Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Le Mans Says No To Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg claimed that they 'cleared the air' over their collision at the 2016 Spanish GP. But we're in Formula 1 - we don't clear the air, we dirty it! In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal give you a sneak peek into the conversation between the two not-so-bitter title rivals.

Le Mans has rejected Formula 1 - by saying NO to the FIA's proposal to race at the legendary Le Mans circuit. What hurts more is that MotoGP already races there! Hamilton is keen to race in MotoGP too, presumably to take some more selfies.

We give you our predictions for our favourite race of the year, in Monaco. Can Max Verstappen pull off another victory? Hamilton has not won in Monaco since 2008. In fact, he's never won here with Mercedes. Maybe he needs to focus on his opening lap strategy and quit pretending to be James Bond!

There's also chatter about Formula 1 drivers racing in the Indy Car series one day. While Perez is open, Hamilton has declined interest. But we wonder if that's possible and if it is fair, after all, the Indy Car series is all-American.

Finally, we tell you why Rosberg moving to Ferrari is only a rumour (he's not good enough!) and how the rumours of Hamilton missing the Monaco GP came about (he wanted to party on Saturday night). Will the new Red Bull Racing engine update propel the team to the podium? McLaren claims it will dethrone Mercedes, does that mean they will have Alonso and Button crash into each other? Oh yes, we also tell you why they have 'Sensodyne' as their sponsor.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 17)

Monday, 23 May 2016

Monaco Preview: A nice change...

Once upon a time, Formula One fan and more general wit Clive James noted with his 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 now upon us, it's hard to argue with his sentiments.

Despite everything, there's something about Monaco
Photo: Octane Photography
Really, what is it with the place and its 'jewel in the crown' status in F1? 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. To adapt the saying, if the Monaco Grand Prix didn't exist then there is no way you could invent it.

A narrow and bumpy, as well as tortuously sinewy, tunnel of barriers. Famously Nelson Piquet described its challenge as like trying to ride a bicycle around your living room. The cars never are allowed close to their full potential 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. As has been the case for just about all of this time qualifying will do a lot to frame the race result.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Young guns and Bull runs - why the future is bright both for Verstappen and Red Bull

You'll have read plenty of eulogies about Max Verstappen, what with his debut win at the Spanish Grand Prix. You'll probably have heard that he's 18 too.

Photo: Octane Photography
The future indeed looks bright for him, and in my latest article for Grand Prix Times I explore what it is that makes him very good - in many ways unlike what we've seen before - and what might lay ahead for him.

I also look at the team he's just committed to until 2019, Red Bull. The team hadn't died, instead it seems they went to sleep for a while. Or rather, had been hamstrung by a poor Renault engine for the most part. Post Newey, Vettel et al it's somehow maintained its motivation and its performance. Remarkable, all in.

You can have a read here:

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Max Verstappen, Talent Of The Century

Lewis Hamilton must be pissed with Niki Lauda for two reasons - first, Lauda blamed Hamilton for the Mercedes collision and second, Lauda called Max Verstappen the 'talent of the century.' Well, for that compliment, even Sebastian Vettel must be pissed!

Max Verstappen's maiden race victory on his Red Bull Racing debut gives us plenty to cheer about. We heard the Dutch national anthem on the Formula 1 podium for the first time ever and it seems fans should get used to hearing this anthem very often.

The 'Civil War' that broke out on track between the Mercedes drivers - who was to blame? We give you our view, but we wonder if the Lauda-Hamilton bromance has actually come to a premature end.

Did Red Bull Racing favour a Verstappen win over Ricciardo? For a brand built on 'shock marketing', a Verstappen win would and was perfect PR for their 'Gives You Wings' tagline. Horner has labelled Verstappen as the 'future' of Red Bull Racing - will they now chase the Formula 1's 'Youngest World Champion' record? And where does this leave Ricciardo?

We find amusement in Alonso's lack of power (yes, it's still funny), Kimi racing against both generations of Verstappens and Vettel's cranky rants. Also, is Red Bull Racing Ferrari's Young Drivers' Program?

