Wednesday 31 August 2016

Belgian Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Perfection is not enough

I know I've said it plenty before, but Nico Rosberg must really wonder by now what he has to do. If the Goddess Fortune was smiling his way in the opening few rounds of this season, her gaze definitely has been elsewhere more lately.

Photo: Octane Photography
And it seems she instead saves her grin instead for Nico's team mate. While Lewis Hamilton starting in 21st (due to a myriad of engine penalties) and coming through to finish third sounds like a spectacular run, really it wasn't. Really, things came to him. Just as if the afore-mentioned Lady Luck had her eyes right on his Merc.

Nico's Spa race was perfection, and he did his best to put a brave face on it all. But even he let on as to the frustration that Lewis, somehow, came out of the Spa weekend rather smelling of roses...

I give my take on it all 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 30 August 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Both Mercedes Drivers Got Lucky In Spa

Yes, we're the first ones to say it - both Mercedes drivers got lucky in Spa. Nico Rosberg won his 20th Grand Prix because of Lewis Hamilton's grid penalties. In the same breath, we've got to agree that Hamilton was lucky to make it to the podium (from P21) thanks to the Safety Car period and the red flag. Though we wonder why Lewis Hamilton didn't win the 44 lap Grand Prix, if 44 is his lucky number! Only 9 points separate the duo, which way will the remainder of the season go?

Formula 1 returned after the summer break with a bang at Spa - it was a race of collisions and crashes (mostly into Ferraris). Was Vettel at fault at the first corner? Vettel should have a 'How to Overtake Max Verstappen' class with mandatory attendance for Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen has been accused of dangerous driving, but of course the FIA won't do anything about it. He's THE crowd puller, at the moment. Though Niki Lauda believes that Max needs to visit a psychiatrist! Lauda says that he will call Jos if Max does not listen - Parent Teacher Meeting for the teenager in Monza? Also, did the young sensation not win the 'Driver of the Day' in Spa because his entire Orange Army was at the race track? Of course, Hamilton did find support in his Barmy Army.

Force India love affair with Spa continued, though Hulkenberg may have been robbed of a podium finish. The team's survival is in question if Sergio Perez moves teams in 2017. Maybe finishing 4th in the Constructors' Championship will earn them the deficit.

Will Kevin Magnusen be fit for Monza - and if not, will Renault make the popular decision of getting Carmen Jorda to drive? And was Fernando Alonso's P22 to P7 more noteworthy than Hamilton's recovery drive? With newer talent gaining popularity and faster cockpits, will Alonso have a chance for his final flourish at all?

Over the summer break, we learnt that Bernie Ecclestone plans to sell Formula 1's radio messages (with a premium charge for listening to Raikkonen's radio?). On that note, Minttu signed up for a lifetime of realtime Raikkonen humour! Hamilton hung out with Nicole over summer, and she was a real-life Pussy Cat (Doll). Also, our favourite moment of the summer break, Ricciardo calling bullshit on Hamilton's tweet!

Nico Rosberg has never won at Monza, will it be yet another 'first' for him? And will Hamilton equalise Fangio and Senna's record for maximum poles? There's a lot of Formula 1 this week and on our podcast, tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 27)

Monday 29 August 2016

Monza Preview: F1's soul survivor

The modern F1 calendar, to put it euphemistically, divides opinion. But in this two-week period after the summer break these days you will hardly find a murmur of objection. The stops-offs suddenly feel recognisable and wonderful; embodying a lot of what F1 is, or should be. We've just been to Spa of course, and this weekend coming we'll be in Monza, the venue for the Italian Grand Prix. And so a lot feels right in F1. Enjoy it while it lasts.

What is it about Monza? Well, if you need to ask...
Photo: Octane Photography
So what is it about Monza? Why does just about anyone whose heart has beaten a little faster for a racing car anticipate this round like no other? On a certain level it's a tricky one to explain as there are a good few things not to like about it. The venue lacks the gleaming modernity of the newer ones. The place has never entirely shaken its sense of vague chaos. Certain aspects of the crowd aren't to everyone's taste. Unlike Spa's its layout isn't all that much of a driving challenge these days. It can't even really be counted on to produce a wonderful race.

But still the original question puts in mind, as Louis Armstrong said when asked to define 'swing', that if you have to ask then you'll never know...

Sunday 28 August 2016

Belgian GP Report - Bittersweet Symphony

It was difficult to ask for more from Nico Rosberg in today's Belgian Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg took a fine win, but it was bittersweet
Photo: Octane Photography
His was an imperious race right from the copybook. His identity as victor never seemed in doubt, despite a fair helping of chaos happening behind him as well as a mid-race red flag stoppage. He scampered off pronto at each start, then his consistent pace to add incrementally to his already healthy advantage was superb. This included even when on a slower tyre compound as everyone got going again after the stoppage. Most thought he may be put under pressure, at least initially. Not a bit of it.

