Thursday, 24 April 2014

Knowing what's expected of you

In the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend something stood out for me. Something rather blink-and-you-miss-it; that didn't seem to raise much comment.

Early in the race you may recall Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso circulating in tandem - Vettel second; Alonso third. Alonso pitted for the first time, seeking the undercut on Seb, and rejoined the action a little way behind the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat, not yet pitted. But on fresher rubber Alonso bore down on his opponent quickly then passed the STR9 on the back straight. And when Seb pitted himself at the end of the lap he not only emerged behind Alonso but also was himself now behind Kvyat.

Daniil Kvyat - knowing his place
Photo: Octane Photography
Advantage Alonso as Seb is stuck in traffic? Well, no. In the blink of an eye, before the first turn was even half done indeed, Kvyat - who clearly has learned quickly - had smartly nipped out of the Red Bull's way and let Seb by.

It wasn't the biggest surprise of course, in that the first thing a lot of F1 followers would attribute to Toro Rosso in a word association test is that it is Red Bull's 'B' team, owned as it is by the same fizzy drinks entity.

It's also not the first time we've seen this sort of thing; China last Sunday was merely the latest. The footage of then-Toro Rosso pilot Jaime Alguersuari having strips torn off him by Red Bull bigwig Helmut Marko in Korea in 2011 due to the heinous offence of having held up Seb in a practice session (yes, a practice session) lingers unpleasantly in the memory. While since it seems the Toro Rosso pilots know exactly what is excepted of them. Even though the instances necessarily don't arise that often, when a Red Bull gets behind a Toro Rosso, even if it's in a race for position, the Toro Rosso can be expected in a response akin to Pavlov's dog to swerve out of its pursuer's path pronto. As Martin Brundle has been given to comment (presumably in reference to Alguersuari): 'the last Toro Rosso driver to get in the way of a Red Bull no longer is a Toro Rosso driver'.

One other notable occasion of such was in the notorious 'flag gate' after the 2012 title decider in Interlagos, which oh-so briefly threatened to take Vettel's latest title away from him. For me though perhaps the most intriguing part of the whole case was that the pass in question by Vettel of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso (thought to be under yellow though it turned out not) was made possible because the Toro Rosso driver got out of the throttle conspicuously in a straight line.

Also not new is more than one F1 team being owned by the same person. Toto Wolff as well as his Executive Director role at Mercedes and being a shareholder there, also continues to hold shares in his former employer of Williams, though he's also been quoted as saying he intends to sell at least some of his stake in the Grove team. Flavio Briatore too for a period in the 1990s owned the Ligier team at the same time as he ran the Benetton squad.

Toto Wolff - another with a finger in more than one pie
Photo: Octane Photography
And of course we have team orders in F1, and they're within the rules if often controversial, but what appears to be one team assisting another seems one clear stride beyond that. And while you might think that I'm making a bit much of this, consider that, given the clear potential for conflicts of interest, this sort of thing would never be allowed in most other sports.

An equivalent in football would be, say, the Manchester City owners deciding to buy Norwich City too. It's hard to imagine it being allowed at all, isn't it? Imagine moreover that if even if it was allowed, after this Norwich were to roll over and lose 4-0 to Man City every time they met... In Spain there are B teams in football, but pointedly they're not allowed to compete in the same division as their respective A squads, even if they earn a promotion place. While had something like a Toro Rosso's assisted pass by a Red Bull happened in horse racing it likely would have been referred for investigation as a possible race fix.

And at what point do we draw the line in F1 on such activity? Presumably we wouldn't allow a team to purchase the rest of the field? Especially not if the other teams' pilots started to get out of the throttle in a straight line to let their parent cars past? And while this may be deliberately facetious point it's also the logical, extrapolated, conclusion. Perhaps the FIA shouldn't have allowed such multiple ownership in the first place. But perhaps also it's reflective that F1 is a sport that doesn't worry too much about where its money is coming from. 'Twas ever thus.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Making your points

Lewis Hamilton has won the last three Grands Prix, making it three triumphs from four rounds this campaign. Indeed, he's barely been headed in this time, and in two of these victories he's had the place to himself pretty much.