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 16)

Monday, 16 May 2016

What F1 can learn from Formula E

"We don't want comparisons", said the Formula E series CEO Alejandro Agag recently of those that might be made between his own category and its formidable old motorsport relative of F1.

And he has good reasons to think that way. Comparisons between motorsport forms aren't always helpful, at the very least they need to be applied with caution. Different categories have their different place in the landscape, and something that works for one may not be sensibly transported into another.

F1 has some things to learn from Formula E
By Avda - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.
Take BTCC for example. It's popular and exciting, but much of its excitement is linked to rather interventionist measures like success ballast and often rather Destruction Derby-type racing. Whatever F1's problems few think it should be doing something similar, it's simply not in its DNA. Even at the other end of the scale for all of WEC's success and growth importing things wholesale into F1 wouldn't necessarily be helpful, as was explained in this excellent article by Edd Straw.

In other words, all motorsport forms have a right to exist in their own terms, at least to some extent. But it doesn't stop us trying to make comparisons, particularly with F1 which all psychological roads in motorsport seem to lead to.

As these Formula E highlights show there has been plenty of drama and associated stories in FE's almost-two seasons of existence. The on-track racing has been good, and this campaign shed a lot of the amateur hour and repeated crashing that some accused it of in its opening season in 2014-15Its driver line-up is a strong one also, aided by F1's tendency to discard or even not let in in the first place rather worthy pilots. Yes I'm looking at you Helmut (though Dr Marko in fairness is far from the only one).

Spanish Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Crash and Burn

It started with a crash - that long anticipated but somehow not quite comprehensible in reality prang of the imperious Mercedes taking each other out. Then it ended with the astonishing young talent Max Verstappen burning the rest.

Photo: Octane Photography
The oft-cited hypothetical of what would races be like without the Mercs was therefore played out in the Spanish Grand Prix. And it played out as Red Bull vs. Ferrari, and by the looks of things Daniel Ricciardo vs. Sebastian Vettel. Being Barcelona the battle was strategic rather than wheel-to-wheel.

But it took another twist for Max to triumph, as the fall back strategies given the the 'second' Red Bull and Ferrari just in case turned out to be the best one, Max's astonishing assurance did the rest as he held off a challenge from Kimi Raikkonen for several laps to still be out front by the end. It truly was a day for the other guy.

I give my take on it all in my latest Motor Verso race review. You can read it here:

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, 15 May 2016

Spanish GP Report - F1 to the Max

We never learn, do we? We - and I include myself in this - love to look at the numbers and everything else then conclude anew that we can predict with confidence what lays ahead in F1. Often we can in fairness, yet sometimes, just sometimes, we can't. As in this game things can happen. Every so often they are big things. And the Spanish Grand Prix of 2016 will be long remembered as the scene of more than one of those big things occurring on the same afternoon.

Max Verstappen was a highly unlikely victor
Photo: Octane Photography
Unlike in many sports, in F1 whatever your wares your day can be ended at a stroke, and it can have nothing to do with the one who ends up taking advantage to triumph. The two Mercedes team mates who were expected to run and hide in Barcelona did for each other after just a few corners, in that way we'd often speculated about but just like the content of some wacky dream we couldn't quite comprehend it happening for real.

And were that not enough for startling stories, after some adventures along the way we got our youngest winner in the sport's history in their stead. A man still a teenager. A man who wasn't even driving for his current team in the previous round. The first Grand Prix triumph for a truly astonishing young racer, who keeps on facing down without a flinch every latest and greater challenge before him in his progression. Yes you may have worked out that I'm talking about Max Verstappen. With today's win you could hardly see a minor ripple in his apparently inexorable upward trajectory.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Barcelona Qualifying - Delivering on time

Some 43 points off his team mate at the championship table top, in a season in which nothing it seemed would go his way. And some 87% of F1 races at this circuit this millennium have been won from pole position. Make no mistake about it, Lewis Hamilton simply had to deliver in this one. And he did.

