Thursday, 13 December 2018

My Top 10 F1 Drivers of 2018: The Rest…

Here are my views on those F1 drivers from 2018 who didn't make my top 10 ranking from a few days ago. If you're interested, you can read the top 10 here.

Photo: Octane Photography
Going through the 'other 10' in final drivers' table order brings us first to Sergio Perez, for whom 2018 was more of the same – for good and ill. He racked up plenty of points plus in the way that apparently only he can bagged a podium finish when the very rare opportunity offered itself. Yet Perez couldn't alter his long-time predicament of lingering in the middle ground between being a good midfielder (with money) and a talent that a top team will covet. It didn't help that, while there as ever wasn't much in it, his Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon had the pace edge for the most part. Nor did his hooligan performance in Singapore, first showing not much effort to avoid a collision with Ocon then – far worse – having a rage swipe at Sergey Sirotkin.

Kevin Magnussen's season was rather a breakthrough. With him at last getting the many benefits of a second season in a race seat, the results flowed particularly in the early part of the campaign. He didn't always string things together though, and more broadly once team-mate Romain Grosjean sorted himself out Magnussen tended to be the second Haas. He also gave more evidence to sustain his enfant terrible image – the criticisms can be excessive but still his move on Pierre Gasly in Baku then on Charles Leclerc at Suzuka were hard to defend. He sometimes gives the impression of revelling in the status but equally it may become a burden.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Man vs. Machine To Intensify In F1 2019

Formula 1 is set to introduce a new television graphics package in 2019. This could mean that drivers will not only battle each other, but against advanced artificial intelligence algorithms that will tell television viewers the probability of an overtake happening. Whether you enjoy such data or not, the 2019 Formula 1 Season will see the 'man vs. machine' fight play out on a different level altogether. Btw, the machines should already know that men have kicked their a**es in Formula 1 since inception!

Photo: Octane Photography
In this week's of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we discuss the outlandish 'PR statements' made by several teams and drivers, like Max Verstappen claiming that he and Charles Leclerc are Formula 1's new Lewis Hamilton-Sebastian Vettel pairing. Or when Carlos Sainz Jr. hailed the 'great' start to his career as a McLaren driver. Or when Renault claimed that their engine will be on par with Mercedes and Ferrari in 2019. Or when Toto Wolff claimed that Mercedes missed their 2019 engine targets. Or when Marcus Ericsson fuelled the always-on IndyCar vs. Formula 1 debate. Or when Sergio Perez claimed that Lance Stroll has talent. Okay, the last statement might not be a PR one, but anyway, you get the gist of what this episode has in store for you. Lastly, we applaud Kimi Raikkonen's antics at the FIA Prize Giving ceremony. Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 40)

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

Here's what's in store for you in this episode:
0:00-3:00: FIA Prize Giving Ceremony, Kimi Raikkonen's applaud-worthy performances! Which act was your favourite?

3:00-6:00: Did Ferrari conspire against Marcus Ericsson? We board the Ericsson-fuelled IndyCar vs. Formula 1 debate - PR statement #1

6:00-9:00: Max Verstappen in the title race in 2019? - PR statement #2; What could plan-B be for Red Bull-Verstappen in 2020? -PR statement #3

9:00-12:00: Statements #4 & #5, Lewis Hamilton could win the Nobel Prize Award, if he wanted to; that's how blessed he has been all year long! The ONLY team to have not invited Hamilton for a test is - Ferrari!

12:00-15:00: Ferrari's improved social (media) manners, a bright sign for the times to come? And several other PR statements (we lost count!)

15:00-18:00: What Wolff Said This Week Section; why would Valtteri Bottas not want to speak to Nico Rosberg?

18:00-21:00: 2019 is going to be well and truly a 'man vs. machine, we tell you why.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

My Top 10 F1 Drivers of 2018

Here is my personal rating of the top 10 F1 drivers of the 2018 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 10 will follow in the next few days.

1 Lewis Hamilton
Photo: Octane Photography
A driver who always has been astonishingly skilled, yet these days minimises his previous weaknesses to nearly nothing. Do the math, as the kids say. For Lewis Hamilton it added up this year to a majority of races won and a fifth championship taken crushingly, in a car that for much of the season by consensus was not considered the best out there.

The things we knew already about him were still there. His blinding speed of course, quintessentially with his scarcely-credible Singapore qualifying lap on which the championship momentum shifted irrecoverably. His unmatched skills in the wet as demonstrated in his Hockenheim win and Hungary pole – both vital in stemming the Ferrari tide. His piercing aggression and immaculate judgement when wheel-to-wheel, such as on Monza's opening lap. While those intimated weaknesses were all but eliminated. Off-days weren't conspicuous; he even unlike before kept on winning races after the title was clinched. In China, Azerbaijan and Canada he was slightly subdued but he still in each brought his car home for solid points. His mistakes across the piece amounted to disappearing down a Baku escape road. A formidable force at something like his peak.

2 Max Verstappen
Photo: Octane Photography
It now seems like something from another age, but in Monaco it was open season on Max Verstappen. A qualifying prang there that dashed a victory opportunity, which was the latest of a succession of errors. A 'six crashes in six rounds' count was banded around liberally. Yet from that very moment, almost literally overnight, he righted his ways and his towering talent again came to the fore. Maybe even with a season started in Canada he make a genuine claim to deprive Hamilton of the number one slot.

He admitted that he had changed after his Monaco long dark night of the soul, realising smartly that a Max Verstappen driving within his limits still is considerably faster than just about anyone else. It manifested in persistent astonishing drives, repeated podium finishes and two victories. There still was the odd falter, such as his erratic Monza run while his Brazil antics with Esteban Ocon, off track and arguably on it, still betray creases to iron out. Yet even so we ended this campaign more convinced than ever that Verstappen is a phenomenon who surely is destined to win multiple championships.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Inside Line F1 Podcast - What Year Will Alonso Be Back In F1?

Will Fernando Alonso give us a chance to miss him? What year could Alonso be back in Formula 1 - 2020, 2021 or 2022? Also, more than what year, it will also be a question of with which team. We certainly don't think it would be Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Photo: Octane Photography
In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal wonder if Alonso's exit would see a mass exodus of fans from Formula 1 - that's exactly what happened when Michael Schumacher quit. History and statistics tell us why Stoffel Vandoorne can be a Formula E Champion. We offer Racing Point creative ways to announce their signing of Lance Stroll. Did Ferrari back the wrong driver in 2018? Forget a fast car, Renault better have a witty social media team for Daniel Ricciardo. And finally, was Lewis Hamilton's 'shirtey' moment a lame attempt to give us something more than Ricciardo's 'shoey'? Tune in!

(Season 2018, Episode 39)
Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and on audioBoom (RSS feed) for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour

Here is what's in store for you this week:

0:00-3:00: Did ALO take a legion of fans away from Formula 1 like MSC did?

3:00-6:00: Will ALO let us miss him in Formula 1? How soon before ALO is back - 2020, 2021 or 2022?

6:00-9:00: History tells us why VAN can be a Formula E champion and can we get started with McLaren-One Plus jokes already?

9:00-12:00: We offer Force India creative ways to announce their signing of Lance Stroll

12:00-15:00: Did Ferrari back the wrong driver in 2018? What if KUB still has it in him?

15:00-18:00: Mercedes win the Esports Championship too. They are the chosen ones this year. Forget a shoey, HAM did a shirt-y!

18:00-21:00: PER has been Force India's saviour in every way this year. Red Bull's discarded drivers coming to to the team’s rescue. But do they really have a future in Formula 1?

21:00-25:00: RIC's Mercedes promotion. No one saw it coming! Mithila's 'What Wolff Said This Week' section.

25:00: Moments in Time with Lucien and the end!

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Johnny Herbert at Benetton, by Ibrar Malik

The upcoming book details what can be learnt about the 1994 Benetton controversies whenever other drivers sat within the car, like Johnny Herbert. So what was the Grand Prix winner's view of driving it?

Johnny had been tipped for F1 stardom before sustaining serious leg injuries in a horrific multi-car pileup during an F3000 race in the summer of 1988. Despite not having fully recovered, the Englishman bravely returned to racing at the beginning of 1989 with the Benetton Formula 1 team and astonished onlookers by finishing a brilliant fourth on his debut.

Herbert arriving for his first Formula One test in 1989. Whenever he was buckled up within the car, painkilling injections were stabbed into his legs. Herbert's injuries still affect him today.

Determined as he was, Johnny's performances progressively got worse throughout 1989 as his leg injuries hindered him on circuits which required heavier braking. This led to a political battle over Herbert's future, between Peter Collins (Benetton's team manager) and Flavio Briatore (Benetton's newly appointed Commercial Director). Collins, having spent three years supporting Johnny through the junior categories was adamant the Englishman should remain, but Briatore insisted on replacing him with a fellow Italian. After failing to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix Herbert was promptly replaced by Emanuele Pirro (an Italian) and Collins left the team a few weeks later.

Friday, 30 November 2018

New Motorsport Week article: Ricciardo to Renault, a road to redemption or regret?

Photo: Octane Photography
It's like the previously-stale F1 drivers' market is making up for lost time. When the 2019 season gets underway next March there'll be no shortage of unfamiliar faces, nor of familiar faces in unfamiliar places. But even so one move trumped them all for shock value.

In my latest for Motorsport Week I look into the probability of success of Daniel Ricciardo to Renault - will it be a road to redemption or regret? With, you may be glad to hear, an added absence of appealing alliteration...

You can check out the fruits of my investigating here:

Monday, 26 November 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
In the 2018 F1 season closer Lewis Hamilton was so kind as to provide a summary. His latest win of 11 in his fifth world championship year contained a few of the themes that ran through the campaign as a whole. Not least Hamilton himself remaining, one way or another, in the box seat.

My take on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale is added to the Motor Verso F1 season summary. As ever it's illustrated with great Pirelli photography and my selection of the best of YouTube content.

You can check out the fully formed summary via this link:

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Abu Dhabi GP Report - The year in microcosm

If they say to start as you mean to go on, what do they say about finishing?

Lewis Hamilton led from the off and always was in command
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton won the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole, his 11th victory of his latest championship season. And as Martin Brundle noted, it's not clear if he broke sweat in so doing.

There was the odd adventure along the way; the odd cause for doubt. But the running thread through all of the Yas Marina race was that Hamilton's Mercedes was well in the best place. It was 2018 in microcosm.

The main detour was a result of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari stopping on lap 7 with no power on the pit straight. The Virtual Safety Car was enacted and Hamilton alone among the leaders took advantage of the lower time-loss by making his sole pitstop. He emerged in fifth, planning to run to the end and just 8.8 seconds off the new leader, his stable-mate Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton sounded sceptical at times but it did work out, as when others ahead pitted he had a net lead of something in the order of 10s. The only matter then was whether his tyres could go to the end.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Abu Dhabi GP Betting Preview - Looking to the future

Abu Dhabi races are usually about two men. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won at this futuristic-looking venue three times apiece and revel in the track's challenges. The bookies agree and give the pair the shortest odds for pole and win - with Vettel the favourite ahead of Hamilton.

Local specialist Lewis Hamilton seems to
offer the best betting value
Photo: Octane Photography
But given Vettel's recent erratic form Hamilton may be the better bet, plus the evidence of Brazil last time out is that Hamilton is not letting up with the championship won. In addition Ferrari has never won here, and Seb's not won in Abu Dhabi since his Red Bull days in 2013.

You can back Hamilton to be fastest qualifier at 6/4 and to win at 11/4. The main cause for concern herein - and which may explain Vettel's shorter odds - is that it remains to be seen if Hamilton needs to take a grid penalty after his engine problems in Brazil.

This may though present an opportunity, as if Hamilton is blasting through the pack on race day with a fresh engine, strategic freedom and fresh tyres (due to not giving qualifying full beans) then the 3/1 for him to get the race's fastest lap becomes an even better bet than it would have been anyway.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Abu Dhabi Preview - The sun goes down

So the sun goes down on another F1 campaign. And providing the visual metaphor, the season-closing round is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. F1's only day-to-night event.

In an appropriate place, the sun goes
down on another F1 season
Photo: Octane Photography
The sunset on this 2018 season has been slow, and we enter this finale with remarkably little at stake. Both titles are decided of course, but even further down the tables there is meagre potential for change at the last.

Underlining the point the most conspicuous bone of contention at the Yas Marina track this weekend is that Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen are separated by three points in the 'battle' for fourth in the drivers' standings. Either theoretically could leapfrog Kimi Raikkonen for third as well - Bottas is 14 points behind and Verstappen 17 - though that outcome will likely require a no-score for Raikkonen.

Even in the all-important constructors' order - all-important as that's what they base the money on - just about all teams look well ensconced in their places. The most likely shift is that a good weekend for Sauber - and it looked quick in Brazil - combined with a meagre one for Force India may allow the Swiss team to vault over the six-point gap between them. Conversely a sixth and seventh place for Force India combined with no McLaren points will get Force India up a place.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

New Motorsport Week article: Progress not panic – paying homage to five-times constructors’ champion Mercedes

Photo: Octane Photography
In last weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix something remarkable happened, though it wasn't dwelt on all that much. Mercedes clinched its fifth constructors' title in a row, a feat only matched ever by the crushing Ferrari squad of the noughties.

For Motorsport Week I try to address the situation by paying homage to dominant Mercedes, and delve into what makes this team extraordinary.

You can have a read via this link.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Motor Verso F1 2018 Season Summary - Brazilian Grand Prix review

Photo: Octane Photography
The Brazilian Grand Prix just passed demonstrates the importance of not judging books by their covers. A dead rubber; another Lewis Hamilton win. Sounds tepid. But this one was hot. And hot for reasons no one anticipated.

My take on it is added to the Motor Verso F1 season summary. As ever it's also illustrated with wonderful Pirelli photography and my selection of the best Brazilian Grand Prix content from YouTube.

You can check out the nearly-final summary here: