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Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Cover Girl

Howdy, hi, hello. Welcome to Engine Failure, a culture newsletter that dives into what the fuck is really going on in Formula 1. It’s written by me, Lily Herman.

Whoaaaa, it’s the final 2022 issue of Engine Failure! Look at that! And because I love you all, I made this one super long so that you’d have an excuse to avoid your in-laws over the next week and a half and read, click, and gossip about F1 instead.

The big piece of EF housekeeping heading into 2023: Some of you likely noticed this, but I’m no longer sticking with a “must publish on Mondays” schedule. The newsletter will go back to being weekly (as opposed to weekly…ish) now that I’ve got better control of a few things on my end, but given that the F1 news cycle has largely moved to dropping mad drama on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, putting out this newsletter a little later than Mondays makes sense. Still, I like the fact that EF publishes against the race weekend schedule (i.e. not on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday), and especially when the season is active, my aim is always to give y’all plenty of fodder during the point in the week when a lot of outlets aren’t publishing.

And onto other housekeeping: There’s a new Spare Parts convo going up shortly on the Patreon featuring the delightful Andie J. Christopher talking about driver thirst traps, and I’m also putting out a fun Dirty Air missive on things in the F1 world I never got to mention in Engine Failure this year but wanted to talk about. Moreover, patrons will get an entire week of new Spare Parts conversations in late January before we go back to the usual schedule (generally every three to six weeks), and I’ll host a Patreon-only Q&A then too. Join us!

Another reason to sign up for the Patreon that I originally teased when I started it in October: I’d like to commission several incredible pieces from professional writers — including motorsports journalists — in 2023. Please help me be able to fairly compensate fellow media professionals for their time and work. (I’ll also have more info on how to periodically pitch Engine Failure in 2023! Please do not do so for the time being though.)

Lastly, I want to end the final intro of the year on the exciting note that Choosing Sides: F1 was featured on Esquire’s list of the 30 Best Podcasts of 2022 in addition to being listed on Vulture’s Best Podcasts of 2022 lineup earlier this year. A huge thanks to everyone for listening!

Anyway, we’ve got lots of F1 goodness (and shenanigans) to dive into, so let’s do it, shall we?

I’m Ready to Talk About That Kelly Piquet Cover Story

I get topic requests for all sorts of stuff, but I’ve never seen such fervor around anything as y’all wanting to discuss Kelly Piquet’s Dutch Vogue cover. Well, pals, I’m here to deliver with 3,000 words of chaos!!!!

To add lots of context for folks who may not be as well-versed on the particulars going into this:

1. For those new to the newsletter and F1’s WAGs grid: Kelly Piquet is reigning World Drivers’ Champion Max Verstappen’s girlfriend of over two years. The pair first hard launched their relationship back in January 2021, and there are two big things that make this pairing more controversial than the average F1 couple:

  • Kelly is nine years older than Max. They started (publicly) dating when he was 23 years old and she was 32. (We’ll get to why this matters more when we dive into the cover story’s contents.)

  • Before hitching her wagon to Max’s, Kelly dated former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat, and the two have a child named Penelope together, who was born in 2019. Max has assumed a bit of a stepfather role by Kelly's own admission, and to make matters more complicated, he actually replaced Daniil at Red Bull back in 2016, prompting lots of ongoing jokes about how Max stole both Daniil’s seat and girlfriend. Beep booooooop.

2. I'm sure you already have questions based on the cover. In terms of Kelly’s connections to motorsports, there are a few main considerations:

3. To clear up a massive misconception I’ve seen floating around the internet: Kelly’s mother Sylvia Tamsma-Piquet (divorced from Nelson) is Dutch. Kelly has very publicly talked about Brazil (her father’s home country) being where she feels most centered, but it’s not fair to claim that her only tie to the Netherlands is Max Verstappen (though that’s…a massive plus; we’ll get to that).

4. Since many people don’t know how print media (or any form of media, for that matter) works, something to consider here is just how many people were involved in this decision to feature Kelly in such a prominent Dutch fashion publication and make her cover story motorsports-themed. It’s not like Kelly could just walk in and be like, “Execute my vision!!!!!” There had to be sign-offs from a whole lot of folks to make this happen, especially because this was a cover feature. (And because some people are definitely going to be confused, let me make this clear: We are talking about the Dutch edition of Vogue, noooooot the American counterpart run by Anna Wintour. There's no Meryl Streep to speak of!)

Additionally, this is more of a reminder than a piece of trivia: Kelly Piquet is a 34-year-old woman who knowingly chose to appear in this shoot. She 100% opted into this creative project, which is meant for public consumption and is therefore up for interpretation and discussion. As I’ve said in multiple EF issues, some people have a tendency to infantilize the F1 WAGs the second any constructive criticism or non-positive feedback is thrown their way, but these are very much grown women who are able to make their own decisions. In the case of Engine Failure, I seek to be thoughtful and fair — but never unbiased; in life, I'm a discerning hater at heart. (And that means that sometimes our opinions will not align, which is fine and normal.) All this to say, if you’re an unabashed and uncritical Kelly Piquet stan (which you're allowed to be if you want), I recommend putting on the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack, merrily scrolling through this section without reading, and picking up this issue somewhere else, like our follow-up discussion of motorcore. Self-awareness is a gift, my friends. And you can't say you weren't warned.

Now that all of that’s settled, let’s move on to the topic at hand. There are two different parts of this entire situation to delve into, so I separated them below.

The Cover Story Concept

Before we get into what Kelly said in this feature, we need to talk about the motorsports concept. I’d like to start with my surface-level opinion: As a fashion obsessive who’s spent a lot of time since a young age looking at hundreds of magazine editorials, I can tell you from a craft perspective that these are neither particularly interesting images nor inventive poses. That’s a problem considering that 26 pages of this 30-page spread are photographs of a woman who proclaims she’s a model. Personally, I put this more on the magazine than the subject. An international issue of Vogue couldn’t do better than this? Seriously?

But let’s move onto a simple fact that all of y’all want to discuss: Kelly Piquet isn’t a racing driver. Aside from tagging along on trips to the karting track and going for a ride or two with Max, this woman has never been a professional driver, nor has she ever talked about having serious aspirations to become one. On its own, that’s totally fine. Kelly can live her life however she pleases. But based on that, it makes sense why so many people were irked at her taking on this “woman in motorsport” approach to the cover story’s spread and adopting the narrative that she herself is an active participant in this sport. (I mean, they literally have shots of her driving a fast car.) Once again though, I put a lot of this critique on Dutch Vogue and will get back to them in a second.

I'm a little torn on this setup. I’ve long advocated for the idea that the families of drivers (and in particular, the significant others) often don’t get enough credit for supporting these athletes behind the scenes; for example, I loved the way Sebastian Vettel talked about his wife Hanna and all she’s done for him in his final Beyond the Grid interview. (His line about how he’s glad he met her so early in life so he didn’t have to look for her could’ve been straight out of a goddamn romance novel.) I’ve also said in the past that the sport doesn’t give enough credit to WAGs like Kelly for fueling further interest in F1 and bringing a different dimension — and fanbase — to the sport. But this idea that Kelly Piquet herself is somehow an integral and irreplaceable fixture of Formula 1 — so much so that she’s deserving of a major magazine cover story, not to mention one under this concept of taking ~pole position~ — just doesn't sit right.

Most of the takes I’ve seen on this profile have been around this notion that the magazine should’ve featured women (preferably Dutch ones) who are actually race car drivers. But I don’t think that goes far enough or gets into why the publication chose this particular non-driver woman. Not to mention, I caution anyone from falling into the faulty 2010s feminism trap of "Featuring any woman driver will make this better!!!!" We can both acknowledge systemic problems while still offering a nuanced level of discernment. (If you do want to see fashion magazines that have recently spotlighted women more entrenched in motorsports though, I recommend Marie Clarie U.K.’s feature on three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick and the corresponding video with her from November. I also linked to this article on racing driver and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia cover star Amna Al Qubaisi in an earlier EF issue.)

Going deeper, the message at the heart of this story’s photo shoot is an uncomfortable one: All of the most important men in Kelly’s life — her father, brother, daughter’s father, and boyfriend — are drivers, and from Dutch Vogue’s perspective in terms of what they proactively marketed from this issue (including this video of Kelly and these articles), that’s all that makes Kelly interesting. She’s even wearing her father’s old racing suit in many shots, and every promotional material mentions Max. (This is also not even getting into the questions people have asked surrounding Kelly’s politics; in which case, why give a larger platform to someone with those alleged views?)

The bleak aspect to me is the fact that Kelly Piquet was reduced by others — and also reduced herself in the process — to being a woman defined by the men in her life. She might claim otherwise (per all of the vague #girlboss quotes she posts on Instagram Stories and her ongoing talk of ~legacy~) — and maybe she does have a serious interest in motorsports. But there’s no agency or feminism or ~empowerment~ in this feature’s visual concept nor its marketing. These photos highlight the professional achievements and contributions of the men around her, and in doing so, they subtly underscore that she doesn’t have any of her own. Who is Kelly Piquet without these guys in her orbit? We still don’t know — and Dutch Vogue inadvertently makes the case that she doesn't either. 

Speaking more to the magazine than Kelly, this shoot is just creatively lazy, and if it wants to prove that there’s more to Kelly than just being related to all of these Sports Dudes™, consider this mission unaccomplished. I doubt these fashion people were truly looking out for her; judging by what they talked about and promoted from this issue, they had to be at least somewhat aware that there’d be controversy around her selection. They just decided the vitriol (and potential hurt on her end) was worth the clicks and ad buys.

The Cover Story Content

First off, I want to say a huge thank you to Kate Lizotte and Nicole Sievers of Two Girls 1 Formula and one of their community members for sending me photos of the entire spread since it's not available online. (And a thank you to my pal Patricia, whose business partner picked up copies in the Netherlands!)

Looking through the translated interview, it’s a relatively softball affair; probably the biggest thing the magazine does is gently allude to her family’s smattering of, um, issues, to which she replies something to the effect of “no family is perfect.” (Uhhhh, that’s quite the understatement, but hey, I’ve just got normal child of divorce problems. What do I know?) Otherwise, a lot of the info is stuff that any longtime EF subscriber would be aware of: Kelly went to college in New York to ~pave her own way~, she has fashion brands constantly reaching out to her to collaborate, she loves working with children, the list goes on and on. These things might be new to a general Dutch fashion audience, but any F1 fan who follows the WAGs would probably know (or at least be aware of) most of it. The text feature only takes up about four pages, so as we’ve already discussed, the photos are meant to be the main attraction here.

