Alex Palmer Writes
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Hello world - I heard we were going to a Spa this weekend, and figured it was definitely worth coming to join in the fun after being MIA for a while.. I know, no excuses, but life does sometimes get in the way of relaxing Motorsport.......

So what have we learned over the summer break? Lewis seems to spend his entire holidays being followed around by a photographer, sitting on beaches and wearing no shirt. Kimi got married, the family Rosberg got a new dog, Ricciardo called bullshit on a few drivers who made like they were training everyday (and posting suitably sweaty pics on Instagram) , Jenson and his mates tore up Vegas and Nappa valley, and Magnussen declared he wouldn't beg for another year at Renault.

. This weekend should be very warm, with the possibility of showers late on Sunday. Will we see the tradition of Red Bull being strong - and a fight between the young bulls? If nothing else, it's great to have F1 back!!

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It's a short turn-around from Austria to England this week for the F1 paddock. Good thing that Austria is reasonably close (Austria - you know, the one without the kangaroos). One might be forgiven for thinking the Spielberg event was a fashion show featuring men in romper suits / shorts / lederhosen but there was actually a race on. Actually, to be fair, the real interest in the race was on the last lap when the two Mercedes drivers decided to go all crash bandicoot on each other. Mercedes have done their best to hose down renewed speculation of a rift between their drivers, but I'd have to say Niki Lauda's interview / retraction / clarification hasn't really helped things. The most recent team 'clarification' seems to indicate that while team orders have not been imposed both drivers have been 'yellow carded' and no further mario kart-style driving will be tolerated. I also suspect both drivers are very aware Pascal Wehrlein is waiting in the wings to take the first available Mercedes seat and has some very impressive results in the Manor under his belt.

So we look forward to Silverstone, and with three drivers from the UK in the paddock this weekend to share the 'home town' honours (not to mention many of the teams considering this a 'home' race) there will be plenty to keep the media interested and hopefully distracted from the goings-on at Mercedes. There's also a test session next week after the race where we'll get to see some of the reserve / young drivers, which should provide some fodder for the driver silly season rumours.

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For once, let's start with a serious topic. Social media seems to be buzzing with annoyed F1 fans who've made the trek to Spielberg but have found that their dream of having a photo taken with the bull statue has been dashed because organisers / venue managers (or maybe Dietrich Mateschitz himself!) have put up a steel fence. Now I know that a few 'bits' of the bull went missing after last year's race, but to deny fans such an iconic moment seems a bit of an over-reaction. So if the bull is off-limits, I wonder what other iconic Austrian symbols the fans might like to get photos with - could this be the year of the lederhosen? I have heard that both Alan McNish and Eddie Jordan will be sporting said hosen at various times over the weekend, although somehow I don't think scotsmen in lederhosen is anywhere near as much of a fan magnet as the bull is/was.

Anyway, after the largely forgettable Baku weekend here's hoping we get an interesting race this weekend. The weather seems to be doing its part with storms predicted for Saturday and a cold day with morning rain clearing to showers for Sunday. Talk off the track seems to be focused around the driver market, with the usual speculation about the older drivers and their plans increasing in volume. Will Button make way for Van Doorne at McLaren by replacing Massa at Williams? Will Kimi survive at Ferrari or will one of the young guns take his seat in 2017? With Sainz locked away by Torro Rosso for another year, that does seem to open the door for Bottas or Grosjean - Red Bull seem to be confident they have Ricciardo secured for at least another season. Or will Ferrari stick with experience for the 2017 car given all the technical changes next year, and retain Kimi for one last tilt? The next few months should be intriguing.

And now for a spot of gossip........seems Jenson Button has found himself another model girlfriend, Lewis Hamilton is waterskiing with extended family but seemingly no dogs in Tennessee, Rosberg has been doing promo work for the German F1 round (of course he has.....), and the Red Bull family hosted a select group of the world's media onboard Dietrich Mateschitz' flagship Douglas DC-6 escorted by a selection of classic planes from the Red Bull airwing. If the tweets are to be believed (and I suspect they are, for once!) the DC-6 apparently used to belong to Yugoslavia and was Marshal Tito's private plane. Watch out for a feature on the DC-6 during the SkyF1 coverage this weekend.

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Great race, weather made it interesting but so did the strategy calls and the wild card of the ultra-softs keeping everyone guessing. Not sure what was worse, seeing Hamilton bailed up by Bieber enroute to the podium, or watching Red Bull throw away a Daniel Ricciardo win for the second race in a row. Although the t-shirt Bieber was wearing was probably worst of all, and worth the swig of champagne from Hamilton - the boy needed some sort of reward for wearing that shirt on global tv. But, enough of the bad stuff - how good was it to see two McLarens in the points, with Alonso getting close to fourth a few times in a race where the Mercs were both on it.

Honourable mention to Perez for putting the Force India on the podium, and nice call out to VJ who has had it tough recently by all accounts. Kyvat had another shocker, and Verstappen's luck seems to have well and truly run out. But worst of all the two Saubers taking each other out, perhaps we have found our new Maldonado? Unfortunately no appearances from the local wildlife this year, although a grey ghost did trigger a virtual safety car for a short time.

Roll on Canada - a strong track for Ricciardo and Hamilton in the past.

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After the glitz and glamour (and drama) of Monaco we head to Canada this weekend where early race day weather reports suggest we might again see rain arrive mid-race to spice things up. The circuit is set on a rather pretty island that provides amazing backdrops to what has been in recent times a generally exciting race. Although the Mercs had engine dramas a few years ago and arguably handed the race win to Ricciardo in an under-strength Red Bull it is a track that Hamilton seems to do well at. Not to mention it is only a short hop to join his glamour-pals either in NYC or Miami after the race.

Speaking of glamour-pals, rumours are rife that we will see Justin Bieber doing podium interviews on Sunday. I should have guessed something was up when he was lurking under the Monaco podium sharing the champagne with the drivers. I do hope we get some serious grown-up questions from him. Imagine if his best buddy Hamilton wins in controversial circumstances - can "the Beeb" ask the tough questions? Hmmmm.

Driver silly season rumours are also starting to bubble up. With the usual suspects ( will Kimi be at Ferrari next year, or will Button retire) are a few strange ones - including that Gutierrez take Kimi's Ferrari seat, or that Maldonado will get another chance in a top team (although maybe not as a driver). I rather suspect that Massa might be inadvertently to blame for that speculation, check out his Instagram post:

As any of regular readers might remember (if there are any such readers...), the Canadian GP is on my bucket list. Maybe if I get organised in time I can make it next year. In any case, I am looking forward to what should be yet another intriguing round in what is shaping up as a really exciting and surprisingly competitive season

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Now that my heart rate has returned to normal after the amazing Spanish GP it's time to contemplate what might go down around the streets of the Principality (other than gallons and gallons of alcohol - or is that litres and litres of alcohol?) In actual fact, we are quite likely to see a fascinating quali (where I think Red Bull will be right up there giving the Mercs and the Ferrari's a challenge) and then a procession of a race given the perils of passing on the street circuit. I would like to be wrong - perhaps if there is a little rain mid-race??

At some circuits the local wildlife seems to develop a taste for motor racing (or a burning desire to get on TV) - in recent years we have seen seagulls in Melbourne, skunks and squirrels in North America, and even the odd 2-legged mammal or random support vehicle taking to the track mid-race (hint - it was a couple of Asian rounds). But I recall with some amusement the night I learned what the abbreviation YOLO means, it was a few years ago during the Monaco GP when a pigeon, or was it a collared dove, seemed determined to get his beak on the world feed irrespective of whether it was still attached to his body. Or not at the time. Christened the "YOLO Pigeon" on social media the bird was a sensation for a few days before slipping quietly off the media radar to join the other curiosities that went viral (Boaty McBoatface anyone?? ). As applied to our feathered attention seeker, YOLO means " you only live once " and you might like to check out the clip if you can't remember the incident in question.

I would really like to see Riccardo take the win this weekend, or if that isn't to be perhaps a Ferrari taking out the race. Whatever does occur, it is sure to be a spectacle as Monaco can be nothing less. And who knows, perhaps we might just see Boaty McBoatface moored amongst the fancy yachts quietly waiting for his chance to once again get his face (or should that be poop deck??) into the spotlight on the world feed?? Ok, fine, that last sentence is a bit ridiculous but it's late and I might just have been risking the editor's displeasure by trying to get the word "poop" legitimately into a blog post. YOLO........

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2019 Calendar

RaceGrand PrixRace Day
1AustraliaSunday 17 March
2BahrainSunday 31 March
3ChinaSunday 14 April
4AzerbaijanSunday 28 April
5SpainSunday 12 May
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7CanadaSunday 9 June
8FranceSunday 23 June
9AustriaSunday 30 June
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