There is an old saying or belief in Formula 1 that the season does not really start to get underway until the first European Grand Prix.

Despite the technicalities of Azerbaijan being classed as part European and part Asian, depending on whose argument or commercial deal it suits best, and the circuit at Baku with it's roots in the Caucasus playing host to the European Grand Prix in 2016, Barcelona is recognised as the first real 'Euro' event.

It is also the Grand Prix where the huge motorhomes - the 'paddock palaces' – appear, the team catering goes up a considerable number of notches and the entire circus is back to being delivered on site by fleets of trucks rather than mountains of air freight boxes.

The paddock at the first Euro race is a scene of reuniting.


Those that travel the world attending each and every Grand Prix are reunited with those who only attend the Euro GPs and suddenly the paddock becomes a village again, instead of the portable tent city of many of the 'fly-aways'.

Many of those dozens of team trucks carry huge amounts of 'updated' body parts and aerodynamic devices, the spawn of countless hours in the wind tunnels, in the hope and expectation that the relevant bit, the clever new shape of a tiny piece of carbon fibre, will make the car go faster.

In general most of these bits work and the car will go faster, perhaps by one or two tenths of a second over the lap, and the wind tunnel guys will sit back with a satisfied smirk having justified their existence, at least until the next good idea comes along.
Of course each and every team follows this route meaning all the cars of the ten teams will move ahead by one or two tenths of a second so everybody is in relatively the same place on the track.

And there goes another few million quid!

With Barcelona 2018 having been run, the fears of many were confirmed with seeing the two Silver Arrows drivers, and Lewis Hamilton in particular, reassert their authority as the leading runners, just as they did during the Formula 1 test sessions here weeks ago. It seems as if the comparative euphoria of the independent fan or spectator in seeing the resurgent Scuderia be the force that would blunt the Silver Arrows may have been a false dawn and the rampaging Red Bulls a flash in the pan.

Fear not.

I think (and honestly hope) the future races will not be the tiresome processional walkover that was the Spanish GP.

The first Euro race is also the breeding ground, maternity ward and petri dish of the lifeblood of the paddock. The gossip, the Chinese whisper and the dreaded rumour.


Who will be driving where, who will not be driving anywhere, which team is in trouble, who is on the way out? Will Romain Grosjean have to retake his driving test and will the marshals at next week's Monaco GP now bring in extra help at turn one, Sainte Devote?

Dozens of rumours with some grounded in fact but many in fiction. It is best not to mention the more 'personal' rumours after the teams have spent weeks away from home travelling the world but that, as the saying goes, is another story!

One rumour gaining ground concerns the future of Brendon Hartley.

Will he be driving for Toro Rosso, or even in Formula 1, in season 2019? In fact the latest rumour is that he may even be moved aside after the Canadian Grand Prix this year.

Hartley is a good driver, of that there can be no doubt. Without question he deserves to be in Formula 1 but the question has to be asked, is he good enough to stay there? His performances relative to his team-mate look, at least on paper, to be unimpressive and he has unquestionably made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

However, given that, despite his World Champion status, he is perhaps more of a rookie in Formula 1 than any other driver, including his team mate Pierre Gasly who, despite his young age, has driven in GP2 and as a test driver for the Red Bull F1 team, Hartley's car developmental abilities have so far stood him in good stead. His relative times are improving but he is also driving for one of the most unforgiving organisations in the sport. Red Bull, with Helmut Marko as boss of the Red Bull driver development programme, has little hesitation in offloading a driver who is not performing. Many a driver can attest to that fact, not least Hartley himself.

So, as good as Hartley is, he now needs to be better than good, he needs to start improving his performance relative to Pierre Gasly and he needs to make himself a property that other teams want to have.

Rumours have a bad habit of feeding on themselves to the point where they become dressed up in the cloak of fact, true or not. The only way to quash the rumours is to defeat them by performing.

The signs are there for him, both good and bad, and from now on his comparative 'rookie' status will be no defence in this harshest of environments.