The 2014 Formula One World Championship so far has been a lot about him in other words. Yet - in an outcome that strikes as incongruous - he's not leading the drivers' table.

Lewis Hamilton, despite recent dominance, isn't yet
leading the drivers' table
Photo: Octane Photography
This can be explained mainly by that with our current system of 25 points for a win, a massive increase on the points available per race compared with any system that had gone before in F1 history, that the non-finish with its resultant nil points is really punished. Lewis of course had one of these in the year-opener at Melbourne, and his stable mate Nico Rosberg cleaned up in his absence. Lewis has spent the time since clawing it back, but such is the Mercedes dominance that second place is the least that can reasonably be excepted from either pilot, meaning the points difference on offer per race effectively is but seven. And assuming that no one's going to be heading a Mercedes any time soon Lewis even after his triple-crown still needs yet one more win before he heads Nico in the standings. To me there seems something a bit wrong about that.

Perhaps just as one is prone to think that the drivers you grew up supporting will never be equalled ('there will never be another Ayrton, another Michael, another Jimmy...'), possibly it's also tempting to be attached to the points system that was around when you were first introduced to the sport. But for me the sport came closest to getting it right with the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system that prevailed between 1991 and 2002, around the time of my first flush of youth as an F1 acolyte. But I'd like to think it's not just down to this, I prefer it mainly because of the large gap between the reward for winning and the reward for coming second, which seemed apt in a sport wherein the desire to win should be paramount, wherein we want those who prevail to fight at the front rather than cruise and collect.

And were that system still in place in 2014 then Lewis would have taken the championship lead after his Shanghai victory, claiming a two-point advantage over Rosberg. In apparent testament of this system, that somehow feels right, like a genuine refection of what's happened on track in the opening four rounds.

However the system was abandoned after the 2002 campaign, wherein Michael Schumacher in a season of insulting Ferrari (and Schumi) dominance taped up the drivers' title mathematically in July. Instead, for the next season the points gap between winning and finishing next up was halved to just two - with ten points staying for the win and second place now getting eight - while points for the first time were awarded down to eighth place (in the system that preceded it had been down to sixth). The latter part turned out probably to be a good move on balance; in the era of ultra-reliability restricting points to just the top six would have ensured scoring was to an overwhelming extent a carve-up for the top four or even three teams. But the former part, of greatly diminishing the premium on winning, was less welcome.

Kimi Raikkonen nearly won the 2003 title with just one win
Credit: Mathieu Felten / CC
And the first year of using the system demonstrated a lot of the vices. Well as Kimi Raikkonen drove in 2003, he came within two points of the title with but one win to his name compared with the champion Schumi's six (but crucially seven second places to Schumi's none). Williams' Frank Dernie spoke for a few when he stated 'the new system is rubbish - a massive step backwards. You've now got a situation where you could quite easily win the championship without any race wins at all.'

But Schumi benefited too, in that having established a clear lead in the table by around the half-season mark, he then as the year proceeded suddenly found himself off the pace of the McLaren and Williams, but the points system ensured that the task of hauling in his lead was a snail's pace activity.

Perhaps we should be grateful to some extent for what we have now - had the system of then been in place today then Lewis's current winning run would have had to stretch all the way to Monaco in order to just draw level with Rosberg (that is, as before, assuming his team mate was second everywhere); over two months of uninterrupted victory to make up for one failure. At least now it would only in this scenario take Lewis three-and-a-bit races to get on terms rather than five.

It is a moot point as to why the 2003 system was brought in in the first place. Stretching the points down to eighth place apparently was at the behest of the middling teams who sought to benefit from scoring for seventh and eighth places. FIA President of the time Max Mosley insisted that increasing the score for second to eight was a more fitting reflection for the achievement of placing runner-up in a race. Cynics - and there were plenty - reckoned however it simply was a wheeze to keep the championship mathematically alive for longer (as mentioned, in the previous year it was done and dusted before most of us had even gone off on our summer holidays).

