Wednesday 28 December 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - How Did Lewis Hamilton Get On The Cover Of TIME?

In our final episode of 2016, Mithila and Kunal try and decode how Lewis Hamilton managed to get himself on the cover of the TIME Magazine - from 'Hammer Time to the TIME', literally. While Formula 1 might have much to learn from how America organises their sports events, we're glad they've not learned and adapted to the 'oval racing' concept! Thank you, Formula 1.

We spotted Bernie Ecclestone on Instagram. Who would've thought? And no, he wasn't playing Santa Claus! Speaking of Santa, Formula 1's favourite Santa this Christmas is Nico Rosberg. He's left the most-desirable gift behind, but who will be the lucky recipient? On that note, we wonder how the Wolff-Bottas relationship isn't already a conflict of interest. Wolff has voiced concern for Williams in case Mercedes do poach Bottas. Did he worry about McLaren at all when they poached Hamilton a few seasons ago?

Nico Rosberg launched his book or photo-album or let's call it photo-book 'Finally' last week. We loved the name and share our guesses of what it could mean for him. Daniel Ricciardo has already messed up the silly season for 2018 by publicly stating his two-year commitment towards Red Bull Racing. In which case, has he called dibs on the Red Bull Racing cockpit over Carlos Sainz Jr.? With 3 drivers and 2 cockpits, Red Bull Racing already have a problem for 2018 more than a year before the season has started, the 'problem of plenty'!

Finally, after all those overestimated PR statements, Ferrari admitted that they made a fool out of themselves in 2016. Sergio Marchionne's advice to Sebastian Vettel for 2017 is 'Keep Calm & Drive On'. Let's hope that the Ferrari-Vettel-Raikkonen trio is able to enthrall us in the new season because a Mercedes-Ferrari rivalry with a Red Bull mixer would be absolutely thrilling and just the high that Formula 1 and its fans need. On that note, here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a Happy New Season!

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 45)

Saturday 24 December 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Why the Rosbergs have come full circle

Photo: Daimler
F1 history is quite the treasure trove, and with this it means very little is entirely unheard of. It applied even to our recent unforeseen news, that Nico Rosberg retired from F1 but days after winning the world crown, which still had its echoes in the past.

But in a way made his on-the-spot decision to quit went beyond being a mere parallel, as it brought the story of the Rosbergs - him and his also-world champion Keke - full circle. For Grand Prix Times I explain why.

You can have a read here:

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Merry Christmas from Talking about F1

Never let it be said that Talking about F1 does not enter into the spirit of Christmas. Which of course primarily is about getting nice presents from Santa.

So in this spirit and to keep you all ticking over during the Christmas period I have gathered some of my recent and not so recent F1 writing to keep you entertained. And like all Santa presents they are completely free. Here they are:

Me. In a Santa hat. With some Lewis Hamilton decor.
My final thoughts on the 2016 year

Tribute to the 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg

My Top Ten Drivers of 2016

My thoughts on every other 2016 F1 driver who didn't make my top ten

And here are my partly-serious end of season awards

All of my race reports from the 2016 season can be found here

And here are my qualifying reports

And here are all Lights to Flag podcasts, reviewing latest F1 matters

And a few features too:

Being nice to Lewis Hamilton

Me complaining about blue flags

(An appropriate) one from the archives too: F1's previous of races in the Christmas/New Year week

There, more than enough to keep you out of mischief during any down time that may be coming your way. And of course may I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year. Remember to play nice.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Sergio Perez Reveals His Prankster Self

After bringing to you Nico 'The Hulk' Hulkenberg last week, we bring to you Sergio 'Checo' Perez this week. Tune in to hear Checo's favourite radio message and how he played a prank on his former team, Sauber. And of course, no prizes for guessing which driver's radio he would enjoying listening to the most.

Apart from Checo's bytes, Mithila and Kunal discuss how Felipe Massa might just go from Formula 1's 'shortest ever' (in terms of time) World Champion to logging the sport's 'shortest ever' (again, in terms of time) retirement. To think of it, it was Jenson Button who was seeking a sabbatical and not Massa!

We empathise with Pascal Wehrlein - who must be feeling like shit after being snubbed by Force India and now Mercedes and possibly Williams too. On the other hand, Stoffel Vandoorne might not be doing himself many favours by selecting the number '2' as his driver number in Formula 1.

If the future of the road relevant Formula 1 engines could be electric, why are we not following Formula E already?

And finally, do remember to subscribe to us on iTunes or audioBoom as we work towards bringing to you our ever-popular Inside Line F1 Podcast Awards in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 44)

Sunday 18 December 2016

Final thoughts on 2016: State of flux

"It's been strange coming here this weekend, realising that these are going to be the last practice sessions, the last qualifying sessions with this car, which has been so incredible. You never know when you're going to have a car like this ever again. I hope we have another one in the near future, maybe next year. It's been such a privilege driving this car."

In F1 in 2016, at the front it was the same story as before
Photo: Octane Photography
It was easy to miss, what with everything else that was going on. But Lewis Hamilton after claiming yet another pole in the final qualifying session of the year, in Abu Dhabi, was correct. From a historical perspective this was the big story. Mercedes in 2016, the last year of this formula, swept the board just as it did when the formula started in 2014. The dominance therefore was complete. We know all about teams stealing a march as a new spec comes in, but the Brackley and Brixworth concerns not only did this but sustained the advantage over time, even though the rest have the theoretical advantage of being able to learn from what makes the Mercedes quick. Really it's hard to make a case that Merc's foes at any point got closer to toppling them.

The statistics pay testament - out of 59 races Mercedes won 51 of them. And 2016 was the most crushing of all - 19 from 21 race went the silver way. And of the two it missed in one the Mercs collided and in the other a Merc's engine went pop when leading easily.

Time was that the back-to-back F1 title was near enough impossible. Slackening - unconscious; by decimal points - would creep in after a success. Not so now. In roughly the mid-1980s the era of the F1 dynasty began. Perhaps showing the delicate alchemy required to prevail in the modern game.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Nico Hulkenberg Gets Funny On The Inside Line

Nico Hulkenberg debuts on the Inside Line F1 Podcast! In the off-season, we will bring to you a few Formula 1 drivers talking about their favourite radio messages and jokes from the sport.

After Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard's successful interviews on the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we now have the famous 'Hulk'. In this week's episode, Hulkenberg tells us his funniest radio message, how he found Juan Pablo Montoya funny in Austria in 2001 and his struggles in trying to remember his favourite Formula 1 joke.

Apart from the Hulkenberg special, we talk about Mercedes' overdrive to find Nico Rosberg's replacement and cashing in on the positive PR around it. Strangely enough, 'overtaking' was not added as a skill in their much-publicised advert for a Formula 1 driver. Get the hint?

If Fernando Alonso doesn't fill the vacant cockpit, does it indicate a decline in Bernie Ecclestone's control over the sport? And in no way is Valtteri Bottas a brave choice, Mr. Wolff. Let's hope that all the powers combine bring to us a Hamilton-Alonso pairing in 2017!

And finally, remember to subscribe to us on iTunes or Audio Boom as we bring to you Sergio 'Checo' Perez next week.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 43)

Wednesday 14 December 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: F1 2016 end of season awards - The Grahams...

Photo: Octane Photography
We know how this latest season ended, but who are the real winners? Given it's the time of year for sporting awards ceremonies here in my latest for Grand Prix Times is my very own F1 2016 awards. The Grahams, a set of awards as prestigious as their name...

It has some kind of serious stuff (best driver, best team...) and some, erm, unique categories.

You can read my selections and justifications via this link:

Thursday 8 December 2016

My Top Ten Drivers of 2016: The Rest...

Here are my views on those F1 drivers from 2016 who didn't make my top 10 ranking that I published a few days ago.

My top 10 drivers of 2016 can be read here.

Nico Hulkenberg
Photo: Octane Photography
As noted Nico Hulkenberg came close to sneaking into the top ten, and would have waltzed in had it been based only on the second half of the year. During the first part he in most rounds looked a shadow – possibly the accumulation of various frustrations from over the years rather weighing him down. And some reckoned in a similar sense that his Renault switch being confirmed for 2017 – a long overdue break – resulted in the Hulk finding his urge of old. But in fact his upturn could be traced to before that, to his home round in Germany before the summer holidays. From then on his drives were almost invariably excellent. We've long known about Hulkenberg’s tremendous raw speed but also that he's been unable or unwilling (or both) to adapt to the gentle touch the modern Pirelli requires, and some said that this campaign he'd finally started to learn from his team mate on how to get the best out of the rubber. And with his works move mentioned and that reportedly next year's tyres will be able to be leant on more, things may be coming right for him at last. 

Going through the rest in championship order brings us first to Felipe Massa, for whom the 2016 campaign was his F1 swansong. He started it well and got a run of points finishes – with China likely his season's high point on track at least – but over time he floundered somewhat and the deficit in qualifying and the races to his Williams team mate Valtteri Bottas often gaped. For all of the affection that his departure was greeted with, you'll struggle to find anyone who doesn't think he timed his retirement well.

Monday 5 December 2016

My Top Ten Drivers of 2016

Here is my personal rating of the top ten F1 drivers of the 2016 season, taking into account their performances as well as the machinery that they had access to. 

A run down of my views on the drivers who didn't make the top ten will follow in the next few days.

1. Daniel Ricciardo
Photo: Octane Photography
Daniel Ricciardo has in 2016 continued the same thread as he has pretty much the whole time since stepping into a Red Bull. That he's a driver of the very top bracket; probably the driver of the hybrid era.

And one with everything – stunning pace particularly on a qualifying lap; being equally at home on the fast and mighty as in the tight and technical; Alonso-like racecraft and ability to avoid trouble; resolute consistency; a voracious willingness to race; sound judgement; fine brain power and imperviousness to pressure. As for faults? Nothing obvious. Errors, even off days, from him are genuinely hard to pinpoint.

This season we witnessed all of it. His solitary win was fortunate but even so in an improved but certainly never table-topping package up to three more wins – Spain, Monaco and Abu Dhabi possibly – were lost through no fault of his. Nevertheless it added up to a clear best-of-the-rest in the points table behind the Mercedes. That fight really should have been close but he wrapped it up with two rounds remaining.

And it was Monaco, in more ways than one, that told us most, even over and above that his pace in the wet or dry that weekend was as scintillating as it was untouchable. His transparent simmering disappointment in the aftermath at the win lost confirmed that for all Ricciardo's perma-smile he lacks absolutely nothing in seriousness and determination.

Alongside Max Verstappen's prodigious pace Ricciardo's still won out 11-6 in their qualifying match-up and in their early days he often was quicker by several tenths. On the other hand Max beat him in qualifying with some consistency in the late rounds, as well as frequently got more out of the tyres in races. And we had Brazil’s rain when Max took him to the cleaners. Then again we keep being told how special Max is.

But so is Ricciardo. And if next year's Red Bull is as good as everyone is saying it is surely he starts the campaign as title favourite.

2. Lewis Hamilton
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton should have won the 2016 world championship, inasmuch that his season was derailed by a series of technical failures that had nothing to do with him and that even equalising a single one of them would likely have sent the title his way.

But, critics will point out, so would have eliminating some of his sporadic error and bewildering underperformance. In Singapore – a weekend that he usually has to himself and at a vital part of the title chase – insiders say he turned up in no state to work, and it showed. Some reckon similar of Japan. In Baku also he looked set to dominate but put in a hooligan performance in qualifying then was delayed more than his team said he should have been by a technical problem in the race. And did it really require the best part of the season to sort his persistent poor starts?

Saturday 3 December 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Formula 1's Game Of Thrones

Nico Rosberg's shock retirement has just kicked off Formula 1's silly season to fill THE throne that will be left vacant by our reigning World Champion in 2017. Why the hell did Rosberg quit? We'd have loved to see him defend his title against Lewis Hamilton. But is this exactly why he quit?

We consider his move 'ballsy', given that quitting at the top is not everyone's cup of tea. But has he made sport suddenly look like a sales target? We discuss this in our special episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, also our third of the week! (Thank you Nico for making us work this hard!)

Who will Mercedes replace Nico Rosberg with? And will Rosberg's retirement make them go slow on Hamilton's impending sanction for his disobedience in Abu Dhabi? Talk of Rosberg stealing Hamilton's thunder twice over in the last few days.

