Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Tim Cook To Replace Ron Dennis At McLaren?

Yes, another one of those titles where we urge you to judge our podcast by the title, or not. Disclaimer: we're only having fun and we hope you do so too. In the Apple-McLaren story, we wonder if Tim Cook could be the man to turn McLaren around. And how is it that despite attracting iconic brands such as Honda, Fernando Alonso and now Apple (possibly), McLaren isn't able to repeat its iconic performances.

However, if Apple do get involved, let's hope that their creative team comes up with something better than iMcLaren - eek! Also, is Apple's main interest Fernando Alonso's radio messages being available for download via iTunes? And just by the way, we're already on iTunes, so here's where you can subscribe: http://bit.ly/insidelinef1podcast

Fernando Alonso - is he penning an autobiography? We love the Alonso 2.0 at McLaren and let's hope he publishes his funny radio messages, if nothing. And, our love for him shot through the roof after he declared that he wouldn't be interested in Pokemon GO!

As for Honda, they've expanded operations to supply to a second team in Formula 1 in the near future. Is this the real reason behind their expansion? Well, our investigative reports indicate otherwise. Oh and they also say that they're ahead of Toro Rosso. While this claim may defy some logic, we try to prove their point.

A decade since Lewis Hamilton's first ever Formula 1 test. We talk about his legendary career and hope that we don't lose his talent to Hollywood or Music! A Hamilton vs. Vettel vs. Alonso vs. Raikkonen vs. Verstappen battle would be stuff that dreams are made of. Would Liberty Media have the liberty to engineer such duels in the near future?

We also bring focus to Anthony Hamilton's views on Motorsport and how expensive Motorsport already is, how a draft selection policy would be good for Formula 1 but could be too cool for Formula 1 to implement. But, if drivers had performance targets, Kimi Raikkonen would've been shown the door this year. Yes, we talk serious stuff too, here's proof!

Formula 1 plans to exploit their gaming and gambling potential. We tell you who their Chief Gaming Officer could be, but no points for guessing the one man most worthy of the Chief Gambling Officer for the sport.

Have you seen Daniel Ricciardo smile all by himself in pre-podium ceremony? We tell you the secret of his laughs. Shockingly and boldly enough, Ricciardo has rallied his support behind Nico Rosberg for the Drivers' Championship title. We've a short piece of advice for the Honey Badger - beware of the trolls this week!

Is Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the Pastor Maldonado of Grand Prix circuits? With Malaysia coming up this weekend, will Rosberg's 'FOMO' drive him to yet another 'first ever' win? But before you pick your winner, remember: Hamilton has always finished ahead of Rosberg at Sepang, will it be any different this Sunday?

(Season 2016, Episode 31)

Monday, 26 September 2016

Sepang Preview: After the watershed

Sepang was the future once. When the then-gleaming new venue from the pen of architect of choice Hermann Tilke arrived on the calendar in 1999 the great leap forward, leaving all existing hosts breathless, was conspicuous. Bernie Ecclestone quickly hailed the facility for the inaugural (in the F1 World Championship at least) Malaysian Grand Prix as "the best in the world".

The distinctive Sepang venue represented a great leap forward
By Eriang87 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creative
commons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
And any F1 venue history will need to have this one as its fork in the road. Much of what is here became the template for the new Tilke-dromes that have popped up almost inexorably since. Not merely that it was Tilke's creation. Not merely either that it was built from scratch on a greenfield site it that familiar way. Nor that the architecture was giant, innovative and distinctive - here indeed the grandstand roofs are shaped like Hibiscus, Malaysia's national flower, something that even now still attracts many a camera lens.

There also is a clear fingerprint with the circuit layout - a long straight book-ended by tight corners intended to provide overtaking opportunities (this track has at least two of them indeed), as well as a fair variety of types of turn including a high speed esses section.

Even the motivation was the same as what was to become grimly familiar - the Malaysian Prime Minister of the time wanting to promote the country as an industrial and business destination and deciding to bankroll the round to this end.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: History repeating - the divergent tales of Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg

Photo: Octane Photography
Last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix felt like an important one. The title battle had been close already, but you'd hardly know that we had one. That was until Nico Rosberg's triumphant time of it, which unlike his previous wins caused a rather frantic recalculation of his potency.