However, the magazine floated several teaser photos, articles, and videos ahead of the issue's December 22nd release, and I think we can learn quite a bit more from what Dutch Vogue chose to highlight than what the piece said in full. To date, their team has put out several pieces on this:

  • An article rounding up Kelly and Max’s ~big couple moments~

Here are my initial observations and thoughts:

1. Dutch Vogue spends an absurd amount of time in its copy trying to justify (while also side-stepping) its choice of cover model and story concept. It finds every conceivable way to show that Kelly is ~motorsports~ despite not being a driver or involved in any official capacity. She got to watch her brother’s career up close! She went to the track when they were growing up and tinkered with the karts! She grew up around cars (literally, she lives in a house surrounded by her dad’s old machinery and a bunch of vintage ones)! She did some work in a motorsports series once! She has a child with an F1 driver! She’s now dating an F1 driver who reached the pinnacle of the sport — twice! But when it comes to her actual life and career, there aren’t always a lot of specifics or larger explorations (even if Kelly provides an opening), at least none that the magazine chose to share.

This phenomenon reminds me with one of my favorite quotes from a scathing but smart review of model and activist Emily Ratajkowski’s 2021 book My Body. In it, Seattle Times columnist Emma Levy writes that, “Ratajkowski has lived an extraordinary life, and some of these stories demand to be told…But an extraordinary life does not necessarily birth extraordinary insights, and banality is what My Body ultimately suffers from.” This profile has the same problem. I would never argue that there haven’t likely been a few fascinating moments and circumstances in Kelly Piquet’s life, but either she doesn’t know how to process and articulate them to a larger audience or the magazine doesn’t — or both.

2. The quote I’ve seen getting the most vitriol online is one where Kelly describes meeting Max in 2016 (when he was around 18 and she was around 27) and she felt an ~instant connection~. I didn’t want to rely solely on Google Translate since that doesn’t account for colloquial subtext, so I reached out to two Dutch speakers (the latter of whom is a linguist) to offer their interpretations. A tremendous thanks to Megan Varela Nunes of By Megs fame and Phebe (who wanted to go by first name only) for the translation help!

Here’s the quote in full from Dutch Vogue: “The two met in 2016, when Max joined Kelly and her brother Nelson for dinner in Monaco. ‘Something magical happened that night,’ the model says of that moment. Six years later they have formed a strong bond. ‘I think we have a very healthy relationship, easy going, we have a lot of understanding and support for each other. You would think the age difference could be a challenge, but so far things are going really well. I also really appreciate how he treats Penelope (Kelly's daughter). It's so sweet to see. He always asks for her, always visits her to say hello when he leaves, and gets her love back. So cute!’”

Here’s the thing: Megan, Phebe, and I all agree that the talk of a “magical night” is…odd. It’s certainly not platonic phrasing, and according to them, nothing is being lost in translation here. (I’ll also add that Kelly and Daniil Kvyat confirmed their relationship in early January 2017, meaning that shenanigans between them likely transpired at some point in 2016 as well. Obviously, we don’t know the timeline of this dinner or her and Daniil’s ~talking stage~, but I have a lot of questions that will certainly never get answered.)

If I wanted to be more generous with the interpretation and more partial to Kelly though, I’d definitely wonder about if these quotes were taken out of context from the larger interview (since so many things end up on the cutting room floor in these situations). But one thing’s for sure: At the very least, the magazine heavily marketed this quote on multiple occasions to sell a romantic fairytale that’s actually a lot thornier the closer you look. And if I wanted to be my most cynical self, I’d say the magazine was aware that it’d start controversy and get more reader and social media user engagement. Again, that’s why I say it doesn’t feel like this outlet was truly looking out for Kelly.

3. Kelly also said that she sees a lot of similarities between Max and her father, and I’m just…going to leave that here with no comment. Nope! Not going there! Nothing to say on my end!

4. Ironically, the initial teaser for this cover story dropped a day after Vulture’s viral and sprawling nepo babies report. There was one particular section from Vulture’s piece that felt especially apt here: “It’s no surprise so many nepo babies get their start as models, the manager says: The child doesn’t have to open their mouth. ‘I’ve learned that once they start speaking, the public doesn’t go along for the ride,’ they say. ‘The more they talk, the more unrelatable they become.’” Oooooof.

The Biggest Takeaway

Speaking more broadly to where this feature falls in the greater F1 multiverse, a country’s major fashion publication featuring a Formula 1 WAG only furthers our previous discussions about how the significant others, much like other F1-adjacents, are an active and important part of discussions in this sport’s ecosystem. They captivate people, even if fans have a difficult relationship with some of them.

But overall, I can best sum up this entire ordeal as giving serious Brooklyn Peltz Beckham energy when Kelly Piquet is obviously aiming for more Hailey Bieber influence. Kelly has tried on different careers and hobbies for quite some time, from Formula E social media consultant and model to columnist (though there’s no evidence that panned out after a few paltry blog posts) and “health coach,” and none of them have stuck, despite her claiming a certain level of proficiency. Rich people — especially those who were born into that wealth as opposed to making it on their own — have the luxury of spending a lot of time wondering about their ~purpose~. At the same time, as I discussed on several occasions with Charles Leclerc’s then-girlfriend Charlotte Sine, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing who you are and experimenting with different things to figure that out. I also don’t ascribe to the idea that you can only be lost at a certain age; I applaud people on any path of self-discovery.

The issue, however, is when rich, out-of-touch folks feel the need to broadcast it to the world when they’re pursuing that journey, especially if it’s obvious that they themselves haven’t grappled with the fact that they’re on it.

Sometimes it’s best to do that work privately — away from all the world to see.

What Do We Do About the Fact that Formula 1 Hates Us?

Let’s move on to another fun topic: Formula 1 hates its own drivers, teams, and fanbase! Okay, I’m being hyperbolic — but only slightly.

Two major events have transpired in December that are worthy of more discussion; you’re probably already a little familiar with both.

I’ll start with the most recent one, where the FIA said this week that drivers can no longer make political, religious, or personal statements at odds with the governing body’s neutral stance without getting explicit permission first. Yikes.

I don’t think I have to explain this super deeply to this particular crowd (as y’all are smart), but it needs to be said anyway: Sports are inherently political. Just look at the fact that F1 and its teams have taken a shit ton of oil money to expand and drivers were literally afraid of getting bombed last year at a Grand Prix — and that’s just the very tip of a massive fucking iceberg. 

Personally, I don’t think the FIA actually gives a rat’s ass about politics, religion, or any of that on the surface. What they care about, at the end of the day, is money — and the views of the people who hold the purse strings. We saw this story unfold with FIFA and the World Cup that just wrapped; there’s no doubt that it was a tournament for the ages, but at what cost? And to satisfy whom? The same goes for Formula 1. All told, the move was spineless, cowardly, and just plain wrong.

On top of that, we have to discuss the obvious: Part of the reason the FIA feels like it’s fine to get away with this sort of thing is because so few drivers take a serious political stand to begin with. Now that Sebastian Vettel has stepped away from the sport, Lewis Hamilton is the only remaining activist. I also don’t want to discount the fact that Lando Norris has spoken up about mental health (something F1 has proudly trotted out but that…might be ~political~ under this new rule) and Valtteri Bottas has been more forthcoming with his support of the LGBTQIA+ community (specifically trans rights) away from the track. (I’m also not sure if F1 will now consider Alex Albon fundraising for a Thai orphanage to be political either.) 

All this to say, @ me when some of your himbo faves start speaking out in the first place instead of coming up with bogus excuses not to. Don’t wait solely for Lewis (and Seb, who literally retired from the sport and yet people are still calling on him) to talk about these issues. Push the other 19 members of the 2023 grid to do so as well. And while we’re at it, let’s start by asking Instagram king Pierre Gasly why he liked this absolutely unhinged post from disgraced former F1 driver Nikita Mazepin on the subject of politics in sports.

Now onto the other “wow, F1 really hates us” part of the story: COTA tickets. Word got out in early December that tickets were on sale for the U.S. Grand Prix, and general admission (which doesn’t assign a specific grandstand but allows for entrance to the circuit) ballooned to around $475 a piece. This, of course, doesn’t include all of the other odds and ends associated with being physically at a GP, nor things like lodging and travel.

I’m far from the first person to mention this (and EF fave Elizabeth Blackstock has an excellent piece on the subject), but Formula 1 is very quickly trying to price out the vast majority of fans from engaging with its races IRL (especially on this side of the pond, since F1 sees Americans as nothing but a quick cash grab) as well as extensions of fandom like merch. It doesn’t really care about us, as in the collective F1 fanbase; it only cares about the present-day Richie Riches who can line their pockets immediately. I don’t have anything new to say on this front, so I’d recommend re-reading my discussion from earlier this year with RACEWKND publisher Magnus Greaves about why this is.

Frankly, I’m never quite sure what to say when it comes to things like overpriced tickets and a bullshit claim of political neutrality. Obviously, the easy statement would be for everyone to boycott Formula 1, and while that’s ideal from a change-making perspective, it’s not realistic. If you want to stop watching the sport over this, I respect that.

And while many will say that there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism, I do believe in conducting tiny acts of resistance where you can in life. To start, while I am certainly not co-signing this, I am once again accidentally dropping a link to all of these alternative Formula 1 streams online so you don't have to give the official sports people your money. Whoops!

Additionally, as I’ve also long advocated, there are other ways to support people in the sport of F1 who aren’t directly associated with the Formula 1 org or the FIA. Instead of spending your time consuming media from “official” F1 sources (quite a bit of that stuff is relatively mid and repetitive anyway), I’d recommend supporting independently created content from women, people of color and LGBTQIA+ folks. If you and your friends like watching F1 races at a particular bar or restaurant, behave yourselves when present and tip the service workers generously; see how else you can support these small businesses that make this sports fandom a little more joyful. Instead of buying overpriced and incredibly subpar official F1 team merch, seek out options from smaller creators. (I promise their stuff is much cooler 99% of the time.)

I’m definitely curious to see how all of these latest issues shake out in 2023. We’ll keep an eye on them.


You Get a Gift, You Get a Gift, and You Get a Gift!

It’s too late to get gifts in time for Christmas, but for those who are looking for future Formula 1-related presents (either to get someone else or to tell your loved ones to get you), Kat Gillespie over at New York’s The Strategist put together this phenomenal F1-themed gift roundup. I contributed quite a bit to it (Kat made me sound incredibly smart!), and many EF faves are also mentioned throughout.

