in Baku after the race is that there’s so much speculation going on out there.
“I have not a normal role in Mercedes I’m in a super situation that I’m partnering up, I’m a shareholder in the team, I love to be with the people, the relationships matter to me, I’m in a happy place and motivated every day I do this.
“There’s some more years into my current contract. I think with all the other discussions we are having with drivers for example I think you need to be 100 percent with your head in your role and this is what I am. I haven’t contemplated any change beyond 2020.”
Note: no denial that he had been approached, no denial that despite being a shareholder he has a “current contract” with “some more years”, and, above all, a clear reference to our Baku discussion about his being approached with an offer. Only no “current contemplation”, so clearly this story has legs.
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I’m lucky to be spoiled for choice tonight: Mercedes has a tapas party on its hospitality roof-top, McLaren a Welcome Evening and E-sport presentation, and Rolex a Media Evening at which the 2019 edition of the Who’s Who in F1 compendium will be presented.
I decide on the latter for a few reasons, not least because it’s hosted in the Paddock Club – usually out of bounds to mere mortals unless one blags an invite from a team or sponsor – and I’m eager to sniff out what has changed in F1’s top-notch hospitality offering for this year. Not much, as far as I can judge from (sporadic) previous visits, apart from the introduction of a boutique selling memorabilia at up to 15 grand!
Time to head for apartment, and pack ahead of tomorrow’s check-out.
2019 Spanish Grand Prix
- Vettel praises “very good job” by Leclerc after losing qualifying battle
- Grosjean: Hard to maintain motivation at end of tough year
- 2019 Spanish Grand Prix Star Performers
- Top ten pictures from the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix
- Leclerc: One-stop strategy was “definitely not a mistake”