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Thoughts on the Spon and the Con

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.

Welcome back, icons! Unfortunately, it has just been Stress McMessy in these parts during September, but hey, that means an extra-long issue of Engine Failure for all of you. Y’all didn’t even know that you wanted 8,000 words of vroom-vroom nonsense, but here you are. And guess what? There maaaaaay be a little something else coming later this week.

Before we get going, I’d like to say a big thank you to Nick Quah for putting Choosing Sides: F1 on Vulture’s list of the Best Podcasts of 2022 (So Far)! What a nice thing to do! Thank you, Nick! And for the rest of y’all, stay tuned for our season finale tomorrow. It’s a bit of a ride. (Pun very much intended.)

Anyway, let’s gab for a bit about Things™.

Nyck Nation

By popular demand, I’ve decided not to relegate our newest Short King™ to the silly season section of today’s newsletter and instead give him top billing. Friends, it’s time to talk about the man of last weekend, 27-year-old Williams (or should I say Wyllyams?) reserve driver (dryver?) Nyck de Vries.

As this newsletter has already documented, I’ve been on the Nyck train for quite some time. He’s worked with Mercedes in testing and reserve driving capacities for a while now (as well as Aston Martin this season), and he also won Formula 2 back in 2019 before getting the Formula E crown in 2021. Of course, folks have a lot of feelings about Nyck. Some say his particular season of F2 wasn’t especially competitive (I mean, Nicholas Latifi came in second, after all) and was marred by the tragic death of Anthoine Hubert. Moreover, much can be said about the competitiveness of Formula E, but there are people far more qualified to discuss that than me. I will readily admit where I lack range.

All this to say: I’m definitely intrigued.

As we know, I don’t comment on races themselves too much in EF (mostly because you can find endless recaps and analysis elsewhere on the internet), but to put it simply: Nyck de Vries had a good chance in Monza to show that he could rise to the occasion; as Marshall Bruce Mathers III famously rapped, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime. He drove a car not entirely fitted for him (and instead made for someone who’s 6’1, no less), earned points (plural!), and out-qualified and outscored his veteran teammate. There’s something to be said for getting shit done when you’ve just gotta put it all out there. He lost himself in the music! The moment! He owned it! He never, ever let it go!

I’m not sure if we’ll see Nyck on the grid next year, but I think he made the most compelling case possible for getting his shot. Just as significantly though, even if he doesn’t end up in Formula 1, he could’ve very directly been the final blow to GOATifi’s F1 career. Woof.

And to answer all of the questions you gossip mavens definitely have, here are the quick facts about Nyck’s Extracurryculars™:

  • His full name is actually Hendrik Johannes Nicasius de Vries. I shall call him Hendrik going forward only in moments of extreme jubilation or anguish.

  • Because I know y’all will ask: Nyck has been dating Eva Bruggenwirth for several years. According to her IG, she’s a social media and content assistant for the jewelry, clothing, and homeware brand Anna + Nina. Eva and someone named Francis Bruggenwirth (her mother, perhaps?) also ran a small mohair knits line called GUAPALANA, but the account hasn’t posted anything in nine months. Eva also stopped promoting it in her IG bio several months ago, but she lists it as a current project on LinkedIn.

  • Nyck has several interesting sponsors, most notably Dyson. My college friend Jackson watched his first F1 race with me last weekend and kept referring to Nyck as Mr. Clean, which is apt.

  • His sister is Seychelle de Vries, who previously dated George Russell before they broke up and he started seeing Carmen Montero Mundt. Nyck and Seychelle are apparently very close. I wonder if the Merc garage was ever awkward.

Anyway, good luck to this dude!

Lando and Luisa Called It Quits

News dropped earlier this month that Lando Norris and his gf of just over a year, Luisa Barosa Oliveira, broke up. The announcement came in strange fashion: Lando posted an Instagram Story for about an hour that read, “Hello everyone. After time and consideration Luisa and myself have mutually decided to end our romantic relationship but remain good friends. I wish her the world and have so much respect for her and all she does as such an amazing and strong [woman] with nothing but kindness. Pls respect our decision and respect our but more importantly and especially her privacy moving forward. Thank you for your endless support.” He deleted it soon after.

Even weeks later, there’s been tons of chatter around what exactly went down and if other parties were involved; if you really want to read up on that, you can go to the various tabloid cesspools here, here, here, and here. But to get this out of the way: I’m not going to speculate on why the breakup happened or if anyone was at fault. To be frank, 22-year-olds are just messy creatures by nature. Hell, when I was 22, I spent a few dates infatuated with a consultant I called Bro Chris who once admitted to puking in his bed after a night out and then deciding to sleep in it. We all make mistakes! You too have your own metaphorical Bro Chrises™! I hope both Lando and Luisa have support systems to help them through whatever’s going on here, and my wish for anyone coming out of a breakup is that they remember the good times, learn from the bad times, and move on to something better.

But onto what I actually want to talk about: The anatomy of a “celebrity” breakup. What exactly happened here? A few thoughts that come to mind:

1. Everybody was up in my DMs asking for my thoughts on Lando posting and then deleting his IG Story. I think there are a few things that could’ve happened.

  • Option 1: Lando very intentionally knew that word would spread after a couple of minutes, so he deleted the post relatively quickly. That said, I personally don’t think Lando is cunning enough for this; I’m just listing it as a possibility.

  • Option 2: Either Luisa and/or his PR team asked him to take it down for whatever reason.

  • Option 3: Lando himself came to his senses and decided that putting his personal business all over the internet wasn’t worth it. 

2. Why announce a breakup at all? To be honest, I’m not really sure. Plenty of F1 couples have fizzled out over time, and often we either don’t know until someone gets a new partner or one of the many IG WAG accounts receives word (typically from the former WAG in question or someone close to her). Again, I have theories:

  • Option 1: Lando has an especially young and rabid fanbase (many of whom were awful to Luisa during their time together), so perhaps he thought that putting something out there would end some of the speculation and allow her to move on without getting hounded. (Unfortunately, I don’t think that’d be the case regardless.)

  • Option 2: Maybe some of the rumors that Lando was in contact with other women were true, and he thought saying something would make it seem less sketchy timeline-wise. (Again, I’m not sure this would’ve done anything anyway, but hey, no one ever said 22-year-old men were smart.)

Regardless, another couple on the grid bites the dust. I’ll miss talking about Luisa’s love of matching sets and occasionally affordable clothing! As for Lando, we’ll get into what I’m calling his Fuccboi Fall in an upcoming newsletter. There's just too much to say on that front and we've got a lot of other stuff to yell about first.

Kelly Piquet’s Reaches the Big 1 Mil

Let’s move on to other WAG happenings, starting with Max Verstappen’s girlfriend Kelly Piquet reaching one million followers on Instagram over the Dutch GP weekend. Off the bat, it looks on the surface like Kelly gained this audience organically over time (i.e. not through buying tons of bots all of a sudden). Some folks may roll their eyes, but the speed at which WAGs grow their followings on social media — particularly Instagram — is yet another metric to look at when assessing the sport’s ever-expanding fandom. 

I’m preaching to the choir here, but people who ignore the growing public interest in the F1 WAGs do so at their own peril. Not only are many of these women eschewing their other jobs (if they had any to begin with) to become full-blown influencers off of the increased attention, but there’s a lot to unpack in people (especially women) basing their public profiles on the careers of the men they’re romantically attached to. (It’s a complex topic that the honorary FGSS major in me loves to think about!) Not to mention, it appears that opportunities beget opportunities even for former WAGs, so if they do break up with their respective drivers, they’re still able to use that momentum to a varying extent.

It doesn’t surprise me that Kelly reached this follower benchmark first though. Before she started dating the current reigning world champion, she was in the F1-adjacent spotlight for a while between her various social media duties for different motorsports series, her famous (er, infamous?) Formula 1 family, and her ex, F1 driver Daniil Kvyat (with whom she has a child). She even signed with a model/influencer firm this year to represent her and expand her opportunities.

There are two things I’m keeping an eye on as Kelly’s influence in the sport and outside of it grows:

  • What responsibilities does she have to followers? This conversation started to come up around Kelly’s dad’s recent racism scandal, and that’ll be far from the last time we question what she should or shouldn’t be doing or saying.

  • What happens if Kelly (or any WAG, for that matter) breaks up with the driver they're dating? Again, we're seeing this play out elsewhere on the grid in real time.

We’ll come back to Kelly in a second. First, let’s talk about the world of WAG sponsored content — particularly the ordeal that Charlotte Sine recently found herself in.

Charlotte Sine’s Sunday Riley Sponsored Content Debacle

So…we need to talk about Charles Leclerc’s girlfriend Charlotte Sine, because out of any WAG on the grid, she’s caused me the most agita over the past month and a half and has made the biggest play to become an influencer in 2022 (even more so than Kelly Piquet). Not to mention, y’all DM’d and emailed me with SO MANY QUESTIONS about Charlotte’s sponcon mess over the Monza race weekend. It’s time to chat.

There are three things I want to make clear before we dive into this topic:

  • Charlotte is young, but she’s still a full-fledged adult; in fact, she turned 23 today. There’s a tendency to infatalize some of the drivers and WAGs when these are very much autonomous adult beings fully capable of facing criticism from fellow autonomous adult beings.

  • Charlotte chose to be an influencer; it’s a career path she very much opted into and didn’t have to enter from a place of necessity. As such, her content — the product she’s using to sell to us and make money from — is up for thoughtful critique. We’ll use her work as a jumping-off point, but as always, my aim is to use these situations to discuss culture at large.

  • Charlotte comes from a wealthy background and has access to resources that the vast majority of people in the world don’t — including many of her followers who are at the receiving end of her (sometimes problematic) messaging. To be frank, I have a more vested interest in centering their well-being.

Now, let’s dive in.

