Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sakhir Qualifying: Holding on for tomorrow

This one was supposed to be different. Finally, we thought, the haughty Mercedes would have a fight on its hands. That the wind was gusting added another welcome variable. Some hope. Once this particular kaleidoscope had settled, its pieces were back in rather familiar places. Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix. As he has everywhere in 2015 thus far. And it wasn't even close in the end.

Lewis Hamilton continued his clean sweep of poles in 2015
Photo: Octane Photography
Many looked to Ferrari here, and indeed near the last of the final qualifying act Sebastian Vettel was at centre stage, on top of the timing screens. But crucially this was before Lewis had finished his lines, and they it transpired were emphatic, as he swept around almost last over the line with a mark four tenths under Seb's. Everyone was consigned back into their respective boxes.

"It's never easy doing qualifying" said Lewis later, and we don't doubt him. But like many sportspeople at the top of their considerable skills, Lewis right now makes it appear so.

But even so he couldn't conceal where he is right now: "As a driver, for me, I love qualifying" he went on. "You've got to go out and bring everything together that you've learnt for that one lap, and it's so intense...it's so much fun."

Friday, 17 April 2015

Talking about F1's Graham Keilloh on A Racer's Experience

This week I was invited to appear on the regular YouTube show A Racer's Experience. This is a programme by Matthew Nicholas which discusses the latest goings-ons in various motorsport categories.

With Matt I looked back at last week's Chinese Grand Prix as well as look to what can expect from Bahrain this weekend. You can have a watch by clicking on the below. I'm sure you'll agree it's worth 13 minutes of your time:



Apologies for the strange noises (other than those coming out of my mouth which I'll take responsibility for...), no idea what those are.

You can also check out the other A Racer's Experience episodes here.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The greatest moments in Formula One history infographic by Crossline on the Fort

As we know F1 has a rich past, and Crossline on the Fort has produced an infographic listing their ten greatest moments in Formula 1 history.  Many of them have gone into folklore, some as astonishing feats of triumph, others for more notorious reasons.

You can have a look through below. Hope you like it.

Be sure too to give Crossline on the Fort a visit here: http://www.crossline.ca/

What's Wrong With Formula 1? by Kunal Shah, plus the latest Inside Line F1 podcast

Except for Max Verstappen and his bold manoeuvres on track, I got bored during the broadcast of the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix. Okay, I admit, Pastor Maldonado entertained too, in parts. But that was it! Post-race, I wondered, what's wrong with Formula 1? And I couldn't find a direct answer.

Is current F1 lacking?
Photo: Octane Photography
After a drab 2014 Formula 1 Season, we have two marquee manufacturer teams battling for wins on track – Ferrari vs. Mercedes. In this, we have (yet) two World Champions fighting at the front – Sebastian Vettel vs. Lewis Hamilton, not so typical a script for Formula 1 for the last few seasons. We also have another former World Champion (Kimi Raikkonen) in a Ferrari trying to find his way to the front; not to mention, the other Mercedes driver (Nico Rosberg) who desperately wants to win his first World Championship too. My point is that we finally have a battle of sorts to follow.

Add to this mix, McLaren are patiently trying to script their comeback with Honda. That Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are fighting hard to avoid the last two slots in the race classification is fun to watch too. We also have a competitive Williams – after nearly a decade and Toro Rosso, who seem faster than Red Bull Racing. All in all, there are battles (however small) taking place for nearly every position on the grid. (Read: Thank You McLaren)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Sakhir Preview: Red Resurgence?

What a difference a year makes. The Bahrain Grand Prix 12 months ago was the nadir of a season for Ferrari already characterised by impenetrable murk.

With all of the Scuderia's royalty present for the occasion, to shift road cars as well as in then-President Luca Montezemolo's case to seek to alter the sport for its own benefit, the Italian squad was humiliated. Left on the Sakhir Circuit's many straights, not gaining a great deal back around the subsequent bends, its two cars were swamped and trailed in only to fill the last two points-scoring places. Montezemolo even by this point though had seen enough and long since scarpered the scene in the back of a taxi.

This weekend many eyes will be on the Ferrari drivers
Photo: Octane Photography
With the chastened faces in the Ferrari pit you could almost see the knives being sharpened before your eyes, and sure enough Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was gone by the time of the next race. And he it transpired was merely the first victim of a season of the long knives at Maranello, that was bloody by even its own worst standards. Even Montezemolo himself fell victim before the year was out.

But this weekend Ferrari approaches the Bahrain Grand Prix a year on with things likely to be almost unrecognisable by comparison. Moreover, ever since the red team astonished everyone - perhaps even itself - with its race-winning run in Malaysia in round two a fortnight-and-a-bit ago, many have looked to the Bahrain race for a potential repeat.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Nico Rosberg - failing on the rules of politics?

Right, I'm going to let you all into a secret. For my sins, I actually like politics. Not merely F1 politics, though admittedly that's an admission it itself. I actually like the party politics that in the main (and with justification) inspire much derision. Yes, I'm one of them.

Nico Rosberg has had to watch his team mate do a lot
of winning this year so far
Photo: Octane Photography
As an auxiliary benefit it comes in handy for interpreting F1 sometimes too. There often are parallels, and it shouldn't really surprise either. The manoeuvrings; the deals; getting the right people around you; getting people onside; getting 'messages' out there - all to the detriment of opponents, are clear examples of common ground.

And it's come in handy once again what with Nico Rosberg and all that, following his much wrestled over comments following last Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

They'll be familiar to you by now. As will many of the theories on what inspired it. Of course, it remains possible that it was all no more complex than simple sounding off, as Niki Lauda indeed insisted afterwards. And us sports observers don't half have a weakness for applying cod psychology regardless of its actual applicability.

But still, there are reasons to suspect that it instead was part of a plan. With three defeats from three to his team mate and nominal biggest rival in 2015, and that team mate/rival looking serene, the need to change things somehow presumably are at the forefront of Nico's thoughts. Further, given who he's up against too - and without disrespect - he's unlikely to win out in a straight battle of driving talents.

Monday, 13 April 2015

New Vital F1 article: What if...Alonso’s right about his McLaren move

Photo: Octane Photography
Fernando Alonso's move from Ferrari to McLaren has raised plenty of derision. And we can understand why, given that very little has gone right for the Spaniard or his new team since they got back together for this season.

And as if to add insult to injury, in an astonishing turnaround compared with 2014 the Ferrari squad that Alonso left after years of frustration has all of a sudden leapt to somewhere near, or even on, the Mercedes front-running pace.

But...even with all of this is there still a chance that it'll all work out for him in time?

In my latest article for Vital F1 I make the case for optimism. You can have a read here: http://www.vitalf1.com/sitepage.asp?a=2901 #F1

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Chinese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso

Photo: Octane Photography
My latest Grand Prix review for Motor Verso, that for today's Chinese race, is now available. In it I reflect on a day in F1 when the dropping of chequered flag seemed to herald the start of the drama. I even manage to squeeze in a Morrissey reference.

You can have a read via this link: http://www.motorverso.com/chinese-grand-prix-starting-chequered-flag/

As mentioned these race reviews will be a permanent feature from me on Motor Verso this season, so do keep an eye out for them.

On Motor Verso you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out weeklong test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

New GP Racing Plus article: Time to get rid of the grid girl

Photo: Octane Photography
The opening round of the latest World Endurance Championship season is taking place at Silverstone today. But in among it all you might have noticed something slightly different

This is because just over a week ago the series' chief executive announced that therein the grid girl was to be no more. On the grounds that society that surrounds the sport had moved on from the concept.

This of course sparked debate among F1 observers over whether this game should do the same. And in my latest article for GP Racing Plus I looked at the issue, and why I think F1 would indeed be better advised to get rid.

You can have a read here: http://gpracingplus.com/en/columns/item/7482-time-to-get-rid-of-the-grid-girl

Chinese GP Report: When the flag drops, the drama starts

Topping all three practice sessions. Pole. Win. Led every lap aside from a solitary tour during the first stops. Fastest lap. It doesn't get much better than that. And the facts as well as being overwhelming also are apt. In China Lewis Hamilton was in absolute command from the very first point that a wheel was turned on Friday. His 25 points from his Shanghai weekend felt long since an inevitability akin to night following day.

Lewis Hamilton was serene in China - in and out of the car
Photo: Octane Photography
In most ways this was much more Australia than Malaysia. Just as around Albert Park things were close. But just like then it was illusory as Lewis had everything under control, and never looked as if he would be usurped.

"I was enjoying myself" he admitted later. It looked that way.

His team mate Nico Rosberg threatened during the first stint, staying within a second or so. But around each pit stop phase Lewis uncorked the bottle, and tore chunks out of his previous lap times. Once it all settled down he was conspicuously farther away. The race ended under the safety car, but at that point Lewis was a positively balmy five seconds up the road. It was another race of one.

Another way that it was more Australia than Malaysia was in the entertainment stakes, with the world feed TV director appearing to agree as from half distance onwards at least as the Mercedes hardly were shown and battles further down the field - sometimes far down the field - were on screen instead in apparent desperation to find something diverting. But after the chequered flag it was like some - and one person in particular - decided to make up for the drama deficit.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Shanghai Qualifying: No surprise in Shanghai

You know what they say about when things are going for you.

Lewis Hamilton has looked untouchable from the very moment a Pirelli first turned in Shanghai this weekend, apparently continuing a 2015 wherein he's appeaered somewhere near the top of his towering repertoire. And well on top of his ailing team mate Nico Rosberg.

After China's qualifying session, it
was a familiar figure on pole
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis topped all three practice sessions. Then come qualifying he looked on a plateau, tearing chunks out of each of his marks at the top of the timing screens, and to a scarcely credible extent, tour after tour.

But at the vital moment and when we least expected Lewis had a slight stumble. This track is one that evolves rapidly, and Lewis somehow on his final flying lap didn't improve, almost incongruously giving Nico a sliver of light. Nico did improve, but not quite enough, falling short by a scant 0.042 seconds. Or a blink of an eye. But no matter as pole was once again Lewis Hamilton's, his third from three in 2015. And his fifth ever in Shanghai.

So even when he got it wrong he got it right. As I said, when things are going for you...

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Shanghai Preview: Similarities and differences

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.

Many of the characteristics of the Shanghai International
Circuit are familiar
"2010 Chinese GP starting grid" by Drew - Starting Grid F1
Shanghai. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia
Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
File:2010_Chinese_GP_starting_grid.jpg#/media/
File:2010_Chinese_GP_starting_grid.jpg
Many of the characteristics will be familiar: a Government-backed Grand Prix in a country that might be termed a coming economy (China's economy is more coming than anyone's); a round that appears much more motivated by national promotion than of making a successful event per se; a glittering, a Hermann Tilke-create squeaky-clean facility with towering architecture built with the help of a blank chequebook, that at its first visit felt like a distinct stride ahead of what had been seen before. Indeed even now no other venue rivals this 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 it is reckoned to be the longest in the sport - and a big stop at the end created with overtaking in mind. Of the Tilke layouts before and since however this is among the least free-flowing, being more made up of the tight and technical. It does have the trademark Tilke fast esses section however.