Saturday 30 July 2016

Hockenheim Qualifying - Enigma machine

Somehow, almost no matter what, everything adds up to ensure the enigma that is Nico Rosberg.

Nico Rosberg, one way or another,
bounced back to claim pole
Photo: Octane Photography
It seems just when we think we have clarity of where he sits in the scheme of things, something happens almost immediately to confuse the matter anew - and this has been the way for years.

This for Nico comes in the form both of for good and for ill, but in this German Grand Prix meeting thus far we have had just our latest case of when we all thought we could conclude confidently that finally he is in firmly Lewis Hamilton's shadow, he leaps straight back into the spotlight. We never learn either. Perhaps none of us - least of all him - would have it any other way.

Following the Hungarian race last weekend indeed in which his previously-towering championship lead was chopped down to a deficit - the culmination of a devastating run of form from Lewis - we thought that was that. That last weekend and this he has rather been at the centre of controversy, double yellow flags and all, hardly will help, we thought. But not so. As ever when tracking Nico's trajectory as the adage goes we started out confused and ended up confused on a higher level.

Friday 29 July 2016

Choppy Waters still ahead of Red Revival, by Ewan Marshall

Another week, another hurdle for the Prancing Horse to navigate. But are the latest developments at Ferrari cause for concern or simply part of the course in its search for supremacy?

Only a day after Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene called on critics to leave the team "in peace" to address its problems, news broke that its technical director James Allison would depart with immediate effect.

Maurizio Arrivabene and James Allison have parted ways
Photo: Octane Photography
Allison, who previously worked for Ferrari between spells at Larousse and Enstone-based Formula One team, is highly regarded within the motor sport world and was thought key in returning the team to glory. Initial signs were positive, with the Englishman helping extinguish memories of a winless 2014 with three victories last season.

Of course, tragic developments in Allison's private life have been well documented by other outlets. Whether this was instrumental in his decision remains speculative, however his expertise will surely be missed by Ferrari, and will be fought over among its rivals should he wish to make a swift return to the sport.

2016 was a year which promised so much for the Prancing Horse, even if talk of wresting the championships from the ever-dominant Mercedes team seemed highly unlikely.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Kimi Raikkonen Finally Wins Something

Kimi Raikkonen finally won something - the 'Driver of the Day' in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Did Max Verstappen's fans vote for him as a 'thank you' gesture for not overtaking their driver again? And of course, we applaud Lewis Hamilton's perfect race start - one that took him nearly 10 races to master. Not to forget, his 'international hand gesture' to a lesser known Esteban Gutierrez.

Nico Rosberg’s third (or fourth?) consecutive date with the FIA Stewards? Did they pull him up three hours after qualifying because they didn’t have better Saturday night plans? We tell why it is brave of Mercedes and Nico Rosberg to extend their contract by two full seasons. Pascal Wehrlein might not be the only one; the news of their extension has upset a hopeful Pastor Maldonado too.

Max Verstappen vs. Kimi Raikkonen, yet again. Martin Brundle termed Verstappen's defence against Raikkonen as 'junior formulae' like. Then we wonder why watch Formula 1 if 'junior formulae' racing can be this much fun! Also, Formula 1's ticket sales grew 6% in 2015. That's also the year Max Verstappen started racing - just saying!

P7 and applaud for Fernando Alonso's consistency. Are McLaren-Honda the best of the rest really? Anyway, who will have the last laugh - Alonso or Vettel? They've differed in their bets on Ferrari being THE team to beat Mercedes in the near future.

Ferrari's desperation in wanting to win in Formula 1 shows in their approaching Ross Brawn. We'd love to see them reunite and re-work their magic, but it seems highly unlikely. And will Williams sign Red Bull Racing's to-be-fired Daniil Kvyat?

It seems that the FIA tend to get more ridiculous each time we point our their ridiculousness. So its best we leave aside the recent 'radio rules' clarification, much like we did so to the 'elimination based' qualifying format or the double points system.

Our heart goes out to Bernie Ecclestone's family in the wake of the news of his mother-in-law (who is by the way younger than him) being kidnapped in Brazil. We try and wonder who these kidnappers could be - on a lighter note only.

Nico Rosberg and Mercedes' home is the upcoming German Grand Prix. While they will win, will he? We've got the second half of the season ahead of us and all to play for. Game on!

(Season 2016, Episode 25)

New Grand Prix Times article: Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari myths and realities

Perhaps the only thing that 'always' applies to F1 history - being as it is such a varied thing - is that we should 'always' be sceptical if someone claims something was 'always' the case.

Photo: Octane Photography
And this again has been useful again recently. When to some surprise and/or consternation Ferrari confirmed during the Silverstone weekend that Kimi Raikkonen was being kept on for another season, many sought to explain the decision by stating it was in keeping with how Ferrari had 'always' been. That it's always sought to have a strict number one and number two relationship in its pilot pairing, and it's always been conservative in its driving selection.

But as I explain in my latest article for Grand Prix Times these people need to brush up on their history, as if anything the opposite is true. And therefore the reasons for Kimi's retention likely lie elsewhere. You can have a read of it here:

Monday 25 July 2016

Hockenheim Preview: Back in the old routine

Nothing really about modern F1 should surprise you. And the modern F1 calendar has desensitised us more than just about anything else apparently. Really, that there has been no French Grand Prix for near enough a decade, and that there is little sign of its return, should seem like something from a farce. But it's reality, almost to the point of being habitual. The British Grand Prix was about as absurdly in Bernie Ecclestone's cross-hairs for a while. These days even grand old Monza is under threat of being exiled.

After two years away, the German Grand Prix -
and Hockenheim - are back
Photo: Octane Photography
And it afflicts the German Grand Prix too, which last season became the latest to drop from the calendar with a conspicuous clunk. A wealthy and populous country, with a vast and prestigious car industry. A country that provides four current F1 drivers, one of whom has won four titles and another led the world championship table until last weekend. It also is the home race of the world champion constructor, which also just so happens to be a glittering motorsport and motoring marque. But disappear the race did. Only in F1, you suspect.

Now though after a year away it returns, back at Hockenheim. The gap came about due to that one of the alternating hosts, the Nurburgring, fell into financial bother. Rather topping off the absurdity the other host, the very same Hockenheim, didn't fancy stepping into the breach as it didn't want to make its financial loss from staging the race every 12 months rather than every 24...

Hungarian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Lewis's cruise control

Don't let the fact that his team mate Nico Rosberg was close at hand throughout fool you. This one was a cruise for Lewis Hamilton. A race decided in effect at turn one also. That it was the Englishman's fifth Hungarian Grand Prix win - a track that clearly is happy hunting ground for him - and that it was is fifth win from the last six rounds were outcomes that were more in keeping with what actually was going on.

Photo: Octane Photography
Not that the closeness likely did fool you if you were one watching Sunday's fare, as if one is to be euphemistic the race was hardly thrill a minute. Still there were plenty of worthy performances on show, not least from Lewis. He also now - in something that would have sounded astonishing just a few weeks ago - leads the drivers' table. Despite appearances sometimes, not everything in F1 is humdrum.

You can read my take on it all in my latest Motor Verso race review, which is 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 24 July 2016

Hungarian GP Report - Five star

It was all the fives for Lewis Hamilton. His fifth Hungarian Grand Prix win. His fifth win from the last six races.

Now you see it - Lewis Hamilton claimed yet another win
Photo: Octane Photography
And if his previous weekend at Silverstone had a lot of the 'red five' Nigel Mansell about it, this one was more like another, less celebrated, Williams pilot from the past with a number five on his car. Thierry Boutsen, who claimed one of his three F1 wins by taking pole at the Hungaroring in 1990, then simply repelling all attacks all race from those behind and never making a mistake, on this one of the toughest tracks to pass on.

That's loosely what Lewis did today. He didn't look the fastest out there the whole time - perhaps a legacy of his momentum lost from his Friday practice crash - but on the sinewy Hungary track position is not so much nine-tenths of the law but ten-tenths. Or should that be five-fifths? Lewis fully exploited that fact, controlling things out front and winning at the lowest possible speed. We shouldn't be too disparaging either, even the man Lewis reveres, Ayrton Senna, won more than one Hungarian race this way. That's the game here.

After qualifying in which Lewis had pole nabbed from under his nose at the last by his team mate Nico Rosberg, it appeared for the reasons above among others that it was going to be a long Sunday for him. Overtaking was off the agenda virtually, while Mercedes as we know usually gives strategy preference to the car ahead. That left the start, not always the most fruitful line of attack for Lewis this season, as about his only opportunity to get ahead. But this time, one way or another, it worked for him. His launch was great, better than Nico's, but he seemed to lose momentum in the second phase (the man himself said he was "just being cautious with the wheelspin" knowing he had a good launch) and Nico edged back ahead and Max Verstappen attacked from behind, as did the other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo on the outside. But Lewis had the inside line and was able to claim the lead with a brave late-braking manoeuvre, and that oh-so nearly resulted in yet more contact with his team mate after he locked his rears. The day, suddenly, had turned.

Saturday 23 July 2016

Hungaroring Qualifying - Nico plays to the whistle

As they say in football, play to the whistle. Nico Rosberg played to the whistle in today's extended, fragmented and madcap Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session, and as his reward fired in a last minute winner. One rather against the run of play too. To borrow from the great John Arlott, a man who did football commentaries occasionally indeed, it was a strike so late so as to be positively posthumous.

One way or another, Nico Rosberg bagged pole
Photo: Octane Photography
Pole, which had looked too far from his grasp, is his. That is the bottom line, but boy did we have some adventure and counter-adventure in getting there. The strange way pole was won therefore had a certain aptness. In a sport not short of crazy, interrupted and extended qualifying sessions it is genuinely difficult to cite one from the past that was quite as extreme in all three as today's. It had started with something like a deluge commencing around 45 minutes prior to qualifying's scheduled start, and which was continuing with something like the same intensity both as that intended and the actual start times arrived. The first part of quali alone indeed took a whole 74 minutes thanks to rain delays and various stoppages due to the weather and accidents - almost as long as a Monza race... Even when the track became good for slicks the odd puddle and alternative hazard lingered.

Yet to cut a very long story short (one that one observer compared to War and Peace), Lewis Hamilton - a man who usually has the Hungaroring to himself - looked like he would again. A crash on Friday had threatened to lose him momentum and indeed this morning in practice he was nowhere. In a wet-to-dry qualifying too with times typically tumbling Lewis dodged a bullet by messing up his final Q2 effort and he only just survived by a tenth.

Monday 18 July 2016

Hungaroring Preview: The 30th birthday of modern F1

The Hungaroring is important. No, really.

When a sceptical fraternity scanned its eyes across the all mod cons Mogyorod facility for the first time in 1986, perhaps not even they will have appreciated the fork in the F1 road that it signposted. One for the sort of venues the circus would up sticks in at least.

The Hungaroring, now on its 30th anniversary,
represented a big shift in F1 venues
Photo: Octane Photography
As if you were to muse over the sort of track that dominates the calendar these days, particularly the newer events, no doubt a few things would come to mind. Purpose built from the ground up just for F1. Super safe. All clean lines and vast architecture, with an accompanying sense that pretty much everything has been thought of. And all is bankrolled by the national government keen to 'brand' the country. But with it comes an attendant nag that something intangible - the well-worn charm, and much of the challenge too - has been lost in the transition.

Well of these Hungary's Hungaroring, the scene of the latest F1 gathering this weekend coming, was likely the very first (contrary to some belief Jerez which debuted earlier that year doesn't count as it hosted a motorcycle race first). And it's especially important this time, as this visit marks its 30th (gulp) anniversary as a Grand Prix venue. Modern F1 - 30 years young. A disquieting thought.

Friday 15 July 2016

British Grand Prix Talking Points encapsulate sport’s wider dilemma, by Ewan Marshall

The British Grand Prix always feels like the halfway point in the season, a circuit which lays bare the current pecking order and sets the tone for the remainder of the year. It has often been the scene of great controversy as well as fond memories. Sunday proved no different, providing a microcosm of all that's good and not-so-good about the sport.

The safety car start caused consternation
Photo: Octane Photography
Attending a Grand Prix is not cheap. Therefore, it is always disappointing for fans at the circuit when the start of a race and the hustle of the opening laps are abandoned in favour of the safety car. Unfortunately this is becoming all too frequent in modern day Formula One. Although Pirelli provide teams with a wet weather tyre, these seem to appear more for demonstration than to be driven in anger.

Yes there was plenty of standing water in parts before the lights went out on Sunday, but it was evident after only a handful of laps that the drivers were ready to go racing and that the cross over between wets and intermediates was already starting. Instead, the safety car over stayed its welcome and deprived us all of a chance to see the 'great leveller' bring out the best in the field. The fact that around half the pilots pitted for new tyres immediately after the green flag said it all, with the rest following suit a lap or two later.

Thursday 14 July 2016

The Making of the Silverstone Grand Prix Trophies

After another great Silverstone Grand Prix that concluded with Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen on the podium collecting the trophies we wanted to bring you the story behind the creation of the trophies that were awarded this year.

The four F1 trophies presented on the
Silverstone podium last weekend
The company that was lucky enough to design and create the trophies for this years British Grand Prix was Kent based trophy company Aford Awards. The trophy makers worked hard for nearly four months on designing and manufacturing the trophies to make them fit for the world's top racers.

The Brief 
The process wasn't an easy one, with the brief provided stating that the trophy needed to resemble a cup and be as large as possible, as long as it fitted with the F1 guidelines. There are strict rules within F1 regarding branding on trophies, however, Silverstone were eager to incorporate their well-known logo into the overall design of the trophy.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

British Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Lewis's Home Advantage

Some drivers definitely have it; others definitely do not. As for Lewis Hamilton? He's firmly in the former camp. It's the ability to exploit home advantage that I'm on about. Lewis won at Silverstone yet again. Not for the first time either he looked untouchable for the most part.

Photo: Octane Photography
Not even the worst of the British summer weather could interrupt his march, nor could the stewards - who included his kindred spirit Nigel Mansell among their number - taking a qualifying time off him. The drama instead was behind him, particularly around Nico Rosberg and the plot thickening on the notorious new radio restriction rules. And, oh yeah, that only a solitary point separates the two Mercedes pilots in the table now.

You can read my take on it all in my latest Motor Verso race review, which is 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 - HAM & VES, F1's Dream Team?

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, what rock stars! Both drivers were on top if their game at the British Grand Prix. Can any constructor manage to pull off the dream team pairing of Hamilton and Verstappen?

Hamilton nearly collided with the Safety Car, clearly he is most susceptible to crash with another Mercedes when it is leading! After Max Verstappen's gutsy overtake on Nico Rosberg, his popularity among British fans has risen exponentially. Speaking of popularity, Verstappen won the 'Driver of the Day' award again - seems Verstappen and his fans outperformed Hamilton and his fans!

The radio ban continues to make news, after Nico Rosberg was penalised for breaking rules. Will breaking the radio ban become the newest strategic weapon for teams? If so, which team will be the first to do so? Rosberg also visited the stewards for the third time in eight days, what’s going on there.

Rosberg was endlessly booed on the podium, revenge for fans or bad sportsmanship? Niki Lauda breached the bro code by trash talking Hamilton and then conveniently 'retracted' his statements. Kimi Raikkonen signed a new contract with Ferrari and happy to have disappointed some people by doing so (this includes Kunal!). Honda finally admitted that no other F1 team wanted to partner with them and we wonder why (not!). Lastly, Formula 1's legendary driver Pastor Maldonado found a way to bring himself in the news again.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 24)

Sunday 10 July 2016

British GP Report - Après le déluge, moi

It was just like the French revolution in reverse. No really, stay with me.

There was a lot of regal pomp about Lewis Hamilton's British
Grand Prix weekend. Here he greets his subjects.
Photo: Octane Photography
"Après moi, le déluge" ("After me, the deluge") was said famously by King of France Louis XV, or perhaps by his most famous lover, Madame de Pompadour. Meaning probably that after his reign there would be revolutionary upheaval. On which he or she was proved right, in time.

In today's British Grand Prix we started with something like a deluge, but after that it was all about one person. Which was the same one person as it had all been about in the British Grand Prix gathering prior to the deluge too. Appropriately, Lewis Hamilton's home race and weekend had a lot of regal pomp about it. And his amassed subjects seemed pleased with it too.

Not even the worst of the British summer weather could halt him. And we got just the worst, and at the worst moment. After a couple of days of iffy weather and leaks of precipitation over the Northamptonshire former airfield, and just when the consensus had formed that the rain would in fact stay away for the race after all, around 20 minutes before the start there was a very British cloudburst. It meant that for the off the circuit was thoroughly saturated, to the point that puddles gathered and rivers ran.

Saturday 9 July 2016

Silverstone Qualifying - Channelling your inner Nige

We all know about Lewis Hamilton and his Ayrton Senna inspiration. He mentions it often, and even if you had up until now managed to miss it he'd noted it yet again already this weekend, by reciting that infamous "if you don't go for a gap…" line (though don't get me started on that one).

Lewis Hamilton dominated in front of his adoring public
Photo: Octane Photography
Nothing wrong with taking a Senna inspiration of course, it's Lewis's right. But whatever is the case I've long felt Lewis in fact has stronger parallels with others among the sport's revered names of the past. In this brew there's a distinct dash of the later-years Gilles Villeneuve, mixed in with rather a lot of Nigel Mansell.

Now, the parallels may not initially at least seem obvious between the cloth-cap wearing every-man 'Our Nige' and the outlandish and Holywood A-list mingling Lewis. But there are in fact plenty. Uncannily so.

Aggressive racers, astonishingly brave, something of the showman, possessed also though an emotional streak, sometimes manifested in the occasional sulk, and possessed also of a probably related tendency to divide opinion, but with a heart-on-sleeve nature that never seems contrived. And an almost unwavering - again uncanny - ability to attract drama somehow. You could be talking about either of them just as easily.

Friday 8 July 2016

Ferrari opts to play long game as Raikkonen retains 2017 seat, by Ewan Marshall

There was no fanfare as Ferrari announced Kimi Raikkonen would remain with the team for 2017. No frills. No added extras. What you see is what you get.

To a little consternation, Kimi Raikkonen retention by
Ferrari for 2017 was confirmed today
Photo: Octane Photography
The decision has poured water over recent speculation that the Scuderia was looking to take another direction in its quest to overhaul rivals Mercedes on-track.

While predictable of a team which favours experience and stability notoriously, one could ask why it opted to make the announcement now, with the season not even half-way through.

Since his return to Ferrari in 2014, Raikkonen has only shown glimpses of the form which brought his sole world crown during his first tenure with the Prancing Horse in 2007-2009. Comfortably out-muscled by Fernando Alonso in their brief spell together, the Finn has fared better since being paired with Sebastian Vettel, but not enough to suggest he would ever be champion again.

New Grand Prix Times article: What did Austria’s kerb-hopping tell us about modern F1 drivers?

The single weekend's gathering of F1 folks in Austria's Spielberg region just passed packed in an astonishing number of distinct pieces of drama, perhaps as many as we'd expect across a whole swathe of a season. One of them looked for a time like it would dominate though, at least until Seb Vettel's tyre went pop and certainly until, you know, that on the final lap.

Photo: Octane Photography
That is, yellow 'baguette' kerbs on the outside of many turns and good for breaking F1 cars if you ran one over them. Drivers it seemed were maddeningly reluctant to twig this seemingly basic premise though, and as a result no fewer than four suspension breakages across Friday and Saturday were witnessed.

Many observers were exasperated at this, concluding 'why don't they just stay off the kerbs?' Simples. Some went further and thought it all said something unflattering about the decadent modern F1 pilot. Not like in the good old days.

In my latest Grand Prix Times article though I argue that the opposite is true. That the kerb-hopping showed F1 drivers' fundamental nature, and one that likely has been the way for decades. One that is gladiatorial. You can have a read here:

Thursday 7 July 2016

Ferrari Will Be Forced To Re-Sign Kimi Raikkonen, by Kunal Shah

In the last month, three of Ferrari's strongest prospects to replace Kimi Raikkonen all had their extended contracts with Red Bull Racing confirmed. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will be locked with Red Bull Racing till end of 2018 whereas Carlos Sainz Jr. has got a one year extension with Red Bull Racing's sister team, Toro Rosso. This is exactly why I keep saying that Red Bull Racing is Ferrari's Junior Driver Program! They hired Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull Racing a couple of seasons ago.

Is Kimi Raikkonen long for this Ferrari earth?
Photo: Octane Photography
Ferrari's decision to wait on Kimi Raikkonen might just backfire. They've issued statements that Raikkonen needs to prove that he deserves a seat at Ferrari and that they aren't in a hurry to decide their driver line-up for 2017. Has Ferrari's patience cost them a shot at signing the sport's best racing talent? I would think so.

Kimi Raikkonen 2.0 hasn't been the same since he moved to Ferrari. The former World Champion has rarely matched his illustrious team-mates and I will use a phrase that's been overused to describe the Finn - 'a shadow of his former self'. Alain Prost's suggestion to Ferrari to stick with Raikkonen for 2017 to maintain stability might hold some might, but it isn't something I would subscribe to if I were Ferrari.

What Makes A McLaren Infographic, by Rybrook Specialist Cars

As McLaren continues to impress with the launch of further Sports Series models, Rybrook the specialist car resource page has taken the chance to admire and celebrate this incredible high performance specialist car by looking at the McLaren DNA. And this of course includes the organisation's founder Bruce McLaren as well as owes much to the iconic and decorated F1 team. It all is below, enjoy...

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Team orders should remain last resort for Mercedes as driver rivalry takes another turn, by Ewan Marshall

"Brainless" Toto Wolff exclaimed, reacting to yet another chapter in the infamous rivalry between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes chief was clearly incensed by the last lap tangle at the end of a thrilling Austrian Grand Prix which cost the team a certain one-two and six points in the constructors' championship. And rightly so! After all, the fallout could have been much worse had stewards decided to make an example of Rosberg for his robust attempts at defending.

How do you solve a problem like Lewis and Nico?
Photo: Octane Photography
The Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry is at a crossroads like never before, as the season reaches a crucial stage and as pointed out in an earlier article, this is not the first time the duo have clashed on track, nor the last should previous trends continue. The fact that these antics make Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost's time together look tepid will provide much food-for-thought among the Brackley hierarchy

Wolff warned of severe consequences for the pair, including the possible introduction of team orders. Although similar threats have been made in the past, this was the first time it was delivered with venom, by a man running fast out of options to maintain the 'open racing' policy, employed over the last three years.

While it could be business as usual by the time the cars roll out for practice at Silverstone, it appears that the team has lost patience and could be forced into uncharted territory in a bid to stamp out this behaviour once and for all - with the Austrian calling together senior management for crunch talks.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Austrian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Living up to your reputation

Well, we did say to expect the unusual in Austria. Though surely F1's weekend Red Bull Ring gathering just past, and not least its last lap crescendo, surpasses even what went before here. And then some.

Photo: Octane Photography
Curiosity was all around in Austria this time, and started early with repeated suspension breakages then a wet-to-dry end to the qualifying session on Saturday which did its bit to set up the jumbled drama. Underlining the curiosity even the cream of the Mercs rising to the top in the race wasn't all that confidently expected. Neither was for the most part that Nico Rosberg would end up ahead of Lewis Hamilton as the laps ticked down towards the race's end. Which is when the real fun started...

I do my best to squeeze the pertinent bits into my latest Motor Verso race review. 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.

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Mercedes, No Team Orders Please!

The 2016 Austrian Grand Prix was the best advertisement for Formula 1 - wheel to wheel action, tyre strategy and a fair share of controversy! Are Mercedes trying to protect Nico Rosberg by blaming the issue on brake-by-wire? As far as we know, brake-by-wire does not affect the steering wheel! And why were Mercedes hell-bent on making Hamilton lose by strategy or slower pitstops? Every time the pressure piles on, Rosberg eventually succumbs. Definitely not the mental make-up of a champion - does Rosberg deserve to be World Champion?

While Mercedes contemplates team orders, we tell you why it's a terrible idea. If Mercedes were to be inspired by Red Bull Racing, they would have demoted Rosberg to Manor and promoted Pascal Wehrlein in his place - a gift for his resilient P10 too! Pirelli gifted Sebastian Vettel a tyre blowout for his birthday. Sure he would have been happier blowing out candles instead. Kimi Raikkonen had some unexpected champagne, funny that he's having his second wedding before his second world championship. Max Verstappen continues to be everyone's favourite (ours too!) sweeping away the Driver of the Day awards.

Jenson Button's P6 would've seemed like victory to McLaren-Honda. The Japanese manufacturer is considering investing in a Formula E program. Is this to hide from their Formula 1 miseries? We tell you more.

Back-to-back races means that the British Grand Prix is coming up this weekend! Is anyone willing to bet against Lewis Hamilton at his home race? We aren't - Hammer Time awaits, we say! Our prediction? Since Formula 1 loves revenge, Nico Rosberg will be booed on the podium - if he makes it there, that is.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 23)

Monday 4 July 2016

Silverstone Preview - F1's home gig

Every year at around about this time I experience a creeping sense of conflict. I'm not one driven by patriotism, indeed I'm often downright suspicious of it. And this applies especially to F1, wherein nationalities have never mattered a jot to me. But even I cannot deny that there is something special about the British Grand Prix.

Despite everything, few would claim that there isn't 
something special about the British Grand Prix
Photo: Octane Photography
It can't even be said that the appeal of its hardy host of Silverstone is immediately and universally apparent. In contrast to many 'prestige' F1 circuits which seem to fit quintessentially into their surroundings, Silverstone even all these decades on retains a feel of being rather imposed on a barren, windswept wartime airfield plain. It lacks the postcard scenery and undulations of Spa, the intensity of Monza and certainly the glamour of Monaco. The late Christopher Hilton once noted, possibly harshly, that "people get emotional at Silverstone but not emotional about Silverstone. Even when they're trying to save it, they're doing it because they want the British Grand Prix to survive, not because emotion dictates Silverstone."

Yet still few refute that the Northamptonshire circuit sits right alongside those events mentioned in being part of F1 furniture; some will perhaps even claim that it deserves to be prioritised ahead. And this is for a number of reasons.

Sunday 3 July 2016

Austrian GP Report - Surpassing yourself

So the Red Bull Ring lives up to its reputation. Both for entertainment and for the strange, somehow, occurring. We got that, plenty of that indeed, in the Austrian Grand Prix weekend even before we reached the race's final lap. Yet that last tour threatened to surpass any of the drama - and strangeness - that this track has been the scene of before. Even team order gate of 2002 now has a rival. You suspect the goings-on therein this time will be debated for as long as with about as much fury.

Lewis Hamilton won out, but as in qualifying
there were adventures getting there
Photo: Octane Photography
We can jump straight to the juicy bit. As we entered the final lap today an intra Mercedes tete-a-tete for the win was playing out, with Nico Rosberg ahead of a closing and apparently quicker Lewis Hamilton. As they entered that last lap it appeared though that Nico had just enough of a gap on his team mate to hang on, but on the run out of turn 1 to turn 2, the track's main overtaking point, Lewis took metres out of him, a consequence apparently of Nico clouting a kerb at that same first turn.

Nico covered the inside line and Lewis with the momentum went for the outside, but under braking for that hairpin Nico by appearances simply speared straight on and his hand movements (or lack of them) on his steering wheel told their own story, that he'd made little attempt to make the corner and instead had crudely sought to run Lewis out of road. There was contact between the silver pair and this time the biter was bit as while Nico exited the corner still in front the shower of sparks from his Merc was telltale - his front wing was askew and Lewis passed easily for the win. Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen got by Nico too before the lap was out, leaving the latter an ignominious fourth.

Saturday 2 July 2016

Red Bull Ring Qualifying - Circus act in the Ring

Despite the madcap appearances, it could really have been called in advance. Well, in a broad sense anyway if not in the specifics. Mercedes was meant to dominate at Austria's Red Bull Ring this weekend; really rationally it should have done. But this is a track where, in time-honoured tradition, things are rarely that simple. They weren't that simple for today's qualifying hour. On reflection, they were indeed much less simple even than that.

In a crazy qualifying hour of a crazy weekend, Lewis
Hamilton eventually took the pole
Photo: Octane Photography
A wet but drying final session to set the grid, ensuring that the timing display resembled the whirring display of a fruit machine. One with those known for bravery in such conditions getting well in among the usual front-runners. All the while grid penalties for a few big guns were somewhere at the back of minds, to be factored into calculations. All the while it was borne in mind too that this is Austria...

Some of the what-it-is-about these Spielberg visits can be explained: it's a short lap made up essentially of seven turns which ensures a tight grid, as does that this track, in its layout and altitude, isn't too sensitive to downforce which the normal pace-setters tend to have more of. The tight turns at the end of long straights draw plenty of errors. Sudden arrivals of rain are known here, and one of those before vital Q3 added plenty to today's fun. Yet even with these some matters simply are intangible, almost like there is something - other than precipitation or altitude that is - in the local air.

Friday 1 July 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Will The Real Lewis Hamilton Please Stand Up

If he has any hopes of winning his third championship on the trot, the real Lewis Hamilton needs to stand up - show us the quick racer he is, minus the distractions (music, movies and Penelope Cruz). Meanwhile Niki Lauda was spotted sharing ice cream with Nico Rosberg, where was Lewis in all of this? Maybe they made Lewis wait in the car!

Hamilton is smartly planning his retirement with Mercedes - he will be building supercars and doing demos, basically becoming the next David Coulthard? With autonomous cars likely to be the biggest threat to Formula 1, guess all drivers need retirement plans (not just Fernando Alonso!).

Apart from hanging out with Lauda, Rosberg has been doing various other things we thought are Hamilton's speciality. This includes hanging out at exotic destinations (Ibiza), posing with private jets for no apparent reason, fanboy moments with Hollywood stars and pissing off Formula 1's sponsors. Hopefully, the next Lewis-inspired move he pulls off is winning a World Championship.

Strange things are happening in Formula One. Hamilton and Rosberg's relationship has never been better, thanks to some dubious bonding in a Monaco swimming pool. The poster boy of capitalism, Bernie Ecclestone, is planning to do away with bonus payments for the big teams. The silly season rumours continue to fly, will Kimi stay or go?

More speed but less races, should we be excited about the 2017 season? Or is it all a marketing hoax? Britain may have voted to Brexit, but when will Formula One get the big Ecc-xit? Mclaren-Honda and Fernando Alonso continue to make a joke of themselves on and off track and we are happy to laugh along. With the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix coming up, we predict that the Red Bull Ring might need to be renamed as Mercedes Ring.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 22)