Lewis Hamilton delivered when it mattered
Photo: Octane Photography
And he did it when for the most of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend before it the outcome appeared far from likely; like things would not go for him once again. Lewis's Mercedes had looked evil on track for most of the time in Montmelo and with it a deficit of a couple of tenths or more per lap to stable mate Nico Rosberg lingered persistently. Complicating matters further the Ferraris were right there too it seemed, with one post-Friday analysis declaring the Scuderia challenge as "the closest it's been [to Merc] since testing".

Not much changed outwardly at the start of qualifying either, and it looked like Lewis's only hope was something akin to what he did in Bahrain's qualifying earlier in the year, which was simply to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last. But Lewis did find something, and something a bit more tangible than he had scavenged at Sakhir.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Can Max Verstappen Score A Podium On His Red Bull Racing Debut?

Max Verstappen drives his first race for Red Bull Racing and Mithila and Kunal couldn't be more excited. Can Max manage a podium on his debut? And can we get a little optimistic and hope for a race win (after all, the statistics are in his favour!).

After his Pastor Maldonado-like movie in Russia, can Danii Kvyat pull off a 'Maldonado' again in Spain? That would mean winning the race - because Maldonado was a race winner here in 2012! What sweet revenge that would be.

Of course, Verstappen faces a host of challenges on his debut - but his biggest test is when he & Kvyat face the media together on Thursday. Certainly the FIA has a sense of humour!

If Renault had a sense of humour, maybe they would give Kevin Magnussen one of their new Renault trucks instead of a regular road car.

McLaren is doing their bit of social service for Formula One - they've an exclusive agreement with Honda, so thank God none else suffers with a Honda engine like them!

Carlos Sainz is patiently waiting for his turn for a promotion to Red Bull Racing (what else can he do?). It's likely that Sainz's shot at a promotion will come only when Ricciardo or Verstappen move to Ferrari. Where would that leave Kimi Raikkonen? Perhaps he is well suited to act as Formula 1's relationship manager with Vladamir Putin (in vodka we trust).

Lewis Hamilton has been racing against young karting drivers at the Barbados Festival of Speed - is he gearing up to take on a young Verstappen?

And finally, we tell you why MotoGP is cooler than Formula 1. But no, we're not going to start the Inside Line MotoGP Podcast!

Tune in!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Barcelona Preview: No alarms and no surprises

Some Grand Prix host countries, such as Italy, hardly have changed their venue throughout F1's extended history. Others, such as France and the USA, have had several come and go. And the Spanish Grand Prix belongs firmly in the latter camp.

The Montmelo track near Barcelona finally ended
the race's nomadic existence
Photo: Octane Photography
It's right up there in the hit-and-miss stakes. Six different circuits in Spain have hosted its Grand Prix - and you can add a seventh if you include Valencia which run under the 'European Grand Prix' moniker in fairly recent years. Moreover, again like France and the USA, for extended spells the country dropped off the calendar altogether.

In its nomadic existence first we had the attractive Pedralbes track, run through wide open avenues in Barcelona's suburbs, popping up twice in total in the 1950s before the Le Mans disaster and its safety fallout did for it. A couple of decades on there also, briefly, was the undulating, challenging and scenic Barcelona street track at Montjuic, but with its magic it also was fated and its safety arrangements were pitilessly, tragically, revealed as sub-standard in the final 1975 visit. Jarama near Madrid and Jerez in the south of the country came and went in a sporadic fashion too; both suffered from rather torturous layouts and often poor crowds.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Red Bull - ruthless but right

Photo: Octane Photography
But a single race after a fine drive to the podium, as punishment apparently but for two clumsy crashes early in the Russian race, the famously ruthless Red Bull programme strikes again. Daniil Kvyat is out with immediate effect, demoted to the Toro Rosso B team but that part is presumably a stay of execution only. While the young prodigy Max Verstappen as a swap is in the plumb A team drive in Kvyat's stead.

Some have sympathised with Kvyat. Some have said the team's got it plain wrong in its decision. But as I argue in my latest Grand Prix Times article, there's more to this than is being let on. And ultimately it's hard to argue with Red Bull's logic in doing what it's doing.

You can have a read here: