Tuesday 29 September 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Fernando Alonso, The Unluckiest Double World Champion?

Fernando Alonso, what does he need to win to become a World Champion again? Leave Formula 1, say Mithila and Kunal in the latest episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

Tune in as they discuss Fernando Alonso's future in Formula 1, McLaren and Red Bull Racing's power issues, the controversial Mercedes black out and if Ferrari could be next (in Russia). They also applaud the efforts of the Lotus drivers in an otherwise grim Japanese Grand Prix for the team and finally, thank God for Max Verstappen.

Monday 28 September 2015

Japanese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Yin to Singapore's Yang

Here is the latest of my regular race reviews for Motor Verso, for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Photo: Octane Photography
In Singapore last week F1 was turned on its head; in Suzuka F1 turned all the way back. Things could scarcely have been more standard when Mercedes re-asserted its dominance. And the one minor and lingering departure from the usual script of Nico Rosberg claiming pole position was scrubbed in the blink of an eye once the race got going too.

You can have a read of my review here: http://www.motorverso.com/japanese-gp-2015-yin-singapores-yang/

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Japanese GP Report: Normality restored - totally

Well you can say that scotched the doubts. It's hard to say how those said doubts could have been scotched more decisively indeed.

Lewis Hamilton swiftly established a clean set of heels today
Photo: Octane Photography
If yesterday was a nearly-total return to F1 normality then today was a totally-total one. Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix at a canter. It was his eighth triumph of the year and like just about all of the rest of them it was imperious from a few seconds in. Mercedes is firmly back in its untouchable groove. Those doubts aired during and after the Singapore weekend now seem risible.

Qualifying confirmed as much indeed yet it also gave the impression that it was to be Lewis's team mate Nico Rosberg to win out. He had pole position and track position means a lot here for a couple of reasons. Lewis certainly wasn't outwardly confident of reversing matters.

But in F1 we have that oft-disregarded thing called a standing start, and that changed everything. Lewis got the better launch, particularly at its second phase, and the Mercedes pair entered the first turn side by side. Crucially Lewis was the one on the inside line and claimed the high ground robustly at the second part of the turn, giving Nico nowhere to go - he had to lift off the gas as well as was largely off the track by this point. Even better from Lewis's perspective once Nico had gathered it all up again he was tucked up in fourth place in stark contrast to Lewis's commanding lead. Already the day looked very different. Already the day looked done.

Saturday 26 September 2015

Suzuka Qualifying: Normality restored - sort of

So today we had our answer. To that big question ringing in everyone's ears - not least of those down Brackley way - since all that went on in Singapore last weekend. And yesterday's wash out had given us no clues either way in advance.

Normal service was resumed - sort of. Rosberg took the pole
Photo: Octane Photography
Had F1 really stepped beyond the looking glass? Had the Mercedes suddenly lost whatever it was about them? No. Today in Suzuka normal service was resumed and the Mercs were well on top in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. Their strange no-show in Singapore was confirmed as just that. Granted there were plenty of reasons to think it would be a mere blip, but that the team at no point really understood what went wrong at the Marina Bay track meant that the relief emanating from its garage this time was tangible.

In a week that we lost the baseball legend Yogi Berra what we got in Suzuka's qualifying was, to take one of his famous Yogi-isms: "déjà vu all over again".

Or perhaps he didn't say that, given he once insisted: "I never said some of the things I said". Then again, perhaps he didn't say that either.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Vettel Beat Hamilton And Senna

Much against public expectations, it was Sebastian Vettel and NOT Lewis Hamilton who bettered Ayrton Senna's race wins record in Singapore. And this was after clinching a scintillating win under the lights! Join Mithila Mehta and me in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast as they wonder if this was a Ferrari resurgence or a one-off victory.

We discuss a race where almost nothing went as per plan and just when the driver market got boring, it is the engine market that's leading the rumour mills. After Singapore, it's exciting to assume that a Red Bull Racing-Ferrari combo would be a lethal racing car.

And as we look forward to Suzuka, here's a BIG thank you to Ferrari for fuelling competition in Formula 1!

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is hosted by Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah. This Formula One podcast offers a unique humourous view on the sport. Follow us on Facebook: bit.ly/insidelineonfacebook and on Google+: bit.ly/insidelineongoogleplus

Follow on Twitter: Mithila Mehta (twitter.com/mith_m) and Kunal Shah (twitter.com/kunalashah)

(Image Courtesy: Motor Online)

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Singapore Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - The familiar amid the unfamiliar

Here is the latest of my regular race reviews for Motor Verso, this time for the astonishing Singapore Grand Prix just passed.

Photo: Octane Photography
That 'F1 is never predicable' claim can wear a bit thin sometimes, especially in an age of single-car domination such as now. But it has truth in it, and the Singapore weekend gave us a glaring example, with the usually haughty Mercedes somehow suddenly nowhere. It was like we'd stepped through the looking glass...

But even in this unusual scenario there was something naggingly familiar about how the race was won.

You can have a read of my thoughts on it all here: http://www.motorverso.com/singapore-gp-2015-familiar-amid-unfamiliar/

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Can anybody catch Lewis Hamilton? by Lloyd Shearan

With only six races left of the 2015 season Lewis Hamilton looks like he is about to win the third drivers' championship of his career. Given how dominant Hamilton has been this season it looks a tough ask for anybody to catch him. Looking at current form it looks like only two men are capable of sneaking up and taking what will surely be Hamilton's crown. Whilst Hamilton flies high, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg are close behind waiting to pounce. But what chance do they have of finishing above Hamilton?

Can Rosberg or Vettel deprive Hamilton of title honours?
Photo: Octane Photography
Currently Nico Rosberg sits second in the drivers' standings on 211 points, 41 behind leader Hamilton. Given that Rosberg finished the 2014 second behind Hamilton, he will be desperate not to do so again. Apart from a collision in the Hungarian Grand Prix (resulting in an eighth place finish) Rosberg has been in fine form and must surely be thinking with a little fortune he could pip Hamilton to the post this year. Bookmakers have him at very generous 11/1 to win the drivers' championship, and 7/2 to win the Japanese Grand Prix.

The other man looking to stop Hamilton in Sebastian Vettel. A man who has been there before winning in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, he will certainly be in contention come the final stages this year. After three wins and nine podium finishes it would take a fool to write Vettel off just yet. No matter how strong Hamilton is, Vettel will look an attractive prospect in Japan at 3/1, whilst he is 8/1 to take the title.

If you can't wait for the climax to the 2015 season the there is an alternative way to experience some racing associated fun in the form of slot game Speed Machine from MobileCasinoAustralia.com.au. Speed Machine is a motor racing themed five-reel, twenty pay line slot with a jackpot of over $50,000. Of course the chance of winning this is probably the same as Jenson Button catching Hamilton but still there is plenty of fun to be had. Besides the jackpot the game offers racing graphics coupled with authentic sound effects.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Suzuka Preview: Turning Japanese

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

Such a claim isn't always true, but it sometimes is. And you might argue that it applies with particular regularity to the F1 circuit. It certainly applies to Suzuka, the welcome stop-off for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

The Suzuka circuit is very special
Photo: Octane Photography
Of course some of the sport's newer venues are better than others, but one way or another none have got even close to quickening the pulse among drivers and aficionados alike as when cars circulate this Japanese venue. In fairness, not that many of the older tracks have either.

This is mainly because the Suzuka 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 too there aren't vast car parks of run-off areas for drivers to veer into and to use as a benign get-out if they get it wrong. That modern curse of policing 'track limits' scarcely gets mentioned here. It doesn't have to be. The circuit also is narrow with the ideal racing line like walking an ever-veering tightrope. Precision at Suzuka therefore is vital and even a slight error can end your chances definitively.

Indeed such is Suzuka's classic nature it feels rather like Messrs Nuvolari, Fangio and Clark should have pounded around the track in their respective heydays; that F1's first visit here was as late as 1987 strikes as a bit wrong somehow. Especially as that the track opened a full quarter century earlier in 1962, F1 for some reason being absurdly slow on the uptake.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Singapore GP Report: The old ones are always the best

It was like a march of inevitability. One stretched over two hours. One too that had plenty kicking off around it but that even so never began to interrupt its stride. From the very off it was near-impossible to muster up the slightest doubt over who was ultimately to prevail in today's Singapore Grand Prix. Yes, indeed, it was Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel's triumph never seemed in doubt
Photo: Octane Photography
If yesterday was just like old times for imperious Seb, so was today. As Ferrari's technical head James Allison noted, once Seb led into the first turn "it was all ours to throw away".

After a single tour he was three seconds up the road, 4.3 seconds after two, 4.9 after three. The theme of the day was set as the gap hovered around that mark. Seb in that time-honoured way of his had established a lead right from the off as if someone had flicked a switch, and then sought to hold it.

Sure enough by the end of this longest of F1 races later that broadly still was the way of it; Seb having in between times circulated like a never-ending clockwork toy, responding to whatever threat materialised behind. "He opened up a gap every time that he needed to, so that he could stay on top of the race" Allison added.

It came with the nagging suspicion that we'd seen all this before. And that's because we had. Plenty.

The Singapore race even had a fair dose of its habitual madness. There were two safety car appearances, the second even - with accompanying echoes of Silverstone in 2003 and Hockenheim in 2000 - was brought about by some guy wandering on the track. Plenty had gearbox problems, which some thought could be a return of the area's underground Metro playing havoc with the cars' electrics, as happened to Mark Webber in 2008. Yet the top three from the grid and first turn remained unaltered throughout, pressing on as it all went off elsewhere.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Singapore Qualifying: Vettel plays the other record

It was a day on which we expected records to go. Some did go, but not those expected. Instead of longevity being established it was ended. Ended suddenly.

Sebastian Vettel ensured different records to
those expected were set today
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton did not equal Ayrton Senna's all-time mark for consecutive pole positions around Singapore's Marina Bay circuit today. Heck, not even Mercedes managed to match the Williams record for most poles on the bounce for a team. Instead the records that fell were on the flipside of these coins.

We got the first non-Mercedes powered pole since the final round of 2013 in Brazil. As well as the first not won by the works team since Austria last year.

And those records that did go were to do with the guy that took the pole instead and his team. Those being Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari. It's Seb's first pole since that very same Brazil 2013 round. While for Ferrari the drought was even longer - its first pole position in more than three years; its first in dry conditions in almost exactly five. Yet for both driver and squad it's a place they know well - for Vettel it's pole number 46; for Ferrari it's pole number 208.

While for the old pole master Seb it was just like old times. All precision and stunning commitment. He even showed his time-honoured swagger by ripping four tenths off his mark at the last even though pole was already his. The red cars have looked to be handling beautifully here, going exactly where their drivers want them to. And of the two Scuderia pilots Seb has simply been on another level. For all that the car has been good Seb had nearly eight tenths over his team mate Kimi Raikkonen in the final reckoning, and he had something like that over him for the most part.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Singapore Preview: Challenging the inevitable

We all know the one about the F1 calendar's gradual shift eastwards in the last decade or so. It hasn't been always loved either. Perhaps with good reason, as plenty of the new Grand Prix venues have failed to really capture the imagination. A recent fans' poll appeared to confirm as much.

The Singapore Grand Prix has rapidly become a fixture
Photo: Octane Photography
But there's one such latterly-established race that can hardly at all be considered a failure. Instead it is a favourite as well as was thought of as part of the furniture in double-quick time. And the race is this weekend; the Singapore Grand Prix around the Marina Bay circuit.

As for why this is, there are several reasons. But an overarching one is that it much about it all just seems very F1. Or rather very what F1 would like to be. It is a glittering, vibrant event in which the visuals rarely fail to look stunning. For several reasons, this one feels a lot like the Monaco for the new millennium.

Just like Monaco, Singapore is a city state that is a quintessential F1 host, to the point that you wonder at quiet moments quite why a Grand Prix wasn't established here decades ago. It is glamorous, dripping with money and gives the impression of tearing towards the future. Perhaps most importantly it never fails to fully embrace its F1 visit.

Monday 14 September 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Help, Red Bull Needs Energy

In this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and I try and solve Red Bull Racing's energy (engine) woes for 2016. With reigning World Champions Mercedes refusing to sell its engines to the former World Champions and with Renault's inability to produce competitive ones, is Ferrari its best option? (Read: Thank You Red Bull Racing)

Photo: Octane Photography
We also discuss why Mercedes seem wary to provide its engines to Red Bull Racing. Although, we strongly believe that Bernie Ecclestone should ensure that everyone gets Mercedes engines on the grid. (Read: Give Everyone Mercedes Engines)

Our previous episode 'Is Lewis Hamilton greater than Ayrton Senna?' ruffled a few feathers with fans and while clarifying our views we also tell you the half-truth that statistics reveal. (Read: What Formula One Can Learn From Red Bull)

Our focus in this week's episode has been on the 'ex-files' in Formula One and how teams and drivers are rekindling their romance with their exes in the Paddock. With this in mind, keeping links with Rihanna aside, should Lewis Hamilton rekindle his love interest in Nicole Scherzinger? (Read: Lewis Hamilton’s Bad Hair Days Are Here To Stay)

Lastly, we tell you that there might just be a Williams on the podium in the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix. But it might just not be who you think it is. Tune in! (Season 2015, Episode 31)

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is hosted by Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah. This Formula 1 podcast offers a unique humourous view on the sport. Follow us on Facebook and on Google+.

Follow us on Twitter: Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah.

New Grand Prix Times article: Has Vettel finally converted his doubters?

Photo: Octane Photography
Sebastian Vettel has likely been modern F1's greatest conundrum. His records have been astonishing, both in their extent and in the unprecedented speed with which he's built them. But still he is a man and a driver who has persistently divided opinion; has been followed by an incessant band who reckon he's not all that.

In my latest article for Grand Prix Times I explore why some have felt this way, as well as outline why after his first two-thirds of a season at Ferrari after fleeing his Red Bull nest Vettel surely now, finally, has converted even his most obdurate doubters, both as a driver and man.

You can have a read of it via this link: http://www.grandprixtimes.com/news/display/10666

Thursday 10 September 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Is Lewis Hamilton Greater Than Ayrton Senna?

Is Lewis Hamilton greater than Ayrton Senna? Should he win in Singapore, he could be so, at least statistically say Mithila and I in the latest episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

Photo: Octane Photography
Can we officially label this as the Lewis Hamilton era? And we reveal our vested interests in his titles!

This week too, the FIA joined us in delivering humour to our listeners - we still can't get over the record 168 grid penalties! And thankfully, they didn't deliver to the Tifosi a dream result of a Ferrari victory via a post-race disqualification for Lewis Hamilton. After Pirelli-Ferrari saga in Spa, we almost had a Pirelli-Mercedes one in Monza. Will it be Pirelli-Red Bull Racing in Singapore?

We also discuss why Honda and Renault would be envious of Pirelli's position in the sport and if Bernie could save Lotus by funding them a few millions, we can’t decode the strange logic as to why he wouldn't be interested in saving the iconic circuit of Monza.

The 'luck of the number 2' struck Nico Rosberg, whose championship challenge (i.e. if he was in one) only got tougher. As for Kimi Raikkonen, we wonder what Ferrari's radio messages to him were for his delayed start that saw him go from P2 to P22!

Lastly, we have proof that F1 FANS LOVE DRS, hover over to our Facebook page and see it for yourself!

The Inside Line F1 Podcast is hosted by Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah. This Formula 1 podcast offers a unique humourous view on the sport. Follow us on Facebook and on Google+.

Follow us on Twitter: Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah

(Image Courtesy: BBC)

Monday 7 September 2015

Italian GP Report: Lewis sticks to the script

Really up until the point that the chequered flag fell had Lewis Hamilton been asked in advance to draft a script of how he'd like the Italian Grand Prix weekend to go it would not have deviated much from what he actually got.

Monza was almost too good to be true for Lewis Hamilton
Photo: Octane Photography 
He entered it with a clear lead - upwards of a race win - on the next guy in the points, his habitual coat tail grabber and team mate Nico Rosberg. He entered the weekend also on the crest of a confidence wave. Out of the car he was quiet; answering questions with economy. But the sheer assurance he radiated was undeniable. Indeed he later said as much.

"I woke up this morning and I felt super-strong" he said after the race. "Today I felt so strong; I felt like nothing could get in my way".

Quite. He looked the quickest thing out there by far from the earliest Friday practice running, in a very quick and upgraded Mercedes. Brixworth having happily gobbled up its remaining power unit development tokens for the year, which left the rest even more breathless than normal.

Italian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Almost too good to be true for Lewis

Photo: Octane Photography
Here is my latest race review for Motor Verso, this time for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last weekend.

It was a weekend on just about every level that appeared almost too good to be true for Lewis. And for a while - due to a threat from a highly unlikely source - it looked like it might actually be.

You can have a read of my thoughts on it all here: http://www.motorverso.com/italian-grand-prix-almost-too-good-to-be-true-for-lewis/

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Monza Qualifying: Everything changes but Lewis

Even in this most complex of sport's some things make absolute sense.

The quietly-content Lewis claimed yet another pole
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton's new hairstyle on show in Monza may be described as loud but everything else about him out of the car has been understated. His prose clipped to the point of paucity. His voice hushed. But his content with the quiet has been unmistakable.

He has by now more than a race win over his habitual nearest challenger team mate Nico Rosberg in the points table, and this weekend in Monza's royal park has been mere continuation. Looking the fastest thing out there in a very fast Mercedes - which has had another wind with gleeful consumption of its remaining engine development tokens for the year - from the moment a wheel was turned on Friday. Looking utterly in control and extremely quick. Sure enough he claimed an imperious and untroubled pole position for the Italian Grand Prix.

There were though a couple of deviations around him. Nico did appear for a time that he might play the role of irritant but Lewis then had some luck you suspect he didn't really need. Nico was required to abandon his upgraded engine for a rather long in the tooth old unit after problems in Saturday morning practice. That consigned him to proceed with anchors on, and down in the speed traps he could only salvage fourth on the grid.

Friday 4 September 2015

Pirelli Pass The Blame On To FIA And Ferrari, by Kunal Shah

In the wake of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg's tyre blowouts in Spa, I must give credit to Pirelli for being extremely professional in their investigations and suggestions thereof - or at least one suggestion. (Read: Formula One Is Cruel)

The Pirellis are once again under the microscope
Photo: Octane Photography
Unsurprisingly, Pirelli's self-investigation concluded that the FIA and Ferrari are to blame for Vettel's blowouts, not Pirelli themselves. Unless of course I have read and interpreted the report wrong! Pirelli claim that the failures at Spa were 'results of exceptional circumstances' of excessive tyre wear combined with the effect of debris on track. (Read: A Strategy Of Errors)

This means that Pirelli passed the blame on to Ferrari for their impressive one-stop strategy that almost saw Vettel on the podium and on to the FIA for not cleaning the track of debris effectively. In Rosberg's case too, they've been ambiguous at best indicating that track debris were to blame. There was no mention of Pirelli's tyre that could've supposedly lasted 40 laps but decided to blow into pieces on lap 28. (Read: Change Is The Name Of The Game For F1)

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Hamilton's Bad Hair Days Are Here To Stay

Lewis Hamilton has had a near flawless season or has he? In the latest episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal pick the one flaw that has dogged the reigning World Champion on the podium all season long. And as they look forward to Monza, they talk about McLaren's new excuses, Honda's engine comparison claims, the on-going Vettel-Pirelli saga and the support each camp has received, Lauda-Hamilton's bromance and offer a solution on how Lotus should settle Charles Pic's dues with the team. Lastly, they're kicked about Patrick Dempsey’s attempt to make a TV series on the 1961 World Championship. Tune in to know why you should be kicked too! (Season 2015, Episode 29)

Topics to look forward to in this episode:
  • Bernie Ecclestone was the real hero in Spa and not Lewis Hamilton.
  • Vettel-Pirelli saga, drivers side the driver, team owners side the tyre manufacturer, strange!
  • Lauda-Hamilton – a one sided bromance?
  • SPECIAL: After month's of observation, we pick Hamilton's biggest flaw of the 2015 Formula 1 Season
  • Congratulations to Mrs. and Mr. Nico Rosberg, like Hamilton, he too has a new girl enter his life!
  • On to Monza, can the Legend of the Monza be replaced? Will the Autodromo Nazionale Monza got the Istanbul Park way?
  • Since it'll be Mercedes vs. No One, we wish to see a Lotus vs. Force India battle in Monza
  • We offer Lotus a not-so-innovative solution to settle the Charles Pic contractual issue
  • The 1961 World Championship to become a TV series. We're excited. And you should be too!
  • Lastly, we pay our respects to Justin Wilson as he taught us in important lesson in his death
The Inside Line F1 Podcast is hosted by Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah. This Formula 1 podcast offers a unique humourous view on the sport. Follow us on Facebook and on Google+.

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