Part of the reason I was able to get featured so much was because Kat happened to email me asking for recs right as I was putting together the EF gift guide, so I sent her…probably 20 different products. Here are a few of my other favorites that either didn’t make the cut on her end or I didn’t send over since I’d already drafted a truly absurd email to her:

  • Sundays Are For F1 glasses: The shop is currently taking a break, but I just got one of these and I’m obsessed. Opt in for a notification to get alerted the next time they’re in stock!

  • Golde matcha: This isn’t F1-specific, but I drink at least two mugs of matcha during every quali session and race and therefore find it vital to my personal F1 experience. Golde is my favorite brand, and they bamboozled me into also loving their vegan coconut collagen boost (I got it for free once during a marketing promotion) even though the study of collagen supplement benefits is spotty at best. Still, it’s tasty AF!

And thanks again for the great list, Kat!

An IndyCar Discussion For, Like, 2 Seconds

I’ve got three IndyCar quick hit for y’all (and get ready for a little more IndyCar content in 2023, though F1 will always be my problematic fave):

1. IndyCar greenlit its own Drive to Survive-esque docuseries, which they’re producing with VICE to air on The CW. For whatever reason, a larger portion of the population still believes that The CW is a ~young person’s network~, but I’m here to tell you that its average viewer age is 58. In fact, The CW is switching its entire programming strategy and getting rid of most of those superhero shows (and finally putting Riverdale out of its misery) in 2023. No idea how this IndyCar series will do, but there you have it.

2. We could see a lot more IndyCar floating around, because the series is reportedly expanding its marketing budget big-time. However, that doesn’t mean the money will be used effectively or build a fanbase quickly, so we’ll see how the higher-ups handle it when frustration no doubt sets in.

3. On the pop culture front: IndyCar drivers talked about the bands or singers they listen to, and Callum Ilott revealed his “Depresso Espresso” playlist, which I of course dug up for y’all. The man is an emo kid at heart! (His not-so-secret “Top Secret” playlist has a little too much XXXTENTACION for my taste though.)

(And in case you were feeling extra nosy, his girlfriend Caterina Masetti Zannini, whom some of y’all also know as Pierre Gasly’s ex Cat 1.0, also has two public playlists to check out: “Flight Mode” and “Best of Rap”. I…have to disagree and say that this playlist is not the best of rap. But to each her own!)

F1 Goes to Paris…With Emily

Thank you to everyone who DM’d me to let me know that Emily in Paris, the Netflix show that makes everyone I know want to throw their TVs out their windows, had an entire episode (note: this link contains season three episode six spoilers) centered on a McLaren party. The series even mentioned an F1 Grand Prix!

Obviously, my extremely nosy self wants to know how McLaren weaseled its way onto this program and if F1 and/or Liberty Media had any say too. (Or does the Emily in Paris writers room have a massive Formula 1 fan in it? Who knows!) 

But on top of that, this little Formula 1 interlude is yet another example of how the sport is finding itself into larger mainstream culture, particularly here in the States. Obviously Emily in Paris is streamed elsewhere in the world, but it holds a certain very specific and chaotic place in 2020s American pop culture.

As for me, I’ll continue to be the show’s Chief Outfit Hater who’s never actually watched it!

My Favorite 2022 Engine Failure Issues

I published somewhere in the ballpark of 35+ EF issues in 2022, so let’s look back on a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for ways to put off hanging out with your loved ones this holiday season (I get it, they can be overwhelming even if you like ‘em!), these are the places to start:

It was a fun time!

Like what you see? Check out other recent Engine Failure issues, check out the EF website, join EF’s Patreon, and then forward this newsletter to a friend because you're a nice person who wants to see me ~succeed~:

And if you have tips, suggestions, theories, intel, gossip, or questions, tweet me, DM me, send me an email, or use EF’s anonymous tip box.

Just when I thought we were finally done with the musical chairs of Formula 1, the team principals decided they wanted to get in on the action. We had a number of big team principal moves in the span of 36 hours last week, so let’s quickly go through what changed:

  • Jost Capito is stepping away from Williams because #reasons. At this time, no one has been named as his successor.

  • Andreas Seidl is moseying on over to the CEO role at Sauber, which is connected to Alfa Romeo but not its team principal position; that hasn’t been announced yet. This is all very confusing.

  • To make matters ever more perplexing, McLaren replaced Andreas with a man named Andrea. I literally can’t make this shit up. But anyway, his name is Andrea Stella. And yes, this means that the F1 grid has more Andrea(s) than women leading teams now. It’s like Formula 1’s own version of the Fortune 500 John Problem.

I need a nap, y’all.

It wouldn’t be a final 2022 issue of EF without a little look into the world of F1 sponcon. Most of today’s feature is about the WAGs, but I’ll have plenty to say about drivers’ sponsored content efforts in 2023.

What’s Up With Charlotte?

A lot of you have DM’d me asking for thoughts on the state of Charlotte’s sponcon and ~brand~ after she and Charles broke up a few weeks ago. I don’t like to talk too much about ex-WAGs for a variety of reasons, but here are a few short things to consider when looking at the bigger picture:

1. Anyone who still follows Charlotte on social media knows her aesthetic has shifted pretty abruptly. It’s a lot of glamorous nights out, shots of her nails, and plenty of outfits. I respect her move to try and Win The Breakup™! Seriously, do you, Char!

2. In terms of the numbers surrounding ex-F1 WAGs’ Instagram followings, we’ve typically seen a drop of 10,000-20,000 followers when all is said and done, though some with larger followings have experienced losses of up to 40,000. Charlotte’s following actually went up by about 6,000 users in the immediate aftermath of the breakup news before coming down. She’s lost about 17,000 followers since her peak a few weeks ago.

3. When it comes to any sponcon deals, it’ll be at least a few months before we see the impact. At this point, Charlotte likely has a lot of contracts already signed for the coming weeks and months, and many won’t be canceled because of this. Probably the most recent WAG who really changed her tune following an F1 driver breakup was Pierre Gasly’s ex Katerina Berezhna, who was initially putting out quite a few brand collabs and other more minor sponcon after their conscious uncoupling in early 2022. However, she just spent the fall living in Malibu, went MIA quite a bit, and now mostly promotes her own jewelry line. (For more on F1 WAG jewelry lines, check out this feature from almost a year ago.)

Also, we have no idea what Charlotte wants either! Maybe she decided to step away from the professional influencer life entirely after her breakup with Charles; I don’t want to discount her autonomy in this. We’ll never know where those lines are in this situation, but I’ll keep y’all posted if something ultra-dramatic changes.

A Quick Word on Kelly’s Health Promotion

I don’t want to linger too much on Kelly Piquet since I spent plenty of time on her above, but she’s got a little sponcon situation surfacing. For context: Kelly didn't post a lot of social media this fall; she finally got back on the ‘gram in November and alluded to ongoing health issues. Obviously, that information is hers to share or keep private; I certainly do not think we’re entitled to it.

However, I noticed that on all three separate occasions that Kelly brought up her health concerns on Instagram Stories, they were to promote a health-related product or service. The first time it happened months ago, she tagged questionable health coach Jenn Cino (I talked about that at length here) in a Q&A post, and the more recent second time was to promote a hair stylist in Monaco who uses a product line that “detoxifies the hair bulbs.” But in December, she posted a third time to promote vitamin IV drips from a service called White Night.

Several healthcare professionals, including doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses, have confirmed for me that all of this accessory fluff around the IV drip itself is entirely medically unnecessary, and these boutique IV services in general are questionable at best.

Y’all know my Rule of Threes: The first time something happens, it’s an incident. The second time, a coincidence. The third time, a pattern. We’re dangerously close to reaching trend territory here…

The Best/Worst of WAGs Sponcon

While drivers certainly post sponsored content and comped goods and services on their social media pages, the significant others had a pretty game-changing year as far as their stock in the sport and the world of sponcon are concerned. Let’s do a quick commemoration of who really nailed it this year and who needs to step it up in 2023.

A Great Sponcon Year

Let's talk about the standouts in no particular order:

1. Carmen Montero Mundt: In my opinion, Carmen is the grid’s 2022 It Girl, and there’s a high probability she retains that spot in 2023. She made her Instagram public towards the start of the season and hasn’t looked back since. I’ve said on numerous occasions (including during my podcast convo with TG1F’s Kate Lizotte) that Carmen is playing the smartest game in terms of her digital presence, strategy, and work with brands. I have a feeling next year will be telling in terms of if she continues to rise or if she falters the way other WAGs have in terms of getting too sponcon-happy.

2. Lily He: I’m not just putting her on this list simply because she has good taste in first names. Lily He has always been a star, but we’ve seen her more and more as the year has gone on, and we’re better for it. She’s personable, fashionable, smart, and media-trained, not to mention her and BF Alex Albon are adorable do-gooders.

3. Tiffany Cromwell: Tiff was also a fave last year in 2021, but her and Valtteri are building an mini empire at this point. She promoted a few of her cycling sponsors alongside several products her and Valtteri created, and I love it.

Honorable Mention...Elena Berri: While I find Lily He’s TikTok much funnier, Esteban Ocon’s girlfriend Elena Berri uses her account a lot more frequently, and she’s really come into her own in 2022 in terms of owning her rich European influencer vibes. She’s not trying to be anything she isn't and I appreciate that. Plus, I love that she's starting to post a little more Esteban aside her various brand stuff.

A Not-So-Great Sponcon Year

Many of these won’t be a surprise, but in no particular order:

1. Isa Hernaez: I’ve briefly mentioned this before in a previous EF issue, but Isa’s problem is she’s not being discerning enough with her partnerships anymore. Just about everything she posts on Instagram nowadays is sponsored content or a comped gift or service, and that leads to lost relatability and intrigue over time. Let's hope she gets some of it back in 2023.

2. Charlotte Sine: She’s off the grid now, but as I’ve documented for months, Charlotte Sine had a rough 2022 in terms of figuring out her influencer ~brand~, and I’m hopeful that not being in the limelight as much in 2023 allows her the space to take a break, step away, get some more support, and figure a few things out.

3. Kelly Piquet: Similar to Charlotte, while I wouldn’t say everything has been horrific, there’ve been some incredibly tough points for Kelly on the sponcon front, and this magazine cover (though not sponcon itself) is only putting those difficult moves under a microscope.

Lewis Hamilton closed out the 2022 year being a little too obsessed with this pink jacket on a recent trip to New York City where, if the plastic wrap on his leg via Instagram Stories was any indication, he got a new tattoo...and carried around this exact Hot Girl Jug a lot.

Lewis was on a bit of a journey this year in terms of his racing but also (more important to this newsletter) his fashion. We started 2022 off strong and then slowly ended in little more than a whimper as far as his sartorial choices were concerned. However, all of his efforts led to a mention in the New York Times’ list of the 93 Most Stylish People of 2022. (Also, NYT’s fashion director and chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman wrote in the publication’s fashion newsletter Open Thread that Lewis’ mention received the most unanimous approval from readers. The Times is a mess, but it appears its fashion-aware subscribers are people of #taste.)

What do I think Lewis will wear in 2023? I’ll have more on that in the new year. Considering my predictions last year were actually pretty damn accurate (longtime readers will remember the red Alexander McQueen suit aka the time I peaked), I want to pump my ego up more by guessing again.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but blue-and-white-striped shirts have been dethroned as George Russell’s favorite apparel. Instead, they’ve recently been replaced by this $3,700 Brunello Cucinelli Shawl Collar Wool Blend Cardigan in the shade white blue (though it looks more gray from afar). But don’t worry, if you don’t have that much money lying around for a sweater, you can buy this other similar Brunello Cucinelli cardigan for…$2,000.

And because most of y’all likely don’t have that kind of mad money to drop on some cashmere, here are a few options from George’s preferred brands (Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren) as well as some other designers. You too will look like you’re perpetually running for an imaginary class president race in no time:

(And thank you to the Sleutheria DM for indulging me when I asked for some help finding this!!!!)

Here’s the last menagerie of Carmen OOTDs to round out this year! I feel like 2021 was a real breakaway style year for Carlos Sainz’s GF Isa Hernaez, but 2022 belonged solely to George Russell’s girlf Carmen Monteo Mundt. She was truly in a league of her own from start to finish, from that blue-and-white-striped Tommy Hilfiger dress at the Miami Grand Prix to the vintage Versace number at the recent Autosport Awards. Plus, she’s built a special relationship with high-end fashion house Brunello Cucinelli, the headquarters of which she and George visited this week.

As I said in my sponcon section, of all of the WAGs on the grid, she’s the one I’m most intrigued by heading into the 2023 season.

Comrades, it pains me to say this, but it appears that I was wrong about motorcore. I know!!!! I’m never, ever wrong!!!!! I’ve never made a single misstep in my entire life!!!!!

If you want a recap on the motorcore trend forecasting and my agita with it, you can go to this newsletter from last month. But here’s the tea: You know how sometimes you hear about something and then you suddenly see it everywhere? That’s me with motorcore now. Every biddy in the club is dressing in motorcycle jackets and gas station sunglasses (the latter of which I still maintain is more of a NASCAR vibe than an F1 one). Bella Hadid! Dior! Lily Collins! Hello Kitty! Kylie Jenner! And of course, we can’t ignore the fact that Kelly Piquet is dressed in literal motorsports gear for her Vogue Netherlands spread.

I need a damn drink.

It’s been a while since we’ve discussed the whereabouts of our favorite metaphorical parents. Tiff and Val have been busy in the Land Down Under (Undah? Unduh?) for the past several weeks. There’s a mullet involved and a lot of alcohol, but they look content and fulfilled. I’m still upset by the lack of Oath Gin in my presence, but I’ll live.

And speaking of alcohol brands on the Alfa Romeo team, Val’s teammate Zhou Guanyu announced a partnership with Hennessy this week (in an incredible suit, of course). I need a collab here in 2023 or else I’m gonna be big mad!!!!

Carlos has been largely MIA this winter break, which is typical of him (he usually does a bigger photo and video dump later on in the off-season), but the end of 2022 has meant a lot of Qs about the state of the Carlos Sainz Denim Watch and what the chaotic last nine months mean.

I’ll have a full analysis in the new year! But one thing is for sure: Fred Vasseur’s first order of business as Ferrari head is to burn all of Carlos’ other pants options for race weekends that aren’t mid-wash skinny jeans. I will accept nothing less. (Oh, and Fred can toss these pants from Charles Leclerc too.)

The trailer for the tennis version of Drive to Survive is here. It was a very Formula 1 Secret Santa. Oh hey, a first look at McLaren’s Formula E Gen3 car. This isn’t Max Verstappen’s best fit. Alex Palou is bringing the goss on his IndyCar kerfuffle…kind of. Group B Rally was absolutely batshit. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz attempted to make gingerbread houses. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo did some bad lip reading. Kelly Piquet got the People treatment. Who on the grid likes to gamble? NYT discovered that Max Verstappen had a good season, to put it mildly. The 12 Days of (F1) Christmas. I’m sick of musical chairs. Lissie Mackintosh is making cool shit happen in the sport. More about Haas’ Rich Energy dumpster fire. One of my longtime favorite non-F1 creators talked about Formula 1 fashion and luxury. Max Verstappen had some thoughts on the second driver role. What can you get for $1 million at the Las Vegas GP? Here’s what went right and wrong for every 2022 F1 team. Bridgerton’s Simone Ashley posted photos of that boyfriend she initially met at the Monaco Grand Prix. Enjoy some outtakes.

Thank you to everyone who wrote into last issue’s Conspiracy Corner question: Much like I say that Max Verstappen is the ultimate enemies-to-lovers hero, I believe Logan Sargeant is in need of a romance novel trope. Which one best suits him and his potential arc — and why?

Romance readers came through as always:

  • Rachel: Considering how little we actually know about his real personality (praying that what we’re seeing isn’t all of it), it needs to be a forced proximity/arranged marriage.

  • Emma: Handsome heartthrob who is lusted/crushed over from afar until the lead realizes he has no substance and that they would rather be with their quirky, longtime friend. Think Princess Diaries.

  • Andie: Amnesia — maybe he’d become more lovable in a vulnerable state, like Eric from True Blood.

  • Byrd: Is “the guy Meg Ryan dumps in Sleepless in Seattle, not because he’s BAD necessarily but because he’s just not the guy for her and also allergic to EVERYTHING” a trope?

  • Becca: Logan Sargeant is a Hallmark hero. You meet him when you are stranded in Florida because of a holiday hurricane; his favorite fishing spot is right next to your hotel. You hit it off because you also love fishing (?) and things are going well, but then you have a fight. You storm off and he realizes (almost too late) that you are headed to the airport, takes the Williams F1 car conveniently parked in his garage, and races to intercept you. You make up and decide to quit your big city job and move to Florida to discover the real meaning of...I don’t know what, but now you can go to all the F1 races! Stay tuned for Williams' new exclusive line of F1 greeting cards!

  • Elena: Logan is the boring or objectionable current fiancé who the protagonist’s family expects her to marry. She instead meets her true love (former enemy, reformed rake, etc.) and jilts him. Now he either will fade into obscurity or become more compelling and relatable as the male lead in the sequel.

  • Debbie: Logan screams marriage of convenience. Duke Sargeant is a dull, boring, penniless lord with a crumbling estate and mysterious family shenanigans, and this weighs so much on him that he has no fun, no personality, only stress about the future. His only hope is to marry the clever, bubbly, and quirky Miss Dorilton Williams (Dory to her friends), an heiress from the merchant class who teaches him to…actually have a personality?

  • Hannah: Reverse Pretty Woman. We haven’t had an American in F1 in a loooong time and he’s from Florida of all places! He needs a European Carmen-esque heroine (or hero) to be the Henry Higgins to his Eliza Doolittle as he adjusts to…Not America.

  • Sumayyah: Billionaire romance, because obviously he will become very rich racing in F1 (unless he sucks), and as much as I love a billionaire romance sometimes, those men usually have the personality of a dead fish.

  • Ellie: Bland and boring guy but secret spy/leads some kind of double life and so makes himself instantly *forgettable* to fly under the radar. Falls in love in his other life obvs.

  • Valerye: Rich versus poor/forbidden love. His parents control all he does and want him to marry a rich girl with a certain background and then he meets a hardworking girl whom he immediately falls for.

  • Maggie: Logan Sargeant is the quintessential "friend-zoned" boy pining after his childhood bestie. She eventually falls for the dark-haired, smoldering, funny man and he ends up nursing his broken heart in the second, less successful book in the series with a side character who was mentioned maybe once or twice in the first book. You read the second book because the first one was amazing, but you really do not care what happens to this couple. Reasoning is based on hair color alone.

  • Lisa: For me, Logan is “there's only one bed.” He seems silly enough to forget to book his room for a race weekend and comes knocking on your door because you're the nearest to the breakfast buffet. He probably cuddles in his sleep.

  • Jo: He's the rich boy with a heart of gold who Daddy cut off and now he's learning the true value of a dollar.

  • Nina: Logan strikes me as a best friend’s brother type of guy. Because his siblings prefer the unnoticed life, you make friends with his younger sister, and when the time strikes for the first-ever sleepover, you are baffled by his presence at the dinner table and the forbidden romance starts over the question of salt.

  • Becca: Logan breaks the internet when rumors surface that he’s head over heels for his new girlf Greta Thunberg. His bad politics get a much-needed makeover and this unsuspecting Florida Man picks up Sebastian Vettel’s socially conscious torch in the paddock.

  • Shannon: Logan's lack of media spark is ripe for a fake dating storyline. What better way to jazz up a boring pretty boy than with a dynamic romantic attachment to endear him to the fans?

Editor’s note: I never realized this until this Conspiracy Corner that Logan gives excellent “second book in a Regency romance series” energy or perhaps Benedict/Gregory Bridgerton energy (minus the hobbies). He also sort of reminds me of every Ali Hazelwood hero, which is another option. (But for any Williams-associated people who may be reading this, the fake dating suggestion at the end is actually a good one!!!! Think of what a well-placed PR relationship could do!!!! I would immediately know that it’s a PR relationship, but I promise not to spoil that for my readership so we can all live in this fun fantasy world for a second!!!)

Today’s question: What’s your wildest (and yet also slightly plausible in a dream world) prediction for the 2023 season? It can be an on- or off-track scenario!

Submit your answer here.

Photo credits: Arran & Jules, Vogue Netherlands, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas, EleganceJewelryArt, Style Drop Shop, Callum Ilott, IndyCar, Emily in Paris, Carlos Sainz, Logan Sargeant, Max Verstappen, Ferrari, McLaren, Charlotte Sine, Kelly Piquet, Lily He, Elena Berri, Tiffany Cromwell, Isa Hernaez, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Carmen Montero Mundt, GQ, WhoWhatWear, and Valtteri Bottas.

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