And it had a strong echo from the recent past, eight years ago prior to it with Felipe Massa's rise to oh-so nearly win the title then. The parallels were uncanny indeed.

In my latest article for Grand Prix Times You can have a read here: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/id/12919

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Pokemon GO Monsters At Formula 1 Races?

With Jenson Button's help we've cracked the perfect idea to bring younger audiences to F1 races – install Pokemon Go monsters at every Grand Prix! Maybe they're already working on this and decided to live test in Singapore on the perfect target audience, Max Verstappen. Yes, we are referring to the 'Godzilla' on track. Although, this novel idea of ours may lead to more jaywalkers on track - like the marshal in Singapore (but seriously, shouldn't the FIA be penalised for this incident?)! After encountering the Hulk at the start of the race on Sunday, young Verstappen did have the perfect teenager of a weekend.

Nico Rosberg won in Singapore, but the race went down to the wire. In an attempt to bring Lewis Hamilton back on the podium, did Mercedes jeopardise Rosberg's win? What if the situations were reversed? There'd be carnage!

It was also Rosberg's 200th Formula One start – and another driver's 300th, tune in to find out who. As the Drivers' Championship battle continues, we're not taking sides yet - 6 races or nearly 1/3rd of the season yet remaining. But Ferrari, what were they thinking? Or were they thinking at all? After being butted off the podium, maybe Kimi Raikkonen tipped the Singapore cops about Maurizio Arrivabene's cigarette butt, we think.

Ferrari praised Raikkonen's race as a 'World Champion' effort, but they didn't act like a World Champion team. We'd not blame them though; it's been nearly a decade since their last crown. While we missed Raikkonen's uncomfortable waving on the podium and the mumbling, the Iceman did get some overtaking practice in Singapore along with some opportunity for to play his radio classics.

We thank Red Bull Racing for allowing us to enjoy the Max Verstappen vs. Daniil Kvyat battle on-track without issuing team orders. Although, we were almost certain to hear back a 'NO' had they instructed Kvyat to move over. In some ways, did this 'personal' battle help Kvyat get some closure on the unceremonious demotion? Let's hope so. And of course, thank you to Red Bull Racing for livening up the last 14 laps of the race with a well though of tyre strategy for Daniel Ricciardo, who is increasingly becoming our choice for the 'Driver of the Season' and should've won 'Driver of the Day' in Singapore.

We are impressed by Niki Lauda's humour, top marks for his comeback to Max Verstappen on their ongoing "psychiatrist" banter. A new but expected power struggle seems to be brewing in Formula 1 between Bernie Ecclestone and Chase Carey, which way will things go? Carey's biggest short-term task will be to retain Fernando Alonso after 2017. In the meanwhile, we're happy to enjoy some hilarious jokes at Mr. Chase Carey's expense. Are we the first ones to do so?

NASCAR has named a race 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles', will Formula 1 ever get so cool? And if it ever thinks of doing so, let's call the Singapore Grand Prix night race the 'The Dark Night'! Finally, we congratulate Alex Zanardi, a true champion and remember one of our greatest - Keep Fighting Michael! Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 30)

Monday, 19 September 2016

Singapore Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Singapore Swing

It wasn't supposed to happen. And yes, it felt a lot like a watershed. Or at least a mass re-calibration of assumptions.

Photo: Octane Photography
Heading into the Singapore Grand Prix you'd hardly know that there were but two points separating the two drivers atop the championship table. As after all, they said, the one behind had only got that close by default. The one ahead was quicker all things being equal. Particularly so at this Marina Bay circuit, possibly the toughest challenge of the year. Order would soon be restored.

But just as was the case eight years ago at this venue, the much-maligned chaser put in a performance to make even his greatest detractors stop and think. And presumably reconsider.

