Tuesday 28 April 2015

What Formula One can learn from Red Bull - by Kunal Shah

We're in the 66th year of our sport of Formula 1. I am not sure about any other sporting category, but in the category of Motorsport, this is possibly the longest run annual World Championship. One of the most visually appealing man-machine duels in the world, the sport has possibly a million images and videos of the heroes (and zeroes) of the yesteryears, the victories, the near wins and the near losses, the crashes, exciting wheel to wheel battles between world famous drivers and more. (Read: What's Wrong With Formula One?)

Should F1 be doing more to promote itself?
Photo: Octane Photography
In a world where 'content is king', Formula 1 is in position to share this exciting content with fans on a regular basis and maintain the interest between races. Especially in times where the movie Rush was more spoken about (and possibly viewed?) than the Mercedes dominated 2014 Formula 1 Season. (Read: What Formula One Can Learn From Rush)

I have written about this before and I say it again - Formula 1 needs to invest in its own marketing. Currently, it relies on team sponsors and the local organisers to generate fan interest. And what's most surprising to me is that the sport makes more money than the stakeholders who currently end up marketing it, which means that the stakes are only that much higher for the sport. (Read: Formula One Needs To Market Itself Better)

Sunday 26 April 2015

Ending F1's Indian gap years

You know all about the modern F1 calendar. That it exists in a near-perpetual state of flux. You might even say a lot of the rounds on it these days seem interchangeable.

And given this it's almost easy to forget that we had on it an Indian stop off, and as recently as eighteen months ago. But we did, for three years, and while this was far from the universal view by the end of its brief run, I for one regretted its departure. Felt that the sport was way too quick to give up on it.

The welcome of F1 in India was a warm one
"Pitlane Walks - 2011 Indian Grand Prix" by Dell Inc. - Flickr:
Entertainment in India during pit lane walks. Licensed under
CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.
For me it was a no-brainer why too. The world's second most populous country, and a key global growth economy, with a burgeoning middle class with incomes to spend. As well as that as anyone who has watched an IPL game could tell you it has rather a lot of sports fans in it in addition to a few moneyed individuals willing to invest plenty in sport. In other words, the potential rewards for F1 establishing itself there are as vast as the country itself.

Even better too, unlike most other recent shifts of the sport into new markets, this Grand Prix was no top-down imposition by a Government interested mainly in national promotion and 'branding'. This was a labour of love from genuine motorsport enthusiasts, not least president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India at the time Vicky Chandhok. The welcome was a conspicuously warm one. The commitment moreover for this to be but part of a broader push to develop grass roots motorsport in the country seemed genuine.

Thursday 23 April 2015

Latest episode of A Racer's Experience

I must have done well on my A Racer's Experience debut as they invited me back for the following episode. This latest episode is below. Herein presenter Matt Nicholas and I look in detail at the Bahrain Grand Prix as well as ahead to what we can expect when the European season kicks off in Spain.

You can have a watch below. My bit starts at around 26m and 45 seconds.

And if you're interested earlier in the episode Matt chats to Conor Daly about the IndyCar and Indy Lights Grands Prix of Long Beach as well as with Steve Parrish about the MotoGP in Argentina and the Superbike World Championship in Assen.

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

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Did Bernie Call Mercedes?

Here's the latest Inside Line F1 podcast for your listening pleasure. THis time Kunal and Rishi look back on the Bahrain Grand Prix, and are astonished that it gave them so much positive to talk about... Sparks, Kimi, and the odd conspiracy theory among many other things make up their discussion.

The Inside Line F1 podcast is produced and hosted by Kunal Shah and Rishi Kapoor, and is one of the most listened to podcasts in India and Asia. They are looking to expand elsewhere, and here on Talking about F1 I'm delighted to help share it.

Kunal has been writing on F1 for eight seasons, you can visit Kunal's website at: http://www.kunalsf1blog.com/ and you also can follow him on Twitter here.

New Grand Prix Times article: Despite everything, do we malign Maldonado?

Photo: Octane Photograhy
Pastor Maldonado. Mention of his name no doubt brings many things to mind.

