Tuesday, 12 December 2017

New Motorsport Week article: F1 2017 end of season awards - The Golden Grahams

Photo: Octane Photography
We know how this latest F1 season ended, but who are the real winners? In my latest for Motorsport Week I seek to resolve the matter with my 'prestigious' set of of awards, The Golden Grahams.

Some of it is serious (best driver, best team...) and some less so. Hopefully it'll bring a smile.

You can read my selections and justifications here: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/16491

Sunday, 3 December 2017

My Top 10 F1 Drivers of 2017: The Rest…

Here are my views on those F1 drivers from 2017 who didn't make my top 10 ranking from a few days ago, which can be read here.

Photo: Octane Photography
The most conspicuous absence from the top ten is Kimi Raikkonen, for whom things somehow never quite came together in 2017. Frequently he looked to have pace but it tended to fall away at crucial moments, not least in the final throes of qualifying including just about every time after the summer break. In many race results too you'd look at the chasm-like gap between the Ferraris and wonder how exactly it came to that. Still pole in Monaco is a feather in the cap and with more benign team strategy he would have won twice. Also in mitigation some of Kimi's race strategies stretched credulity. Once again Sebastian Vettel couldn't live with him through Silverstone's sweeps. But even so it seems the main reason Ferrari keeps him on is that he doesn't offend Seb. On any count.

Going through the rest in the final drivers' table order brings us first to Felipe Massa, who got an unlikely second swansong this year. He started and ended the season superbly, while between times he tended to be solid. Fairly or otherwise the sense persisted though that he remained a few tenths off the ultimate pace; at the very least with a team mate struggling so obviously it was hard to judge the popular Brazilian. In the end he jumped (again) from F1 before Williams – still dithering – could push him, and as intimated he at least went out on a high.

Friday, 1 December 2017

New Motorsport Week article: The honeymoon is over - but Liberty and F1 will be a happy marriage

Photo: Octane Photography
Never glad confident morning again, as Robert Browning might have had it.

Lately F1's commercial rights holders Liberty, who arrived amid a wave of optimism and goodwill 12 months ago, has all of a sudden faced a lot of criticism. The latest example being the logo and all that last weekend.

But in my latest article for Motorsport Week I argue that while the honeymoon is over, the signs remain that Liberty and F1 will be a happy marriage. And even the Abu Dhabi weekend contained some good examples of why.

You can have a read via this link: https://www.motorsportweek.com/news/id/16429

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

My Top 10 F1 Drivers of 2017

Here is my personal rating of the top ten F1 drivers of the 2017 season, taking into account their performances as well as the machinery that they had access to. 

A run down of my views on the drivers who didn't make the top ten will follow in the next few days.

1. Lewis Hamilton
Photo: Octane Photography
For years almost no one has doubted that Lewis Hamilton's peaks are higher than anyone else's. This year he strung them together more regularly than perhaps he ever has done, certainly since his prodigious F1 debut campaign a decade ago.

Clearly he relished his title battle with Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari as well as relished his focal point position in the post-Nico Rosberg Mercedes squad. And it all had an impact where it matters – nine wins and 11 poles are the stuff of crushing championships as well as demonstrate his status as the year's default front-runner. Crushing is the adjective for many of his race wins as well, though in plenty (China, Spain, Spa, USA) he had to fight as well as use his wholly underrated brain power. But it was his qualifying that really set him apart – particularly important in a year wherein overtaking was tough. In Britain, Italy (in the wet) and Malaysia his Saturday efforts stunned even his closest engineers. He showed in his drive through the field in Brazil he's lost nothing of his well-honed racing instincts either.

There were bum notes along the way. While the Mercedes was in Toto Wolff's words a "diva", equally in the year's first half when the Merc wouldn't get its tyres into range Lewis was less able to find a compromise than his team mate Valtteri Bottas, such as in Russia and Monaco as well as in qualifying in Austria and Hungary. He also binned it in Brazil's qualifying after the championship was wrapped up. Yet the fact is that Lewis was unflinching and fast in an intense title battle against a formidable driver and team foe, and when the championship hit its crucial phase Lewis reached for the stars – stepping well clear of Bottas and getting the best possible race results whether his car was on top or not. And it was his rival who wavered. It was likely Lewis's finest title. Little wonder plenty talk of the ever-enigmatic Englishman now finding a new equilibrium.

2. Sebastian Vettel
Photo: Octane Photography
We always thought a Sebastian Vettel campaign could go one of two ways. This year, for the first time perhaps, it wandered off one of them. For the first two-thirds it looked classic Seb with the scent of a title, maximising final qualifying laps as if flicking a switch then maximising race results as if he is the puppeteer of the whole show. In Baku he lost his temper with consequences for his points and reputation, but at the time many wrote that off as an aberration.

Come Singapore as he sat on pole for the race start his retaking of the championship lead looked inevitable, but we know what came next. Yes Ferrari unreliability sealed his fate in following rounds but once the title was as good as gone ahead of time some calculated the points ceded in Baku and Singapore and it didn't look flattering for Seb. Particularly as he showed more misjudgement in Mexico's opening corners then rooted his tyres in Austin.

But still his well-judged Brazil win was timely in reminding us what he'd spent the best part of the season doing – operating on a plateau as noted. This was whether he was dominating at the front (Bahrain, Spain, Monaco and Brazil), nursing mechanical maladies (Hungary), chasing down foes (Australia, Russia and Austria) or coming through the pack (China, Canada, Azerbaijan and Mexico). It was straight from his Red Bull championship winning pomp. It's easy to forget also that he would likely have got two more triumphs early in the campaign without unfortunate safety car appearances. These ended his title chances early as much as any of his errors.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Bottas beats the borefest

Photo: Octane Photography
It was, to use the euphemism, not a thriller in Abu Dhabi. The Yas Marina track lived up (or down) to his reputation and didn't allow much racing.

But still some important things went on. Not least Renault bagging sixth in the constructors' table and the millions that come with it. As well as victor Valtteri Bottas getting a boost heading into the off season.

Here's my take on it all for Motor Versohttp://www.motorverso.com/abu-dhabi-gp-2017-report-bottas-beats-borefest/

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, 26 November 2017

Abu Dhabi GP Report - Living down to expectations

And so Abu Dhabi lived down to expectations. F1 in 2017 went out rather with a whimper.

Valtteri Bottas ended the year with a win
Photo: Octane Photography
As expected the Mercedes were in a different race. As expected in a Yas Marina race a lot hung on the start, and that didn't change the order. Poleman Valtteri Bottas led from his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton. There wasn't much to be done afterwards. They finished just like that.

As if to underline the general point, the entire top 12 circulated in grid order for the whole of the 15 lap opening stint. And it felt that way watching on.

Still it didn't appear mere formation flying from the Mercs. Lewis always seemed to be pushing and indeed Sebastian Vettel next up was left a whole 22 seconds adrift of the warring pair. More typical of this track it all reflected that cars struggle to get near each other.

Lewis kept trying, got fairly close at points. But a fastest lap from Bottas with four to go, then another a couple of laps later, extended his lead to over four seconds, and that was that.

The Evolution of Video Game Storage

1st Storage Centres has produced an infographic looking at how much the way we play and store video games has changed in recent years. Starting with cartridges, we have progressed to discs and now internal memory in next-generation consoles. You can have a look below:

The Evolution of Video Game Storage by Storage Centres.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Abu Dhabi Qualifying - Bottas on the bounce

Abu Dhabi visits, on track at least, aren't known for thrills. And from an early point of this Yas Marina weekend it was clear that one source of potential thrill was taken away. Mercedes was on another level to the rest.

Valtteri Bottas beat the odds to take his second pole in a row
Photo: Octane Photography
But in the qualifying session we got a thrill. We thought Lewis Hamilton would be a step ahead even of the two Mercs. But the other Merc, that piloted by Valtteri Bottas, denied him pole position.

And Bottas had plenty to overcome. Lewis was self-admittedly wary of relenting with the title won after doing just that late in 2015, which was followed by him losing the subsequent one.

Lewis had the machine to do it with too, his relatively fresh engine - a consequence of changing it after his Brazil qualifying crash - meant that he could run at full bean much more than most others. Plus Abu Dhabi is one of his happy hunting grounds.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Abu Dhabi GP Betting Preview - A tale of two drivers

Abu Dhabi for our final round of the year is the polar opposite of the penultimate one in Brazil. If Interlagos is the itinerary's most wacky stop-off this at the Yas Marina circuit is the most standard. And just as was the case at the opposite end of the scale, this create problems but also opportunities for the F1 gambler.

Abu Dhabi Grands Prix are mainly about two men
Photo: Octane Photography
History is helpful - it tells us there are only two places to look for an Abu Dhabi pole and win. In eight F1 visits only two have not been won by Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel. And even if the previous wasn't this stark they'd still be the two clear favourites to be on top this weekend.

Lewis can be got at 19/20 to triumph and Seb at 11/4 - and either looks good value.

They're good bets for pole as well, and again history is on our side as Lewis and Seb between them have five from eight Yas Marina poles. Lewis can be backed at 5/7 to bag pole this time while Seb is at 9/2.

Given all this the rest may be fighting over third place at most, but if the Mercedes is to be strong as it was at Interlagos, and Abu Dhabi's high temperatures should suit the Merc too, then Valtteri Bottas looks reasonable value at 7/10 to finish on the podium.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Can You Tell The Car By Its Daytime Running Lights? Quiz by Select Car Leasing

For the petrol heads who think they can easily tell apart their Hyundais from their Hondas, their Subarus from their Seats and the Peugeots from the Porsches, the ultimate test of knowledge is whether you can still tell these apart, simply by their Daytime Running Lights.

Car leasing experts Select have created the quiz to test your prowess as a petrol head or to see if you'll crash and burn. You can play below.

I got two out of eight correct, and I'm sure you can beat that...

Monday, 20 November 2017

Abu Dhabi Preview - The sun goes down

The sun goes down on another F1 campaign. And with this analogy it's appropriate that the final round is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - F1's first and so far only day-to-night event.

In an appropriate place, the sun goes down on the
latest F1 season in Abu Dhabi
Photo: Octane Photography
And it's not only down to start time scheduling that the Yas Marina round is a world away from the previous one at Interlagos. If the Brazilian stop-off is modern F1's Bermuda Triangle Abu Dhabi's perhaps is its most standard.

While if the Brazil round possibly is the most old school on the calendar this one arguably is its most modern. Wide, smooth and open replaces narrow, bumpy and enclosed. Nearby things to hit are replaced by vast run off areas. Mighty turns are replaced by fiddly. Rustic and well worn becomes towering and gleaming. Altitude becomes sea level. Weather that can be anywhere in the range becomes that of the unchanging desert...

But there are parallels. Both tracks are two parts full throttle and one part incongruously twisty. And if all (including Mercedes) entered the Interlagos weekend worried that the twisty bit would let Ferrari and Red Bull get ahead, it in fact set the pace. And did so pretty crushingly, even if circumstance kept it away from the top step of the podium.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - The Mika Hakkinen Interview

Here it is! Here's our Mika Hakkinen special episode. We spent much of the last weekend with the Flying Finn as he visited India to promote his 'Never Drink & Drive' campaign. We had the former World Champion on our Facebook Live show as well on our podcast and yes, we did #JoinThePact in Hakkinen's presence. Have you? (Here's where you can: https://www.liveinstyle.com/johnniewalkerthejourney)

In this week's special episode, we get Mika Hakkinen to review the 2017 Formula 1 Season, his views on the current superstar drivers (Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, etc.) and what he believes the future of his Finnish compatriots (Bottas & Raikkonen) will be. Also, what does he make of Fernando Alonso's quest to be the 'world's best racer'?

Apart from the current season, we discuss Hakkinen's career - his first win and what was his reaction when he lost most of his trophies to a house fire in 2008! Finally, is a McLaren team management role on Hakkinen's mind, and outside of Formula 1, who is his most challenging rival? Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 36)
Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.