There wasn't the tiniest mistake that I saw from him. He proceeded as if on rails, and won with about as much inevitability as one on a railroad. It also was his first triumph at this ultimate driver's track. And he did it all too on that day we'd anticipated for months as a vital opportunity for him, on which his Mercedes stable mate and chief title rival Lewis Hamilton started at the back thanks to his myriad of engine-related grid penalties.

And yet. Even with all of this it likely ends up feeling like a slightly bittersweet day for him, as with it all Nico only got ten points back on his team mate.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Spa Qualifying - Not so unfamiliar

We are at Spa, but in many ways it was nothing like Spa. The weather for one - unusually hot to the point of being more redolent of Abu Dhabi. Moreover the usual required waterproofs for the annual Ardennes visits have this time not been required at all.

With an open goal, Nico Rosberg fired the ball
into the empty net to bag pole
Photo: Octane Photography
Motor racing at this revered Belgian track usually guarantees drama too, but this time for qualifying at least a major source of it was removed before we'd even got started. We knew in advance that Lewis Hamilton would in effect be scratched.

Long in advance - his grid penalty from taking additional engine parts was pretty much inevitable since his technical failures in the first handful of 2016 rounds, while also it transparently made most sense to swallow them here. His resultant 55 (really) place drop means he starts tomorrow's Belgian Grand Prix from the back. It also meant that in today's session there was no incentive for him to do other than set a time within 107% of the front in Q1 so to guarantee his place on the grid, and otherwise sit out to save engine mileage and tyres.

Not all of what we got was unusual though. Much of what we got seemed very usual indeed, starting with this precise matter of grid drops and drivers therefore being best served by putting their feet up rather than do their thing on track. Drafting regs in this game is never easy for a multitude of reasons, but that the upshot was it all seeming to militate against the show on offer to the paying public was one we've heard a few times before.

A Very Brief History Of F1 (1920-1980) - a guest article by Gemma Gale

F1 is a sport which has been going for a long time. Many of us will have detailed knowledge about portions of F1 history - but may not be aware of the entire story. As such, here is a brief overview of F1 from its beginnings to its current state. (Note - if you want to go into a few of the eras mentioned in more detail, there are plenty of informative articles to be found in the 'Looking Back' section of this website!)

The First Races

Motor sport quickly became popular - this is
the 1928 Le Mans 24 Hours race
By Agence de presse Meurisse - This image is available from
Gallica Digital Library under the digital ID btv1b9040626q
This tag does not indicate the copyright status of
the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required.
See Commons:Licensing for more information.English |
Français | Magyar | Italiano | Nederlands | Slovenščina |
Українська | +/−, Public Domain, https://commons.
Modern Formula 1 racing can trace its origins back to the Grand Prix road racing which was popular back in the 1920s and '30s. These were exciting affairs which, while not as high-speed as modern races (engines and car design had a long way to come!), nonetheless provided a thrill for the glamorous flapper set. With few rules and no real governing authority, the races served as the perfect outlet for the wilder passions of some. People flocked to Le Mans in France and Indianapolis in the USA to witness faster vehicles than those to which they were accustomed tearing up (quite literally!) the tracks, and aristocratic drivers expressing grievances with their rivals through the medium of racing. Scandal and sensation were de rigueur for the Grand Prix set, and this formed much of the appeal for the public. Crashes and deaths were surprisingly common, considering that it took a long time for any Grand Prix car to exceed 70 mph. However, with the advent of the supercharged engine, the Grand Prix scene was to change dramatically.

Friday 26 August 2016

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

The latest episode of the Lights to Flag podcast is here, and in this one we preview this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.

Host Ewan Marshall, fellow guest Alex Goldschmidt and I look ahead at what we can expect at the famous Spa venue from each team, the new and exciting Manor driver line-up as well as discuss whether motorsport should be represented in the Olympics... You can listen by clicking play below.

As before too do let us know what you think, we're very keen to hear feedback. You can also interact with the podcast, such as by suggesting questions or letting us know your comments, via the Twitter account and on its Facebook page. If you want to appear on it give us a shout too.

Thursday 25 August 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Why F1 did not see Michael Schumacher's stunning Spa debut coming

We are 25 years on from an F1 watershed. Michael Schumacher's stunning debut in the Jordan 191 at Spa. That which we know so well. Almost overnight the sport knew pretty much for certain who the next generation's standard-bearer would be.

By OlliFoolish - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://
But perhaps not even that in itself is the most remarkable part of the story. And no, I'm not talking either about the curious story of how the Jordan vacancy opened up in the first place, involving altercations with taxi drivers and pepper spray...

No, the most amazing part is that prior to Michael turning F1 on its head in Belgium a quarter of a century ago almost no one in the paddock knew the first thing about him. Somehow he had operated off the radar.

In my latest article for Grand Prix Times I tell this amazing story. You can have a read here:

Monday 22 August 2016

Spa Preview: Bringing many things to mind

Modern F1 doesn't always get it wrong. Even though you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

This weekend coming the sport returns from its summer hiatus, and there could not be a better place to reconvene. If you know anything about this game then you'll know about Spa-Francorchamps. Its mere mention brings immediate and familiar associations.

There's nothing quite like Spa
Photo: Octane Photography
The picture postcard scenery of the Ardennes. The sheer speed. The undulations. The fearsome turns. The inimitable organic and comfortable feel, as if donning an old pair of slippers. The unparalleled heritage. The clear thread between the current track and the very beginnings of motorsport road circuit racing. No wonder that when you ask F1 drivers, engineers or fans for their favourite modern venue this one is usually said before any other, and about as often without the slightest hesitation.

Spa remains a totem of what is possible even within the sport's ever-narrowing track design constraint; even when replacing a classic circuit with one more palatable to the contemporary requirements. You wonder why no one else tasked with designing a venue in the last decade or so has used it as a template, even in small part, in what they produce - that instead time and again we get identikit autodromes that rarely quicken the pulse. But I guess that's another story.

Sunday 21 August 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - Driver Market Speculation

The second episode of the Lights to Flag podcast has landed. And it's a special edition looking at the 2017 F1 drivers' market.

On the latest edition I, along with host Ewan Marshall and fellow guest Owen Davies, explore who is likely to be going where for 2017. Even with the 'big three' of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari having confirmed their pairing there still is plenty of intrigue.

We discuss what's likely to happen with the vacancies in each of the other eight teams, and even make predictions of who'll be on the grid for the opening round next season. Plenty of potential fun to be had in quoting those back to me in weeks and months to come...

You can listen to the podcast below. Do let us know what you think, we're very keen to hear feedback. You can also interact with the podcast, such as by suggesting questions or letting us know your comments, via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page.

Friday 19 August 2016

New Motor Verso article: Why F1 In The Olympics Is A Bad Idea

By Липунов Г.А. - Own work, CC0, https://
It's something close to an inevitability.

These days especially so, for some reason. Every four years the summer Olympics extravaganza comes around of course, yet about as routinely it is accompanied by folk in and around F1 lamenting that their sport is not involved.

But squeezing F1 is a bad idea, for more than one reason. And in my latest article for Motor Verso I explain why. 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.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

New Vital F1 article: Whisper it, the old Hockenheim wasn’t very good

After hearing however many eulogises of the old place over the past fortnight or so, finally I cracked.

By Landmensch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://], v
ia Wikimedia Commons
Whenever it seems the F1 fraternity sets foot in the Hockenheim facility these days, it starts to yearn about what used to be there. The previous version of the circuit, that F1 raced on up until 2001. The longer and faster one that proceeded through the thick pine forest. Now in large part abandoned, laying alongside the newer facility.

In my latest article for Vital F1 I outline though why the old Hockenheim despite its reputation improvement in hindsight in fact wasn't very good; indeed in its time it was rather thought a pariah. I also look at why this discrepancy between views then and now exists.

You can have a read here:

Sunday 7 August 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: The top 10 drivers of the 2016 season so far...

Photo: Octane Photography
Everyone loves a top ten and now that we're in F1's summer break as well as at, roughly, the halfway point of the 2016 season I've compiled my own top ten drivers' ranking for the season so far for Grand Prix Times.

In addition to the ranking I've written something on how in my view each of the ten selected drivers have done this year and my reasoning for placing them where I did.

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

Feel free to let me know why I'm wrong or even shock horror if you agree with any of it...

The very first Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Mid Season Review

I'm very pleased to announced the launch of a new podcast that I feature on. The first of what hopefully are many Lights to Flag podcasts has just been published.

On it I, with the host Ewan Marshall and fellow guest Louis Suddaby, look back on the first part of the 2016 F1 season up to the summer break. We discuss many things, including the latest on Mercedes and Hamilton vs. Rosberg, the rise of Red Bull, where it has all gone wrong for Ferrari and the efforts of others in the field. We also look at the end of the pit-to-car radio ban and the debate around track limits.

You can listen to the podcast below. Do let us know what you think, we're very keen to hear feedback to help us improve. You can also interact with the podcast, such as by suggesting questions, via its Twitter account and on its Facebook page.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Max Verstappen Obeyed Team Orders

Max Verstappen vs. Daniel Ricciardo seems more fun than the battle of the Mercedes drivers. Well, it will seem so till Red Bull Racing decide to play favourites. Since the flavour of the season is 'Verstappen', did Nico Rosberg get penalised for pulling a Max Verstappen on Max Verstappen? Well, he learned it the hard way that NO ONE overtakes Max Verstappen! And on that note, we tell you why Verstappen obeying a team order isn't too bad (for him) after all.

Nico Rosberg might need a sports psychologist, but he's got Niki Lauda by his side till he gets one helping him cope with the 62 points swing in his Drivers' Championship battle. The Formula 1 bromance continues over free ice-cream! While Mercedes' pit-stop blunder added to Rosberg's disaster, we wonder if fans would've cried 'controversy' had the same happened to their ever-favourite Lewis Hamilton.

With 'wet starts' being reinstated in Formula 1, Rosberg might not entirely be pleased. On a more serious note, we've seriously got to look at and support Daniil Kvyat. Are we caring too much about his racing career over his mental well being?

Are Sergio Perez and his sponsors being foolish in looking for options outside of Force India? Would Williams or Renault actually be a better bet for him?

After thousand of quotes from the drivers and management, Ferrari admitted their car was just 'slow'! Thank you for being honest.

Williams are publicly pursuing Jenson Button. We talk about the polygamous ways of our sport. Will they have a Button-Massa, Button-Bottas or Button-Perez combination? Well, so long as they keep Jenson Button in the sport.

Bernie Ecclestone's job, now weren't we the first ones to say it had to be an insider's job? Ecclestone's helicopter pilot was of course upset. After all, it is known that the CEO of the sport takes off in his helicopter and leaves the circuit way before the race ends! Imagine going to the races, but not getting to see the action till the end.

Finally, Mick Schumacher. He's enjoying attention from Ferrari and Mercedes at the same time. We can't recollect which other driver has enjoyed attention from these rivals teams publicly.

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 26)

Wednesday 3 August 2016

German Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Destroyed in seconds

All Nico Rosberg had to do was go, and go well. If when the red light went out to start the German Grand Prix Rosberg's launch had been good, or even decent, his weekend likely would have been a perfect one. Topping all practice sessions and looking on imperious as he did so, then bagging pole position in considerable adversity. Then, presumably, winning.

Photo: Octane Photography
But no, his launch wasn't good or even decent. It was a stinker. He in a blink was in fourth place, with his team mate and chief rival Lewis Hamilton now leading. Both of their days were framed. Both finished in the place they'd ended up in at turn one. And in a weekend where it looked for the most part that Nico would re-claim his long-held championship lead before the summer break, now we all go on our hols with Lewis's lead looking positively comfortable.

All pivoting on the start.

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.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Common sense approach to safety follows F1 Strategy Group meeting, by Ewan Marshall

"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense." 
- Thomas A. Edison

Increasing head protection in Formula One is a no brainer. While open cockpits should remain part and parcel of the sport, there is an increasing need to ensure that drivers are better protected from foreign objects or in the result of an accident. Although motor racing will also possess a level of danger, recent tragedies have unified all voices to try and find a solution.

The 'Halo' has been kicked into the 2018 long grass, at least
Photo: Octane Photography
Formula One is the undisputed standard bearer when it comes to improving safety, developing innovative new measures to car and track design, of which other series reap the rewards.

Everyone wants to see a solution introduced as soon as possible, however it would be foolish to force anything through without all concerns addressed or the support of all sides. Therefore, the F1 Strategy Group's decision to delay the Halo device until 2018 was the only sensible option.

Ultimately, the move has been challenged by those whose safety is in question. However, it is quite apparent that not all drivers are convinced that the device is the answer.

Monday 1 August 2016

German GP Report - The hunter gathers

It often feels trite to say such things, but F1 is indeed a lot like life. And in this game just as in the world around it, you can spend however long building something up layer by layer, to the point of appearing rather imposing indeed, but it remains so that it can all be brought crashing down in seconds.

Lewis Hamilton won out yet again
Photo: Octane Photography
This was Nico Rosberg's German Grand Prix. From the moment Hockenheim running started on Friday morning he was on a plateau it seemed. Topping every practice session; even further ahead on race runs. Throughout proceeding around the circuit with graceful ease. Out of the car he beamed - accepting questions left, right and centre; lapping up the local support he was receiving (and the local turnout was noticeably larger than in the previous visit here). He also won an amazing pole, and did it by overcoming considerable adversity.

And topping it all off on Saturday after qualifying his team mate and chief antagonist Lewis Hamilton - who reckoned pole was his but for his own errors - appeared floored by it all. Introspective, distracted as well as, um, economical in his prose. That way we're all familiar with when he feels he's let himself down. It seemed impossible that we wouldn't be entering the summer break after this one without Nico having checked Lewis's astonishing and long-lasting momentum, as well as having re-established his long-held 2016 title lead in so doing.