Crashing, mainly. Possibly that he's a danger to himself and others. Perhaps that he's an embarrassment. And it's all been brought into renewed focus with his, erm, adventures in the last couple of races.

In my latest article for Grand Prix Times I however take the contrary - perhaps unpopular - view and ask, despite everything is Pastor in fact not that bad? Is the criticism he gets over the top?

You can you have a read of the article via this link: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/display/10155

Monday 20 April 2015

Bahrain Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Lewis Wins When He Shouldn't

Photo: Octane Photography
My Bahrain Grand Prix review for Motor Verso is now available. In it I reflect on a race which while its winner didn't look appear a shock on the face of it, this one was in many ways the F1 equivalent of an away win.

You can have a read via this link: http://www.motorverso.com/bahrain-gp-lewis-wins-shouldnt/

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

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

Sunday 19 April 2015

Bahrain GP Report: The Empire Strikes Back

We should have known better really. We thought this would be different. That it would be another day like in Malaysia, and the Mercedes would be required to step down.

It was a familiar face that triumphed, and
perhaps against expectations this time
Photo: Octane Photography
But it didn't happen. Not quite anyway. Whatever else happened today, Merc won a race that many expected it not to. The team will walk away from Bahrain well pleased.

And of its number, Lewis Hamilton especially so, who just as he did in Australian and China mastered the Sakhir race out front with a minimum of fuss. While he never was far away from his pursuers once again as in those previous two triumphs he never looked under threat.

There were a couple of minor false notes in this symphony. First was a slightly botched first pit stop, which brought the rest onto his tail. But Lewis simply set about moving smoothly away to re-establish his gap of old. Then on the last lap he developed a brake-by-wire problem, but after some weaving and a few palpitations from those watching on he still crossed the line 3.3 seconds to the good. And the familiarity of a Lewis-Merc triumph shouldn't deflect from that this scrum was rather won against the head.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Sakhir Qualifying: Holding on for tomorrow

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

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

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

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

Friday 17 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 16 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Sakhir Preview: Red Resurgence?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Nico Rosberg - failing on the rules of politics?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 13 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 12 April 2015

Chinese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 11 April 2015

Shanghai Qualifying: No surprise in Shanghai

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Shanghai Preview: Similarities and differences

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

Many of the characteristics of the Shanghai International
Circuit are familiar
"2010 Chinese GP starting grid" by Drew - Starting Grid F1
Shanghai. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia
Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
Many of the characteristics will be familiar: a Government-backed Grand Prix in a country that might be termed a coming economy (China's economy is more coming than anyone's); a round that appears much more motivated by national promotion than of making a successful event per se; a glittering, a Hermann Tilke-create squeaky-clean facility with towering architecture built with the help of a blank chequebook, that at its first visit felt like a distinct stride ahead of what had been seen before. Indeed even now no other venue rivals this one for vastness - paddock occupants reckon they walk further in the Shanghai weekend than in any other.

And a bit-of-everything layout, with a long straight - underlining the theme of vastness it is reckoned to be the longest in the sport - and a big stop at the end created with overtaking in mind. Of the Tilke layouts before and since however this is among the least free-flowing, being more made up of the tight and technical. It does have the trademark Tilke fast esses section however.

Monday 6 April 2015

Why we should lay off 'radio-ranting' drivers

If you watched the Malaysian Grand Prix just passed on television then you likely would have heard a few examples of something outrageous. Perhaps shocking.

Yes, during the race Lewis Hamilton expressed exasperation over his team radio.

Lewis Hamilton's in-race comments cased apoplexy
Photo: Octane Photography
'This is the wrong tyre man...' he said after his final stop, a comment that was broadcast on the world feed. As if that was that not enough he added: 'I can hear you. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. Paddy says I might be doing another stop.'

And just as we all covered the delicate ears of any impressionable children present he added his coup de grace: 'Hey man don't talk to me through the corners! I nearly just went off!'

Aptly, many spoke of their horror and apoplexy at it all. The Sun the next day led with screeching of 'team radio fury' while the Daily Mail was similarly strident on 'radio rants'. Social media too was big not only on outrage but also on armchair psychology - 'typical Lewis spitting the dummy', 'Lewis can't handle being beaten' being the gist. John Watson on the TV last week reminded us too that 'Lewis has form on this'.

Inside Line F1 Podcast: At the Red Bull F1 Showrun in Hyderabad with David Coulthard

The latest Inside Line F1 podcast is here. And this one is a cracker, as Kunal and Rishi have a coup of an interview with David Coulthard, who was at an F1 showcar run in Hyderabad driving the Red Bull.

It's a great interview, which covers what Coulthard gets up to with Red Bull these days, 1998 in Australia and all that, the current formula and the competitive prospects for this season among many other things. It's excellent and fascinating and well worth a listen below. They also report from the showcar run and explore F1's promotion and support in India:

The Inside Line F1 podcast is produced and hosted by Kunal Shah and Rishi Kapoor, and is one of the most listened to podcasts in India and Asia. They are looking to expand elsewhere, and here on Talking about F1 I'm delighted to help share it.

Kunal has been writing on F1 for eight seasons, you can visit Kunal's website at: http://www.kunalsf1blog.com/ and you also can follow him on Twitter here.

Friday 3 April 2015

New Grand Prix Times article: Reflections on Malaysia - Mercedes toppled by Ferrari

Photo: Octane Photography
In my latest article for Grand Prix Times I give my reflections on the astounding Malaysian Grand Prix, which ended with F1 in 2015 looking very different compared with the when the red light went out an hour and 41 minutes earlier.

In it I probe a few key matters that Sepang's race threw up, such as what caused the Ferrari upturn to topple the Mercedes? Is it real or a flash in the pan? What about Merc's race strategy? What next for Nico Rosberg?

You can read it here: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/display/10085

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Game on, Ferrari - a guest post by Kunal Shah

When we (Rishi and I) recorded the pre-season episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast 'Ferrari vs. Mercedes, Really?' we were certain that we were kidding ourselves. We were certain that Ferrari were kidding us too (low fuel runs, we exclaimed!). We never imagined that a Mercedes would be beaten on raw pace and strategy in the 2015 Formula 1 Season and some of our fans would've been delighted to know that we even wondered if Lewis Hamilton could win every single race this season. (Read: Mercedes Is The New Red Bull Racing)

Sebastian Vettel has had plenty of success at Ferrari already
Photo: Octane Photography
Post the conclusion of the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, we were sure that our fears for the season could well come true. Hamilton was in a league of his own and Rosberg in his (that of making mistakes and playing cheeky!)! While Ferrari had caught up, they were yet far (and slow) enough to challenge for wins. Williams, as much as they’d like to believe so, have little chance of winning against a Mercedes with a Mercedes engine. Red Bull Racing seemed busy finding new excuses to blame Renault while McLaren were busy hunting for motivational quotes to give away during each media interaction! (Read: Someone Please Fight Back)

If someone would've told me (or any other Formula 1 fan in the world) that Sebastian Vettel would've not just challenged but won against Mercedes by the second round (2015 Malaysian Grand Prix) of the season, I would've saved my dime over a senseless bet and my time over wishful thinking. The only possibility of a non-Mercedes win this season (in my mind) was if the two Mercedes cars would've retired due to reliability reasons or taken each other out; with Rosberg racing, that's somewhat a possibility. (Read: A Nico and A Nico-le)

Inside Line F1 Podcast: Vettel vs. Hamilton for the Championship?

Here is the latest Inside Line F1 podcast, wherein Kunal and Rishi look back at the result of a Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari win in Malaysia, which almost no one saw coming. They also gaze back at the parallels with Michael Schumacher's time at the Scuderia, and ahead to what the Vettel-Ferrari partnership can expect next. You can have a listen below:

The Inside Line F1 podcast is produced and hosted by Kunal Shah and Rishi Kapoor, and is one of the most listened to podcasts in India and Asia. They are looking to expand elsewhere, and here on Talking about F1 I'm delighted to help share it.

Kunal has been writing on F1 for eight seasons, you can visit Kunal's website at: http://www.kunalsf1blog.com/ and you also can follow him on Twitter here.