Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sepang Qualifying: Come rain or shine...

Not even the worst of Sepang's notorious weather could alter things. Nor even his team mate getting in the way. Nor even not improving his mark on his final run. It helped though that his first one - the one that won pole - was stunning.

Lewis Hamilton prevailed once again
Photo: Octane Photography
Yes, Lewis Hamilton prevailed in today's Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying session to take another pole position; his 40th ever. And if his winning out a fortnight ago in Melbourne was about his supposedly new-found skills of managing matters from the front with the smallest amount of rancour, today what was decisive were his long established party tricks - bravery, car control, improvisation.

Malaysia's weather indeed did its typical worst, and not for the first time we were given grounds to suspect that the local weather Gods are possessed with a wicked sense of humour, as the flash rainstorm arrived at about the least convenient moment as far as the competitors were concerned. Dark clouds gathered and lightning could be seen nearing just as Q2 began. Typically there was a queue at the pit lane end before the green light preceding a mass scramble to get a time in before the wet stuff indeed came down in its time-honoured Biblical proportions. Lewis stuck in traffic only just made it through, but he needed no more luck after that.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast: Mercedes vs. Cricket

Here's the latest Inside Line F1 podcast. In it Kunal Shah and Rishi Kapoor look ahead to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, explore other recent news such as the loss of the German round, as well as speculate on what might have been if Michael Schumacher still was driving for Mercedes...

The Inside Line F1 podcast is produced and hosted by Kunal and Rishi, and is one of the most listened to podcasts in India and Asia, They are looking to expand elsewhere, and here on Talking about F1 I'm delighted to help share it.

Kunal has been writing on F1 for eight seasons, you can visit Kunal's website at: and you also can follow him on Twitter here.

Sepang Preview: Sign of the times

Sepang was the future once. When the then-gleaming new venue for the inaugural (in the F1 World Championship at least) Malaysian Grand Prix arrived on the calendar in 1999 it was heralded immediately as a giant leap ahead; the new way of things. It was after all the very first of the Hermann Tilke-designed, built from scratch, vast towering facilities, in the creation of which it seemed little had been skimped.

Sepang is known for distinctive architecture, but also
sparse crowds
"Sepang f1" by Eriang87 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA
 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
And so it was to prove given that sort of venue so predominates these days. Many of the fingerprints that are clear here - a long straight book-ended by tight corners intended to provide overtaking opportunities, a high speed esses section, and giant and innovative paddock and grandstand architecture - have been found at nearly all of the new and Tilke-penned venues that have popped up since. Perhaps this association with what's new explains why even though this weekend will be F1's visit number 17, Sepang still feels a lot like a Johnny-Come-Lately presence.

Some even now consider Sepang as Tilke's best too, in layout terms at least. The track has every type of corner and plenty of challenging high speed stuff. But its popularity as a stop-off varies. Not least because of the sapping local humidity that draws the life out of competitors and observers alike. And perhaps further explaining the feeling of newness around the place the event hasn't really gone anywhere over its now lengthy existence. Like many of the new rounds the local enthusiasm seems kept well under control, the cavernous grandstands usually are sparsely-populated and the facility more generally gives the impression of not being used much between the appearances of the F1 circus. Ann Bradshaw indeed once commented that 'when you go back to it for a race, you feel the staff have arrived the day before, opened the offices, chased the spiders away and said here we go again'.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

New Grand Prix Times article: Sympathy for Red Bull amid threats to quit F1

Photo: Octane Photography
Red Bull hasn't been winning any popularity awards lately. You only need to glance around some comments from rival teams, or from fans on social media and the like, to work that out.

In large part this is because since the team flopped in the season-opener in Melbourne team boss Christian Horner has been arguing for some kind of equalisation to allow the team to catch up, while Helmut Marko has hinted that the team might quit the sport. Talk which led to many branding them as sore losers and perhaps even hypocrites.

But for Grand Prix Times I outline under my breath why things aren't quite as simple as have been presented, and why I have some sympathy with the team's point of view.

You can have a read here:

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Thank you Red Bull Racing - a guest post by Kunal Shah

(views expressed are personal; long read, so sit back and enjoy this piece with a can of Red Bull)

Thank you Red Bull Racing! Should they actually decide to quit Formula 1, I want to be the first fan ever to have thanked Red Bull Racing for their contribution and success in the sport. At times, I did wonder if I was watching Formula 1 or Formula Yawn, but in my long term memory, Sebastian Vettel will always be to Red Bull Racing what Michael Schumacher was to Ferrari, well almost! So thank you for all the good years of dominant racing where an energy drinks giant took the mighty manufacturer teams at task and beat them at their game. Thank you for adding and then almost taking the fizz out of the sport! And of course, thank you for the super content pool that you created for us fans! (Read: Mercedes is the new Red Bull Racing and Vettel vs. Schumi For No. 1)

Until recently Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel
 triumph was habitual
Photo: Octane Photography
So is Red Bull Racing bullshitting everyone with their threats to quit the sport? No! That would be my clear assessment of the situation. And no, I wouldn't be entirely shocked if they did. And if they really do, they will take four cars with them. Sigh! Barring Haas F1 Team's entry, almost every other piece of news in the last two years or so is about teams taking their cars off the much coveted Formula 1 grid. (Read: Your Chance To Own An F1 Team)

But it is time to keep emotions aside and assess this threat from a business (for me, Formula 1 is first a business!) and then from a technical point of view. Red Bull Energy drinks invests millions of dollars to run their Formula 1 operations – Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. If I could be cheeky, the Formula One Management (FOM) too invests money in the lead team via a 'preferred' payment for every season they compete (rumoured to be $70 million or a nearly 80-90% of a mid-field team’s annual budget). For the uninitiated, Red Bull Racing gets paid to race in Formula 1, much like Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Mercedes. (Read: Racing First, Engineering Later)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast: Formula One or Formula Rookie?

The latest Inside Line F1 podcast is here. Kunal Shah and Rishi Kapoor chew the fat over the season-opener just passed in Melbourne. And of course it provided much to talk about, from on and off the track. The podcast is lively stuff as always you can have a listen below:

There also is an Inside F1 podcast that I managed to miss between times, titled Oh No! Alonso!, which you can listen to here.

The regular Inside Line F1 podcast is produced and hosted by Kunal and Rishi, and is one of the most listened to podcasts in India and Asia, They are looking to expand elsewhere, and here on Talking about F1 I'm delighted to help share it.

Kunal has been writing on F1 for eight seasons, you can visit Kunal's website at: and you also can follow him on Twitter here.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Another reason why the Mercedes dominance shouldn't surprise

We didn't really need confirmation, but in Melbourne last weekend we got it away. The Mercedes advantage over all others is gargantuan. Indeed if there has been any change since its haughty 2014 campaign it has been to make its preponderance yet more crushing than before.

The Mercedes dominance in Melbourne was no surprise -
but also for more reasons than you might think
Photo: Octane Photography
No great revelation. But strange though it no doubt seems time was that it would have been a surprise, even with the team sweeping the board the previous year. As then a triumphant F1 campaign was viewed in its own way a curse as much as a blessing, because such triumph was thought to make it less likely that you'd prevail in the next season.

'Undoubtedly there is an infectious disease which afflicts every World Champion and team, and it's been going on for years. It's not right to say that the guy who's champion loses his edge, or that the designer relaxes, the mechanics lose interest or whatever. But somewhere along the line these things occur - I'm talking about decimals points but they add up.'

Monday, 16 March 2015

First of my race reviews for Motor Verso

Photo: Octane Photography
I'm delighted to announce that I've expanded my writing portfolio for this new F1 season. I will be writing a review of every Grand Prix for motoring website Motor Verso, which will be available in the day or so after each race.

And my first race review, for the Australian Grand Prix just passed, is now published and you can have a read of it via this link:

The reviews will differ from the race reports that I put on this site in that they'll be shorter and more punchy, and I'll of course seek to keep the content in both original and to not duplicate!

More broadly on Motor Verso you will find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out weeklong test drives of the latest cars - as well as rather nice photos and videos of the machines too. Do check the site out if you can.

New Vital F1 article: Giedo van der Garde’s case against Sauber, and why it matters

Photo: Octane Photography
It was no great surprise that the first gathering of an F1 round in 2015 just passed was big on rancour. After all, there was no reason to think that causes of the predominant politicking of 2014 had been soothed at all since. But even so it felt rather rammed full of it.

And one matter taking the attention in the build up to the Melbourne weekend, as well as during a lot of it, was the curious case of Giedo van der Garde, and how sat his Sauber contract for this year.

Not for the first time, van der Garde was one who signed a contract only for the team to act apparently like there wasn't one. But for the first time anyone could remember in F1 van der Garde pursued the matter, and vigorously, through the courts, something which threatened to create many sizeable reverberations. And the matter even now is far from closed.

In my latest article for Vital F1 I explore the whole issue, what caused it and why it really matters. You can have a read here:

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Australian GP Report: Lewis keeps command

In reality it was a race of one. His team mate was close throughout, but may as well as been nowhere near.

Lewis Hamilton took an imperious win today
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton won the Australian Grand Prix, and from the get-go it never looked in doubt. Yes Nico Rosberg as mentioned for the duration was never far from his exhaust scent. But Lewis was toying with his team mate. After the first lap of green flag racing following an early safety car appearance he was 2.3 seconds up the road. As expected too the rest were nowhere - at least as far back as we grew very used to in 2014. Come the end an hour and a half later things hadn't changed a great deal.

In between times a pattern developed. Time after time Nico eagerly trimmed the gap ahead, but as soon as it got to around a second and a half Lewis immediately put the hammer down to streak clear again. It was a classic retention of command while taking the least out of your car, your tyres and your fuel - especially important in the current formula. And for Rosberg it was all an exercise in futility. For all that we associate Lewis with his right foot - his instinctive skills and relentless attacking style - as we witnessed increasingly in the course of last season these days he also can control a race like Jackie Stewart.