Sunday 29 November 2015

Abu Dhabi GP Report: Nothing to see here

It may not always appear this way, and right now it is concealing the fact particularly well, but believe me things change fast in F1. It may come as a surprise that it was only just over a month ago that Nico Rosberg threw his cap at Lewis Hamilton in the Austin podium anteroom, after Lewis had clinched his latest world title just in part thanks to a Nico boo-boo. It seemed then somehow to encapsulate a man beaten and perhaps broken. It certainly was interpreted that way.

Nico Rosberg topped off the season with yet another win
Photo: Octane Photography
Well right now that seems from another age. Since he's never been beaten. And this time in Abu Dhabi Nico topped off the 2015 season by delivering a hat-trick of the much more agreeable variety, signing off on his holidays with his third win on the spin.

It shared a family resemblance with his previous triumphs too. We know by now that in the intra-Mercedes battle being the lead car means a lot and Nico nipped that factor in the bud immediately by converting his pole position into a first corner advantage. Indeed his start was much the better than Lewis's who had to work a bit to hold onto his second place. And then in the early laps it appeared that Nico was intent on blitzing the race just as he had blitzed qualifying - by the time he ditched the supersoft tyres on lap 10 he was close to five seconds clear. It then extended to 6.4 after Lewis got tucked up in traffic after his own stop.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Abu Dhabi Qualifying - The Joy of Six

So the biggest story of the last part of the F1 season continued today. And now it'll likely continue through the months of the off-season too. So get used to it.

Nico Rosberg stunned once again on his way to another pole
Photo: Octane Photography
The story is of whither Nico Rosberg. That in the final weeks of this campaign he has established apparently the intra-Mercedes upper hand. With transformed form which everyone has a theory on, and on which you'll struggle to encounter the same theory twice. It's too late for the championship this year, but what of next? Today in Abu Dhabi he completed the season's qualifying business by bagging his sixth pole position on the bounce, and this one was the most emphatic of the lot. Plot, consider yourself thickened yet further.

It had a touch of the pull-the-iron-from-the-fire about it too, as for a while it looked like Nico's run might end this time. Lewis had a slightly iffy time in free practice, and indeed had two off-track moments this morning as he struggled to contain a lairy rear of his W06. But come quali he looked to have a consistent two tenths on his stable mate. But also not for the first time in his run Nico got it right in Q3 when it really counts. And at the same time Lewis on this occasion lost a little bit, at least initially. An understeer-laden lap of 1m 41.016 was his slowest flier of the whole quali hour, and Nico got under it with a 1m 40.738.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Abu Dhabi Preview - Nothing and everything

You would be forgiven for thinking in advance that the forthcoming season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has little to recommend it. Both 2015 titles are long since done of course. But above and beyond many of contemporary F1's most pressing problems were laid bare in Brazil last time out and not too many will be looking to this one as the likely overnight solution to them.

The Yas Marina track visually is stunning
Photo: Octane Photography
The Interlagos race appeared to confirm that F1's overtaking problems are back, or rather never particularly went away and had only been hidden by sticking plaster solutions. That now have lost their stick. And the Yas Marina track has even in its short existence become known for processional fare with only rare exceptions (ask Fernando Alonso. In fact, don't ask Fernando Alonso).

And even though as with many of these raised-from-the-ground Hermann Tilke facilities they had nearly no constraints from the landscape when creating this venue and its track layout on the vast Yas Island expanse they seem with this somehow in addition to creating a track not conducive to F1 cars running close to each other (despite some Tilke fingerprint lengthy straights) as mentioned, also neglected to include a single corner that would quicken the pulse.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Brazilian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Rosberg emerges from the gloom

Here is my latest race review for Motor Verso, for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Photo: Octane Photography
And the race wasn't a thriller. I think I have a higher tolerance than most but even I struggled with that one.

Mercedes was on another level of Ferrari, which was on another level to everyone else. None of those among everyone else finished on the lead lap. With one honourable exception overtaking was near-impossible. The fight at the front between the silver cars was in effect was done at the first turn, as along with the above Merc didn't allow significant variation on the strategies of its driving pair. Despite Lewis's requests.

But what the race also did was thicken the plot as to what exactly is going on with the increasingly-eminent Nico Rosberg these days...

Here's the link to my review when I look into these matters a little more:

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.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Party's Over, Lewis

Has 'heavy partying' compromised Lewis Hamilton's pace wonder Mithila and I in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. And if so, shouldn't Nico Rosberg hire a professional party planner already? I also explain why Hamilton's race in P2 was far better than all of Rosberg's races in P2 this season. (Read: Sir Lewis Hamilton CBE)

We thank God yet again for Max Verstappen and wonder if there's a lesson or two for Kimi Raikkonen. And we put our marketing hats together and offer a new positioning for the ailing but humourous McLaren-Honda team. (Read: Gillette McLaren Honda)

Lastly, we ask if Vettel's helmet act on the podium (a la MotoGP style) should become mandatory next season onwards. Tune in! (Season 2015, Episode 39)

Tuesday 17 November 2015

The Toughest Motor Races in the World

We all love a spot of motor racing, but some of you might not be aware that there are actually some pretty crazy motor races that go on around the world. Below are some examples of these extreme races. Whether it is being first place at the BAJA 500 or simply surviving the Rainforest Challenge there is certainly something for everyone to enjoy.

New Grand Prix Times article: Why F1 circuits uniting would revolutionise the sport

Photo: Octane Photography
Many things about F1 seem near-impossible to change, no matter how much we'd like to. And so it is with its dominant financial model these days of demanding vast hosting fees from each round, which has resulted in many popular and prestigious races being lost. The latest to fall under threat is that in Austin, the one which we'd thought had finally scratched F1's American itch.

But something to turn this onto its head could be deceptively close to hand. F1 circuits just need to unite. In my latest article for Grand Prix Times I look at how.

You can have a read here:

Sunday 15 November 2015

Brazilian GP Report: Risk management

How often last year did we have cause to reflect something akin to 'thank heavens Mercedes isn't micromanaging races like Ferrari used to'? The sport had (and has) enough things to tear itself apart over, one can only imagine what a repeat of 2002's on-track entertainment levels would have done to an already combustible situation. The intriguing Lewis Hamilton vs. Nico Rosberg battles - in large part a result of Mercedes to its credit then letting its drivers get on with it - in many races as well as in the championship overall, rather rescued us. Indeed of this Mercedes boss Toto Wolff spoke of his responsibilities to the sport as his silver cars dominated.

Sight should not be lost that Nico Rosberg
deserved his latest win
Photo: Octane Photography
How quickly things can change. Mercedes still dominates of course, and in fairness hasn't quite gone to the extent of Ferrari's paranoia of yore. But on the evidence of today's Brazilian Grand Prix at some point it has ventured a way down the same path. Being sensible so to not lose points is one thing, but throwing a wet blanket over the race as Mercedes did today is quite another.

One thing to say before we go further is that it would be unfair to suggest that the eventual outcome of Nico Rosberg beating Lewis Hamilton to the Interlagos win was impacted by this. Nico has for much of this weekend looked to have an edge on Lewis - certainly when it mattered - and deserved his win. He also has been in superb form lately and his showing this time was mere continuation. And for all of the talk afterwards of strict Mercedes orchestration it of course is a long way from clear whether Lewis would have usurped him if he had been allowed to go a different way on strategy. Indeed the evidence we have leads us to doubt as much and severely. But equally it would have provided much-needed diversion to watch him try.

New Motor Verso article: Why F1 has (mostly) got it right on engines

Photo: Octane Photography
F1's current spec of engines has been quite the subject of debate pretty much since their inception. Or since before. The sport it seems has struggled to love the hybrid units with their strict fuel limits and indeed talk of introducing a rather dumbed down equivalent of them has risen lately.

Yet for Motor Verso I outline why - despite the problems; despite the self-disgust - the sport has actually got a lot right with its current engines. That even though some change is necessary F1 also risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater with too much change. And that the recent Mexican Grand Prix gave the units the perfect stage to show what they can do.

You can have a read of it via this link:

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.

Saturday 14 November 2015

Interlagos Qualifying - Nico delivers a bunch of fives

"Who are you, and what have you done with Nico Rosberg?" asked a colleague on Twitter at the end of Brazil's qualifying hour.

A joke of course. A little cruel too. But it was one of those jibes that becomes cruel precisely because there's a bit of truth it.

For the fifth time in a row Nico Rosberg claimed pole position
Photo: Octane Photography
Today the plot thickened yet further about the enigma that is Nico Rosberg. He took another pole position, his fifth in a row, and there seemed not the slightest extenuating circumstance. It was a straightforward tête-a-tête between him and his Mercedes team mate, or nemesis, Lewis Hamilton and whatever Lewis did, Nico did a bit more. No mistake or anything else could be pointed to. In the end the German won out by just under a tenth.

Lewis indeed admitted later that his own laps were "very good" and that Nico "just found a small piece of edge".

Friday 13 November 2015

Basic Car Maintenance Checks We Should All Know

We should all know the basics of how to look after our cars and know the warning signs of trouble. During the winter months are when most of these problems start to affect motorists more often. Take a look at the guide below explaining the basic checks you should be carrying out on your car.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Thank God For Max Verstappen

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal tell you why young Max is exactly what Formula 1 needs right now and how 'when' is more interesting than 'which' when it comes to discussing his move to a top team.

They also speculate over Lewis Hamilton's retirement, why he wants to reunite with Nicole Sherzinger, Red Bull's ingenious engine solution and why Williams need to start planning Felipe Massa's retirement party already. Tune in! (Season 2015, Episode 38)

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: and on Google+:

Follow on Twitter: Mithila Mehta ( and Kunal Shah (

The rise and fall of Vettel the crash kid

The Mexican Grand Prix was one for ending lengthy runs for the the team in red. Neither Sebastian Vettel nor Kimi Raikkonen made the end which meant it was Ferrari's first double non-finish, astonishingly, since the Australian Grand Prix in early 2006. The team's first in close to a decade in other words.

Strange though it sounds, Sebastian Vettel
was once F1's pariah
Photo: Octane Photography
But for Vettel personally it also marked the end of a distance run. Him binning it out of the race was his first retirement due to an accident or spin in well over five years, since the Turkish Grand Prix in 2010 (yes, that one). And if even this didn't strike as being impressive in itself then add to it also that there was a time when Seb was roundly abused as F1's 'crash kid'.

It sounds silly now, indeed it was rather silly at the time, but there once was a prevailing view in and around the sport that Seb went to pieces in wheel-to-wheel situations. That he couldn't hack it under pressure. That even he was a danger to others.

Related to the barbs he was the sport's number one pariah of choice for a good while. To think too that a suggestion that lingered on rather longer was that Seb always had it easy in his time in F1. Not so.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

New Vital F1 article: Why Hamilton’s pit questions were no big deal

Photo: Octane Photography
The first race of the latest incarnation of the Mexican Grand Prix sadly wasn't a thriller. It did have the odd thing to keep us diverted though, including that Lewis Hamilton rather, um, debated the decision of the Mercedes team to bring him in for a second pit stop.

On one hand the usual nefarious motivations were attributed to Hamilton, that he's a brat and such, and at the other side of things some newspapers screeched of him being 'cost' a win by the call.

But in my latest article for Vital F1 I argue that, from both points of view, it all was a fuss over nearly nothing. Indeed that Hamilton's actions can be considered a positive.

You can have a read of it all via this link:

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Interlagos Preview - A little bit crazy

F1 has entered one of those spells, one that is inevitable from time to time at least. The championships are done ahead of time and the sense of drift, almost of going through the motions, is noticeable in those remaining rounds. At times like this you can begin to understand why Bernie pushed that double points idea. A little bit.

Interlagos - where we can expect the unexpected
By Pedro Leiria [CC BY-SA 2.0 (
licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
So not that much good news around? Well, again there's a little bit. That this weekend's fare is taking place at the Interlagos circuit in Brazil. Which is not only a good thing in itself this venue also can be counted upon as a place where things happen. Things that are a little bit crazy. Or a big bit crazy; the sort of stuff that could never have possibly been foreseen. Somehow.

It has good claim to being the closest thing contemporary F1 has to the Bermuda Triangle. So while we can be sure that this time we won't get one of its astonishing corkscrew championship conclusions, there's little else that can be ruled out with confidence.

Quite why this is the way at Interlagos isn't entirely clear. It's likely in some part related to that the venue is a throwback - narrow, bumpy, with little run off, meaning that it can be unforgiving to error especially by modern standards. The enclosed features mean safety cars can be a frequent presence to jumble things and close them up and indeed the chance of one in an Interlagos race is around 70%.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Lewis Hamilton 2015 World Champion - Sign of the times

Glory often comes as an affirmation. A vindication. Well, that goes for most pursuits aside from F1 its seems. Or at the very least aside from the glory achieved by Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton's third title started another debate
about where he rates
Photo: Octane Photography
You'll be aware that he's just sealed his third F1 world drivers' championship, only the tenth ever so to do. With this also, even with the rather lengthy previous of British champions, he is just the second among his countrymen to achieve as many as well as the very first to take any titles back-to-back. And yet. In response alongside the plaudits about as prominent were the varied attempts to decode this particularly complex enigma; to unravel the knotted question of just how good he is; ascertain just where he fits. And really it's nothing new, it's just the latest manifestation. Hamilton has long been a driver who divides opinion more than just about any other in history.

Perhaps it's just in the nature of the age. After all Sebastian Vettel too has divided opinion notoriously throughout his time at the top. As had Fernando Alonso for a good while; even now the odd contrary yelp can be heard. I always recall a friend of mine saying that had Twitter existed in 1957 there would have been people on there insisting that Fangio wasn't up to much - perhaps social media lends itself to what euphemistically might be called a thousand flowers blooming. It may tell us something, possibly, that the legendary scribe Denis Jenkinson who watched them both first hand always reckoned Alberto Ascari was the better of the two.

We can form a hypothesis about it too. The further you delve back into F1 past the more that media coverage becomes rudimentary or even non-existent, and the eulogies from the few that were there is the main thing that survives into the modern day. History is written by the winners after all. Whereas now the scrutiny and exposure of all drivers is infinitely more searching and pitiless. No wonder our view of them is rather warts and all.

