Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Azerbaijan GP Betting Preview - A close call

This column is losing what little reputation it had. In Monaco I backed Lewis Hamilton to win and we got Sebastian Vettel. In Canada? Yes, you guessed.

Sebastian Vettel versus Lewis Hamilton
continues to be hard to call
Photo: Octane Photography
And this one in Azerbaijan is far from safe ground to strike back. As in advance it looks a very close call between the usual suspects Ferrari and Mercedes - or more to the point between Vettel and Hamilton. This is reflected in the odds, with Lewis even money to win this Sunday and Seb 2/1.

Prior to Montreal we felt safe in assuming that this street track in Baku was the sort to trip up Mercedes in 2017 - low grip, slow turns... But in Montreal as the opening paragraph intimates Merc surprised us by taking a one-two on precisely that type of circuit. This weekend much will hinge on whether the Brackley squad has indeed had a eureka moment, or whether Canada was a one off.

Adding to the confusion, last year in Baku Lewis on Friday looked set to dominate - which made sense given it's an acrobatic track that rewards bravery. But after that he went on to have one of his off weekends.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Baku Preview - Through the looking glass

As we know, F1 does like to exist beyond the looking glass.

Last year's inaugural Baku race was not as expected
By crossland_alan -
@N07/27719040512/in/dateposted/, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Twelve months ago the sport rocked up to a new street circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, expecting something "not like anything we've seen before in F1".

Certainly its challenges looked different. A real downtown circuit. Plenty of forbidding walls. Much of it claustrophobic with a twisty narrow section around the castle reminiscent of Mirabeau-Station Hairpin-Portiers at Monaco. But also a 2.1 km straight longer even than anything at Monza.

In the event much was familiar though. Based on the GP2 races we expected frolics aplenty - safety cars and trips down narrow escape roads making it a lottery. Also there was an ultra generous DRS zone with even quicker cars vulnerable to being overtaken, particularly on restarts. All making it a matter of survival.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Firstpost Video - Le Mans Special

Even your average F1 fan knows that in motorsport there's nothing quite like the Le Mans 24 Hours. And in a special extra Firstpost Pole Position video, Kunal Shah of the Inside Line F1 Podcast tells you why you should tune in this weekend. You can watch below:

Friday, 16 June 2017

New Motorsport Week article: The relentless Sebastian Vettel

Photo: Octane Photography
Sebastian Vettel's run of finishing in the top two of every race in 2017 ended in Canada last weekend. But even so his momentum felt unchecked.

That's because it was another fine drive, recovering from an early delay from changing his front wing. The Ferrari challenge again doesn't appear to have much intention of leaving the stage.

In my latest article for Motorsport Week I explain why Lewis Hamilton will have to go some to beat Sebastian Vettel in 2017. Because he's gone into relentless mode, the sort that we've seen precisely before now

You can have a read here:

Inside Line F1 Podcast Special - Karun Chandhok Talks Le Mans & F1

There's seemingly more excitement and anticipation about the 2017 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Is this thanks to Fernando Alonso's efforts to bring the 'Triple Crown of Motorsport' back in the limelight?

Photo: Octane Photography
In this special episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal talk to Karun Chandhok, former Formula 1 and Formula E driver and India's Le Mans specialist, about the legendary endurance race this weekend, his best memory of this race and who he thinks are the favourites to win.

If you're a Formula 1 fan all confused about the various 'classes' at Le Mans (the LMP1, LMP2 and the others), we have Chandhok explain it to us in his typical simplistic style. And of course, since we had Chandhok captive, we decided to ask him some Formula 1 questions too. Tune in to know who his bet for the 2017 Drivers' Championship title is.

(Season 2017,  Episode 23)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - What VER Has In Common With VAN, STR & ERI

Max Verstappen is 'fed up'! But he's had such a start to the 2017 Formula 1 Season - 3 DNFs out of 7 races, so we don't blame him. If he's 'fed up' in just 7 races, we wonder what state would poor Fernando Alonso be in after nearly 50 such races with McLaren Honda.

Alonso to Williams in 2018? Or will it be the IndyCar series? If only the McLaren win in the 'F1 Raft Race' influenced his decision. But very coyly, McLaren seem to be distancing themselves from Honda's recurring and seemingly unsolvable woes. What are their plans for 2018? Renault?

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal express disappointment with Daniel Ricciardo, debate Force India's no-use of team orders, and wonder if Toto Wolff has a veiled message for Nico Rosberg - should he decide to make a comeback. Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 22)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

How To Conquer 24 Hours of Le Mans, by Select Car Leasing

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend, Select Car Leasing thought it'd delve into the event and check out the cars in detail and see how they're made in order to deal with this gruelling race.

It also got Giedo van der Garde to tell us how he prepares for Le Mans 24 Hours and about the chief differences between Le Mans and Formula 1.

While in something that is vital to many motorsport fans it's also thrown in a few tips to help you watch the full 24 hours without nodding off...

How To Conquer 24 Hours of Le Mans
How To Conquer 24 Hours of Le Mans by SELECT CAR LEASING.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Firstpost Video - Canadian Grand Prix Review

Here's the latest Firstpost Video Grand Prix Review.

Mithila and Kunal from the Inside Line F1 Podcast look at last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix. They talk about Mercedes's post-Monaco bounce back, Sebastian Vettel's comeback, the Force India pace and soap opera, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso and other Montreal matters. You can watch below:

Canadian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Great expectations

Photo: Octane Photography
Most of the expectations in advance of the Canadian weekend, and race, were in the event confounded. Perhaps appropriate given Montreal races are known for being off the wall (metaphorically and sometimes literally).

Yes Mercedes bounced back at a track that was thought to be the sort it struggled on, and claimed a one-two. And of the pair local specialist Lewis Hamilton was on another level. But equally Ferrari isn't relenting, and the quality of Sebastian Vettel's recovery drive underlined the point.

So not all expectations were confounded.

Here's my review of the Canadian GP action for Motor Verso:

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, 11 June 2017

Canadian GP Report - A walk in the park

Apparently Mercedes's calculations in advance called it a dead heat. There was, we expected, to be nothing between Merc and Ferrari in this one.

Lewis Hamilton won in a race of one
Photo: Octane Photography
We should have known though that things are rarely that simple in Montreal. The bald facts are that in the Canadian Grand Prix Merc took an imperious one-two. And of its driver pairing Lewis Hamilton made good on his local specialist status by existing in another race, to the point that the TV director appeared to disregard him. Lewis's engineer, not just because of the Ile Notre Dame surroundings, called it a "walk in the park".

It was made so from the off. Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari usually is to be feared from the launch but today it wasn't stellar and from second he was mugged at turn one by a racy Valtteri Bottas (who looked for a nanosecond that he might spear his Mercedes team mate) and a racier Max Verstappen, who came from nowhere to sweep around the outside to take second place. Seb thus was fourth and already the race had gone a long way to be framed.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Montreal Qualifying - The empire strikes back

It could hardly have been in a less appropriate place. But in usually-madcap Montreal, normality returned.

Lewis Hamilton - and Mercedes - struck
back in Montreal's qualifying
Photo: Octane Photography
It was the sort of track that had been tripping previously-imperious Mercedes in 2017 - low grip; slow turns; softest tyre compounds. But the silver team might be learning at last.

Practice running suggested it was at least in the game this time; unlike in Monaco its pace didn't evaporate as the weekend went on. And in qualifying the story got more familiar, with the Mercs growing in potency as the hour went on.

And Lewis Hamilton - who'd especially struggled in the circumstances outlined - claimed pole position by acing the Montreal track. That last bit being something altogether more usual. Ever the showman he saved by far his best for last too.

In Retrospect: The 1999 European Grand Prix, by Steven Critchley

F1 action will return to Baku's treacherous street circuit on 25 June, after a successful hosting of last year's European Grand Prix, which returned to the calendar after a three-year absence. This time, it will be host to the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix, once more testing the technical abilities of constructors in a more diverse way, while also forcing drivers on the circuit to time their overtakes to perfection.

As a street circuit, Baku offers little margin for error from anyone, regardless of how experienced or decorated they may be. Another battle of Ferrari versus Mercedes is expected, but the negation of the disparity that once existed is reflected by Mercedes's Valtteri Bottas being priced at 28/1 on bet365's F1 betting odds to win this year's title. However, the unpredictability that typically characterises a new F1 circuit was in full evidence last year, when Sergio Perez enjoyed a rare moment in the sun in an unfancied Force India car and finished third.

19 June 2016: Drivers speak to press after the inaugural F1 race in Baku.