Start, Silverstone, 1997

How F1 has changed – for better and worse – in my 300 races in the paddock

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RaceFans’ special contributor @DieterRencken notched up his 300th Formula One grand prix in Azerbaijan last weekend. He reflects on how the sport has changed – for better and worse – since he first entered the paddock in 1997.

For as long as I remember I have loved cars with a passion, more particularly those with numbers on their sides. As a kid I (successfully) pleaded with father to take me to motor races – we lived within earshot of Roy Hesketh Circuit in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where my parents were school teachers. Once able to cycle, I spared him the chore although, to be fair, he was partial to the sport when familial duties permitted.

The circuit hosted two SA F1 Championship rounds annually, so I tingled at nape-hair-rising sounds of Cosworth DFVs at 16, then two years later attended my first world championship F1 round at Kyalami – Denny Hulme won in a McLaren. But I never entertained any notions that I might one day consider grands prix Sundays to be my working days.

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I fervently followed all forms of motor sport via magazines, books, newspapers and radio – SA first gained TV in 1977. Once I reached 16, I occasionally raced a spare kart belonging to a friend. At age 20, with paternal assistance, I acquired a used rally car and enjoyed some local and national successes during that pre-professional era.

But that, I thought, would be it.

Subsequently I dedicated myself to a career in the African motor industry. Yet a nagging feeling that I belonged elsewhere gnawed unabated. How, though, could a kid born in a rural South African village – with no contacts in international motorsport – hope to make it to the pinnacle of motorsport in any capacity? Such dreams were too preposterous for words, let alone reality.

(How I made the fortunate transition from corporate clown to F1 insider is told in this pair of recent interviews.)

Last weekend I swept my permanent pass at Baku’s turnstile on the occasion of my 300th grand prix. This was a personal milestone, though my triple century is far from a record. Numerous colleagues have hit 600, one is nearing 700 (remarkable considering Sunday’s race was the 980th world championship round). I admire them for their perseverance but take personal satisfaction from knowing that, as far as I have been able to ascertain, no colleague past or present, has funded the costs of every grand prix as a freelancer – as I have.

I recall that very first swipe, at Silverstone 1997 (above); the sheer exhilaration as I entered F1’s inner sanctum in my own right; of an overwhelming emotion that I was at last where I always knew I belonged. Then relief that I had “made it” washed over me. But I came to learn that belief was born of sheer naivety: One has never truly “made it” in F1 – there it is no easy ride, and every race presents yet another unique challenge.

Of course, during the past 300 grands prix F1 has changed enormously. Indeed, I hazard that F1 changed more in the past twenty years than it had in the previous 48, if for no other reason than F1’s commercial rights were hived off by Max Mosley’s administration to an entity controlled by his good friend Bernie Ecclestone. The deal was for 113 years, at what can now only be described as a knock-down price.

Dieter Rencken, Kimi Raikkonen, 2001
Getting the first interview with Kimi on the day he was announced as an F1 race driver
My first pass was issued by the Formula One Constructors Association – the teams’ union that shared F1’s TV and race hosting revenues – rather than Formula One Management, the Ecclestone company that assumed FOCA’s rights from 1998. Terms such as CVC, Strategy Group, Liberty Media and FWONK lay far ahead…

At the time FOCA (on behalf of all teams) and the FIA’s control of F1 was enshrined in the Concorde Agreement. This expired at the end of 1997, replaced by a tripartite covenant (the teams collectively, FIA and FOM), which had a ten-year tenure. In the interim (2006) the Formula One Group was acquired by venture vultures CVC Capital Partners. In my opinion, that was when the F1 I loved was devalued.

The ten-year deal was replaced by a (belated) 2010-12 agreement. After that a series of bilateral agreements (2013-2020) between the teams individually and FOG were forced through as CVC sought an IPO listing for the sport. Thankfully that failed to happen, and CVC sold the rights in January 2017 to Liberty Media, which reversed F1 into its own listing. This week the share price (FWONK) hit a 15-month low…

On-track the sport has changed dramatically, not always for the better. For one, 22 cars came under starters orders on that sweltering Sunday, with 11 finishing. It was the time before long-life engines and gearboxes, a single tyre supplier and reprimands for crashing, so the drivers raced hard all the way down the order, with mechanical and crash retirements being rife.

Water, Monza, 2007
Media refreshments at Monza in 2007
The winner that day was Jacques Villeneuve, who went on to the snatch the title in a finale at Jerez in October which sizzled with controversy. It remains the last time a non-European driver claimed the crown, and also the last time a European venue hosted the finale. Tellingly, Ecclestone was in the throes of signing up the first of the “showcase” races (Malaysia) which would debut in 1999.

In 1997 virtually all cars bore allegiance to one or other tobacco brand – a notable exception being Stewart, then in its first year – and all boasted more sponsors than they could accommodate on-car. Within ten years tobacco sponsorship was banned, while backers became increasingly sparse as Ecclestone’s pursuit of pay-TV revenue, and the subsequent drop in viewers that caused, took hold.

Saliently, not a single team was then owned by a volume car producer, with the only non-hyphenated team on the grid being Ferrari. Within six years there would be no fewer than five teams owned by manufacturers – BMW, Honda, Jaguar, Renault and Toyota, with Mercedes holding a major slice of McLaren. However, that changed in 2009 as accountants tired of splashing out gazillions to watch their respective teams place seventh.

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Dieter Rencken, Toto Wolff, 2017
Talking budget caps with Toto Wolff
That factor, concurrent demise of tobacco money, global economic crisis and gradual migration to pay-TV pushed F1 to crisis point in the late-noughties. That the sport survived is due to its global passion, and not due to any great effort on the part of then-commercial rights holder CVC – which almost lost F1 when the teams rebelled and threatened to form a breakaway series. In many ways I regret that they caved in so readily.

While F1 presently makes much noise about having four engine suppliers, current bosses would do well to peruse 1997’s entry list. No fewer than seven – Ferrari, Ford, Hart, Mercedes, Mugen, Renault and Yamaha – were represented, with engines then typically costing up to $40m for a season supply. Against that, budgets peaked at around $80m, so engines accounted for 50 per cent of spend.

2018 budgets run to $300m (plus), with engines pegged at around $25m, yet team bosses complain the power units are too expensive… while kicking against budget caps! 1997 feted six grand prix winners and 13 podium finishers; last year seven drivers, including five race winners, visited podiums.

The 1997 calendar listed 17 rounds – four less than this season – of which 12 (70%) were staged in Europe; this year the European contingent runs to nine (43%), while back then all venues were well-established. Today F1 speaks of Hanoi and Beijing as being the future while already having races in Shanghai and Singapore.

Tyres, too, underwent remarkable change: Goodyear had been the sport’s sole supplier in 1996, but F1 still operated to an open policy, and Bridgestone joined the fray in 1997. In time the former exited, but soon after Michelin came in, only to be hounded out ahead of a sole supplier deal awarded to Bridgestone, which supplied rock-hard tyres able to last a race (for a while, at Mosley’s instigation, these had circumferential grooves, a development widely disliked among drivers).

In 2011 the Japanese company was replaced by Pirelli, having been given a brief to ‘improve the show’ by producing rubber which degraded quickly, but only after they had committed to a ‘bridge-and-board’ signage. Thus, money that could conceivably be spent on-track now ends up in Liberty’s pockets, the teams pay for their tyres yet their drivers are required to wear Pirelli caps on the podium instead of not team wear.

Dieter Rencken, Daniel Ricciardo
The other DR is quick with the quips and likes to poke fun at my accent (see last week’s press conference)
This change of priorities which has taken root in F1 is best illustrated by (alleged) decrees that in-car footage of the Red Bulls be minimal as their Halos display TAG-Heuer logos, which could offend FOM sponsor Rolex.

