Friday 26 December 2014

The Official Review of the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship on DVD/Blu-Ray

Each season's end and Christmas time brings with it many staples for an F1 fan. Autocourse. A plethora of top 10 drivers' rankings (including the one in Autocourse). And the official season review, the series that stretches all the way back to 1981. Formerly as a video but now with the onward march of progress is in the form of a DVD and Blu-Ray.

And so it was that a DVD copy of 'It Was Fair' (thus continuing the series' apparent tradition of slightly curious titles), the official 2014 season review, landed on my doormat before Santa had arrived. No mean feat - in at least one previous year Santa has got there first.

On-board footage from Fernando Alonso in Monza
The long-established status of the season review series means that by now much of its content and approach are familiar. And chief among these is that in terms of its production it can hardly be faulted these days. The latest one as we've grown used to is all put together with a great deal of care and no little polish, full of varied and captivating footage from on and off the track accompanied by high-quality sound. Close-ups, on-boards and other evocative alternative camera angles are aplenty. Its narrative is authoritative and its editing sharp. Comfortably it passes the test too of providing a thorough historical record of the campaign for future reference.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Final thoughts on 2014: Slings and Silver Arrows

Some years ago Frank Williams was asked during one of this game's periodic rounds of introspection whether he still considered F1 a sport. 'Between two and four on a Sunday afternoon this is a sport' he said, 'the rest of the time, quite honestly, it's just commerce.'

Whizzing forward to today this may evoke a pang of recognition. In this 2014 season just passed, on the track F1 just about got it right. The problem was that in virtually everything else it got it wrong. And would that it were merely commerce - instead outside of the two hours on Sunday afternoons what we got was politicking, intrigue, dispute, selfishness and the sport drifting unaltered in its grotesque and deformed state, seemingly unable to resolve on a remedy. Its future unclear, and eliciting rather a lot of trepidation. Too many people have been harmed by F1's warped ways already. The risk of many more joining them is real.

F1 threatened to be very different in 2014
Photo: Octane Photography
Yet heading in no one really knew what to expect from this season. In no small part because F1 in 2014 hit the reset button. We've had engine regulation changes before of course; we've also had chassis changes. But rarely have they arrived together. They certainly haven't to this extent. Never before had there been such a leap between F1 seasons; such a leap into the unknown.

In effect all teams had a new and highly complex technology thrown at them - a 1.6 litre turbo internal combustion unit plus greatly increased energy recovery, combined with a 100kg fuel limit as well as a limit to the flow (even the name changed - 'power unit' rather than 'engine' being the parlance) - and were told curtly to get on with it. Moreover, as Adrian Newey pointed out, a new hybrid car on the road will have five years' testing and development behind it, and the F1 equivalent of now is 20 times more complicated than even the most complicated road hybrid. The teams had but 12 days of track testing to get it right.

Sunday 14 December 2014

New F1 Times article: McLaren's unfinished business

Photo: Octane Photography
In recent days it had become the main - almost the only - F1 matter being discussed. It being McLaren's driver line-up decision for next year. And finally after weeks of prevarication we got it last Thursday. Fernando Alonso's confirmation was expected but Jenson Button being retained alongside - at the expense of Kevin Magnussen - was not until a few hours before the official announcement. All of a sudden, we have all of the drivers in place for 2015 and it's not even Christmas. That probably is a first.

But still, it is an announcement that in certain ways gives us yet more to chew on. Was the selection of Button really a no-brainer? What now for Magnussen? And most pointedly, what now for McLaren?

In my latest article for F1 Times I look at McLaren's 2015 driver decision, what's ahead for the Woking team and in particularly for the scrutinised Fernando Alonso-Ron Dennis relationship. You can read it via this link:

Tuesday 9 December 2014

My Top Ten Drivers of 2014: The Rest...

Photo: Octane Photography
Here are my views on those F1 drivers from 2014 who didn't make my top 10 ranking that I published a few days ago.

My top 10 drivers of 2014 can be read here.

The two drivers who came closest to the top 10 but missed out were Daniil Kvyat and Jules Bianchi.

There was close to unanimity that Kyvat was rookie of the season. For all of the fears about how debutants would adapt to the sport, especially the complex variety of 2014, in the Russian's case the doubts immediately were dispelled as he didn't falter in his confident strut straight from GP3 and impressed in just about every way. His speed on show this season was superb, as was his chutzpah. Frequently he could be seen with his Toro Rosso on the very edge of adhesion, often with the tail hanging out. Indeed him finishing the Italian race without brakes for the last lap or so, at astonishing speed and mainly because he could, took the breath away. His team mate Jean-Eric Vergne is highly rated, and this year did a lot to sort his qualifying out, but herein Kvyat was ahead over the piece, and towards the end of the year often he was far ahead. Perhaps most impressive of all is that Kvyat never appeared at all cowed by his rapid promotion - observing him out of the car was like observing a veteran, and his complete assurance (but never of the excessive kind) could on occasion be astounding. And it reminds us all of the mental toughness and constructive approach that Helmut Marko said is what set him apart for the drive in the first place. There possibly inevitably was the odd example of rookie overreaching, such as qualifying prangs in Monaco, Canada and Hungary as well as being at fault for a collision with Perez in Germany. And for all of his single lap pace he didn't appear to have near to Vergne's ability to look after the tyres over a stint, betrayed possibly by him only scoring eight points to his team mate's 22. Equally though Toro Rosso unreliability cost him points in Monaco, Austria and Abu Dhabi, in each of which he was well-placed. And the big Red Bull team felt it saw enough to promote him without the slightest hesitation when Sebastian Vettel fled for Ferrari. Let's not forget either that Red Bull's judgement just lately on such things has been pretty impeccable.

Monday 8 December 2014

New F1 Times article: Lewis Hamilton 2014 World Champion - not built by this season; revealed by this season

Photo: Octane Photography
In my latest article for F1 Times I pay tribute to the recently-crowned 2014 world champion Lewis Hamilton, and look at the key factors behind his latest title.

This includes him getting into the right place at the right time for this campaign as well as - more importantly - how Lewis developed into something like a complete F1 performer this season.

You can have a read here:

Get 20% off the 2014 F1 season review DVD or Blu-Ray from Duke

If you're buying the 2014 F1 season review DVD or Blu-Ray from Duke, or anything else from Duke for that matter, you can use the 'TalkF1' promotional code to get 20% off. Simply enter the 'TalkF1' promotional code at the checkout to get your 20% discount. It's an offer especially for Talking about F1 readers on all Duke Products.

The 2014 F1 season review DVD/Blu-Ray can be brought direct from Duke via this link:

Therefore on the current offer on there you'll get the F1 season review DVD for £11.99 after the discount. Not bad I'd say.

As I said this offer applies to all Duke products, and if you go onto you'll see all sorts of DVDs, Blu-ray discs, downloads etc for the motorsport fan.

N.B. This is for Duke only products so there may be the odd thing on there that they cannot redeem the code on but this will be because it is an outside supplier title. Note too that the £11.99 price quoted above is based on the £14.99 DVD price available from Duke via the link at the time of this article's publishing.

Saturday 6 December 2014

My Top Ten Drivers of 2014

Here is my personal rating of the top ten F1 drivers of the 2014 season, seeking to take into account their performance in their circumstances 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 ten will follow in the next few days.

Photo: Octane Photography
1. Daniel Ricciardo
What do we know. A guy said by some only in a Red Bull so not to pose a threat to his world champion team mate. A guy whose skill set on display in the Toro Rosso was considered by few to be complete. There were good qualifying laps of course, a Button-like smoothness and precision too. But could he race? Yet what do we know as I said? In 2014 Daniel Ricciardo is in with a shot - straight to the top of the pile.

Throughout the campaign the perma-smiling Australian demonstrated that he is a driver without much recognisable weakness. The smoothness continued and this with his related gentle touch on the Pirelli tyres allowed him most times to employ longer race strategies than his team mate Sebastian Vettel, and usually to lap more quickly as he did them. While the quali pace proved to be stunning. Indeed he managed to beat qualifying master Vettel by 12 times to 7.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Inside Line F1 Podcast: Drive It Like You Stole It

Now that we're entering the close season you may have more time on your hands, perhaps to listen to lively chat on F1's latest matters. The regular Inside Line F1 podcast is produced and hosted by Rishi Kapoor and Kunal Shah, and is one of the most listened to podcasts in India and Asia, and they are looking to expand elsewhere.

The latest one reviews the season-closing Abu Dhabi round and Lewis Hamilton's title. In my view it's well worth 15 minutes of your time. You can have a listen below.

Kunal has been writing on F1 for eight seasons, you can visit Kunal's website at: and you also can follow him on Twitter here.

Friday 28 November 2014

Vergne and the margins between success and misery in modern F1

Here's a challenge for you. Try to explain to someone the general logic behind which drivers get retained in F1 race seats and which get ditched. Without sounding insane.

You'll no doubt be aware that it wouldn't be an easy task. And this week we had just the latest cruel rejection of a worthy competitor, that of Jean-Eric Vergne.

The Abu Dhabi race was indeed the last we'll see
of Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso
Photo: Octane Photography
It was a slightly on-off goodbye. He was officially out way back in the summer break when the fledgling Max Verstappen was confirmed for a Toro Rosso 2015 gig. But then when Sebastian Vettel's unanticipated departure from the Red Bull big team had the domino effect of Daniil Kvyat being promoted to replace him, some started to muse that Vergne could be retained after all so to plug the resultant vacancy. Indeed Franz Tost confirmed during the Sochi weekend that Vergne was back in the running.

But no. Before we know it we're back where we started, as Vergne himself confirmed on Twitter earlier this week: 'Despite a good season and 22 points, I'll not drive anymore for Toro Rosso in 2015. Thanks for those years. Let's go for another big challenge.'

Thursday 27 November 2014

TeamSport Infographic - F1 2014 season round up

You may recall last week in the build-up to the season-concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that TeamSport - UK indoor karting specialists - produced an infographic outlining the state of play heading into the vital round.

Now that the race and therefore the season has reached its conclusion TeamSport has been kind enough to produce a final end of season version, summing up the key stats for the year. This is below. Hope you like it.

More detail can be found here, and you can let TeamSport know what you think on Twitter.

#F1 2014 season
Source: TeamSport

Tuesday 25 November 2014

New article: Why Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari spell was no waste of time

Fernando Alonso said goodbye to Ferrari last weekend
Photo: Octane Photography
The season-concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a time to say goodbye, and the goodbyes came in a a variety of forms.

One of the most sombre though was that we finally received confirmation that Fernando Alonso and Ferrari, after a five-year relationship, are officially over.

In the latest of my articles for I look at why the partnership did not deliver its minimum objective of a world championship, but also argue that despite this, from Alonso's side the Maranello stint was no waste of time.

You can have a read of the article via this link:

Monday 24 November 2014

Mattiacci - brought down by his own fire

Divorce is rarely easy of course. Neither are goings-on within Scuderia Ferrari. Bring the two together and you have...well, you work out the rest.

And there has been a lot of Ferrari conforming to type in its latest big soap opera; the matter indeed that had smouldered throughout the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend. And today we received confirmation that as is often so there was no smoke without fire. Marco Mattiacci is out; Maurizio Arrivabene, brand manager for Marlboro Europe and one close to the Ferrari team for some time via that sponsorship, is there in his stead. The Scuderia has its third (count 'em) team principal in the space of just eight months.

Marco Mattiacci is out of the Ferrari team
Photo: Octane Photography
So - apart from the obvious - what does this in particular tell us? Well to start with there's one thing we can fairly safely conclude that it isn't. That being that Mattiacci's flying visit was always part of the plan.

When he first arrived earlier this season many indeed reckoned it was an interim appointment, particularly given his gaping lack of motorsport experience. But over time fewer and fewer felt sure on this point.

As the BBC's Andrew Benson noted by mid-season Mattiacci was 'making a good impression among senior figures in F1 as a man who means business and looks like he can deliver.' That Mattiacci reportedly was backing the highly-rated new Technical Director James Allison to the hilt looked spot on too.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Abu Dhabi GP Report: In the end, in the beginning

Thinking logically, it was hard to see in advance how he could have been denied today. But in this game logic only goes so far.

Things indeed came right for Lewis Hamilton today
Photo: Octane Photography
Possibly in no other sport can so much go wrong as in F1, and so definitively. Indeed the man himself admitted that he'd spent the night before preoccupied with such possibilities. No doubt most of his fans did too. But for all that we remember the sport's dramatic last-race shifts, the probability remains that the guy who needs a mere nudge over the line manages it. And so it was today. Lewis Hamilton won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and with it the 2014 World Drivers' Championship. His second.

It would have taken the unusual to deny Lewis, and while there were such unusual goings-on come the race they in fact fell in his favour. The very get-go was our first hint that today was going to be Lewis's day. The start of his title rival Nico Rosberg with too much wheel spin was far from ideal, but Lewis's was a peach. Launching like a rocket into a clear lead and Nico already having to cling to the end of his vapour trails. 'It was the best start I can remember having, it felt incredible' noted Lewis later.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Abu Dhabi Qualifying: Nico refuses to go quietly

'Nico is not going quietly' mused Damon Hill afterwards. And he was spot on. It's been a recurring theme of F1 in 2014. Along with that whatever else has occurred, on the Saturdays Nico Rosberg has been the man. In the season's final Saturday in Abu Dhabi he was the man again, claiming another pole position.

Nico Rosberg once again was the one smiling on a Saturday
Photo: Octane Photography
And this was a scrum won against the head, as for much of the weekend it seemed Lewis had matters well in hand. The Yas Marina track is one on which he specialises, and it looked that way again. In Friday practice he was king, and while Nico sudden pulling out of a time three-and-a-bit tenths quicker than Lewis's in Saturday morning's FP3 put a timid kitten among the pigeons, come the qualifying session it seemed order had been restored. Lewis was quicker in Q1 and set a mark a whole half a second under Nico's best in Q2.

But Q3 is the thing, and therein Nico whizzed around first with a 1m 40.697, almost six tenths under anything he'd done before. And whether related or not Lewis suddenly got scruffy, locking a wheel on two on the way to cutting the beam some three tenths over Nico's time.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Lewis Hamilton vs. Nico Rosberg in 2014

You are being spoiled today as here we have a second infographic for your perusal in anticipation of this weekend's vital championship showdown in Abu Dhabi. This infographic created by sports spread betting company Spreadex below focusses on the drivers' title protagonists of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

You'll see that it outlines their respective histories as well as a variety of stats comparing their 2014 campaigns with but one round remaining. Hope you like it!

Spreadex Hamilton v Rosberg F1 Infographic 2014
Infographic brought to you by Spreadex, leading provider of sports spread betting in the UK.
Click here for the full size image (1600 x 7000 px).

TeamSport Infographic - F1 2014 round up before Abu Dhabi

As you'll no doubt be aware by now the season-concluding, and championship-deciding, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix awaits us this weekend. And TeamSport - UK indoor karting specialists - in anticipation of this have produced the infographic below, which details the state of play as we head into the vital final round, with the top six in the drivers' championship detailed. So you can have no excuse for not being genned up.

More detail can be found here, and you can let TeamSport know what you think on Twitter.

  #F1 2014 seasonSource: TeamSport

Monday 17 November 2014

Abu Dhabi Preview: Between cup and lip

There is many a slip between cup and lip as the saying goes. And how appropriate it may seem to the season-ending and championship-decisive round that awaits us in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton holds the aces this weekend
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton to this end holds the aces. He knows what he needs to do to guarantee for himself the drivers' title of 2014. And that seems well within the probable outcomes. But in this game such situations come with a massive disclaimer, as possibly no other sport encompasses a wider variety of things that can go wrong, that which come seemingly from nowhere, and which have nothing to do with whether the protagonists get it right or get it wrong. The Goddess Fortune of F1 can be, and has been, particularly cruel.

And if she decides to be cruel to Lewis this time then the path to the title will likely open up to his team mate Nico Rosberg. At no point will this be too far away from many minds. The tension throughout the Mercedes camp will this weekend fill the air like molasses. Even the imperturbable Niki Lauda admitted in advance that 'it's going to be difficult'.

Saturday 15 November 2014

How I learned to stop worrying and love Caterham's crowdfunding

It's not a lot, but it's something. Something at least for now.

Rather like the Monty Python and the Holy Grail character, Caterham yesterday exclaimed that - despite wider assumptions - it isn't quite dead. Not yet anyway. As the team that (along with Marussia) has missed the last two rounds amid financial woes and administration and that many expected never to see again will indeed be present in the forthcoming Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, thanks in large part to money raised via a 'crowdfunding' scheme.

Against expectations, Caterham are due
 to be seen in Abu Dhabi
Photo: Octane Photography
The scheme was announced at the start of last weekend and its target was to drum up was £2.35m to get the squad to the season-closing Yas Marina race meeting. And while at the point yesterday that Caterham declared itself alive and kicking again only around 80% of it was raised (just over £1.9m), that level in itself helped apparently by a few sizeable contributions late on, reportedly too some sponsors have been found to make up the shortfall.

At the same time the deadline for the scheme, originally the end of yesterday, was moved to nine days hence; something I'm told is above board. Perhaps all surmised that there was no harm in keeping it open.

If you need brought up to speed as to what 'crowdfunding' is, well it's quite the new big thing in our age of the online community. It's a means of raising funds for projects that (presumably) would struggle to be funded otherwise - ordinarily those starting-from-scratch - via an accumulation of voluntary pledges of cash from individuals. The pledges of course can vary in size, right from pocket change to fairly vast sums. Often too the pledge is in return for a 'reward', perhaps some kind of name credit or something more tangible (though apparently equity and credit crowdfunding exists out there too).

New F1 Times article: Should we be asking what the point of Bernie is?

Photo: Octane Photography
You'll be well aware of the sport's various financial woes, and its various manifestations, that have dominated discourse in recent weeks. You'll also be well aware of the related frenzied debate over F1's future and what it should look like.

And you'll also likely know that the fingerprints of a certain Bernie Ecclestone is all over many of the matters of moment as well as over a framed future F1 that doesn't appear to have much wider support.

In my latest article for F1 Times, given recent goings-on I ask should we be asking what the point of Bernie is? You can have a read here:

Wednesday 12 November 2014

What did the Raikkonen-Alonso battle in Brazil tell us? Nothing.

Let me tell you a story.

It is an F1 race, in 2014, and in the closing laps. The two Mercedes are way off ahead in a tight battle for the win, but down in sixth place we have Kimi Raikkonen. He is in the process of executing a two-stop strategy, but bearing down on him from behind is his Ferrari team mate Fernando Alonso, who instead has stopped three times and is benefiting from being more freshly-booted.

Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso in battle
Photo: Octane Photography
With ten laps left Fernando is right with Kimi, but rather than meekly cede the place Kimi is fighting for it for all he's worth. Clearly there are no instructions coming from the pit wall. Not that they'd likely be heeded anyway. For several laps the two feisty racers tough it out, getting alongside each other at several points, but Kimi time after time is able to position his car so to remain ahead.

That is until there are four laps left when Nando is able to get by; where he stayed. But still with the time lost squabbling Alonso had to abandon any vague thoughts of attacking Sebastian Vettel ahead, who'd passed Kimi himself shortly before Alonso arrived on the scene.

You would be forgiven for thinking that I'm referring to the race in Brazil just passed last weekend. But forgive me, it was a deliberate attempt at a bum steer. Actually what I described is from the Spanish race earlier in the year. Round five. In May.

Monday 10 November 2014

The previous of the penultimate round

What is it, in years in which the drivers' title race goes to the wire, with penultimate rounds?

The thought occurred to me before the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix just passed - that distinguished by Nico Rosberg abruptly reminding the hordes of doubters that he's not surrendering in the world championship battle - that it all seemed a bit familiar. That next-to-last rounds have a knack of this. Confounding expectations; shifting momentum almost onto its head.

If Nico Rosberg's win in Brazil seemed a bit familiar, you had
some good reasons for thinking so
Photo: Octane Photography
And I was fairly relieved to discover subsequently that I wasn't imagining things, as after a think I was able to come up with a fairly extensive previous for this sort of thing. If it seemed familiar, that's because it was.

The penultimate round from history that the Interlagos race really put me in mind of was that from 20 years ago, that one held in Japan in Suzuka. And in teeming rain. Then Damon Hill played the Nico Rosberg role, coming into the race still with a mathematical title chance but as far as plenty were concerned as something of an interloper. The other guy - in this case one Michael Schumacher - was the one by consensus cruising to the honours, and then as now the closeness on points at this late stage from many perspectives owed to peculiarity. Subtract unreliability and conspiracies regarding collisions and trips down escape roads and add instead Schumi being disqualified from two races and banned from two more. Each of which Hill took maximum points from.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Brazilian GP Report: All apologies...

Well Nico it appears that many of us owe you an apology.

We all knew the statistics heading into today's race, of the ratio in 2014 of your poles to wins. Indeed we didn't let many opportunities to mention them pass. Moreover someone pointed out that of all the times that you'd started on pole with your team mate and title foe Lewis Hamilton alongside this campaign you'd triumphed but once. At Monaco...

Nico Rosberg - against many expectations - triumphed in the
Brazilian Grand Prix
Photo: Octane Photography
We didn't think you had it in you. Well, you did.

OK, you did have a conspicuous dollop of luck along the way. But you needed no more than that, looking fast and precise throughout, even in the breakneck final stint when Lewis with the smell of blood in his nostrils stalked you from behind. Even as the lap times dipped down to scarcely credible levels. You looked utterly in command.

You could argue too that you made your luck, what with the pressure you were exerting with your pace possibly drawing the crucial error from your rival.

But whatever was the case in a weekend when you simply had to deliver, and deliver against just about all expectations and previous, you did. And how you did it, topping every single session of the weekend. Including, today, the important one.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Interlagos Qualifying: Fightback or more of the same?

I suppose it shows the importance of getting the whole picture. Understanding the context.

On the face of it the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend thus far could hardly have gone better for Nico Rosberg. He's topped every single session. And come qualifying having again headed the times in Q1 and Q2 he also topped matters in the important part to take pole. In an exciting session he pipped his team mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton, the latter apparently being pressured into a crucial error.

Nico Rosberg claimed pole once again
Photo: Octane Photography
For what it's worth too it now means that Nico has claimed the sport's inaugural 'pole trophy', for prevailing most on a Saturday in a season. But there was little abandon about the place. Everyone knew what the bigger consideration was.

That of Nico Rosberg's nine pole positions won in 2014 prior to today he has only converted two to victory. That Lewis overturning his team mate's qualifying advantage in the race has been lately like an F1 equivalent of Groundhog Day - Bahrain, Monza, Suzuka, Austin. The names roll off the tongue.

Will Nico prevailing today prove to be an in-the-nick-of-time start of a fight back or simply more of the same? This will matter. A lot. And it was on everybody's minds afterwards.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Interlagos Preview: Remembering where we are

The Mercedes is miles ahead, and in just about all circumstances. While one of its pilots Lewis Hamilton these days has the air of one unstoppable, batting away challenge almost contemptuously. He's won the last five races, and hasn't been beaten since August. Moreover plenty now are talking about Lewis taking his title number two this year with a heavy sense of inevitability, given that only unusual results can now deprive him.

More of the same this weekend? Not necessarily.
Photo: Octane Photography
So, the victor in the Grand Prix this weekend can be taken as read, right? Well, no actually. Or not necessarily at least.

This is because there is a conspicuous ray of hope for those looking for a change, not least among them Lewis's slightly on-the-ropes team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg. That if you were to pick a venue in which the unusual is likely to be delivered then the one we're to visit this weekend - Interlagos in Brazil - is probably the one you'd pick.

It has an intangible quality - always has - of being a place where things happen, and those things being from almost anywhere on the scale of plausibility. It has good claim to being the closest thing contemporary F1 has to the Bermuda Triangle.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Boycotts and ironies

This game lacks nothing for political intrigue. And even by its usual standards we're getting rather a lot of it right now.

So it continued in Austin last weekend; indeed if anything it was therein more exasperating than we'd been getting used to in the days and weeks beforehand. As Mark Hughes noted for Motorsport, come the red light going out on Sunday it felt like 'a race broke out amid the arguing about the sport's future'.

It was thought for a while that Sauber and Force India as well
as Lotus, may sit out the Austin race
Photo: Octane Photography
F1 indeed was oh-so nearly hit for six by a boycott (and well done to everyone who got that esoteric reference. Not that Geoffrey of that ilk hit too many sixes). With two teams not reaching Texas at all due to financial maladies, rumours circulated that three more - Lotus, Force India and Sauber - feeling a similar pinch would sit out the race, perhaps by parking after a lap, in order to make their feelings known on the same matter.

It was a rather odd affair, as the concept smouldered without anyone apparently wanting to admit to rubbing sticks together. Force India got closest to it though, with Bob Fernley confirming after qualifying that a no-show was 'on the table'.

Monday 3 November 2014

United States GP Report: Lewis swoops yet further

It was just like qualifying, only very different.

Just like in Austin's qualifying session we were reminded starkly on the United States Grand Prix race day of things we perhaps too readily forgot. Particularly in thinking we knew what the final act contained in advance. But it couldn't have been more different as matters at the sharp end were turned utterly on their head.

In a familiar tale, Lewis Hamilton prevailed in the race over
team mate Nico Rosberg
Photo: Octane Photography
Things looked good for Nico Rosberg in advance of Sunday's action, him having the day before taken a fine pole position with a time close to four tenths ahead of his (admittedly bad brake-hobbled) team mate and title antagonist Lewis Hamilton. But delving deeper there where causes for his concern, and not just that Lewis - and Lewis with a healthier car - was likely to be a formidable foe. Of Nico's nine poles this year only twice has he converted it to a win. And this was a statistic he didn't improve on.

Early in the race things looked good though. Lewis was indeed up to speed but in the first stint on soft tyres Nico was able to just stay at arm's length up the road. Indeed Lewis hit the cliff with his tyres slightly earlier and as is his right as the one ahead Nico pitted first, and after this had all shaken out his advantage was a balmy three seconds.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Austin Qualifying: Rosberg's Replicated Reminder

How many times do I have to tell you? If I've told you once I've told you a thousand times.

You'll most likely recall exasperated instructions of that ilk from your parents during childhood. The F1 following doesn't really have its own authority figure, but if it did then it would be this sort of thing passing their lips with regularity. And we would have been reminded rather sternly once again today.

Perhaps against expectations, it was Nico Rosberg who
 prevailed in Austin's qualifying session
Photo: Octane Photography
Again in advance we thought we knew better. That we had it all worked out. Lewis Hamilton had the momentum in the intra-Mercedes battle for the drivers' championship. He was free-wheeling straight towards this year's title.

But F1 likes to catch us out. F1 in 2014 particularly. And Nico personally has reminded us more than once herein that he in ideal circumstances can match and even beat the rapid guy across the garage, as well as that he has no intention of surrendering the honours meekly to his stable mate. He reminded us of all of this again in his run in Austin qualifying today, prevailing decisively for pole in a quick and polished style that has been a recurring pattern on our Saturdays this season.

The perils of the Party of Five

It appears that I may owe you all an apology.

I had thought that Bernie Ecclestone and the cabal of top F1 teams were merely selfish, complacent and blinkered. In the course of yesterday though I instead was met with the creeping realisation that I may have overestimated them; that rather they are idiotic and wilfully destructive. While remaining selfish.

What I had assumed was merely lethargy may well actually have been strategy.

Are the 'big five' teams planning on a takeover?
Photo: Octane Photography
We all know the state that F1 is in with its finances. We know its manifestations, particularly those of recent days and weeks. We even know in large part why it's happening - that cost control has flopped and what cash there is is massively concentrated among a few at the top. To the point that a couple of teams get each year guaranteed Bernie money just for being them that exceeds what the teams at the back spend on everything in a season. That it persists in large part because the teams - particularly the said big ones via the infamous Strategy Group - get a major say of the sport's governance, with the myriad potential for vested interests therein. All teams look out for number one; turkeys don't vote for Christmas (as was pointed out on Twitter by the inimitable Fake Charlie Whiting, can you imagine Man United getting a say in the laws on how throw-ins are taken?). And that the FIA has been neutered, only getting a third of the say on the sport that is supposed to be its own. As well as that Bernie seems oddly protective of the deformed model he's helped create.

Sebastian Vettel: What To Expect In 2015, a guest post by Charles Bell

It's been a strange year to say the least for reigning World Drivers' Champion Sebastian Vettel. Following a 2013 campaign that helped cement Vettel as one of the greatest F1 drivers in history, expectations were sky high heading into 2014. However, the season just never seemed to get rolling smoothly for Vettel.

Vettel's pairing with Ricciardo this year has
led to many surprises
Photo: Octane Photography
As F1 fans are aware, the first jarring event for Vettel's 2014 campaign actually came at the end of last year, when long-tenured teammate Mark Webber retired from F1 for good. Still, it seemed to be an adjustment that Vettel would likely work through with ease, until he began to be plagued by shaky reliability from the start of the season. And that became the story more or less throughout 2014. As various issues forced retirements and sub-par finishes, Vettel faded from the top of F1 even as new team mate Daniel Ricciardo launched himself forward into what now looks like a guaranteed third-place finish on the year.

But can we expect a revival of sorts for Vettel when the calendar turns to 2015? It's hard to say, but this may just be the most fascinating storyline in F1 moving forward.

Thursday 30 October 2014

New article: F1 – from despair to where?

Photo: Octane Photography
You'll know of the recent news on Caterham and Marussia moving into administration, that rather underlined F1's financial problems.

It's not a new issue, and further the recent crisis is one we should have seen coming.

In the latest of my articles for I outline how we got into this mess, and ask on behalf of the sport, from despair to where?

You can read the article via this link:

Monday 27 October 2014

Austin Preview: The best of times, the worst of times

F1's final frontier. Its unfinished business. Its itch that it just can't scratch. Call it what you will, but it has applied to the sport's relationship with America for years and decades.

Austin rapidly has become a favourite stop-off
Photo: Octane Photography
The debut Austin Grand Prix two years ago was approached with a degree of trepidation. It was no fewer than F1's US venue number 10 - a record by a distance for the most Grand Prix host circuits in a single nation. And it's a number that betrays the regularity in history with which the bold dreams of a new American home for the sport have evaporated.

In Austin's case too it managed to emit non-encouraging noises in advance - delays (the race contract was even terminated for a while), financial problems, schisms, side-linings, and environmental protests to name just a few. All contributed to a 'here we go again' feeling among F1 folk.

New F1 Times article: What does the future hold for Red Bull?

Photo: Octane Photography
Many changes in F1 await in 2015. And most of these have been much-ruminated over as to what they might mean. To give a few examples: Ferrari's overhaul, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso's new abodes, Honda arriving at McLaren etc etc.

Yet of all of the impending shifts, have we forgotten about what's going on at Red Bull? The team has much to think about, and on more than one front.

In my latest F1 Times article, I take a look at the matter and at the team's prospects for next season. You can have a read here:

Tuesday 21 October 2014

New Vital F1 article: Mercedes reaps what it sows

Photo: Octane Photography
It of course has been inevitable for months. At least since the start of the season; arguably since long before.

But still, this shouldn't stop us pausing to pay homage. The matter in question being that Mercedes is now 2014 World Constructors' Champion, and wiped the floor with its opponents in so doing.

For Vital F1 I did indeed stop to pay homage to the Silver Arrows, as well as explored just why the Merc has been so far ahead this season, with much of the reasoning going way back beyond the start of this campaign.

You can have a read here:

Thursday 16 October 2014

Double trouble

The day after the Russian Grand Prix - and Lewis Hamilton's latest triumph - my brother got in touch with me on Twitter with the following (and apologies to Nico Rosberg fans for his choice of nomenclature):

Alright, here's one. Imagine Lewis finished 1st in Austin with Britney second: Lewis leads by 24 points. Then the same thing happens at Interlagos: Lewis then leads Britney by 31 points. Under normal circumstances he'd be champ. Lewis retires at Abu Dhabi, Britney finishes second to (say) Bottas. Britney champion by five points. Britney ends the season with four wins to Lewis's eleven, and ends up champion. Imagine the seethe. Haha.

Lewis Hamilton has been doing more
of the winning at Mercedes this year
Photo: Octane Photography
And within this is a considerable thing left unsaid. That some of us might have even forgotten about amid the heat of an exciting championship battle. The notorious double points that awaits in the final round of the season.

This scenario imagined by my brother if played out would not so much break a record but smash it to smithereens. Lewis Hamilton claimed his ninth win of the season last Sunday, and no one has lost a drivers' title having won that many or even with one fewer than that (seven is the record, held by several drivers). So with the above chain of events the mark would be advanced by upwards of 150%.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Rights and wrongs

Following F1 it often can feel that you need as much knowledge of geopolitics, foreign policy and the international human rights movement as the sport's esoteric matters. And this in a pursuit that at its core is as simple as which car can complete a proscribed distance most quickly.

But it can be and frequently is turned into more, often much more, than that. Agonising over the countries the sport visits - whether it should be keeping such company - is a regular feature these days. And the long wrestled over first visit to Russia that took place last weekend was merely the latest case.

Vladimir Putin's appearance, and the reasons for it,
were predictable
"GranPrixRussia2014 winners" by -
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons -
I'll admit that the multi-faceted nature of F1, including the notorious political dimension, is for me part of the appeal. But when it reaches the politics of outside of the sport's boundaries it even from my perspective becomes rather wearing. Equally though it's unavoidable - everything is connected to everything else. Of course, at such moments we often hear the 'don't mix sport and politics' line. Would that it were but it's not the world we live in. Particularly not in a game wherein national governments are more and more footing the (vast) bill.

Sunday's pictures during the Russian Grand Prix didn't leave much to the imagination on that one, and I suppose if some good came out of it all it was in showing how absurd, or at best naive, the sport and politics shouldn't be mixed line is. Russian President Vladimir Putin's presence on the world TV feed, even appearing in the podium anteroom, a sort of appearance which I struggle to recall an equivalent of before, rather underlined it. The F1 race was being used by someone who in many eyes is a contentious figure as a means of lending himself greater legitimacy, and it could easily have been predicted that would be so.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Why, despite everything, I'm hopeful for the Russian Grand Prix

Confession time. I actually entered the Russian Grand Prix weekend in a hopeful state of mind for it. And ended it, despite everything, with reasonable optimism too. A position that for much of that time felt rather like one in a minority. But please, stay with me.

I ended the inaugural Russian Grand Prix with optimism
"GranPrixRussia2014 box" by -
Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via
Wikimedia Commons -
The event as far as plenty were concerned was ill-starred from an early stage. Sochi as a town is small (some 350,000 inhabitants) and remote; Moscow being a three hour flight - or if you prefer a 24 hour car journey - away. F1 isn't well-established in the country either. All of which carry implications for it attracting a crowd and achieving viability.

Then of course there are some of the happenings within the country that cannot be defended, and that its notorious President Vladimir Putin clearly was going to associate himself closely with the race (as indeed he did). We can add to it the more recent events of 2014 - the Ukraine situation and allegations of Russia's contribution to it - which for plenty exacerbated the point and meant that up until the 11th hour some were talking of the race not taking place at all.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Russian GP Report: Russian stroll

Mario Andretti opined some years ago that - contrary to what us outsiders may assume - being in first place is actually the easiest place to be in a Grand Prix. There you have unique privileges, as out of all competitors you and only you are able to drive within yourself, merely at the pace of those who trail. To save your strength, your car, your fuel. It's a virtuous circle in other words. In F1, nothing succeeds like success.

