Worms is an old German city where the Holy Roman Emperor used to have an occasional parliament (known as a Diet) and thus youngsters the world over have tittered in class when they are told that the Germans had a diet of worms. To be quite honest, I did learn it all years ago but I’ve forgotten what it was all about. It was something to do with Martin Luther (the priest not the King) who married a nun and thus upset the Pope, who issued lots of Bulls (as Popes used to do).

Anyway, Worms is on the left bank of the Rhine (the west) and one passes by if one is on the road from Austria to the UK. It is about halfway between the two, but as I know nearby Speyer better, I stopped there and stayed in a hotel I knew from German Grand Prix days.

If you’re into motor racing history, you should take Bundesautobahn 61, the Mother Road of German motorsport. This begins in Hockenheim and loops west to Speyer and then heads north, passing within reach of such less-than-famous places such as Bad Durkheim, once the home town of the ATS (German version) and Rial F1 teams. The road passes Worms and heads across the plains formed by the Rhine. Turn right here and you can be in Sebastian Vettel’s home town at Heppenheim quite quickly. The road runs northwards until it hits the hills, known as the Hunsruck in the west and the Taunus in the east. The Rhine, being a persuasive river, cuts through this in the lovely Rhine Gorge, but if you want to do a lot of mileage in a day you stay on the 61 which takes you rapidly through the Hunsruck to Koblenz and then on towards Bonn and Cologne. It passes signs, filled with racing history: the Nurburging, Zakspeed’s base in Niederzissen. Remagen, once famous for being Rudi Caracciola’s home town, but latterly better known for its railway bridge. The 61 passes within easy reach of Toyota F1’s old F1 campus at Marsdorf and then goes on to Kerpen, a town associated with no fewer than four German F1 drivers: Michael, Ralf and Mick Schumacher and Wolfgang Von Trips. It was also the home town of composer Karl Heinz Stockhausen, who built a noise-making career in music. The 61 goes on from there up to Heinz Harald Frentzen’s home town of Mönchengladbach and stretches away to the Dutch border at Venlo, which is up towards Hulkenbergland.

But, if one is bound for the UK, one swings to the west at Kerpen and takes Bundesautobahn 4 towards the Dutch border, passing the Michael Schumacher Kart and Event Center and the village of Manheim, where the Schumachers lived. Today it is a ghost town which will largely disappear in the years ahead into the vast open-cast lignite mine. Lignite is burned to create German electricity because the green folk are opposed to nuclear power stations…

Anyway, the 4 takes you Aachen and into Max Verstappen land in the so-called Maastricht corridor. One does not want to stir up demons by discussing where Max was born and grew up (his fans and foes all get very excited on the subject). I prefer to say that he is a Limburger, from a region that was once the Duchy of Limburg, which is today split between three different countries. I decided to stop for a moment in Zolder, a circuit I had not visited for around 35 years and I have to admit that there was not much around the track I recognised. I went for a walk as rain threatened to one infamous corner out the back. And then I drove on through the rain to Dunkirk, a place famous for Brits beating the retreat to the homeland.

All this gave me ample time to muse on the F1 world.

Right now, the spotlight is on Carlos Sainz. He’s doing great job for Ferrari but the team (or someone in the empire) decided that he should go in 2025, to make way for Lewis Hamilton. In recent weeks Carlos’s future seemed to be with Williams, despite an offer on the table from Audi. Then came a late-in-the-day bid from Alpine, as the new executive advisor of the French team, Flavio Briatore, tried to make a first impression. Weirdly, Sainz’s head was turned and it disrupted the market as both Williams and Audi thought that they had a deal with the Spaniard. No-one can really understand the attraction of Alpine given that it does not yet have a guaranteed engine deal for 2026,  and that will take time to sign off. Sainz will not commit unless the team has Mercedes engines in 2025. This makes little sense because Alpine is already late to the party as Mercedes and its customers are largely done with their input into the design of the 2026 power unit, so Alpine would have to get what they are given (or rather sold).

The Enstone team has lost a large number of staff in recent months and is expected to lose a lot more in the weeks ahead. This has been caused by the loss of confidence with the top leadership at Renault. It is true that sometimes there is value in making changes with people who have been around for too long, but if you are going to do that, it is wise to have replacements lined up. Briatore is as up to date in running F1 teams as a record player is in the world of music.

Alpine clearly did not have any such plans when it ditched its previous leadership because it its recently-named technical director David Sanchez only turned up in Enstone because he fell out with McLaren within a few weeks of starting work in Woking. It was a pretty transparent hand-to-mouth manoeuvre. Alpine had a pretty disastrous start to the season, but in recent races progress has been made, although the team has just nine points in the Constructors’ Championship. That is more than Williams and Sauber, but both of these teams are building for the future, while Alpine is still discovering how much is going to come undone. The Briatore appointment does not seem helpful. Convincing people he is not there to sell the team is not easy. Even if people believe what he says (and that is a big if), they all know that not only is he 74 years old, he is also a shadow his his former self. Who else can pull the team out of the dive?