Charlotte’s been doing an increasingly large amount of sponsored content over the past year, which I’ve tracked at various points throughout this newsletter. After Kelly, she’s the most-followed WAG on the grid and is dating one of the sport’s most popular drivers. 

There’ve been ongoing smaller criticisms of her work here and there, but a lot of those talking points came to a head two weekends ago when she did a campaign with the skincare brand Sunday Riley that was very much directly tied to her attending Monza as Charles' girlfriend. In fact, the sponcon was centered on the idea of “joining Charlotte behind the scenes” for race day. (It should also be noted that Sunday Riley was accused by an American government agency of writing fake product reviews a few years ago. So, uh, we’re not off to a great start there.)

To go through what the basic campaign was: On top of Charlotte posting about the brand at various points over the last few months, this particular engagement appeared to require her to talk about Sunday Riley on several of her own Instagram Stories throughout the weekend and then post a giveaway on her feed after race day. On top of that, she participated in a “Q&A” (it was only six pre-written questions and very stale answers, plus a few shots of Monza) on the Sunday Riley Europe Instagram page. Lastly, to add more context, she’s managed by a company called E-Idols that claims to be “Monaco’s first influencer agency” that’s supposed to help with these sorts of endeavors.

A bunch of things went awry that I want to unpack here:

1. For those who don’t understand the sponcon game, everything with these types of engagements is entirely preplanned. The questions that’ll be asked, the answers that’ll be given, the look of the posts, all of it is entirely staged about 90% of the time if there’s an influencer involved. 

That’s not the issue here for me; the problem is that Charlotte’s posts didn’t look genuine. As you can see from the screenshots, the copy reads like an ad that no one proofread, and some of the answers appear a little audience-unaware. I actually don’t entirely fault Charlotte for this; it’s up to her management (in this case, E-Idols) to keep stuff like this from happening. This just seems like amateur hour and influencer 101 that they should’ve nailed.

2. Speaking to the issues of authenticity, there are few things that were just off about what went down here in terms of brand fit, and they’re classic influencer mistakes. For one thing, much of Charlotte’s particular audience (even within F1) skews young; I don’t know how the average teen girl or young woman in her early twenties is going to buy multiple $100+ skincare products, nor do I think they even need them. (Preventative skincare like wearing sunscreen and finding a solid moisturizer is good! In contrast, using roughly $800 worth of lotions and creams isn’t necessary!) This just doesn’t seem like the best fit for her specific followers.

And on top of that, quite a few people pointed out the harm in Charlotte claiming during this campaign she wears no practically no makeup on a daily basis. I’ve got lots to say about the bullshit associated with the whole “no-makeup makeup” look and its newer “clean girl” aesthetic rebranding, but let’s be real here: We know from photos elsewhere Charlotte wears more makeup than that, and by her own admission in this same sponcon campaign and her IG Stories at large, she has access to regular spa skincare treatments that the average person doesn’t. There is nothing wrong with wanting to wear makeup, letting it be visible, and using it for self-expression; trying to pretend otherwise just sets up an unrealistic beauty standard for everybody else (especially young women). The same goes for those spa days: They're great! But they're not a typical ongoing indulgence for the vast majority of people who want to change something about their skin!

3. Sponcon quality and intention aside, social media users and practically every Discord I’m in began debating something we’ve talked about in this newsletter for over a year: How much should WAGs be “allowed” to use their F1 driver partners for their own direct professional, personal, and financial gain? (I say “allowed” with an eye roll, but ANYWAY…)

To be clear, all WAGs with social media benefit from their associations with drivers; it’s just a matter of how much or if they want to use that bump in attention for anything. Moreover, WAGs of popular (and/or extremely visible) drivers tend to get an extra boost.

However, I’m more fascinated by the fact that it seems like some folks who follow the F1 WAGs have certain purity tests surrounding how these women should interact with the sport and their respective driver partners. (And as we know, all kinds of cultural purity tests end up having inherently problematic elements.) Let's get into that.

What Are Other WAGs Doing With Sponcon?

In Charlotte’s defense, most of the WAGs aren’t especially good at sponcon compared to many of the professional fashion and beauty influencers I know, but they also aren't doing anything too out of the norm, especially for influencers who come from more privileged backgrounds. For instance, I got a kick out of Kelly Piquet going to a friend’s wedding over the weekend with Max and then spending the next day posting Instagram Stories that tagged the hotel she was staying at for the event. (The cheapest option for that particular establishment starts at just under $700 per night, so no, I don’t think most of her followers could afford to travel to the South of France and then shack up there. But hey, she likely got a comped visit out of it.)

Kelly’s integration of Max into her feed has been slow ‘n’ steady for almost two years now, but she’s still never done a campaign with him or the grid. The closest she got was doing some work with APM Monaco during the Monaco Grand Prix, but that was more about her wearing their diamonds to some other non-race events around the same time. Still, I don’t think Kelly is especially interested in offering affordable sponcon brands to followers or closely connecting with folks who are fans, but considering her position in the sport, I don’t blame her for the latter (as I don't blame Charlotte either).

Who is generally seen as doing the best job with sponcon on the WAGs grid? I’d say Carlos Sainz’s girlfriend Isa Hernaez comes up a lot. Isa has moved from her job in fashion PR to more full-time influencing, and no one seems all that bothered by it. There are a few reasons for this.

First, Isa did have a job in the space for several years and seemed incredibly passionate about it; the switch over to largely fashion influencing seems like a natural fit. Not to mention, her sponcon is often a little more engaging since it features videos, different camera shots, and a little more going on. Something else she’s done that’s super smart is use her access and knowledge of the industry to give followers an inside scoop in ways that go beyond just hocking products. For instance, she’s gotten invites to go backstage at a number of Madrid Fashion Week events and shows over the past few days and genuinely provided a few interesting tidbits of what goes on when creating these extravaganzas.

Second, by the questionable purity standards, Isa has made it clear that she's her own person away from the track. She rarely posts anything directly about Carlos or racing aside from if he wins or gets a podium. At most, she’ll post an IG Story or two from the Ferrari garage or celebrate his quali or race.

And third (related to the above point), none of her sponcon is at all related to her partner or his career in any way (so far). As such, the general internet consensus is that Isa is a “good” WAG on Instagram. She stays in her lane, which was already a natural extension of her established career, and everything she posts feels like a smart piece of that.

All of that said, I believe what irked quite a few people about this Sunday Riley stuff at its core is they feel like Charlotte crossed the supposed third rail of F1 WAGdom: Never make money for yourself directly off of your boyfriend’s driving if it's in the name of being an influencer. Now, should that be the case? That’s something we all need to think about, especially if we’re applying that sort of standard to Charlotte and not to others. Moreover, the WAGs are quickly becoming part of some of these drivers' brands without the same issue. Where do they factor in when the roles are reversed? (One of these days I'd also love to cover Tiffany Cromwell more extensively. She's in a far more interesting position from this standpoint than almost any WAG.)

Is Charlotte the Only One Running Things Here?

The other piece of this puzzle that I briefly mentioned earlier was the fact that Charlotte is working with an influencer agency called E-Idols to make these deals happen. E-Idols proudly bills itself as Monaco’s first influencer agency and is run by a mysterious woman named Lolita Abraham, who got her start founding something called Influencer Awards Monaco and claims to have had a successful fashion blog before that (though it was taken offline at some point). A quick perusal of her Instagram account’s ratio and engagement tells me there’s also a high probability that she bought followers at some point. And while I don’t want to make too many assumptions about Lolita based on the limited amount of info available online, whenever I hear of a person coming out of nowhere to start a bunch of businesses that cater to wealthy people, my immediate reaction is to ask about the money trail.

Considering the brand partnerships Charlotte has done, the aesthetics of them, and the various snafus she’s had (not just with Sunday Riley), this feels like an issue with the E-Idols camp more than solely Charlotte. Not to mention, the company’s site is riddled with typos and usage errors, and it contains several photos of the Kardashians and other American celebrities taken from other events while insinuating that the brand has worked with them. (Hmmm…) I’ll be blunt: It’s tacky. If Charlotte is serious about being an influencer, she should consider working with a different firm.

Thinking Big Picture

As with most things, I think there’s hope for Charlotte. While she's an adult, she’s a young one, and some adjustments can be made to create better content if she wants to go that route. And if all else fails, she has money to hire some assistance; there’s a lot to be said for being an influencer with pre-existing outside funds. A nice chunk of change can buy creativity and innovation — but only if you hire the right people. (By the looks of it though, I wouldn’t necessarily consider E-Idols the Right People™.)

I’ve spent a fair part of the last few years covering influence (political, celebrity, and otherwise) in my professional career, and I can tell you from lots of experience: I've seen an infinite number of rich people posting their pre-existing lifestyles for folks to gawk at and calling it influencing. I hate to break it to 'em, but it's not. They're not really swaying anyone. But hey, no one can say they aren't making gobs of money doing it.

Elena Likes Books

I have no idea if Esteban Ocon's girlfriend Elena Berri was a reader prior to the 2022 summer break, but she made it clear throughout August (and now September) that she likes reading. She first spent an entire month carrying around and posting about Lee Child’s The Hard Way while soliciting book recommendations several times. A few weeks ago, she debuted Maggie Shipstead’s popular novel Great Circle as her next read. We know Lily He is the book queen bee to rule them all at the moment, but maybe she and Elena can form a book club?

Congrats, Will Power

I’m taking a brief detour here over to IndyCar to congratulate Will Power on his championship win and pole record earlier this month. But more importantly for our purposes, in doing more digging into Power this season, I found this delightful IndyCar series from 2016 where the organization did little vignettes on how various drivers and their partners met. Ummmm, Will and his wife Liz have a whole normal person/famous person forbidden romance vibe going on?!?!?!? Sign me up!!!!

(And in terms of other drivers on the IndyCar grid who got similar features, here are the romantic tales of Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and Graham Rahal.)

Like what you see? Check out other recent Engine Failure issues, check out the EF website, 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, send me an email, or use EF’s anonymous tip box.

For today’s rankings, my dear friend Abigail, who had the distinct (dis)honor of sharing an Airbnb with me during the Canadian Grand Prix in June, did a ton of research into the surfing habits of all of the drivers on the grid. Consider this the final gasp of F1 summer break content. Abigail is a serious surfer herself, so I trust her judgment implicitly and have nothing to add. Her thoughts:

It would seem that surfing and F1 have little to nothing in common. However, as an avid surfer and F1 fan, I was pleased to find significant overlap between my two favorite interests. We’ve seen over half the grid try to catch a wave, some more successfully than others. This led to my Super Unofficial Ranking of the F1 Drivers' Surfing Ability.

A quick note about criteria for my ranking:

  • This only includes drivers who have traditionally surfed. I’m talking paddle into a wave, stand up, and ride the wave. Wake surfing, electric surfing/foiling, or any other variations are not included because they are all quite different.

  • Ocean surfing versus wave pools: Wave pools are an incredibly cool invention. Think the giant wave pools you see at water parks but with more precise waves. They create the perfect wave every single time and are able to replicate it exactly. For surfers, this is the perfect practice opportunity, and it brings surfing to places beyond the coast. However, you lose so much of what I think makes surfing so magical and even more difficult. When surfing in the ocean, you have to work with nature and the elements. Figuring out wave selection, positioning, and timing are some of the toughest parts of the sport. The ocean is an incredible place and ultimately (in my Unofficial Opinion™), ocean surfing is the best.  

P1: Lewis Hamilton. This will come as no surprise considering how much surf content we’ve gotten from Lewis. He’s barreled with fellow GOAT Kelly Slater at his exclusive surf ranch in California. He’s also proved his prowess and ability to read ocean waves in Malibu. Personally, I appreciate Lewis’ commitment to expressing his love and connection to the nature through his surfing. 

P2: Lance Stroll. Now, this was a surprise to me. In 2020, Lance went on a surf retreat in Spain and actually shredded. Since then, we’ve seen him surf wave pools as well as wake surf and he’s pretty impressive! 

P3: Mick Schumacher. Mick was truly incredible surfing for the first time at URBN Surf in Australia. He joined three pro surfers, Connor O'Leary, Bronte Macaulay and Isabella Nichols, and caught a good amount of waves, carved, and dropped in well. 

P4: Pierre Gasly. Pierre joined the legendary Mick Fanning for a surf lesson in Australia along with Damon Hill and Max watching from the shore. Pierre gets bonus points for ocean surfing for the first time because, again, it is a whole new ballgame! His attitude was incredible and it’s clear he has the bug, because he has since been seen surfing back in France. Pierre and Yuki have formed a friendship with pro surfer and fellow Red Bull athlete Kanoa Igarashi, so hopefully we’ll see both of them in the water. 

P5: Fernando Alonso. In a heartwarming ad for Kimoa, Alonso hops on a board for the first time with Shaun Tomson. This truly embodied the ~vibes~ associated with surfing. While this was a highly edited ad, it was fun to see Fernando goofing off and catching some waves into the Southern California sunset. 

P6: Sebastian Vettel. Our environmental king hit the waves in Hawaii a few years back and took some heartwarming first-time surfing photos. It appears he also went wake surfing there as well. I’m hoping we get more surf content in retirement. 

P7: Esteban Ocon. Esteban looked joyous surfing at Alaïa Bay, a wave pool in Switzerland. We don’t have much from him aside from these photos but he’s having fun and standing up on a board! 

P8: George Russell. George hopped on a 9’ foamie alongside Lewis at URBN Surf in Melbourne this year. While he was all smiles and a good sport per usual, it appears surfing may not be his cup of tea. Oh well, at least there’s still paddleboarding with Carmen.

P9: Charles Leclerc. I always appreciate someone who can laugh at their mistakes, and Sharl proved what a humble king he is after a session at URBN Surf in Melbourne in 2020. Surfing has a steep learning curve and you never stop wiping out. I’m happy he had fun and hope he gives it another go.

P10: Kevin Magnussen. Aside from that kind of weird Renault ad from 2016, KMag recently took to the waves in Denmark. While we only have photos of him in a wetsuit after, he joked that he was ready for Jaws next (the famous Hawaiian break, Pe’ahi).

P11: Daniel Ricciardo. DR is from Western Australia, which is home to legendary breaks like Margaret River. However the only evidence of surfing is a since-deleted post claiming he lost his “surfing virginity” and is “hooked!” There’s also this classic photo of Daniel putting his wetsuit on backwards ,which prompted a comment from Brody Jenner. What a crossover! Personally, I am hoping for more DR surf content, but for now, I’ll accept his national park tour of America

Honorable Mentions 

  • Carlos Sainz: Carlos has tiptoed around surfing for quite some time now! There’s plenty of wake surfing and foiling content, but I want him to get on a true surfboard! 

Who do I want to see surfing next? 

  • Yuki Tsunoda: I have this suspicion that Yuki would be great at surfing, and again, I personally would love to see Pierre, Yuki, and Japanese surfer, Kanoa Igarashi hit the waves together.

*takes deepest sigh* Friends, I’m hanging on by a damn thread here when it comes to silly season drama. Unlike some previous years where news sort of came and went, it seems like every big announcement that’s supposed to clear up some confusion begets…more confusion. For probably the first time in my life, I would like less drama, gossip, and intrigue!

However, that’s not what y’all are here for, so let’s go through a few big stories from late August/early September and the questions that ~remain~ during this asinine time of year:

The Pastry Flew the (French) Coop

It’s official: Our lil’ cacao nib Oscar Piastri has signed with McLaren, where he’ll take over Daniel Ricciardo’s seat. (We’ll get to DR’s whole ordeal in a little bit.) You’d think this would be the end of this drawn-out, sordid tale, but no!!!! Here’s just a smattering of what’s transpired around this big bombshell in recent weeks:

1. Shortly after news broke about Danny Ric’s departure and Oscar’s signing, folks started to put the timeline together. Uh, spoiler alert: It makes McLaren look mad sketchy and just plain Bad™. It appears that Oscar’s McLaren contract was signed on July 4th, while Daniel Ricciardo made his big “I’m staying with McLaren” statement on July 13th (apparently not knowing what the team had cooked up a week prior). To make matters worse, mid-July is also when DR went to the McLaren factory and gave this big speech to everybody about how he was going to work harder; leadership would’ve known about Oscar at this point if this is all true. WHEW. NOT A GOOD LOOK.

2. Like many people, I too was wondering why on Earth Oscar Piastri (and by extension, his manager Mark Webber) would push so hard for the precious macadamia nut to leave Alpine at all. While there are a lot of rumors to wade through, it appears that things at the French outfit are a shit show, for lack of a better phrase. 

Several leaked documents allege that the team fully believed that Fernando Alonso would stay on for another year or two, and in the meantime, Oscar would maybe drive for Williams before coming aboard. What makes this all worse is that the team presented a very general version of this to Oscar back in November (that’s why the idea of a “November contract” keeps coming up), but he didn’t really get the full scope until the spring of this year. Moreover, Oscar swears on all that is The Land Down Under (Undah?) that he told Alpine multiple times that he wouldn’t drive for them in 2023 before their bizarre announcement about his seat with them. (Oh, and there are questions surrounding what Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer even knew? Yikes on bikes, pals.)

As I said, we don’t exactly know what’s true and what’s false anymore, but if I were Oscar (i.e. itching to get on the F1 grid but stuck at a team that’s not prioritizing me, giving me anything legally binding to sign, and not giving me concrete answers), I too would start to poke around elsewhere.

3. Alpine’s legal bill for this whole disaster could reportedly be somewhere in the ballpark of $500,000. Now, the team’s leadership is upset with Oscar for not dealing with their shenanigans and said he didn’t share their ~values~. LMAO, okay.

So, where does that leave us? Well, first of all, you’re telling me that Lando (a man who so badly wants to be called a generational talent and has a chip on his shoulder for not always getting the designation) and Oscar (a man whom some have already named a generational talent and who has a lot to prove after he pulled all of this shit) are going to get along on the same team? Hmm. HMMMMMMM.

What’s Going on With the Rest of the McLaren Cabal?

A few other things have finally come into focus elsewhere for McLaren’s bevy of short lil’ racing men:

1. In the biggest LMAAAAOOOOOO of this entire ordeal IMO, IndyCar's Alex Palou has to stay at Chip Ganassi Racing for 2023. He and the team had to announce their continued partnership despite Palou’s legal fuckery in a series of euphemistic tweets that not a single person believed were genuine. While we don’t know too much about the court proceedings, the word on the street is that his buyout was set around $10 million. Looks like Zaddy Zak didn’t want to fight for him that much.

All of that said, Alex spent last weekend doing a closed-door F1 test with McLaren alongside Pato O’Ward. I guess that’s all his crew of extremely expensive lawyers could manage. What a wild ride.

2. Within the same hour, my darling Swedish bb Felix Rosenqvist announced that he’s staying with Arrow McLaren SP for 2023. The dynamic duo of Felix and Pato is intact, but now they’ve got the addition of Alexander Rossi (the last American to participate in an F1 race) to act as their cranky old uncle who’s tired of putting up with their shit. (This is made all the funnier considering Felix and Rossi are the same age.)

Red Bull Wants a Mess on Their Hands

Red Bull decided that McLaren was hogging all of the silly season attention, because for two weeks, we had a whole “Pierre Gasly is leaving AlphaTauri for Alpine” rumor going full-force.

The shenanigans have quieted down for now — though things are not entirely complete at AlphaTauri — but much of the conversation seemed to surround bringing American IndyCar driver Colton Herta into the AT F1 mix

The suggestion raised a few eyebrows for a few reasons. For one thing, Colton didn’t have a strong season in IndyCar this year (and has never won the series), though previous years have been more promising. For another (and partially because of that), he doesn’t have enough super license points to drive in F1, which means the FIA would have to waive the rule to allow him to drive on the grid.

Why was AlphaTauri — and now potentially other F1 teams — gunning so hard for Colton, a driver not in their current roster, not coming off of a standout year in a different series, not even eligible to drive in F1 through the official system, and not even making his way through the junior formulas? It’s become a topic of intense debate among fans, especially those who are already critical of the sports oft-maligned super license. (Btw, this is a tiny gripe on my part, but I’ve always found the phrase “super license” to be low-key goofy. It sounds like some sort of term from a CW Network superhero show, not an important part of a world-renowned motorsports series.)

There are a few reasons why Red Bull or any other F1 team might be going this hard at CH:

  • For one thing, Colton is an American, and while many folks in F1 don’t want an American team on the grid, they do want an American driver and all of the potential new sponsorship that person could bring. (And for those who don’t know, Colton’s race engineer is actually his dad Bryan Herta, himself a former IndyCar driver. So if you’re looking for someone to join your ranks who already has deep connections to motorsports and sponsors, Colton’s your guy.)

  • Unlike Williams’ American F1 hopeful Logan Sargeant, Colton Herta’s got personality (almost a little too much at times on the track). That can’t be discounted in the world of Red Bull to some extent.

  • On top of being a youngin’, Colton did an F1 test with McLaren earlier this year, and while we don’t know the official results of that outing, it appears to have been enough to impress ‘em.

But as I’ve said, it’s become quite clear that the FIA isn’t feeling particularly empathetic to Colton’s case. Hell, even his own father thinks it isn’t the right time for him to try his hand at F1. 

All of that aside, the Colton Herta rumors added an interesting layer of discourse surrounding the super license’s existence this month, including a lot of bizarre mental gymnastics to justify it. My two cents: Super licenses — and the whole idea of what a “feeder series” is in the Formula 1 world — needs to be abolished and redrawn from scratch, preferably with people who aren’t just cis, straight, rich, white dudes calling the shots. (As American history can attest, letting a bunch of old rich guys with plenty of moral and ethical quandaries create a theoretical framework through which to govern a lot of other people gets pretty dicey.) Moreover, if the argument is that F1 should only reward drivers who go through its junior formula feeder series because of how much time and money that takes, then that feeder series needs to do a waaaaaaay better job being more inclusive. Even a ton of privileged men are strugglin’ to make it in there. They need representation!!!!!

Don’t feel too sad for Colton though; he’s potentially testing for that damn Alpine seat as well as doing some more work with McLaren. Who else is in the running over at Alpine? Honestly, my left pinky toe has as good a chance as any, but Italian Jesus Antonio Giovinazzi is getting his time to test for the seat this month.

As for me, I still want Pierre Gasly at Alpine purely for the vibes.

All of the ~Lingering Questions~

It’s pretty wild that it’s now September and we still have so much uncertainty on the grid. Among the biggest Qs that need As:

1. Where will Danny Ric go now that he’s out at McLaren? That’s a big question mark, and to make matters worse, a clip of DR talking to Checo came up a few weeks ago, and some fans swear they can hear Daniel tell him that he’s taking a year off from F1 with plans to come back in 2024. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2. Is Mick Schumacher staying in F1? I have no fucking idea, Schumi Babies. The F1 media world is making it seem like a foregone conclusion that he’s leaving the sport, but who even knows at this point?

3. Will Zhou Guanyu re-sign to Alfa Romeo? Apparently the team is weighing its options between Zhou and F2 driver Théo Pourchaire, but our fashion apprentice has the upper hand for now.

4. What’s the deal with Yuki Tsunoda’s contract? Great question. In the midst of le frenzy around Pierre, any serious chatter about Yuki’s future has generally dropped off of the media's radar for the time being. Poor guy.
Y’all know I don’t like to dethrone Lewis from the top of the Fit Check section, but it needs to be said: Carmen Montero Mundt has made paddock fashion — and also just everyday fashion — her bitch. I can’t tell if this is the influence of her stylist Nat Rosenfeld or just Carmen in general, but every look both on- and off-track has been a well-tailored banger.

Onto Lewis: Things have been a bit rocky style-wise. Some days have been classic Lewis, while others have been more than a bit messy. I’ve noticed that Law Roach has been pulling a lot more looks from smaller or more niche designers than in years’ past (instead of just wearing a lot of Valentino and Balenciaga), so it appears that this is something the two of them are trying to do intentionally.

In Lewis’ defense, Law has been a bit inconsistent across the board. After all, he put Zendaya in two rockin’ numbers of the Emmys and then made Kerry Washington wear these unnecessary tights at the same event. This man cannot pick a lane!!!

