Monday 30 June 2014

Alonso's all that

You would be forgiven for suspecting sometimes that if there is a being that governs F1 fates, then it is one possessed with a wicked sense of humour. This is given the regularity with which it tramples all over some widespread expectations framed in advance, and with size 12 boots.

Fernando Alonso running ahead of Kimi Raikkonen -
a sight we've got used to in 2014
Photo: Octane Photography
Let us rewind back to the latter part of last year when some of the driver pairings for the sport's top rides were firmed up for the 2014 campaign. One was Daniel Ricciardo joining Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull, with Ricciardo expected by most to be only the most minor irritant to the world champion. Some thought he was hired precisely on that basis. Not so. If anything it is the Australian that has swatted Seb away as if he were a midge.

As for Mercedes, many thought that Lewis Hamilton - feet now firmly under the Brackley table - would get a firm upper hand on Nico Rosberg, more so than he did in 2013 at any stretch. No - eight races in and Nico has a points lead in the drivers' standings amounting to more than a race win.

And then there's Fernando Alonso having Kimi Raikkonen parachuting onto his Ferrari patch. Ah yes, that one.

Thursday 26 June 2014

Bulls to provide the horses?

Pretty much ever since the RB10 made its first faltering attempts at turning a wheel in Jerez testing pre-season back in January, audible muttering from the Red Bull camp about its power unit partner Renault has been persistent background noise of the 2014 season so far. But even with this, at the team's home event just passed it all seemed to step up rather.

Helmut Marko wasn't just active on track last weekend
Photo: Octane Photography
First off, early in the weekend Helmut Marko when being interviewed by Martin Brundle on Sky stated that if Renault can't provide a unit on a par with the standard bearing Mercedes 'then we have to look for alternatives'. Then after a very trying time of it in the race itself team principal Christian Horner escalated hostilities further, calling both the unit's reliability and performance 'unacceptable' before adding 'the situation hasn't really improved from Melbourne' and that 'there needs to be change at Renault.'

Of course, taken at face value these are statements of the obvious, and indeed Renault deputy managing director Rob White put some words out outlining that it shared Red Bull's frustrations (though also emphasised that there is a plan in place to improve matters). But of course in reality it'll be taken to mean much more. And as James Allen noted, imagine if the Renault engine was being let down by a poor chassis and the French company was to suggest that the guilty constructor's technical director should be sacked...

Wednesday 25 June 2014

What could it be, it's a mirage. You're scheming on a thing, that's sabotage

Another Grand Prix weekend; another plot-thickening in the Nico vs. Lewis show; another strike for Nico; another round of (mainly online) recrimination in response. Hey ho.

In Austria Lewis Hamilton once again ceded points to
Nico Rosberg
Photo: Octane Photography
This time the malcontents were taking their cue from the Beastie Boys by telling y'all it's a sabotage. Of Lewis Hamilton by the Mercedes team in the aid of Nico Rosberg. And it was via the pit stops. Lewis's first stop in the Austrian race was nine tenths slower and his other a full second slower than the respective halts of his team mate. Someone noticed that this 1.9 seconds lost was exactly the same as Lewis's deficit to the victorious Nico at the race's conclusion, and thus the matter boiled up, largely on social media.

As Edd Straw pointed out for Autosport such a time comparison is rather crude. Furthermore it's hard to tell whether in either case matching Nico's stop time would have been sufficient for Lewis to jump his rival in itself, what evidence there is suggests not quite. But still it denied him an opportunity to get right on his team mate's tail. Then the fun would have started.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Being won over by the Red Bull Ring

Regular readers of this particular site will know by now that I've not always been the world's greatest fan of the A1/Red Bull Ring. To say the least.

The A1/Red Bull Ring returned - and I actually thought
it was pretty good
Photo: Octane Photography
This is not because I consider anything especially objectionable about the track in itself - which is perfectly acceptable within the modern Zeitgeist - it instead is due overwhelmingly to what it replaced. Namely the wonderful, fearsome Österreichring - all fast corners, blind brows, plunges and climbs. Had they only built the new track up the hillside or something (as ironically they did with the original Österreichring which usurped the previous 'Zeltweg' track) then you probably wouldn't hear a peep out of me.

Having watched over the weekend just passed a re-run on TV of the highlights of the last Grand Prix at the old place, from 1987, it brought home that the modern formula is in some ways unrecognisable even compared with that relatively recent history. Of the fearsome fast corners referenced all but one had literally zero run off, instead being lined on the outside by barriers. And curiously much of the track looked built on something of a ha-ha, which meant that leaving the track even where there wasn't a barrier would probably result in gravity sucking your car directly to meet something solid. One was put in mind of Stirling Moss's analogy of doing a tightrope walk two feet above the ground as opposed to doing it over the Grand Canyon. The skill is the same; the challenge is not.

New F1 Times article: Alonso looks ahead - the Spaniard's future and LMP1

Photo: Octane Photography
Fernando Alonso like any F1 driver will - without the intervention of cruel fate - have one day to decide what he is to do next when his F1 days are done. And in recent days we've been getting more of an idea of his plans, with his utterances that he'd like to try his hand at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in LMP1.

In my latest article at The F1 Times I look at Fernando Alonso's possible path, outline that he hasn't always been so minded, but also show why his plans spelled out in the past week or so shouldn't really have been a surprise:

You can have a read via this link:

Lotus let loose around London for Race Week

The British Grand Prix is soon to be upon us which also means that the first ever Race Week also is nearly here.

Race Week is a brand new sporting festival for this year, which is taking place a week on Thursday, the 3rd of July 2014, day and evening at the Royal Artillery Gardens which is a six acre open site in central London.

And as the latest part of its promotion a Lotus, in the capable hands of Marco Sorensen, was let loose on the streets of London's Docklands around Canary Wharf. Here is the film below:

Monday 23 June 2014

New article: The wrong person, the wrong time, but the right idea

Photo: Octane Photography
You're probably aware that Ferrari President Luca Montezemolo has had a lot to say for himself latterly. And the most recent example of this was his call for a round table discussion on F1's future - as well as that in among it all another Ferrari threat to quit the sport lingered in the air one way or another.

Over at in my latest article there I outline that while Montezemolo's words incited a lot of derision, and that the derision is understandable, perhaps in among it all somewhere he had a point?

You can have a read by clicking on this link:

Sunday 22 June 2014

Austrian GP Report: Oops, he did it again

The Big Mo. No, I'm not talking about Nigel Mansell. Or Keke Rosberg for that matter. Or even Harald Ertl (Google him. Really, you won't regret it).

Nico Rosberg today continued his Big Mo
Photo: Octane Photography
I'm talking about the intangible yet large-scale sense of momentum that can be established, whether it be in social shifts, politics, sport or anything else. And once it is established it can be very hard to halt let alone reverse. In F1 right now, Keke's son Nico one way or another seems to have established it.

And this weekend around the Red Bull Ring in Austria it continued. It was by no means a classic weekend for Nico; a messy qualifying (one way or another) meant that he started a mere P3. In the race he didn't look much of a threat to the Williams ahead in the opening stint, and when he got ahead he didn't ever look like running away. He also came close to giving Williams the lead right back at mid-distance by running off the track at turn one. But he remained resolute both then and throughout - a skill that he's displaying in abundance this campaign, far from the former 'Britney' moniker - and most importantly by the end he remained in the lead. Oops he did it again. And now his championship lead over his team mate and sole rival Lewis Hamilton is an ever-more vast 29 points. Overturning that already looks like a big job.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Red Bull Ring Qualifying: Massa and Williams back in a familiar place

F1's return to Austria after 11 years away, and very unusually returning to a track not a lot different to the one left, meant that there was a lot of 'long time, no see' about this Grand Prix weekend. And today's qualifying session was entirely in keeping with it.

Felipe Massa claimed a surprise,
but highly popular, pole position
Photo: Octane Photography
For the first time of the 2014 season a Mercedes did not claim pole position. Indeed, there won't even be one on the front row. For the first time since 2012 a Williams will head the grid, and if we don't include that case which was aided by a disqualification, it's the first since at the Nurburgring in 2005. For the first time since Germany in 2003 moreover the Williams team has locked out the front row.

And for the first time since the final round of 2008, the first since his near-fatal accident in Hungary the following year, the first time in 94 races, it was one Felipe Massa who claimed the pole position.

Monday 16 June 2014

Red Bull Ring Preview: Long time, no see

What we have this weekend is very different. And not just because what is now known as the Red Bull Ring in Austria represents one of only two countries on the this year's F1 calendar not on the 2013 one.

F1 returns to what is now known as the Red Bull Ring
after an absence since 2003
It is also because in this modern age it is habitual that a change to the itinerary involves pitching up at a gleaming new Herman Tilke-designed facility. It often too is in an uncharted territory (literally) for the sport; new European rounds have become as rare as hen's teeth. And equally habitual is that when the fraternity turns its back on a venue for whatever reason it slams the door on the way out and never so much as considers a backwards glance let alone a tail-between-legs return.

Even on the rare occasions that the sport reacquaints with an old partner it has tended to involve a heavily revised layout; the sport rocking up to Fuji in 2007 after 30 years away, to find a very different track, is one such example. Indeed even before the peculiarities of the age in which we live it tended to be the case that any circuit returned to was revised heavily compared with the one left: see Buenos Aires, Interlagos, Spa, Nurburgring, and even this Austrian circuit itself in previous life forms.

Friday 13 June 2014

Vergne's Validation

F1 is very big on its sliding doors moments. Tiny differences at vital moments that send subsequent fates spearing in opposite directions. And so it has been for Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Vergne and Ricciardo's careers have suddenly diverged
Photo: Octane Photography
Both of course were paired at Toro Rosso for the two seasons before this one, with even before that having career trajectories verging on the spooky in their parallels: member of the Red Bull young driver programme; British Formula Three champion; runner-up in the Formula Renault 3.5 World Series after losing out in the final race; and getting an F1 promotion with Toro Rosso having impressed with lap times set in the Red Bull in the Abu Dhabi young drivers' test.

But as things stand they hardly could be further apart. Ricciardo of course has just taken his freshman Grand Prix triumph, after an early part of his first campaign in a Red Bull in which he's not only ticked all of the boxes, not only avoided error, but also stunned with his pace and won a lot of new admirers along the way.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Latest thoughts on Nico vs. Lewis

After all of the whirlwind of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, come the Montreal gathering a fortnight later suddenly the anticipated rancorous Lewis Hamilton vs. Nico Rosberg battle for supremacy was called off. Not the battle, rather the rancorous part. The two had kissed and made up between times apparently, and there was nothing in their actions and body language witnessed in Canada to suggest that the claim was disingenuous.

Relations between the two Mercedes drivers was
much more harmonious in Montreal
Photo: Octane Photography
But still after the Canadian race a little look around internet comments suggested that some of Lewis's fans weren't quite as keen on hatchet burying.

Much of the ire centred on what happened at the end of lap 25 of Sunday's proceedings, when Nico, under some pressure from Lewis, locked a wheel and straight-lined the final chicane. And he proceeded over the finish line on the following straight pretty much at full pelt to set a 1m 18.616, which just so happened to be the fastest lap of the race at the point (before the mark mysteriously disappeared from the timing screens) as well as half a second under anything Nico had set up until then.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Why F1 shouldn't beat itself up over Newey

F1 is a sport that rather likes to beat itself up; to look inwardly with a degree of disgust; to self-recriminate. At least certain factions within it do. We've seen it rather a lot this season especially.

Adrian Newey's announced side step
from F1 caused some recrimination
Photo: Octane Photography
And there's been a bit more of it about since last Sunday in Montreal, following the news that Adrian Newey plans to side step F1 in order to do other things. 'What does this say about modern F1?' was the gist. It's a terrible indictment of the sport, of the regulations, that the design standard bearer should chose to go off and pen boats or whatever it is to be. It was all given a bit of encouragement by Newey earlier in the year having made some critical comments about the 2014 spec of rules.

Perhaps though - without meaning any disrespect to Newey - such criticism from him has a touch of Mandy Rice-Davies's 'he would say that wouldn't he?' about it. After all, Newey was and is the aerodynamicist supreme, so is unlikely to be too keen on anything that dilutes the importance of aero, and the increased (and probably temporary) variation of power unit performance has indeed done that this season. And plenty of others expressed the view that the balance of importance had been tilted rather too far in favour of aero in 2013 and previously.

But also one way in which F1 history can be helpful is that in many matters it provides some oil of perspective to pour on the troubled waters of the moment; demonstrate that a lot of things aren't as peculiar to the here and now as you might think. And it does in this case, both for Newey's personal tale and those for F1's technical stars more generally.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

An end of an era, in more ways than one

For all that the goings-on of the Canadian Grand Prix dazzled, probably the most important happening of the weekend - in terms of its implications in the broadest context - had already come and gone, before the race had even got started. Arguably nothing in the Montreal race would have trumped it.

Adrian Newey - saying goodbye
Photo: Octane Photography
The rumblings over the future of Red Bull's (and F1's) design genius Adrian Newey was resolved. He wasn't going to Ferrari, he was instead staying at Red Bull. The team's announcement couched it in the language of triumph, and a few media outlets it seemed read the statement only as far as the end of the opening line and reported it initially as such too. But gradually those who read all the way to the end started to counter them. The devil was in the detail. He was staying at Red Bull, but not as we know it.