Lewis Hamilton triumphed once again today
Photo: Octane Photography
And Lewis Hamilton benefited from it today. From the end of the first lap the tension in the inaugural Russian Grand Prix of the F1 era was over who would finish second at the very most.

As both Mercedes drivers had predicted the lengthy run from the start and subsequent big stop at Turn 2 (which despite names was the first turn as far as everyone was concerned) was vital. And indeed Nico Rosberg's launch was good enough for him first to draft and then get just ahead of his team mate and title rival on that run. But he seemed to get a bit overexcited at this and missed his Turn 2 braking point by what looked a distance. He ran well off into the benign tarmac run-off at the exit, which meant he'd have to give Lewis the place back. But even worse for him the resultant flat-spots on his tyres meant he had to pit at the end of the opening tour also, leaving him next-to last.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Sochi Qualifying: Continuing the Lewis theme

You wonder if Nico Rosberg turned up to the new Sochi Autodrom earlier this week, and let out a groan.

Not a reflection of the quality of the track hosting the inaugural Russian Grand Prix per se. No one was entirely sure what to expect in advance, after all. Data for simulation had been hard to come by. And once they were actually circulating on it for real drivers were pleasantly surprised by the circuit's challenge apparently.

Today Lewis Hamilton continued his recent momentum
Photo: Octane Photography
But many had already noted the Abu Dhabi similarities. An ultra-smooth low grip surface, with plenty of short 90-degree corners. A track that Lewis Hamilton is mighty on. He hardly needed it given the recent momentum, but before a wheel had been turned it looked like advantage to Lewis.

So it proved. For most of the weekend he's appeared on another level, as much to Nico as to everyone else. And this continued into qualifying. Nico could shadow box, but he never looked likely to land a glove on his team mate and title rival. Lewis took the pole from him by a clear two tenths.

'Lewis was quicker all weekend really' said an honest Nico later.

Friday 10 October 2014

Matters to emerge from the best and the worst

Perhaps it is fitting that at a time of extreme we are witness to the very best and the very worst. And so it has been since the unfortunate events at what turned out to be the conclusion of the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, with the result of Jules Bianchi in hospital and what awaits as yet remaining unclear.

The F1 community has come together
in support of Jules Bianchi
Photo: Octane Photography
But from somewhere within this harrowing and regretful matter as I said the very best of F1 was displayed. What often can appear a highly disputatious sport really came together in support of Bianchi, his family and his team. Moreover the community of F1 fans around the word united similarly and moreover devised many touching ways of demonstrating collective messages of hope and goodwill.

Yet some sadly went rather beyond. Of course as noted last Sunday on this site after the Suzuka race it is in large part human nature after a shock and a trauma to seek answers, seek resolutions. But a few inauspicious actors exhibited the behaviour in an unattractive fashion - stirring up a hornet's nest of recrimination and reaction. There had to be fault, and culprits, and pronto. Something - maybe lots of things - had to be changed on the same timetable. This too even though the FIA investigation into the matter had barely begun and the establishment of facts remain at a similar stage.

Thursday 9 October 2014

New F1 Times article: Fernando Alonso goes from saviour to scapegoat

Photo: Octane Photography
We've all been aware for a while that Fernando Alonso hasn't been thrilled with life at Ferrari. That he's been scanning for alternative options. Most likely we can understand it too, given that for most of his time there he's struggled with rather substandard machinery.

But despite this - and that by consensus Alonso's personal contribution has delivered much better results than the red cars have deserved - recent word has been that in fact Ferrari somehow is not happy with Fernando Alonso. Eliciting some bewilderment.

In my latest article for F1 Times I look into what might be going on; what might be motivating Ferrari's behaviour, and reminding us that in many ways it's nothing new from the Scuderia.

You can have a read here:

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Sochi Preview: One to get through

You would forgive the F1 fraternity, and plenty of fans, if they felt that this impending Grand Prix weekend is rather one to be got through. Moreover one that they could do without. Not necessarily a reflection on the Grand Prix in question. Rather that as we know the harrowing conclusion of the Suzuka race just passed, with Jules Bianchi's accident and resultant injuries, reminded us in a harsh way that, as Mario Andretti worded it, motor racing is also this.

It seems equally harsh that there has been little opportunity for grass to grow under the sport's feet since; little opportunity to reflect, consider, pause in respect. As almost in a blink of an eye - and with the matter far from settled - all were ripped away for the lengthy journey to the next round taking place but days later. And indeed the racing goes on unabated, though we can take some succour from the knowledge that the racing going on presumably is exactly what Jules would have wanted us to do.

Bernie signs the deal, under the watchful eye of Vladimir Putin
"Russia Grand Prix sign" by -
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via
Wikimedia Commons -
And while it's easy to miss among it all, at the sport's geo level this particular race meeting is an important one. At last a Russian Grand Prix is upon us - for the first time in exactly 100 years. Rather an important frontier for the sport.

Moreover it has been established following no fewer than three decades of trying on the part of Bernard Charles Ecclestone.

For most of this time there has been regular talk of a Russian/Soviet race, as well as visits by Bernie and apparent resolutions, all of which before now turned out to be false dawns. Indeed, a Grand Prix in the Soviet Union, to be held on the streets of Moscow, appeared on a provisional F1 calendar as long ago as that for the 1983 season (after a visit to the country by the same Bernie in 1982), only to be scuppered by various bureaucratic machinations. As it was the first Grand Prix of the F1 era in the Eastern Bloc was in Hungary in 1986, which had proved to be more accommodating.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Japanese GP Report: Dark clouds

At such moments the sights, the sounds, the feelings, can be horribly familiar. The incongruous silence when there should be noise; still when there should be buzz; restraint when their should be celebration.

We all know it, and the horrid sense of shock and then of uselessness as we watch on, desperate. And however much we love motor racing, it also is - and always will be - dangerous. The risk can be minimised, indeed it has been vastly as we know. But it cannot be uncoupled.

All drivers were understandably sombre after the Suzuka race
Photo: Octane Photography
Perhaps against expectations - and the expected vast quantities of rain indeed arrived - we had a motor race in Suzuka today for the Japanese Grand Prix. And for the most part we had a good one. One of remarkably good judgement by all of the drivers too, in addition to their considerable bravery and skill.

But it came to a rather abrupt stop on lap 42. As intimated come the commencement time of 3pm locally the track was very wet, which resulted in a start behind the safety car, a red flag then another safety car period. But the rain had relented before the time that the cars were released definitively. The circuit as a consequence was, if still difficult, suitable for green flag action.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Suzuka Qualifying: Things move quickly

Things move quickly in F1. In more ways than one.

Nico Rosberg ended up being the one smiling today
Photo: Octane Photography
Today's qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix had an other-worldly quality about it, that rather was in keeping with the astonishing 2015 driver news that had suddenly swirled in the morning. The astonishing news being that Sebastian Vettel was to leave his family home of Red Bull. With its many presumable implications.

The actual important on-track circulating seemed mere background noise to it all. Adding to it some mused that the drivers were frenetically qualifying for a race that might not happen. Or at the very least will be very different...

But rather as the 2015 drivers' market had done to it earlier the qualifying hour moved the immediate matter of the 2014 world drivers' championship on, possibly significantly, and in a way that wasn't universally anticipated. In recent weeks all of the talk has been of Lewis Hamilton's momentum, momentum that had taken him to the table top from rather a long way back. But today Nico managed to check it. Accepting that it is but one qualifying session, as well as that five races (and 150 points) remain, today still felt important.

Friday 3 October 2014

Twenty years on - Damon's greatest day

Damon Hill. Just where does he fit?

By this I mean in the sport's historical pecking order. We know he's a world champion - indeed were it not for what was most likely a professional foul he'd have two - but such is F1's odd way that only is helpful to a certain point. Indeed it for a few becomes almost an implement with which to beat him; I've heard even the dubious title of 'The worst ever F1 champion' attributed to him on occasion.

Damon Hill
"Damon Hill juillet 1995" by Alonso
at French Wikipedia - Transferred from
fr.wikipedia to Commons.Self-photographed.
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia
 Commons -
But generally I've often felt that he is sold a little short. True, he wasn't an artist; more an artisan. One who achieved success more via perspiration than inspiration. And part of the conundrum expressed may be explained by that the sport's historiography for some reason isn't one that readily rewards that sort (similar could be said about Damon's father Graham).

Perhaps too his personal story didn't help: one who pretty much directly got into the best F1 car there is, and at an advanced age and without much glowing from the junior formulae on his CV all may have led some to conclude that success rather landed on his lap. Perhaps also in an absurd way Damon's understated and dignified persona, that couldn't have been further from the precious and haughty archetype superstar of the modern age, didn't help either.

Yet whatever you think of Damon his statistical achievements - a world championship and 22 race wins - are not the sort of thing you just fall backwards into. And while it nevertheless would be stretching things to call him a great he was one capable on occasion of producing truly exceptional performances. He genuinely can point to a few races which, without hyperbole, deserve ranking among the best of anyone from the sport's pantheon.

Monday 29 September 2014

Suzuka Preview: Big in Japan

They don't make 'em like they used to.

Such an claim isn't always true, but it sometimes is. And it seems to apply with particular regularity to the F1 circuit.

Suzuka is a popular venue - for many reasons
"Six F1 at Suzuka 2013" by Norimasa Hayashida - http://
set-72157636691519286/. Licensed under Creative
Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://
Of course, some of the new-fangled venues are better than others. But none has got even close to creating the quickening of the pulse that drivers and aficionados alike experience when cars circulate Suzuka, the scene of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Why is this? Mainly it's that its layout is dominated by rapid, challenging, snaking turns, the sort that separate the great from the good, the sort that would most likely be laughed out of court were it proposed from the ground up these days.

Very much unlike the modern circuit type there aren't vast expanses of run-off areas for drivers to veer into and to use as a benign get-out if they get it wrong. The track is narrow also; the ideal line like a tightrope. Therefore precision at Suzuka is vital and even a slight error can end your chances.

Saturday 27 September 2014

New F1 Times article: Bad things come in threes – A view on three-car teams and F1's costs

Photo: Octane Photography
There have been plenty of bones of contention in this F1 season, as you'll no doubt be aware by now. But Adam Parr, the ex-Williams CEO and chairman right after the recent Italian race reminded us starkly of what probably is the biggest issue of all for the modern sport, and one that perhaps we hadn't given enough attention.

Parr spoke of the prospect of three-car teams in the near future, and entangled in this is the persistent financial struggle of many F1 teams, particularly towards the back, as well as persistent failures to control the sport's costs.

In my latest article for F1 Times I explore the whole issue, and what should be done about it. You can have a read here:

Friday 26 September 2014

Lapping loitering

The Singapore Grand Prix and the safety car are pretty much inseparable. In every race ever at the Marina Bay track it has appeared at least once. On occasion its presence here has been, um, notorious. But while this year the safety car appearance wasn't quite so controversial as, you know, that, it still caused a bit of chatter. Simply in the length of time that it was out there.

On lap 31 the safety car was deployed, after Sergio Perez's front wing detached following contact with Adrian Sutil which resulted in carbon fibre shards scattered all over the track. Come lap 35 the debris was cleared - which in itself seemed a bit tardy, given the marshals were oddly bereft of brooms, but that's another story.

The safety car took a long time to disappear
Photo: Octane Photography
But almost that same amount of time again was then added onto the safety car lull, as on the same tour in accordance with the way of things the lapped cars were allowed to go ahead of the queue in order to get their lap back. Not until lap 38 - by which time most of the lapped cars had caught up the back of the pack - did we have green flag racing again.

The safety car interlude took up some 15 minutes, 15 minutes in which the global audience didn't have much to watch. And from what was at core a rather trivial incident...

The rule of allowing lapped cars to unlap themselves under a safety car has come and gone over recent times, which rather underlines the extent that the value of the practice is marginal. In mid-1992 the safety car was introduced (or reintroduced if we are to be pedantic). In 2007 the rule of letting lapped cars unlap themselves was brought in. In 2010 it was ditched, mainly on the grounds of the time in which we could be racing that was wasted by it. For 2012 for some reason it was brought back. And it remains.