I give my take on all of this in the Singapore weekend in my latest Motor Verso race review, which you can read here: http://www.motorverso.com/singapore-gp-2016-review-singapore-swing/

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Singapore GP Report - Recalculating Rosberg

There are several bees in this author's bonnet. A few of them have been there a while too. One such member of the insect community buzzing around in there is about the importance of appreciating context. Of not relying solely on the top-level outcome in drawing your conclusions.

Nico Rosberg put in another flawless
win - this time under pressure
Photo: Octane Photography
And today's Singapore Grand Prix provided just the latest evidence to back the wisdom up. One who wasn't watching might look at its finishing order and sigh. The top three was exactly the same as the qualifying order. The top four the same as at the first turn. Nico Rosberg had kept his lead too, thus surmounting the most obvious barrier separating him from an imperious march to victory. Singapore for all of its charms doesn't provide much in the way of opportunities to race. Processional fare is common. For more reasons than one it reminds some of Monaco.

But this time, not a bit of it. Well not at the end at least. Up until lap 45 of 61 it was indeed a lot like those reaching their conclusions early might have assumed. The top four circulating mainly at a respectful distance apart, all had done their stops apparently and were rather cruising home in their current order. Rosberg after his breakthrough of qualifying, akin to Felipe Massa's at this track eight years previously, unlike Felipe was going to make good on it in the race too. There was no professional foul to scupper him, indeed even as Singapore races go generally this was rather a sedate one. The only safety car appearance was early and brief.

Nico did win, but boy did we have a twist, And boy it got close.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Singapore Qualifying - Rosberg's ratification

At what point do we consider Nico Rosberg a contender for this championship? Even as he won races, snuck up on his team mate Lewis Hamilton to be just two points behind in the 2016 drivers' table heading into this one, the only thing noticeable about this dog was that it resolutely refused to bark. Still almost no one was talking about the title's destination. That one by consensus remained set. Many, this author included, maintained that one way or another, in the end, Lewis will prevail. In fairness that's always what had happened before.

Nico Rosberg's performance in qualifying was stunning
Photo: Octane Photography
But today's Singapore Grand Prix qualifying session likely will have caused some frantic re-calibrations. At this one, possibly the greatest challenge of the year, probably Monaco aside the most vital pole to win given the difficulties in overtaking, Nico not only took the pole position but wiped the floor with all rivals in doing so. A few of the suggestions around that Nico doesn't belong in this fight - is there by some strange default - surely will have been dashed. It certainly felt something like an affirmation.

Singapore has previous for such things. Go back to 2008 and replace Nico's name with Felipe Massa and the parallels are almost to the point of being spooky. Just like the German Massa headed to Singapore in the drivers' championship mix on points, but with many observers struggling to take the fact seriously. Assuming that the self-same Lewis Hamilton would have the year's big prize gravitate to him eventually. Then around the Marina Bay circuit Massa seized pole position and by a country mile - upwards of six tenths of a second. Suddenly even the most resolute Massa critics went 'woah...'.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Bernie Ecclestone and the Great Tobacco Debacle - a guest article by Gemma Gale

What did former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair fear would finish his career? Taking the UK into the Iraq War? The claims he made in the case for said war? Or a bit of a scuffle over tobacco sponsorship in F1? If you are familiar with the name 'Bernie Ecclestone', you'll already have ticked number three - and you'd be right. Here's how the strange tale of the mogul, the Prime Minister, and the tobacco unfolded…

Bernie Ecclestone

Photo: Octane Photography
Bernie Ecclestone is (and has for some time been) a British businessman who holds the position of chief of F1. Crucially, he effectively controls all commercial rights to the sport, putting him in an immensely powerful position when it comes to sponsorship and so forth. Back in 1997, before the General Election that would put Blair's Labour Party in power by a landslide, Ecclestone secretly donated £1million to the Labour party. At the time, Ecclestone was heavily involved with tobacco companies, agreeing with them lucrative sponsorship deals, out of which both he and the sport were making a considerable amount of money.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Singapore Grand Prix Preview

The latest episode of the Lights to Flag podcast is here, and Ewan and I were delighted to be joined by Krit from Literal F1 to preview this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.

We look in depth in at a round that on and off the track is modern F1's standout, and is Mercedes really on the back foot for once? And with Liberty Media's purchase of a stake in F1's commercial rights confirmed we discuss what it could mean for the sport. You can listen by clicking play below.

As ever you can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - VES vs. RIC In Singapore, Possible?

Mercedes to be challenged in Singapore, really? Or is this yet another Ferrari-inspired pre-race PR hype? Singapore has been tagged as Red Bull Racing's track, and boy are we excited! Will we get to see some Verstappen vs. Ricciardo action (and will Red Bull Racing let it be a fair fight!)?

To keep his championship hopes alive, Nico Rosberg must fight against all odds in Singapore. Forget winning, he's not been on the podium here since eight years! At the same time, he had his 'first-ever' wins in Spa and Monza in the last fortnight, can he keep up that trend? We hope his 'FOMO' drives him to the top step on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton is good for Formula 1 and for our podcast. The last episode should have been called 'Lewis Hamilton's Team-Mate Wins In Italy' to get more people to tune in! In a lot of ways, Rosberg is fighting not only Hamilton, but an entire mentality in the paddock (and the million fans) who believe that Hamilton is meant to be World Champion.

Max Verstappen and Niki Lauda had a public face-off, will they visit a psychiatrist together to bond? Glad we're reminded that Verstappen is still a teenager by his typical teenage back answering. Given the lacking bromance between Lauda and Verstappen, we are glad that Verstappen didn't sign with Mercedes. But for how long can they remain apart?

We welcome the new owners of Formula 1 to Formula 1 and to the Inside Line F1 Podcast, of course. The new owners say they will evolve the business model of F1 to generate more revenue. We think they should also fix the regulations that don't allow us too much competition these days. They've picked up the profitable business of Formula 1, but will they be able to make the eco-system of Formula 1 stable and profitable too?

Also, will the American owners be at their toughest best when negotiating with the Russian Grand Prix organisers? Official Live Streaming (rather than just Official Live Timing) is the next big introduction that Formula 1 should make. Just btw, MotoGP has had theirs since almost a decade!

Speaking of the spirit of competition, did Mercedes actually help Ferrari improve? And if so, Ferrari were foolish to not seek help from Red Bull Racing too. Luckily they weren't so foolish so as to seek help from McLaren!

It certainly looks like a season of retirements - Massa, possibly Button and now Ecclestone too? Or will Ecclestone's be a sabbatical genuinely? One thing's for sure, we aren't retiring any time soon.

Tune In!

(Season 2016, Episode 29)

Monday, 12 September 2016

Singapore Preview: F1's standout

We all know the one about the F1 calendar's gradual shift eastwards in the last decade or so. It hasn't always been loved either. Often with good reason.

The Singapore race has become iconic
Photo: Octane Photography
But there's one such new-fangled race that can be considered not at all a failure. Instead it is a favourite and was thought part of the furniture in double-quick time. And the race is this weekend; the Singapore Grand Prix around the Marina Bay circuit.

There are several reasons why this is, but an overarching one is that it just seems very F1. Or rather very what F1 would like to be. It is a glittering, vibrant event in which the visuals rarely fail to look stunning. For several reasons, this one feels a lot like the Monaco for the new millennium.

Just like Monaco, Singapore is a city state that is a quintessential F1 host, to the point that you wonder at quiet moments quite why a Grand Prix wasn't established here decades ago (although a 'Singapore Grand Prix' under Formula Libre regulations existed between 1961 and 1973). It is glamorous, dripping with money and gives the impression of tearing towards the future.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Time for Formula 1 to think beyond Bernie

Photo: Octane Photography
So Bernie Ecclestone's hangs on after all. In Monza it was said by a close source that Bernie, as a result of Liberty Media's purchase of F1's commercial rights, might not even last until the next race. In the event though Bernie stays, at least for now.

But for all that some in and around F1 find a sport without Bernie impossible to comprehend, in my latest article for Grand Prix Times I outline that Bernie's case for being kept on is meagre. And that F1 in the long term will be better off without him.

You can have a read here: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/id/12851