Instead after the fundamentals of the 2015 car are in place his role in F1 will be restricted to 'advising and mentoring'. Newey will be more enveloped in 'new Red Bull Technology projects' - presumably exploring design projects in fields other than F1. In other words, if the Red Bull team couldn't have him on the Grand Prix frontline then it was making sure that no one else was going to have him either. An auxiliary benefit also is if Newey's love for F1 ever is rekindled then Red Bull will still have him under lock and key. Smart move on both counts.

New F1 Times article: Time for a social-ist revolution in Formula 1

Credit: HLundgaard / CC
In the days before the Canadian Grand Prix there was a bit of chat about what if anything F1 should be doing via social media, as well as Pirelli's Paul Hembery commenting that the sport's latest TV numbers continued to disappoint.

I explore the whole issue in my latest article at The F1 Times. I look at what could be causing the sport's TV viewer slippage - it might be a broader problem than you think - as well as explain why the sport really needs to be doing more via internet, mobile and social media.

You can have a read via this link:

Sunday 8 June 2014

Canadian GP Report: Danny Ric nicks it in the Montreal mixer

It was never going to be that simple, was it? Not given where we were.

But still, we thought we knew better; that we could count on what would happen for the first two places at least. But no. It turned out that not even the astonishing Mercedes preponderance of the 2014 F1 season could survive the Montreal mixer. Very few things do.

Daniel Ricciardo was a surprise
and popular winner
Photo: Octane Photography
For a long time it didn't look that way however, given that as usual in the first half of the race the Mercs disappeared. After the first 27 laps of green flag racing (the first seven were behind the safety car) the guy in third was 27 seconds shy of the nearest silver car way up the road. It looked again the Nico Rosberg vs. Lewis Hamilton private battle for the win that we've grown accustomed to. Lewis this time giving all indications that he had both the means and every intention of depriving Nico of his lead.

At one point Nico was a little lucky to escape penalty after gaining half a second (and setting the fastest lap at that point) after skipping the final chicane, missing his braking point. Nico at another point came oh so close to spearing the wall at turn 4. Yet he survived both.

But on lap 37 of 70 the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve's sense of the bizarre out of nowhere struck. Lewis reported a loss of power. Then of the very next lap Nico did too. It was a MGU-K failure for both, which deprived them apparently of 160 bhp each. Before we knew it we had the previously unthinkable sight of the two imperious Mercs circulating three seconds or more a lap over the pace of those behind. Suddenly things had got interesting.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Montreal Qualifying - Rosberg continues his renaissance

Whisper it, but are we lately witnessing the renaissance of Nico Rosberg?

Just a few weeks ago such a happening seemed rather unlikely; then his stable mate Lewis Hamilton had his foot planted firmly on the throat of the situation, whether it be in the intra-Mercedes fight or in the probable ultimate destination of 2014 title honours. But over the last three Grand Prix weekends this has changed.

Nico Rosberg prevailed again - but things were much more
cordial between the Mercedes drivers this time
Photo: Octane Photography
It happened gradually at first, with in Spain Nico giving Lewis a fright with his late charge for victory that Lewis only just managed to repel. Monaco a fortnight ago we know about, and whatever might have happened there and their rights and wrongs if nothing else Nico displayed a steel and stoicism that perhaps a few of us doubted that he possessed (in this ilk, notice that no one calls him 'Britney' anymore?).

And the trend continued in Canada's qualifying session today at Montreal. Just like in Monaco Nico - having been shy for the most part - pipped his team mate in the first run of Q3 and then kept ahead for pole position. Unlike in Monaco there was not a single doubt over its veracity. No one can deny this one was fair and square. There was no funny business real or imagined in the final efforts - Nico improved his time and Lewis, having lost some ground in the middle sector, came up short by 0.079 seconds. Once again the difference was tiny, but massive.

Canadian GP Betting Preview - Best of the rest to take the spotlight in Canada, by Andy Morgan

With plenty of overtaking opportunities, the Canadian Grand Prix has hosted a number of corkers in recent years, suiting the cars that consistently excel on straight lines and reaching top speeds.  Williams and Force India will be looking to make the most of their power advantage and score solid points. Add in the improving Red Bull and the heavily upgraded Ferrari and the 'best of the rest' battle is shaping up to be an intriguing one, perfect for a punt.

Lewis Hamilton looks the man to beat once again
Photo: Octane Photography
Canada is the host for round seven of the 2014 F1 World Championship where the battle reignites between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

After the break up in Monaco where Lewis struggled to accept his teammate beating him for the first time in 5 races, publicly it's all happy families this weekend. The Stevenage man (it's not that bad, I've lived there long enough) looks to have taken a step back and rightly reflected on his antics, knowing he has the historical advantage in Canada to capitalise and take back the World Championship lead. Rosberg on the other hand will need to use the confidence built in Monaco and be on stunning form to challenge Lewis whose late breaking style suits Canada perfectly.  Expect to see the Mercedes drivers pull away, extend their lead in the constructors and lock horns for the seventh time this season.

