Saturday, 23 May 2015

Monaco Qualifying: Deja vu denied

So there were no repeats. He made sure of that.

Entering this Monaco Grand Prix weekend plenty it seemed were determined to talk about what happened 12 months ago. Nico Rosberg winning the oh-so important pole position here, aided at least in part by a trip down an escape road at the death while top of the times meaning no one - including most pointedly his team mate Lewis Hamilton - could improve. And oh how we heard about it afterwards.

Lewis Hamilton made sure that history didn't repeat
Photo: Octane Photography
And heading into the crunch part of today's qualifying session there was a creeping sense of deja vu. Just like last year Lewis started the weekend looking serene, but as Saturday went on Nico was showing signs of creeping ahead. In morning practice Nico was the quicker of the two silver cars and then in qualifying itself he topped everyone in Q1 and Q2 - Lewis periodically it seemed having reason to be dissatisfied with his tyre pressures. Just like last year too the pole battle turned out to be a private affair for the Mercedes.

Then as if to provide a flashing arrow for those who hadn't quite picked up on it all, at the end of Q2 Nico got his braking wrong at St Devote and had another exploration of one of the Principality's escape roads...

But Lewis wrenched the whole thing back when it really mattered. In the first runs of Q3 his time was 0.136 under that on his team mate. And then when they made their second efforts Nico in effect surrendered by again getting his braking wrong at the St Devote and abandoning his lap due to the time lost. The pole belonged to Lewis but he saw no harm in adding a coup de grace of taking another two tenths off his mark.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Monaco Preview: Hey ho, silver

Once upon a time, Formula One fan and more general wit Clive James noted with typical dryness that "it is said these days with increasing frequency that Monaco makes a nice change from Grand Prix racing". And with but the latest visit upon us this weekend coming, it's hard to argue.

Despite everything, there's nothing quite like Monaco
Photo: Octane Photography
What is it with the fraternity's annual stop-off and its apparent 'jewel in the crown' status? There are so many reasons to dislike Grands Prix around the Principality. If you're to be critical the Monaco round is an anachronism. If you're to be very critical, it's an absurdity.

Narrow, bumpy, sinewy. Nelson Piquet once declared famously that its challenge is like trying to ride your bicycle around your living room. The cars never are allowed close to their full potential around its confines and that has been the way for decades. No-one can pass here, and that's been the case ever since the insertion of the 'swimming pool section' (apparently to give more room for grandstands...) in 1973. By now, had the Monaco Grand Prix never existed then suggesting to establish it would be an act considered something close to certifiable.

It doesn't get much better off the track either; all cramped and claustrophobic as well as that the event attracts various ostentatious posers who in all probability don't care much for the sport other than in that one weekend of the year.

But perhaps, conversely, what it is about Monaco lays within all of this somewhere.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

New Grand Prix Times article: Formula 1 fails to learn from the past on refuelling

By Fabio Alessandro Locati (My self) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons.
The news from the latest Strategy Group meeting in the week that dominated headlines was of course the proposed, and surprise, return of refuelling for 2017.

In my latest piece for Grand Prix Times​ I explain why although F1 is big on nostalgia it is not learning from the past on this one.

You can have a read via this link: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/display/10254

Also, I've just noticed that I neglected to mention my previous article for Grand Prix Times from earlier this month. Again it's about politics and the future of the sport, and simple and small steps that we can unite behind that will go a long way to making the changes to F1 that are being called for. Here is the link: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/display/10192

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Talking about F1's Graham Keilloh talks F1 on Radio Woking

Today I was a guest on Radio Woking to discuss the latest F1 news. This was of course dominated by the surprise proposed re-introduction of in-race refuelling for 2017.

Given it's Radio Woking we also discuss McLaren's 2015 woes and its prospects, as well as look ahead briefly to the forthcoming Monaco Grand Prix. You can have a listen via the player below:


Friday, 15 May 2015

Give Everyone Mercedes Engines by Kunal Shah, plus the latest Inside Line F1 podcast

I wondered today, what would happen if every driver on the grid was given a Mercedes engine? Would that solve our current problems, or would it? (Read: What's Wrong With Formula One?)

What if all F1 cars had a Mercedes engine?
Photo: Octane Photography
Well, for starters, I am assuming that Mercedes would be able to manufacture 80 engines for the 2015 Formula 1 Season (4 per driver X 20 drivers; not yet accepting the 5th engine rule!). Given economies of scale, I would hope that the engine costs per team would reduce. From what I have heard, it is a whooping 25 millions euros! The V8s were around 8! And reduction in engine costs is why Formula 1 is now debating a dual engine formula. (Read: Racing First, Engineering Later)

I have two opposing views to the dual engine formula. First, it would add complexity to the sport and policing the engine output would always be difficult. It also takes away some much needed transparency. Second is for those wondering if a dual formula would be unfair to the teams. Here one could argue that the current engine performance is anyway unequal and has always been since many years. (Read: Engine No-ise)

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Might Lewis Hamilton have won in Spain by shunning his third stop?

You'd probably noticed by now that F1 Grands Prix at Barcelona tend not to be the biggest in the thrill stakes. Overtaking is not the work of a moment at the Montmelo track. Some of its related stats - such as pole-sitters becoming race victors - are more Monaco than Monaco. With this in mind that during and after last Sunday's race there was such a focus on pit strategy rather than places being resolved by wheel-to-wheel stuff should not be a surprise.

Might Lewis Hamilton have won out in Spain?
Photo: Octane Photography
Much of the related focus was on Sebastian Vettel and whether Ferrari should have 'covered off' the strategy of Lewis Hamilton who was behind him for the first half of the race. As it was just about everyone - including Seb it seemed - realised in hindsight that there would have been little point. The Mercedes simply were too quick to be defied from every available angle.

As for the Merc themselves, well not much to see there? After all by consensus the race between them for first was done in Nico Rosberg's favour at the opening few corners when Nico led and Lewis sank to third behind Vettel. Well perhaps not. Lewis's 'plan B' strategy to get him ahead of Vettel involved three stops to Nico's more standard two, and before his third and final stop the Englishman in fact led the pair, and given he was on the hard compound tyres and had previously used the medium, there was no necessity from a rules point of view to stop again. Might he have stayed out so to got to the end on that set and, perhaps, won the race by doing so?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Latest episode of A Racer's Experience - the Spanish Grand Prix

Here is the latest A Racer's Experience episode, in which I talk to presenter Matt Nicholas about last Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix as well as look ahead to the Monaco Grand Prix in a fortnight and at the possibility of Audi joining F1 with Red Bull.

Our discussion starts at around 7m and 30 seconds below.


Also in this episode Matt talks to Bob Jenkins about the Indycar round at the Indianapolis road course.

You can also check out the other A Racer's Experience episodes here.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Spanish Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Rosberg's Revival

Photo: Octane Photography
My latest Grand Prix review for Motor Verso is now available for your reading pleasure, this time for the Spanish round just passed.

In it I look back at the race in Barcelona and its implications, including Nico Rosberg's revival, Ferrari's food for thought among other things.

You can have a read here: http://www.motorverso.com/spanish-grand-prix-rosbergs-revival/

As mentioned these race reviews will be a permanent feature from me on Motor Verso this season, so do keep an eye out for them. Do check out the site too: on Motor Verso you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out weeklong test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Spanish GP Report: It all adds up

Sometimes things just make sense. This is the Circuit de Cataluyna in Barcelona, where in Grands Prix pole sitters are rewarded even more consistently than at Monaco - only two of the previous 14 who started first had failed to still be there at the race's end. Nico Rosberg won pole yesterday, and indeed had finished every race exactly where he started in 2015 so far. Even more granularly, the last eight Grands Prix here had been won by eight different drivers - and Nico had never won here before.

This time Nico Rosberg was the one smiling
Photo: Octane Photography
And who won out in today's Spanish Grand Prix? I think you know that one.

Nico's win may strike at the broadest level as a surprise, but it again was something that added up. At the most broad level for all that it has been open season on Nico in 2015 so far really the only difference between his first four rounds and those of 2014 - at the start of a campaign wherein he took the title to the wire - was that then Lewis Hamilton had a technical failure in the first race, granting Nico a 25 point gain. On average he was finishing races closer behind his team mate too this time, while the Sunday in Bahrain last time out confirmed that whatever else was happening the claims that Nico had lost his fight were wide of the mark. He hadn't become a bad driver, and there was still plenty of time for things to change.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Barcelona Qualifying: That thing you do

Nico Rosberg definitely has a thing. A habit. Maybe even a party piece.

That thing is that just at the very moment we think he's down and out, that his stellar team mate Lewis Hamilton finally has consigned him to his box, he leaps right back into contention. And despite the regularity of this we still every time rather gullibly wander straight for the mental trap. We never learn. His bounce backs still come brim-full of surprise.

For once, Nico Rosberg was the one smiling
Photo: Octane Photography
And you know what? He did that thing he does once again today. Yes - Nico claimed the pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix tomorrow.

Most headed into the weekend expecting the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton to prevail. Before today Nico had yet to start or finish as the first of the Merc pair. Plenty including Paddy Lowe (who should know) spoke of the wonderful virtuous place Lewis had got his driving into. By contrast - and perhaps consequently - many reckoned Nico's challenge was by now broken.

But even ahead of today there were clues around of Nico's resurgence if you knew where to look. The Bahrain race last time out at least suggested that his efforts maintained not just a pulse but some spirit too. Niki Lauda for one stated after that round that "Nico is back".

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Barcelona Preview: Same as it ever was?

Some venues have a reputation for unpredictability. For the dishing out the wild card. For the strange to occur.

Sadly though the Circuit de Cataluyna near Barcelona which hosts this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix is not one of them. The Montmelo track whatever its virtues is arguably the single one on the itinerary least associated with the unpredictable and wacky.

Barcelona's Circuit de Cataluyna is known for showing
the cars' technical pecking order
Photo: Octane Photography
It has its uses though. Grands Prix at this circuit are viewed as the sport's bellwether - in other words if you go well here then the likelihood is you'll go well most places. And demonstrating as much 17 of the 24 pole-sitters at this track have gone on to be that year's world champion. Ignore the astonishing shock of Pastor Maldonado's win in 2012, it was entirely out of character (if you're being cruel, in more ways than one).

Why is this? Well as is usually the case it can be attributed to a few things coming together.

The track features a few long medium-speed corners which require good aerodynamic performance and therefore it isn't a circuit on which an under-performing car can readily be hauled around ahead of itself. If your machine isn't working you have little choice but to sit and wait on it. Underlining as much grids here often have a Noah's Ark two-by-two look. The track more generally has a 'bit of everything' quality about it - to the point that the final sector is now considered a good indicator for Monaco pace - which again ensures that cars that perform well in the universal sense are rewarded.

New Motor Verso article: F1 One Year on - Matters of Perspective

As well as writing a race review for every Grand Prix for Motor Verso I also hope to do some more general writing about F1 on the site.

Photo: Octane Photography
And in the first of these I have compared the current F1 championship tables now after four rounds of the season, with the tables at this point a year ago, in 2014.

Much is similar as you'd imagine, but there are a few surprises about how much has changed in the meantime. There also are lessons in there, as well as reasons for optimism still for some such as Nico Rosberg and the Williams team who are reckoned to be struggling now.

Do check it out here: http://www.motorverso.com/f1-one-year-matters-perspective/

On Motor Verso you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out weeklong test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.