Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Nico Rosberg Should Invite Nicole Scherzinger To The US GP

Is the United States Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton's new home race? Going purely by his Instagram feed, we'd like to believe so. How many of Hamilton's reported girlfriends would cheer him in the Paddock? Would 'Joey' be visiting too? If so, they should broadcast a live car-to-television radio chat between Joey and Hamilton. We actually try simulate what this conversation could be like.

In the 'Race to the White House', who would Hamilton vote for - Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Also, would Bernie Ecclestone's pal, Donald Trump, attend the United States Grand Prix in Austin? Formula 1 is a perfect sport for Trump to invest in and we tell you why. All-in-all,  we hope that being in the United States of America does motivate Hamilton to race as Hamilton - he's been Rosberg-like in the last few races.

Nico Rosberg's best psychological attack on Hamilton would be to invite Nicole Sherzinger to the US GP. It would also be yet another battle that Rosberg would win off-track - since beating Hamilton on-track seems unlikely this season. But Hamilton has always beaten Rosberg in the USA and Rosberg has never won here, will his 'fear of missing out' propel Rosberg to win his 8th first-ever win of the season? Surprisingly, Hamilton copied everything but Rosberg's clutch settings in Suzuka!

Let's hope that Hamilton skipped the Pirelli test due to a sore foot and not a sore thumb - after all, that's what people obsessed with social media suffer from! Moving on from Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg's move to Renault would mean that he would at least go the Fernando Alonso and not the Adrian Sutil way. Good choice, Nico!

If Valtteri Bottas partners Hulkenberg at Renault, should Williams request Felipe Massa to stay back for yet another season? Renault said that they would need five years to be World Champion. Given Renault's commitment phobia to Formula 1, will they be around for that long? It is interesting how Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg have cited Michael Schumacher as an inspiration in their career moves. Should Jenson Button seek some inspiration too?

Finally, we tell you why Ron Dennis' 5 on 10 rating is terrible for McLaren-Honda and how Mark Webber's retirement automatically increases his chances of being subject to Daniel Ricciardo's famous shoey! Seeing how Ricciardo's 'shoe' has suddenly become so popular, will Red Bull Racing hike their sponsorship rates for 'official shoe supplier'?

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 34)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Austin Preview: Re-born in the USA

Unfinished business. The itch it couldn't scratch. Call it what you will, but it has applied to F1 in America for much of the sport's history. The world's largest economy, sports mad and likely unparalleled in its attachment to the automobile, plus that F1 purports to have a world championship. But somehow it never added up to the sport pitching a tent Stateside that wouldn't fall down with the slightest gust of wind.

With Austin, F1 finally has got it right in the USA
Photo: Octane Photography
Demonstrating as much there have been no fewer than ten separate US hosts in F1 history (no other country gets close to that total). Some of those hosts have been cringe-worthy too, and for conspicuous stretches there was no US round at all. A few in this current case of Austin expected one or both of these to manifest once again as a few non-encouraging noises came out of the area in advance – the promoter and management company fell out and the project was put into suspended animation for a while.

There was a touch of paradise lost about it all too. F1 contrary to some presumptions did previously get it right in the States, with well-established and popular rounds at Watkins Glen and Long Beach. But both were lost in the early 1980s – Watkins Glen down to fate as the track run out of money; Long Beach down mainly to Bernie playing hardball over the financial terms.

But when everyone arrived in Austin for the first time in 2012 the doom-mongers simply could not have been more wrong.

New Vital F1 article: Let’s go back to the future on backmarkers

Photo: Octane Photography
The Japanese Grand Prix weekend was one for recrimination. And in the race we got a little more, with much complaining from some of those near the front about blue flags, and those being lapped not leaping out of the way sufficiently pronto.

In my latest article for Vital F1 I explain why, though it's nothing personal, they get no sympathy from me. And why if it was up to me we wouldn't have blue flags at all, as the sport would be better for it.

You can have a read here:

Sunday, 16 October 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Does F1 need to learn to love Lewis Hamilton?

The Japanese Grand Prix was all about Nico Rosberg's imperious showing, which send him a great stride towards this year's drivers' championship.

Photo: Octane Photography
Or rather it should have been. But instead the chat was again all about his team mate Lewis Hamilton. And not for anything he did on track. Instead it was for his antics in press conferences. Or antics not in press conferences as the case may be. Sure enough we got a giant wave of indignation.

But in my latest article for Grand Prix Times I ask whether Lewis has been rather maligned and not for the first time. And whether F1 needs to learn to love him a bit more.

You can have a read here:

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Japanese Grand Prix Review

The latest Lights to Flag podcast is here, and for the second week in a row Ewan and I were delighted to be joined by Jack Amey to look back at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Of course there's much fat-chewing over Lewis Hamilton, Snapchat and all that, but also at Nico Rosberg's dominant weekend that could well go considerable way to deciding this year's drivers' title destination.