New Vital F1 article: Friday I'm In Limbo - why reducing Friday practice to one session is a bad idea

Photo: Octane Photography
You may have seen the reports yesterday that the F1 strategy group has given the thumbs up to a latest wheeze in seeking to control the sport's costs. Namely having but one 90-minute practice session on Friday rather than the current two, and starting the said session late in the afternoon.

Over at Vital F1 I've outlined why I think this is a bad idea, as well as is one that doesn't reflect well on the sport's decision-makers.

You can have a read via this link:

Thursday 5 June 2014

A festival of F1 in London - the first ever Race Week

F1 fans who're likely to be in or near London in the week before this year's British Grand Prix may be interested in Race Week. This is a brand new sporting festival for this year, which is taking place on Thursday 3rd July 2014, day and evening, at the Royal Artillery Gardens which is a six acre open site in central London.

Charles Pic and a Lotus were in London
recently to launch Race Week
It'll be an action-packed day, and a real treat for any F1 fan. This unique celebration of all things F1 will include:
  • Appearances by F1 stars and their cars;
  • F1 cars performing high adrenaline stunts for the attending crowds including doughnuts and burn outs;
  • Over 50 historic F1 cars including some of the world's rarest such as Ayrton Senna's 1984 Toleman and Michael Schumacher's 1992 Benetton in which he won his first ever Grand Prix; 
  • F1 simulators, as used by the teams, in which Race Week attendees can try to beat the times set by F1 drivers;
  • F1 memorabilia shopping and a luxury shopping village;
  • F1 driver autograph session including driver Q&A sessions; 
  • The F1 driver's cricket match (last played in 1974 with James Hunt and Niki Lauda among others);
  • Grand Prix Ball, the annual black tie spectacular attended by the stars of F1 - all in support of The Prince's Trust;
  • Black Ball Race Forum – an F1 business forum (in partnership with Sports Pro); 
  • Post British Grand Prix drivers' party; and
  • Invitation to young Londoners to learn about apprenticeships in F1.
So plenty going on in other words for the F1 aficionado...

Jonny Dodge, CEO of Race Week, said:

'We're really looking forward to launching the Race Week festival in London. The UK is often called the spiritual home of F1 and so it's about time an event took place where race fans and committed petrol heads can come together and enjoy some of the glamour, excitement and sophistication of F1. And, of course, we are delighted to be supporting the Prince's Trust as part of the Grand Prix Ball'.

You can find out more about the Race Week festival at Tickets are £40 and can be purchased on the website too via this link:

You can also follow Race Week London 2014 on Twitter at @raceweeklondon.

And for tickets to the Grand Prix Ball on Thursday 3rd July visit:

And here's a video of Charles Pic launching Race Week recently:

Special offer for Talking about F1 readers - 10% discount on a phone case designed by you

Fancy a new phone case? Moreover, fancy one that you designed yourself? Well you can at Mr Nutcase - at - which specialises in custom phone cases for a variety of phone and case types.

Or even if your creative juices aren't flowing and you don't wish to come up with your own creation then you can select a case from the Mr Nutcase collections.

And as a special offer to Talking about F1 readers you can get 10% off the price of a case from Mr Nutcase by using the discount code: 'Thanku10'.

I went onto the site and designed a case of my own; here's a picture. I'm sure you'll agree that it's beautiful. Some of the pictures may look familiar too...

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Montreal Preview: Living up to your name

The folks in and around F1 don't agree on everything. Check that - phrasing it that way would be to employ language of the extreme diplomatic sort. The folks of F1 don't agree on very much at all. We've seen as much lately.

But there are some things about the sport that you'll find close to anonymity on. And one such thing is that its annual visit to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix is one to relish.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a popular stop-off
Credit: magicfab / CC
There are many reasons for this. The layout ensures plenty of overtaking opportunities - captivating drama and action are positive expectations here. The nearby walls - the track being in large part a street circuit without the buildings - can and frequently have punished even small errors and from the best of them. The safety car makes regular appearances and they scupper and save races in equal measure.

It is genuinely hard to cite a tepid Grand Prix to have ever taken place at the Montreal venue; it's harder still to imagine one. Additionally the fans in attendance are knowledgeable and plentiful, and always provide a great atmosphere.

But even with these in my view we haven't got to the crux of the matter. As far as I'm concerned a central tenet of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve's appeal is that it is different. Very much so.