In many ways, though, F1 has improved: Since Mosley’s departure at the end of 2009 the paddock is a much calmer place. Ecclestone seemed to have mellowed before Liberty kicked him upstairs as ‘chairman emeritus”. Quite why he bothers to visit grands prix now remains, like so much about the man, a mystery. Hence why we called him ‘Mr E’…

The media facilities, too, have improved dramatically – back in the nineties Imola’s toilets were a disgrace, and Monza refused to even supply coffee to journalists – while the advent of the internet changed reporting beyond all recognition. Back in 1997 we sent reports by fax, and more than a few journalists travelled with Olivetti typewriters. Media centres even had dark rooms!

Internet journalists were then viewed with suspicion, and websites not accredited until the mid-noughties. Now, of course, every publication has a website, and folk think nothing of claiming quotes or even grabbing full credit for questions posed by others. No longer does one need to wait for Thursdays for news to break in weekly magazines; it is all instant now.

Relationships between the F1 media, governing body and FOM were often fractious, with threats to ‘pull passes’ unless one toed the party line being issued regularly. A memorable experience I had of this came after the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix, when I was the first to reveal details of F1’s financial.

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Dieter Rencken, Baku, 2018
On the grid at Baku: 300 not out
I endured numerous sleepless nights before we regrouped in China. I remember vividly the relief as my pass pinged rather than ponged as I swiped. Still, Bernie sent messages that he wished to speak to me on Sunday. When I asked for him I was told he’d left for Beijing that morning as Shanghai had played hard-ball with its contract extension. Never before or since have I loved the Shanghaies as much as on that bitterly cold morning. I now firmly believe my financial revelations brought crucial transparency to F1. Thus the risk was worth every palpitating heartbeat.

I am often asked three questions: Could I do 500 grands prix, which is favourite venue, and who is my favourite driver? The first is easy to answer: I am now 64, and cannot see myself putting in another ten years of intensive travel, so no.

The second question is slightly more complex: Each venue has its own character, and thus it depends on how one defines “favourite”: food, city, country, culture, circuit facilities, weather, etc. Clearly a city with vibrant nightlife holds greater appeal for 30-somethings than for greying geezers; equally, new venues provides new sets of experiences. On reflection, then, my favourite is always the next new venue.

As for drivers: The image one has of particular drivers as a fan differs vastly from their real-life personas. Often the most popular drivers amongst fans are not necessarily media favourites. Equally, some less successful drivers are hits with journalists yet, sadly, fans seldom get to know the real drivers inside the helmets.

One of my biggest pleasures has been to get to know – and mostly enjoy – the real people behind the balaclavas. Equally, meeting and being on good terms with (most) team bosses has been an utter pleasure. They, more than the drivers, are the true stars of F1, for no other business activity gets as closely scrutinised every fortnight by 500 million “experts”. Remember that the next time you criticise pit stop strategies.

When I first swiped my card at Silverstone 21 years ago I thought “If I never again manage to gain a pass, I’ve been there once.” After 300 grands prix it is all too easy to be blasé, yet every time I walk through the paddock I realise how blessed I really am to be paid to do what I love most. Of course it’s hard work; of course some days suck; of course I suffer jetlag.

But, to use a clichéd phrase: It sure beats working…

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he reported from 300 grands prix plus other categories...

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  • 50 comments on “How F1 has changed – for better and worse – in my 300 races in the paddock”

    1. Nice article, Dieter, and many congratulations on the 300!

      1. Let’s be frank…I have never heard any debate about track limits in Monaco. The reason is obvious, breach the limit and it becomes expensive or it hurts…or even both. With all the electronics available now, it should be the work of a moment to ‘ring’ a circuit. And if the car goes over the line for whatever reason…a five second penalty. Full stop. Black. White. No grey. Just as in Monaco. All it needs is effort and money, and Liberty and the circuits should be made to pay for it.

