Monaco Baby!

Formula 1’s blue ribboned event takes place this weekend around the principality that is Monte Carlo. For me this race epitomises everything Grand Prix racing is about; the drivers are effectively doing some touring for most of the weekend across the gorgeous South of France.

Hamilton_contact_F1WeekendsThere are a lot of talking points heading into this weekend, not least of which is this morning’s announcement regarding Lewis Hamilton’s future with Mercedes. The two-time World Champion has predictably elected to stay within the family that has so far given him everything: worldwide fame, the best car, race wins, and world championships.

But aside from the driving bit, it was always crucial for Mercedes to hold onto Hamilton given his public persona. To everyone he is Hollywood, he is the star you want representing your company in the many markets Formula 1 caters to. And if you believe the figures being thrown around – it is an astronomical amount of money he’s signed on for – I think the people at Daimler knew all too well how crucial this was from a marketing point of view as much as sporting.

Moving on to Ferrari who seemed to have reappointed Massimo Rivola as Sporting Director after his leave of absence over the Spanish GP weekend, rubbishing the rumours that he had been poached by McLaren or indeed had went to Audi to work on the long-rumoured top secret F1 project.

Vettel had been quoted in Italian Media saying it was “personal reasons” for his brief break, despite it being painted as a difference of opinion as being what caused a potential confrontation within Ferrari, between some senior people and Rivola. Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene also furthered this by saying “He needed a week off and we gave it to him,” over the course of the Spanish GP weekend.

Elsewhere there are talks of the GPDA launching a fans survey sometime tomorrow, where it hopes to get the public’s thoughts on the recent proposals put forward by the F1 Strategy Group last week. Whilst I’m all for further interaction with the fans, getting them to fill out a form does seem rather archaic of what is supposed to be a sport driven by data and analytics.

Surely the viewing numbers and response from broadcasters and media alone is enough data for people at the top level to take notice of. And if they’re not taking notice of it – which I suspect they aren’t – much like what Martin Brundle highlighted on his Twitter this evening, F1 must fix its ability to come up with sensible solutions that drive the sport forward and not put it in a crisis of identity.

Only then can we worry about ‘spicing up the show,’ when we have enough cars on the grid to provide action, bums on seats in the grandstands, and austerity isn’t a factor in what is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport.

As for the race, it looks like it could be gloomy for most of the weekend – which doesn’t quite suit Monaco. Expect to see the usual carambolage in the GP2 support race on Friday and Saturday, and the changes made to Tabac mean that Ralf Schumacher’s line in 06′ Qualifying would’ve worked. The resurfaced asphalt was also described as ‘slippery’ by the Formula E drivers who raced here two weeks ago, albeit around a mickey mouse makeshift circuit.

Finally I thought it was a nice touch from Manor to honour Jules Bianchi this weekend by making each member of their team wear a band that says ‘MONACO 2014. P8. #JB17′ at what is arguably the race that saved them 12 months ago, thanks to Jules’ work.

Its hard to believe he is still fighting for his life in a hospital not too far away from the circuit, but I think I join the whole Formula 1 community in keeping him in my thoughts throughout every Grand Prix weekend on his road to recovery.

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