(Also, thank you to this Twitter user who pointed out Lewis’ recent skinny pants-wearing ways. I have questions!!!!)
While I’m talking about the Merc lads, longtime readers will remember that in the early days of EF, I kept saying that George should try out a dark academia look. Well, we didn’t get quite there, but his recent Tommy Hilfiger forays have really been…something.
Over to Zhou Guanyu, I can’t get over the Sade T-shirt. Incredible. The Monza media day outfit (far right) left much to be desired though. It’s okay, my Prada King! You’ll get it back!
Over to the WAGs side of our fashion coverage, things have been pretty run-of-the-mill. Isa Hernaez has her whole Madrid Cool Girly thing going on, Sandy Dziwiszek is in her usual tight-fitting neutrals, Kelly Piquet has also been largely in neutrals (and lots of Louis Vuitton), Tiffany Cromwell’s style is a little all over the map (those cherry earrings???), and Charlotte Sine wears her latest few clothing and accessory obsessions with everything.
This week’s look at Tiff and Val’s life together is basically powered by friend and motorsports journalist Elizabeth Blackstock, who talked to Valtteri about his love of nudity and not being on the Mercedes team anymore. Thank you Elizabeth for giving us #content!

Friends, we have multiple weeks of Carlos Sainz Denim Watch to get through, and none of them have left me feeling good. First, we had the addition of LOOSE-FITTING, LIGHT-WASH DENIM (*shudders*) and then we (and the rest of the grid) had these white-khaki pants to contend with. Sir??? SIR????

And now to answer a question several of you have asked: Listen, I don’t want to attribute the death of the second-longest reigning monarch in recorded history to the pants worn by a questionable F1 Spaniard, but I’m just not sure, y’all. Queen Elizabeth was 96, but could we have seen a different chain of events had Carlos stuck to denim? Somewhere out there, a version of that universe exists.

I would also like to take this section to acknowledge how difficult it must be for Ferrari to find new, creative, and original ways to fuck up their races every week. Like, forgetting a literal tire and then leaving the tire gun out so far out that a Red Bull car runs over it? Inspiring! Poetic! Sensational! I shudder at the thought of what fresh horrors await us the rest of this season.
The FIA now has a…CEO? The inside scoop on what it’s like to be Lewis Hamilton’s personal photographer. Ah, Ferrari’s official race recaps. Huh, every full-time 2022 IndyCar driver ranked. Is Max Verstappen a fun killer? Look at that, sustainable fuel news for F2 and F3! What other businesses do all of the drivers have? Will Buxton speaks Chinese. Law Roach is doing big things. Here’s why IndyCar’s title fight this year was awesome. The Vegas track changed. F1 had to solve Visorgate. Oof, a bunch of Italian GP tickets were canceled and it was still a disaster. Ferrari is LMAO’ing at the F1 budget cap. Why can’t F1 get diversity right? Law Roach got a stylist award. Does IndyCar really need a DTS copycat? Maybe Audi shouldn’t have switched to Formula 1. Extreme E launched a new initiative thanks to Lewis’ equity org. Why is Providence, Rhode Island such an F1 fan hub? The MotoGP doc is apparently live. Why did Porsche’s Red Bull plans die? GQ talked to Martin Brundle. Yeeeesss, a new Screaming Meals episode! Smooth (ketchup) operator. Huh, one of my favorite newsletters did a racing crossover. Ahhhhh, the best IndyCar odd couple! This year’s F2 champ finally has a potential (but long) path to the F1 grid. This Merc garage cutaway is incredible!!! Congrats to McLaren on the Jack Daniels deal. How do you work in F1 media?

Thank you to everyone who wrote into last issue’s Conspiracy Corner question: Formula 1 has tasked you with giving the brand a new tagline. What do you choose and why? (Wrong answers only!)

Thank you, pals:

  • Byrd: Must Love Williams

  • Natasha: Where Men Will Literally Drive A Car in Circles As Fast As They Can Instead Of Going To Therapy

  • Maya: We Heard You Liked Hot Men Who Are Rivals To Write Fanfic About, So We Gave You 20 Of Them

  • Bec: Where Ferrari Goes To Die (I’M SORRY) (*Charles scream of despair*)

  • Jess: The Best Geography Lesson in (Primarily) Obscure European Cities That You Never Knew You Needed

  • Becca: If You Don’t Suffer From Anxiety, You Will Soon

  • Natasha: The Most Inclusive Sport (For Rich Straight Cis Men)

  • Molly: We Racism As One. (Anyone who needs to ask why can please refer to F1’s debacle of a response to Nelson Piquet’s comments.)

Today’s question: Which F1 driver do you think would have the most chaotic pizza topping preferences and why? (Also, which topping(s) would they choose?)

Submit your answer here.

EF issue photo credits: Kym Illman, Mark Sutton, Carmen Montero Mundt, Mercedes, George Russell, Kelly Piquet, IMAGO, F1, Isa Hernaez, Andrea Schlager, Zhou Guanyu, Lewis Hamilton, Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda, Colton Herta, Pierre Gasly, Felix Rosenqvist, Alex Palou, Daniel Ricciardo, Oscar Piastri, Will Power, Elena Berri, Charlotte Sine, Luisa Barosa Oliveira, Nyck de Vries, and Carlos Sainz.

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