        Love this from the linked interview!

        1. Oh no, this is exactly what I hope never happens—turning these magnificent racetracks into glorified car parks, with white lines that shall not be crossed instead of walls and grass and natural track limits.

          I’ve played many racing sims and video games that implement some sort of system like this and find it incredibly unsatisfying for a race or scrap for position to be decided by breaching an arbitrary limit and receiving an arbitrary penalty. Sadly, as real-life track design moves further and further away from natural track limits, the games have also become less and less satisfying.

          Frankly, I’m not even sure what an automated system would accomplish. With the amount of video available to race control, it’s already trivial to see when a car has breached the white line. With Verstappen’s move at COTA, it was indisputable almost immediately that he had done so. And yet, that clarity did not spare us from the letdown and the controversy that followed.

          1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
            4th May 2018, 21:46

            @markzastrow all that controversy could have been avoided had the stewards been consistent. During the Ricciardo/Bottas scrap both went clearly outside the limits. Strict interpretation of the rules would have seen both punished. But leniency, IMO, rightly so, was shown. Yet for some reason there was no leniency for Verstappen. I understand penalty, and it is completely in according with the rules, but being lenient with some, and strict with others make the judgements both arbitrary and inconsistent, and duly, unfair, and I think that was what it was all about, in retrospect. The stewards had been incosistent.

            automatically penalizing a driver for crossing a line “for whatever reason” will be massively counterproductive. Sometimes evasive action needs to be taken, and sometimes the infraction is nothing but a mistake, from which the driver does not profit. NASCAR tried such a rule in Daytona, and it made for some confusing decisions.

    2. So who is your favourite driver?

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        2nd May 2018, 14:29

        Ha-ha:-)

      2. I guess that is a unfair question… but if we had to eliminate current drivers, could you name two or three who’s ex-drivers who’s images differs vastly from their real-life personas?

        1. In a list of five, I don’t think I could exclude Alain Prost, Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda. All those before my time (early 60s) I can’t really judge on, and there may have been some better than those three, but in my book none more professional. That said, anyone who reaches F1 deserves respect.

    3. Great article, keep up the outstanding work! Many happy years!

    4. @RacingLines
      Dieter, that was probably the most interesting article I have read on this site (sorry @keithcollantine :( ) just for the insiders knowledge on where F1 was & where its at. I have been watching F1 since I went to Adelaide in 1986 (except I didn’t watch for a few years after Senna died) and as fans we think we know what’s going on but unless you are in he inner sanctum we don’t really!

      Congrats on 300 Grands Prix- impressive.
      My wife and I were at the 2012 Japanese GP and the journalist hosting the Paddock Club interviews was a very tall guy (6ft 6 maybe) Swiss guy call Luc, I cant remember a surname, I see him at most races I get to & you would certainly know him (bald skinny fellow- great guy). I asked how many F1 races he has been to and it was around 300 (ish) back then- he said “if I get to 500 races Mr E gives me a lifetime pass- if I get to 500 races and retire why the hell do I want to come back!!” Indeed.

      Who has near 700 GP? I thought Herbie Blash was right up there with his time at Brabham the FIA duties??

      1. Luc Domenjoz, yes he does Paddock Club stuff and his brother Steve is a Paddock Club photographer.

        Herbie Blash was quoted in a book recently as saying he’s done “over 750”. So I guess he finished off on around 800, but we still see him about: he’s a consultant for Porsche SuperCup in addition to some MotoGP stuff.

    5. Very good article – some you win, some you lose I guess. As a fan, who started to follow F1 at the same time when you became a race reporter, I can say that I miss many things from the past but am happy for a lot of changes / novelties, too.

      Two comments.

      1997 feted six grand prix winners and 13 podium finishers; last year seven drivers, including five race winners, visited podiums.

