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GP Week : Issue 188
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The F1 summer shutdown is a thing of beauty – a regulated period of rest for exhausted race crews, overworked wind tunnels, and workaholic team members. And in an ordinary calendar it’s not so bad for the fans either, giving them three weekends away from the television when the weather tends to be at its best. We all return to Formula One feeling relaxed and refreshed, ready to worship at the temple of motorsport that is the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. But with the oddly-spaced 2013 calendar, the summer leg of the F1 season has been all break, no action. Back in the factories, the teams worked as hard as ever in the long gaps between Canada and Silverstone and between Germany and Hungary, but for the fans, media, and drivers? It’s been a whole lot of nothing. Which is why the 2013 silly season of filler stories and best guesses has been even sillier than usual. The F1 news cycle used to be fairly simple – the race would take place, and in the following week race reports and interviews and what have you would be published in print outlets from the specialist publication to daily newspapers. If you were lucky, you might get coverage of the race on the radio, or see a highlights package in a weekend TV sports round-up. These days, it’s all a bit of a mess. In some respects, fans staying at home have an easier time of keeping up with emerging stories than people in the paddock – the size of the TV broadcast teams means that one outlet can get and air a dozen different comments on a rumour in the time it takes a solo journalist to secure one. Then you’ve got the instant news needs of the internet, which demands both speed and volume. So why spend a day writing one feature on driver safety when you can use that time to publish eleven click-friendly different short pieces, all entitled [team principal’s name] speaks on driver safety? As a result, a modern F1 weekend looks rather different to its predecessors. Thursdays are spent door-stepping team personnel in the paddock and attending driver media sessions, where the aim is to get rebuttals to or comments on the last big news item, while also securing quotes that could become the next big story. The rest of the weekend is spent writing about the action on track as quickly as possible while continuing to pursue the stories generated on Thursday. But without those Thursday rebuttals, denials, and clarifications, silly stories are left to fester. Which is the situation we traditionally have in August, and this year were treated to during July’s big break. So it was something of a relief when we were primed to report that Red Bull would announce that Daniel Ricciardo would be replacing Mark Webber. The announcement was expected over the course of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, and it did happen. Sort of... The team never issued an official statement. In fact, senior team figures like Christian Horner seemed to spend much of the weekend telling members of the press that the decision was far from made, with a longer list of potential candidates than had been reported. But then Mark himself appeared to spoil things. Speaking to James Allen on the grid, Webber was far from coy about the identity of his replacement, saying “the decision is made. We all know who it is. I’m happy with that decision. It’s good for him and it’s good for Australia.” With two Australians on the 2013 F1 grid (one of whom is set to retire), and no Australian talent on the verge of making the step up to Formula One, there is not much room for confusion when it comes to identifying Red Bull’s next driver! After the race Horner said that Webber’s comments had been misunderstood, but there wasn’t much room for confusion in the Australian’s comments. The announcement thunder has been well and truly stolen! OuT OF ThE MOuThS ... OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Editor