The Formula 1 off season ahead of the 2024 Championship was set alight by a series of sensational announcements.
You have to feel sorry for Haas. The planned headline-stealing early launch of the VF-24 has been consigned to the personal ads section by a series of heavy-hitting F1 announcements.
Firstly, FOM made it clear who runs Formula 1 by giving the FIA-promoted Andretti Cadillac bid the financial thumbs down.
Then Lewis Hamilton announces he’s swapping his Mercedes shirt for a Ferrari in 2025. Then, some kind of “unacceptable behaviour” seems to have gone down between the boss of the reigning World Championship constructor and A N Other.
FOM the FIA and Andretti
This one has been brewing for a while. For me, it’s as much about who runs the F1 show as it is money. Andretti made the mistake of aligning itself with the wrong side, and FOM has now given a definitive answer: “Sure, you can enter, but you don’t get to share in the commercial income.”
This effectively makes it financially impossible for Andretti to participate. It also prevents the FIA from generating revenue from a new entrant to the Championship. Something that they have the right to be unhappy about, together with being shown to be the minor partner in their own series. The lawyers must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of a litigation feast.
Hamilton to Maranello
Hindsight is twenty-twenty vision, but should we be surprised? Only by the timing. After winning a World Championship, racing for Ferrari is every F1 driver’s dream, with victory at Monza in the scarlet colours being the icing on the cake.
Hamilton and Fred Vasseur are well acquainted, and it’s no surprise that the old renard has stolen this chicken from the Mercedes hen house. What a perfect way for Lewis to finish off his illustrious career, lifting Ferrari back onto the top step of the podium and World Championship. It’s got film script written all over it.
It’s you, not me
While Toto Wolff wore a brave face over the bromance breakup, George Russell was surely rubbing his hands in anticipation. A field promotion from wingman to squadron leader looks certain when Lewis climbs out of W15 for the last time.
The timing is perfect for him, few would argue that he’s not ready to assume the mantle. It’s also likely that Russell’s own seat will be filled by a promising young hotshot called Kimi Antonelli. A Mercedes Driver since 2019, Antonelli is being fast-tracked into F2 for 2024. If he performs as expected, he could end up playing with the big boys in 2025.
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition
Finally, we return to Red Bull and its beleaguered team principal, Christian Horner. The nature of his crime is unclear other than he has allegedly been accused of “extreme controlling behaviour”. If this action on its own warrants a forensic investigation, then other team principals must be feeling pretty nervous.
However, it’s been levied by a female member of the team and being taken very seriously. What’s strange thought is the level of enthusiasm that certain powerful parties in the Red Bull set-up are displaying in following it up.
Apparently, Horner welcomes the investigation, although I guess much in the way you would welcome a prostate exam. You know it’s necessary and that the whole process is going to be uncomfortable.