      I do not think such comparisons tell us much – you can also compare 1998 vs 2012 and find out that 1998 saw just 4 different race winners and 9 podium finishers, whereas in 2012 there were as much as 8 winners and 13 different drivers on the podium. In other words, one should not pick two random seasons and imply that each of them accurately represents a particular era.

      Remember that the next time you criticise pit stop strategies.

      There is not much point in having a comments section on this website if we are not allowed to be couch experts, who regularly discuss things they do not know / understand. More decorum and civility (as one other F1 blog puts it) would sometimes be welcome in these discussions though.

      1. I’m not suggesting in any way that folk shouldn’t comment or criticise about any aspect; just that they should consider the enormous pressures during a GP and running a team generally.

        1. @dieterrencken I completely agree with you there. Thank you for replying to my comment :-)

        2. And there’s a useful and respectful way to make these comments, and other ways entirely.

          I can’t fathom the mindset of someone who instead of saying “I don’t understand why Ferrari pitted Vettel ahead of Raikkonnen. It seemed obvious that doing so would compromise their track position, and likely cost them a podium. There had to be something forcing their hand.” and instead say “Ferrari are so dumb! They are always getting strategy wrong, and it’s always Kimi who suffers! Everyone could see that Vettel could have stayed out for another 10 laps!”

          We marvel at the amount of data, expertise, time and energy and detail of the sport, and then assume that from our lounge with nothing more than the broadcast camera feed, commentary and sector times we understand the full gamut of what’s going on. Absurd.

    6. Fascinating article. Congrats on 300!

      1999.
      In 1997 virtually all cars bore allegiance to one or other tobacco brand – a notable exception being Stewart, then in its first year – and all boasted more sponsors than they could accommodate on-car.

      I’ve often wondered how teams survive these days with so little apparent sponsorship (e.g. Mclaren), especially as budgets have increased as you say. Have the costs for sponsors risen in that time (so that fewer are required)? Or are teams raising revenue via other means?

      1. In McLaren’s case they are (part) owned by Mumtalakat (the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund) and Mansour Ojjeh (of TAG)… they are the sorts of backers you would want on your books any day of the week.

        Also, if you count up the individual sponsors on the McLaren and the Mercedes (excluding themselves and Pirelli), you’ll find McLaren’s sponsors outnumber Mercedes by nearly 4-1…

        1. Believe me, they are supporting the team only out of desperation: Why do you think they employed Zak Brown, allegedly the king of sponsor deals, as McLaren Executive Director, now CEO of McLaren Racing? They certainly didn’t recruit him for his spannering ability…

          I project that McLaren will lose £50m this year: that is why the Bahrainis and Ojjeh are underwriting the team, not because they are super F1 fans.

          1. Really it means that the current owners have decided to put in the money to keep the team going with the clear target of getting it’s value up again. Surely selling now would mean they get only quite a low sum back for the team.

            Since neither probably urgently needs the cashflow, they can wait a wile (a year? two years?) to get some at leas decent results and a bit of an upward trend going on track and Zak to sign at least some more sponsors on.

    7. Congrats again @dieterrencken and keep on rocking!

      1. It was nice to read your conversation with Dieter, I must have missed that one (or forgot about it? Hm) @gpfacts. Thanks for running some of the few nuggets of good F1 writing in Czech too :-)

        1. Born Czech…always a Czech, I suppose. Thanks!

    8. Many would take umbrage at Maritzburg being described as a “a rural South African village” @dieterrencken! I used to read those reports you write for the SA papers all those years ago, even in the 90’s good F1 content was hard to come by and it was great to get your insight.

      I had no idea you competed in rallies, did you ever race against Sarel van der Merwe or Serge Damseaux?

      1. You obviously didn’t read the linked interviews – I explained that I was born while my parents were living in a rural village. This is the quote: “My parents were teachers in a tiny German-speaking village called Harburg…a throwback to my German ancestry.” Harburg back then had a population of about 50, consisting of a church, a school and a general dealer store supplying the surrounding farmers. We moved to Pietermaritzburg when I was five.