Social media is abuzz with suggestions that Fernando Alonso should leave McLaren for Mercedes and Formula 1 should re-live the epic Hamilton-Alonso story that ended abruptly in 2007. Apart from Alonso, we discuss a string of other names only to add to Mercedes' confusion. Irrespective of everyone's efforts, it'll be Bernie Ecclestone's efforts that will count the most to ensure that Mercedes hire a driver who can consistently challenge Hamilton in 2017.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 42)

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Coin Collection by Rosland Capital

You may recall me a couple of times earlier this season writing about premier precious metals asset firm Rosland Capital releasing and distributing The Formula One Collection, a new limited edition series of F1 themed coin collections.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix collection 
This collection includes individual one-quarter ounce gold coins to celebrate a few of the most prestigious modern-day Grands Prix specifically.

And the latest limited edition coin collection is here, commemorating the season-closing and title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The latest addition to the Formula 1 collection includes a .25oz gold coin, 5oz coin in gold and silver, and a 5kg gold coin that commemorate the FIA Formula One World Championship and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Minted by Swiss-based PAMP, the limited edition coins are distributed by precious metals dealer Rosland Capital.

You can also find more information, including on purchasing these, on the collection here:

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Review, Part 2

Here as promised is the second part of our Lights to Flag podcast Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review.

In it Ewan, Adam Corlett and I look beyond the Merc pair to discuss those behind, including Red Bull's strategy and Force India's amazing fourth place finish in the constructors' table. We also look ahead to 2017 with its calendar just published and its new rules.

Part 1, where we discuss Nico Rosberg's shock retirement and the Abu Dhabi title showdown, is here.

You also can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

Friday 2 December 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Review, Part 1

The latest Lights to Flag podcast is here, and it's a special one for a few reasons. It's the first of two parts, and the first instalment starts with Ewan and I discussing today's astonishing new that the new world champion Nico Rosberg is retiring with immediate effect. We look at the news, Rosberg's F1 legacy and discuss who might replace him at Mercedes.

Then Ewan and I are joined by Adam Corlett to reflect on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title showdown wherein Rosberg clinched the championship. We look at the race, as well as have it out on Lewis Hamilton's notorious race tactics.

And Part 2, in which we'll look at how the other teams performed this campaign, the 2017 calendar and revised rules, will be with us shortly...

You also can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

Thursday 1 December 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - What Will Mercedes Do With Lewis Hamilton?

What should Mercedes do with Lewis Hamilton after his public act of disobedience in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? To us, all of it seems to be extra PR that Mercedes, Hamilton and even Formula 1 are enjoying. But seriously, what will Mercedes do?

As for Nico Rosberg, he settled the 'worthy World Champion' debate by successfully overtaking Max Verstappen (yes, he overtook Verstappen)! In this episode, we also speak about Jenson Button's farewell race and how a retirement before his sabbatical makes perfect sense. Irony of life, maybe. Although, we believe he'll be perfect as a TV host, with or without his bubbly!

We were the first ones to point out that Sebastian Vettel acted on purpose when he held station and not overtake Nico Rosberg in the race. Was this a calculated move by Vettel to ensure that Hamilton's title tally remains at three and not add up to his tally of four? Cheeky!

And thank God Verstappen ran into the other Nico, but given his pace, strategy and Hamilton's disinterest in winning the race, could he have won in Abu Dhabi? Also, Rosberg's title-winning party featured Ricciardo, but did his shoey make an appearance too? Keke believes that Hamilton got lucky twice and we're still scratching our heads about the second instance.  Lastly, we welcome Zak Brown to Formula 1 in our own little ways.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 41)

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Sublime and ridiculous

Photo: Octane Photography
It may not always feel this way, but in F1 pretty much anything can happen. Really. I mean someone trying to win a world championship by driving slowly?

We got it. But nevertheless it contributed to an extremely tense title showdown. Yet one that again in a chief theme of recent weeks somehow ended with the drivers' championship rather as you were.

I give my take on all of the Abu Dhabi goings on in my latest Motor Verso race review, which you can read here:

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 28 November 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Nico Rosberg: 2016 World Champion - Deserve's got nothing to do with it

We could have seen the question coming. Even though it's a silly question. As no driver, certainly not the front-running ones, has likely ever defied allocation quite like Nico Rosberg.

Photo: Octane Photography
The silly question being whether the newly-crowned Nico is a deserving champion. Even though the World Drivers' Championship isn't the sort of prize that you can just fall backwards in to.

In my latest for Grand Prix Times I explain that with Nico's world title, in Clint Eastwood's words, "deserve's got nothing to do with it". That he's a worthy champion for a number of reasons, as well as look into why he might have been so hard to pin down in the public mind for all of this time.

You can have a read here:

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Rosberg Wins, But Was Hamilton Fair?

In a special and unplanned episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we celebrate Nico Rosberg's first-ever Formula 1 World Championship victory. We debate whether Lewis Hamilton's tactic to slow down Rosberg was fair. A clash of objectives between a team trying to win every race it can and its driver trying to win his fourth Drivers' Championship!

How will Mercedes settle Hamilton's disobedience of a team instruction? And should Mercedes have interfered this much in the race given that the Constructors' Championship was sealed many races ago?

Tune in!

Sunday 27 November 2016

Abu Dhabi GP Report - A drawn out affair

So the chief theme of recent weeks continued, somehow. After more than an hour and a half of racing in Abu Dhabi's season finale we ended up where we started, somehow.

Nico Rosberg, once again, did what he had to,
and the championship is his
Photo: Octane Photography
It was not a final round containing a dramatic final twist. Or great drama of any variety. Indeed calling it racing as I did above probably is stretching matters a little. But what we did get was tension. A lot of it.

The chief theme of Lewis Hamilton winning and Nico Rosberg following him in was unabated, and it meant that Nico indeed takes the 2016 World Drivers' Championship.

But more broadly we got whatever the F1 equivalent is of a Dutch auction, when the imperious Lewis made his final throw at retaining his world title. By driving slowly. He was warned by his team in advance not to do any backing up of the chasing Nico into the following cars, but it didn't stop him trying - indeed nothing was likely to stop him in his quest. We had an extraordinary situation of a driver - a la Michael Schumacher in Malaysia 1999 - spending most of the way trying to go slowly. But still leading. Just like 17 years ago you'd have forgiven him for for looking in the mirrors and wondering where the competition was, and why they weren't getting a move on...

Saturday 26 November 2016

Abu Dhabi Qualifying - It all makes sense

There were plenty of reasons in advance to expect that, whatever else happened in our latest F1 title showdown, that Lewis Hamilton would annihilate them on track.

Lewis Hamilton has dominated this Abu Dhabi weekend
Photo: Octane Photography
On the top of his form and mood, having won the previous three from pole. Determinedly relishing the role of the previously-unfortunate and currently-unlikely comeback kid. Plus he's quite the specialist at this Yas Marina track in Abu Dhabi, particularly its final sector. And so far annihilation is what we've got. Even F1 makes transparent sense sometimes.

It's looked that way all weekend. The title-battling Mercedes pair have been on top for the most part, and Lewis of them has looked a step ahead almost always. This story continued unabated in qualifying. Lewis was smooth, immaculate and imperious throughout, and set a stunning final time of 1m 38.755 to bag pole position for tomorrow's decider, seemingly without effort.

"Lewis did an incredible job, an incredible lap - you can't say more," an observing Niki Lauda noted, as ever summing matters up succinctly.

Thursday 24 November 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

Here's the latest Lights to Flag podcast. Ewan, Jack Amey and I to look ahead to our showdown to the 2016 drivers' championship in Abu Dhabi, and our Nico vs. Lewis battle. We look at what we can expect, both for the Mercedes and for their rivals.

We also look at other recent F1 matters, such as that it's likely to be Jenson Button's final Grand Prix, the regulation changes that await for next year, Zak Brown's appointment at McLaren, as well as the upshots of Bernie Ecclestone's recent comments on the future of certain races as well as the mooting of shorter Grands Prix.

You also can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - The Best Driver Did Not Win

As the Hamilton vs. Rosberg title battle goes down to the wire, the big question is who will win the 2016 World Drivers' Championship. While the odds may be stacked in Rosberg's favour, this is Formula 1 - and nothing's over till it's over. Could Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing be Lewis Hamilton's best ally in the 'duel of the desert'? Here's a prediction we're going to stick our heads out and make - respective of the outcome, when fans look back on the season they'll probably believe that 'the best driver did not win'.

Niki Lauda thinks that Max Verstappen could be the greatest ever Formula 1 driver - but he needs to be "careful" on his way. Cute that Lauda still thinks that Max will listen to him. As we all know, Max Verstappen listens to NOBODY! Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz admits that the drivers themselves don't understand Formula 1's rules. What hope do we ordinary mortals have then?

Bernie Ecclestone said some pretty interesting (and scandalous) things last week. He said Singapore "was just an airport" before Formula 1 happened and talked about Americans and their short attention spans. Bernie proposed a new double header race format and we tell you what we think about it. Of course, as fans, we're thrilled!

Mithila's wish for Abu Dhabi is for fans to be treated to a serious Hamilton vs. Rosberg wheel to wheel battle on track. Could there be a better way to decide the World Championship? Formula 1 bids goodbye to two great drivers, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button. Finally, we make a confident prediction about Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 39)

Saturday 19 November 2016

Abu Dhabi Preview - Where the sun sets

Sport has an incredible reductive quality. While prizes usually are based on achievements accumulated over an extended period, somehow they often end up being decided in the margins. Often too at the last. It goes a long way to explaining why even apparently minor setbacks are lamented; the probability is that whatever was left on the table then will come in handy later. And there's no way of getting it back.

The Nico Rosberg vs. Lewis Hamilton title fight
reaches its endgame
Photo: Octane Photography
So it is in F1 and particularly with the determination of its World Drivers' Championship. So it is too this weekend as 2016 reaches its endgame at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Even after the longest season ever, some 21 races, and its thousands of miles of racing over several months, it all comes down to this. The ever-haughty Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are the protagonists, the former but 12 points ahead with 25 yet available.

No wonder therefore Lewis decried Red Bull's rolling of strategy dice last time out in Brazil, given it allowed his title rival Nico to finish second there rather than third or perhaps even fourth. Had one Red Bull got in front of him in Interlagos Nico this time could have afforded no less than finishing next up to his team mate to ensure the crown. Had both Bulls finished ahead then we'd have a straight winner takes all showdown. In either case the situation would have felt rather different to what we've got.

Thursday 17 November 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix Review

The latest Lights to Flag podcast is here. Ewan and I were pleased to be joined again by Luke Smith to look back on an astonishing Brazilian Grand Prix. Interlagos, and its weather, did its worst, and gave us all the extremes. Not least some brilliant drives. We reflect on all of them.

We also look at the recent news of Ron Dennis being shoved to one side at McLaren, what caused it and what might be next for the team.

You also can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Brazil Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Extraordinary and Ordinary

It was a day of extremes, and opposites. In some ways utterly in the lap of the Gods; in others achingly predictable.

Photo: Octane Photography
We started in that familiar way on days that the rain comes down, with seemingly unending delays - and no little lamenting of the modern sport and its drivers. And we ended with something raw, and confirming that those same drivers in fact lack very little in skill and bravery. One of them particularly lacks it.

And somehow, we ended it all with the drivers' championship rather as you were.

I give my take on all of the unforgettable Brazilian Grand Prix in my latest Motor Verso race review, which you can read here:

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 - Forget Rosberg vs Hamilton, 2016 Is Verstappen's Year

The 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix could have given Formula 1 a new World Champion, but it didn't. However, it confirmed a fact that didn't need much confirming - that Max Verstappen is absolute World Champion material. Irrespective of the outcome of the World Drivers' Championship, 2016 will be remembered for the brilliance of Max Verstappen.

Lewis Hamilton won his first-ever race in Ayrton Senna's land ensuring that Abu Dhabi hosts the title decider yet again. We guess that Bernie Ecclestone and the Sheikhs would be very pleased given the amount of money they pay as hosting fees!

On the Inside Line F1 Podcast this week, we laugh over Fernando Alonso's sense of humour. He was a horrible cameraman, but hey, at least he gave us a good laugh! Alonso also said that F1 should pay fans to watch the sport. Though ironically, thanks to all his engine woes, Alonso has been the sports highest paid viewer for the better part of the last two seasons!

The success of the wet race in Brazil makes us wonder whether Bernie's sprinkler idea is all that bad after all! Pirelli's extreme wet tyres are so bad, but then we guess that's true of all their tyres. Felipe Massa had an emotional farewell in Brazil, and we are sure that Jenson Button was slightly jealous – though that’s the price you pay for not making up your mind! And a gutsy Sergio Perez dumped his new sponsor on Twitter for a joke that clearly wasn't funny.

Finally, the big question: As we head to the title decider in Abu Dhabi, who is going to emerge as World Champion? Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 38)

Sunday 13 November 2016

Brazilian GP Report - Ending up where you started

Between the lakes, Interlagos translates as. Never did it seem more appropriate.

Even with Interlagos doing its worst, Lewis Hamilton
 did what he had to
Photo: Octane Photography
Yes, the local wackiness that threatened to but didn't arrive yesterday did today. Or it sort of did. The weather did its very worst from overnight between Saturday and Sunday, and didn't really ever stop. The disruption of the fare was typical really - a delayed race start, then slow circulating behind the safety car. Two red flag periods. Plenty thought at either of them that we wouldn't see any more action.

But also typically we did eventually get action, all of the proscribed distance indeed, and we were thankful that we did. As each delay was met with inevitable claims that the modern F1 pilot lacks in fortitude compared with their predecessors of generations passed, they then demonstrated not for the first time they lack nothing in that.

But as I said the local wackiness only sort of arrived, as not even that could set our story arc off its script. Somehow and scarcely credibly after all those 71 laps and the disruption outlined, taking us upwards of three hours from start to finish, we yet ended up roughly where we started. Lewis Hamilton won from pole, again (his first win at this venue). His team mate and title antagonist Nico Rosberg followed him in having started second, again. In both cases just like in the previous two rounds. In both cases it was all they needed to do to keep the championship chase ticking along. Thus, again, it's as you were.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Interlagos Qualifying - Calm before the storm

Interlagos must be losing its edge. The F1 equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle, where anything can and often does go down, this time was sedate. Not even entering this Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying hour with a 70% chance of rain meant that it did its worst, or anything like it.

For Lewis Hamilton, the Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying
session was more of the same
Photo: Octane Photography
Aside from the odd tiny sprinkle the rain stayed away; so did most of the local wackiness. And with this the outcome was as you were. As you were for this weekend, and as you were for recent rounds. Lewis Hamilton remained consistently ahead of his Mercedes team mate and title foe Nico Rosberg, and took the pole with Nico next up. Not even Interlagos - not only with its funkiness but also that he'd never won nor taken pole here before - could halt the Englishman today.

And it's as you were for the title too, with the shadow boxing of the past few weeks between the two Merc antagonists continuing. Lewis is doing what you can by leading; Nico is doing what he needs by following him in. Neither yet has delivered a knock out blow.

Thursday 10 November 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix Preview

The latest Lights to Flag podcast is with us. Ewan and I were joined again by Jack Amey and we looked at the hot off the press 2017 drivers' market news with the musical chairs' seats suddenly being claimed rapidly - Esteban Ocon going to Force India, Jolyon Palmer being retained at Renault and Kevin Magnussen poised to be confirmed at Haas.

We also looked ahead to this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix - a round that has a madcap quality at the best of times; this time the world drivers' championship could be decided. Or at the other end of the scale it could shift things away markedly from the championship elect...

You also can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

New Grand Prix Times article: Why Ferrari's slump comes as no surprise

Photo: Octane Photography
It seems from another age now, but at the outset of this season we were convinced that Mercedes would have something to think about. From the red corner.

Ferrari made an astonishingly bound forward between 2014 and 2015 and a similar bound we thought would give us a title fight. The sport's most famous name looked back on song - what could possibly go amiss?

Well, as suggested, plenty has gone amiss. And in my latest my Grand Prix Times I explain why Ferrari's difficult season should have been no surprise.

You can have a read here:

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Let's Not Belittle The Formula 1 Drivers' Championship

The 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix could be a Grand Prix of firsts for the Mercedes drivers. Lewis Hamilton could win his first-ever Brazilian Grand Prix OR Nico Rosberg could win his first-ever Formula 1 Drivers' Championship. Let's hope the 'best driver' wins. In which case, shouldn't it then be Fernando Alonso?

We're loving the suspense and surprise of title fight this season and don't mind it being taken forward to Abu Dhabi. After all, there's finally some surprise in the sport other than Max Verstappen! Unless, of course, you're Robbie Williams.

While Abu Dhabi pays millions hoping to host a 'title decider', Brazil has done so six times in our recent memory. By the way, the 2012 edition of the race was also McLaren and Jenson Button's last win. What are the bets we could be repeating this statistic for McLaren this time, next year?

As we look forward to Interlagos, we share our vivid memories of a circuit that made Timo Glock world famous. We also remember a rare and unexpected robbery attempt on Jenson Button, Adrian Newey's Red Bull Racing 'tank' that withstood a bang in 2012 and Schumi helping Baby Schumi to his third world title.

Will Nico Rosberg be able to race in Brazil without thinking of the Drivers' Championship? He's made the 'race-by-race' approach work, till date. We're sure that mind games will be at their absolute best. And as tough as it will ever be, we try and settle this whole 'Does Nico Rosberg deserve the Drivers' Championship?' debate. Let's remember, by saying that someone was 'lucky' to win a Formula 1 Drivers' Championship, that too in its longest season ever, might be belittling the title in itself!

As for Lewis Hamilton, we hope he's learning lessons from Serena Williams on how to thwart a 'match point'. Actually, who better than Williams to teach him.

Gravel traps, yes or no? Formula 1 has senseless penalties. It would be good to see some sensible ones applied too, especially for exceeding track limits. All sports have one. In fact, the one sport that doesn't is World Wrestling Entertainment.

And how on earth did Sebastian Vettel go scot free after his expletive laden radio message in Mexico? It is one thing to not respect competitors, but it is another to not respect the Race Director. The least they should've done was strip him of his 'Driver of the Day' award. But the FIA isn't in setting examples, so we shouldn't be surprised.

Fernando Alonso has called the current Formula 1 as Formula 1/2 (or Formula 0.5)! This is probably better than being classified as GP2. If Ross Brawn is indeed interested in working on the long term plans for the sport, it should include a robust part that should have the best drivers on the grid race in Formula 1 cars and not Formula 0.5!

Finally, just when we thought that almost no one would be been interested in learning from Formula 1, an Olympic Champion has indicated how skiing should use Formula 1 qualifying system at their World Cups. This comes in a year when we almost ditched the only thing that's working well in the sport.

Monday 7 November 2016

Interlagos Preview - F1's Bermuda Triangle

Just like that, it could be over. Without any disrespect intended, and despite his considerable success in 2016 and before, for a lot of us the prospect of a Nico Rosberg drivers' championship has never entirely shaken its air of unreality. Yet when this forthcoming one is done it could be absolute reality.

Will Nico Rosberg in this one triumph definitively?
Photo: Octane Photography
And the task required of him to do the confirming is simple. He needs to win. Or rather, the task is complicated. And not merely as F1 wins can never be said to be easy. It particularly cannot be said to be easy this time given where this one is taking place.

Granted there are plenty of things about this Interlagos venue for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix to tilt matters Nico's way. He's won in the last two visits, both from pole. In his own words he has "usually been pretty quick there".

While his title rival and team mate Lewis Hamilton even with his superb recent form - winning the last two with Nico barely within shouting distance - has neither triumphed nor even started from the front of the grid in Brazil before. While, if you're a fan of historical trends, since Interlagos was shifted to a slot near or at the season's end in 2004 it has been the scene of titles being clinched aplenty - 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.

Mexico Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Sedation and Strife

Photo: Octane Photography
Curious, is the word. The Mexico Grand Prix was largely a sedate one. Between the opening turns and the last small handful of laps indeed almost nothing went down. And yet. The rest of the time it packed in plenty, not only of action but sadly in that inseparable way of the modern sport in plenty of strife too. And finger pointing. And penalties.

And all to the end of a round that, from the championship standpoint at least, largely left things as you were. Curious, as I said.

I give my take on all of this in my latest Motor Verso race review, which you can read here:

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 5 November 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Mexico Grand Prix Review

After a week off the Lights to Flag podcast is back. Ewan and I were joined again by Jack Amey to look back at the Mexico Grand Prix (apologies for the poor sound quality from me - hopefully my technology problems will be resolved for next time...)

We explore the Mexican goings-on, its many controversies and the impact of the race on the ongoing championship battle. We also look at the latest on the 2017 drivers' market including the confirmation that Lance Stroll gets a Williams gig, as well as at the rumours of Ross Brawn's return to F1. As ever you can listen via the player below.

You also can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

Thursday 3 November 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - And That's How The FIA Avoided The Shoey On The Podium

FIA was sneaky in its ways to keep the shoey off the podium. We had an instance where 3 drivers were classified 3rd at least once. Thank you FIA, for embarrassing Formula 1. And thank you (not!) for ensuring the shoey man doesn't find himself on the podium, during the podium.

Daniel Ricciardo's shoey was missed in Mexico, but is it time for a new party trick? We're excited to know what it could be and how he's going to up that game!

The Mexico Grand Prix will be remembered for the FIA's inconsistent stewardship. One that saw Max Verstappen get penalty for doing a 'Lewis Hamilton', even when Hamilton himself didn't get one. And of course, Sebastian Vettel realised that the only driver who gets away by doing 'The Verstappen' is Max Verstappen himself.

What else did this episode teach us? Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have friends in the FIA, but Sebastian Vettel certainly doesn't. In fact, after his tirade of abusive, there's little doubt there.

Should Lewis Hamilton have received a penalty? Probably, yes. Max Verstappen too? If Hamilton did, then yes, if not, then no. But Sebastian Vettel? We think not! Are they over-regulating the sport by trying to curb natural instincts of a racing car driver? But, we expect further sanctions towards Sebastian Vettel for dropping the F-bomb. A race ban? Or something far worse?

Eventually, we hope that Liberty Media realise how bunching the teams up and making them compete impacts the sport. A Verstappen vs. Vettel vs. Ricciardo is exactly what the sport needs, minus the swearing, of course.

Are Hamilton's start issues a thing of the past? We'll be glad, if they are. After all, blaming a clutch for losing the Drivers' Championships sounds very lame. We've been talking about Nico Rosberg and his 'match points' as we near the end of the 2016 season. But since when did we start calling it a 'match point'? This isn't tennis!

Is Max Verstappen a threat to Hamilton or Rosberg in the Drivers' Championship? Are we the only ones fearing that he could crash into either driver in the remaining two races? He almost knocked Rosberg out of the race in Mexico!

After witnessing the Mexico Grand Prix, we are forced to agree with Ecclestone's idea on building walls to ensure drivers race within track limits. And, Fernando Alonso was rated as 'the best Formula 1 driver' in an impromptu vote between 9 journalists. 8 out of those 9 voted for Alonso, barring one. We investigate who this journalist could be.

And finally, will Ross Brawn return to save Formula 1? We certainly hope that he does. Because given the movements in Formula E, we definitely should be considering an Inside Line Formula E Podcast!

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 36)

Monday 31 October 2016

Mexican GP Report - Everything and nothing

For more reason than one, there wasn't much to say about this race. Just like last week Lewis Hamilton was for much of Mexican Grand Prix weekend on another level to the rest, not least his team mate. Just like last week his team mate Nico Rosberg did what was required to keep this year's world championship well under his control, by following Lewis home.

Just like in Austin, Lewis Hamilton won at a canter
Photo: Octane Photography
And for much of the way to getting there - and back to where we started in effect - there wasn't much to distinguish things. Sadly this popular Mexican stop-off with its numerous and passionate support hasn't been well-served by entertainment since it returned to the F1 itinerary last year. It hasn't helped that both races have been tyre economy runs, with extremely stretched out strategies the norm. Strangely too for a track dominated by two long straights ended by big braking zones overtaking here seems for the most part about as presentable as at Monaco.

Well, this was the way of it much of the way. Between lap two and lap 67 of 71. The bookends were rather different. They managed to squeeze in plenty for us to say. And the discussions are ongoing.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Mexico City Qualifying - As you were

It's the F1 equivalent of freewheeling I suppose. Last week in Austin Lewis Hamilton was a clear step ahead of the rest just about the whole time. A week on and the relatively short hop to Mexico City later, one hardly can see the join.

Just like in Austin, Lewis Hamilton looked a clear step ahead
Photo: Octane Photography
As in Austin he had around a couple of tenths or more per lap on his title foe Nico Rosberg almost from the first tours in Friday practice. Indeed as this Mexican weekend went on his gap to Nico seemed to stretch. Indeed as this weekend went on it appeared what threat there was to Lewis was not from across the Mercedes garage.

Ferrari had a fizz-bang from topping the second Friday practice session, then in Saturday morning practice Red Bull stepped in with Max Verstappen heading the order. At the very start of the qualifying hour there also was a pang of excitement as Lewis was but in fourth place after his first effort, shy indeed of the very same Ferrari pair and Verstappen. But as ever it was all illusory. Lewis seized the top spot later in the same run and wasn't really seen again. He got pole at a canter with his opening run of Q3 good enough by a way.

Friday 28 October 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Thirty years on - Prost's finest drive? And not the one you think

Photo: Octane Photography
It's human nature that we remember a finale. But much more often forgotten is how we got there. It can be at least as important.

And so it was 30 years ago. We all remember the magnificent championship showdown in Adelaide; Nigel Mansell's exploding tyre which opened the way for Alain Prost's unlikely but towering achievement to win the title.

But, again, we might have forgotten how we got there. Not least the round before, like this weekend in Mexico, in which Prost's drive was even greater arguably. Certainly it was more pure Prost.

In my latest Grand Prix Times article I look back at that Mexican weekend and Prost's extraordinary effort. You can read it here:

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - The FIA Bans The Verstappen

The United States Grand Prix was a joke in itself. The only saving grace was the brief wheel-to-wheel battle between Carlos Sainz Jr. and Fernando Alonso. The BIG chatter from the weekend was the FIA banning 'The Verstappen' and Venus Williams snubbing Martin Brundle. Shame on you, Williams.

(Martin Brundle drove a race for the Williams F1 Team in 1988 - had Venus Williams known this fact, would she still have snubbed Brundle?)

How do Formula 1 drivers ensure that they don't become victims of 'The Verstappen'? Ask the FIA to ban it! Ridiculous or sensible? Either way, history suggests that the FIA could well un-ban what they've banned in the first place.

Actually, instead of banning 'The Verstappen' the FIA should have Max Verstappen host a session for the other drivers on how to pull of 'The Verstappen'. He's the one driver that's brought some cheer to Formula 1. Okay, Daniel Ricciardo too.

Ricciardo's shoey found yet another victim (in Gerard Butler) and given the fantastic promotion and free publicity for Red Bull, there's good chance that Bernie Ecclestone would ban the shoey if the the FIA didn't. But before the ban, we'd love to see Hamilton's reaction to being shoey-ed by Ricciardo.

Lewis Hamilton started his race well and that meant an expected end too - a much-needed victory. Due to obvious reasons, there's increasingly more focus on his starts and media behaviour. At his 'second' 'home' race, he scored well on both counts.

By the way, an evil move by the FIA to call him in for the official press conference on Thursday. They seem to have a dark side to their humour.

But it wasn't just the FIA alone, even Red Bull Racing's Spy had something really humourous to say on this subject.

It was a shame to not see Max Verstappen on the podium. After all, it wasn't just Red Bull Racing alone, but the organisers too who had prepared well in expectation. His unexpected pit-stop and radio message caused much chatter. But despite his insistence, he might just end up finishing 4th in the Drivers' Championship, if his form and Ferrari's woes continue.

Also, a thumbs up to our listeners and all the Dutch fans for voting for Verstappen as the 'Driver of the Day' even in races he 'Did Not Finish'! And finally, Verstappen's parked car on the circuit brought out the Virtual Safety Car that eventually helped Nico Rosberg jump Ricciardo to second place. How ironic for Ricciardo, how lucky for Rosberg!

Fernando Alonso's drive to fifth showed us glimpses of his old self, but he was lucky in his clash against Felipe Massa. He should've been penalised. So typical of the FIA!

2017 might see cars, drivers and even different management for a few teams. There's talk of Ron Dennis retiring and Ross Brawn, among a few others, being discussed as his replacements.

Brawn is most welcome to come back to Formula 1. But, we're not sure who needs him the most - Ferrari, McLaren or Formula 1! Ferrari's best finish was a Kimi Raikkonen reversing himself in the pit-lane.

Over to Mexico, there's a possibility of Rosberg clinching the Drivers' Championship this weekend. But at the same time, there's possibility his points advantage could be cut down to just one point. The stakes are equally high for both Mercedes drivers, but Hamilton has been here a few times before, as for Rosberg, this is only his second time (first being in 2014).

Maybe this is why he sang 'Living on a Prayer' post the US GP. But he could well be singing 'We are the Champions' if things go his way this weekend. Ecclestone's comments on Rosberg were very rude, but can better be expected from him? He relies on teams, drivers and podcasters like us to market his sport.

Lastly, despite the Hamilton vs. Rosberg fight, Sergio Perez will be the most cheered driver on the grid in Mexico. Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 35)

United States Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Lewis's Lone Star State

Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton seems to love the annual Austin stop-off even more than the rest of us do. And coincidentally or not it's mirrored in results. This time was no different - he bagged his fourth Texan win from five, and once he'd aced his start for once the triumph looked in no doubt at all.

The only trouble for him was that if he did his bit for his title chances, then so did his team mate and antagonist Nico Rosberg, who followed him home. After this one it was in large part as you were. On we go...

I give my take on all of this in my latest Motor Verso race review, which you can read here:

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.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

New Motor Verso article: Is it time to reconsider Rosberg?

What is it with Nico Rosberg? Has any driver ever been so hard to place? Been the subject of so much fevered argument about where they fit?

Photo: Octane Photography
Even now. As he stands somewhere on the cusp on the drivers' title there still is resistance. And in my latest article for Motor Verso I try to unravel why this is. As well as outline why it's time to reconsider,

You can have a read here:

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 24 October 2016

Mexico City Preview - Not what it says on the tin

It was new. But of course it was far from new. It also was far from the usual sort of round that parachutes onto the modern F1 calendar.

Last year's return to Mexico and the Autódromo Hermanos
Rodríguez was a great success
By Luis Urquiza -
22753552172/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.
Not only has Mexico considerable F1 heritage. Not only either did it have already a considerable F1 presence both in drivers and investment. Last year at the start of its latest run as an F1 host it confirmed too that it bows to few when it comes to both the number and the passion of its fans.

Yes - 12 months ago the sport returned to Mexico for the first time since 1992 and indeed to the same, albeit revised, venue in Mexico City. And it was not just for these reasons that it shared little with the typical new-fangled round.

Some 335,850 came through the gates across the three days with 134,850 there on race day - including 40,000 packing out the astonishing baseball stadium section, which hosted the podium ceremony too - and provided a football crowd-type atmosphere. It moved even Niki Lauda to describe it as the best F1 event he had attended.

US GP Report - All you can do...

Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well

Lewis Hamilton cantered to victory
Photo: Octane Photography
So sang Bob Dylan in Buckets of Rain. And appropriately in the self-styled live music capital of the world, Lewis Hamilton harnessed the great songster Dylan in his Austin weekend. He did what he must do, and did it well. The trouble for him was that Nico Rosberg did too.

There was only one real question for Lewis ahead of today's United States Grand Prix - whether he could get off the line with his lead intact. His major bugbear of 2016. He did, and quickly as an observing Nigel Mansell noted it was then a matter of him ticking the laps down. That, at a track and venue he adores, is loosely what he did as well.

"I've been relaxed all weekend and I feel like I knew the start was going to go well," Lewis said later. "That's the first time in the whole year that I didn't spin the wheels.

"The States has been good to me and I don't know why, I love it out here.

"Honestly I don't have any more focus or will or determination when I'm here than I do anywhere else, it's just the track feels great here."

Saturday 22 October 2016

Austin Qualifying - Doing what you must

He needs to bounce back this weekend. And so far, he is.

Lewis Hamilton must deliver in Austin - and so far he is
Photo: Octane Photography
For hardly the first time it's Lewis Hamilton that is preoccupying us F1 folk. Yes, you can talk about the mathematics all you want, but if he is to retain his world drivers' championship crown he simply must get something back on Nico Rosberg in this United States Grand Prix. A deficit of more than the current 33 with 75 available after this one doesn't for him bear thinking about.

But fortunately for him the Circuit of the Americas near Austin is among the first places he'd pick to effect such a bounce back. He's won three out of F1's four Austin visits, while coincidentally or not he tends to beam out of the car during his US stop-off - adoring the support he gets and embracing it apparently as a home-from-home event. And he made good on it in qualifying by bagging a fine pole position. Somewhat incongruously it's actually his first at this track.

"I know - crazy right? It's taken me a while..." he grinned afterwards on that subject. "I've always been quick here, just not perfectly on the qualifying lap for some reason."

Thursday 20 October 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 US Grand Prix Preview

The latest Lights to Flag podcast is among us, and this time Ewan and I were privileged to be joined by Luke Smith of NBC Sports (among other things!) to look ahead to this weekend's US Grand Prix.

We explore what we can expect this weekend, what makes Austin such a popular stop-off, on and off the track, as well as the importance of America to F1 - and the challenges to making it work. In addition we discuss many other matters of moment, including the latest on the drivers' market latest with Nico Hulkenberg's move to Renault confirmed and the question, raised by many in Suzuka, of blue flags.

As ever you can listen via the player below.

You also can interact with the podcast via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too. And if you have comments then get them to us via the various channels and we'll read out the good ones on a future episode!

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Nico Rosberg Should Invite Nicole Scherzinger To The US GP

Is the United States Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton's new home race? Going purely by his Instagram feed, we'd like to believe so. How many of Hamilton's reported girlfriends would cheer him in the Paddock? Would 'Joey' be visiting too? If so, they should broadcast a live car-to-television radio chat between Joey and Hamilton. We actually try simulate what this conversation could be like.

In the 'Race to the White House', who would Hamilton vote for - Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Also, would Bernie Ecclestone's pal, Donald Trump, attend the United States Grand Prix in Austin? Formula 1 is a perfect sport for Trump to invest in and we tell you why. All-in-all,  we hope that being in the United States of America does motivate Hamilton to race as Hamilton - he's been Rosberg-like in the last few races.

Nico Rosberg's best psychological attack on Hamilton would be to invite Nicole Sherzinger to the US GP. It would also be yet another battle that Rosberg would win off-track - since beating Hamilton on-track seems unlikely this season. But Hamilton has always beaten Rosberg in the USA and Rosberg has never won here, will his 'fear of missing out' propel Rosberg to win his 8th first-ever win of the season? Surprisingly, Hamilton copied everything but Rosberg's clutch settings in Suzuka!

Let's hope that Hamilton skipped the Pirelli test due to a sore foot and not a sore thumb - after all, that's what people obsessed with social media suffer from! Moving on from Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg's move to Renault would mean that he would at least go the Fernando Alonso and not the Adrian Sutil way. Good choice, Nico!

If Valtteri Bottas partners Hulkenberg at Renault, should Williams request Felipe Massa to stay back for yet another season? Renault said that they would need five years to be World Champion. Given Renault's commitment phobia to Formula 1, will they be around for that long? It is interesting how Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg have cited Michael Schumacher as an inspiration in their career moves. Should Jenson Button seek some inspiration too?

Finally, we tell you why Ron Dennis' 5 on 10 rating is terrible for McLaren-Honda and how Mark Webber's retirement automatically increases his chances of being subject to Daniel Ricciardo's famous shoey! Seeing how Ricciardo's 'shoe' has suddenly become so popular, will Red Bull Racing hike their sponsorship rates for 'official shoe supplier'?

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 34)

Monday 17 October 2016

Austin Preview: Re-born in the USA

Unfinished business. The itch it couldn't scratch. Call it what you will, but it has applied to F1 in America for much of the sport's history. The world's largest economy, sports mad and likely unparalleled in its attachment to the automobile, plus that F1 purports to have a world championship. But somehow it never added up to the sport pitching a tent Stateside that wouldn't fall down with the slightest gust of wind.

With Austin, F1 finally has got it right in the USA
Photo: Octane Photography
Demonstrating as much there have been no fewer than ten separate US hosts in F1 history (no other country gets close to that total). Some of those hosts have been cringe-worthy too, and for conspicuous stretches there was no US round at all. A few in this current case of Austin expected one or both of these to manifest once again as a few non-encouraging noises came out of the area in advance – the promoter and management company fell out and the project was put into suspended animation for a while.

There was a touch of paradise lost about it all too. F1 contrary to some presumptions did previously get it right in the States, with well-established and popular rounds at Watkins Glen and Long Beach. But both were lost in the early 1980s – Watkins Glen down to fate as the track run out of money; Long Beach down mainly to Bernie playing hardball over the financial terms.

But when everyone arrived in Austin for the first time in 2012 the doom-mongers simply could not have been more wrong.