Monday, 20 August 2018

Spa Preview: Back with a bang

It's not true what they say. Not everything about modern F1 is bad.

There's nothing quite like Spa
Photo: Octane Photography
This weekend it returns from its summer holidays and could not pick a better place to reconvene.

Spa-Francorchamps, the inimitable longtime host of the Belgian Grand Prix. Its mere mention brings many associations. The speed. The mighty turns. The undulations. The organic feel. The picture postcard Ardennes scenery. The link to the very beginnings of road circuit motorsport. Little wonder that when you ask F1 drivers, engineers or fans for their favourite modern venue this is the one commonly said, often without the slightest hesitation.

You can add too that F1 races at Spa almost always are diverting. I'm sure there have been dull Sundays here, but it's not all that easy to cite them.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - The James Hunt Exclusive

The Inside Line F1 Podcast returns after a sunny summer break from the beaches of Greece. In this week's episode, we commemorate 25 years since James Hunt's death and who better than his son Freddie to narrate stories, incidents and the passion of the 1976 Formula 1 World Champion.

Did Rush add to Hunt's popularity? And what if social media existed back in the Hunt-Lauda era? Know more in our Hunt exclusive episode.

We also talk to Freddie about his racing career, plans to follow his famous father into commentary and the impact of having a name as famous as 'Hunt' in the world of Motorsport. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 26)
Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

More articles from me on AutoClassics

By Harald Bischoff [CC BY-SA 3.0 
licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from
Wikimedia Commons
Pointing you in the direction of a couple of recent articles of mine published on AutoClassics, in case they're of interest.

My latest article on the best from the Motorsport Images archive is themed for this weekend's WEC Silverstone 6 Hours. I've looked at some of the best moments from world endurance racing in Britain compete with stunning photography, including Pedro Rodriguez in the rain at Brands Hatch in 1970.

You can check it out here:

I also wrote about Heritage Formula Ford, a new Formula Ford series for this year which seeks to recreate the category's golden age. You can read that one here:

And a complete rundown of what I've been writing for AutoClassics is available here.

New Motorsport Week article: Fernando Alonso's legacy is tainted? Not so fast…

The word 'retire' wasn't used, but it seems we've made our minds up anyway.

Photo: Octane Photography
Various articles on Fernando Alonso have followed his announcement that he won't be in F1 in 2019, reviewing him as man and driver and all with an air of finality.

Yet also unusual is that vying with the tributes of his driving skills have been claims of a difficult personality and career mis-steps, all of which have added up to career stats that don't do him justice and a tainted legacy.

But is it that simple? And might the 'flipside' outlined - missed opportunities, poignancy and anti-hero status - actually help how readily we remember Fernando Alonso? I think it could do.

In my latest for Motorsport Week I outline my thinking:

Friday, 10 August 2018

Motorsport history articles on AutoClassics

I've been lucky enough to write some feature articles on motorsport history for AutoClassics recently. These have included:

By Willy Pragher (Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg)
[CC BY 3.0  (
licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A retro feature on Peter Collins marking the 60th anniversary of his death:

To coincide with the latest Hungarian Grand Prix I looked back at F1's first visit in 1986 when it very much stepped into the unknown - and I spoke to Derek Warwick, Johnny Dumfries and Allen Berg about what it was all like:

I've also been writing articles using the LAT archive, where I look at particular notable moments around a theme from motorsport history and the article is illustrated with stunning photos. In the latest, with the Oldtimer Grand Prix taking place at the Nurburgring, I look at some memorable moments from the revered and feared track's extensive history:

You can keep an eye on what I've been writing for AutoClassics here.

Essential car maintenance Tips for beginners

There are many things you discover when pursuing a career in motorsport journalism.  One is that having a car is pretty much essential. Circuits tend to be in the middle of nowhere, well beyond the reach of public transport or walking distance.

By NRMA Motoring and Services from Sydney, Australia
(Toyota FJ40 Cruiser - NRMA Drivers Seat) [CC BY 2.0 
via Wikimedia Commons
You also discover that having a car comes with many considerations that may have not crossed your mind in advance, particularly if – in another motorsport journalist occupational hazard – you have to do long journeys. I’ve therefore compiled a few car maintenance tips in this article.

A couple of general disclaimers before we begin. What I say applies to the UK unless I state otherwise, plus they come with no more weight than my general meanderings as a non-expert car user. Don’t take these as gospel in other words. But still, hopefully they’re useful.

As a general rule these checks should be done when the car’s cold for accurate readings as well as for safety reasons in the case of the checks such as the coolant – so wait a few hours before doing them if you’ve been driving. Also a lot of them should be done before long journeys over and above the regularity cited. And without wishing to state the obvious when you do them make sure the car’s in a safe place, i.e. you’re won’t be in the way of traffic, and the handbrake is properly applied.

The beauty of a lot of these engine and tyre checks is that they can be done yourself, but there’s no harm in popping into a local garage if you’re not sure about any of them.

The oil level

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Hungarian Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
My Formula 1 2018 season summary for Motor Verso continues to expand - now it has my take on the Hungarian Grand Prix added. Wherein, possibly for the first time this year, lightening struck twice - and did so in Lewis Hamilton's favour.

As ever the summary includes some wonderful Pirelli photography and the best F1 content about the race on YouTube.

You can check out the latest incarnation of the summary 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.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Working Within Benetton During the 1990s, by Ibrar Malik

"Berger was the thickest driver I have worked with, Alesi was a close second," ...those are the forthright views of a former Benetton mechanic who is ready to let rip!

The ex-Benetton mechanic has kindly contributed towards the upcoming book, but cannot be named because he still works in F1. However his anonymity means he can be brutally honest. 

Benetton started 1996 with high hopes having just been crowned drivers and constructors' champions. Despite losing Michael Schumacher, the Enstone team was gaining a hugely gifted racer in Jean Alesi. Its other incoming driver, Gerhard Berger, was F1's elder statesman having partnered the likes of Ayrton Senna at McLaren. If Benetton could harness Alesi's talent or Berger's experience surely more success lay on the horizon. However, things didn't quite pan out like that...

Hungarian GP Report - Lightening strikes twice

In a season of often inexplicable twists and turns, this one in Hungary was instead an case of history repeating. Appropriately for 2018, the lightening hitting the precise same spots as in Germany a week ago was in itself highly uncanny.

Lewis Hamilton took his second unlikely win in a row
Photo: Octane Photography
Just like then Mercedes and particularly Lewis Hamilton at the Hungaroring looked out of it. Just like then Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari looked poised to make a major gain in the championship. Just like then rain then arrived and tilted things decisively towards Hamilton, who against expectations made the sizeable points gain instead. Only this time the rain arrived in qualifying.

A few sniggered behind their palms when Hamilton hinted at divine intervention after the elements came to his aid in Germany. But with them now doing that right on cue for two rounds now on the spin, it may as well have been have been a matter of someone consciously guiding events his way.

Qualifying order means a lot in F1 of course, and it has long meant a lot at the tight and sinewy Hungaroring. Sure enough leading from the race's off formed the basis of Hamilton's latest victory - but his performance on Sunday and particularly Saturday was highly impressive even so.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - McLaren Approached Lewis Hamilton Too?

Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1's reigning World Champion and super star, recently admitted that a 'rival' team attempted to sign him for 2019 and 2020. In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we speculate if this 'rival' was McLaren indeed. Given their love for PR and attempts at signing high-profile drivers, should we be surprised?

Also in this episode, we discuss the ONLY pitfall of the double and triple headers in Formula 1, the driver sillier season which could see Esteban Ocon at Renault while Lance Stroll's bankers and Sergio Perez's sponsors fight for a seat at Force India. Should the Mexican driver race for the all-American Haas F1 Team, what could Donald Trump's reaction be? And of course, we talk about the Neymar and Jesus Christ of Formula 1. Basically, there's a lot of banter, humour and stories from the world of Formula 1. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 25)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Hungarian GP Betting Preview - On the other hand...

Working out who is best to back for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix may be a matter of balancing a set of scales. Each of the big three teams have reasons to back them. And not to back them.

Will Red Bull be repeating its Monaco celebrations?
Photo: Octane Photography
We can start with Red Bull. The twisty Hungaroring track looks like it could be designed for its car, including that it will show up its horsepower deficit less than any other circuit on the calendar Monaco aside. Red Bull won in Monaco which is a track plenty liken to this one and likely would have had a one-two there without Max Verstappen binning it in Saturday morning practice.

The team clearly thinks this is a conspicuous chance to win too given how it stockpiled engine part penalties for Daniel Ricciardo in Germany to avoid the need to have anything like that here. The only trouble is its actual record at this track which is oddly poor. The team has only won here twice and one of those was a crazy rain-impacted race in 2014 wherein Ricciardo took the lead late on. Otherwise its solitary triumph was back in 2010.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Hungaroring Preview: Straining every sinew

The Hungaroring is a hard one to pin down. This is even though we have had plenty of time to form a view - this weekend's visit will be the 33rd time without interruption that it has hosted the annual Hungarian Grand Prix.

Can Ferrari lead the way like last year in Hungary?
Photo: Octane Photography
It goes right back to when the fraternity first rocked up in 1986. Crowds were vast, its facilities gleamed, the welcome was warm and everything had been laid on. Many cite it as the first of the sort of national-backed purpose-built autodrome that now dominates the calendar. For good or ill.

More pointedly views on the track's layout varied as well. Tight and sinewy with little opportunity to pass, it still has the lowest average speed of any purpose-built track on the calendar. 'Monaco without the houses' quickly became its label. Yet even so the track is challenging and its popularity among drivers is reasonably widespread.

Moreover the Hungaroring over time developed a knack of being the stage of drama, often of the sort wherein great drivers put in great drives - as a technical track on which the driver can make the difference. Nigel Mansell's against-all-odds beating of the McLarens from 12th on the grid in 1989; Damon Hill oh-so nearly pulling off probably the biggest shock win of all time in the Arrows in 1997; Michael Schumacher's suspension of normality in 1998. There are plenty other examples besides.