Indeed, we continue to wrestle with the prospect of double points on offer in this year's final round, but perhaps we shouldn't have been too surprised by it; seeking to artificially close up the championship with the points system ain't unprecedented. Moreover going further back, the system of dropping points wherein only x of your best scores of the season would count towards your total, and which somehow prevailed in one form or another all the way from 1950 when the championship started until 1990, often had a similar effect.

The 2003 points system though somehow blundered on to 2010, wherein it was remedied partially to what we have now. But even though it's not the worst, and if we must award points further down than we used to for the reason mentioned, I'd like there to be proportionately more of a gap between the reward for winning and the reward for being but first of the losers.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

New Vital F1 article: More to Luca Montezemolo than you might think

Photo: Octane Photography
I don't know about you, but I often get the impression that Ferrari President Luca Montezemolo doesn't get a great deal of respect from some F1 fans.

But these people may not be aware that he's got a previous at the coalface, running an F1 team on a day-to-day basis. And what's more he was very good at it.

Over at Vital F1 I tell the story of Montezemolo's highly successful time as Ferrari's team chief. You can read the article here:

Monday, 21 April 2014

Lewis Hamilton - Boy II Man?

No one - or at least no one worth listening to - has ever doubted Lewis Hamilton's driving talent. Indeed, it would be hard to make the case that his instinctive skills, stunning natural speed and towering bravery are equalled by anyone in contemporary F1.

His problems - relatively speaking - in previous years were elsewhere. Not least that some wondered if his mental approach was always that helpful. Even late last year there were conspicuous examples of his 'chin dropping' (to use the football-ism), of using the media microphone as a sort of confessional; to self-flagellate.

Lewis Hamilton - plenty of smiling
this season
Photo: Octane Photography
But thus far in 2014 all that has seemed long gone. Lewis appears to have established a new-found equilibrium and ability to maintain a positive attitude in and out of the car, and I can barely think of an occasion on which he's let it slip.

It was continued in the Chinese Grand Prix weekend just past, including in his words and demeanour after his latest triumph. Paying homage to the team and making clear he's only a small part of the current results they're enjoying; as well as of the need not be be complacent and to keep pushing. He spoke of the team and his fans as a source of 'energy', of his fans as his 'angels'. He spoke with perspective about his upbringing in Stevenage; the work of those around him to get him where he is; how he'd never then have thought he'd make it as far as he had. And when Johnny Herbert on Sky asked Lewis if there has been a conscious effort to improve this part of his repertoire, to establish more positivity, Lewis agreed absolutely.

Of course, you could argue that his mental rigidity has hardly been tested this season, equipped as he is with a fine Mercedes W05 and enjoying three wins from four rounds. Perhaps when faced with more adversity the old foibles will return. But my view is that such claims reflect a bit too much determination to think the worst; I sense a genuine breakthrough in Lewis's mental approach. Even aside from the more general evidence of this, even after his car broke down in Melbourne pretty much as soon as the race started, dashing all of the anticipation of pre-season and of a fine pole position, he retained his poise in interviews afterwards, maintaining his positive and constructive disposition.

Witnessing Lewis out of the car this year I've also been put in mind of something F1 journalist Joe Saward said at one of his Audience with... events, at Austin late last year. He noted that Lewis Hamilton like a lot of F1 drivers hadn't had normal teenage years, as during them he was being intensely groomed as a racing driver. Perhaps therefore Lewis did his mental 'growing up' much later than the rest of us, and did it in the severe public gaze that comes with being a top line F1 driver.

Photo: Octane Photography
The theory fits rather neatly. When Lewis arrived in F1 in 2007 there was something very child-like about him: eager to please; keen to say the right thing; obedient; deferential; disciplined. Possibly though - and also as outlined by Saward - in the years since we witnessed Lewis go through something of a late adolescence. Again there were parallels in his behaviour: the apparent keenness to 'make it on his own', first from his father, then from the McLaren team; the moods; the silences and often uncommunicative persona; the occasional incoherence; the sometimes erratic behaviour; the girl troubles; the already-mentioned strange tendency to beat himself up (which those who've worked with him were insistent had a negative impact on his driving). Heck, even if we missed all the other evidence he spoke last year of his desire to become a rapper...