        According to the internet the Harburg of today is not much bigger, 60 years on: “Today descendants of these same German settlers still live in Harburg – a pretty rural village that is still only a few homes and a converted post office (now a self-catering cottage). The original police station and community hall no longer stand. The school has been converted into a retreat. But the Neuenkirche still stands and continues to celebrate regular Sunday services in German and English.”

        Yes, I competed against Sarel and Serge (less against the latter, as he was doing mainly doing Cape events back then), plus various international drivers when the competed on the Total Int Rally, which I entered in 1975/7. That was when I met Ove Andersson for the first time.

        The final year of the Total (1977) it was a round of the newly-introduced world rally cup for the drivers, effectively the world championship, won by Sandro Munari (Lancia Stratos) – who both the rally and the cup.

        If you’re from that neck of the world, you may remember the Rally of 1000 Hills, a national event? I won that in 1974 as a driver.

        1. Apologies @dieterrencken, the comment was made in jest. I was saving the linked articles so that I had some reading material on my commute home…

          ’74 is a bit before my time and I grew up on the Highveld…so I hadn’t actually heard about the Rally of 1000 Hills before…more commute reading methinks…

    9. @dieterrencken we need a photo of you side by side with Frederic Vasseur

    10. You’re one of my favorite F1 journalists, LOL.

    11. One thing I’ve always heard drivers say even from different eras is that when a driver goes from f1 to series like nascar or indycar the atmosphere is more free and less restricted in some ways (I forget what the exact words were). The fans are closer and there is more camaraderie between the drivers. Does your experience as a journalist reflect that? I’m not really talking about the american gp but the different sports.

      1. Sure, series such as WEC, WRC, WRX and MotoGP – all of which I reported on over the years – are far more open and relaxed, but let’s not forget that they are in many ways a bit less intense and certainly a lot less commercial. Imagine an open in F1 – it would be total mayhem.

        As an example, consider what Fernando Alonso said last week in Spa: that he was amazed how 50 people find it necessary to pee at the same time as him…in F1 it would be 5000

    12. Thanks Dieter, great to read your reflections on F1 in the recent and not so recent past!

    13. This is an interesting line in one of the linked articles @dieterrencken:

      At the moment they are asking the teams to accept less money. It must be the only company on earth that is asking its suppliers to drop their prices so that they can invest in their own company’s future!

      I find it interesting, because as I have become to know the Automotive industry, it is actually pretty common for the manufacturers to do require their suppliers to invest so that they can make more money. I have seen how the technological investment (and money to pay for fines and buy-offs) to solve VWs dieselgate issues has come to a significant extent from their suppliers for parts that are involved (Exhaust systems, Electronics/CUs/Engine managment). The first step was a demand for extra price cuts for the financial side, the second was to make the investments.

      1. I am aware of the motor manufacturer / supplier dynamic, particularly as it pertains to VW Group both now after Dieselgate and before (Lopez affair). There is always a push to reduce prices – my wife is a procurement specialist, so I see it there as well – while improving the end product. However, if the supplier is unhappy, he can always refuse to supply and go elsewhere. There are probably 20 other motor companies they could supply if their technologies are up to scratch.

        The difference in this case is that F1 is in many ways a monopoly: teams can’t just “go elsewhere” and race, yet are being forced to indirectly subsidise F1’s new fangled concepts, including new jungles, a new logo and marketing programmes.

    14. Dieter,
      Thanks, very nice article.

    15. Congratulations Dieter! Thanks for all the articles over the years. We are fortunate to have you digging up the dirt where others are just chasing a quote…
      The politics side of F1 still fascinates me. I started watching when the FISA and FOCA where battling it out in the early eighties. Even wrote a piece for school on it…
      Keep it up!

    16. with engines then typically costing up to $40m for a season supply. Against that, budgets peaked at around $80m, so engines accounted for 50 per cent of spend.

      Wow didn’t know the engines were so expensive back then. So is all this current whine about expensive engines just a purely political game?

      1. @albedo – of course. If only we could take the money and politics out of F1. Oh wait…that’s where the ‘DNA’ of the sport lives.

    17. Only now I realized that you are South African!

    18. It sure beats working…

      Congrats Dieter on 21 years of beating working!

      that was when the F1 I loved was devalued.

      Agree. To me, post 1997, F1 was relentlessly devoured in the Bernie greed-storm, culminating in the 2006 CVC takeover and successful quelling of the team rebellion in 2009.

      Can the teams can mount a more successful revolt by 2021? Looks doubtful. Bernie’s greedy legacy will probably linger on until the expiration of the notorious FIA sellout. But will F1?

    19. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      2nd May 2018, 22:22

      A fantastic read

    20. YellowSubmarine
      3rd May 2018, 0:30

      Interesting trip down memory lane, @dieterrencken.
      I wonder whether the banning of tobacco sponsorships was the right move, given that people still smoke, and in more or less the same numbers as before, and cigarette manufacturers are still making billions – just out of the limelight. Add to that the fact that F1 replaced the tobacco sponsors with alcohol-manufacturing sponsors…yet alcohol causes health complications similar to what cigarettes cause.
      Not looking to start a health debate, but it does seem more than a little hypocritical to me for F1 to ban sponsorship by the maskers of one class of harmful substances, only to accept sponsorship from the makers of another class of harmful substances.
      And Marlboro used to sponsor so much motorsport in Africa, especially the East African Safari Rally, which lost WRC status shortly after tobacco money dried up – and is now little more than a Kenyan curiosity, far removed from the “toughest test of man and machine on earth” that it was when I was growing up on the plains of East Africa.

      1. I was of the understanding that as more and more countries banned cigarette advertising, more and more times the cars couldn’t have the logos on the cars for that country’s race. I’m sure F1 would have loved to keep up the cigarette advertising and the money from that, but I think their hand was forced. Alcohol advertising remains legal in many countries and is why that seems to have ‘replaced’ cigarette advertising.

        On a side note here in Canada cigarette makers’ money supported a high proportion of young driver programs, particularly aimed toward Indy Lights and IndyCar (CART at the time) and once that money disappeared so did much opportunity for racing careers for young drivers in Canada. I believe there has still been no real recovery from that loss.

    21. Great article. Thanks Dieter Rencken.

    22. I didn’t think I’d like the article, but I did. By the season’s end, I’ll have watched my 400th GP hopefully. Not as posh as a paddock pass, I know ;)

    23. Jonathan Teague
      3rd May 2018, 5:49

      I really enjoyed your article. I started watching F1 in 1997 :-). Happy 300th

    24. @dieterrencken
      Congratulations Mr. Rencken on you 300th GP.
      It is because of you, that my interest in Formula 1 has extended beyond the race weekends and not just from 20 odd Fridays to Sundays of the year.

      Looking forward to learning more from you and wishing you good luck on the track to your 400th GP.!!

    25. Great article Dieter, made my morning, and my afternoon reading it again.

      I’d love to know whether you’ve had the desire to hop in one of the cars and have a drive and what you think the most noticeable difference is between today’s cars and the cars that were being driven when you first started.

    26. I do respect Dieter that you have worked at 300 GP, I think 97 was as much of a borefest as what F,1 is now, not much has changed, except for Cigarette money, all respect, Dieter, thank you for your efforts and time.

    27. Ja-nee, ou maat. So you got a lekker job, hey? I smaak your articles.

    28. Oh please, post another reality check after another 300 races, this one bounced.

    29. Hello all, thank you so much for the very kind words and comments re my 300th! Much, much appreciated.

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