Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Why Bernie Ecclestone Backs Donald Trump For President

We love Bernie Ecclestone, we do! F1's CEO loves to make controversial statements and we love to extract our pound of humour from those controversies. In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal tell you why Bernie Ecclestone backs Donald Trump for President. And if you're a Hillary Clinton fan, we tell you why he wouldn't back her candidature.

But this episode isn't about Ecclestone alone, we talk about Filipinho Massa's victory over our favourite, Daniel Ricciardo. Massa Jr.'s celebration skills must be applauded - mark of a true champion. Did Felipe hire Max Verstappen's PR agency though to work on his son?

Should we undergo a rule change for 2017? Why is Mercedes resisting it and why is Red Bull Racing for it? Also, what should the rule changes be? We share our perspective and tell you why the teams will always differ in theirs from us fans.

Rio Haryanto seems to be running out of money. Is F1 in BIG trouble if pay drivers run out of money too? Btw, aren't the Indonesian Govt. doing a little too much to fund his race seat? It's a Manor, after all.

In this day and age of super hero movies, it comes as no surprise to us that Super Formula > Formula 1.  And are the new-age 'rocket science' F1 cars no longer attractive for the upcoming drivers too?

Finally, will Lewis Hamilton win his third consecutive Russian Grand Prix OR will Nico Rosberg leave Russia with 100 points? And apart from Vladmir Putin, who else will join the Mercedes drivers on the podium?

Tune in! (Season 2016, Episode 13)

Russian GP Betting Preview - Go for a fastest lap long shot?

Usually after the first three races of an F1 season we have a pretty good sense of the year's likely competitive order, but as we keep pointing out this season so far has hardly been a standard one. This may give additional opportunities to the F1 betting punter ahead of round four this weekend in Russia, and Paddy Power offers a range of odds on the impending Sochi gathering.

The Mercedes pair look worth backing
Photo: Octane Photography
Yet some things look to be fairly clear. As laid out in my Russian Grand Prix preview on this site, the Mercedes drivers are clear favourites for victory in Sochi and for reasons that even are over and above the bare fact that they've won the opening three rounds of this season, as well as the last six of 2015. And you'll get more than double your stake back backing either of its drivers to win again this time, with odds of 6/5 for Lewis Hamilton and 11/8 for Nico Rosberg.

The close odds between the pair reflect too that while Nico has triumphed in all 2016 races thus far there in fact has been little to choose between the two Merc pilots generally other than Lewis's near-monopoly on foul luck. There's also been little to choose between the pair in the previous two Sochi visits, though Lewis has won both of them following something impeding Nico in either Russian race.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sochi Preview: F1's ugly duckling

There's always one, isn't there? That one F1 round people find particularly hard to love. For a while it was Valencia. Then it was the Mokpo venue in Korea. Now dear reader I give you Sochi in Russia.

The Russian Grand Prix in Sochi divides opinion
By, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.
And it has this ugly duckling status for a number of reasons it seems. The race was in many eyes tainted at source, even though Bernie Ecclestone's attempts to get this round onto the F1 calendar stretched back literally decades. A Grand Prix in the Soviet Union to be held on the streets of Moscow appeared on the provisional F1 calendar as long ago as 1983 indeed.

But even by the time that the race finally was penned in to debut in 2014, at that year's Winter Olympics venue of Sochi, plenty thought nevertheless we could wait a little longer. Its very existence was controversial from several months out with unrest in Ukraine and Russia's alleged contribution to it dominating many headlines. Some thought too resultant sanctions would mean the race's money would run out.

A year on too for the second F1 visit as well as Ukraine matters being far from resolved there also was the uneasy background noise of Russia's activity in Syria, including that some of the missiles fired therein weren't landing all that far from the Sochi venue. In both there were concerns more generally about Russia's human rights record and particularly its legislation prohibiting any 'positive mention of homosexuality' in the presence of minors. That Russian President Vladimir Putin has associated himself closely with both F1 visits hardly helped de-couple it all from the event in the minds of onlookers.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Why the mystery of F1's greatest ever hasn't been answered - not even by science

So, that's that settled then. The sport's biggest and most ubiquitous bone of contention. Done. That one of who is the best driver ever, over and above the equipment they had access to. That one we thought near unsolvable given everything. All by a team of academics from the Universities of Sheffield and Bristol, and using statistical analysis.

According to the statistical study,
Juan Manuel Fangio's 
F1's best of all time
By Unknown - Museo Juan Manuel
 Fangio, reimpreso en "La fotografía
en la historia argentina", Tomo I,
Clarín, ISBN 950-782-643-2,
Public Domain, https://commons.
And when its news release announcing this was published just over a week ago it caused quite the stir. All seemed rather monumental indeed. Underlining the view even the (not necessarily always science-loving) Daily Mail proclaimed in its headline that what we had revealed before us was "the best Formula One driver of all time according to SCIENCE". Yes it actually capitalised the word. It was as if we were getting something irrefutable.

The first few on the study's all-time driver ranking - Juan Manuel Fangio top, followed by Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart - are hardly hideous. Michael Schumacher appeared low in ninth but when he was considered from before his first retirement in 2006 only he shot up to third, which again looked fair enough (as an aside, a curiosity about the reporting of this study is that there is more than one list floating about, in addition to the pre/post Schumi lists the one presented in the academic paper has Alonso sixth rather than his widely-reported placing of third, and it's not explained by the Schumi shift apparently as the Daily Mail article at least shows Alonso fourth when Schumi from 2006 and before only is considered).

But then it gets patchy. Stirling Moss is but 35th in the ranking (some 12 places behind Marc Surer) while the likes of Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell, Alberto Ascari, Jochen Rindt and Gilles Villeneuve are simply nowhere to be seen in the top 50. It all gets, um, a little more interesting too as Christian Fittipaldi is in the elevated position of 12th best driver ever while the luminary that is Louis Rosier is placed 19th. And unless this pair were against just about all assessments in fact secret F1 geniuses never given their break in a good car - in addition to the drivers listed above being actually vastly over-rated, again contrary most assessments - it would seem the study has some shortcomings.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: What does Nico trouncing Lewis tell us? Not much - it's a matter of chance

Three races into this season, and at the top the results could hardly be more stark. Nico Rosberg on a maximum three wins; his team mate Lewis Hamilton floundering with barely half of his points.

Photo: Octane Photography
And with this a few have sought to draw significance from it, continuing the sport's default of believing results must tell us something, at some point down the line. About what Nico is doing right or Lewis is doing wrong.

But in my latest article for Grand Prix Times I argue that such a view isn't necessarily helpful, as it reckons without that mysterious thing called random chance. That however much F1 rails against the idea Lady Luck does play a role. And in this case, most of what has gone wrong for Lewis in 2016 so far has in fact been outside of his control.

You can have a read here:

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Lewis Hamilton, Can He? Will He?

With a 36-point deficit in the Drivers' Championship, can and will Lewis Hamilton win his fourth title in 2016? Will Nico Rosberg's lady luck shine all season long? While Ferrari vs. Mercedes might seem to be a farce, Nico Rosberg vs. Lewis Hamilton is serious business, say Mithila and Kunal in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

Apart from Hamilton's race notes, Rosberg needs to read and learn from his party notes. Burger King, like really? And we ask the question everyone wants to - are Hamilton's off-track activities making him lose focus on-track? He might not have anymore jokers left, but isn't he the joker himself?

APPLAUD! All 22 cars finished the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, 3 different teams made it to the podium and Fernando Alonso finished his first full race of the season. APPLAUD!

Could Raikkonen and Ricciardo have raced to the podium had it not been for their opening lap issues? Also, did Mercedes try too hard to get Hamilton to test all of Pirelli's compounds in China? We tell you why Force India is a dream team as they 'follow their leader' and has Haas run out of 'beginner's luck'?

18 driver, 18 bills and 18 credit card payments - it seems that DUTCH is the flavour of the Formula 1 season. We also speculate why Raikkonen, Palmer, Magnussen and Haryanto missed the #racingunited dinner in China.

Finally, 22 minutes to dry a damp patch on the main straight? Whoever said that the Chinese are most efficient!

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 12)

Monday, 18 April 2016

Chinese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Stuck On Repeat

Photo: Octane Photography
Really I could have copied and pasted my review of the Bahrain race and used it again. The parallels between that one and the one in China just passed were spooky. Not least for Nico Rosberg who once again had his three nominal rivals with races compromised by the time of the first turn, meaning that even that early the race was his barring the unusual. And the unusual never arrived.

Also just like in Bahrain there was plenty to keep us entertained well behind the imperious Nico. Some fine comeback drives, and rather the soap opera between best-of-the-rest Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat.

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, 17 April 2016

Chinese GP Report - Everything's coming up Rosberg

Ground-hog day, this one in China. It had the same winner, yet again. His third from three this year, and his whole sixth on the spin. And his charmed existence as seen throughout the season so far continued without a join. You'll know who I'm on about. The ubiquitous Nico Rosberg.

Everything went Rosberg's way yet again
Photo: Octane Photography 
In many ways today's Shanghai race simply was an extension of Bahrain's two weeks ago. First corner carnage behind him impacted all of Nico's other three nominal closest challengers, and this put the race into the palm of his hand. In a minor variation Daniel Ricciardo led him off the line this time, but on the soft tyres compared with Danny Ric's not-long-for-this-earth super-softs the Australian was was expected to clear out of Nico's way before long. He did so but under unfortunate circumstances as on lap three one of Ricciardo's rear tyres couldn't handle the excitement and went pop on the main straight (a consequence of debris apparently). Nico smartly took a lead he never was to lose.

From then it was a matter of ticking off the laps, smoothly extending his advantage, occasionally setting a fastest lap presumably to keep himself sharp. Only once, a handful of laps from the end, did he have a minor veer from his racing line groove. But that was your lot. Come the end he was a whole 37 seconds to the good. Yet another maximum was his.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Shanghai Qualifying - Back in the old routine

Today's qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix was one for old stories. Appropriate on a day that F1 returned finally to its previous qualifying system, plenty of long-established tales looked possible. And in the end the main one was that about Mercedes holding all of the aces, and that it plays them to full effect when it most matters. The oldest story of all.

Everything continues to come up Rosberg
Photo: Octane Photography
The first story of the day in Shanghai was one with a old whiff, well from 2014 anyway. That Lewis Hamilton for some reason cannot get a clean weekend this campaign. We knew in advance he'd get a five-place grid drop at least for this one due to having to replace his gearbox ahead of time, but in the qualifying session for him it got worse. Much worse. He didn't appear for a while due to engine woes, then when he did with six minutes of Q1 to go it transpired it was mainly done as there was little to lose and the problem was far from solved. He aborted after a lap as ERS problems had cooked his goose, and is consigned to start last tomorrow with a new engine, once again in damage limitation mode. It won't be much compensation to him presumably that it'll be entertaining for the rest of us watching him proceed through the pack.

"These things are sent to try us" he later mused philosophically, before adding looking ahead to the race while "you can overtake here, tyres don't last as well", but "it ain't over 'till it's over". As for his Mercedes? "It is quick".

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Vettel - Ecclestone, F1's CEO

Sebastian Vettel recently said that he fails to understand the 'selfie generation' and social media. This is possibly why he is 'most suited' to replace Bernie Ecclestone as F1's oh-so-important CEO, say Mithila and Kunal in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

The leaked payment reports also indicated that McLaren Honda were paid nearly $82 million in 2015 - a tad too much to pay for entertainment alone! On that note, will Fernando Alonso miss racing in China too? Another chance for Stoffel Vandoorne to be the next Max Verstappen?

Honda announced that they will focus on 'power' in their 'power' units; a season too late? And we also bring to you our special feature - 'Hamming Around With Lewis Hamilton'.

After being humiliated by Fernando Alonso in public a few weeks ago, Johnny Herbert decided to strike back via a video starring his arch-rival, Lewis Hamilton.

Could the famous 'MSC' abbreviation be back in F1? Why the Chinese Grand Prix could be shorter? And finally, why Hamilton might have none or very few followers in China?

And btw, F1 now has a Tinder-type app for their Paddock Club guests. We tell you more, tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 11)

Monday, 11 April 2016

Shanghai Preview: Mysteries of China

You'd be forgiven at this stage of the season for thinking that the F1 calendar is a little samey. And the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit that awaits us this weekend won't do a great deal to dispel the notion.

The vast, inimitable, Shanghai facility
CC BY-SA 2.0,
Many of the characteristics will be familiar, particularly when compared with the previous round in Bahrain and with the one that follows in Russia. A Government-backed Grand Prix in a country that might be termed a coming economy; a round that appears more motivated by national promotion than of making a successful event per se; a squeaky-clean and towering Hermann Tilke-designed facility that at its first visit felt like a distinct stride on from what had been seen before. Even now indeed no other venue rivals the Chinese one for vastness - paddock occupants reckon they walk further in the Shanghai weekend than in any other.

And a bit-of-everything layout, with a long straight - underlining the theme of vastness China's is reckoned to be the longest in the sport - and a big stop at the end created with overtaking in mind, as well as a trademark Tilke fast esses part elsewhere. Like the Bahrain venue we've just been to as well this one arrived on the calendar in 2004, and a little like that one it's thought even with its bit-of-everything quality as among Tilke's less free-flowing, being more tight and technical.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

New Motor Verso article: What’s Going On With F1 Qualifying?

Photo: Octane Photography
One way or another the 2016 F1 season so far has been the season of the qualifying session. Not for good reasons either. An excruciating new system was introduced, then after its excruciating nature was confirmed it was retained for another round nevertheless, and looked for a time that it might be retained for round three as well. Only in recent days, after any amount of wrangling, was the obvious done and it agreed to return to the 2015 system.

For Motor Verso I do my best to explain what it was all about. And no, despite appearances it wasn't actually all about qualifying. It wasn't simply that all involved were idiots either. Well, not entirely anyway.

You can have a read 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.