And we chat about other news from on and off the track in Suzuka, including whither Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen's defence, Nico Hulkenberg's Renault switch, among many other things.

It's well worth the 58 minutes of your time, and you can listen via the player 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!

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Will Hamilton Still Back Verstappen's Aggressive Moves?

Max Verstappen pulled off a 'Verstappen' on Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka. This made us wonder, will Lewis Hamilton still back Max Verstappen's aggressive moves? The Hamilton vs. Verstappen battle was our highlight moment!

The FIA had a chat with Verstappen and told him that they're 'watching' him. Well, if not for Verstappen, who have the FIA been watching all of 2016? This lad has had our eyes glued on him. Maybe, Baby Vettel is now THE Vettel for Red Bull Racing.

The Rosberg vs. Hamilton battle - we're hoping for at least one on-track battle between the two title rivals before this year's championship is concluded. However, it seems that Hamilton is hell bent on picking battles on and off track. We discuss the various avoidable episodes for the Lewis Hamilton camp from the last week. By the way, some of it reminded us of the prank played on Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004.

Will Nico Rosberg be a worthy Formula 1 champion? That's the latest debate on social media and while we're not taking sides, we do add our perspectives from this season. At the same time, we should be thankful that we've a fight on our hands (and on the telly) as we witness the 2016 Drivers' Championship being fought tooth-and-nail between two team-mates, driving for a team that's been very fair and just in their approach towards both contenders. On that note, THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS, Mercedes!

Mercedes to Formula E? We tell you why they're eyeing another single-seater championship and if Red Bull and Ferrari could follow suit too. Are Mercedes too bored of dominating Formula 1 and now have their sights on Formula E? Also, if Formula E's prowess grows in the coming years, will Formula 1 lose its relevance? And could Formula 1 go all-electric to remain relevant? The next few years will define the future of this category of racing.

Ferrari and McLaren - two of Formula 1's most-iconic teams seem unable to find an answer to their struggles. As for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, is the 'Michael Schumacher' dream going to remain a dream after all? And it seems that curse of the 'Number 2' got to Vettel in Suzuka, after all. Would a 16th and 18th place finish at Suzuka please Honda? Well, so long as Fernando Alonso didn't compare their Formula 1 engine to a GP2 engine!

We tell you why Nico Hulkenberg should hedge his bets and go off to Renault and how GP3 is trying all it can to make sure their drivers are Formula 1 ready from 2017 onwards. The one line we had fun reading in this episode was 'Jan wonders if his son will have a contract come Jan'! And finally, we scoop out some inside information to tell you why the revolutionary 'car-to-television' interview was deferred from Malaysia to Japan.

Tune in!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Japanese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Rosberg Stands on the Brink

Photo: Octane Photography
We keep expecting him to falter now we're in the world championship crunch point. But he keeps refusing to. And, whaddaya know, now Nico Rosberg stands on the brink.

Don't let anyone tell you that this game's predictable in other words. And perhaps the last two races - seven days apart - sum up his charge. When he's not been on top things have gone his way. When he has been on top he's been almost literally flawless. Whatever, it's an equation that usually adds up to titles. Given where we've got to, now only the unusual can deprive Nico.

In my Japanese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso I try to sum up where we're at. You can have a read here:

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Japanese GP Report - Everything's coming up Rosberg

It is our contradictions that make us interesting. Even as rational beings we often rely on explanations that have no more basis than hocus pocus. Even in F1, that most empirical of activities.

Nico Rosberg triumphed yet again
Photo: Octane Photography
But we can understand why, particularly after a weekend such as this for the Japanese Grand Prix. When things are going your way, they go your way. Somehow. And it continued that way when it mattered for our most unlikely of world championship interlopers called Nico Rosberg.

The rounds tick down; he remains on top. Things continue to go his way. Somehow.

But it would be wrong to suggest this one owed at all to fortune. Nico's was not a race but a weekend dominated in the finest style. Almost from a wheel being turned at the start of Friday practice he appeared on another level. Every session he topped. And all this with the drivers' championship pressure cranked up to 11. Not for the first time you suspect long-held assumptions about him are being recalibrated. His more entrenched critics will point out no doubt that ho hum Nico in his one trick won from the front. Maybe so (albeit it's a harsh criticism), but as Martin Brundle pointed out a few rounds back, he keeps getting to the front.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Suzuka Qualifying - When we were kings

To think we were all so convinced. Nico Rosberg might be shadow boxing, dancing around the ring, but as the title fight reached the critical point he'd become timid. And meet a knockout blow.

As the title fight reaches its final rounds, Nico Rosberg 
continues to float like a butterfly
Photo: Octane Photography
Not so. Or at least not yet. There seems a pattern being established just lately, the sort that adds up to a World Championship you might say. That when Nico's not on top things still go his way somehow. And when he is on top he's imperious. Today in qualifying, and indeed for just about all of this Japanese Grand Prix weekend thus far, we've got the latter. As the rounds are being ticked off, with him up on points, he remains sprightly. Confident. His dance to the title hasn't yet met the clunking fist we all were anticipating. More and more indeed, it appears it'll take something major like that to stop him.

Plenty said in advance of this one that Suzuka was Lewis Hamilton country. After all it's on a big, bold circuit, that usually is up his street, plus he won on both of the last two visits. But as ever in F1 it pays to dig a little deeper, Nico got both of the previous two poles and Hamilton by his own admission has often struggled for a set-up here. He's also never taken pole. And still hasn't.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix Review and Japanese Grand Prix Preview

The latest Lights to Flag podcast has landed, and Ewan Marshall and I were delighted to be joined by Jack Amey to look back at the Malaysia Grand Prix and ahead to the Japanese Grand Prix.

And what a dramatic race it was in Sepang - Lewis Hamilton dominated but was reminded that in this game it's never over until it's over. With big implications for the championship fight. Red Bull, with the popular Danile Ricciardo ahead, took full advantage. You can listen to the podcast via the player below.

As ever too 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!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A Positive and Responsible Start For Heineken - a guest article by Gemma Gale

Heineken's new Formula 1 partnership means the brand will be the title sponsor for three Grand Prix each year as part of a huge multi-million dollar deal. What's more, Heineken's bid to extend its reach into F1 will also see it become involved with two teams: these teams are yet to be officially announced but one is strongly tipped to be Red Bull. Heineken has vowed to 'drag F1 into the digital age' and is certainly set to make the most of its new sponsorship opportunity, recruiting F1 legends Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard to serve as its ambassadors within the sport.

The Right Fit?

F1's sponsorship tie-up with Heineken 
was announced with much fanfare
Photo: Octane Photography
When it was announced that Heineken would be the latest F1 sponsor some may have doubted that the brand was the right match. After all, a motor sport, a culture where drinking behind the wheel is strictly discouraged and widely prohibited, and a beer brand simply didn't seem like a natural fit. However the brand has silenced the naysayers with its first campaign since the sponsorship deal was announced that encourages responsible drinking and uses F1 race legend (and road safety pioneer) Sir Jackie Stewart to star in a TV advert that tells fans 'When You Drive, Never Drink'.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Will The FIA Ban The Shoey?

Nico Rosberg is lucky that Mercedes built him a tank that went through the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix undamaged. Rosberg was lucky on multiple other counts too, including that he had a clean getaway (the Mercedes cars can't take that for granted anymore) and the two VSC periods that helped him climb back up the order.

Daniel Ricciardo had a great result to win the race. Will drivers not want to be on the podium with Ricciardo though, given his love for the 'shoey' (gross!)? Mark Webber was smart, he threw away Ricciardo's shoe - the other podium victims need to learn from him. Given how much the FIA loves clamping down on everything that's fun in F1, maybe they will ban the shoey on the podium too? A BIG thank you to Red Bull Racing for allowing Ricciardo and Verstappen to race fair and square. Ricciardo managed to do what not a lot of drivers have done this season - he kept Verstappen behind on-track (he claims to have learnt this from Verstappen himself!)

Lewis Hamilton made the race interesting - not sure if it was thanks to his engine failure, post-race comments (or both!). Hamilton believes that 'something or someone doesn't want him to win this year' - and he's right. We tell you who this person in the Mercedes garage is, who has been mercilessly trying to keep Hamilton from winning.

Nico Rosberg's penalty was strange. It seems that the FIA does not want drivers to overtake on track at all! Rosberg has notched up so many penalties this season that he's halfway to a race ban. Clearly, 'someone or something' is conspiring against him to get him so many penalties!

Hamilton's bad luck was Mercedes' bad luck - they lost their second attempt at equalling the record for the most consecutive wins in Formula 1. Speaking of records, Jenson Button notched up 300 Grand Prix starts - and McLaren celebrated this by turning their paddock into an English pub (luckily no shoeys on offer there).

Ferrari's race was like how their whole season has been - all talk. Surprisingly, Raikkonen is outperforming Vettel. Perhaps Vettel go the Alonso way if Ferrari are unable to deliver a winning package in 2017! Is McLaren now part of the midfield teams with Williams and Force India? If so, they're still at the bottom of that midfield.

BMW recently announced their motorsport program and it doesn't feature F1, but does include Formula E and the WEC. We guess they've been listening to Fernando Alonso's criticism of the sport and decided to stay out!

Here's the big question: Can Hamilton still win the World Drivers' Championship? Of course! Five races, 125 points to go. Let's hope a clutch, an engine or swapping of teams doesn't decide this year's champion.

Suzuka is up this weekend, and it promises to be a real cracker. Will it be a Mercedes 1-2 again, or can Red Bull Racing challenge them?

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 32)