Sanchez? Perhaps. Sainz has worked with him at Ferrari and seems to believe that he is a good man for the job, but modern F1 teams need a lot of good people and it takes time to hire them. Thus, there is a belief in the Paddock that Alpine is still on a downward path, although Briatore’s chums and camp followers are still busily banging the drum and claiming that he can work magic.

To any logical person, Williams has to be a better choice. The announcement in Austria that it has signed up 26 engineers from other teams including 10 from Alpine, four from Red Bull and others from Mercedes and Ferrari, was unprecedented. The team says that of the 26, 11 will join its aerodynamic department and 13 will be in the design office. They are all experienced people, with experience of what needs to be done. Hiring good people is currently very difficult in F1 as Visa Cash App Racing Bulls is busy adding 80 staff to its British team, which will be based at Milton Keynes. Aston Martin is still hiring and Audi is also very keen to lure people  to Switzerland, which is a huge challenge given that it involves engineers moving to another country.

Right now, Alpine is a place where people are leaving, not joining.

Sainz may have messed things up with his indecision. Williams wanted a commitment and not getting that may have done irreparable damage. The team has been talking to Carlos since he was dropped by Ferrari and has waited while he hoped to get into either Mercedes or Red Bull. Neither drive materialised. Williams has had Esteban Ocon as its Plan B, but the Frenchman is also loathe to sit around waiting because he already has experience of being left out in the cold during a previous round of F1 musical chairs, and he does not want that to happen again. So Esteban is likely to join Haas, alongside Oliver Bearman. This would mean that the best choice for Williams could end up being Valtteri Bottas, who raced for the team from 2013 to 2016 and is well known to Vowles as they were together at Mercedes between 2017 and 2021, during which time Valtteri won 10 Grands Prix for the team.

Audi has been waiting on Sainz, but it still looks like the team will need a few years to get things up to speed, but it might be worth Carlos joining for a long term project. The problem is that Carlos turns 30 in September and the idea that Audi will win him a World Championship within five years (basically what is left of is career) is a risky bet. It might win but if one was a gambler it would be a 12-1. If Carlos decides to go to Alpine, Audi has no obvious choice and indeed it does not really need to make a decision and can wait and see if anything else happens in the market. It is not over yet.

We have to wait and see how Red Bull solves the VCARB three-into-one-doesn’t-go problem they have created with Yuki Tsunoda, Daniel Ricciardo and Lim Lawson having one too many bums for the seats available. But that could be solved if Red Bull was to run out of patience with Sergio Perez. The Mexican national hero is having a poor season. Even conspiracy theorists are running out of gas about him. After 11 races he has scored a total of 118 points, compared to Max Verstappen’s 237. This is just shy of 50 percent.

The Mexican has a new contract that runs until the end of 2026, but there is frustration within Red Bull Racing because this year the team does not have the same level of advantage as last year, when it did not matter so much that Sergio had qualified badly. He had a car that was strong enough to let him charge to second. This meant that there was little threat to Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship (which decides who gets what prize money). Suggesting that Perez could be dumped will, inevitably, open up the bomber streams of abuse from Mexicans, but this would not be the first such Blitz. The problem for the fans is that they cannot go on saying it is all an anti-Perez conspiracy because there is no justifiable argument for Red Bull to screw itself out of prize money. It is silly to even suggest that. The facts are that in the last weeks Sergio has either been eighth or has retired. In Austria he was seventh. He would have been eighth if Lando Norris had not retired. He is the last of the eight drivers in the top four teams. Max is fighting for the Constructors’ title on his own, but he is outnumbered… And it probably won’t work. Ironically, improved performance coming from McLaren and Mercedes is working in Red Bull’s favour because the rival teams are taking points away from one another. After qualifying in Austria, Christian Horner made a point in the team release saying “we are going to need Checo to have a strong race tomorrow as the McLarens, Ferraris, and Mercedes cars are right there with us”. That was like a football referee fiddling with the red card in his pocket but deciding on a yellow…

Daniel Ricciardo was put into Visa Cash App Racing Bulls in order to motivate Perez to do better, on the basis that the Australian would be a threat to his seat. Daniel has not done enough to be convincing, but like Perez he is a popular and useful figure. It is looking increasingly likely that Red Bull will take Daniel out of his current car and replace him with Liam Lawson in the course of the summer break. Would Daniel do a better job than Perez? Or would Lawson be the better choice to score more points?

There is a similar story at Williams because the team needs points and Logan Sargeant is not delivering. Alex Albon is doing his best and can get the car into the points (just). So they are looking at what to do in the second part of the season. It’s a difficult call because the folks you might want to bid for mid-season are working for teams that need them just as much…

Silverstone will probably give us some more indications…