Monday 31 October 2016

Mexican GP Report - Everything and nothing

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

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

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

Saturday 29 October 2016

Mexico City Qualifying - As you were

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

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

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

Friday 28 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - The FIA Bans The Verstappen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Season 2016, Episode 35)

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

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

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

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

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

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

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

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

You can have a read here:

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Monday 24 October 2016

Mexico City Preview - Not what it says on the tin

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

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

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

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

US GP Report - All you can do...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 22 October 2016

Austin Qualifying - Doing what you must

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

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

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

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

Thursday 20 October 2016

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

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

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

As ever you can listen via the player below.

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

Wednesday 19 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 34)

Monday 17 October 2016

Austin Preview: Re-born in the USA

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

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

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

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

New Vital F1 article: Let’s go back to the future on backmarkers

Photo: Octane Photography
The Japanese Grand Prix weekend was one for recrimination. And in the race we got a little more, with much complaining from some of those near the front about blue flags, and those being lapped not leaping out of the way sufficiently pronto.

In my latest article for Vital F1 I explain why, though it's nothing personal, they get no sympathy from me. And why if it was up to me we wouldn't have blue flags at all, as the sport would be better for it.

You can have a read here:

Sunday 16 October 2016

New Grand Prix Times article: Does F1 need to learn to love Lewis Hamilton?

The Japanese Grand Prix was all about Nico Rosberg's imperious showing, which send him a great stride towards this year's drivers' championship.

Photo: Octane Photography
Or rather it should have been. But instead the chat was again all about his team mate Lewis Hamilton. And not for anything he did on track. Instead it was for his antics in press conferences. Or antics not in press conferences as the case may be. Sure enough we got a giant wave of indignation.

But in my latest article for Grand Prix Times I ask whether Lewis has been rather maligned and not for the first time. And whether F1 needs to learn to love him a bit more.

You can have a read here:

Saturday 15 October 2016

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

The latest Lights to Flag podcast is here, and for the second week in a row Ewan and I were delighted to be joined by Jack Amey to look back at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Of course there's much fat-chewing over Lewis Hamilton, Snapchat and all that, but also at Nico Rosberg's dominant weekend that could well go considerable way to deciding this year's drivers' title destination.

And we chat about other news from on and off the track in Suzuka, including whither Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen's defence, Nico Hulkenberg's Renault switch, among many other things.

It's well worth the 58 minutes of your time, and you can listen via the player below.

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

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Will Hamilton Still Back Verstappen's Aggressive Moves?

Max Verstappen pulled off a 'Verstappen' on Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka. This made us wonder, will Lewis Hamilton still back Max Verstappen's aggressive moves? The Hamilton vs. Verstappen battle was our highlight moment!

The FIA had a chat with Verstappen and told him that they're 'watching' him. Well, if not for Verstappen, who have the FIA been watching all of 2016? This lad has had our eyes glued on him. Maybe, Baby Vettel is now THE Vettel for Red Bull Racing.

The Rosberg vs. Hamilton battle - we're hoping for at least one on-track battle between the two title rivals before this year's championship is concluded. However, it seems that Hamilton is hell bent on picking battles on and off track. We discuss the various avoidable episodes for the Lewis Hamilton camp from the last week. By the way, some of it reminded us of the prank played on Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004.

Will Nico Rosberg be a worthy Formula 1 champion? That's the latest debate on social media and while we're not taking sides, we do add our perspectives from this season. At the same time, we should be thankful that we've a fight on our hands (and on the telly) as we witness the 2016 Drivers' Championship being fought tooth-and-nail between two team-mates, driving for a team that's been very fair and just in their approach towards both contenders. On that note, THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS, Mercedes!

Mercedes to Formula E? We tell you why they're eyeing another single-seater championship and if Red Bull and Ferrari could follow suit too. Are Mercedes too bored of dominating Formula 1 and now have their sights on Formula E? Also, if Formula E's prowess grows in the coming years, will Formula 1 lose its relevance? And could Formula 1 go all-electric to remain relevant? The next few years will define the future of this category of racing.

Ferrari and McLaren - two of Formula 1's most-iconic teams seem unable to find an answer to their struggles. As for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, is the 'Michael Schumacher' dream going to remain a dream after all? And it seems that curse of the 'Number 2' got to Vettel in Suzuka, after all. Would a 16th and 18th place finish at Suzuka please Honda? Well, so long as Fernando Alonso didn't compare their Formula 1 engine to a GP2 engine!

We tell you why Nico Hulkenberg should hedge his bets and go off to Renault and how GP3 is trying all it can to make sure their drivers are Formula 1 ready from 2017 onwards. The one line we had fun reading in this episode was 'Jan wonders if his son will have a contract come Jan'! And finally, we scoop out some inside information to tell you why the revolutionary 'car-to-television' interview was deferred from Malaysia to Japan.

Tune in!

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Japanese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Rosberg Stands on the Brink

Photo: Octane Photography
We keep expecting him to falter now we're in the world championship crunch point. But he keeps refusing to. And, whaddaya know, now Nico Rosberg stands on the brink.

Don't let anyone tell you that this game's predictable in other words. And perhaps the last two races - seven days apart - sum up his charge. When he's not been on top things have gone his way. When he has been on top he's been almost literally flawless. Whatever, it's an equation that usually adds up to titles. Given where we've got to, now only the unusual can deprive Nico.

In my Japanese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso I try to sum up where we're at. You can have a read here:

Sunday 9 October 2016

Japanese GP Report - Everything's coming up Rosberg

It is our contradictions that make us interesting. Even as rational beings we often rely on explanations that have no more basis than hocus pocus. Even in F1, that most empirical of activities.

Nico Rosberg triumphed yet again
Photo: Octane Photography
But we can understand why, particularly after a weekend such as this for the Japanese Grand Prix. When things are going your way, they go your way. Somehow. And it continued that way when it mattered for our most unlikely of world championship interlopers called Nico Rosberg.

The rounds tick down; he remains on top. Things continue to go his way. Somehow.

But it would be wrong to suggest this one owed at all to fortune. Nico's was not a race but a weekend dominated in the finest style. Almost from a wheel being turned at the start of Friday practice he appeared on another level. Every session he topped. And all this with the drivers' championship pressure cranked up to 11. Not for the first time you suspect long-held assumptions about him are being recalibrated. His more entrenched critics will point out no doubt that ho hum Nico in his one trick won from the front. Maybe so (albeit it's a harsh criticism), but as Martin Brundle pointed out a few rounds back, he keeps getting to the front.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Suzuka Qualifying - When we were kings

To think we were all so convinced. Nico Rosberg might be shadow boxing, dancing around the ring, but as the title fight reached the critical point he'd become timid. And meet a knockout blow.

As the title fight reaches its final rounds, Nico Rosberg 
continues to float like a butterfly
Photo: Octane Photography
Not so. Or at least not yet. There seems a pattern being established just lately, the sort that adds up to a World Championship you might say. That when Nico's not on top things still go his way somehow. And when he is on top he's imperious. Today in qualifying, and indeed for just about all of this Japanese Grand Prix weekend thus far, we've got the latter. As the rounds are being ticked off, with him up on points, he remains sprightly. Confident. His dance to the title hasn't yet met the clunking fist we all were anticipating. More and more indeed, it appears it'll take something major like that to stop him.

Plenty said in advance of this one that Suzuka was Lewis Hamilton country. After all it's on a big, bold circuit, that usually is up his street, plus he won on both of the last two visits. But as ever in F1 it pays to dig a little deeper, Nico got both of the previous two poles and Hamilton by his own admission has often struggled for a set-up here. He's also never taken pole. And still hasn't.

Friday 7 October 2016

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix Review and Japanese Grand Prix Preview

The latest Lights to Flag podcast has landed, and Ewan Marshall and I were delighted to be joined by Jack Amey to look back at the Malaysia Grand Prix and ahead to the Japanese Grand Prix.

And what a dramatic race it was in Sepang - Lewis Hamilton dominated but was reminded that in this game it's never over until it's over. With big implications for the championship fight. Red Bull, with the popular Danile Ricciardo ahead, took full advantage. You can listen to the podcast via the player below.

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

Wednesday 5 October 2016

A Positive and Responsible Start For Heineken - a guest article by Gemma Gale

Heineken's new Formula 1 partnership means the brand will be the title sponsor for three Grand Prix each year as part of a huge multi-million dollar deal. What's more, Heineken's bid to extend its reach into F1 will also see it become involved with two teams: these teams are yet to be officially announced but one is strongly tipped to be Red Bull. Heineken has vowed to 'drag F1 into the digital age' and is certainly set to make the most of its new sponsorship opportunity, recruiting F1 legends Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard to serve as its ambassadors within the sport.

The Right Fit?

F1's sponsorship tie-up with Heineken 
was announced with much fanfare
Photo: Octane Photography
When it was announced that Heineken would be the latest F1 sponsor some may have doubted that the brand was the right match. After all, a motor sport, a culture where drinking behind the wheel is strictly discouraged and widely prohibited, and a beer brand simply didn't seem like a natural fit. However the brand has silenced the naysayers with its first campaign since the sponsorship deal was announced that encourages responsible drinking and uses F1 race legend (and road safety pioneer) Sir Jackie Stewart to star in a TV advert that tells fans 'When You Drive, Never Drink'.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Will The FIA Ban The Shoey?

Nico Rosberg is lucky that Mercedes built him a tank that went through the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix undamaged. Rosberg was lucky on multiple other counts too, including that he had a clean getaway (the Mercedes cars can't take that for granted anymore) and the two VSC periods that helped him climb back up the order.

Daniel Ricciardo had a great result to win the race. Will drivers not want to be on the podium with Ricciardo though, given his love for the 'shoey' (gross!)? Mark Webber was smart, he threw away Ricciardo's shoe - the other podium victims need to learn from him. Given how much the FIA loves clamping down on everything that's fun in F1, maybe they will ban the shoey on the podium too? A BIG thank you to Red Bull Racing for allowing Ricciardo and Verstappen to race fair and square. Ricciardo managed to do what not a lot of drivers have done this season - he kept Verstappen behind on-track (he claims to have learnt this from Verstappen himself!)

Lewis Hamilton made the race interesting - not sure if it was thanks to his engine failure, post-race comments (or both!). Hamilton believes that 'something or someone doesn't want him to win this year' - and he's right. We tell you who this person in the Mercedes garage is, who has been mercilessly trying to keep Hamilton from winning.

Nico Rosberg's penalty was strange. It seems that the FIA does not want drivers to overtake on track at all! Rosberg has notched up so many penalties this season that he's halfway to a race ban. Clearly, 'someone or something' is conspiring against him to get him so many penalties!

Hamilton's bad luck was Mercedes' bad luck - they lost their second attempt at equalling the record for the most consecutive wins in Formula 1. Speaking of records, Jenson Button notched up 300 Grand Prix starts - and McLaren celebrated this by turning their paddock into an English pub (luckily no shoeys on offer there).

Ferrari's race was like how their whole season has been - all talk. Surprisingly, Raikkonen is outperforming Vettel. Perhaps Vettel go the Alonso way if Ferrari are unable to deliver a winning package in 2017! Is McLaren now part of the midfield teams with Williams and Force India? If so, they're still at the bottom of that midfield.

BMW recently announced their motorsport program and it doesn't feature F1, but does include Formula E and the WEC. We guess they've been listening to Fernando Alonso's criticism of the sport and decided to stay out!

Here's the big question: Can Hamilton still win the World Drivers' Championship? Of course! Five races, 125 points to go. Let's hope a clutch, an engine or swapping of teams doesn't decide this year's champion.

Suzuka is up this weekend, and it promises to be a real cracker. Will it be a Mercedes 1-2 again, or can Red Bull Racing challenge them?

Tune in!

(Season 2016, Episode 32)

Monday 3 October 2016

Suzuka Preview: Big in Japan

They don't make 'em like they used to.

Inimitable Suzuka
Photo: Octane Photography
Such a claim isn't always true, but it sometimes is. And you might argue that it applies particularly to the F1 circuit. It certainly applies to Suzuka, the welcome stop-off for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Of course some of the sport's newer venues are better than others, but none have got even close to quickening the pulse among drivers and aficionados alike as happens when cars circulate this venue. In fairness, not that many of the older tracks have either.

This is mainly because the Suzuka layout is dominated by challenging, snaking, undulating turns, the sort that separate the great from the good, the sort that would most likely be laughed out of court were they proposed from the ground up.

Malaysia Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - A Tale of Two Engines

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Photo: Octane Photography
Yes Charles Dickens references are to the fore after an astonishing Malaysia Grand Prix. It pivoted on something that makes motorsport unique, but the accompanying injustice can be crushing. And with it the title race pivoted too.

But also with it we got rather a popular and overdue race victor. That one about the best and worst of times again... A tale of two teams. And two engines.

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

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Sunday 2 October 2016

Malaysian GP Report - This is F1

This is F1. It's why we watch it. It's why also as well as it being the most compelling companion it can also - even in the same moment - be the cruellest ogre.

Daniel Ricciardo eventually won out in Malaysia
Photo: Octane Photography
This applies to most sports of course, but motorsport is different. In this game things literally aren't over until they're over. In football for example everything along the way counts and is permanent - the goals you score can't be scratched. Even the mightiest implosion likely won't threaten your win if you are four-nil up with 10 minutes remaining.

In this Malaysian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was the F1 equivalent of four-nil up with ten minutes remaining. But it was indeed an implosion, one of his Mercedes power unit, that left him in a blink with nothing. It lost him the race and all points; it could well lose him the world championship too. That's another F1 perennial, that even the very biggest prizes can hinge on such things. They often do in fact.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Sepang Qualifying - Twist and shout

We should have known really. It was absolutely in keeping with the season. With the title race. And with Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton hit back in the finest style with a
stunning pace for pole position
Photo: Octane Photography
Following the much-documented momentum against him in recent weeks, in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix today he hit back today in the most devastating style, showing the astonishing pace and joie de vivre that he delivers at his best. His team mate and title antagonist Nico Rosberg was left rather breathless, and was reminded not for the first time that no matter the purple patch Lewis has reserves - accessed when all is right with the world for him - that Nico can't live with probably. If it's any sort of comfort almost no one else can either. This is a title race full of twists and turns. And this was the latest.

This twist felt like one of the knife though. Sepang is the happiest of hunting grounds for Lewis, especially on a Saturday. No one in the same car has bettered him in qualifying here for six years, and that was a crazy rainstorm-jumbled session. And he never looked like being beaten today by anyone in the same car or not. He was quickest for much of practice, and it remained that way in each part of qualifying.

The latest Lights to Flag Podcast - 2016 Singapore Grand Prix Review and Malaysian Grand Prix Preview

The latest episode of the Lights to Flag podcast is here. There's no me on it this time due to some connectivity problems, but we were delighted that Ewan was joined by Luke Smith from NBC Sports and many more things besides!

Ewan and Luke to look back at a rather stunning - in more ways than one - Singapore Grand Prix, as well as look ahead to the Malaysian Grand Prix. You can listen by clicking play below.

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