Friday 29 April 2016

No Sochi qualifying report from me...

"A beautiful photo on a beautiful wedding"
by - Own work. Licensed under CC
BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Hello all. Just thought I'd let you know in case you were looking that I won't be able to do a qualifying report for the Russian Grand Prix this time, as I've been invited to a wedding this Saturday (not my own, I hasten to add) which means I won't be able to watch the session.

I will be back in place for the Sochi race when normal service will resume!


Wednesday 27 April 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Why Bernie Ecclestone Backs Donald Trump For President

We love Bernie Ecclestone, we do! F1's CEO loves to make controversial statements and we love to extract our pound of humour from those controversies. In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal tell you why Bernie Ecclestone backs Donald Trump for President. And if you're a Hillary Clinton fan, we tell you why he wouldn't back her candidature.

But this episode isn't about Ecclestone alone, we talk about Filipinho Massa's victory over our favourite, Daniel Ricciardo. Massa Jr.'s celebration skills must be applauded - mark of a true champion. Did Felipe hire Max Verstappen's PR agency though to work on his son?

Should we undergo a rule change for 2017? Why is Mercedes resisting it and why is Red Bull Racing for it? Also, what should the rule changes be? We share our perspective and tell you why the teams will always differ in theirs from us fans.

Rio Haryanto seems to be running out of money. Is F1 in BIG trouble if pay drivers run out of money too? Btw, aren't the Indonesian Govt. doing a little too much to fund his race seat? It's a Manor, after all.

In this day and age of super hero movies, it comes as no surprise to us that Super Formula > Formula 1.  And are the new-age 'rocket science' F1 cars no longer attractive for the upcoming drivers too?

Finally, will Lewis Hamilton win his third consecutive Russian Grand Prix OR will Nico Rosberg leave Russia with 100 points? And apart from Vladmir Putin, who else will join the Mercedes drivers on the podium?

Tune in! (Season 2016, Episode 13)

Russian GP Betting Preview - Go for a fastest lap long shot?

Usually after the first three races of an F1 season we have a pretty good sense of the year's likely competitive order, but as we keep pointing out this season so far has hardly been a standard one. This may give additional opportunities to the F1 betting punter ahead of round four this weekend in Russia, and Paddy Power offers a range of odds on the impending Sochi gathering.

The Mercedes pair look worth backing
Photo: Octane Photography
Yet some things look to be fairly clear. As laid out in my Russian Grand Prix preview on this site, the Mercedes drivers are clear favourites for victory in Sochi and for reasons that even are over and above the bare fact that they've won the opening three rounds of this season, as well as the last six of 2015. And you'll get more than double your stake back backing either of its drivers to win again this time, with odds of 6/5 for Lewis Hamilton and 11/8 for Nico Rosberg.

The close odds between the pair reflect too that while Nico has triumphed in all 2016 races thus far there in fact has been little to choose between the two Merc pilots generally other than Lewis's near-monopoly on foul luck. There's also been little to choose between the pair in the previous two Sochi visits, though Lewis has won both of them following something impeding Nico in either Russian race.

Monday 25 April 2016

Sochi Preview: F1's ugly duckling

There's always one, isn't there? That one F1 round people find particularly hard to love. For a while it was Valencia. Then it was the Mokpo venue in Korea. Now dear reader I give you Sochi in Russia.

The Russian Grand Prix in Sochi divides opinion
By, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.
And it has this ugly duckling status for a number of reasons it seems. The race was in many eyes tainted at source, even though Bernie Ecclestone's attempts to get this round onto the F1 calendar stretched back literally decades. A Grand Prix in the Soviet Union to be held on the streets of Moscow appeared on the provisional F1 calendar as long ago as 1983 indeed.

But even by the time that the race finally was penned in to debut in 2014, at that year's Winter Olympics venue of Sochi, plenty thought nevertheless we could wait a little longer. Its very existence was controversial from several months out with unrest in Ukraine and Russia's alleged contribution to it dominating many headlines. Some thought too resultant sanctions would mean the race's money would run out.

A year on too for the second F1 visit as well as Ukraine matters being far from resolved there also was the uneasy background noise of Russia's activity in Syria, including that some of the missiles fired therein weren't landing all that far from the Sochi venue. In both there were concerns more generally about Russia's human rights record and particularly its legislation prohibiting any 'positive mention of homosexuality' in the presence of minors. That Russian President Vladimir Putin has associated himself closely with both F1 visits hardly helped de-couple it all from the event in the minds of onlookers.

Saturday 23 April 2016

Why the mystery of F1's greatest ever hasn't been answered - not even by science

So, that's that settled then. The sport's biggest and most ubiquitous bone of contention. Done. That one of who is the best driver ever, over and above the equipment they had access to. That one we thought near unsolvable given everything. All by a team of academics from the Universities of Sheffield and Bristol, and using statistical analysis.

According to the statistical study,
Juan Manuel Fangio's 
F1's best of all time
By Unknown - Museo Juan Manuel
 Fangio, reimpreso en "La fotografía
en la historia argentina", Tomo I,
Clarín, ISBN 950-782-643-2,
Public Domain, https://commons.
And when its news release announcing this was published just over a week ago it caused quite the stir. All seemed rather monumental indeed. Underlining the view even the (not necessarily always science-loving) Daily Mail proclaimed in its headline that what we had revealed before us was "the best Formula One driver of all time according to SCIENCE". Yes it actually capitalised the word. It was as if we were getting something irrefutable.

The first few on the study's all-time driver ranking - Juan Manuel Fangio top, followed by Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart - are hardly hideous. Michael Schumacher appeared low in ninth but when he was considered from before his first retirement in 2006 only he shot up to third, which again looked fair enough (as an aside, a curiosity about the reporting of this study is that there is more than one list floating about, in addition to the pre/post Schumi lists the one presented in the academic paper has Alonso sixth rather than his widely-reported placing of third, and it's not explained by the Schumi shift apparently as the Daily Mail article at least shows Alonso fourth when Schumi from 2006 and before only is considered).

But then it gets patchy. Stirling Moss is but 35th in the ranking (some 12 places behind Marc Surer) while the likes of Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell, Alberto Ascari, Jochen Rindt and Gilles Villeneuve are simply nowhere to be seen in the top 50. It all gets, um, a little more interesting too as Christian Fittipaldi is in the elevated position of 12th best driver ever while the luminary that is Louis Rosier is placed 19th. And unless this pair were against just about all assessments in fact secret F1 geniuses never given their break in a good car - in addition to the drivers listed above being actually vastly over-rated, again contrary most assessments - it would seem the study has some shortcomings.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: What does Nico trouncing Lewis tell us? Not much - it's a matter of chance

Three races into this season, and at the top the results could hardly be more stark. Nico Rosberg on a maximum three wins; his team mate Lewis Hamilton floundering with barely half of his points.

Photo: Octane Photography
And with this a few have sought to draw significance from it, continuing the sport's default of believing results must tell us something, at some point down the line. About what Nico is doing right or Lewis is doing wrong.

But in my latest article for Grand Prix Times I argue that such a view isn't necessarily helpful, as it reckons without that mysterious thing called random chance. That however much F1 rails against the idea Lady Luck does play a role. And in this case, most of what has gone wrong for Lewis in 2016 so far has in fact been outside of his control.

You can have a read here:

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Lewis Hamilton, Can He? Will He?

With a 36-point deficit in the Drivers' Championship, can and will Lewis Hamilton win his fourth title in 2016? Will Nico Rosberg's lady luck shine all season long? While Ferrari vs. Mercedes might seem to be a farce, Nico Rosberg vs. Lewis Hamilton is serious business, say Mithila and Kunal in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

Apart from Hamilton's race notes, Rosberg needs to read and learn from his party notes. Burger King, like really? And we ask the question everyone wants to - are Hamilton's off-track activities making him lose focus on-track? He might not have anymore jokers left, but isn't he the joker himself?

APPLAUD! All 22 cars finished the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, 3 different teams made it to the podium and Fernando Alonso finished his first full race of the season. APPLAUD!

Could Raikkonen and Ricciardo have raced to the podium had it not been for their opening lap issues? Also, did Mercedes try too hard to get Hamilton to test all of Pirelli's compounds in China? We tell you why Force India is a dream team as they 'follow their leader' and has Haas run out of 'beginner's luck'?

18 driver, 18 bills and 18 credit card payments - it seems that DUTCH is the flavour of the Formula 1 season. We also speculate why Raikkonen, Palmer, Magnussen and Haryanto missed the #racingunited dinner in China.

Finally, 22 minutes to dry a damp patch on the main straight? Whoever said that the Chinese are most efficient!

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 12)

Monday 18 April 2016

Chinese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Stuck On Repeat

Photo: Octane Photography
Really I could have copied and pasted my review of the Bahrain race and used it again. The parallels between that one and the one in China just passed were spooky. Not least for Nico Rosberg who once again had his three nominal rivals with races compromised by the time of the first turn, meaning that even that early the race was his barring the unusual. And the unusual never arrived.

Also just like in Bahrain there was plenty to keep us entertained well behind the imperious Nico. Some fine comeback drives, and rather the soap opera between best-of-the-rest Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat.

I give my take on it all in my latest Motor Verso race review. You can read it 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.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Chinese GP Report - Everything's coming up Rosberg

Ground-hog day, this one in China. It had the same winner, yet again. His third from three this year, and his whole sixth on the spin. And his charmed existence as seen throughout the season so far continued without a join. You'll know who I'm on about. The ubiquitous Nico Rosberg.

Everything went Rosberg's way yet again
Photo: Octane Photography 
In many ways today's Shanghai race simply was an extension of Bahrain's two weeks ago. First corner carnage behind him impacted all of Nico's other three nominal closest challengers, and this put the race into the palm of his hand. In a minor variation Daniel Ricciardo led him off the line this time, but on the soft tyres compared with Danny Ric's not-long-for-this-earth super-softs the Australian was was expected to clear out of Nico's way before long. He did so but under unfortunate circumstances as on lap three one of Ricciardo's rear tyres couldn't handle the excitement and went pop on the main straight (a consequence of debris apparently). Nico smartly took a lead he never was to lose.

From then it was a matter of ticking off the laps, smoothly extending his advantage, occasionally setting a fastest lap presumably to keep himself sharp. Only once, a handful of laps from the end, did he have a minor veer from his racing line groove. But that was your lot. Come the end he was a whole 37 seconds to the good. Yet another maximum was his.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Shanghai Qualifying - Back in the old routine

Today's qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix was one for old stories. Appropriate on a day that F1 returned finally to its previous qualifying system, plenty of long-established tales looked possible. And in the end the main one was that about Mercedes holding all of the aces, and that it plays them to full effect when it most matters. The oldest story of all.

Everything continues to come up Rosberg
Photo: Octane Photography
The first story of the day in Shanghai was one with a old whiff, well from 2014 anyway. That Lewis Hamilton for some reason cannot get a clean weekend this campaign. We knew in advance he'd get a five-place grid drop at least for this one due to having to replace his gearbox ahead of time, but in the qualifying session for him it got worse. Much worse. He didn't appear for a while due to engine woes, then when he did with six minutes of Q1 to go it transpired it was mainly done as there was little to lose and the problem was far from solved. He aborted after a lap as ERS problems had cooked his goose, and is consigned to start last tomorrow with a new engine, once again in damage limitation mode. It won't be much compensation to him presumably that it'll be entertaining for the rest of us watching him proceed through the pack.

"These things are sent to try us" he later mused philosophically, before adding looking ahead to the race while "you can overtake here, tyres don't last as well", but "it ain't over 'till it's over". As for his Mercedes? "It is quick".

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Vettel - Ecclestone, F1's CEO

Sebastian Vettel recently said that he fails to understand the 'selfie generation' and social media. This is possibly why he is 'most suited' to replace Bernie Ecclestone as F1's oh-so-important CEO, say Mithila and Kunal in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast.

The leaked payment reports also indicated that McLaren Honda were paid nearly $82 million in 2015 - a tad too much to pay for entertainment alone! On that note, will Fernando Alonso miss racing in China too? Another chance for Stoffel Vandoorne to be the next Max Verstappen?

Honda announced that they will focus on 'power' in their 'power' units; a season too late? And we also bring to you our special feature - 'Hamming Around With Lewis Hamilton'.

After being humiliated by Fernando Alonso in public a few weeks ago, Johnny Herbert decided to strike back via a video starring his arch-rival, Lewis Hamilton.

Could the famous 'MSC' abbreviation be back in F1? Why the Chinese Grand Prix could be shorter? And finally, why Hamilton might have none or very few followers in China?

And btw, F1 now has a Tinder-type app for their Paddock Club guests. We tell you more, tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 11)

Monday 11 April 2016

Shanghai Preview: Mysteries of China

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

The vast, inimitable, Shanghai facility
CC BY-SA 2.0,
Many of the characteristics will be familiar, particularly when compared with the previous round in Bahrain and with the one that follows in Russia. A Government-backed Grand Prix in a country that might be termed a coming economy; a round that appears more motivated by national promotion than of making a successful event per se; a squeaky-clean and towering Hermann Tilke-designed facility that at its first visit felt like a distinct stride on from what had been seen before. Even now indeed no other venue rivals the Chinese one for vastness - paddock occupants reckon they walk further in the Shanghai weekend than in any other.

And a bit-of-everything layout, with a long straight - underlining the theme of vastness China's is reckoned to be the longest in the sport - and a big stop at the end created with overtaking in mind, as well as a trademark Tilke fast esses part elsewhere. Like the Bahrain venue we've just been to as well this one arrived on the calendar in 2004, and a little like that one it's thought even with its bit-of-everything quality as among Tilke's less free-flowing, being more tight and technical.

Sunday 10 April 2016

New Motor Verso article: What’s Going On With F1 Qualifying?

Photo: Octane Photography
One way or another the 2016 F1 season so far has been the season of the qualifying session. Not for good reasons either. An excruciating new system was introduced, then after its excruciating nature was confirmed it was retained for another round nevertheless, and looked for a time that it might be retained for round three as well. Only in recent days, after any amount of wrangling, was the obvious done and it agreed to return to the 2015 system.

For Motor Verso I do my best to explain what it was all about. And no, despite appearances it wasn't actually all about qualifying. It wasn't simply that all involved were idiots either. Well, not entirely anyway.

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.

1982 and all that - is history repeating?

Nineteen Eighty-Two. For the historically-minded F1 fan the rather Orwellian air isn't inappropriate. Even in a sport rarely shy of providing notoriety it was a season that has strong claim to being its most notorious of all. It was possessed of almost everything, both highs and moreover desperate and extreme lows.

For extreme ill and some good, the 1982 F1 season
is possibly F1's most notorious
By Dijk, Hans van / Anefo / neg. stroken, 1945-1989, 2.24.01.
05, item number 932-2344 -
ad1aa58a-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl,
And was one of a sort that perhaps is being repeated now. To an extent at least. Thankfully the worst of the 1982 season's depths look unlikely to be replicated this time; as most probably will not the scaling of the higher peaks. But the family resemblance is there.

You'll be aware that F1 right now is in a state of civil war. That some political wrangle or other is at all points it seems elbowing into view. F1 in 1982 was just the same.

It even then as now had roughly the same protagonists, and literally the same in the case of Bernie Ecclestone. Though unlike now the warring factions then were Bernie and his FOCA organisation set against the FIA (or FISA at its sporting arm was then known) and particularly against its autocratic head Jean-Marie Balestre. Now Bernie and the FIA are allies, and they are allied against the teams. Again the rather Orwellian whiff is present - three 'superstates' of the governing body, commercial rights holder and teams in perpetual war, alliances shifting like water.

Friday 8 April 2016

Top trophy winners in Formula One, by Aford Awards

Formula One racing is one of the most thrilling sports around. It's been a recognised sport for approximately 60 years now, where it has constantly developed into the nail-bitingly exciting sport we know today.

To the victor, the spoils
Photo: Octane Photography
As the sport has morphed and grown, so has the variety of its winners and notable drivers, with many of them becoming celebrities in their own right.

Of course, with sports comes winners, and with winners comes awards - particularly trophies. So, what is it about Formula One trophies that make them stand out from the crowd compared to other sports?

The history of Formula One trophies is a rich one; there's been that many winners and extraordinary efforts made over the last few years that it’s very difficult to only pick a select few.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Take the Ultimate F1 Circuit Quiz

With the 2016 F1 season now in full swing JCT600 has created an F1 quiz intended to put even the most knowledgeable of fans to the test. It challenges you to see how much you know about some of the most famous and evocative tracks in F1 history.

You can have a go at the quiz below, and even better if you share your result you have a chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher!

The terms and conditions are here.

And without wishing to blag, I got a clean sweep. Probably more a reflection of me being tragic than anything else, but hey...

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Power Struggles Trouble Formula One

The repeat mismanagement of the qualifying fiasco has brought Formula 1's power struggles to the fore, say Mithila and Kunal in this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast. While the FIA & FOM seem to have ganged up against the teams, the fans have been neglected yet again. And for a change, the drivers too.

Given that the 'three tyre compound' rule seems to be working wonders for the sport, the duo wonder if this was a fluke decision after all. Also, does it make the sport a tad too confusing at times? We tell you why we prefer tyre strategy over fuel strategy.

Nico Rosberg's victory in Bahrain was long overdue, but the same can be said about his career as well. Whether the 'five consecutive wins' statistic works for him or not, Rosberg is a true champion and we tell you why.

As for Lewis Hamilton, he seems better in finishing races than starting them; will this prompt a rule change by the FIA-FOM to help him back to his winning ways? We discussed the Hamilton-Bottas incident and wonder if the FIA Stewards are missing Pastor Maldonado this season.

Fernando Alonso might have missed performing on track in Bahrain, but he did make up for it via a stellar performance on LIVE TV with Johnny Herbert. Clap! Clap! And we wouldn't be surprised if Stoffel Vandoorne reluctantly returned the keys of the McLaren Honda back to Alonso for China.

Lastly, are Ferrari pushing their development agenda at the cost of reliability? And did you know that three out of Kimi Raikkonen's last four podium finishes came at circuits where there was no alcohol served (on the podium).

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 10)

Tuesday 5 April 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Why Fernando Alonso's not done yet

One way or another Fernando Alonso was the talk of the Bahrain steamie last weekend. And this despite not driving his McLaren so much as the distance of a Pirelli's circumference.

Photo: Octane Photography
He had to sit out of Bahrain proceedings, as following on from his spectacular Melbourne barrel-roll he had a broken rib. But given it's Alonso this fairly straightforward development had to be accompanied by rumour and invective. Not least from Johnny Herbert who suggested that it was all a sign of Alonso lacking commitment and opined that he should retire.

In my latest article for Grand Prix Times though I rebut Herbert's claims, as well as more generally outline why Alonso is far from being done yet.

You can have a read here:

Monday 4 April 2016

Bahrain Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Things go for Rosberg

Here is my latest Motor Verso race review, this time for the Bahrain Grand Prix just passed.

Photo: Octane Photography
Just like in Australia, wrangles off-track threatened to dominate the Sakhir weekend. Just like in Australia, the excruciating qualifying system was used. Just like in Australia too through, the race despite everything turned out to be a diverting one. And just like in Australia, everything's coming up Rosberg. Still.

For Motor Verso I give my take on all that went on at the Sakhir track. 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.

Sunday 3 April 2016

Bahrain GP Report - Rosberg keeps rollin'

When things are rolling for you, they roll for you. Really, you enter a race with three credible rivals, yet one has dropped out before the race has even started and the other two have had their days severely compromised as quickly as the point of exiting turn one. Already the day is as good as yours. It's hard to imagine how it gets much better.

Nico Rosberg had another win come his way
Photo: Octane Photography
That's exactly what happened to Nico Rosberg in today's Bahrain Grand Prix. First off Sebastian Vettel didn't last even to the end of the parade lap, his Ferrari engine going pop; redolent of Michael Schumacher in France 20 years ago. The red cars' reliability hasn't looked near to being perfect in the 2016 calendar year and in this instance F1 once again demonstrated that it abides closely by Murphy's Law.

Then neither Lewis Hamilton nor Kimi Raikkonen got good starts. Worse for Lewis a rather lairy Valtteri Bottas hit him at the first corner, the upshot of it all was that Kimi was P5 and Lewis could continue but in P7. Worse still for Lewis was that his car was damaged, particularly in the floor, and some later spoke of it costing him up to a second a lap. For more than one reason he was condemned to damage limitation. While moreover the matter of first place was done pretty much by the first turn.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Sakhir Qualifying - Lewis lights up the gloom

Light and shade, this F1. Light and shade.

Lewis Hamilton made it two poles from two in 2016
Photo: Octane Photography
And rarely can it have been more markedly the case than in today's Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session. Not merely either because it is one of the few run under artificial illumination.

The notorious flopped qualifying format did no better than when it debuted in Melbourne two weeks ago, as everyone worth listening to said it wouldn't. The long spells of empty track; cars being eliminated while sat in the garage; that the final grid was not the jumbled one that the system was designed to create. All were repeated pretty much exactly as in its excruciating first outing. Albert Einstein's definition of insanity - of doing the same thing and expecting different results - was quoted endlessly. Surely now we'll never see its like again.

But in another repeat of a fortnight ago the awful system at least provided a worthy pole winner. In fact it did so even more emphatically than then, as the lap that took it was as extraordinary as it was unexpected. Just like then Lewis Hamilton won out. Unlike then this was one taken against the head.

Friday 1 April 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Ferrari Should Sign Max Verstappen

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, Mithila and Kunal tell you why Ferrari should sign up Max Verstappen at the expense of letting go the yet-to-find-form Kimi Raikkonen.

We explain why there's no 'crisis in Formula 1' and wonder what Haas Racing's real pace is. As we THANK GOD that Flavio Briatore isn't Bernie Ecclestone's successor, we wonder if Formula 1 needs a Narendra Modi too?

The dubious qualifying format, Pirelli tyres, Ferrari vs. Mercedes - so much to look forward to in Bahrain, including Toro Rosso scoring their first points ever? And obviously, there's no incentive to race to the podium in Bahrain for Kimi Raikkonen (we tell you why!).

And finally, did Kunal crack his best F1 joke ever in this episode? Tune in and find out.

(Season 2016, Episode 09)