Thursday 5 November 2015

New Grand Prix Times article: Why life got tougher for Rosberg in 2015

This season was a lot like season. But with a big difference.

Photo: Octane Photography
While in 2014 the two drivers of dominant Mercedes Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had a close and uncertain title fight, this year with equally dominant Mercedes the championship destination looked for the most part far more firmly set. And of lot of the difference was that this time those mysterious quantities of luck and happenstance were a lot more even-handed.

Simple enough, but if we delve a bit deeper there was quite a lot more going on. And in my latest article for Grand Prix Times I look through all of this, and why life got a whole lot tougher for Nico in 2015 (even if the Mexican Grand Prix result makes it all seems conspicuously ill-timed...)

Nevertheless you can have a read of it all via this link:

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Revenge Is A Dish Best Served On The Podium

Valtteri Bottas got his revenge in Mexico, but did Nico Rosberg get his too? Could an aggressive approach by Pirelli have livened up the inaugural Mexican Grand Prix from being a boring and a processional race? And in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and I tell you why Force India and Sergio 'Checo' Perez were the true heroes in Mexico. Tune in! (Season 2015; Episode 37)

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 and on Google+.

Follow on Twitter: Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Mexican Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Rosberg's win adds to the enigma

Here is my latest race review for Motor Verso, for the Mexican Grand Prix at the new (but not entirely new) Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

Photo: Octane Photography
As commented a few times before Nico Rosberg is quite the enigma, and the Mexican race just passed simply added to it. He was supposed to be buried by his teammate after the American race a week ago, but in what could not have been greater contrast he won in Mexico like he was born to do it. And adding to the confusion some number crunching shows that it wouldn't have taken too much to happen differently for this years' drivers' title to still be well in the balance...

In my latest Motor Verso race review I try to decode this particular enigma, here's the link:

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.

Monday 2 November 2015

How Hamilton and Rosberg will move on from latest spat, by Luke Rees

The 2015 US Grand Prix will rightly be remembered for the crowning of Lewis Hamilton as the F1 World Champion, though it was partly overshadowed by the public spat between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. However, following the Mexican GP, it appears that the conflict may have moved from a confrontation between Hamilton and Rosberg to mistrust between Hamilton and the Mercedes team.

The tension between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
after the Austin race was palpable
Photo: Octane Photography
Rosberg started the US Grand Prix in pole position, but was nudged out of the way by Hamilton at the first corner, in a manoeuvre that would have surely raised official complaints had it happened between drivers of opposing teams. Rosberg managed to regain the lead, only to lose control in the slippery conditions of the race with less than ten laps to go, which left Hamilton open to claim the title.

Post-game, when Hamilton tossed his team mate a hat to wear on the podium, Rosberg immediately threw it right back, and failed to celebrate with Hamilton during the traditional champagne-opening.

In the Mexican Grand Prix this weekend Rosberg took pole position ahead of his Mercedes team mate. Controversially, Hamilton for a time refused to be called in for a second pit stop when the Mercedes team viewed his tyres as a potential safety hazard if run to the end. Hamilton claimed they felt fine and continued the race for an extra lap before pitting, apparently reluctantly. The mistrust within the Mercedes team continues to be a prominent issue with Hamilton not believing the report on his tyres. Hamilton and Rosberg continue to look more like rivals than team mates.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Mexican GP Report: Rosberg the riddler is resurgent

Just try working out Nico Rosberg. He loves to riddle us; does so perhaps more than any other current F1 driver. And underlining as much that he won the Mexican Grand Prix today, and in such decisive style, only added to the confusion.

Nico Rosberg won out this time
Photo: Octane Photography
Not too many expected it of him either. Yes he'd won pole, but he'd won pole in the previous three and not won any of them. His increasingly inappropriately-titled team mate Lewis Hamilton seems able to reverse the places every time, almost as if by telepathy. He'd also not won for upwards to four months.

Nico had also bagged recently an unwelcome all-time mark of having the most pole positions without winning the world championship. And as if his nose was being rubbed in it the F1 Twitter feed shortly before the race start compared his pole-to-win conversion rate to other contemporary drivers. Nico's lingered at the bottom of the list, at fewer than one in three...

Furthermore following Austin, gusts of winds, flying caps and all that a week ago, the German was meant to be consigned to his box which was as a respectful follower of Lewis at the very most.

In this age of Mercedes dominance just how Nico can get with Lewis has become one of the sport's big questions. Well on today's evidence the answer was rather simple. Just go quicker than him, in qualifying and the race. As easy, or rather as difficult, as that. But this time that's exactly how the day went. This time Nico made his lead won on Saturday, and all the benefits that go with it, count.