And if we are to follow this train of thought to its logical conclusion perhaps we are now witnessing Lewis Hamilton the adult. For this reason and more, already at this early stage I'd be astonished if anyone other than he is to be the 2014 World Drivers' Champion.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Flagging officials

The 2014 Chinese Grand Prix wasn't quite a thriller, but it had a bit a fun added after the act.

It turns out that the final two laps of proceedings didn't actually happen, despite all appearances. Instead the result was declared after 54 tours of the scheduled and completed 56.

Why? Well no it wasn't a result of us somehow suffering a collective hallucination. Instead, you may recall that on the final lap Lewis Hamilton said something on the team radio - replicated on the world TV feed - about a chequered flag. Many assumed simply that he'd mis-counted and expected the flag a lap early. But no, it wasn't Lewis that had mis-counted; he had been shown the flag a lap early.

How could such a thing happen? Especially in this age of precise computerised timing? Turns out - to borrow the catchphrase of a notorious UK newspaper columnist - you couldn't make it up. Sky has reported that 'It's understood that the mistake happened when the clerk of the course unfurled the flag to test it.' Oh dear.

Kamui Kobayashi - the one to miss out
Photo: Octane Photography
And as it turned out the effect of this was doubled, as under Article 43.2 of F1's sporting regulations: 'Should for any reason the end-of-race signal be given before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps, or the prescribed time has been completed, the race will be deemed to have finished when the leading car last crossed the line before the signal was given.' So, results have been taken from the lap before the clerk of the course committed the goof up.

All can thank their lucky stars that there wasn't more of a consequence from this; imagine if Daniel Ricciardo had indeed passed Fernando Alonso on the last lap, or if Lewis Hamilton had broken down...

The only resultant positional change was that Kamui Kobayashi's pass of Jules Bianchi on the final lap for seventeenth place now counts for nothing. And imagine too if that fight had been over P11 or P12 rather than P17, given such positions would likely have been crucial to their respective team's constructors' placings, which of course the money is based on. Still, while it may not be probable it is still plausible that these placings could tilt the championship order balance one way or another, if there is a count back. If I was in charge of such things at Caterham I'd appeal this; after all the team wouldn't want to regret the matter in six months' time if this precise scenario was indeed to play out. And there seem parallels between this and the outcome of the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix; then as now an organisational goof up changing the result as it should have been, and which in that case was corrected subsequently days later.

There's also something of a parallel with the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix. It's a race recalled primarily as Jean Alesi's first and as it transpired only Grand Prix win, and in response to this the locals got a bit overexcited and invaded the track - before everyone had finished their final laps... Mika Salo in seventh place turned onto the pit straight for the final time and upon finding the track awash with spectators decided to stop before he'd reached the finish line, so not to mow anyone down. Luca Badoer, who'd started the final lap some 50 seconds after Salo, had no such qualms however and charged past Salo's Tyrrell to cross the line before it. The stewards later didn't sympathise with Badoer and declared the final result based on the lap before, relegating Badoer back to where he belonged.

As for 'face-palm' moments involving the chequered flag, we all recall the one about Pele being brought in to wave it at Interlagos one year, and managing to miss the winner. But there are others.

Alain Prost's 1985 British Grand Prix win came
slightly sooner than anticipated
Credit: Lothar Spurzem / CC
In the British Grand Prix of 1985 the chequered flag was also shown a lap early, this time to leader and victor Alain Prost, and it was all down to a bit of old-fashioned British incompetence. It transpired that the official on the line had assumed that his manual lap chart was correct even though he had the computerised timing system close to hand. It wasn't correct. Prost however, as ever leaving nothing to chance, completed the final lap anyway, and little more was said.

