Monday 29 February 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - How To Measure A Good F1 Test?

Before we get to answering 'How to measure a good F1 test?', we tell you why we were missing in action for a few weeks. We also tell you why we love Formula 1 testing as we try and indicate the 'Sign Of Times To Come' (for 2016). Along the way, we also answer a few other questions in this week’s episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast:
  • Why the silly qualifying changes till be delayed till the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix?
  • Who is the ONE person in the sport not doing his job?
  • Why Lewis Hamilton won't be able to dominate for 10 years? – Why F1 drivers are losing weight?
  • Why Renault's 2016 car has been delayed?
  • Is Rio Haryanto the new Pastor Maldonado?
  • Why Haas's car has the COOLEST name! And why the start to their debut campaign is already ominous.
  • From third grade engine to third sponsor – McLaren Honda woes to continue in 2016?
And finally, has Alain Prost hinted on the sign of times to come?

Tune in! (Season 2016, Episode 05)

Sunday 28 February 2016

F1 2016 Season Preview: Ferrari - All eyes on it

It's not the first time this has been pointed out, but how quickly things change in F1. For most of 2014 Ferrari appeared to be descending into the sort of chaos seen in its worst of days. It got the new formula horribly wrong on just about all fronts, only managed a distant fourth in the constructors' standings and for the first time since 1993 there were no wins. Furthermore in response it became a season of the long knives as discarded management and technical bodies piled up, and indeed the team had no fewer than three team principals in the course of the season, surely a record even at Maranello. By the year's end almost unthinkably its star driver Fernando Alonso was gone too.

Photo: Octane Photography
But quickly in 2015, indeed the definitive confirmation was as early as round two, it became clear that the Scuderia somehow and almost in spite of itself had landed on its feet. Throughout the campaign it was best of the rest by the way and even a regular irritant of the imperious Mercedes. Along the way it bagged three wins which was beyond what at the time seemed a highly ambitious target of two set by its new team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, ex of Marlboro. As I said, things change quickly in F1, and it's in large part because good results on track don't half make all other woes fade to insignificance.

After the flux the pieces settled in something like a better order than what was there before. Arrivabene as it transpired quickly set to work where it mattered, particularly in the team's culture. In 2015's pre-season he said pointedly "when people are under pressure, with everybody trying to cover themselves, this creates a kind of mess into the team." A new way, one in which the time-honoured fear and finger-pointing appeared expunged, was brought in. Then there is the influence of Sergio Marchionne, chairman of FIAT. A man with an astonishing CV and who might be, politely, called a bruiser. Last year at the point of helping himself to the Ferrari chairman role he promised to "kick some ass" and take some risks. That he's done both with the team and with his political muscle flexing on the squad's behalf. Even Ferrari's numbers came in with its driver change, as with a reinvigorated Sebastian Vettel barely a beat was missed.

Saturday 27 February 2016

F1 2016 Season Preview: Mercedes - Bull run

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme". Contrary to popular belief Mark Twain probably didn't actually say that, but the sentiment itself holds truth. And it applies absolutely to F1.

Photo: Octane Photography
It may seem absurd to draw parallels between the expressive arrivistes of Red Bull and the aristocrats of Mercedes, but there are a good few in there, and not just because the torch of F1 dominance was passed directly from one to the other. The Merc squad learnt the lessons from the extended reign of the Milton Keynes squad that came before its own. Like Red Bull it constructed a well-resourced yet nimble organisation with plenty of technical excellence and focused entirely on making F1 cars go quicker. Like Red Bull it saw the opportunity with a big regulation change to vault to the front. And then - in something that perhaps is the most impressive element of the lot - was able to maintain its advantage with almost continuous incremental improvement. Unlike Red Bull it benefits too from clearly the sport's sweetest engine, and one made in-house. But very much as was the case for Red Bull, its pursuers - with all of their changes, posturing and grand proclamations year upon year - don't seem to get any closer to answering the big question of how to topple them.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Formula 1 2016: What to expect, by Edward Wade

With the start of a new Formula 1 season just around the corner who are the front-runners for both the drivers' and the constructors' title? There hasn't been much change in terms of teams from 2015 and with Lewis Hamilton set to dominate, how will 2016 pan out?

Will Mercedes domination continue?

Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton won the drivers' title at a canter last year, as he tied things up with three races to spare. But the rivalry between himself and Nico Rosberg grew even fiercer. Hamilton was accused of being 'too aggressive' when attempting to overtake at the US Grand Prix.

The tensions between the two were largely brushed under the carpet last year, but re-emerged towards the end of the season as Rosberg found his groove. The German found pole position six times and had three wins in the final races.

Even Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has had to admit there are a few niggling issues. He is concerned about the good of the sport and does not want the team to dominate without sufficient competition. "I want the dominance to continue, but if it were to continue like this I need to think what we do so we do not become the enemy." said Wolff whose team has won 32 out of the last 38 races.

Monday 22 February 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Pay drivers ain't what they once were, in more ways than one

Of the many issues that swirl persistently around F1 today there is something that runs through just about all of them. The sense that in this sport things aren't quite what they used to be.

Photo: Octane Photography
This was the case recently even with what you'd have thought would be the inoffensive matter of new car launches. And especially so with the news that Rio Haryanto had claimed the final remaining seat on the 2016 grid, a decision that almost certainly owed much to the money that he brings.

But it's the case too that even the pay driver isn't quite what it used to be, and in more ways than one. As despite the ones we've all heard - such as that Niki Lauda was a pay driver too - the complaints about them right now don't betray mere wistful reflection on the past. Not entirely anyway.

You can have a read of my thoughts on it all here:

Friday 19 February 2016

DRS Has Ruined Formula One, by Kunal Shah

There's a Drag Reduction System (DRS) and then there's a debate on the benefit it offers the sport of Formula 1. To me, both points are absolutely ridiculous.

Photo: Octane Photography
Forty per cent fans believe that DRS has done good to the sport. I beg to differ. It has made the art of overtaking look mechanical, boring and far less heroic than ever before.

Basis my research and to be fair to the brains that introduced the DRS, it was a system that was designed to allow the car following to come closer to the car being followed and offer some wheel-to-wheel to action. But it seems that the drawing board to track implementation of the DRS went the 2015 Honda V6 hybrid engine way.

The advancement and over-dependence on aerodynamics is one of the chief reasons for lack of overtaking on track and hence to be blamed for dumb-ifying overtaking. But I guess this is the sign of times we're in - smartphone, dumb user!

Tuesday 16 February 2016

London Calling - the difficulties of an F1 London Grand Prix

Back when I was a slip of a lad, as someone who a) was even then an F1 obsessive beyond redemption and b) lived near Edinburgh, I took it upon myself to map a potential F1 circuit around Edinburgh's city centre.

Beautiful thing it was too, starting and finishing on the famous Princes Street, taking in the Royal Mile and other well-kent Auld Reekie landmarks and - perhaps adding a touch of the old Nurburgring - having Edinburgh Castle as the circuit's centre piece. Scenic, devilishly undulating and with some spell-binding fast sections. It would have been a Montjuic for the new age.

The idea of a London Grand Prix refuses to go away
By Debot at Dutch Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://
And yet... Perhaps even then in my youthful idealist state somewhere in a dim mental recess I knew it wasn't plausible, even though the wonderful oddball of the F3000 Birmingham Superprix around part of downtown Brum existed at roughly the same time. A flipside of my track's spell-binding fast sections is that they'd have been unlikely to pass safety standards even then - for example at the end of Princes Street with cars pushing 200 mph presumably there was a quick right-left with Calton Hill on one side and a sheer drop on the other to gather anyone who got it wrong. Then there's that very same Royal Mile, which if you've ever visited you'll know is rather narrow, has buildings tightly packed on either side and much of its surface is cobbled... As I grew older and more hard-bitten plenty of other good reasons why all this would never happen seeped into my consciousness too.

But it's good to know I'm not alone when it comes to this sort of fantasising, as well as that such pursuits are not beyond some those of who are all grown up. The concept of a London Grand Prix, perhaps as a street race, is one that despite everything refuses point blank to desist, and it has been that way for years. As Joe Saward reckoned, "about once every two years there is a story about the possibility of a Grand Prix on the streets of London and people ask daft questions about whether it could happen..."

Perhaps it's understandable though, given that more than once just at a point when you hadn't heard about the idea in a while with perfect timing something has come along to give the whole matter the renewed urge that Saward described, jolting it all right back into full vigour.

Monday 15 February 2016

Alas Poor Kevin: The Prince of Denmark Returns, by Joshua Mason

The new F1 season always brings some fresh faces. New young Brit Jolyon Palmer will be one of these. Renault launched its new team this month with a surprise in the driving seat though. Kevin Magnussen, who has sat out an entire year of racing, has returned to F1 for his debut season, take two. Will he make a triumphant return or be driven mad by his seemingly endless unlucky F1 career?

The young Dane has had as fast a decline as he did with his rise through the ranks. Still only 23, Magnussen was a golden child of the McLaren youth development programme. He had a classic tale of prodigy, from Karting through the formulas. His skills and success, including a Renault Formula 3.5 Championship, convinced McLaren to give him his big chance and in 2014 the Dane replaced Sergio Perez.

His start was incredibly promising with a second place finish in the opening race in Melbourne. This was the best place for a debutant since Jacques Villeneuve in 1996. Unfortunately, he never matched it again that year. He made various top tens, but his next best position was the race in Russia when he finished fifth. His fortune started to fail him when, at the end of the season, McLaren’s doubts in him coincided with Fernando Alonso becoming available. Magnussen was demoted back to test driver.

Friday 12 February 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Something's got to change - but let it be the aero as well as the tyres

Photo: Octane Photography
Modern F1 isn't short of bugbears, but you could make a case that of all of them the deliberately-designed-to-degrade Pirelli tyres and their many manifestations is about the chief bugbear out of all of them. They don't provide enough grip which militates against the drivers' ability to get close to other cars and race; further they don't let drivers push at the limit for long.

It therefore was welcome to most to hear of some movement on this in recent weeks, that a delegation of drivers had approached Pirelli asking that the Italian company supplies rubber more like nature intended. And reportedly Pirelli agreed, at least in theory, to comply from 2017 onwards.

But as I argue in my latest article for Grand Prix Times, while this is a good move if done in isolation it may not do much for us all in. I outline that at the same time we should seize the opportunity to tackle the root problem on F1 racing cars' ability to race: aerodynamics.

You can have a read here:

Tuesday 9 February 2016

New Motor Verso article: F1 Cockpit Halos - Creating More Problems?

Cockpit protection is an issue that has lingered over F1 for some years. And often for very good reasons; with these doing something to protect the driver's head - be it with some kind of structure or else a full canopy - has in safety terms felt on occasion a lot like F1's final frontier.

Photo: Octane Photography
It seems also that finally additional cockpit protection has become inevitable for F1 cars, with it reported that the FIA has presented its plans for a cockpit 'halo' to the teams.

But for Motor Verso I wonder the extent that the halo option will add to the protection of drivers, and perhaps even whether it will create a few new problems.

You can read the article 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.

Monday 8 February 2016

New Vital F1 article: There’s nothing new about Maldonado

When it was confirmed recently that Pastor Maldonado was out of F1 for 2016 there was not a great deal of sympathy around. You probably can work out why too - associated as Pastor is in the popular consciousness with crashing, underachievement and his continuing presence in the sport's highest echelon owing mainly to the cash he brought.

Photo: Octane Photography
Yet the ire towards him around reflected something bigger too, that he was seen as somehow embodying problems with modern F1 more generally. Those of drivers having less demanding requirements than used to be the case; that for many drives commerce trumps talent in the consideration.

So, is Pastor emblematic of modern F1's shortcomings? Not really. On Vital F1 I explain that his sort is nothing new, as well as look at his uncanny parallels with his kindred spirit from the 1980s and early 1990s, the equally notorious Andrea de Cesaris.

You can have a read here:

Wednesday 3 February 2016

James Hunt: Girls, Beer and Victory - A photo exhibition in London

© Phipps/Sutton Images Collection
James Hunt, even now several decades on from his sporting heyday, does not lack popularity or recognition among F1 fans. Perhaps he doesn't lack them beyond F1 fans either. Few drivers - possibly few sports people - have embodied their age like Hunt did. Many today just like then are attracted to his devil-may-care persona and to his vibrant lifestyle. It may all have particular resonance today given its contrast to the tepid modern age. It shouldn't be forgotten in among all of this that Hunt wasn't at all short of talent behind the wheel either.

Many of a subsequent generation got to know Hunt as a forthright and insightful BBC TV commentator. While perhaps a few of the generation after that were introduced to him by the Rush film that tracked his celebrated rivalry with Niki Lauda culminating in the 1976 championship showdown in Fuji in which Hunt bagged the F1 world title.

© Phipps/Sutton Images Collection
Marking all of this and more Proud Galleries on 11th February (that's Thursday next week) is launching a photo exhibition in London titled James Hunt: Girls, Beer and Victory. It celebrates the 40th anniversary this year of Hunt's world title mentioned, and the photos gathered will cover Hunt from his time in F3 through to his scaling the high peak of the F1 world championship in Fuji's rain. It also will include images from on track as well as some candid moments from behind the scenes at the circuit and away from it, covering his highs and lows. And as if this all isn't enough it's free to get in too.

© Phipps/Sutton Images Collection
The photos were captured by David Phipps and were put together for the exhibition in partnership with Sutton Images. If you're in or near London in the next few weeks and months it sounds like you'd be well worth checking this exhibition out.

Here are a few details:

When? The exhibition will be open from 11 February to 3 April 2016. It'll be open Monday to Saturday 10am to 7pm; 10am to 6pm on Sundays.

Where? Proud Chelsea, 161 King's Road, London, SW3 5XP (see the map below)

Entry? Free :)

More details: On the Proud website: