Tuesday, 9 February 2016

New Motor Verso article: F1 Cockpit Halos - Creating More Problems?

Cockpit protection is an issue that has lingered over F1 for some years. And often for very good reasons; with these doing something to protect the driver's head - be it with some kind of structure or else a full canopy - has in safety terms felt on occasion a lot like F1's final frontier.

Photo: Octane Photography
It seems also that finally additional cockpit protection has become inevitable for F1 cars, with it reported that the FIA has presented its plans for a cockpit 'halo' to the teams.

But for Motor Verso I wonder the extent that the halo option will add to the protection of drivers, and perhaps even whether it will create a few new problems.

You can read the article via this link: http://www.motorverso.com/f1-cockpit-halos-creating-problems/

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.

Monday, 8 February 2016

New Vital F1 article: There’s nothing new about Maldonado

When it was confirmed recently that Pastor Maldonado was out of F1 for 2016 there was not a great deal of sympathy around. You probably can work out why too - associated as Pastor is in the popular consciousness with crashing, underachievement and his continuing presence in the sport's highest echelon owing mainly to the cash he brought.

Photo: Octane Photography
Yet the ire towards him around reflected something bigger too, that he was seen as somehow embodying problems with modern F1 more generally. Those of drivers having less demanding requirements than used to be the case; that for many drives commerce trumps talent in the consideration.

So, is Pastor emblematic of modern F1's shortcomings? Not really. On Vital F1 I explain that his sort is nothing new, as well as look at his uncanny parallels with his kindred spirit from the 1980s and early 1990s, the equally notorious Andrea de Cesaris.

You can have a read here: http://www.vitalf1.com/sitepage.asp?a=3302

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

James Hunt: Girls, Beer and Victory - A photo exhibition in London

© Phipps/Sutton Images Collection
James Hunt, even now several decades on from his sporting heyday, does not lack popularity or recognition among F1 fans. Perhaps he doesn't lack them beyond F1 fans either. Few drivers - possibly few sports people - have embodied their age like Hunt did. Many today just like then are attracted to his devil-may-care persona and to his vibrant lifestyle. It may all have particular resonance today given its contrast to the tepid modern age. It shouldn't be forgotten in among all of this that Hunt wasn't at all short of talent behind the wheel either.

Many of a subsequent generation got to know Hunt as a forthright and insightful BBC TV commentator. While perhaps a few of the generation after that were introduced to him by the Rush film that tracked his celebrated rivalry with Niki Lauda culminating in the 1976 championship showdown in Fuji in which Hunt bagged the F1 world title.

© Phipps/Sutton Images Collection
Marking all of this and more Proud Galleries on 11th February (that's Thursday next week) is launching a photo exhibition in London titled James Hunt: Girls, Beer and Victory. It celebrates the 40th anniversary this year of Hunt's world title mentioned, and the photos gathered will cover Hunt from his time in F3 through to his scaling the high peak of the F1 world championship in Fuji's rain. It also will include images from on track as well as some candid moments from behind the scenes at the circuit and away from it, covering his highs and lows. And as if this all isn't enough it's free to get in too.

© Phipps/Sutton Images Collection
The photos were captured by David Phipps and were put together for the exhibition in partnership with Sutton Images. If you're in or near London in the next few weeks and months it sounds like you'd be well worth checking this exhibition out.

Here are a few details:

When? The exhibition will be open from 11 February to 3 April 2016. It'll be open Monday to Saturday 10am to 7pm; 10am to 6pm on Sundays.

Where? Proud Chelsea, 161 King's Road, London, SW3 5XP (see the map below)

Entry? Free :)

More details: On the Proud website: https://www.proudonline.co.uk/

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Zoom auction - F1 stars' own photos auctioned for chairty

Photos of F1 drivers, or those taken in the F1 paddock and pits and elsewhere, are not in any sort of shortage of course. Neither are signed photos and the like being sold to raise money for charity.

But Zoom auction put a unique twist on this familiar theme, by getting F1 drivers and team principals, as well as Bernie Ecclestone, to take photos themselves to put up for auction. Now in its fourth year, the latest Zoom auction will take place in London this Friday evening coming, the 5th of February, and will be hosted by Suzi Perry. It'll include images taken by Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Jenson Button and many other well-known F1 figures, who also have signed the photos, and plenty of F1's leading personalities will be at the event in person. Best of all the event is held in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.

As you can imagine too the novel approach gives us a diverse range of fascinating and spontaneous insights into F1 and its people, of the sort that we don't ordinarily get to see. A few examples of the photos being auctioned this time are below:

Felipe Massa: "A selfie with my boss and great friend. It is a great honour to race for his team."

Vijay Mallya: "This photo captures the special atmosphere in the garage before Nico heads out onto the circuit - into the bright glare of the sunshine. It also shows the latest updates on the b-spec VJM08, especially the innovative nose design that we introduced earlier in the season. The car looks aggressive and beautiful, just as a Formula One car should."

Lewis Hamilton: "Roscoe does Rome."

Jenson Button: "Hepburn Springs, mountain biking. The weekend before the Melbourne GP 2015"

You can find out more about Zoom auction on its website here: http://www.zoom-auction.com/index.htm as well as on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZoomAuction

All photos from previous years can be viewed here: http://www.zoom-auction.com/gallery.htm

I'm also fortunate enough to have been invited to Zoom auction and plan to Tweet live from the event, so look out for that. It remains to be seen if I'll be doing any bidding though...

New Grand Prix Times article: The engine cost deal - too good to be true?

F1 hasn't been short of things to fall out about lately; even among them the matter of the prevailing engine spec has been likely most divisive of all. And whatever else you thought of it the costs of the current power units were doing a lot to strangle the life out of the sport.

Photo: Octane Photography
Very loosely speaking the sport's governors wanted to bring the prices down, perhaps even fundamentally alter the engine regs, while the manufacturers that supply the engines were resisting on both fronts. Yet after months of no budging - nor the remotest sign of the possibility of budging - on either side suddenly reports landed last week saying that a solution had been reached, and - gulp - it was all remarkably sensible. How un-F1.

But the saying goes, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. And does that apply here? In my latest article for Grand Prix Times I explore the matter. You can have a read here: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/id/11159

And if you've not been on the Grand Prix Times site in the past few days then you won't know that it's had something of a re-vamp. Not only does it have a new look it also now covers many motorsport series beyond F1 - WEC, Indycar, GP2 and others. Do check it out.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast and Video - F1 Plans To Go Social

After years of ignoring social media and its power, it seems that F1 might just embrace it with a storm - a 'Driver of the Day' may be selected from this new media. In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal tell you how clichéd such ideas are and how F1 could push the limits on social media too.

Could fans choose what colour should Lewis Hamilton dye his hair next? Or who Pastor Maldonado should crash into!

As we inch closer to the 2016 Formula 1 Season, there's good news from many quarters of the sport. Pirelli finally seem to be making sense as Renault wonder if they need any more crash tests. And we wonder if Massa's retirement plans are to turn into a social media reporter. Lastly, do you remember Robert Doornbos? He's pushing the limits of technology too, albeit in a different industry. Tune in! (Season 2016, Episode 4)

Monday, 25 January 2016

Looking back: the Austrian Grand Prix of 1986

Now 30 years on we presumably can expect a few retro features. There is a consensus that the 1986 F1 season is an all-time classic, and it brings many familiar things to mind to even the fan who was not around at the time to witness it.

This includes not least its extraordinary finale, encapsulated by the oft-repeated footage of Nigel Mansell's exploding Goodyear - the vast shower of sparks and all - on Adelaide's Brabham Straight which helped Alain Prost to a long shot drivers' championship. A title that, still three decades on, is arguably the last claimed not in the best car. Whatever, it was an achievement about as extraordinary for The Professor as the finale that delivered it.

The McLaren team, seen here at Brands Hatch,
was one of the major players in 1986
"McLaren pit 1986 Britain" by Phil - mclaren in
brands hatch pits. Licensed under CC BY 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.
It's also viewed more broadly as a golden age: rip-snorting turbos and a stellar cast of drivers to tame them. Mansell and Prost we've mentioned, but you can add to it Nelson Piquet and a young Ayrton Senna. It also was a season with a strict in-race fuel limit and many resultant economy runs - some comical last gasps of races too as various cars ran dry - but best not spoil the moment.

One could argue also that competitiveness or variation at the front beyond these names weren't the season's strongest boasts either. That year many spoke of a 'Gang of Five' with Prost's McLaren team mate Keke Rosberg variously added to the quartet mentioned, though perhaps 'Gang of Four' would have been more fitting as Rosberg was the least regular presence among them at the sharp end by a way. Almost never would anyone else beyond this five get a look-in. Yet in among the 1986 rounds was an extraordinary outlying weekend on this front. That in Austria.

Even compared with the later round in Mexico where alone that year one of the usual suspects didn't win, even compared with that finale in Adelaide, this was the weekend of the season that really turned the order onto its head. Though you wouldn't necessarily know it from the result, which in its victor at least looked slightly ordinary. Perhaps that's therefore led to it being forgotten. And a winner whom you'd have got long odds on at the weekend's outset was denied, cruelly, as well as by an unlikely (perhaps absurd) source. Someone would have to remember to purchase a new car battery

Friday, 22 January 2016

Inside Line F1 Video - Vodka Shots On The F1 Podium?

As mentioned Kunal and Mithila from the Inside Line F1 Podcast have recently started to produce videos to go alongside their other output, and you can watch the latest one below.

It accompanies Kunal's Hamilton To Blame For Mumm's Exit From F1? article that featured on Talking about F1 a few days ago. In the video Kunal talks about the, erm, interesting reaction to what he wrote.


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

2016 F1 Betting Preview - is Rosberg being underestimated?

I have heard it said that few sports offer as many opportunities to the betting punter as F1. Perhaps it reflects the sport's inimitable complexity, its many layers, or that even at its most tepid multiple things can and do influence the results. All of which may befuddle even the infamously never-poor bookies.

The bookies reckon Mercedes is set to dominate again in 2016
Photo: Octane Photography
Whatever is the case, stories of killings made from betting on this game are well-worn. To take extreme examples I've encountered anecdotes about those who have raked it in from betting on Jenson Button in the astonishing come-from-nothing Brawn claiming the 2009 title, even those who did similar with Ayrton Senna's debut crown in 1988. In both cases it was down to placing their stakes at the right moment prior to the season start. And to take things to the absolute outer edge of what's possible I'm told you could have got odds of 250/1 on a Pastor Maldonado win at the start of the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix weekend…

But there is of course a crucial difference between now and those Button and Senna cases mentioned at least. Both of those happened in the first seasons following big rule shifts, in which the order can be dramatically shaken. This isn't the case now as we stand before the 2016 campaign, with the alterations since 2015 in the minor detail only. Furthermore the order looks rather firmly set - Mercedes far ahead of Ferrari which is itself far ahead of the squabbling peleton.

And William Hill in its betting odds appears to agree. Mercedes to retain its constructors' crown is a swingeing 1/5, while for its driver Lewis Hamilton to do the same isn't much more generous at 4/7. Yet even with the odds this short there is a case that it remains the sensible place to put your money. Both driver and team seem worthy of such confidence.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Hamilton To Blame For Mumm’s Exit From F1? by Kunal Shah

*After a handful of readers not being able to decipher the humour in this post, here’s my declaration to state the obvious. Enjoy reading and hopefully you’ll laugh along too.*

Photo: Octane Photography
Mumm decided to not up their sponsorship money (from €5 million to whatever Bernie wanted!) to Formula 1 thanks to Lewis Hamilton. After all, the sport's world champion ganged up with a former three times world champion to promote vodka - a category rival to champagne!

Hamilton-Lauda's vodka video did what none of Mumm's champagne videos have managed so far yet - go viral. Sources indicate that the trigger for this decision was Hamilton's champagne spraying moment in China. The nail in the coffin was when sponsorship tracking reports indicated that Johnnie Walker gained more mileage in 2015 from McLaren-Honda's failures and Alonso's humour.

(PS: I wonder what the brand managers at the Hamilton vodka brand were doing when our Hamilton had his vodka moment. Probably attending lessons in guerilla marketing, I guess?)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Is Ferrari really set for a title challenge in 2016? Perhaps not.

Mercedes vs. Ferrari. More to the point, Lewis Hamilton vs. Sebastian Vettel. Count on it.

Photo: Octane Photography
So many are saying anyway. That - for all of F1's woes and the arguably tepid conclusion to the 2015 campaign - something rather exciting awaits in 2016 as our salvation. That Ferrari will make another step-up between seasons just like it did 12 months ago and that will result in this titanic scrap for honours at the front. One pundit said it "could be a rivalry to mark the end of days".

Heady. Sounds rational enough too. But is it actually that likely Ferrari will move onto the level of the pace-setting silver lot? Maybe, on closer analysis, it isn't.

In my latest article for Grand Prix Times I put my doubting hat on and explore just why Ferrari getting on terms with the Merc may not be all that imminent. You can have a read here: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/display/11065

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Year Of The Underdog

**See a video clip of this episode:

No, this episode isn't about Lewis Hamilton or his dog Roscoe. But the spotlight is on the underdogs of the sport - the Force India F1 Team and IF they will bull-y Red Bull or Williams this season.

Mithila and Kunal offer perspective on the team's ambition to finish 4th in 2016, what it would take to get there and who they will need to beat en route.

And as Kevin Magnussen waits for a few of the current drivers to retire, our hosts tell you that a retired F1 driver's life isn't too boring after all. Tune in! (Season 2016, Episode 2)