My personal favourite tale comes from the Swiss Grand Prix at Dijon in 1982. Despite the nomenclature the Swiss Grand Prix was in effect a second French race on the calendar (just as the San Marino Grand Prix was a second Italian Grand Prix effectively for years). Then, the home ticket of Alain Prost in the Renault had led for much of the way, but in the late laps second-placed Keke Rosberg in his Williams was hunting him down at a rapid rate.

As they were set to begin their penultimate lap the deficit was down to a few cars' lengths, but Williams' team manager Peter Collins at roughly that point spotted something. At the start line he saw an official apparently all set to wave the chequered flag two laps early - presumably to the aid of the home team! Collins however sprinted to the vicinity and manage to distract the said official long enough to allow Prost and Rosberg to flash by once more.

Then, on what all assumed was the final tour, Rosberg indeed found a way by, but come the end of the lap there was no chequered flag! According to Maurice Hamilton in Autocourse: 'The officials, now thoroughly harassed, were gesticulating with their colleagues in the control tower and, in so doing, missed Rosberg...'. Some dryly noted that instead they might have been now minded to put the flag out late in case Prost caught up again. Rosberg however kept going until he saw a flag, which duly arrived a lap later.

In other words, if you think today was bad...

Chinese GP Report: Lewis wins a race of one

Driving an F1 car can never be said to be easy. Even more acutely, winning a Formula One Grand Prix can never be said to be easy. But Lewis Hamilton today may have got about as close as you'll ever likely get to either.

From the get-go it was a race of one; even as he led into the opening turn Lewis's ultimate victory of the Chinese Grand Prix never looked in any doubt, reliability aside. And Lewis knew as much, admitting afterwards that he 'was racing himself'. Only he could have beaten himself. And he didn't. His only minor foot wrong was running off the track at the end of his first stint when in the outer reaches of his tyre life, but beyond that it's hard to pinpoint reasonably what else could have been asked of him.

Lewis Hamilton triumphed once again
Photo: Octane Photography
'I can't believe how amazing the car is...the results we're getting is a true reflection of all the hard work (of the team)' said a contented Lewis on the podium.

While whatever concerns he had in advance about the car's handling from Friday running (though he still topped the times), plus the nagging concern that there was no dry running on Saturday wherein he could test out the overnight changes, melted away in no time.

'After P2 (Friday practice) I had to make a lot of changes in anticipation for today even though yesterday was wet, but it worked perfectly...'

So long as the Mercs kept going it seemed Lewis's only credible threat in theory was once again from his team mate Nico Rosberg, but after turn one - not helped by coming into contact with Valtteri Bottas - he was tucked up in P7 while his stable mate was making good his escape.

Nico's progress up the order was a bit laboured too. He didn't make much hay in the first stint (only clearing Nico Hulkenberg), made more in the second stint as he cleared Daniel Ricciardo in the pits then passed Sebastian Vettel and closed on Fernando Alonso. And he indeed sailed past the Ferrari on the back straight early on in the final stint to claim second place. But by this point the haughty Hamilton was over the hills and far away.

Not for the first time this year Nico was left to put a brave face on matters subsequently: 'The whole weekend was really really bad for me, it was went just completely wrong in so many different respects, also in the race we didn't have telemetry...

'I just look forward to a normal weekend in Barcelona, full attack again.'

Rosberg still leads the drivers' table (just), which as much as anything is a reflection of how much the current points system punishes DNFs, and Lewis of course had one of those in the season-opener at Melbourne and Nico was able to clean up.

And already it's hard to see how the Mercs can be caught in 2014. They have a big advantage, but what in my view will likely really keep them out of the others' reach is the nature of the advantage - based as it is on long lead-in items such as the engine layout and the packaging around it.

Fernando Alonso amazed us yet again
Photo: Octane Photography
Nico however now needs to find something to make a fight of the drivers' title with his team mate; he can't rely on DNFs as a rule. And now, four rounds into the season we have two clear intra-squad wins for Lewis; one close run thing and one inconclusive. All in as things stand, the scales appear tilted Lewis's way.

Once again, the Silver Arrows made things rather appear like they were the sole LMP1 entrants with everyone else representing LMP2. And when Fernando Alonso reckoned after qualifying that he could be best in class as it were behind the Mercs over the race, the consensus was that assessment was a little on the, shall we say, optimistic side. But that's precisely what he did, managing to lead the Red Bulls home and occupy the bottom step of the podium.

'It was a good weekend, we did improve the car a little bit after the first three races, so we felt more competitive. And to be here in the podium is a nice surprise finally' said Alonso afterwards.

He wasn't quite giving up on the championship either: 'We didn't have the start of the season that we liked but we're still in the fight'. From anyone else that would sound like head in the clouds stuff, but not from Fernando.

It seems that a few technical upgrades have helped the Ferrari F14 T, plus the Shanghai track characteristics and temperatures probably suited the machine. But still, that podium finish seemed almost purely about Fernando. It's just the latest reminder of the magic that he offers behind the wheel, and moreover serves up just about every time. You almost grow bored saying it.

A couple of other world champions out there have a bit to ponder however. First off Sebastian Vettel. He seized second place off the line and even though he lost that place to Alonso at the first round of stops, Red Bull falling for what struck me as a rather signposted undercut, Seb still looked on it.

His day however unravelled very quickly. He fell back from Alonso in a deliberate attempt to preserve his tyres (as he didn't have the straightline speed to pass). But he fell back rather more than what would have looked strategic, and with the additional tyre wear he was experiencing the Red Bull team was caught rather between two stools of two and three-stopping. When Rosberg moved past Seb disputed the position which - while spirited as well as was entertaining for us watching on - probably was less beneficial to him than simply bowing to the inevitable. And the time lost in the scrap put his more freshly-booted team mate Ricciardo - who'd succeeded in stretching out his first stint - onto his tail.

Sebastian Vettel was frustrated once again
Photo: Octane Photography
Then came the call; just like in Bahrain Vettel was asked to let Ricciardo past. But unlike in Bahrain Seb, having ascertained that unlike then he and Ricciardo were on the same strategy, didn't comply. His response, literally, was 'tough luck'.

Ricciardo did pass shortly afterwards, which all concerned including Vettel himself insisted was a deliberate yield, but you would have been forgiven for thinking it appeared that Seb had simply run wide inadvertently, too busy looking in his mirrors when under attack from his stable mate.

And from there on Seb rather sank, unhappy on his worn tyres as his pitwall occupants decided on a two-stopper after all, rather to the chagrin of its champion driver. Come the end he trailed Ricciardo home in fifth, some 24 seconds afterwards. Christian Horner admitted afterwards that Vettel's 'not been able to read' this year's variety of Pirellis, and this was an area previously a strength for him. 'I was just too slow' said Seb, brutally.

While Kimi Raikkonen was never a factor today in the other Ferrari, finishing eighth and - most traumatically - some 50 seconds plus after his team mate. Yes, he missed FP1 after technical troubles. Yes, reportedly the F14 T isn't handling to his liking. And, oh yeah, Alonso's very good. But you feel that even with these the deficit shouldn't be adding to that much.

But in another developing theme for 2014 Daniel Ricciardo impressed us yet again. He lost places off the start, running P4 early on, but as mentioned smartly extended his first stint and then reaped his reward by running on fresher tyres than those around him for the rest of the day. He moved past Vettel as mentioned, and later showed plenty of spirit in hunting down Alonso for the final podium slot. He reckoned with another lap he'd have 'had a sniff', but then again Alonso gave the impression of letting out the rope as far as he dared.

For Ricciardo though surely his first (proper) top three finish, and better, only is a matter of time.

But as mentioned, Mercedes sweeping the 2014 honours already seems a lot like a matter of time too. As, increasingly, does Lewis Hamilton capturing firm control of the drivers' title fight.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Shanghai Qualifying: Continuing the themes

Shanghai is a city evolving at a supersonic rate. To the point that when the F1 fraternity pitches up each year it finds there an awful lot that is almost beyond recognition compared with what was 12 months previously. But today's qualifying session at the Shanghai International Circuit wasn't in keeping with the city just down the road. There wasn't a lot that was new; instead it seemed a continuation of various themes already familiar in the fledgling 2014 campaign.

Lewis Hamilton - on top again in the wet conditions
Photo: Octane Photography
For the third qualifying session from four in 2014 rain fell, pretty much for the duration. But just like before it didn't make much difference to the outcome, not for Lewis Hamilton anyway. Three times the rain has fallen when it matters on a Saturday; three times Lewis has claimed pole position, leaving all others far behind.

This was the pattern of the whole of China's quali hour - and further repeating the pattern of before Lewis had clear pace in hand on everyone, which extends in the wet, where his almost freakish bravery, commitment and car control can be put to best use. And sure enough come the end of today's session he had a positively mammoth six tenths of a second on the rest.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Chinese GP Betting Preview - Can Lewis throw a knockout blow in round 4? By Andy Morgan

An exhilarating encounter in Bahrain showcased one of the best inter-team battles in recent memory. Now it is time for the 11th Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit to flourish and host round 4 of the 2014 F1 season, fast becoming a memorable fight between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Two successive 1-2s and maximum points for Mercedes has consolidated the strong advantage Lewis and Nico are currently enjoying. It would be a major shock to see any of the chasing pack significantly push them this weekend, particularly as the lengthy straights emulate Bahrain and suit the power-packed Mercedes engine.

Will Lewis be in the picture again in Shanghai?
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton in China will be targeting three consecutive wins, a feat never achieved by the 2008 World Champion in his Formula 1 career. Yet the exciting display at Bahrain proved to the world that Lewis will not be strolling away with world title number two. Only a majestic defense drive kept Nico and his fresher, softer tyres at bay.

Lewis admitted that Nico was the quicker man in Bahrain, confirmed by the German's pumped up, steely manner on the podium. Nico is likely to carry that intensity and determination into the weekend, looking to avenge the previous two defeats to his former karting teammate.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Race Week London and Prince's Trust F1 memorabilia auctions

If you're planning on attending the British Grand Prix this year or else are likely to be in the vicinity of London in early July, then you may be interested in Race Week London. It takes place on Thursday 3rd July, three days before the British Grand Prix, at the Royal Artillery Gardens in the City of London.

The event is a six acre festival of motor sport which includes among other things:
  • live Formula One car demonstrations;
  • a concourse of 50 F1 cars from over the last 50 years for fans to peruse - Ayrton Senna's 1984 Toleman and Michael Schumacher's 1994 Benetton will be among those on display;
  • a motorsport forum held in conjunction with Sports Pro which produces the annual 'Black Book' Formula 1 guide;
  • live F1 simulators;
  • a Q&A and meet and greet with F1 drivers;
  • a F1 drivers' cricket match;
  • and much more. 
The team behind the event is the same which has produced the 'Grand Prix Ball' over the past four years.

Full details of the event and details of how you can buy tickets can be found on their website:

Furthermore, as part of the build-up to Race Week London in each Grand Prix weekend until the British Grand Prix there will be an online charity auction of limited edition Formula 1 memorabilia, in aid of the Prince's Trust - a Youth Charity founded in 1976 by The Prince of Wales which helps disadvantaged young people.

And the auction for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix is live until Tuesday morning. You can check it out at

There's plenty of very interesting F1 bits and bobs to peruse, though if you want to bid for anything you'll need deeper pockets than I have...

You can also find out more, and get latest updates, on Race Week, the auctions and the Grand Prix Ball via the following links:

Race Week: @RaceWeekLondon
Grand Prix Ball: @GrandPrixBall

Race Week:
Grand Prix Ball:

Grand Prix Ball:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New article: Age old matters

Photo: Octane Photography
Ever wondered why F1 drivers seem a bit younger than used to be the case (and are convinced it's not just you getting old yourself)?

It's something that I've noticed too. And over at in a new article I outline that modern F1 drivers get older 'quicker' than used to be so (and least as far as perceptions are concerned), as well as that the paddock employers look for youth in their charges much more than was once the case. I also explore the reasons why this is.

You can have a read by clicking on this link: